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i found sanctuary in their embrace

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Present

“Don’t give me your excuses!” Narcissa hisses at her in a rage.

“It’s not an-”

“Don’t give me excuses for your excuses!”

“Narcissa-” Lily tries to intervene and stop their argument.

“You either! I refuse to listen to either of you fall over yourselves.”

Hermione sighs and sits down, running a hand over her face. She feels like she hasn’t slept in days. She probably hasn’t. “I don’t know what else to do, Narcissa.” Hermione’s voice uncharacteristically cracks, she blames the exhaustion. She usually has a better hold on not appearing weak.

“Anything but this.” Narcissa’s voice has dropped, the rage dissipating and leaving cold terror behind. Narcissa looms over her, a hand lifting Hermione’s jaw to meet her eyes. They’re fierce, flaming with all the fury Narcissa hides from the public. All the anger she’s been forced to swallow and suppress lest it be used against her. The most dangerous thing for a woman of her position is to show that she feels. “I can’t lose you.”

Lily sucks in a deep breath and clenches her fists. Hermione looks passed Narcissa and beckons Lily over to them. She accepts the gesture and moves beside Hermione, her own hand taking Hermione’s. Where Narcissa is raging, Lily is cool. Frozen might be a more accurate description. She looks frozen in time, lost in wounds that have never properly healed. In her mind, she’s being forced to relive it.

Hermione smiles weakly, a far cry from what was once a cocksure expression. “I thought you couldn’t care less about my fate, Madam Black.” She squeezes Lily’s hand, hoping to ground her in the here and now. Lily’s eyes snap to Hermione, the same anger Narcisaa wields now reflecting in Lily.

“Now darling, we both know that’s been a lie for sometime.” Narcissa replies, staring down at Hermione. She can feel her heart race at Narcissa’s admission and how long overdue it is. Even just this morning Narcissa would have straightened her shoulders and sharpened her tongue, eager to deliver a wounding blow.

Anything to cover the truth of the matter.

Anything to pretend she doesn’t care.

Now, Narcissa lays the truth in the brief space between them. Hermione notes the distance of their lips is separated only by the lies they’ve told one another, how short that distance has become. Hermione thinks she could close that distance with one more truth but the cost would be too great.

A lie, it must be. A lie that will fill that space between them once more and sever this desperate hope in Hermione’s chest. Narcissa has her walls to keep her safe, her daggers to keep all away, and the damnable ability to hide her feelings away. Hermione has never been blessed that way. She feels with the heat of the sun and it burns her up if she tries to hide it. She threw herself against those walls, bloodied from the daggers and refusing to back down. Hermione didn’t hide it when she began to care for Narcissa and Lily, although she’ll admit the realization she’d fallen for the women had taken until very recently.

It’s because she cares she must do this and Narcissa knows it. That’s why she admits it only now, that’s why Narcissa looks like she wants to burn Hermione alive with the love she holds within her. She thinks that she can perhaps use it as some leverage, a tool to wedge between Hermione’s ribs. What she expects to find within, Hermione doesn’t know. Doesn’t Narcissa know it is already theirs? Bloody and beating and alive only at Narcissa and Lily’s insistence.

Narcissa thinks she can use Hermione’s love against her, to dissuade her, but it only strengthens her resolve.

“It’s the only way.” She lies. The words do not taste bitter and tainted with deceit, they’re sweet. They’re sweet because she knows with this final lie, she will have succeeded.

The distance between them grows as Narcissa finds her armor, protecting herself from what is to come. She can’t be attached to Hermione knowing what she knows.

She can’t love someone she is bound to lose, the heart ache would end her. Instead, she does what she’s spent a lifetime mastering. She hides it.

“I can never repay you for what you’re doing.” Hermione closes her eyes against the softness of Narcissa’s words. That’s always been their way, as backwards as it seems to her friends. No one understands just how Narcissa soothes her and she’s never told them. There are somethings too private even for friends. How is she supposed to tell either Draco or Harry exactly what their mothers have come to mean to her? The warmth settles in her body, buzzing below her skin. “But I can never forgive you either.” Narcissa’s voice twinges and Hermione’s eyes snap open. She hasn’t totally closed off and coated herself in enough frost to burn Hermione, yet. She reaches out while she still can.

Hermione twirls a strand of her blonde hair before resting her fingers against Narcissa’s collarbone. She wants to weave her fingers in Narcissa’s tresses, she wants to pull Narcissa closer until there is no space between them, she wants to know what it feels like to be desired by Narcissa Black.

It’s not to be.

“I wish we had more time.” Hermione admits. She decides to allow a small indulgence and leans her head against Narcissa while she still can. Narcissa’s hands brush against the nape of her neck, a comforting touch Hermione will never again feel.

“Time has never been our friend, darling.”

One Year Earlier

“See that wizard in the herbology section?” Pansy asks her without looking up, having long mastered the art of gossiping while working.

