I would never have thought of cheating on my husband. I did not love him, of course, as our marriage had only taken place because both our families had thought it to be a good match, but I never complained. After all, Lucius was not really a bad man; I could have ended up with someone much worse. Bella's husband, for example, was definitely unhinged. But all Lucius did was treat me like a piece of ornamental furniture. Sometimes he complimented my beauty, but there was no love behind his words. Sometimes he shouted at me, when he got drunk. Sometimes he ignored me completely.
Sometimes we made love, when Lucius was in the mood. There was no romance, no passion. It was quick and emotionless, just to satisfy Lucius's needs. He did not care how I felt. Still, that was how Draco came to be. Despite how Lucius felt towards me, I must say he did adore Draco, in his own way. He did not pamper him, he did not play with him, but he did care greatly about his marks at school, about his future. When Draco failed to fulfill his expectations, he was clearly disappointed. Sometimes he yelled at him, but often he just became colder than usual towards him, which hurt Draco more than anything. He would have given his right hand just to please his father. The more Lucius ignored him, the more he strived to make him notice. He never behaved that way towards me. Maybe it was because he took my love for granted. Lucius's love, however, had to be deserved. That is why Draco eventually joined the Death Eaters, because Lucius wanted him to. I am not sure how much he really wanted to be a Death Eater himself, but I do know that he saw it as a chance to prove himself, to force Lucius to finally acknowledge him. I alone saw how frightened he was when the Dark Lord gave him the task of killing Dumbledore. It was in his eyes. I guess the Dark Lord saw it, too. But of course that was what he wanted; he knew Draco's mission was doomed to fail. It was his way of punishing Lucius for messing up his own task, for getting caught and ending up in Azkaban.
Draco never told me about his fears. He tried to look strong, he tried to look as though he could not wait to get back to school to do what had been asked of him. But I heard him cry at night. I saw him look at his Dark Mark with disgust when he thought I was not around. I could not bear it. I could not watch my son suffer so. I could not stand aside as he slowly walked towards certain death. I decided to find help. I decided to see Lucius's old friend, Severus.
I do not know what made me take Bella along with me. Perhaps I thought Severus was more likely to hear me out if there were two of us to plead for my son. But Bella soon proved to be a hindrance rather than the ally I had hoped her to be. She did not trust Severus and she immediately told him so. I was afraid he would turn us out of the house as soon as she opened her mouth. But he calmly answered all her questions, thus quelling even the small doubts about him that I myself might have had. He even promised to help Draco, in the end. That was when I asked him to make the Unbreakable Vow. I knew I may have gone too far, but it was all or nothing for me. I had to be certain.
It seemed ages to me before Severus finally spoke. His black eyes were boring into my tear-filled ones, his hand, which I had seized a few moments earlier, was warm in mine. I wish I could have seen what was going on in his mind. But at last he assented, and that was all that mattered to me then. I knew Draco would be safe in his hands.
And then Draco departed for his sixth year at Hogwarts. I was left at home, alone, compelled to only imagine how his task was progressing. His letters to me were frighteningly impersonal; he stuck strictly to the topic of school. It was unbearable not to know what was going on; I was growing more and more restless. Sometimes I even wished for Lucius to come home from Azkaban, imagine that. Everything seemed better than to be left alone with my uncertainties.
Finally I made a decision – I would go and see Severus. If Draco would not tell me what was going on, then Severus had to. Maybe he had, in the meantime, manipulated Draco into confiding in him. And so on one cold October evening I Apparated into Hogsmeade. Yes, I could have simply sent Severus a letter, but in these dark times one never knew how many people would read it on the way, and I did not dare risk getting Severus or myself into trouble. Thus I found myself heading quickly and purposefully towards the dark outline of the Hogwarts castle, paradoxically hoping that I would not meet my son. I suspected he would trust me even less if he saw me there.
There were two Aurors guarding the entrance into the castle, but after hearing the purpose of my visit and ascertaining that I was carrying nothing that could be considered dangerous they let me pass.
Seeing as it was getting late, the corridors were almost deserted. From my previous visits to Hogwarts with my husband I knew where Severus's office was, so I made my way directly towards it. I met no one on the way, for which I was grateful. I knocked on the door, and, upon hearing a sharp "Enter", went inside.
Severus was sitting behind his desk, grading papers. He looked up upon my entrance, and his expression turned to one of pleasant surprise.
