Setting Her Free

by Lara Wilson

Eyes closed, Lilith moved atop her husband, low moans of pleasure breaking from her lips. His hands were on her hips, guiding her, and her hands were wrapped around his arms. As she began to shudder, nearly at the peak, the palm of one of her hands began to burn. Gasping in pain, she opened her eyes and saw Severus grimace and grab for his arm, prying her fingers from it.

"Shit," he cursed, all passion drained from him. Holding her own aching hand, Lilith clamored off him and wrapped the blanket around herself. This was the first time ever they hadn't finished...It felt weird. She blushed and frowned in consternation. Severus swung his legs over the side of the bed as he ran a hand through his tangled head. "Sorry."

"It's okay. Do you have to go immediately?" she asked hesitantly.

He glanced over his shoulder at her and shook his head. Since his return the Dark Lord had perfected the Dark Mark, including in it an instinctive knowledge of the time to appear. "I have an hour before Court is called."

"Do I have to go, too?"

Seeing the distaste in her eyes, he shook his head again. "I'll make your excuses. He's pleased with your recent revelations, so I don't think he'll mind."

"I hated doing that," she replied bitterly as Severus rose and slipped on his trousers.

Rounding the bed, he crouched down next to her and reached for her hands. "I know you did, luv, but I was so proud of you for doing it. Protecting you is the most important thing in my life. If you had to give away every secret of the bloody Order, including my own, I'd want you to."

"I know, but you know I never would." It was an old argument so she smiled gently down at him as she squeezed his hands. "I'm hungry."

Severus grinned. "You're always hungry." Tugging her to her feet, he gave her a light smack on her bottom, before heading to the door. "You get dressed and I'll fix some supper."

Lilith watched him go and a longing went through her. She hoped that he didn't have to stay at Court too long tonight. She really didn't like Voldemort interrupting their sex life. It was bad enough he was a peeping Tom.

*****

Tangled hair shrouding her eyes and unwanted tears, Hermione watched Lucius carefully as he rose from between her shivering thighs and refastened his trousers. With a casual wave of his wand, the bed beneath her disappeared and she barely caught herself before she crashed to the stone floor. Moaning in pain and cradling the wrist she'd used as a brace, she curled into a ball, still watching him.

So far all he'd done was rape her. No whips or brands or other devices of torture.

No Ginny.

As he tucked his linen shirt into his trousers, he turned to face her and she instinctively shrank back. He smirked at that.

"No time for more, my pretty. My Lord calls me. You shall have a few hours free from my tender touch." With the toe of one boot, he traced her narrow, bruised hip. "Don't miss me too much."

As soon as he exited and locked the dungeon door behind him, Hermione started to cry, her mind shying away from memories of this most recent attack and all the rest and grasping firmly onto Professor's Snape's promise to rescue her. It had been nearly a week--or at least she thought it had--and she could feel her sanity slipping away again.

*****

Remus opened the note, nodding his thanks to the owl that hooted and flew back out the window, and quickly scanned it. A grim smile crossed his face and he turned to his companions. "It's from Severus. The Dark Court is being called for an hour from now. It's our chance to rescue Hermione."

"I'll send for Molly and Poppy," Arthur said, his eyes shifting nervously before he continued, "Hermione might need a healer."

"Good thinking, Arthur." As the older wizard left for their own owlery, Remus glanced at Tonks, Kingsley, and Sirius, his eyes lingering on the latter. His sensitive nose could detect the smell of whisky, but Sirius appeared to be sober. Remus debated sending for a few more aurors and tactfully requesting Sirius remain behind, but decided against it. "I think we should keep this small--the four of us."

"Is that enough?" Tonks asked, worried.

"If Severus is right and all that remain are a handful of house elves." He ignored Sirius' snort. "While they'll defend the property with their lives, a few good sleep spells should take care of them quickly enough. We have the map to Malfoy Manor and hopefully Hermione hasn't been moved."