Hermione looks up out of the corner of her eye and clocks the guy. He looks middle aged, whatever that means with magic involved, and well dressed. Exceptionally well dressed. “Pure-blood?”

“Of course.” Pansy snorts, sorting books with a sluggish pace. Pansy couldn’t care less if someone tried to tell her off about it. “He’s asked me out four times, I’m betting he’s going to do it again.”

“He’s not taking a hint?”

“Apparently not.” Hermione rolls her eyes with Pansy. “Think I’d get away with hexing him?” She makes the jokes but says it quieter, eyes already bouncing around.

“About as well as Draco gets away with walking out of his house.” Pansy winces, sympathy for her friend.

“Can you do it then? They’d hardly go after you.”

“Only just.” Hermione smiles grimly, Pansy meets her with a tight forced one.

“Are they coming after you too?”

“Not since I learned better.” Hermione hums, quieting when the man approaches. He does end up asking Pansy out again during their transaction and Pansy rejects him once more. She does it more politely than Hermione usually sees her reject anyone, a fake smile and all.

Pansy shrugs at Hermione’s inquisitive look. “I’m not looking to get fired and have them up my ass again. I know better than that, Granger.”

“Come by my place tonight?” Hermione asks, worried about Pansy.

“Merlin yes, I need to drink and bitch like no one’s business.” Pansy groans, rushing her task a bit more now. “Can Draco come too?”

“Of course, better invite Harry too then.”

“And if Potter’s coming then Weasley isn’t too far behind. We’ll have to be quiet.”

“I know, I’ll tell them all to come at different times so they don’t get charged with loitering or gathering.”

“You know this is my favorite side of you.”

“Which side is that?”

“Book seller by trade, criminal by choice.” Pansy boops her nose.

Nothing went how they thought it would after the war. All the glamour that’s haunted Harry his whole life twisted around and smothered him. Instead of holding him up as an example, they ran him over to hoist the glory upon themselves. Everything he did, they did, got shoved under the rug. Those in charge took credit for their sacrifices and trials over the years.

They became useless. Worse, they were a threat. All of them were. The young and idealistic, the ones who were forced into their parents’ war. They didn’t agree with the ministry, the wizengamot, the order, not even their own family most of the time. This led to a division of opinion which only got worse under their iron grip.

They can’t gather in groups larger than four, since the ministry fears rioting. They can’t vocally speak their political opinions outside of platforms organized by the ministry, platforms that are never organized. People considered treasonous or suspected of any ill will towards the government are taken away. Everyone toes the line.

They took the credit from Harry, Ron, and her but they still had enough respect that they could have gotten jobs at the ministry. Seeing what the government is capable of, none wanted to take part. Especially when they locked Draco up.

Harry spoke for Draco and his mother but it didn’t matter to them, Harry’s word meant nothing.

After four days of rioting, Draco and his mother were released on conditional terms. As much scrutiny as they’re all under, living under the regime that wizarding government has become, Draco and his mother have it the worst out of people she knows. Pansy runs a close second. They tend to put more pressure on those related to death eaters or sympathizers, knowing they’re more likely to react and do something to be dragged away.

Which makes their impromptu party illegal.

“You look tired.” Ron says flatly as he pulls out of their hug.

“I feel tired.” Hermione gripes.

“You doing okay?”

“As well as any of us are.” She smiles to reassure him, he doesn’t look comforted.

“That’s not the most encouraging thing you’ve ever said.”

“I’m fine, Ron. It’s just been stressful with the new laws.”

Ron’s eyes darken at the words. “Tell me about it, you should hear Percy talk about it all. The git actually supports the laws, supports the government.”

Hermione rolls her eyes and pats his shoulder. “Of course he does, I’m hardly surprised.”

“Charlie nearly popped a blood vessel last time they were in a room together.”

“I’ll bet.”

It’s quieter than a party should be. There’s no music and everyone remains hushed. That’s just how it is now. It reminds her of hiding in a tent, voice low for fear of being found.

She feels like she can’t breathe. Not here in her own flat, not at work, not anywhere someone might see her. She leaves and heads to the roof, aware that it isn’t the best idea to be in the open. She just needs the fresh air, somewhere that isn’t claustrophobic with her weary friends.

She slumps against the walls along the roof, looking out at the city. She lets all the exhaustion show now that there’s no one to see it.

“Not enjoying your party?” A cool voice interrupts her moment. Her shoulders stiffen and her posture closes off, she looks back into the piercing gaze of Narcissa Black. She isn’t sure what Draco’s mother is doing here.

“I would never break the laws, Madam Black.” Hermione can’t help the bitter sarcasm that coats her words.

“Of course not. Perhaps if you wish to keep a low profile, you should make it clear to your friends not to have their mothers drop them off.” Narcissa walks closer but keeps space between them.

“Draco still can’t apparate?”