"Narcissa," he said, rising and taking a few steps towards me. "What brings you here?" He paused to look at me more closely. "You do not look well. Has something happened?"
I do not know what got into me. Perhaps it was the tone of genuine concern in his voice. Nobody had ever cared how I felt before. Something stirred in me – the memory of his hand in mine a few months before, the way he had tried to calm me with wine when I burst into tears. On a sudden impulse I threw myself around his neck and started sobbing uncontrollably. All the strain of the past few months went into those tears, the endless days of having no one to talk to, to share my fears with. I knew I was being hysterical, but I just could not help myself.
I felt Severus's body tense at the unexpected contact, but he quickly recovered, gently removed my arms from around his neck and steered me towards a chair. I obediently sat down, still sobbing as if my heart would break. A moment later, a glass was pushed into my hands.
"Drink this," I heard Severus's voice say. It was clearly a command, but the tone was not harsh.
I did as I was told. The liquid in the glass was a potion of some sort, probably something to calm me down, as it was not even a minute before the tears subsided somewhat and I started feeling slightly drowsy.
"Better?" asked Severus, a hint of concern in his voice.
I looked up at him through tear-filled eyes. "Yes," I managed to choke out. "I'm ... sorry. It's just... I was so worried about Draco. He writes to me regularly, but he never really tells me anything. That's why I came to see you. I was hoping you would tell me how he's coping with his ... task." I fixed him with an expectant gaze, as intense as if I were waiting for a death sentence.
Severus sighed. "I am sorry, Narcissa, but I must disappoint you," he said. "Draco does not confide in me. In fact, he seems to be trying to avoid me. I have been doing my best to find out what he is up to in my own ways, but so far I have been unsuccessful. I shall keep trying, however, have no fear."
My face fell. Severus knew nothing, either. It seemed I would be stuck with my uncertainties forever more. Just the very idea made my eyes prickle with tears again. It took all of my remaining strength to lift my lips into an unconvincing smile instead. "Thank you, Severus," I said quietly. "You will let me know if you find anything out, won't you? Just a short message will do, one that won't mean anything to anyone but me. I will come to you straight away."
Severus nodded solemnly. "Of course, Narcissa. There is no need to worry, I assure you. I am keeping a close eye on Draco; nothing can happen to him."
I bit my lip. "Yes. Of course. I shall be going, then."
I made to rise from my chair, but Severus caught my wrist. "Are you sure you are fit to Apparate?" he asked, scrutinizing my face. "You are terribly pale. I would not want you to Splinch yourself on the way."
For a second I thought I would burst into tears again at this display of concern aimed, to my surprise, once again at my person, but I quickly pulled myself together and gave a brief nod. "I'll manage," I said. "Thank you again, Severus." And with that I brushed off his hand and marched out of the room before I could break down again.
I cried all the way to Hogsmeade. I had so been counting on Severus to provide me with some news about Draco, and now here I was, none the wiser than before and with nothing but the dreary prospect of Severus's letter that could take months to arrive.
And months it truly was. October passed into November, November into December, and the only letters I got were the regular impersonal messages from Draco about his studies. The only change in the pattern was when he informed me that he would not be coming home for Christmas because he had some extra work to do. I burst into tears. I had been counting the days left until Christmas; it was the only tangible thing I could look forward to, seeing my little boy again. And now even this had been taken away from me. It seemed as though life had suddenly lost all sense for me. I tried to find something else to occupy my mind with, but it was no use. Even shopping, one of my former favourite pastime activities, brought me no pleasure now. Diagon Alley was mostly boarded up these days, so although I had money in abundance, there was nowhere to spend it. My attempt to visit Bella turned out to be a disaster, too. As far as I could see, her obsession with the Dark Lord had driven her quite insane now, so our conversation quickly turned into an argument about how lucky (in her opinion) Draco was to be able to serve the Dark Lord. Soon I could not bear it, and I almost ran out of the house.
There I was, then, finally resorting to spending most of my days closeted in our huge empty house, thinking my gloomy thoughts and finding myself getting more and more depressed. What had my life come to? My husband was in prison, my son refused to communicate with me. I could do nothing for either of them. What use was there for me now? What use had I been to anyone, ever?
Stuck in the endless train of my masochistic speculations, I sometimes found my mind wandering unwittingly towards Severus. Although I only knew him as Lucius's friend, he seemed to be the only person I could rely on now. Sometimes I even got the feeling that he actually cared. Nobody had ever looked at me and told me I did not look well. Nobody had ever tried to calm me down when I was crying. Nobody could ever be bothered, for my sake.
