Uncommon Bonds

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May 3, 2008
The group was held every Thursday evening in the back room of the Three Broomsticks. Molly assumed that the pub setting was supposed to make it easier for people to attend, but she wasn't sure about it at all. It had been eight months since Arthur's death, though, and the children were worried. She wasn't entirely sure what they expected of her, considering she'd lost the only man she had ever loved so suddenly.

Her plans to grow old with him and be there to see their great-grandchildren were lost overnight. He had passed peacefully in his sleep, the Healer told her, but she hadn't really been able to listen because Arthur was gone before his seventy-fifth birthday. For a wizard, that was middle age, and she still had difficulty accepting that he wasn't with her anymore.

Of course, that was precisely the reason the children worried, she knew. They would hear her talking to Arthur or stare at the place she always set for him at the table, and she'd see it in their eyes. They thought she was going crazy, which was ridiculous. She didn't believe that Arthur was still alive nor did she think he could actually hear her talking.

It comforted her, though, because she hadn't been alone since they married, when she was just out of Hogwarts. The children couldn't understand what it was like, so there was no need to worry them further by trying to explain. Instead, she found this group to prove to them that she wasn't wasting her life away bumbling around the empty Burrow talking to a ghost that no one could see.

Hermione had given her the literature about the group, going on about Muggles doing this or that and using words that were far too long for simple meanings. It had taken her six months to decide to actually attend, since the children hadn't started acting oddly immediately after the funeral. Or maybe she hadn’t started to worry them until later.

Arthur dying had changed everything, and Molly still wasn't sure who she was without him besides a seventy-four year old widow with an empty house and dozens of family members who watched her as if they expected her to break at any moment. Maybe she should have broken to give them something to do besides fret over her, but that wasn't her way. She saved her tears for the lonely nights when no one would see.

When she entered the room where the women's group met, she forced herself to smile and think that maybe this would be a help. It had already made the boys stop fussing so much, but Ginny wasn't so easy to distract with 'I'm going to a women's group'. There were other women in the room already, her age or older, dressed in fancy robes that weren't appropriate for such a meeting. She smoothed down her simple robes and felt out of place, especially when they looked at her and whispered amongst themselves. She was suddenly a first year again, eleven and awkward without any idea who she should talk to in this new place.

"Do not show fear or they'll attack."

The words were low and husky, spoken by an unfamiliar voice near her right ear. Molly turned and tightened her grip on her handbag when she saw the woman standing behind her. The years had been too kind to Narcissa Malfoy, who made Molly more aware of every wrinkle and age spot on her own skin. "I doubt they're the ones that I should worry about," she said in clipped tones, giving the other woman no question about her opinion of her.

"You shouldn't worry about any of them, Mrs. Weasley," Narcissa said coolly. "They smell new blood and will soon bore you with photos of their poor dead husbands and stories that will make you wish you'd heeded my warning."

"If you find them so boring, why are you here?" Molly was actually curious despite herself. Hermione had said this was a Muggle practice, after all, and she didn't think Narcissa Malfoy would lower herself to indulge in a practice with barbaric origins regardless of her age.

Narcissa looked at her and arched a brow. "If you aren't forced to interact with them, it's more entertaining than an empty house," she said simply before she nodded politely and entered the room. Molly watched her walk to a table in the corner and sit in a chair with a view of the entire room, acting as if she were superior to everyone else in the room and they were merely here to amuse her.

She scowled and considered leaving because, really, a group that allowed someone like Narcissa Malfoy to sit and ridicule them sounded worse than having her children worry about her mental status. Before she could step away and leave, however, Augusta Longbottom was at her side chattering on about being happy to see her attend and talking about the group as she led her to the large table where most of the women were seated. As she sat down, she glanced at Narcissa and frowned when she noticed herself being watched by the other woman, not at all pleased at the idea of being the evening's entertainment.

By the time two hours had passed, her head was swimming. She had lost track of names and faces and had seen enough photos of smiling men of various ages to last a lifetime. She hated to admit it, even to herself, but Narcissa had been right. The chattering had been endless, as had the stories of loss and grandchildren. Yet it hadn't been horrible. If anything, it had kept her from spending the evening knitting and talking to Arthur, which was an improvement, she supposed.