"There'll be other defenses."

Remus nodded at Shacklebolt and unrolled the parchment that contained a map not only of the rooms but of booby traps. "I can handle these easily enough."

"And if that's not all?" Sirius asked, his lack of faith in Severus' map clear in his voice.

"Defense against the Dark Arts is my speciality, Sirius."

Sirius scowled but nodded in reluctant agreement as they all bent over the map, memorizing where the traps lay.

*****

They were leaving in fifteen minutes, giving Malfoy plenty of time to have left in case he was running late, though that was highly unlikely. Remus slipped a black cloak around his shoulders, fastening it with a twist of a knot, then left his room and started for the stairs. As he passed the former lady's chamber, he stopped, took a step back, then shook his head.

It would be the height of foolishness to see her before such an important mission.

But...if something happened to him...

Taking a deep breath to steady his nerves, Remus knocked on the door then entered when her soft voice granted him permission.

Narcissa sat in the lone chair, lit only by a candle on the table next to her. A book sat open but forgotten in her lap. It was as if she was waiting for him. A smile crossed her lips, shaky but real, and she rose to her feet even as he gestured for her to remain seated.

Since their fateful tea in the garden nearly two weeks before they'd continued to spend time together each day, mostly talking and becoming comfortable with one another. The passion hadn't returned in full force, but mostly because they hadn't let it. Remus was constantly forcing himself to remember that she was married, even if her husband was a murdering bastard.

And Narcissa was scared of feelings that she'd never experienced before.

Still, there was something between them, growing stronger every day.

"You're leaving?" she asked softly, indicating his cloak.

"For a few hours, we all are. Well, Arthur Weasley will be here but you probably should remain in your room."

"The drunkard is accompanying you?" Narcissa sneered lightly.

Remus nodded.

"A vital mission?" was her next lightly asked question.

He didn't answer that one. "I would prefer not to have to lock your door, Narcissa."

A sad smile formed on her pink painted lips. "Lock the door, Remus."

He nodded again, silently acknowledging the truth behind her statement. He was coming to care very deeply for her, but he would never forget just who she was and the destruction she could cause if she escaped. That she didn't even try to hide it, pretend to an innocence long gone, led him to believe that she truly meant she wouldn't bring them all down.

But he also knew that she was weak and broken and Malfoy and Voldemort wouldn't need to have their hands on her for long before she told them everything they wanted to know.

Remus turned to leave, only to turn back at one distressed sound from her. "What is it?" he asked, his concerned eyes noting the worry in hers.

"I fear...what if you don't come back?"

He gave her a reassuring smile. "I will, Narcissa." As he spoke, she flung herself into his arms, and he caught her with a loud exhalation of breath.

"I just found you."

"Narcissa." Trying to soothe her, surprised that her always calm manner had shattered so easily, he stroked his hands down her back and watched her burrow her face into his shoulder. "Please, don't worry. I'll be fine. I know what I'm doing."

"I don't know why...I just have a bad feeling," she finished lamely, bringing herself under control. They reluctantly parted and he was surprised to see her brush tears from the corners of her eyes. "Please be safe."

"I will, I swear. Hopefully I'll be back in an hour."

"And you'll come see me?"

"Of course."

Narcissa gave him a tremulous smile and nodded.

Remus slipped out of the room and reached for the key in the lock. Staring at it for a moment, he pulled it free without turning it and hung it on a hook on the wall.

*****

Hermione didn't even look up when the door to her cell opened, just huddled deeper into the corner, trying to get warm, and wishing he'd stayed away longer. Surely only an hour or so had passed since he'd left.

A gasp filled the small room, and Hermione frowned. That wasn't... Slowly turning her head, she saw Tonks coming towards her, unfolding a cloak.

Rescue?

As Tonks dropped to her knees and Hermione let herself be wrapped in the cloak, noisy sobs broke from the younger woman and she collapsed against the auror.

