For the Monthly Oneshot Exchange. RemusNarcissa, sick fic, memories, for Maisie Malfoy.
His head pounds as he comes to. Flickers of memories flash through his mind. An open field. A full moon. Trees.
He knows that it isn't a dream. It was his first transformation without James, Sirius, and Peter. He had been so sure that he could handle it alone, but now he realizes it was a mistake.
Hesitantly, Remus sits up, his head spinning. He doesn't understand why he is in a bed. He has no memory of returning home in his wolf state, and he certainly wouldn't be able to open the door and put himself to bed.
As he pulls back the blanket, checking for dried blood, that terrible telltale sign that he had harmed someone, the door opens.
"You're awake," Narcissa Malfoy says gently, a small smile on her lips. "I made you some soup."
Remus blinks rapidly, more confused now than he had been upon waking. He checks himself over quickly, relieved to find that the only blood on his body is from his own scratched up limbs and stomach. "What are you-?"
"I was in the area, visiting family," she says quickly. "You were passed out by the road."
He groans, sitting back. Narcissa places the tray in his lap. The soup smells delicious, but he is still too shaky to eat. It always happens like this. Once he's back to his human self, his body rebels.
"You look awful," she offers. "Nasty hangover?"
"Just ill," he answers.
He doesn't want to go into detail. It's been so long since he's had to lie about his condition that he knows that his excuses will be flimsy and fall apart. Thankfully, Narcissa doesn't press.
"Thank you," he says, taking a sip of the soup.
His stomach twists into painful knots, and he groans. Part of him wishes that he were alone for this. Still, part of him is grateful for the company.
"Lucius will be expecting me back soon," she says. "I'll be back to visit you."
"You don't have to."
Narcissa smiles at him. "I know."
True to her word, she shows up later that night with a plate of fresh fruit. Remus hesitates. He doesn't know why she would be so nice to him. They aren't exactly friends. Her cousin, before betraying the Potters, had been disowned by her family. She owes nothing to him.
"You'll need your strength," she tells him. "You're still so pale."
He smiles weakly. "I've been through worse."
Narcissa retrieves a potion from her bag and dabs the contents onto Remus' wounds. He wants to cry at her gentle touch. It reminds him so much of all the times that his friends helped to nurse him back to health.
"Why are you doing this?" he asks.
"Because my husband would hate me if he knew," she answers without further explanation.
Remus wants to ask, but he knows that he has no right to intrude. She hadn't asked for details of his illness. He can let her keep the details of her marriage troubles to herself. Maybe one day they'll be able to talk more openly.
He shakes his head, wondering where that thought came from. He hardly knows her. Perhaps he's just lonely, and she's just kind. Whatever the reason, it's improper, and he scolds himself for it.
"There you go," she beams. "Starting to get some color back in your cheeks."
"This is really too much," he tells her. "I don't need your pity."
"Pity? Is that what you think it is? What must you think of my family if you believe that I'm incapable of doing things out of kindness?"
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean-"
"It's fine," she interrupts. "I'd better go."
There's no promise of another visit. Remus doesn't know why this realization hurts him.
"Are you often ill?"
Remus nearly drops his kettle at her voice. He turns around, cheeks hot. "You came back," he says quietly.
"I remember at Hogwarts you used to end up in the hospital wing," she continues. "Always right after the full moon. I found you the day after the full moon."
He swallows dryly. Anyone finding out his secret is dangerous. Narcissa Malfoy is infinitely more terrifying. She could so easily let the truth slip to Lucius, and Remus will be ruined. Still, it would insult her intelligence to deny it. "You know my secret," he says. "Let me guess yours. Lucius isn't the man you wanted to marry?"
"Didn't want to marry at all," she confirms. "My father would never allow it. If Andromeda hadn't run off with Ted, I might have been able to avoid it. But our family could hardly risk another scandal."
"You weren't really visiting family," he guesses.
She laughs. "Clever man. I enjoy long walks away from Malfoy Manor. Far away as possible. They're fewer now that we have a son."
Remus swallows dryly, nodding. He had almost forgotten that Narcissa gave birth. Her son would be around Harry's age now.
"We have Dobby to care for the house and Draco," she says. "Taking care of you is the most useful I've felt in so long. How could I stay away?"
"I'm better now," he says, and he wonders if she can hear the way his words sound almost like an apology.
"There's always next month," she says. "And the month after that. I'm lonely. You're alone. That's no way to go through life, Remus."
It's such a ridiculous thing. He shouldn't feel this way. Narcissa is married, and it shouldn't matter how miserable that fact makes her. Infidelity is still infidelity.
Yet, somehow, he doesn't seem to care. He's spent so long acting as a voice of reason for his friends. But now they're all dead, or, in Sirius' case, as good as. Why shouldn't he take a risk?
"So many secrets," he mumbles.
She caresses his cheek and leans in dangerously close. "One more won't hurt," she says before pressing her lips to his.
Somehow, Remus can't help but to agree.