It hadn't all been talk about the past, though. There were plans for a party, it seemed, and talk of volunteering at St. Mungos. The group was active in the community, and she hadn‘t expected that. It was during that part of the meeting that she realized why Narcissa attended, of course. She was in charge of everything, giving orders and instructions to everyone as if she were their leader, and it was obvious that she enjoyed the power that came with the position. Molly had found herself volunteered for a decorations committee and a children's reading group somehow, even though she didn't really remember speaking up to offer herself for such commitments. She wasn't even sure if she planned to come back for another meeting.

The group ended with hugs and more chatter, and she was glad for the opportunity to step outside and clear her head. It was overwhelming, really, to be surrounded by so many strangers. She loved being around people, enjoying every family function that resulted in crowds of people spilling from the Burrow, but she wasn't as comfortable around unfamiliar faces anymore as she had been in her youth.

Now, she just felt old around all those women, many of whom were younger. She was lucky compared to those women, though, because she’d had a lifetime with Arthur. They weren’t as fortunate to have that many years with the men they loved. As she stepped outside, she realized that she would rather be old with a full life behind her than to have lost Arthur when she was in her thirties.

"I warned you."

She tensed slightly and turned to look behind her. "They were very friendly women."

"They are, at that." Narcissa nodded once before she stepped closer. "It was your children, was it not?"

"What about my children?" She glared slightly, ready to defend whatever nonsense Narcissa Malfoy had to say about her family.

"I think that we are too old to carry on our husbands' rivalry, don‘t you, Mrs. Weasley? They are both gone now, so it is childish to believe that every comment is a thinly veiled insult." Narcissa arched a brow. "Your children are the reason you attended the meeting this evening, are they not?"

"You might consider yourself old, Mrs. Malfoy, but I've got many decades ahead of me that won't be spent caring what you think of me or my family," she said simply. "Yes, my children are why I'm here tonight."

"Always a Gryffindor," Narcissa muttered, shaking her head slightly. "I am younger than you, and I certainly don't think I am an old woman, regardless of my age. One cannot be old if there are parties to attend and new dress robes to buy, after all. That's the reason I continue to attend these groups, though I allow my son to believe that it's to please him. Socializing reminds us that we're alive; whereas, roaming around an empty home does nothing except make us hate silence." She smiled politely and nodded once. "Have a good evening, Mrs. Weasley. I must admit that I am curious whether you will attend the meeting next week."

Molly understood about the silence, not that she planned to acknowledge that to Narcissa Malfoy of all people. They weren't friends and this was the most they'd spoken to each other ever. "I guess you'll find out next week," she told her before she nodded politely. "Good evening, Mrs. Malfoy." She turned and went back inside the pub so she could Floo home.


The week had passed quickly. There had been owls every day: some simple invitations to tea, others to schedule committee meetings, and a few to make concrete plans for volunteer work. Molly had attended the children’s story club, which had been wonderful because all of her grandchildren were now away at Hogwarts or already out of school so it had been nice to be around younger children again. She would have to suggest to Ginny and Harry that it was time for another, since she knew they would be more receptive to the idea than the rest of her children.

When she entered the back room at the Three Broomsticks on Thursday night, she didn’t feel nervous or anxious like last week. She knew these women now, some better than others, and she couldn’t help smiling as she sat down at the large table. It had been good to have things to fill her days, because it gave her more to talk to Arthur about at night and left little time for the children to drop in with some weak excuse or another to check on her.

“So glad to see that you weren’t scared away last week.”

Molly looked up and shifted slightly when she realized that she’d drifted into her thoughts. She had been watching for Narcissa Malfoy, planning to smile smugly when she entered because there seemed to have been doubt that she’d attend again. Instead, she’d got caught thinking and not paying any attention. She felt a faint heat cross her cheeks as she met Narcissa’s cool blue eyes. “It takes a lot to scare me, Mrs. Malfoy,” she said firmly.

“Yes, I suppose it does,” Narcissa murmured so quietly that Molly had to lean closer to hear. “Intriguing, I must admit.”

The other woman was wearing dress robes in a beautiful color of green that probably cost more than anything in Molly’s wardrobe, she realized, which made her frown and look towards the door. “You’re overdressed,” she pointed out in a tone generally reserved for Arthur and the children. Compared to everyone else, she was actually the one underdressed, but she certainly didn’t intend to admit to that when she knew this was her nicest set of robes.

