Literatti: Fiction By Deslea
Two of a Kind
Deslea R. Judd
Fandom: Harry Potter
Characters/Keywords: Lucius/Tonks (primary), Lucius/Narcissa, Remus/Tonks
Spoilers/Timeframe: War and postwar, goes alt-universe mid-battle.
Summary: The four stages of grief are shock, anger, denial and acceptance. Or: After the war, two unlikely widows find a way to keep standing. Novella length (35,000).
Disclaimer: Characters not mine. Interpretation mine.
More fic: http://fiction.deslea.com
Feedback: Please. deslea at deslea dot com.
|SHOCK| |ANGER| |DENIAL: LUCIUS| |DENIAL: TONKS| |ACCEPTANCE| |YULETIDE INTERLUDE|
[DENIAL - LUCIUS]
"You should take me down, you know."
Lucius looked up from Narcissa's dressing table, where he sat fastening his shirt. Turned to look at the small portrait of her beside his bed.
She'd been there when he'd come to bed in the early hours of the morning. For some time now, she had been in the habit of departing her portrait in the parlour whenever Nymphadora came over. Like she knew the change was coming. He thought now that she knew it before he did.
Ignoring her comment, he said, "Dressing tables are very practical things. Why don't men have them, do you think?"
A ghost of a smile came over her features. "Most men aren't as vain as you, darling."
"You wound me, wife." He said it in moderately good humour, turning his attention to his reflection once more.
She said presently, "I'm not your wife."
He ground his teeth and fastened her brooch at his neck.
Narcissa said again, "I'm not your wife, and you should stop wearing that."
He turned around again. "What the hell do you mean, you're not my wife? We were married for twenty-six years."
"Were, Lucius. Marriage is for the living. We swore to one another until death do us part. And it did."
That made his breath catch in his chest a little. He rose and made his way to the bed beside her. Sat down on it, his hands dangling uselessly between his knees. He bowed his head, breathing hard. She watched him curiously from her painted high-backed chair.
"It's going to bother her, if it doesn't already," she said gently. "The bedroom and the parlour are your favourite places to...you know. So where did you put me? The bedroom and the parlour. Honestly, darling, men have no foresight."
"I wasn't planning to replace you," he said quietly. "Forgive me if I didn't have the etiquette of taking a new lover at the forefront of my mind."
She looked surprised by this. "You didn't replace me, Lucius." She went on, "I'm just a painting. An enchanted piece of canvas, with a bit of hair out of her hairbrush mixed in. Just enough to be able to say the things she thought, more or less as she would have said them. I'm not your wife. Your wife is gone." Her voice was kind.
"So what do you suggest I do? Store you in the attic? I won't burn you, Narcissa. Not again."
A look of pity passed over her painted features, but she said only, "I hear the hallway is pleasant. You could move the big one from the parlour to there. And perhaps Draco would like the smaller one."
"The hallway is not pleasant," he snorted. "Have you forgotten my father's there? And if Draco has his way with Astoria, you'll be avoiding you-know in his room as well."
"Please," she said primly. "That's my son you're talking about."
"Precisely." He wondered, "So what am I supposed to do, Narcissa? Strip the house of everything you ever touched?"
"Not at all. Just make a bit of room for the poor girl. Is there any reason you can't keep the brooch for special occasions?"
He gave a sound of frustration and removed it. "You're making too much of this, you know. Men don't attach a lot of sentiment to objects. It's just a habit."
"So's grief, after a while. Life is for the living, Lucius."
"You're an amateur philosopher now? Please." He said tersely, "Narcissa, what are you doing here?"
"Why, Lucius," she said kindly, "you put me here. You paid the painter. You gave him my hair. So why don't you tell me?"
He didn't have an answer. He didn't think she really expected one anyway.
Draco asked this as he took his seat in Lucius' office, Leonie's lovingly-made lunch in hand. He'd already left for work when Lucius had come down for breakfast that morning.
"She's not coming." Lucius braced himself for the awkward task ahead, then said, "I wanted to talk to you alone."
Draco's head snapped up. A cascade of emotions passed over his face, too quickly for Lucius to interpret any of them. He said grimly, "It's happened, hasn't it? You and Tonks?" His face settled into a resigned expression. "I knew it would."
"And that upsets you." It wasn't a question.
Draco gave a wearied sigh. "You're rotten at this, Dad. You should have let Tonks do it. Hell, Mum's portrait would have done it better."
"Your mother's portrait has already pointed out several of my deficiencies today," Lucius said curtly. "I'll add that to the list."