“Or floo.”

Hermione nods but doesn’t say anything. She watches Narcissa look out over the city, her expression blank. It’s not totally blank. Hermione can see the effort it’s taking Narcissa to look unaffected in this moment. Her nonchalance is not out of genuine indifference but necessity. Of course she’s livid about Draco’s restrictions, their stint in prison, and the fact that the government is practically slobbering to throw them back in. She can’t show that, not here.

Not because they’re in the open, not because anyone could see them, but because she can’t trust Hermione. In this world, no one can truly trust anyone. For all Narcissa knows, Hermione could be secretly working with the government. She might think Hermione would turn them in for a reward or out of a sense of duty. Hermione feels no obligation to her government, no loyalty, but Narcissa isn’t aware of that. How could she feel any loyalty to a government who doesn’t even care about their youth, devalues their youth at every turn?

She doesn’t say that because Narcissa won’t hear it. She watches Narcissa in the moonlight as she puts on an act. They all have their parts to play, willing supplicants to the reigning government. Narcissa has always been the very best actress. How many times has Harry told her about Narcissa lying for him, saving his life and effectively saving the war? She knows he’s worn the words out in her defense, repeating them over and over until they’re etched into the history books. It’s too bad none of them care.

Narcissa looks like she belongs in the moonlight. It makes her blonde hair and blue eyes glow with an almost ethereal quality.

“Looks like I wasn’t the only one with a good idea.” Lily says as she cuts between them, joining them against the wall. She leans on her elbows and hangs over the edge, looking down. Her auburn hair falls between them like a curtain, closing her off. Hermione catches Narcissa’s brief flicker of emotion, her lips quirk with distaste for just a moment.

It makes sense. After all, Malfoys and Potters have never gotten along. Except, Narcissa is no longer a Malfoy. Perhaps Lily isn’t a Potter either but she still uses the surname, her dedication to her dead husband well known. Considering how Harry and Draco are now, Malfoys and Potters are doing just fine. It’s just these two.

“I wasn’t aware you had good ideas.” Narcissa says not looking towards Lily.

“Says the woman who married Lucius.” Hermione is watching Lily, unlike Narcissa, and she sees the hint of a smile.

“I do believe you haven’t made the point you hoped to.”

“Damn, I suppose I’ll have to go back to the drawing board.”

“You’ll think of a response in a few short months, I’m sure.”

Hermione laughs lightly at their bickering, it’s short lived but it’s probably the first she’s laughed in days. If she’s honest, it's probably been like weeks. She isn’t sure when the sound of laughter became so foreign, it almost doesn’t fit her. Laughter lost its place when friends started dying around her. It was murdered in the cold nights where horcruxes were the only thing that changed. She remembers Bellatrix’s laughter, cackles of delight that render her still with fear even now. The laws just sealed their fate, signed their death certificate. What need does she have for laughter when it could draw attention to her?

Narcissa gives her a considering look, it’s like she can’t believe Hermione would dare laugh at her. Lily actually looks up in surprise, knowing her a bit better. Only just.

She’s been friends with Harry throughout their childhood but she rarely interacted with Lily. Usually, they’d spend their summers with the Weasleys. She’d see Lily during parties or on the rare occasion they’d go to the Potters but that’s the extent of it. She’s like a phantom of Hermione’s life, around but not someone to approach. Not because Lily was standoffish, she’s the least standoffish person Hermione has ever met. She’s genuinely a kind and warm person, she sees the best in everyone. She just focused her energies on her son and the war.

She did thank Hermione for helping clear Sirius’ name, before he’d died.

So while they’re acquainted, they’re not close. Not close enough to garner that Lily’s worried expression. “I haven’t heard that in a while.” Lily says it sadly, a bit of nostalgia. She gets it, they all get lost remembering when everything wasn’t so messed up.

Hermione looks away from the two of them for the first time since they joined her. She looks back out at the city but her gaze is unfocused, she just can’t look at them much longer. “There hasn’t been much to laugh about.” Even that is a dangerous statement near the wrong people.

“No, there hasn’t.” Lily agrees with a sigh.

“I’m sure it’s hard being a war hero.” Narcissa’s challenges.

Hermione laughs harder this time but it isn’t like before. This is bitter and desolate, dragged out of her rather than brought out. “If I’m a war hero than you’re a muggle-born.” Hermione looks straight into Narcissa’s eyes with her own look of challenge. “Have you seen my name anywhere in the papers, has anyone talked about my contributions or the others? Draco isn’t the only one threatened here.” She doesn’t say how the government has been looking for something on Harry, Ron, and her since they refused to join them. The three of them promised to keep it to themselves, not wanting to stress anyone out. It would be a wretched thing to tell Lily.

“This world isn’t what you expected, is it?” Narcissa asks her.