“You’re much too practical, Mrs. Weasley. This group is an excuse for many of us to wear our prettiest robes and to dress up as if we were beautiful young women once again,” Narcissa said with a tone of amusement that was aggravating.

“You say that as if all of us used to be beautiful young women with pretty robes.” She looked back at Narcissa and arched her brow in an imitation of the other woman.

“I think that one of the benefits of surpassing sixty-five is having the prerogative to remember ourselves as young and beautiful.” Narcissa smiled slightly. “And once we live past one hundred, then we will have earned the right to be bluntly honest with everyone around us because few would dare to hex a witch or wizard with that many years of wisdom behind them.”

“You can’t equate years and wisdom,” Molly said. “I have known people who were twice my age who hadn’t had a dozen thoughts in their heads in all that time.”

“It’s natural selection, Mrs. Weasley. In those particular cases, they wouldn’t be clever enough to use their age to their advantage. It all works out, in the end.” Narcissa glanced at the door before looking back at her and nodding politely.

Molly watched her take the same seat as last week, looking away when a woman sat next to her and started to talk about a visit with her son and the witch he was dating. The meeting passed quickly, with lots of conversation, good food, and discussion of future projects. When it was over, she didn’t feel as overwhelmed as last week, but it was still a lot to take in despite her growing confidence about the crowd of women.

She left the room and hesitated by the door, trying to decide if she wanted to go out for fresh air or to just take the Floo home. After she snuck a glance into the room to see Narcissa Malfoy speaking with Joan Thomas, she hurried to the Floo at the realization she was waiting around for the other woman. She stepped through and entered her sitting room, sitting down immediately and covering her face. “Arthur, I think the children might be right,” she muttered. “I am going crazy.”


The invitation to tea was unexpected. It arrived on Friday morning, and Molly was surprised that her absence from the group last night was not mentioned. She had not missed group intentionally. There had been a birthday dinner for Angelina, so she’d had to attend and make an appropriate cake for her daughter-in-law. It was merely coincidence that it was scheduled for the same time as the weekly group, not that she hadn’t been relieved.

Since last Thursday, she had been trying to decide if she wanted to go to the group again. Two meetings had been enjoyable in their own ways, so that wasn’t the problem. The issue was that she had been waiting around for a chance to speak with someone she would have called ‘enemy’ just two weeks ago. No, it hadn’t even really been due to that, since she had had friendships with people in the past. The fact that she couldn’t put her worries into words was reason enough to avoid the group and, most particularly, Narcissa Malfoy.

However, she now had an invitation to tea later that afternoon. It would be rude to refuse. Besides, she was curious to find out if last week had been some odd mood and nothing else. If she was able to have tea with Narcissa without feeling weird, then there would be no reason to quit the group that she was beginning to enjoy. So, she wrote out a quick reply of acceptance and sent it off before she could change her mind.

Shortly before time to leave, she changed into a nice set of robes and fussed with her hair in a way that she knew would have made Arthur chuckle at her. She talked to him as she got ready because it was still comforting to her even if he wasn’t there to hear her or answer back. When she was finished, she went downstairs and took the Floo to Malfoy Manor.

The parlor she entered was tastefully decorated and large. She brushed soot off her robes as she looked around. She had never been here before nor had she ever had any interest in visiting yet, now that she was here, she was curious. She heard a door close and looked over to see Narcissa enter the room.

“You were missed at group last night.”

“It was my daughter-in-law’s birthday,” Molly explained. “We had dinner for her.”

“Which one? There are so many that I find it difficult to keep track.” Narcissa walked over to her and raised her wand. Molly gripped her own immediately but relaxed when a simple cleaning charm was cast. Narcissa reached out and ran one finger along Molly’s cheek. “You had missed a spot.”

She blinked at her and felt as if her face was on fire because she had been gawking at the room instead of cleaning her face. She shifted when Narcissa dropped her hand and motioned to two chairs nearby and a table with a tea service. “It was Angelina, George’s wife.” She doubted that Narcissa knew any of her children’s names, much less whom they married, but she replied anyway.

“Ah, yes. Scorpius is a big fan of those silly pranks. If you ask me, he uses them as an excuse to annoy his father, as if his infatuation with your granddaughter isn’t enough,” Narcissa said as she sat down.

“I have heard of his persistent wooing of Rose, mostly because Ron whinges after every letter she writes home. He’s taken to counting the number of times your grandson’s name is mentioned, or so Hermione claims. It’s actually pretty amusing, not that I’d ever admit it,” she confided.