"It'll be okay, Hermione," Tonks soothed her awkwardly. "Come on, we gotta go." Tonks helped her to her feet and guided her out the door. From down the long corridor came the sounds of fighting. "We've got a very determined bunch of house elves here."

Hermione didn't respond, but she knew why.

Lucius would kill them all for letting her escape.

Good.

They made it up the stairs with no difficulty and then nearly tripped over a sleeping house elf. Climbing over him, they flattened themselves against the wall as another one dashed towards them being chased by a big black dog bleeding from his snout and growling. As he pounced on the elf, Remus came around a different corner, a deep gash across his cheek coating his face and neck with blood. His eyes went from Tonks to Hermione and back to Tonks.

"We ran into a rather nasty trap that may have alerted Malfoy. Time to go."

"We have to get a mile off the property before we can apparate. Can you run?" Tonks asked Hermione as they hurried down the hall.

"Yes," was her determined reply, even though every step caused her pain. She'd do anything to get out of here.

*****

Lucius was listening to Bellatrix with half an ear, his attention focused on her breasts nearly spilling out of tight bodice, when the alarm sounded in his head. He frowned, his brow wrinkling in consternation. A quick glance showed the Dark Lord wrapped up in whatever Ginny was whispering into his ear. He appeared to be in a good mood, so Lucius turned his back on Bellatrix and approached his Master.

"Yes, Lucius?" Voldemort briefly turned his attention to the blond wizard before returning to stroking his fingers through Ginny's auburn locks.

"There is a disturbance at Malfoy Manor, my lord. I need to return home immediately."

"The mudblood?" Voldemort snapped his attention back to Lucius, nearly making the younger wizard shiver at the change in mood.

"Oh, I'm sure it's not," Lucius replied weakly.

"You've played with the bitch enough, Lucius. I want answers from her to any vital questions you can think of."

"Of course, my lord. May I...?"

Voldemort dismissed him with a wave of his hand and Lucius hurried away in as dignified a manner as he could manage.

*****

Waiting for her husband's return from the Dark Court, Lilith looked up from her book at the hoot of an owl. A wave of her hand opened the window in the sitting room and a little owl flew inside to land gently on her shoulder. With a bit of trepidation, she removed the scroll and unrolled it. A smile of joy broke out on her face.

They'd done it. Rescued Hermione.

Lilith desperately wished she could go see the younger woman, but knew that was too risky. Still, there was one person who might be able to bring her some comfort.

Writing a quick message, Lilith sent the owl on its way, then curled back into her chair and waited for Severus to come home. She tried not to think about the possibility of his part in Hermione's rescue being revealed.

*****

As soon as she stepped foot over the threshold of Grimmauld House, Hermione burst into fresh tears. Molly hugged her tightly, sobbing as well, and guided the trembling girl up the stairs. Remus watched them for a second, his heart heavy at the signs of abuse on the young woman who'd once faced him down so bravely, and winced as his own pains made themselves known as the adrenaline faded.

"You, too, Remus," Molly beckoned. "Poppy's upstairs, she can heal that right up."

Reluctantly he followed behind them, not wanting to be anywhere near Hermione when the extent of her injuries became known. Hearing about the abuse was one thing, seeing it, something completely different, and all he wanted to do was pound Lucius Malfoy into a bloody, dead pulp.

The anger momentarily banished the pain and he caught up to the pair just as the door to Narcissa's door opened and the lady herself dashed into the hall. Her eyes were only on him and a gasp broke from her.

"You're injured. Oh, what happened? I knew something was going to go wrong. Let me help you." As she reached for him and he, startled, stepped back, Hermione was suddenly there, hands clenched tightly around the edges of her cloak, eyes burning.

"You! What the hell are you doing here?" Hermione yelled, then turned on Remus. "What the hell is she doing here?"