She hadn’t expected to defeat one evil only to be threatened by a new one, no. She was too busy running and fighting for her people’s liberation. She hadn’t considered the threat within. She doesn’t say this, she’s already said too much. “Not quite.” Hermione says instead, looking down at her scarred hands.

“I don’t think this is what anyone expected.” Lily says.

“Oh I don’t know about that.” Narcissa interjects sounding amused. It’s the first time she’s let her act down. Is this another act? It must be. “I’m sure the Dark Lord had hoped for something like this.”

There it is. Treason.

Hermione can’t even say hello to someone without worrying it’ll somehow come across treasonous, she lays awake in bed at night turning over every conversation searching for any slip up. Here Narcissa is saying something openly treasonous with all the confidence in the world. She wasn’t trusting or open a few moments ago, what changed? Why say something so damning?

Because she is confident, she knows exactly how they’ll respond. She knows their opinions. Still, Hermione knows lots of people’s opinions but she wouldn’t dare say anything close to that. Narcissa is trying to get something, she needs something.

Allies, she needs allies.

Lily snorts, turning where she could see them both. “This would be his wet dream.”

Narcissa’s lips press together, as if to say she’s disapproving, but for some reason Hermione knows that’s not true. Not when Narcissa looks like she has to swallow the urge to laugh, her eyes crinkled just the slightest. Constrained by etiquette.

Lucky for Hermione, she’s never had much respect for such things. The laugh explodes from her, it’s sudden and surprising to all three of them. “Think if we told them that they’d stop?” Hermione asks through her laughter. Lily gently takes hold of her shoulder to steady her even though Hermione is not likely to fall over the edge.

“It’d certainly be entertaining.” Narcissa answers, finally letting a bit of humor shine through.

“Is that your plan of attack then? Embarrass them to death?” Lily asks it lightly but the word attack lands heavy.

“I have more plans than you’ve admirers, Miss Potter.” It’s no secret that Lily is one of the most desired women in all of the wizarding world, she has suitors trying their hand every day. There’s a newspaper dedicated just to chronicling their attempts.

Hermione knows Narcissa is right, if there’s one thing that woman has it’s plans.

Present

“That’s it?” Lily’s heated voice cuts between the two of them.

“If there were a way to stay with you, the both of you, I would.” Lies, all lies. There is a way but she can’t let it be known. She has tried not to speak of it but now she’s given breath to one of their many secrets. The both of you, not just Narcissa, never just Narcissa. Narcissa has been unavailable and closed off, Hermione yearning and terrified, but Lily has been the most removed.

Lily is all love, it’s what saved Harry and her after all. She loved Snape, she loves James, she loves her son, Hermione knows that Lily loves both of them. Whether or not that means she’s in love with them is something that haunts Hermione’s every waking moment. Narcissa is walls and daggers. Lily has walls but her gate is always open, a bridge extended. She lets people into her heart without trials or tribulations. She can always raise the bridge and keep people out but it’s rare. She did it to Snape when he chose supremacy over her.

The bridge can always lower after it’s been raised, like it had with James.

Just because Hermione and Narcissa are in Lily’s heart does not mean she feels the same affections and desires. Sometimes, Hermione is so sure it is reciprocated. How can she be sure when Lily has never made her care a secret? Hermione struggles to differentiate the dimensions of Lily’s care. Love is no stranger to Lily.

The wounds in her heart from James plague her. The loss of someone she loved so dearly is a constant pain. She’s told them at great length the pain she feels, how she doubts she can ever love like that again.

Hermione has loved Lily and Narcissa for months but she’s never put that expectation on either of them. Subtle doubts always terrorize her. She began to realize the depth of Narcissa’s feelings but it always worried her that it was her own hopes blinding her to reality. Now she has confirmation from Narcissa that Hermione wasn’t mistaken. She hasn’t stopped worrying that Lily simply does not return her feelings. She kept quiet, she couldn’t say anything. Not with Narcissa’s coldness and Lily’s heartbreak.

She must keep it in, keep the secrets and let this sacrifice happen. She must not show her hand but she’s only human. She wants one last scrap of affection, one small admittance. Yes, Lily, both of you. She needs to be heard before she is incapable of ever saying it. Before she is silenced for the last time.

“Hermione…” Lily trails off, her voice wobbling. She looks away from the both of them, her jaw ticking as she gathers herself. She swallows harshly a few times but through it all, her hand never leaves Hermione’s. “This is exactly what I always feared.”

“I know, I’m sorry it has to be like this.”

“I refuse to believe there’s nothing to be done.” Lily is so full of anger and determination that it robs Hermione of her breath. “Is this truly it? When have you ever let something happen, Narcissa? You don’t accept how things are, you plan and scheme until you’ve changed the whole game. Hermione, you’ve fought everything they’ve thrown at you. You two want to quit? Fuck that, we don’t quit. None of us do. I can’t-” Lily cuts herself off but she certainly hasn’t run out of steam.

