Following the pretty crystal butterfly, Narcissa opened the back door and stepped down into the garden. She immediately noticed the difference in appearance from her bedroom window.
The garden, although still bedecked with the colors of early autumn, seemed to shimmer. The sweet scent of late blooming roses filled the air and the sound of a bubbling fountain spilled into her ears. She walked down a brick path and over chamomile and thyme no longer tangled with weeds, and slipped beneath an apple tree heavy with fruit.
A wooden bench was set beneath the tree along with a table bearing a silver teapot and accouterments, along with a plate of sweets and sandwiches.
The man on the bench rose at her approach, and she stopped as something quivered inside her. As soon as the invitation had arrived she had known the identity of her summoner. The other occupant of the house wanted nothing to do with her. She'd been a prisoner for nearly three weeks and had only seen this man briefly each day as he checked on her comfort. He never asked anything of her.
Narcissa's stomach clenched as she realized that was at an end.
"If you wished to bed me, Mr. Lupin, there was no need for any of this," she said baldly.
Remus' jaw literally dropped and he stammered, "Ngh...No, no, Narcissa, that's not... I mean...You're a married woman."
Her lips twisted in a self-deprecating smile. "And you saw how much my husband thought of me when he sent me to seduce Black."
Swallowing convulsively, Remus gestured to the bench. "I just thought you might like a breath of fresh air. It's a nice day for once and..."
She stared at him for a moment, then took a seat on the bench. He joined her, rubbing his hands nervously over his thighs. The silence between them grew until she finally sighed softly and reached for the teapot to pour. "I like what you've done with the garden."
"Thank you. It was a disgrace. Some of it is illusion but most is from hard work."
That surprised Narcissa and, as she handed him a cup of tea, she asked, "You didn't use magic?"
"I like to work with my hands."
Her eyes fell to the hands holding the saucer and cup and she noted that, while roughened from work, they appeared strong with lean fingers, and the nails were neatly trimmed. Picking up her own cup, after adding a dollop of cream, she sipped and wondered about him.
She'd been wondering about him a lot in the last three weeks, and she had a lot of questions, but the first thing to come out of her mouth was a surprising apology. "I'm sorry my husband got you dismissed from Hogwarts."
Remus seemed startled by her apology and shook his head. "It wasn't him alone, and you have nothing to apologize for."
To her amazement, Narcissa could feel herself flushing, and dropped her gaze from his. "I added my voice to his," she finally murmured. "I didn't know you. I just heard that a werewolf was teaching my son and the fear..."
"I understand, Narcissa," he said gently. "It's a common fear." He took a sip of his tea. "Perhaps when the war ends things will change."
Their eyes met for a moment and she saw a longing in his that deepened the flush on her usually pale cheeks. She looked away. "You speak as if you know it will end in your favor."
"I'm an optimist. I have to believe that good will prevail over evil."
Narcissa couldn't help but snort lightly at that. "So black and white."
Remus shrugged. "There's plenty of gray in the world, but Voldemort, he's pure evil."
At the dreaded name, a shiver went through her as memories played at the edge of her mind, and she murmured, "Yes."
"I find that surprising coming from you, one of his followers."
"My husband is one of his followers. I simply..." Her voice trailed off as she felt the color leave her cheeks. Finally, she said flatly, "We do what we must."
They sat in silence for a moment, Remus sipping his tea and watching her hands tremble, before he changed the subject. "You're very different from your sister."
Her lips twitched slightly and the trembling in her fingers stopped. "Oh, yes. Even Azkaban couldn't break her spirit. She had all the choices. I had duty."
"That must have been hard on you, seeing her live such a very different life."
That comment startled her and she set down her cup and saucer before turning slightly to face him. Their knees brushed and a tingle went through Narcissa. "No one's ever suggested that to me before. It was just expected that I would do what I was told and Lilith would rebel. I sometimes wonder how different my life might have been if I'd been placed in Gryffindor and allowed to find love on my own. Would I have been Lilith then?" She shrugged her shoulders slightly and smiled a bit wistfully. "In the end, I don't think so. We were always different. I think I always knew she would turn against everything our family had supported for centuries. It was just in her nature."
"But, maybe you wouldn't be married to Lucius Malfoy."
"And if I wasn't, I wouldn't have Draco, and he's my everything. And could you see Lilith married to Lucius?" A laugh broke from her and her eyes lit up with amusement. "They would have strangled each other years ago." She watched Remus try not to smile and fail, and another tingle went through her. "You've been very kind to me," she said, reaching impulsively to touch her fingers to the back of the hand resting on his thigh. He seemed startled by her touch but didn't remove his hand.
"We all have unchangeable parts of our natures."
"And yours is kindness? Yes, I can see that. But why are you kind to me? I'm your enemy."
