Continuing Tales

The Catfish

A Harry Potter Story
by Miss Dasti

Part 4 of 25

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In person, no part of Lucius Malfoy looked dead.

Just the opposite, actually. The room seemed much smaller now, crowded by his presence. He was in full sweeping wizard's robes and looked at the height of his arrogant magnificence: the black of the cloth made his skin marble, so much like a mannequin, and his frozen expression completed the image. A plait of woven, white-blonde hair hung over his shoulder and down over the lapel of his coat, tied in black.

Hermione felt all the breath whoosh out of her lungs and, entirely unbidden, her eyes fixed on his face.

Merlin, that must be what Lucifer looks like. She'd always felt a foreboding whenever she'd been forced into his company, but suddenly all her previous encounters with him felt insignificant. He'd hardly noticed her before. Now she bore the full brunt of his crippling attentions.

Those cold eyes were so sharp and so entirely focused on her that she almost felt naked, violated. In the second it took her to absorb the situation she recognized what a terrible mistake she'd made, coming here dressed as Narcissa as if she could really pull it off. If she thought his little black-and-white photograph was too much to look at, how was she supposed to look at the real him—

—especially now that he was far, far too close.

She didn't know how it happened but he was suddenly across the room. He didn't touch her but he was within arm's reach, and he was staring at her so hard that she had no choice but to look down, away, anywhere else, because if she met his eyes then surely he'd know.

That terrible twisting was back in her stomach; she told herself it was fear, and she wasn't entirely wrong.

"Narcissa," he said again, and she could hear the touch of incredulousness in his tone now. His low, purring voice, so very nearby, made every hair on Narcissa Malfoy's body stand up.

Hermione knew instinctually that if she didn't get out of there, now, everything—the whole universe—would all go to hell. But when she tried to move she found her legs wouldn't obey her: they appeared to be made of gelatin.

More muscle memory? Yes, let's believe that.

Oh god, oh god, they were just standing there now in total silence. He was looking at her, boring into her, and she still was avoiding his eye. She felt, rather than saw, him glance at her suitcase; she heard a quiet hitch in his breathing.

Oh Jesus, did he know it wasn't the same suitcase? Did he know she was wearing a different outfit than this morning?

Finally, finally, panic made her speak. "I—" Her voice cracked; she was staring at his polished shoes; she could almost see her (or rather, Narcissa's) terrified face in them. She cleared her throat, and willed herself to look up at him, forcing herself to look at least a quarter as authoritative as Narcissa normally was. He was so close—her temperature spiraled up alarmingly; was she sick?—oh god, she could practically feel his breath on her. Her pulse raced. "I've come back."

The reaction she got to those words was anything but what she expected. He took a step back—thank the lord, now she had some space to breathe—and drew himself up, rolling back his shoulders, looking down his nose at her. Was he… glaring? A billion thoughts raced through her head: surely he knew, surely he was going to murder her and hide her in the walls now. But the words that came out of his mouth were the last words on earth she expected to hear.

"So it seems. Why now, after all this time?"

What the fuck. "It hasn't been that long, really," she said quickly. Harry had seen Narcissa in the Floo department just that morning, hadn't he? She went on in the same breath: "I changed my plans and now I'm home. I've—I've got to leave again soon, but I wanted to see you."

Lucius continued to glare at her for another moment, but she detected a change. Something about his demeanor was suddenly different. He glanced again at her suitcase, then deep into her eyes, and she thought maybe he would leave, or perhaps continue to question her—but neither of those things happened.

Instead there occurred the worst possible tragedy in the history of forever. He closed the distance between them, grabbed her, and pulled their bodies flush.

It took all of about three seconds for Hermione to lose her shit. He was upon her so fast, and with such dizzying intensity, that her mind—once her pride and joy—stalled like a rusty engine. One stride of his long legs and he completely consumed her field of vision; he pinned her tight against his chest, she could hear his thrumming heartbeat, his arms were like iron bars around her, the whole of him right up against her, and Jesus were they really embracing, how the fuck did this happen? And no Merlin now he was nuzzling into her hair, breathing deep, she could feel the heat of it in her scalp, and he was savoring her and god was that him pressing his lips to her forehead, was that low rumble really coming from his chest or was that thunder?

And that other noise—surely that gasp didn't come from her? It was reactive—it was all muscle memory, her body moving into his warmth, her hands clutching at the front of his robes, no, none of that was sensible down-to-earth Hermione. She could smell the elusive aroma of him, feel the tickle of his corn-silk hair on her face, and all her blood was reorganizing itself in the most unhelpful configuration and she thought perhaps she might faint, or scream, or both—and die.

