Three years later.
Narcissa walked briskly among the crowd of Muggles, watching and copying their mannerisms and demeanour to blend in. Her magic surged as she neared a corner and she followed the insistent summons, to the left and up the block, to the massive hospital that surged with activity like a beehive. She narrowed her eyes, pursing her lips as she studied the building, before turning abruptly and walking towards the entrance of an obscure building tucked away in the hospital’s shadow, invisible to the everyday eye.
Avalon Hospice and Assisted Care. Her lip curled. Avalon was the Ministry of Magic’s dirty little secret; a place for Muggles who had been attached or caught by a magical curse or spell that couldn’t be cured on site. The healers at St Mungo’s were already severely overworked and underpaid, and there was the assumption that Muggle physiology was different from magicals anyway. Most of the patients were in stasis, dosed with Draught of Living Death to suspend their body’s processes and functions, which slowed down the effects of what they had been poisoned, cursed, or spelled with. This also allowed the couple of healers actually interested in studying the effects of magic on Muggles time to do so at their leisure. That was a running joke among the staff at St. Mungo’s, since they could barely keep up with the work load as it was. No one was going to waste time on mere Muggles when there were so many magicals that needed their help.
Her magic was now practically vibrating with excitement as she continued down the now empty halls; she could see it in her mind’s eye as a silver fox, darting back and forth, intent on a scent only it could sense. She didn’t know if others saw their magic as a version of their Animagus form, or if it was a side effect of the ability to shift in the first place, but she soothed the anxious little vulpine with a soft murmur as they stopped in front of a door…that appeared out of nowhere.
“Interesting.” She murmured. She could sense the timed Muggle repelling charms nearby; clearly whomever had put them up didn’t want the Muggles to wander up here on their own, but had no concerns about other magicals stumbling upon this place – or recognizing his magical signature. The charms were set to shut off and on at intervals, presumably timed with the daily and nightly aides rounds so the person inside would be regularly cared for and monitored like any other patient.
Pulling her wand out, she performed a few spells to reveal any locking or alarm charms, but there weren’t any. “Idiots. So trusting. Looks like this is Dumbledore’s dirty little secret as much as the Ministry’s.” She snorted, shaking her head. “Let’s see what -or who- you were so keen to hide, old man.”
Pushing the door open, she walked in – and gasped.
He had matured, she mused, moving closer. The person lying in the bed before her was no longer the lanky 21 year old only beginning to truly broaden and fill out.
“Twelve years, and he still looks like a model for Wizarding Quarterly.” She muttered. “Damn Potter genes.” She huffed. “You passed them on to your son, by the way; Draco is too damn handsome for his own good, and he knows it. I don’t know about Harry; I haven’t had opportunity to catch a glimpse of him over the past couple of years. I meant to come chase you down that one day in Diagon, but you were already gone by the time I came back.” Something occurred to her and she waved her wand over his body, checking his vitals. “Because you were here this whole time!”
She paced away from the bed and back again, needed the movement. “Right. Assuming that someone was Dumbledore and he got you after our meet in Diagon, he probably assumed that you were Remus Lupin, and brought you here to keep you away from Harry, in case you tried to influence him or some rot like that. Which means that you’re probably under the Draught, just like the other patients around here.” She blew out a hard breath. “Bloody fucking hell.” She muttered, enjoying the way the crass words echoed in the room. “Lily, I blame you for this, you crazy witch. And stop laughing!”
She could hear and see the vibrant witch in her mind, green eyes sparkling with mirth and mischief as she giggled at her friend’s predicament.
Resolutely, she removed her suit jacket. Setting her hip next to James’s, she braced her left arm on the bed, her right hand resting lightly on his chest.
“We share a child together, yet this is the first – and last – time that my lips will touch yours since we were thirteen.” She murmured. “This better be enough, Potter.”
Leaning in, she pressed her lips gently to his for a long moment, before sitting back expectantly.
Slughorn’s sniveling voice sounded in her mind.
“The Draught of Living Death is one of the few potions that has crossed over to Muggle lore and fairy tales, although they have of course gotten the details muddled up. What they called the ‘Sleeping Beauty Curse’ was, essentially, the Draught in spell form, with one major difference: there was no liquid antidote, as there is with the potion, although there was a very specific cure, if the spouse or lover was willing.”
