Sliver of Doubt

James had never seen Narcissa Black naked. Nor had any bloke, so far as he knew. There was one fourth-year Ravenclaw who claimed he'd been trying to charm his own broken nose straight again and had ended up with his left eyeball floating in the Slytherin girls' lavatory for a few moments till the spell wore off, but nobody actually believed him.

In fact, James never really thought of her at all, let alone naked, other than to lump her in with the other Slytherins after that one time she'd defended Snivellus to them. (Though he had taken great pleasure in the fact that she'd hexed Snape herself, once they believed themselves out of sight.) She was nothing remarkable, after all.

No, he never really thought much about Narcissa Black until Sirius had started the rumour.

"She's actually a bloke, you know," Sirius had whispered to Jane Pratt, who was the one person in the whole school who you never, ever told your secrets to, not even when you were shagging her. "That's why no one's ever seen her so much as unbuttoned."

Jane gasped and looked at him with wide eyes and barely hidden glee, and while Sirius would definitely be getting into her robes that night, the rest of the school would be getting a little morsel as well. For it was a known truth that Narcissa, unlike her sisters, did go about buttoned to the throat, never showing so much as ankle.

"She's not really, is she?" James asked him later that night, when Sirius sneaked back into the dormitory long after curfew.

"What are you on about, Potter?" he asked, followed by a broad yawn. "I need to get some sleep. We've got Potions first thing."

"Narcissa, idiot," James hissed at him. "You were lying about her, right?"

Sirius just gave him a slow smile. "You think so, do you?" he said, pulling off his already-loose robes and leaving them in an untidy pile at the foot of his bed.

"Of course you're lying," James said. "This is just like the time you let slip about Davie Jacobs' mother, in the middle of Divination. His family very nearly pulled him from school over that."

"It was true about Davie Jacobs," Sirius reminded him.

"But you're lying about Narcissa," James insisted again, more to convince himself now, he knew. It had been true about Davie Jacobs, though Sirius had never let on how he'd known. "It's just silly."

"Well, I suppose you'll never know, will you? Good night, Prongs."

"Sirius!" he said, as loudly as he dared without being quite loud enough to wake Remus or Peter. But Sirius just gave him a loud and obviously feigned snore in return. "Wanker."


The following day, most of the students from Ravenclaw were looking at Narcissa out of the corners of their eyes. The day after that it was Hufflepuff, and the next it was the whole school. From the look on her pale and pinched face, Narcissa hadn't missed it.

"You heard what Sirius said, right?" James asked Remus as they made their way across the castle to Charms. And Peter as well, just by proximity.

"Sirius is an arse," Remus said. "Narcissa shouldn't have sent an owl to his mother about the incident in the Great Hall, though. I'd guess she won't be doing that again."

"Which inci-- oh," said James. "That one. She owled his mother?"

"So Sirius tells me. Gossip is as cruel as a hex, my mum used to say. Crueller, if you ask me, and takes a great deal longer to recover from." Remus shrugged and shifted his books from one arm to the other. "Did you ever master the odiferous charm? I fell asleep before you finished last night, though I did dream, inexplicably, of fresh baked bread and decaying leaves."

"You what? Yes, yes," said James. "Do you think it's true, though?"

"That you finished? No, not really, but I'm sure you'll do all right anyhow. You always do."

"No, the thing about Narcissa!"

"Of course not," said Remus. "It's ridiculous."

Though just as he said that, a pair of Hufflepuff seventh-years pushed past and James overheard, "--and if anyone would know it would be Sirius, don't you think?"

"Her family could have been keeping it hushed up," offered Peter.

"Yes, but why?" said Remus. "The Black family would have welcomed a male heir, not hidden one. The whole notion is preposterous. I don't know why either of you are giving it any mind at all."

"Because we haven't got any proof either way," said Peter. "There are loads of reasons she'd -- he'd -- want to hide it. Maybe there's been a dreadful threat against a male heir. Maybe her bits aren't quite... right... and it's easier to pretend to be a woman. I've heard about that happening, you know. Don't you think that would be awful?"

James just gave Peter a snort, though it would, indeed, be awful. "Because Sirius said it," he said simply. "That's why."

Remus rolled his eyes. "You know Sirius, James. Just let it go, and get your head back in Charms or Professor Flitwick's going to hold you back after our lesson. You really didn't finish, did you?"

"No, I did," protested James, though everything he'd mastered the night before had gone completely out of his head. Even when Remus frowned at him and flicked his wand and the corridor suddenly smelled of carnations. "And I do know Sirius." Sirius might have been a little too quick to tell a tale, but usually it wasn't a fiction.

"Then you know he's already in Flitwick's classroom waiting for us," said Remus, though James thought it was more likely he'd ducked into a convenient cupboard with Jane Pratt for a quick snog before their lesson started. "Honestly, James, sometimes you are the slowest wizard alive."