Remus opened his mouth, then closed it as Narcissa spoke again, her concern over him set aside in the face of dawning understanding. "You broke into Malfoy Manor. You stole her from Lucius."

A wave of cold went through Remus and his lips tightened. "You knew she was there and did nothing? Said nothing? You had to know who she was and what she meant to us!"

Narcissa paled, her eyes darting from one angry person to another, and stepped back into the doorway. "I...I knew...I just didn't think." Her voice dropped to a whisper. "I didn't think." One trembling hand went to her mouth and the other reached out for him. "Remus, you're bleeding. Please let me help you."

"Get inside."

Eyes filling with tears, she took another step back into her room.

Hermione sneered, "Is this your prison, Mrs. Malfoy? It's much nicer than mine, and I see you're allowed clothes."

The older woman flushed and dropped her eyes in the face of the girl's righteous anger. She looked up again when Remus closed the door, and felt her heart constrict with pain.

"Why is she here?" Hermione demanded again as Remus turned the key in the lock.

Sighing sadly, Remus shook his head and gestured to the end of the hall where Poppy awaited. "Let's get you clean and comfortable, Hermione. It's a long story."

*****

Harry sat at the kitchen table in the abandoned cottage they were currently hiding in, scribbling notes onto a scrap of parchment. In seclusion until the next big battle, he'd spent the time coming up with new defensive spells. He wanted to run them by Remus, but he was sure they'd be useful.

He and Draco had decided only to go to Grimmauld Place when summoned, though, both of them with too big of prices on their head to put the others at such risk.

Those rewards made hiding very difficult. They were moving on the average of once a week. It was if all the hordes of Death Eaters were out to get them only. Why they couldn't take some time off and turn on Snape was beyond him.

Snickering to himself, Harry didn't hear his companion enter the kitchen until the kettle clanked on the tiny stove. He glanced over his shoulder at Draco and nodded for him to make enough for two.

"This is the last of the tea."

Harry frowned and mentally pictured their dwindling supply of pounds and pence--which was more than they had in galleons and knuts, but not by much. "Shops tomorrow?"

Draco shrugged and the tea kettle whistled just as an owl rapped loudly on the window. Harry rose to let it in, and it landed on the table, dropping its message at the sign of crumbs left over from supper's sandwiches. Unrolling the scroll, Harry read it and let out a loud whoop.

"The Dark Lord giving up?"

"Better. Hermione's been rescued!"

Draco smiled, more in the face of Harry's obvious joy than in any thoughts towards Granger. He didn't despise her, but he figured they'd never be friends, either. He was glad she was out of his father's hands, though. He just hoped the Dark Lord's wrath at losing Hermione wouldn't be turned on his mother. "How is she?"

"Alive. This is from Lilith. She doesn't go into any details, just says that Hermione's at Grimmauld Place."

It had been weeks since Draco had seen so much animation on Potter's face and he smiled again, a bit knowingly. "And you want to go there, to see her for yourself."

"Think we can risk a quick visit tomorrow?"

"I can guarantee that my father will put off informing the Dark Lord of the loss for as long as possible, so, yeah, the word won't be out yet."

"I hope she's okay," Harry murmured, the momentary elation changing to concern.

Draco didn't respond to that, simply poured the hot water over the tea leaves in the chipped pot. He doubted the girl would ever be okay again.

*****

Later, with Hermione sleeping with the aid of one of Severus' potions, Remus entered his room, wincing at the stiffness of his limbs and the ache from his healing cheek. The cut was deep enough it might scar and Poppy had chided him as it had come within a hair of his eye. Shrugging out of the ruined shirt, he quickly bathed off the dried blood and scent of battle, before putting on a clean shirt. As he buttoned it, he slowly felt his anger return.