The class of sixth and seventh years tittered, making him scowl.
“Come now, we’re all adults here! The curse and the potion work in the same way; both shut down all conscious functions and slow down the automatic, biological ones to just above survival. The antidote jump starts those functions, forcing them and thus our magic back into action as our bodies respond to the ingredients and elements. The cure for the curse, therefore, must provoke a similar response out of the patient, only through…more physiological means.”
“In other words,” Lily said briskly in Narcissa’s head, making her jump; she didn’t remember the redheaded witch being in Advanced Potions, though Lily had shown an unique aptitude for the art during their training as healers. “You have to induce a sexual response. Arousal is biological, automatic. Once the blood is rushing to other places,” she paused wryly to let the snickers die down. “Everything else should respond as well. Erm…how long do you have to go before the person wakes up?”
“Thank you, Miss Evans, for the eloquent translation. That is exactly correct. And it depends on the patient, to be bluntly honest.” Slughorn replied. “Witches and wizards have some basic natural defenses against sexual assault and rape – our magic won’t allow it. We have to genuinely trust our partners with our bodies, or else it is impossible to garner a response. You see the conundrum?”
“This had better be worth it, Potter.” Narcissa grumbled, standing up and removing her heels. In deference to the summer heat, she had forgone her stockings, and was wearing a light silk sheath dress in a summery pale lavender. Flipping the blanket all the way down and off of James, she took a purely female moment to appreciate the sight before her.
He was wearing a light t-shirt and thin pajama pants, and the clothing only served to showcase the hard chest, flat stomach, and lean thighs of a man in his prime.
She hiked her skirt up to mid-thigh and climbed onto the bed, straddling just above his hips, so she was not quite sitting on his stomach. Bracing a hand on either side of his head, she leaned in again and kissed him determinedly. This time though, she teased, nipping, licking at the closed seam of his mouth, coaxing him to respond.
She moved her lips to his neck, still licking and nibbling, a bit harder now; bringing her teeth into play and running them lightly along the cords in his neck before moving to suckle at his pulse point. She could feel the heat, the blood rushing under his skin, the tingle of his magic and hers beginning to respond. His breath became slightly harsher.
But he remained stubbornly asleep.
“Dammit, Potter.” She huffed. “You’re really going to make me do all the work here?”
Well, if she was going to really do this, might as well go all in.
She was going to indulge.
She started back at his mouth, pleased to feel a faint response of his lips against hers. She continued kissing him but brought her hands into play, skimming lightly over his chest and down his sides, before slipping underneath his shirt, pushing the material up and raking her nails back down over his ribs. He shivered in response, a ripple of muscle under her palms, making her smirk. Moving down his body, she licked a slow stripe up his stomach, up, up, up to his collarbone, before flicking her tongue over one hard flat male nipple.
He tasted like he smelled, pine forests and fresh air and caramel coffee, which should’ve been strange, considering how long he had been repose in bed. The taste was addicting, and she became voracious, moving back and forth, until there wasn’t an inch of his chest that she hadn’t mapped out with her tongue.
Caught up in the pleasure now, she moved back to his mouth one more time, sealing her mouth over his. She let out a muffled sound of surprise as one large masculine hand came up to the back of her head, threading his fingers through her silken strands as he took control of the kiss. His other hand stroked down her back and ghosted over her ass before settling on her hip, applying subtle pressure for her to yield those last scant inches and grind down on him – something she had resisted doing this entire time. She moaned into his mouth, wanting more than anything to give in, except for the nagging feeling that there was something she was supposed to be doing…
She hadn’t been lying to Lily all those years ago – James Potter was a really good kisser. Playful. He kissed like he flew—no limits, utter joy and focus and a bit of teasing mischief and recklessness. She gasped into his mouth as his hand moved from her neck, skimming down her side and firmly palming her breast through the thin silk of her dress, stroking his thumb once, twice, over her nipple before pressing down.
Cool air ghosted over her skin, and a hard shiver ran through her as he lightly trailed his nails over her suddenly exposed ass checks. She opened her eyes to meet his stormy blue gaze, dark with passion and awareness as he followed the thin lace and silk band, lightly toying with the material.