“Scorpius is very determined. He’s a good boy who takes after his mother by being more emotional than a Malfoy should, or so declares Draco whenever he’s irritated. Personally, I’m glad that my grandchildren take after Astoria in that respect, if only because it pleases me to tell the ancestors that there have now been Malfoys sorted into Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff. Their reactions always entertain me.”

She remembered when Albus had mentioned that Cassiopeia Malfoy had been sorted into his house and how shocked they all had been. And, of course, Rose was in Ravenclaw with Scorpius, so she knew about the changing preconceptions that came with family name and sorting. “Changes can be good, especially when it comes to that sort of thing.”

Narcissa handed her a cup of tea and motioned to a plate of tiny sandwiches. “Why did you leave group last week in such a rush?”

Molly nearly choked on her tea because she didn’t anticipate that question. She coughed and wiped her lips with a soft napkin before she looked at Narcissa. “I didn’t leave in a rush. The meeting was over, so I went home.”

“You were standing outside the door as if you were waiting. I looked away to answer some asinine question and, when I turned back, you had already gone.” Narcissa pursed her lips and stared in a way that made Molly have to resist fidgeting like a schoolgirl. She was nearly seventy-five, so this was ridiculous. “Were you waiting for me? Or for Joan Thomas?”

“I wasn’t waiting for anyone, Mrs. Malfoy. These sandwiches are tasty. Did you make them yourself?” Molly asked.

“That was not a subtle change of subject, Mrs. Weasley. Of course, I shouldn’t expect anything more from a Gryffindor. I did not make the sandwiches, as I’m sure you knew. My personal House Elf is an excellent cook, so much so that I’ve agreed to the silly rules that the Ministry has set up to keep her. Your daughter-in-law’s work, I believe?” Narcissa made a face. “Some change is not for the better, as that girl should have learned decades ago.”

“Hermione has done excellent work at the Ministry,” Molly said proudly. “Rose has inherited her mother’s desire for equality, so your grandson will likely be relieved that you follow the laws in that respect if he wishes to impress my granddaughter.”

“I have little desire to break laws, especially tedious ones that deal with House Elves,” Narcissa said simply. “Now, I believe that you were waiting that night, and I will confide that my grandson inherited his determination from me, so it is up to you if you’ll simply tell me the truth or force me to continue to waste time asking.”

“If I had been waiting for someone, I would not have left before speaking with them.” Molly took a sip of her tea before she asked, “Why did you ask me over for tea?”

“I was curious.” Narcissa studied her for a moment but said nothing more.

“Well, now you know why I missed last night’s meeting. I do plan to attend next week’s,” she said, making that decision now.

Narcissa shook her head slightly. “That wasn’t what I was curious about, though I’m strangely pleased by that news. I assume that your children are glad to see you out of the house socializing. Draco finds that most beneficial about the group in my case. He believed that I was spending too much time in the garden or speaking with the portrait of Lucius in the library.”

For a moment, she envied Narcissa for having a portrait of her husband. Arthur had never sat for one, not that they would have been able to afford it. It would be difficult, too, though, to see him and speak with him that way and know that she‘d never feel his arms around her again. She took a sip of tea before she replied. “They’re happy that I’m not wasting away in grief, which I think they feared might happen,” she admitted quietly. “Arthur’s death was sudden, you see, and I spent so many years with him there that it’s difficult to get used to him nothing being there now.”

“I lost Lucius years before his death, but I suppose knowing that he was not alive anymore changed things. While he was imprisoned, there was always hope that he might be released. Whatever the reason, Draco began to hover like a fussy mum, which was enough to make the group a welcome escape.”

“I never thought of my future without Arthur. One of us dying was never something I considered once the second war ended. Then I woke up that morning, and he was so cold---” She trailed off and sighed. “He didn’t suffer, though, so it could have been much worse.”

“It does get easier,” Narcissa said. “That might sound cold, but it’s true.”

Molly looked at her and smiled. “It’s not cold. I miss Arthur, and I know that I will until I die, but he certainly wouldn’t want me to spend all my time mourning him. He’d want me to move on and be happy, so I try.”

“Move on?” Narcissa arched a brow. “Draco is pestering me recently about dating again, mentioning eligible men who would make good prospective stepfathers. He just doesn’t understand.”