“He’s my son.” Narcissa sounds wrecked when she says it. Hermione appreciates it, this moment of emotional honesty. She is allowing herself to be open, even when Hermione thought the walls were back up. Hermione is grateful that Narcissa is letting them see how hard it is, that she does care what happens to Hermione. It isn’t an easy choice, Draco or her.

“And she’s our…” Lily peters out, looking around the room, anywhere but their expectant stares. She gathers herself, taking in a deep breath. Narcissa and Hermione wait, knowing Lily is about to lay it all out. Lily has always been the bravest of them, the loudest. Of course it’d be her in the end. “We’re in love with her, blast your reservations. You two want to hide it even now? Pretend this year hasn’t been amazing despite the hell of it? Every second with you two has brought me something I haven’t felt since James died. I won’t let this happen, I won’t lose you too Hermione. I absolutely won’t let you two idiots sit on your feelings instead of saying them like functioning adults.”

Hermione can feel the heat radiating off the tip of her ears, the chastisement causing no small amount of embarrassment. Narcissa clears her throat, looking away from them. “Lily-”

“No. You are trying to make it easier for us to lose you, you think if you don’t say it we’ll manage. I love you, both of you.” Lily takes a deep breath, her eyes wet. All those times she talked about James, about losing love, she was falling in love. Hermione’s heart is racing, her greatest fears toppled. She never knew when it came to Lily, a year’s worth of worry is taken away. “I refuse to make this easy. If I make it difficult enough maybe one of you will come to your senses. We’re not losing Hermione, not like this.” Lily says the last part to Narcissa, leaving no room to argue.

One Year Earlier

Narcissa Black has plans, Hermione is forced to relearn this. Narcissa schemes and plots. That’s how she finds herself in the company of Narcissa and Lily not even a fortnight after their last meeting.

Hermione knows what it is meant to be, it’s not what it ends up being. She remembers it after all, meetings in the dark. Dumbledore’s Army training and hiding, the flash of spells. It’s not too different now. Small acts of rebellion until there’s enough to be a real force. That’s what Narcissa intends when she invites Lily and Hermione to her manor. She expects to gather allies, start building her own army against the government.

That’s not what happens, not entirely.

They do speak about rebellion in a roundabout way, words that could be treasonous if unwrapped. That’s just not all they speak of. It starts with Hermione.

“How’ve you been since Lucius got arrested?” Lily asks Narcissa.

“It’s been fine. Draco and I have decorated, it’s rather festive.” That it’s only happening because Lucius is gone goes unsaid but they hear it nonetheless.

Lily’s worries her lips, debating her words. “Do you not miss him?”

“Some of us don’t have husbands worthy of missing.” Hermione winces at the words and Lily’s near flinch.

“I was just asking if you missed having someone around.”

“Oh is this Merth’s new book?” Hermione cuts between the two, hoping to stave off whatever argument is about to erupt.
“It is, I wasn’t aware you were a fan.” Narcissa replies, still watching Lily.

“I sell books, I tend to read.” Hermione replies dryly.

“Yes, of course.”

“What do you read?” Lily asks her, willing to play along.

“Anything that I can learn from.”

“So you prefer nonfiction?”

“Fiction teaches plenty of lessons.”

Lily looks over disbelievingly. “I don’t know about that. What lessons do romance or action books tell? It makes far more sense to read nonfiction if you want to read.”

Hermione hums, spinning the cover of the book around towards Lily. “Fiction teaches everything. Don’t marry the ass just because he’s rich.” Narcissa’s lips turn down and she glowers at Hermione. Hermione’s quick to look away. “Don’t forget family when your other duties pull at you.” At this Lily twitches uncomfortably. Hermione looks down at the book, swallowing harshly. “It doesn’t matter how young or idealistic you are, in the end it doesn’t matter what you do.”

A beat of silence only broken by Narcissa’s clock. “This is why I don’t read fiction.”

Narcissa laughs, the tension between the two finally letting up. “You’ve scared her off, Miss Granger.”

Hermione smiles, brushing her own words away. “If only there was some way to bring her back.”

“Recommend her a book. She’s enough of a bleeding heart to feel obligated to read it.”

“Smart, she’ll be forced to come back and tell us all about it.”

Lily’s eyes have slowly been widening between the two. Her smile has turned soft and warm. “I’ll take a recommendation.”

“It seems it is the way to get you to come back.” Hermione gives the win to Narcissa who looks smug.

“I didn’t think you’d be so eager to have us come back, Narcissa.”

Narcissa’s shoulders tense again and Hermione quietly curses Lily’s poor timing. “I think I’ll recommend you Gerrod’s cookbook.”

Lily steps closer to her, her eyes narrowing and her face a shade of pink. “Are you implying my cooking isn’t good?”

Hermione does her best to control her expression and not laugh but the smile still breaks free. “I would never imply such a thing.”