Draco softened. "You'd be a perfectly good father if you would stop playing bloody roles and talk to me. The tough-love-Dad thing might have worked for you, but it didn't work for me. And it certainly doesn't work now that Mum's not here to balance it out."
Lucius inclined his head in concession. "I suppose that's true enough. I don't know how to talk."
"Rubbish. You talked to Mum. And you talk to Tonks. Why not me?"
"Because they're...equals, I suppose." It wasn't quite the right word, but it was the best one he could come up with on short notice.
"And I'm not?"
"I didn't mean it like that. You're a - a rather fine young man, Draco. I'm - rather proud of that." He said it awkwardly.
Draco looked gratified. "What, then?"
"I mean I'm supposed to be...bigger than you. I'm supposed to protect you, not confide in you."
Only he wasn't bigger, was he? In the war they were all trying so hard to forget, Draco had shown himself to be twice the man Lucius had ever been. Draco had resisted - with terror, and tears, but he had resisted. Lucius had never resisted, only snuck around and evaded as best he could.
Now, Draco unfastened his cuff and lifted his sleeve. Laid his forearm out on the desk, Dark Mark exposed, faded but never gone. "You can't protect me. You never could."
It hurt Lucius to look at, in a way that his own did not. He said quietly, "And I have to live with that every day."
Draco said, "And that's really the problem, isn't it? It's always been the problem. Even when I was little." He fastened his cuff again. "That's what Tonks says."
"And she's the expert," Lucius mocked.
"When it comes to you? I think she is." Draco sat back in his chair. "You know, I didn't think I'd mind," he said thoughtfully. "About you and Tonks, I mean. I thought I'd be pleased."
"Why aren't you?" Lucius wondered.
"I...think...it makes it real," Draco said.
"I don't understand."
"That Mum really isn't coming back." He looked very young all of a sudden.
"Oh, Draco," he said gently. More gently than he thought he'd spoken to Draco ever.
"It isn't that I don't like her - I do." Draco was suddenly very childlike. "I just wish there was some way we could have had them both."
Lucius felt something inside him crumble. He hadn't wept for Narcissa in months, but now there was salt and warmth rising in his face. His first instinct was to look away and hide his face, but he thought that if he did that, he'd lose the ground he'd made up with Draco, and he might not get it back.
The boy was almost grown; the time for becoming his father was fast slipping away.
So he didn't hide. He held Draco's gaze, his and Narcissa's mirror image, streaked with loss that matched his own.
"I do too, son. God, I do too."
Nymphadora stepped awkwardly out of Lucius' Floo, Teddy in her arms.
Lucius watched her from the doorway, feeling fresh warmth for her, watching her dust off her skirt like an ungainly teenager. Her hair was purple - he'd never seen it like that (had he done that? he wondered with something like pride) - and she was smiling.
"Hello, Lucius," she said. Came over to him and slipped a tentative hand over his shoulder, like she was afraid even now that he was going to disappear.
He drew her closer. Just as hesitant. Kissed her, his fingers tracing their way along her jaw. "I like your hair."
"You should. It's your fault." She was smiling against his mouth.
Lucius kissed her once more, then pulled away; Teddy was there and lunch would be served soon and he didn't want to start something they couldn't finish. "Where's your mum?" he wondered.
"She couldn't make it," she murmured. "Saturday lunch is just us. Do you mind?"
He shook his head, taking Teddy as he wriggled from her arms. "Why couldn't she make it?"
Nymphadora looked away. "We're not speaking."
Lucius sighed. "It's about us, isn't it? I'm sorry, Nymphadora."
She looked uncomfortable.
He frowned. "Nymphadora?" he prompted.
"It's not us," she admitted. "She said something. About Remus. I - took offence. We argued."
A chill came over his voice. "You're not speaking to your living mother because of someone who's dead?"
"It's not just any old someone, Lucius," she said in clear affront. "He was my husband."
He snapped, "I don't care. Fix it."
Nymphadora stared up at him. "I beg your pardon?"
"I said, fix it."
"That's - that's really not your call to make!" Dora's voice was outraged; her hair had turned a dangerous shade of red.
"Like hell it's not. Draco loves you and Andromeda both. He's trying so hard, and it isn't easy for him, to see you taking his mother's place." For fuck's sake, he was standing here holding her son like his own, and if she thought he would expect any less from her, she had another think coming.