"Hardly," James said, and tried not to look as Narcissa hurried by.


Narcissa rarely travelled alone. Rather, like a lot of the women of James's experience, there were at least two other girls from her year at her side at all times, even when she ducked into the loo between lessons. That, however, did not stop him from following. (Not into the loo, of course, but just about anyplace else.) And he wasn't the only one.

But at ten past midnight, when James had got out his father's invisibility cloak and headed down to the kitchens for something to snack on, he was quite sure that no one else was around to see Narcissa hurry past, heading straight outside and right for the lake.

James's curiosity far outweighed his hunger.

"What's that? Who's there?" she asked as James drew close, circling round the spot where she'd sat down a short distance from the rocky shore. Only when she drew her wand did James slip the cloak off.

"It's Potter," he said, and hoped the moonlight was enough to identify him as 'someone not to be hexed'. Hoped he was someone not to be hexed.

"Oh, it's you," she said. "Piss off."

"You shouldn't be out here," he told her weakly. "It's not safe."

"Kindly do not pretend to care," she said. "The only thing I'm not safe from right now is you."

"Me?" said James. "I'm not going to--"

"Right," she scoffed. "You've just been following me for absolutely no reason. You and those arses you call friends have never had anything against me. Go back indoors, Potter, before you get a taste of what you've been handing out."

"I didn't come here to do anything!" he protested. "I only wanted to know if...."

Narcissa let out a strangled shout, that echoed eerily across the lake. "You wanted to know if I was really a bloke?" she asked, suddenly back on her feet and whirling around. "You wanted to find out for yourself, just like ever other bloody student at Hogwarts? Fine."

James suddenly understood what the angry, flashing eyes of his mother's tawdry romance novels really were, and before he could say a word Narcissa was ripping open her robes.

"Do you see them?" she asked him. "Look at me! Do you see them? Now go back to your friends and tell them that Sirius Black is a beast and a liar and the nastiest man the Black line has ever produced."


"Is that not enough for you?" She grabbed his hand and pressed it between her legs, and there was definitely no cock there. "How about that? Now do you believe me?"

James, perhaps against his instincts, but not against his better judgement, snatched his hand back as soon as she let go. "It was just that no one had ever seen... no one knew."

"Have you not ever heard of modesty? I shouldn't be surprised."

Narcissa's robes still hung open wide enough that James could see that the flush her skin had taken on spread all the way down. And if he was being honest, she was suddenly a lot more memorable when she wasn't buttoned up to the collar, with her shape masterfully hidden under layers of clothing and bindings.

"Not so modest now," he murmured, and did her the courtesy of at least looking away. But she didn't cover up.

"Hardly much point," she said. "Your friend didn't care much about my reputation. He won't get away with that, you know."

The Slytherins would certainly strike back at some point, it was true. But Sirius had never feared that. And at Sirius's side, James hadn't either. There was only so much one could get away with, inside the boundaries of Hogwarts, and that limit was looser for Sirius and James than it was for anyone else.

"I don't imagine he expects to," he admitted.

"And just what do you expect to get away with, Potter?" she asked him. "You got what you wanted, what are you still doing here?"

James found he didn't have a quick answer to that. But his slow and tentative yet completely reckless answer was to reach out for her again. At risk of life and limb, he knew, but his body didn't acknowledge that nearly so much as his mind did.

"I see," she said, her voice as cold as her appearance had always been to James. But she didn't feel cold as she reached out to clutch his wrist, then pull him closer. "You want more."

"Anyone would," he found himself saying, laying his free hand on her slim waist.

"Right," she said. "Anyone." She may have given every appearance of being chaste, but she seemed to be quite sure of her actions as she pressed his hand to her breast and kissed him, full on and hard.

"I didn't know you were beautiful," he said. And maybe she wasn't, really, not by any objective standard. She was a little too bony, a little too sharp, a little too plain. But there was something about her when he was like this, flushed and breathless and still a little furious... maybe it was something every woman had, if you ever got them to this state.

James thought he might like to find out someday, though perhaps without the fury.

"There are all kinds of things you didn't know, aren't there," she shot back, but James thought she looked a little pleased at that.

It was only when he really realised that no one else was going to come upon them -- and also that she was quite serious about what she'd started -- that James relaxed and let her draw him to the ground. Let it never be said that James Potter would turn down an offer of sexual contact from a woman who was increasingly attractive to him, and without the help of firewhiskey.

Even if she was a Slytherin.

Maybe especially because she was a Slytherin, and that was something none of his mates could boast about.

"Tell me again you think I'm beautiful," she said, as the robes that still had a tenuous hold on her shoulders were dropped and shoved aside, as she untied her tightly bound hair and let it fall past her shoulders.