He was a man of even temperament but after hearing Poppy's emotional recitation of Hermione's injuries, and knowing they were all gained in the last week since Severus had healed her, after watching Hermione's anger turn to humiliation, the once proud young woman curling into herself wearing one of Molly's too-big nightgowns, hearing Sirius cursing Malfoy and Voldemort up and down the halls as he'd paced...well, was it any surprise he was angry?

None of the Order had wanted to think about what might happen upon capture. For many of them, torture and rape were so far outside their own thinking, faced with it they were only confused and frightened.

Hermione was right. Narcissa's prison was luxurious compared to her own, and nothing had been done to her. No punishment. No pain.

Accustomed to the methods of Death Eaters, had she expected her capture to lead to the same tortures as Hermione had suffered? Had she been surprised at his kindness? Thinking back, Remus believed she had been, and that angered him as well. That she thought he would hurt her as her husband had hurt Hermione infuriated him.

That she had stood by and done nothing to help Hermione, especially since she'd been here a full week before Severus had informed them where Malfoy had the girl...

Logically Remus knew Narcissa was a victim--she might not bear the bruises and marks that Hermione did but there was pain deep inside her psyche from longstanding abuse--but what had Sirius called her that first night?

A Death Eater's bitch.

Maybe that's all she ever would be.

Remus left his room, intending to join the others who remained in the kitchen for tea and planning, but when he reached Narcissa' room, he grabbed for the key and unlocked the door. Stepping inside, his thoughts chaotic, his heart beginning to race, he closed and locked the door behind him.

Narcissa rose from the chair where she'd been sitting, waiting, knowing he would come to her. Her face was composed but an icy dread sat in the pit of her stomach. As Remus locked the door behind him and pocketed the key, she knew the kindness was over.

Determined to face him bravely she stepped farther into the light of the lone candle, revealing the sheer nightgown she wore. As she watched his eyes drop to the pale curves of her breasts, her hands crossed over her chest and found the thin straps of the gown, slowly pulling them down. With a flick of her wrists the gown pooled at her feet and she stepped from the puddle of silk.

"Narcissa..." Remus choked out.

"I deserve your anger, your contempt,"she replied, her voice soft and empty as she took another step towards him. "I can't apologize. I can only admit I didn't know any better. I should have told you about the girl, but I truly didn't think to do so."

"And, so, what?" Anger rolled through his voice as his eyes jerked to hers. "You're going to seduce me to make it all better?"

"Or you can hurt me, whatever you need to do," was her response.

Remus felt the anger replaced by shock as he blurted out, "You expect me to...rape you?"

Narcissa shrugged helplessly, then gasped as he came at her, grabbing her arms and shaking her.

"Shit, Narcissa, you really don't know me!"

Wincing at his strength, she still managed to raise her hands and slip them beneath the open collar of his shirt to caress his chest. "Please don't be angry with me," she breathed as she rose on her toes and pressed a kiss to his clenched jaw. As she molded herself to him, she felt him harden and rise, and closed her eyes to hold in the tears.

She hadn't wanted it to be like this, but her daydreams were fools gold and this was all she knew.

How to appease an angry man.

Her lips slid across his as her fingers unbuttoned his shirt.

"Narcissa, stop."

But, he didn't set her aside or stop her, and when she kissed him again, he twisted his lips over hers, responding with an angry passion that surprised her. When he urged her backwards, she went, knowing the bed was behind her and it would all be over soon. Her legs hit the side of the mattress and then she was lifted and lowered, but not left alone.

"Damn you," Remus hissed as he moved over her, burying his mouth in the hollow of her throat, his hands leaving her arms and cupping her breasts, fondling them with urgent passion. Her own hands tugged his shirt from him, then reached for his belt buckle. Remus lifted his head and stared down at her until she opened eyes glistening with unshed tears. "Damn me," he groaned and kissed her again, moving over her and between her spread legs as her nimble yet trembling fingers released him from wool and cotton, and guided him to her.

As he pushed into her, she closed her eyes again, unable to bear the bitter disappointment and self-loathing she could see on his face. Her arms wrapped around his neck and she returned his kiss, and moved with him.