"I know that. I love Draco, you know I do. But still-"
"Nymphadora," he said, his voice filled with warning, "Draco grew up with aunts and uncles who would have killed us all for the pettiest of grudges. Family conflict isn't safe for him. I will not stand for you upsetting him with this."
She was looking at him oddly. Said softly, "Don't look now, Lucius, but you and Draco are actually starting to understand each other."
He snorted. "Maybe it's time you and Andromeda did the same."
That fury came back into her eyes, flashing as she stared up at him. Weighing it up. Finally, she pursed her lips and turned back to the fireplace. Grabbed a handful of Floo powder from the jar on the mantle and threw it in. Said clearly, "Tonks residence." Put her head into the cold emerald flame. "Mum?"
"What is it, Dora?" Andromeda's disembodied voice floated up out of the flame. It sounded chilly even from here. Nymphadora and Andromeda were two of a kind, Lucius thought, two red-hot women burning each other without even trying.
"I don't want to talk about this morning. At all."
Nymphadora ground her teeth. "Would you come to lunch?"
There was a pause, then Andromeda said curiously, "Did Lucius put you up to this?"
Dora threw him a look, and he stepped forward. "We'd both like you here, Andromeda. The boys need consistency. We all do."
Another pause, a longer one. Finally, Andromeda said, "Give me an hour. I'll come." The flame went out as abruptly as it had began.
Nymphadora was looking at him sidelong. "Thank you, I suppose," she said with ill-grace.
"United front," he said, staring into the empty fireplace. "That's what Narcissa always...used to say."
He turned away; Teddy was drifting off to sleep on his shoulder. He snapped his fingers and Leonie appeared with a crack. He didn't need to ask; she simply took the baby from him. She would put him down in Draco's old nursery for a nap before lunch. "Hold off on lunch a while," he instructed, and she nodded. "Madam Tonks will be here in an hour."
When he finished, he turned back to Nymphadora. She was still standing by the fireplace, turned away. Shoulders hunched. She'd paid no attention to the domestics happening around her; that wasn't like her. She liked Leonie and she would touch Teddy tenderly even if he was asleep. He wondered if he'd pushed her too hard when he pushed her to reconcile with her mother.
He went to her. Laid his hands on her shoulders. "Thank you," he said gently. Kissed the back of her head, smelling that ridiculous, adorable purple hair. "Thank you."
She leaned back against him. Unwinding in spite of herself, perhaps. Shook her head a little, as though in defeat. He didn't want her defeat. He wanted to her to understand.
"I'm not sorry for pushing you to do that," he said, making the distinction clear. "If you're ours, then you're really ours. I've no use for anything less. But I'm sorry I upset you."
She turned to face him. Looking up at him with dark, gleaming eyes. "I've no use for anything less either. What was it you called it? A united front? I'm not used to that, that's all. Giving it, or getting it."
Well, yes, that made sense. He'd gathered that her relationship with Lupin had been troubled, but it had escaped in hints and fragments. He didn't really have a handle on it.
Lucius sighed and took her by the hand. "Come, Nymphadora. We've got an hour. Come and tell me about it. Please."
"Is in the library with his nose in a book. We won't see him 'til lunch. We're only talking. Come on." He tugged on her hand. Led her to the couch and sat. She sat too, leaning into the crook of his arm.
"I don't know what you want me to say," she said presently. "Remus was very...damaged, I suppose you'd say, by the lycanthropy." He nodded - she'd already intimated that much. "He always felt that he was short-changing me somehow by being with me. Too old, too poor, too dangerous, not whole, all that. Like he was doing something wrong by being with me. I wouldn't expect you'd understand," she added with a wry smile.
He didn't. Oh, he was conscious that in taking up with him, Nymphadora had traded one disreputable man for another, but it wouldn't have stopped him from pursuing a relationship with her - not so long as she was willing and went in with her eyes open. He said dryly, "I'm not so self-sacrificing as that."
"No," she agreed. "I rather like that about you. I told Mum as much. She said she could see how you would be attractive to me after Remus. That's why we argued. She hit a nerve, I suppose."
He smirked. "See? Your mother loves me, deep down."
"She tolerates you, deep down. Anyway. The thing is, all of that was about him. I know that. But if you act like you're doing something wrong for long enough...you - he - made me feel like..."
It fell into place then. "He made you feel like you were the one doing something wrong."
Nymphadora looked away. "He made me ashamed of loving him. And then we married, and that was hole-and-corner, too. I never felt that he was proud to be with me." She swallowed hard. He couldn't see it, but he could hear it. Her hair had turned a dishwater brown that he'd never seen before. Somehow it was worse even than the dead white of her grief. The white had a sad vibrance of its own. The brown was lifeless. Like sleepwalking. Like the Imperius.