I knew I was being silly. Why should he, of all people, care? Why should anyone care, for me? I was nothing. I was merely Lucius's wife, a decoration to greet guests.
Still, I could not help myself. The feeling of his hand in mine, his face so close to my own ... it kept coming back. At first I tried to stop it. After all, my husband was in jail. How could I be so unfeeling as to lust after his best friend? It was simply wrong. It made me feel guilty, horribly guilty. And dirty. Still, try as I might to stamp any thoughts of Severus out of my mind, it was of no use. Whenever I ceased guarding myself, all the images sneaked right back, as stealthily as thieves. Eventually I simply gave up and let them come. They may have taken everything else from me, but they could not stop me from dreaming.
And so dream I did. I dreamt about throwing myself in Severus's arms and kissing him senseless. I dreamt about pushing him down onto his own bed. I dreamt about wild, wild sex, the kind I had never had. I dreamt about falling asleep next to him, hot and sweaty. I dreamt about waking up and having more sex.
Surrounded by my cloud of dreams, I almost fainted when the letter came. A real letter from Severus. It contained only one word. Come. There was no signature. Still, I needed nothing more. I was in Hogsmeade within ten minutes, and at Hogwarts in another ten. Completely out of breath, I knocked on Severus's door and entered.
He seemed to be waiting for me. He gestured me towards a chair, perhaps afraid that I would collapse again, and then went to sit behind his desk. It seemed at least an hour before he finally spoke, though in reality it must have been only a few seconds.
"I have spoken to Draco today," he said, his expression grave. It made me fear the worst.
"What happened?" I managed to choke out, gripping my chair for support. I felt dizzy.
"Filch caught him prowling the corridors, alone. I seized the opportunity to take him to an empty classroom and offer to assist him with his task. He refused. The child thought I was trying to steal his glory. He would tell me nothing about his plan. However," (he held up his hand to silence me as I opened my mouth to give vent to my despair) "I did catch a glimpse of his thoughts when I used Legilimency on him, just before he blocked me out. He is trying to find a way to let Death Eaters into the castle. I believe he knows how to do it, but he needs more time. Impatient as he is, he has been trying different means of killing Dumbledore in the meantime, all of which have failed. I do not believe the boy's heart was really in it. I do not think him capable of murder. I am counting on doing the task for him, in the end."
I gazed at him, my face a picture of agony. "My poor boy," I whispered. "He must be so frightened, so lonely! I wish there was something I could do for him..."
"There is nothing you can do," said Severus, his tone uncompromising, yet kind at the same time. "You know very well he would not let you. Leave everything to me, Narcissa."
"Yes. Yes, I know. But ... how will you know that the moment has come to come to his aid? What if he confronts Dumbledore without you even knowing?" The mere idea made my skin crawl. I started trembling.
"Draco will not confront Dumbledore alone," said Severus with confidence. "If he lets in the Death Eaters, which we know to be his plan, the Dark Mark is bound to tell me."
I took a shaky breath. Calm down, I told myself. Severus knows what he is doing. He made the Unbreakable Vow. If he fails to help Draco, he himself will die. I felt my throat constrict painfully at the thought. In my fear for Draco, I had momentarily forgotten about my ... desire, for lack of a better word ... for Severus, but now that my worst uncertainties had been contained, it came back with full force. My heart beating madly, I slowly raised my eyes, and saw Severus looking at me with an expression I could not quite fathom.
"You are shaking," he said at last, his black eyes still not leaving mine.
I wanted to say something, but the words seemed to have frozen on my lips. I felt like a deer that got caught in the headlights. I could not move, I could not speak. I could only watch and wait. And hope for ... what exactly was I hoping for? I realized I did not quite know. It was all very well to dream in the dark loneliness of my empty house, but did I really want my dreams to come true? Did I dare betray Lucius? I, the ever obedient wife?
Frustratingly, before I could make up my mind, the magical moment passed, as suddenly as it had come. Severus blinked, as if snapping out of a trance, then rose from his desk.
"You should go," he said curtly. "It is getting late. In these dark times it is dangerous to walk alone even in broad daylight, let alone at night."