And felt nothing but cold.

*****

Severus entered the sitting room quietly and smiled tenderly at the sight of his wife curled in her chair, asleep. Taking the book from her lap, he scooped her into his arms and she stirred and mumbled, but didn't awaken. He carried her into their bedroom and slipped her beneath the blankets. Removing her slippers, he tossed them negligently on the floor before stripping off his clothes and joining her in the bed.

Lilith awoke groggy and rolled against him, pressing her face into his shoulder, then the memories returned and she forced her eyes open. "Did you see her?"

"No, but I received an alert that the rescue was successful."

"No one suspects you?"

"Lucius was alerted to something and left Court early but he had yet to return. I'm sure he's soiling himself at the thought of what the Dark Lord will do to him when he's forced to confess the truth," he snickered.

Lilith laughed against his shoulder. "Sev!"

Sobering up, Severus wrapped one arm around his wife and settled back on the pillows. "I don't think I'll be at all suspect, especially since Lucius knows Narcissa is a captive of the Order. Something else he hasn't informed the Dark Lord about."

A thought hit her and she frowned. "She hasn't been hurt, has she?"

He snorted. "That bunch of do-gooders hurt a prisoner? It's a miracle they can fight at all with all the whinging over causing harm. No, she's fine. I haven't seen her but from all accounts she's being treated well."

"Do you know why she was sent there? Obviously to pretend to be me, but what were they after?"

"She hasn't said and they haven't pushed."

Lilith wondered if he was lying and sighed to herself. "I'd like to see her."

"That's not possible."

"I know." She frowned deeper. "I think I'm past the nesting stage, though. I'm so restless." She glanced up at him and saw him arch his brow and give her a wolfish smile.

"I think I know how we can alleviate that for a bit." Turning, he lowered his mouth to hers in a sensual kiss.

*****

Lucius sat in darkness surrounded by the bodies of house elves, his wand hanging loose from one hand, blood dripping from the other.

He was dead.

All his failures and this one would be his end.

Draco's betrayal and desertion. Narcissa's weakness and whining. His own choice to turn his back on the Dark Lord while he was gone, to build a life and empire of power and wealth and not rot in prison.

Now he'd lost the mudblood without ever questioning her once. Too busy sticking his cock into her and breaking her down to gain any information from her.

He was a fool.

And the Dark Lord didn't tolerate fools for long.

Lucius knew who was to blame, though. Not him, never him.

Narcissa had betrayed him completely. Undoubtedly she'd fallen to her knees and begged them not to hurt her and spilled all his secrets. The sneaky bitch knew all the defenses of the manor, knew just how many house elves he had, where they were stationed and what levels of power they possessed. She knew that no one had ever tried to break into the manor, but, like any place, there were weaknesses.

He'd taught her too well how to exploit weaknesses.

All they'd had to do was determine when the next Dark Court was called. That was the only thing that confused him because that was the one thing Narcissa couldn't have known.

The wimpy Order couldn't possibly have a spy in the Dark Lord's Court.

Could they?

He dismissed that thought and returned to Narcissa and thoughts of punishment. It would take a few days, but he could reach her in ways only he knew.

And he would, and she would pay.

They would all pay.

*****

Remus lay on his back, an arm over his eyes, his breathing finally under control. As he came to his senses, those senses came alive and he listened to the shallow hiccuping sobs from the woman curled facing away from him. He could also smell her, and she reeked of fear and sorrow.

Not of passion.

He'd lost control, giving into his baser instincts, taken her like the animal he truly was, and while he hadn't hurt her, had even been careful not to, a part of him had known that, despite her apparent seduction of him, she hadn't wanted him.

But, he couldn't stop.

And now he feared he'd broken her even more.