He kissed her hair. Stroked it gently. Half-wished that nitwit Lupin was in front of him so he could punch him in the jaw. Damn that Gryffindor sense of honour. It caused at least as many problems as it solved. A measured dose of self-interest was a bloody healthy thing.
"So you see, Remus and I never had what you called a united front. Even when we were together, we were never really together." She drew in her breath, sounded like she was about to say something more, but in the end she held her peace. He wondered about it, but decided to let it go.
"Look at me," he said, and she did. "Remember what I said about love being an act of heart and will?" She nodded. "Will's much harder to cultivate than heart, Nymphadora. Will is about strength. Being strong enough to face things about yourself, and to act accordingly. If Remus' will was weak, it doesn't mean he didn't feel it and it didn't mean he was ashamed of you. They're different things."
She cocked an eyebrow. Openly doubtful. "You seemed to manage it okay."
"That's quite different. My marriage was arranged. I was already promised to Narcissa when I fell in love with her. I had the will ready-made, in a manner of speaking." Saying it, he realised with discomfort that he had never really navigated the beginning of an adult relationship at all.
"And with me?" The shadows had lifted from her features; she was gazing at him with great warmth.
It dawned on him, with a gnawing feeling in the pit of his stomach, that he didn't in fact know the answer. This was all new to him. Narcissa was upstairs in her portrait haunting him like a ghost and Draco was in the library steeling himself to adjust to his new-look family, and suddenly Lucius didn't fucking know what he was (and was not) willing to do about Nymphadora. About any of it.
He only knew that he loved her. That was his only constant.
He tugged her against him. Kissed her. Hard. Drew her up on top of him urgently. Not to distract her, though that was a bonus; but because for Lucius, love and lust and belonging were all tangled up together, hopelessly entwined in a predestined marriage bed. And now, with Nymphadora, every instinct in him drove him to possess her.
So he had her, but when they were done, he still wasn't sure if he was willing to belong in return.
It was only a couple of days before the Ministry betting pool paid out.
Not that they were caught doing anything. It was nothing so spectacular as that. It was just a slip of the tongue. She tripped into a crowded elevator; he caught her, she apologised. He said dryly, "You wouldn't be my Nymphadora if you could manage to stay upright for a whole day unaided."
She laughed, went back to rummaging in her bag for her quill, and they thought nothing more of it.
By the end of the day, he had been on the receiving end of "My Nymphadora?" no less than thirteen times (nine of which were accompanied by a single raised eyebrow that would have done Severus proud). By then, Lucius was furious, closing the door on the latest offender with ill-grace and warding it. Anything for five minutes' peace.
"You're being ridiculous."
Lucius turned with a drawn-in breath. The small portrait in his office was so rarely occupied that he'd forgotten it was there. Had he and Nymphadora done anything here? he wondered in alarm, searching quickly through his memories. Nothing much. A kiss or two. Now, he wondered if that was a kiss or two too many.
"Narcissa," he said, recovering. "You don't normally come here."
"No. Politics bore me. But I admit I was curious."
"About you." She nodded an autocratic chin towards the door. "I see the vultures are in full flight."
"They have no bloody right," he said impatiently. "They don't care what I do. There's no reason they should."
"No, but they care for her. She's one of their own. They might have shunned her for marrying the werewolf, but they still want to know that she's happy. Rather like me with Andromeda."
He said with ill-grace, "A very un-Narcissa thing to say, don't you think? If you were alive, there's no way you'd be so tolerant of their nonsense."
"Charming," she sniffed. "It's just as well I'm not sensitive about it." She went on, "You're acting like a guilty man having an affair."
"Hardly. I'm discussing it with you, aren't I?" he said grimly.
"Not to me. To them. Are you ashamed of her, Lucius?"
His face grew hot, and he wasn't sure why. "Ashamed? No. Nymphadora is strong and beautiful and accomplished. Any man would be proud." Well, except for a blood purist, but no one would admit to being one of those anymore. And he and Narcissa had always made exceptions for the strong and the loyal.
"Then stop behaving like it," Narcissa said imperiously. "I heard what she said about Remus. How do you think she'll take it when she realises you're doing exactly the same thing?"
Lucius felt a chill. He knew enough now of Nymphadora's relationship with Remus to understand exactly what that would do to her. It embarrassed him slightly that it had taken Narcissa to make him realise he had to work out what he wanted, and fast.