"You're beautiful," he said, throwing off his own robes with what had to be telling haste.

"You don't know how much I needed to hear that," she whispered, so quietly James wondered if he was even meant to hear, and let him press his body to hers. She had less about the hips than James's last partner, but he fitted himself against her quite comfortably regardless.

"Be still," she murmured, twining her legs round the outside of James's. Then she murmured something else, brief and low and immediately identifiable as something that wasn't conversation.

"Wait, what are you--" James asked as he felt a pair of wet vines tangle themselves about his ankles. "Narcissa?"

"There," she said, satisfied, setting her deep oak wand aside. "You'll not be going anywhere till I'm through."

"I wasn't going anywhere anyhow!" he said, tugging experimentally on the vines. They had quite enough give that he could have her in nearly any position he liked, but she was right, he'd not be going anywhere until they were through, not unless he went to the trouble to break the charm.

"I've learned to be sure," she said, and stopped him from saying anything else for a moment.

"Hadn't any idea you'd had the experience to learn from," he murmured finally, and found himself on his back a fraction of a second later.

"Well, you would think that, wouldn't you," she said, rolling her hips as she pressed down onto him. "You and your friends, you think all kinds of things without knowing anything. You don't know anything, Potter."

"But I want to know," he said, absolutely sincere in the heat of the moment, moving against her even as she pinned him to the ground. He could have thrown her off with one harsh movement. He didn't.

She had nothing to say to that, and James was glad of the lack of conversation because it meant that she had her mouth to his throat, and didn't mind the boyish stubble that dotted his jawline, that he wasn't yet in the habit of tending to. And while he was arching his neck, his back, pressing himself up onto his elbows, she slipped down onto him with not so much as a whimper, not even a gasp.

James was not so demure; he let out a loud cry followed by a moan that stretched on and on and lingered till he ran short of breath. He couldn't help but roll them onto Narcissa's back again, giving himself the leverage to push inside. "Bloody fuck," he moaned as she lifted his legs higher up on him, drew him in further.

He was absolutely not responsible for what his body did with that kind of encouragement. Narcissa was small and pale and female, but she was not, James discovered, fragile.

Narcissa, in fact, rode even harder than he did, finally letting some noises escape, soft and breathy but unmistakably encouraging. She grabbed his shoulders, digging her skinny fingers into his skin, and trapped him against her, controlling his depth, controlling his speed, controlling everything until finally she cried out and let go.

James wasted no time quickening his thrusts again, feeling her body flutter against his cock in a way he'd never felt anyone's do before. He probably said something unforgivably stupid as he came but he couldn't remember what and he didn't care, not as the warm rush spread throughout him, making his thighs shake as he struggled to keep himself from collapsing his weight against her.

It was when Narcissa caught her breath, not James, that she pushed him off and left him panting on his back on the cool, damp grass.

"We were friends once, you know," she told him, perfectly conversationally, as she fastened her robes loosely and bound her hair at the back of her neck again. "Sirius and I, when we were children. The best of friends."

James waited to catch his own breath before replying. "He never said."

"Well he wouldn't, would he?" she snapped. "Not now. I wonder what happens, Potter, when your best friend decides you're the one he's tired of, that he's too good for?"

"Sirius wouldn't."

"What sort of rumours do you think he'll spread about you? What will he do to you, to try to humiliate and destroy you?"

"He's my best friend," said James. "And he didn't do anything to destroy you. Honestly, Narcissa, it was just a little prank."

"Really," she said. "And what would you have done if I had said no, if I hadn't let you see?"

"I would never--!"

"And what if it had been someone else to follow me out here, alone? Are all the students in this school as gentlemanly as you?"

James flashed on the image of Terrence Blakely, the hulking Ravenclaw beater, following Narcissa down here. James had seen him looking, these past few days. Would he have taken no for an answer?

Narcissa finished preparing herself to return to the castle, to her House, to her friends. "Never speak of this," she said.

"What?" said James. "Not even in your defence?"

"I'll have plenty of people to defend me soon enough," she said. "Don't concern yourself, Potter."

"I can shut Sirius up."

"No one can stop Sirius from doing precisely as he likes," she told him, and James wasn't entirely sure that she was wrong. "Of course, the same might be said about you."

"We both wanted this."

"Perhaps," she said. "Just this once. But I can't imagine this circumstance ever coming upon us again. I would advise you don't follow me back to my dormitory, Potter."

James couldn't even if he'd wanted to; she'd left his feet bound by the lake vines and he'd be an hour getting himself free. But he did follow her with his eyes, all the way back into the castle. Never again, she said, and James believed her. But he couldn't help but wonder if Sirius had really got himself mixed up in something he couldn't handle this time.

Couldn't help but wonder if maybe he had, as well.

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05mar06. Written for Charlotteschaos for Springsmut 2006.