Lily reaches behind her and takes the book, Narcissa’s book. “I think I’ll just read this one if you both have such high opinions of it.”

“I don’t think you’ll like it.” Narcissa offers.

“Considering your objection to romance novels, I agree with Madam Black.”

Lily’s expression falls slightly, she brushes a thumb over the spine of the book. “It’s not that I dislike romance novels.” Lily sounds forlorn as she always does whenever James is close in her thoughts. “It’s that I believe they serve no purpose.”

“At the very least, you’ll get an insight to what Narcissa enjoys.” Hermione laughs when Narcissa’s eyes flash to her.

“Definitely a victory. Thank you, Hermione.”

“It’s my book, why is she getting the thanks?” Narcissa says in a tone too close to a grumble for someone of her stature.

“Because she won’t be insufferable over it.” Lily answers, pulling out of Hermione’s space.

On the way out that night, Hermione stops next to Narcissa. “She’s just concerned that Lucius’ absence leaves you alone. It wasn’t meant to pry.” She knows by the breath Lily takes that she hears it from a few steps ahead.

“And you?”

“Me?”

“Are you...concerned?”

Hermione looks over Narcissa stone expression, trying to find what answer she wants. “Yes.” She decides on honesty.

Narcissa doesn’t so much as move a muscle but Hermione can feel her triumph. “I have Draco, I’m not wounded by Lucius’ absence. Now, I have you two as well. Until next time.”

There’s been worse ways to have a door shut in her face.

Hermione didn’t expect that night to go so well. When Lily and Narcissa aren’t about to fight they get along surprisingly well. She knows they’d both have her head if she dared suggest it. She fits in with them too. As well as one can in a single meeting, two if she counts the roof.

It becomes a part of Hermione’s week. Every Friday they meet at Narcissa manor for hours.

Lily, a few minutes late, comes in a flurry. She slams the book down on the table in front of Narcissa and Hermione. If Hermione thought Lily was blushing last time it has nothing on this. She’s practically red, her eyes wide and glowing with a mix of emotions. “You told me this was romance. This!” She gestures violently at the book and Hermione laughs, even Narcissa looks like she’s holding back her own laughter. “This is not romance! It’s just porn!”

“I don’t know.” Narcissa leans forward and Hermione stops laughing to pay attention. Narcissa grins, licking her lips briefly. “I think there’s quite a bit of romance.”

Lily looks dumbfounded for a moment before she snaps into action.

Hermione has the sense to catch the book before it bludgeons Narcissa’s head in.

Present

“What are we to do then? It’s not a matter of how we feel about Hermione, Lily.” Narcissa says, eyes glittering with tears.

“It’s always a matter of the heart, isn’t that what you two taught me? How many truly terrible romance novels did you make me read? Well, the joke is on me. I did learn something. Love beats everything.”

“You already knew that.” Narcissa points out.

“The Mother and Son Who Lived, wow you’re right. Somehow I’d forgotten that in the last day.” Lily’s voice turns acerbic.

“You seem to forget that we don’t have a magic protection or one enemy to fight against.”

“Why don’t we? The government is an entity. Instead of striking out against one person we strike out against the whole.”

“We don’t have the power.”

“Then we run!” Lily yells, eyes blazing. “We leave magical England. They can’t arrest Hermione if they have no jurisdiction over her.”

Hermione closes her eyes, sighing. She had hoped they wouldn’t suggest it. Trying to run will make them criminals as well, they could find themselves locked in Azkaban alongside her. It’s a good option if it weren’t so liable for terrible consequences. “Harry? Draco? You would be leaving your family.”

“You think those two wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to run?”

“That’s not the point!” Hermione explodes, pulling away from both of them. “You could all be found as criminals! Most people can’t escape and they’re caught. You could all be arrested.”

“You already thought of this.” Narcissa notes.

“Of course I did, I thought of everything.”

“Obviously not if you think we’d just let you go sacrifice yourself.” Lily answers, approaching Hermione cautiously.

“It’s the option that hurts the least people.”

“How? It will destroy the both of us.” Narcissa says, actually taking Lily’s hand. She’s open, as open as Hermione has ever seen her. She sees her path, her way to get everything she wants. She thinks she can save Draco and Hermione, now she has no reason to pull back. Lily’s words drew her out, made her want to fight.

For the first time in their whole relationship, it’s Hermione who’s pulling back.

“I have to protect him. I have to protect you two.” Hermione’s spent so many years as the protector. She isn’t as good of a duelist as Harry but she isn’t shabby and there’s a lot of way to protect people. She’s always looked out for Harry and Ron as well as the rest of her friends. “I care too much for you.” There’s a rawness to her words. She’s always been the one who cares more. She loves people more than they do her. She spent the entire time falling in love with them thinking they didn’t feel anything back, she’s always the second place friend. She’s rarely anyone’s first choice.