He said only, "You're giving me romantic advice now? Please."
"I would like to see Draco happy. I have a vested interest in this relationship of yours. And she is, after all, a Black." She went on, "She'd make him a good stepmother. She already does."
"Stepmother? Fuck's sake, woman, we've been together a week."
"You've been together nine months," Narcissa said dryly.
"And you don't have a problem with that? You were never this selfless in life. You were possessive and hungry and I liked you that way."
Narcissa spread her hands wide, universal gesture of indifference. "Like I said, Lucius, I'm not your wife. I don't love you. I don't ache for you. All that died with her. I just sit on a wall and watch life go by. Today, your struggles interest me. Maybe tomorrow they won't. I'm just a painting."
Lucius pressed his lips together, grimly. Suddenly he wanted nothing more than to get away from her. He turned and headed for the door.
"Lucius?" she called.
"Yes?" he said. He didn't turn around.
She said curiously, "Do you ache for her, Lucius?"
He slammed the door without a backward glance.
Lucius couldn't get off to sleep.
He also couldn't get off.
He wasn't conscious of any great emotional disturbance. He was just tired, a bit distracted, and he had work on his mind, and not even interesting work. Just busywork.
He'd tried three times now, gotten most of the way there before losing momentum again. He'd have written it off as a lost cause if he could get to sleep, but he couldn't. He was wound up tight and needed release.
There was Nymphadora, of course. He could Apparate to her house, could slip into bed with her. He'd never done that, but had no reason to think he would be unwelcome.
But he wouldn't do that to her. Not when he was no longer sure.
He hadn't lied to Nymphadora. He did love her, and he wouldn't have pushed her away out of a misdirected sense of honour. Lucius was not one to deny emotional truths. He'd never needed to - after all, he'd had a loving and unconditionally accepting wife his whole adult life. Narcissa had accepted his admittedly obnoxious personality, his mildly dominant streak, and the awful things he had brought down on them all.
So the fabled male tendency to run for emotional cover was completely foreign to him - and, in his view, rather cowardly, too. But was he ready to set Narcissa aside once and for all, and be with Dora? He'd felt a twinge of doubt when Draco talked about Nymphadora as some kind of symbol of the permanence of Narcissa's death, and it had been getting stronger ever since.
It wasn't as though he and Nymphadora had chosen each other on any kind of rational basis, after all. Romantic minds might scoff at rationality, but for Lucius, it had been the basis of one successful partnership already. Nymphadora was different. Circumstances had led them to fall in together, and now he was second-guessing himself. Unsure if that was enough of a basis for a family. He had no interest in a fling. He had found stability and structure in married life and he missed it. He wanted to rebuild his life, for him and for his son, and she was entitled to do the same for herself and hers.
It didn't bloody help that Narcissa's portrait was suddenly so talkative. For months, she'd dozed in her chair mostly, waking and padding softly from portrait to portrait now and then as though to reassure herself that her husband and son still lived. Until this week, she'd barely passed a dozen words to either of them, perhaps judging that her silent abstraction would make it easier for them to accept her passing.
He didn't even really know why he'd had them made. It was just one of the standard mourning rituals - for the wealthy, at least. And, he supposed, there was something comforting about her dozing there. If he really wanted to hear her voice, he could. He rarely had sought her out, but just knowing he could had been a help. It had been a buffer against the reality of her death.
But now she was ever-present. Worse, she knew him as intimately as ever, but she was as impersonally interested in him as a gossipy maiden aunt. Not really Narcissa, but a caricature of her. More disconcerting than her absence had ever been.
"Fuck," he whispered in the moonlight, shooting a resentful glance at the portrait in question on the bedside table. Narcissa was there, but she wasn't paying any attention to him. She was standing by the window next to her painted chair, looking out over a rather insipidly-rendered landscape, her back turned. On the whole, he was grateful for that.
He closed his eyes. Stilled his breathing. Turned his head to his side, burying his face in his pillow. Allowed images to wash over him, of pressing down on her (he didn't know which her) and kneading linked hands. Took himself in hand. Rifled through his memories and feelings, first feeling predatory and hungry, then adoring, then sinking into softness, then fucking hard and deep. Kissing necks and jaws and fingertips and pulling clothes out of the way. Exquisitely arched female neck and hips straddling his. He didn't linger on any memory long enough to see who it was. Simply caught glimpses and impressions before moving on. Let it build up until he was breathing hard and biting back sounds of need and clutching at sheets with his free hand.