“Oh, I didn’t mean in that way. Arthur is the only man that I’ll ever love,” Molly said confidently. “He was the love of my life, and I know I was lucky to find that once.”

“Lucius is the only man that I’ll ever love,” Narcissa said as she put down her cup of tea and brushed her hair back from her face. “However, what Draco doesn’t understand is that my recent interest makes his search pointless.”

Molly frowned in thought, not really understanding what Narcissa was trying to say despite the feeling that she was supposed to somehow know. Subtlety was wasted on her, obviously, because she didn’t have any idea what that meant. “Have you told him not to bother?”

Narcissa laughed. “I think my son would be shocked if I dared try to explain. I don’t even truly understand it myself, after all. It’s not anything I’ve felt before, not that I would have been open to such ideas while Lucius was alive. Now, it intrigues me, though I’ve not acted on any of those feelings yet. I never felt the inclination to do more than think about them, until you arrived at the group.”

“What do I----oh.” Molly could feel the heat in her cheeks as she finally realized what she thought Narcissa was saying. Oh dear. She had no idea what to say now. She knew that it happened, of course, but she’d never given it any thought beyond wondering if Ginny might be that way when she was younger. The steady string of boyfriends before she fell in love with Harry had ended that suspicion easily enough.

“Yes, exactly.” Narcissa arched a brow and studied her. “Imagine my surprise when I had those sorts of thoughts about you, of all people. However, you seemed receptive to my attention when I made an attempt, which was even more startling.”

“I wasn’t---I mean, I didn’t---” Molly knew she was stammering and sounded ridiculous, but she couldn’t simply let that pass without speaking up. She hadn’t been receptive to whatever attention was being discussed, had she? “Mrs. Malfoy, I don’t know what---”

“Call me Narcissa,” she interrupted, causing Molly to look at her and notice that she was leaning across the small table. She didn’t have time to say anything before soft lips pressed against her own.

It was a kiss. A kiss by someone not Arthur. It was soft and tentative and gentle. She didn’t pull away or stop it, which she thought she’d do. Instead, she closed her eyes and hesitantly pressed her lips back. What was she doing? This was wrong. She shouldn’t be doing this. But it felt nice, especially when she felt warm fingertips glide across her cheek before the kiss became firmer.

When it ended, she felt flushed and confused. Narcissa pulled back and stared at her, which was disconcerting. She was pleased to note that Narcissa’s face was flushed and that she looked stunned in much the same way Molly felt. She licked her lips, tasting honey that must have been in Narcissa’s tea, and reached up to tidy her hair but mostly to keep her hands busy. “You should call me Molly if you’re going to go and kiss me that way,” she said, lips twitching slightly as the tension was broken by their laughter.

“So sorry,” Narcissa said, shaking her head slightly. “Out of all the things I thought you might say, I must admit that that never came to mind.”

“That just goes to show that you don’t know everything.” Molly glanced down at the table and frowned. “What exactly just happened?”

“We kissed. We both enjoyed it, I think. I would like to do it again, in fact.”

She looked up. “We’re too old for this, aren’t we? I love Arthur, and I’ve never thought about women in, well, to kiss them or anything. My children would be scandalized if they had any idea.”

“We’re never too old, Molly. My having an interest in exploring these odd feelings doesn’t mean that I don’t love Lucius or never cared for him. This isn’t something I’m familiar with, but I’m curious to see what happens with it. As for your children, I think we’ve earned the right to be scandalous, haven’t we? Call it another benefit of reaching this age.”

“You’re good at this,” she observed. “An answer for everything, and a justification for any concern. It isn’t that easy, though.”

“Few things in life are easy. I’ve never particularly cared for other women, much less wanted to kiss a woman that was married to one of my husband’s greatest enemies. Maybe it’s loneliness or maybe it’s something else. We won’t know unless we try.” Narcissa smiled slightly. “We can start with dinner. What do you say?”

Molly knew that she should say no and go home to forget all about this confusion. She would tell Arthur about it and laugh at how it was so crazy. Only, Arthur was gone now, so she’d be telling the empty room and the laughing would be forced. The children did want her to get out more, so having dinner with a friend wouldn’t hurt anything. For all they knew, it was nothing more than a mutual desire to fill the silence. With soft kisses.

“Molly? What do you think?”

“Sorry.” She blinked and focused on Narcissa, having to smile as she made her decision. “I think that dinner would be good.”