“Hermione…” Lily sounds hurt, like she can hear all the undertones in Hermione words. Narcissa reaches out and takes Hermione’s hand, unclenching it before taking it. Lily moves them both closer to her, surrounding Hermione. Lily cups her cheek and Hermione squeezes her eyes, trying to blink away her tears.

“We’ve been horrible about this.” Narcissa murmurs, Lily nods her agreement.

Lily leans in, brushing her nose against Hermione’s, and waits. She waits for Hermione to close the distance. She hadn’t leaned in when Narcissa was so close, she had the strength. Morgana help her, she doesn’t have the strength to resist any longer. Not with Narcissa already kissing her knuckles, tentatively and with so much care. She leans in.

She’s kissed a few people in her life. Krum, Fleur, Ginny but none were like this. She thought she was burning before but it was nothing like this. Lily’s soft lips slowly moving against her, Narcissa stepping closer and inadvertently shoving Lily closer to Hermione. Lily pulls back but doesn’t move away, hovering just outside of her space.

“We’re idiots, is what she meant. I believe I speak for both of us when I say we’ve both been falling for you, for each other, all along.”

“It wasn’t our intention to make you feel as if you were alone in it.” Narcissa adds. Hermione doesn’t know what to say. She feels simultaneously numb and on fire. She didn’t come prepared for this.

“I can’t lose either of you because we pushed our luck.” Hermione says quietly, hands grabbing at both of them as if she can keep them close.

“Darling, listen to me.” Narcissa entreats. Lily shifts and pulls Narcissa closer, tucked between the two. Narcissa offers a look at the manhandling but Lily shrugs unashamedly. “I have a contact in the American magical government. He’s been trying to get me to defect for months. He wants all the information I have on the war, Death Eaters, and anything Lucius might have kept. He’s already promised protection if I left.”

“Why didn’t you leave with Draco?”

“I thought you two wouldn’t come. I was selfish, I should have gotten Draco to safety. I knew he wouldn’t go without Harry.”

Lily abruptly moves away from them. “That’s it! I’ll get Draco and Harry over here and we can reach out to your contact. We can all leave.”

“Can Pansy come too?” Hermione asks, surprised at this turn of events but not about to leave Pansy.

“He was desperate for some of Lucius’ information, I could throw in some information about the current situation and I’m sure he’d be willing to extend his offer of protection to as many people as I say. Within reason.” Narcissa answers.

“Maybe Ginny and Luna too, I don’t think they want to fight another war.”

“Call everyone that can be trusted and wishes to escape. We’re doing it now, before it’s too late. They’ll come looking for you soon.” Lily says.

“We’re really doing this?” Hermione asks.

“We’re really doing this. I’ve been needing a new social circle for years.” Narcissa says, a mischievous look at the thought of new drama.

They start making their arrangements, everyone contacting those they need to. At one point Narcissa kisses her just because she can. It’s just as mind blowing as it was with Lily. Those months of longing and imagining how it would be leaves Hermione weak in the knees. Narcissa’s hand is firm on her hip and her lips all consuming. Lily makes a sound in her throat from where she’s standing.

“Don’t forget to call your parents and tell them to stay on vacation.” Narcissa says easily, like she hadn’t just blown up Hermione world.

After a few minutes Lily huffs and Narcissa grins. Hermione laughs, helping pack up the sensitive information that the American wizard wants. “Something wrong?” Narcissa asks.

“Nope.” Lily answers quickly and entirely unbelievable.

“Sounds like something is wrong.” Hermione adds, bumping against Lily to get a reaction.

“Just wondering when I became chopped liver.” Lily huffs, turning to give Narcissa a severe look.

“You’re not chopped liver.” Narcissa strides over to them and pulls Lily into a kiss. Hermione feels her grip on a stack of papers loosen but luckily they were hovering over the bag. Thinking about them kissing and watching them kiss is an entirely different thing. Narcissa pinning Lily against the table, hands in hair, a moan caught in someone’s throat, it’s almost too much for Hermione. Narcissa pulls away and the two women are breathing heavily, Hermione’s own grip is tight on the table. “You just can’t cook it.”

It takes Lily a whole moment to grasp the words but when she does she scowls at Narcissa.

“See if I ever cook for you again.” Lily bats Narcissa away.

“The horror.” Narcissa replies, going back to locating more papers.

“See if I ever kiss you again.”

Narcissa freezes at that threat.

Six Months Ago

It’s been going well, whatever it is. Hermione knows what it is on her end. She is glad they started making the meetings twice a week, possibly three times a week if she has anything to say about it. She knows what it means that being with them is the best part of her week. She hates when she has to leave at the end of the night.

She tries not to think about it when it hurts to. She can’t be with them, she knows this. Narcissa would never feel something for her and Lily hasn’t become any less married to a dead man. No, it’s one sided. She knows it’s one sided. She buries it as deep as it will go and she hopes it stays buried. She can’t risk them knowing and cutting her off, severing their fledgling friendship. Even if she can’t be with them as she desires, their friendship is nothing small.