He heard rustling. Narcissa turning around in her painting. His eyes flew open in the moonlight.
She had unbuttoned her dress and let it fall open. She stood there, a naked woman in a portrait, beautifully rendered yet curiously sexless.
"Do you love me, Lucius?" she said softly. "Do I make you ache?"
He was throbbing, clutching, desperate for flesh and warmth, and somehow that anaemic, lifeless voice made it all so clear. Cold chills washed over him, watershed moment overlaid on heat and need, and his erection fell away but it was like he'd come anyway.
"No," he rasped on shuddering breaths. "You're just a painting. You're not my wife."
Narcissa gave a sympathetic little smile. Pulled her dress closed around her. He felt his face crumple and drew his pillow hard against him, like a lover. Or a lifeline.
"Goodnight, Lucius," he heard her say kindly, but he didn't see her leave, because the heels of his hands were pressed to sore, leaking eyes as he choked out his grief into his pillow.
It didn't matter, because really, she was already long gone anyway.
When he came down for breakfast, Draco wasn't there.
He looked in the dining room, then the parlour. Narcissa was dozing in her portrait there. She opened her eyes when he approached.
"He's at Nymphadora's," she said. "He went by Floo half an hour ago. He said he'd meet you there."
Lucius locked gazes with her, wondering what the protocol was for re-establishing polite relations with a portrait. Particularly one that had apparently observed his masturbatory habits to ensure maximum suggestibility for self-revelation.
As if in answer to his question, Narcissa said casually, "I instructed Leonie to have me moved to the hallway, and the little ones from your bedroom and office stored. It should be done by the time you get home. If I tire of your father's company, I'll be sure to let you know."
He gave a little nod. "Thank you."
"You should go," she said. "They'll be waiting." With that, she closed her eyes and went back to sleep.
He watched her for a moment, frowning, then he left her.
He Apparated into Nymphadora's little sitting room a few minutes later. He could hear them in the other room, Nymphadora and Draco and Andromeda too.
"So Astoria says to him, 'Draco might have a Dark Mark, but at least he has the sense not to woo a girl by pulling her pigtails.' And then she says, 'Draco, I do believe I'd like to go out with you this evening after all.'"
Nymphadora was laughing. "It's good to see you haven't let being second choice dent your spirit any."
Draco laughed too. "It's what you do with your chance once you get it, Tonks. The way she kissed me goodnight, I don't think I'm second choice anymore."
Andromeda choked. "Please," she said, pained.
Lucius came around into the doorframe, and lingered there, watching. Draco, holding Teddy, said, "Sorry, Dromeda. I keep forgetting you're - uh -"
Nymphadora smirked. "I believe the word you're looking for is prude."
Lucius started to smirk too, but suddenly he could feel warmth rising in his face, stinging his eyes.
We're already a family. The realisation came over him like a sudden downpour of summer rain, gentle and warm and shocking as well.
And watching Nymphadora, purple hair and mismatched clothes and a laugh that made he and Draco both smile again, he ached for her. Ached so hard that he rocked on his heels, wanted to drag her away and take her right. fucking. now.
Nymphadora had spotted him; now, she got to her feet and came over. Looking curious. "Lucius?" she said softly. "Are you all right?"
He drew her close by her hips, leading her around the corner in a gesture that was unmistakeably possessive. Kissed her, long and deep and slow. Her eyes were a bit glazed over when he finally let her go.
"Just a little crisis of will," he said quietly. If he had any lingering doubts at all, they were banished by the hurt that rose in her eyes, eyes that were as alive as Narcissa's voice was dead. He never wanted to make her look like that again. "No, it's not like that. It was about...about Narcissa. It's done. I love you with my heart and my will." He kissed her forehead. "I'll tell you about it one day. When we're old and gray." Willed her to understand. He would still be there then, if she wanted him.
Her lips were trembling. She was tugging him, leading him. "Come upstairs. Now."
He stared at her. "We need to get to the Ministry-"
"This is more important. It'll only take a couple of minutes, if we're quick." She was serious, urgent.
He took her face hard between his hands. "I'm yours, Nymphadora." He meant it.
"Show me," she said implacably. "Please."
So he followed her upstairs, and it was only a couple of minutes, clothes pushed aside and a few quick strokes against her bedroom door. Just enough to reach into that fearful part of her and fill it with warmth and light.
When it was over, he wondered if she believed it for good, or just for now.
GO TO PART 4: DENIAL - TONKS