Later on, Hermione justified her next action by asserting that she'd only been responding to a threatening situation. It was what anyone would've done. He was clearly deranged and she had to defend herself from his violent—hugging. She had not, after all, anticipated a situation of this intensity during all her careful planning to impersonate his wife.

Her repelling charm smacked him right in the middle of his chest, and he was shoved back against the nearest wall with a gut-wrenching thud, and the look of total shock on his face was enough to root her to the spot. She nearly dropped her wand.

Oh Merlin.

They were staring at each other again, but now everything was different. It was like they were both victims of a sudden bomb-blast, and the chaos had trauma rendered them too dazed to think. But it didn't last, and he recovered first, his shock morphing first into a look of such heart-wrenching hurt and confusion that she immediately wanted to inhale her repellant charm back into her lungs—but then it was gone, wicked away, and now he looked furious.

Like perhaps he might kill her.

"No—I mean—I—I just want to talk!" she screamed at him, louder than she actually meant; she felt terrified, confused, she was aroused for Christ's sake, her legs trembling, panting as if she'd run a marathon. He seemed to take all of this in, and his anger seemed to lessen. She noticed a brush-stroke of color in his high cheekbones, and she didn't think it had anything to do with being tossed unceremoniously against his own bedroom wall.

She needed to leave.

"Oh," he breathed, and her skin prickled again with goosebumps and the caressing sound of his voice; his hands moved distractedly, straightening his clothes, smoothing over the fine blonde hairs that had come loose and fallen across his face. He squared his shoulders and went one shade pinker in the cheeks, as if embarrassed by his loss of composure. "Well, then." He cleared his throat. "I apologize. I only"—he struggled with himself, clearly grasping for words, but after a moment he gave up and said, "Shall we go to the solarium? Francis has arranged tea. He tipped me off about your arrival—him and Fairway. I heard the ruckus in the yard."

"I—you know I really should be going," Hermione said, her voice warbling everywhere. She tried to keep her eyes on him as she grabbed around for her suitcase, and she gasped and nearly tripped backwards when he darted forward, a hand outstretched.

"Wait!" He stared at her, his lips parted, and quickly retracted his hand; a look of desperation flitted across his face and then it was smoothed away, and suddenly he was cool and polished. "Can we not at least have tea? You've come to talk; we should talk. I apologized for misinterpreting this"—he waved a hand—"your arrival. But we are adults, Narcissa. We can speak to one other."

Hermione felt like a total idiot. What had possessed her to impersonate the man's wife? She wanted to run—perhaps out the window, then she'd at least be back outside, where her biggest problems were his pets. But how was she supposed to extract herself from this hell now, when he'd penned her in with his cordiality? Any excuse she came up with sounded like just that: an excuse.

She had to try. "I'm sorry, but I really, really should leave. I shouldn't have come."

He was prepared for battle, it seemed. "You've come for a reason," he said, and he was steady, and determined, and profoundly patient; she knew at once that escaping him without first suffering through a sit-down was going to be impossible. "Let's go to the solarium and have tea. At least say hello to Belgium—she's missed you, you know."

Jesus, Hermione would've never pegged him for it, but this man had serious attachment issues. Narcissa had barely left that day. Maybe he'd suffered brain damage in Azkaban or perhaps from Voldemort, and didn't keep track of time very well anymore. Hermione felt a sudden rush of sympathy for Narcissa; poor woman had to babysit this mess for years. She must have the patience of a saint.

Or perhaps Narcissa, like so many people who kept dangerous predators encaged in their homes, just looked at him like a pretty trinket and that was enough for her.

It was easier to relent to his arguments, so Hermione finally did. "All right," she said, grabbing up her suitcase, "just—just a cup, but then I've got to leave again."

He looked smoothly impassive as he nodded and turned to lead the way out of the room, but Hermione noticed him glancing at her suitcase with a guarded expression. Perhaps "attachment issues" was putting it too lightly.

He didn't give her time to second-guess; in a moment he was at the threshold. As Hermione hurried after him, she thought ruefully that maybe the most dangerous thing about impersonating Narcissa Malfoy wasn't the risk of getting caught.

Maybe it was playing her off well enough that Lucius was actually fooled.

The Catfish

A Harry Potter Story
by Miss Dasti

Part 4 of 25

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