She froze, her breath gusting over his lips, her warm brown eyes dark and flecked with gold, hazy with arousal. He could feel every inch of her body; her thighs straddling his lap, the dampness of her pussy through the silk of her panties, cool against the material of his pajama pants, which did little to hide his own natural response. Stomach to stomach, chest to chest, he could feel her heart beating fast, feel the weight of her breast in his palm, her nipple still hard against his thumb. Her usually pale skin had become flushed, rosy with passion. Her scent teased his senses, fresh and sweet with a bite to it, like lemon mint.
“Always such a bloody fucking tease, Selina. Don’t start something you can’t finish.” James murmured.
The words had come out before his brain had caught up.
Her eyes narrowed. Those red lips parted slightly, and a pink tongue ghosted out to lick them, flicking against his mouth.
“I always finish what I start, James Potter.” She murmured huskily against his mouth. “You of all people should know that.”
James deliberately relaxed beneath her, putting his arms behind his head to lean back to look up at her. She was still glaring at him, and his heart skipped a beat as he saw the wheels turning. He had broken the #1 cardinal rule when dealing with any member of the Black family: never dare – or challenge – a Black.
Nothing to do but brazen it out. “As interesting and as overdue as this particular conversation is,” he drawled. “Might be better to save it for another time, yeah?”
A slow smirk curled her lips. They both knew that she had won that round, but he was right.
“How long have you been awake?” she demanded.
“Just a minute or two.” He shrugged, still deliberately casual. “I have to say, that was an infinitely better wake up call than the antidote Remus shoved down my throat the first time. Tasted like morning breath after a bender, times a billion.”
Narcissa squeezed her eyes shut and pressed her lips together, not certain if she was holding in a laugh or a scream. “We will revisit that conversation later.” She said tightly, moving off of him and the bed in a fluid movement and briskly fixing her clothes. “Because if you speak again right now, I may kill you myself and save everyone the trouble permanently! You have a lot to atone for! Starting with where the fucking hell you’ve been for the past twelve years, or at least the past two, since the last time I saw you was in Diagon Alley two years ago when you were Polyjuiced as a buggering werewolf!”
His eyes widened comically. “Two YEARS?!?!” He yelped. “How?”
“That’s what I want to know!” She exclaimed, throwing her hands up in the air. “How are you alive in the first place? Voldemort killed you!”
“Ah. That. He came really really close to killing me.” He corrected. “Like, I was on the brink of death. Worse than I was here, even.” He paused to consider. “Yeah, because this time around, Dumbledore just dosed me with the potion. Voldemort literally tried to kill me with a curse!”
“You used the Draught of Living Death to try to counter the Killing Curse.” She said slowly. “Are you serious?”
He turned to smirk at her, and she rolled her eyes. “Don’t, Potter.” She snapped. “You know what I meant. Are you absolutely mad?”
“Probably.” He shrugged, disappearing briefly into the bathroom. He emerged almost immediately, dressed in blue jeans, a plain white t-shirt, and a brown leather bomber jacket. “Harry, Remus Lupin and I were coming back from living in the States.” He said quietly, sitting down on the bed. “It was a couple of weeks before his eleventh birthday. We planned to settle in, take stock of the situation before contacting potential allies. I think Dumbledore had some kind of tracking charm on Harry, to make sure he was at Lily’s sister’s house -Petunia, not Mari, according to Remus.”
“Why the fucking hell was Lily’s son anywhere near that Muggle?” She demanded. “Lily didn’t mention anything about Mari for her own safety, but Petunia and she vehemently denied the other’s existence after Hogwarts, and possibly before. How did Dumbledore even know she had a sister?”
“Muggle born.” James pointed out. “It was in her school records.” He scowled. “Remus said that Dumbledore gave him some convoluted reasoning about blood wards due to Lily’s sacrificing her life to save Harry. “ He held up his hands in defense as she lifted her lip in disdain and opened her mouth to protest. “I know! That’s not the only bone I have to pick with the old man. My point is, we were traveling by Muggle airplane, not Portkey, so he must have put some kind of tracking spell on Harry to monitor his location. I don’t know why it only worked when we returned to Britain, and not when we left, but we were ambushed outside of Diagon Alley, not long after we met you and Draco in the robes shop. I would deduce that Dumbledore took Harry back to the Dursley’s and took me – ‘Remus’ – here. Hopefully he dosed him before the Polyjuice wore off—well, he had to, or we wouldn’t be sitting here having this conversation.”