Their eyes met and held as he replied softly, "You're not my enemy. I don't think you're anyone's. As you said, you've done what you've had to."
"Some of it wasn't..." Narcissa shook her head sadly. "I have so many regrets. So many years I simply did all that Lucius asked, and then the Dark Lord was gone and life became routine. I had Draco and a place in society and the darkness, not forgotten, wasn't a constant memory." Her breath caught in her throat as Remus' fingers entwined with hers. "And, then, He came back, and everything came back, and all I felt was helpless."
"Like you had no choice."
"Yes. Coming here, trying to seduce Sirius, wasn't my choice. I knew it wasn't going to work. I've never been able to play my sister convincingly enough for more than a minute or two."
"For a twin, Lilith is unique," he replied with a smile. "As are you."
"She's..." Something niggled at her brain and Narcissa frowned slightly. "Why has no one questioned me as to where Lilith is?"
It was Remus' turn to be startled and he flushed and fidgeted in his seat.
"You do know she went missing nine months ago," she added, watching him carefully.
"And you haven't searched? I mean, obviously Sirius is suffering without her, but when I appeared as her to him, he didn't ask where I'd been or anything. He was happy to see me, but..."
Remus scrambled for an answer. "He was drunk."
Narcissa continued to push the question. "And how would I know that she's been missing if I didn't know where she is? I'll ask you again, why haven't any of you questioned me as to her location?"
"What are you getting at, Narcissa?"
"The only answer I can come up with is that you know where she is and with whom, and you believe he's on your side."
Remus released her hand and reached for a tea cake. "I think we should change the subject."
A distressed sound burst from Narcissa's lips. "I'm sorry. I'm so used to intrigue, I just couldn't help but wonder what you knew. I guess this proves we still are enemies."
He turned back to her, wiping crumbs from his fingers. "No, but you did warn me not to trust you, Narcissa."
Nodding, she nibbled on her lower lip, then sighed softly. "I can't help how I am, the thoughts that twist in my head. All the experiences of my life have made me this way."
"People can change."
She snorted and rose to her feet. He immediately joined her. "Thank you for the tea, Remus. I think it's time we went back to captor and captive."
"No, wait, please." As she turned to go, his hand wrapping gently around her wrist stopped her and she allowed him to pull her towards him. "I'm sorry for not trusting you."
"No, you really are right not to do so. Even I don't know what I'd do if I escaped from here. Would I use your location or any knowledge of Lilith and Snape to save my life? I'm very afraid I would. I'm nothing like her. I'm weak." As the names of her sister and Snape slipped past her lips, for once she didn't care, and her eyes went to his, so soft and kind, so very different from the eyes that usually met hers.
"I don't think so," Remus finally replied softly, his thumb caressing her pulse point. "I think you've been beaten down, your spirit crushed."
Narcissa shook her head, not understanding him. "The spirit was never there."
"You see something that isn't there and never has been, Remus. There's no strength in me."
"There's a mother's devotion, a desire to survive at any cost. Those are strengths, Narcissa."
A smile fluttered across her lip as her stomach flip-flopped, but, for once, not from fear. "You bemuse me, Mr. Lupin."
"I prefer Remus."
And the husky tone in his voice sent her stomach somersaulting again and all she could do was smile. "I fear I must be bold, Remus, and admit that you intrigue me as well. It has been many, many years since I've liked a man."
"That's a pity, but I will admit to being greedy and glad that you've chosen to like me."
As he spoke, she reached for his other hand and placed them both on her waist, amazed at her own boldness.
Although he stiffened slightly, Remus didn't release her, only met her beautiful eyes, a small frown on his face. "Narcissa, we shouldn't..."
Rising to her toes, Narcissa silenced him with her lips pressing to his. He was startled, but didn't pull away from her, and as her tongue darted from between her lips to taste him, she stopped thinking and let herself feel.
And it felt so good.
Remus' hands tightened on her waist, the fingers spreading and caressing through the thin silk of her shirtwaist dress. His lips parted for hers and he returned the kiss, at first hesitantly, but then with growing passion. Her own hands found his arms, feeling the strength beneath the light cotton sweater, and she kneaded like a cat, almost purring into the kiss as her knees grew weak and a rare desire blossomed in her.
Finally he broke the kiss with her name on his lips and she opened her eyes to gaze into his. She was surprised to see them so hot. He'd only ever been calm and kind to her and passion wasn't something she equated with Remus Lupin.
But, then, she really didn't know him. And all men had hidden depths.
Narcissa smiled up at him and a thought fluttered into her bemused mind.
For the first time in her adult life with a man...she wasn't afraid.
Something unfolded inside her like a butterfly from its cocoon and she laughed, the sound light and joyous, which brought a smile to his face and his lips back to hers.
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