Narcissa tried to stop the tears from flowing but only managed to quiet her sobs. Men didn't like a woman to cry after sex. She knew she should be in his arms, soothing him, stroking his ego, but she couldn't bear that yet. She prayed he'd been pleased with her. He'd seemed pleased enough, kissing her deeply as he'd taken her, arousing her enough that his possession hadn't hurt. It had been over quickly, just as she'd known it would be, and now she waited for what came next.

Her mind, trapped in dark shadows, flittered over possibilities.

There were other men in this house. Would he give her to them? She could only hope that she'd pleased him enough to keep her for himself, but, like everything else, that was out of her control.

Would his anger return, heightened by the obvious anger he felt at himself for giving into her seduction, and cause him to hurt her after all? Men were volatile and his mood could shift at any moment, sending his hands painfully onto her soft flesh.

Or would he keep her locked away in this room, coming to her when he needed release, expecting her to be at his beck and call?

She knew she would survive any of the outcomes. She'd survived the Dark Lord's pleasure. Remus Lupin couldn't possibly cause her more suffering.

Except...

A sob escaped from between her lips and she pressed one shaking hand to them as fresh tears flowed. The caring and tenderness were gone. Whatever had been growing between them, something new and sweet, something she'd never thought to feel, was over. Destroyed in an instance because she was Lucius Malfoy's wife and all she could ever be was dark.

Remus heard the sob and sighed softly. His anger was gone and his natural compassion was returning along with a hearty dose of self-loathing. Sitting up, he used wandless magic to light a candle on the bedside table, then fastened his trousers before turning to look at her. She had her back to him, her hair shielding her face, her skin the color of parchment and almost as thin. On the arm revealed to him were red marks from his fingers, starkly obscene against such pale beauty. He swallowed hard.

"Narcissa? We need to talk."

She heard the softness in his voice, the lack of anger, and hoped his need to punish her was over. Reaching for the tangled sheets, she pulled them over herself before sitting up and putting on a brave face before turning to him. Their eyes met and held for a long moment.

He was the one to look away. He never wanted to see such emptiness again, and knowing he was the one to cause it was torture.

"I'm sorry."

That shocked her. It was completely out of her frame of reference. "Why? You didn't hurt me." She struggled to understand. "I deserved..."

"Gods, don't say that," he interrupted, his voice harsh but the harshness not directed at her. "I should never have come here in such a state. I should have known better."

"Remus, you don't need to apologize. I angered you. I didn't think to tell you about the girl. I truly didn't, but that's my fault, not yours."

"Sometimes I forget the darkness you come from."

"I don't," was her soft reply to his almost wistful comment. "It's all I am."

"No, it's not, but I don't know if you'll ever see that." Remus looked back at her, seeing a mix of confusion and wonder in her eyes and on her face that gave him some small hope. "I have never, ever taken my anger out on anyone in this way. I never thought I could. I could have hurt you so badly," he choked out, the self-loathing rising to the fore again.

Narcissa's heart thumped painfully in her chest and, to her amazement, she found herself reaching out and brushing her fingers across his uninjured cheek. "Remus, please stop. What happened here...You say I didn't deserve it, but it's all I know."

His eyes widened. "That you think you deserved to be punished for something you didn't even know you should have done...it hurts me, Narcissa. I don't know how to help you see that the world doesn't have to be so dark."

"That you want to help me, that in itself is a wonder." She shook her head slightly, her tangled curls falling down over her barely concealed breasts. "For the last few weeks we've lived in a world of denial, Remus. I tried to be better than I am. You tried to forget the truth of what we are. Ms. Granger was right. My prison is luxurious compared to hers, but it's still a prison. You can't let me go."

"We're keeping you safe," he protested.

A sad smiled crossed her face. "And in doing so you're protecting yourselves. I understand fully. I don't blame you. I could destroy you all. I've overheard so much. You can't remove my right to find this place with me here--I know you tried--so you might not have time to revoke it if I got away. Plus, I know how to track the house's movements."