Their friendship and presence is a reprieve, there’s a reason it’s her favorite part of the week. She can be herself with them, no games and no hiding. She doesn’t have to second guess her words. She enjoys their witty banter, the way that their fighting has become a sort of language itself. Narcissa invites them every time but isn’t the outgoing one despite her reputation. Lily is the one who’s outgoing, who pushes them to do something. She instills confidence in both Narcissa and Hermione. Hermione loves Narcissa’s shared passion for books and their attempts to recommend books to Lily. She isn’t sure when they went from trying hard to recommend truly good books or books that Lily would like to recommending the absolute worst books. Lily still reads them all for them.

She doesn’t like to think about it.

To bad she has friends who want to talk about nothing but.

Ron thinks it’s weird. He doesn’t understand why anyone would want to spend so much time with them, especially Narcissa. That gets him a fierce look from Draco and an elbow from Harry. Harry and Draco tend to look like they’d be anywhere else when it comes up. Pansy is sure they’re all together and Ginny plays off her. Neville likes the arrangement because now he gets to check out the gardens. Luna doesn’t really care. That’s why Luna is her favorite. That comment usually just makes things worse and makes Pansy and Ginny somehow more obnoxious.

It’s all and well until everything falls apart.

She’s with Draco when it happens.

Draco has always been one of their favorites. An auror’s eyes lock on him and a chill goes up Hermione’s spine. It happens quick and so agonizingly slow. The auror is pushing, threatening, getting closer to Draco, laying hands on Draco. She watches the twist in Draco’s face, so much fear and hate. She moves to help and he stops her, a warning look.

In the end, it’s self defense. The auror trips Draco and misinterprets his steps as him trying to pull his wand, or that’s what he would have told his bosses she’s sure. The auror pulls his wand, moving to kill Draco. Draco’s wand is out just as fast, having regained his balance. One curse and it’s over, the body hits the floor.

Draco’s face pales and he looks at Hermione like his whole world fell apart.

“Hermione.” He looks devastated, like he had by the end of the war. “They’re going to kill me.”

“No, they’re not.”

“Azkaban isn’t much better!”

“Draco! We’ll take care of this.” Hermione promises.

She takes care of it.

She disposes of the body, she burns it until there’s nothing but ash and then spreads the ash so it won’t be found. She cleans the scene, leaving no trace of the auror behind.

She spends the rest of the day comforting Draco. He doesn’t cry near her, they aren’t really that close. That day she finds herself holding him as tight as she can as his sobs threaten to take down the manor. Narcissa pops her head in at one point, worry naked in her expression. It’s a testament to the trust she has slowly built with Hermione that she leaves when Hermione shakes her head. She stays the night and the next, hardly leaving Draco’s side.

“I’m what they made me to be.” He says one night.

“Never. You protected yourself, you did all you could.”

She wishes she had been fast enough. If she killed the auror Draco would be spared this pain.

“What happened?” Narcissa asks as she moves to leave. Draco is better, not great but better. Harry is taking over watching him, trying to remind him of what’s good. Narcissa looks rough, her voice is choppy. Hermione knows she looks no better.

“It’s better that it remains unsaid, Madam Black.” Narcissa nods, understanding that sometimes that’s the safer option. She looks unsettled and curious, worried. She wants to know what’s wrong with her son, she wants to help him, and is faced with the reality that truth isn’t the way to.

“Hermione?”

“Yes?” Hermione stops her exit, turning to look at Narcissa.

“Have a good day.” Narcissa looks unhappy with her own words. It’s alright, Hermione hears the thanks all the same.

“You as well.”

Present

The mistletoe appears in front of her.

Hermione tilts her head back and sees Lily’s pleased smile. Hermione reaches up and grabs the back of Lily’s neck, pulling her in for a kiss.

Living in America is a culture shock. After dealing with the war and then the following laws, she wasn’t prepared for this world. She’s more of a celebrity here, they all are, but in a distant way. They don’t have to look over their shoulders for aurors, they can meet in groups again. They meet up every weekend, out in public where everyone can see them. Pansy has taken back to being as rude to people she doesn’t like as she can since she no longer has to fear the government.

It isn’t their end goal. Narcissa wants her manor back, Lily wants to visit James’ grave again, Hermione wants to see her parents again. None of them are sure of the American’s protection once Narcissa’s value runs out, they aren’t banking on it. They have plans and dreams but for right now, they’re happy. She’s happy.

“Disgusting.” Narcissa comments from her chair. Considering Narcissa’s rant about mistletoe last week, Hermione knows this is the exact reaction Lily was aiming for.

“Want to ruin her day?” Lily asks, pressing her lips to her temple.

“After you.”

Hermione and Lily lunge after their girlfriend.