“And how did you deduce that brilliant solution, Sherlock? The real Lupin is currently teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts, you utter buffoon!”
“Oh, come off it, ‘Cissa.” He said impatiently, stretching. “It worked, didn’t it? And Dumbledore knows Remus is a werewolf, obviously, and they’re harder to dose accurately. He probably assumes that the potion wore off, and modified Moony’s memory to match.”
“First of all, don’t call me that. You have never called me by my first name, so don’t you dare start now.” She snapped. “And you absolute and complete son of a swamp troll! I was actually referring to the part where you didn’t tell anyone about your mad plan of escaping death!” She shouted, getting in his face. “OR the fact that in the past twelve years, you didn’t contact me once to let me know that you were alive! We have a son together, James Potter, you arrogant fool! My best friend, your wife, was dead! I was alone, grieving, trapped in a loveless, empty marriage with a man I despised, and no one left whom I could trust with my secrets!”
He pulled her into his arms as she shoved at him, absorbing the blows as she burst into tears. She fought his hold, but he persisted until she yielded, sobbing silently into his shoulder. Resting his chin on top of her head, he could only wait and hold her, as his heart broke.
“I’m sorry, Selina.” He murmured into her hair with a sigh. “I didn’t tell anyone – not even Lily or Sirius – that I was going to try to use the Draught to counter the Killing Curse. The only reason Remus knew was because he came to check on us in the aftermath and heard my heartbeat with his enhanced senses. He made the arrangements to get me and Harry out of the country; he didn’t even wake me up until we were well out of Britain. And then I was busy grieving, just as much as you were here.” he shook his head, smoothing her hair back with a gentle gesture. “By the time I thought about contacting you I didn’t know how to do so safely, that wouldn’t put you and Draco into more danger. You were safe here, I thought, protected by your name and status, plus Lucius’s reputation. I made triply sure that any of the information you gave us was destroyed, and we never revealed our sources. And honestly, I never meant to be gone for ten years. I wanted to wait until the madness had died down a bit, and then come back home – and you.”
That got her to push out of his embrace and take a step back to glare at him accusingly. “Why? You only went along with Lily’s mad plan in the first place because you were indulging her, not because you actually cared for me.”
He froze, his entire body stiffening with shock. “If that’s what you truly believe, then you fuck the buggering hell off right now, Narcissa. How dare you?”
She winced at the icy venom in his voice, squeezing her eyes shut in frustration as he began rummaging through the cabinets, presumably looking for his wand.
“James…I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to say that.” She said into the silence. “I know you cared for me, in your own way. I just – our relationship has always been an odd one. Some days you were more older brother than my best friend’s husband, and when we were little, you were more like a cousin than crush material.” She perched on the bed, watching him. “And I know you need to get to Harry and I need to return home, but this may be the only time to have this conversation, so…please.”
“No. I need to go see my son, tell him that I’m alive!” He snapped. “And then I need to go kill Dumbledore. So bugger off; we’ll talk later.”
“James Potter, you will do no such thing! Sit down!” She tackled him; they both went flying back onto the bed, with her ending up sprawled over him once more.
“Dammit, ‘Lina.” James groaned. “I don’t remember you being so damn physical before.”
She blew her hair out of her face in exasperation. “You incite violent tendencies in all you meet, James. Not just me.” She propped her elbows up on his chest, making him grunt, before peering down at him. “You can’t go see Harry. Not yet. Everyone thinks you’re dead! Including Harry! If you just show up, he’ll think you’re a ghost or something, or that he’s gone mad! Term is over in three days. You can see him then – oh. No!”
“What?” he demanded.
“Sirius escaped from Azkaban, Dumbledore hired Lupin to teach, and tonight is a full moon.”
He stared at her in dawning horror as the implications sunk in. “Get me to Hogwarts. Now!”