"Why did you tell me that?" he asked, surprised.

"Because I don't want any lies between us. I've lived a life of lies and I'm so tired of it. I'm not a good person. I don't think I ever can be. I don't want to betray you, but if I escape or you let me go, and I fall into Lucius' hands...Well, I know how weak I am, and he knows just how to play me. He'd break me so fast and use me to break the wards here and that would destroy me, Remus."

"Why?"

She felt her lower lip tremble and forced herself to remain calm despite what was welling up inside her. "I care for you. You're so different from every man in my life. You make me want to see the world in so many different ways. I just don't know if I can." Slowly she let her eyes drop to her lap where her hands lay tightly clasped. "Tonight, my first and only thought was to appease you. To take your anger and hopefully break it against my body. It's all I know how to do."

"That makes me so sad, Narcissa."

"I can see that now, but then..." She shook her head again. "You didn't hurt me, Remus. I think I knew you wouldn't, but seducing you was all I could think to do. I didn't think about the fact that you're the kind of man who doesn't use sex as a bargaining tool, because I've never known a man who didn't." A soft, sad sigh broke from her. "We're too different. I don't think we'll ever understand each other."

"Differences can be a good thing, but this wide gulf between us where sex lies...I don't know if that can be bridged," he admitted. "I could have stopped myself if I'd really wanted to, and knowing that I didn't, that I wanted you in anger, that's tearing me apart."

"And you won't blame me." It was a statement, not a question, because she could see, even though she'd seduced him, he was taking all the blame upon himself. Again, she felt that sense of wonder go through her. "Why haven't you come to me before this night?"

"Because you're married," was his honest answer.

Narcissa smiled a bit bemused. "A legality that means nothing more, Remus. Once, long ago when I was still a child and still innocent, I may have loved Lucius, but he never loved me. I'm his possession, a doll he plays with and breaks when he's angry. While there were times our marriage was a horror, mostly it was just empty. He sent me here without a thought, and he'll kill me the same way. Once, I might have been sad about that, but not now. Not after...you." Reaching out, she cradled one stubbly cheek in the palm of her hand. "But, have I ruined what might be, Remus?"

"I hope not," he choked out, leaning into her touch. "Have I?"

Still smiling, she shook her head. "I can see you think you did, that you blame yourself, but don't, please. I won't ever blame you."

"But, you should."

"You didn't hurt me."

"You...you didn't enjoy it, Narcissa," he stuttered painfully. "Even in human form I have a werewolf's senses, and I know you didn't enjoy it."

She paled slightly and the smile faded. "No. I was mostly...saddened. I'd had silly dreams of how our first time might be," she scoffed. "I forgot that reality has a way of intruding on any dream." Her hand fell from his cheek only to be caught by one of his. As their fingers entwined, she felt a bolt of desire that surprised her.

The look he gave her was oddly shy. "Have you ever...enjoyed it?"

Her pale skin reddened and she dropped her eyes as she murmured, "Yes. My marriage was loveless but not passionless. Does that make me a bad person, to enjoy sex with a man I can't stand?"

"No, oh no, luv. I'm glad." Remus sounded relieved. "The thought of you suffering for twenty years is too painful."

"You're so different from any man I've ever known. Such caring is foreign to me."

"I don't want it to be."

"Can people really change?"

"I believe so. I have to," was his fervent reply as his fingers stroked hers. "We can't go back. We can't forget what happened tonight, but...can we move forward?"

"Oh, I want to, Remus." Their eyes met, both showing a glimmer of hope, and as one they leaned together, their lips touching gently and parting.

"Will you let me show you how it can be between us?"

Her reply was a deeper, more passionate kiss, that was more real than any they'd shared earlier, and Remus wrapped his arms around her and drew her onto his lap. This time, her arousal filled his senses and as he gave a silent thanks to whatever gods might be watching over idiots like him, he lowered them both to the mattress.

End

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