Strange as it was, these words had the effect on me that the eye contact did not. The prospect of leaving suddenly made me see everything clearly. Leaving meant more lonely days and nights. Leaving meant more endless fears about Draco's fate. Leaving meant madness.
I remained sitting. "I don't want to go." I do not think I have ever sounded more determined.
Severus, however, looked at me as if I were nothing more than a petulant child. "You are evidently distraught, Narcissa," he said calmly. "I can give you a potion that will-"
"I don't want a potion. I want you." I could not believe it was my own voice that said that. Perhaps I was going mad already?
Severus certainly seemed to think so. "It was foolish of me to ask you to come here today," he sighed. "I believed that hearing news of Draco would do you good, but I was obviously mistaken."
"But this is not about Draco, Severus!" I exclaimed, frustrated by his attitude. "Of course I am worried about him, and I always will be until he's back home with me, but as you have said yourself, there is nothing I can do. If anybody can save him, it is you. I have known this ever since I came to ask you for help all those months ago. But you cannot imagine how hard it is, sitting at home, all alone with only your thoughts for company. If I go back now, I shall run mad for sure."
"I still do not quite see where you are heading."
I ground my teeth. I was sure he knew perfectly well where I was heading, but if he had decided to play thick, then I would show him that I could play dirty, too. I rose from my chair, crossed the few steps to where he was standing and kissed him on the lips, hard. He did not protest. On the other hand, he did nothing to encourage me, either. It was rather like kissing a marble statue.
Finally I pulled away. "Don't let me go mad," I whispered.
He fixed me with a look that made me flinch. "In other words, you are asking me to become your lover."
I lowered my gaze to escape the accusation in his eyes. "If you want to put it that way, then yes," I muttered, suddenly feeling like the lowliest of low things. I wondered whether even Lucius had ever made me feel so humiliated.
Severus, however, mercilessly ploughed on. "Why me?" he asked, his tone uncompromising.
It was then that I suddenly realized what his problem was. He did not trust me. Falling victim to the darkness that was closing in all around us, he naturally thought there was a hidden motive behind my actions. Well, I had to prove him wrong.
"Because I find you attractive and want to sleep with you," I said flatly. "But more importantly, because I feel that I can trust you. Obviously, though, this feeling is not mutual, so feel free to use Legilimency on me to see that I have no intention of hurting you in any way."
The penetrating gaze he endowed me with seemed to reach into my very soul. He was not using Legilimency, I was certain of that, but I presumed it was as good as. Finally his expression softened somewhat, and he shook his head. "No," he declared. "I can see you are telling the truth."
I expected him to say more, but he only looked at me, as if pondering something. I thought it best to wait.
At last he seemed to have made up his mind. "What about Lucius?" he asked.
The question surprised me somewhat. "What about him? He is in Azkaban. If he wasn't, I wouldn't be here now."
"Exactly. What do you intend to do once he returns?"
I had to admit I had not thought about that. In these dark times one learned not to plan too far ahead. Going to sleep and waking up alive the next day seemed like a good enough plan to me.
"I don't know," I said honestly. "Go back to him, I suppose. Tell him nothing about you, of course. Providing there is anything to tell," I added, as an afterthought.
"Providing that, yes," Severus repeated cryptically.
I cast him a frustrated look. "What is it that bothers you, Severus?" I inquired, unable to contain myself any longer. "Do you find me repulsive, is that it?"
Severus had the nerve to look amused. "No, of course not," he smirked. "On the contrary; I have always found you very attractive."
"Well, what is it, then?"
Severus looked at me thoughtfully for a moment or two, then said, "What exactly is it that you are expecting of me, Narcissa? Sex? Company? Love? I would prefer to be clear on this subject, if you don't mind."
I pondered over his inquiry. Though I had spent endless hours dreaming, I really could not say I had analyzed my desires with such precision. Sex obviously went without saying. Company – yes, another day alone in my house would undoubtedly send me straight to St Mungo's. But love? I was quite sure that what I felt for Severus was not love. A strong physical attraction perhaps, but definitely not love. And I did not want love from him, either. Love caused nothing but problems. Love was for others, not for me. My place was by Lucius's side, where I planned to return as soon as he was released from Azkaban. Where would love fit into all this? How would I find it in me to return to my husband if I loved someone else?
I summarized the results of my musings to Severus, who nodded. "I am glad we are of one mind in this matter," he said. "For I cannot give you love, even if it happens that one day you might find yourself wanting it. That is why I am warning you now, so that there are no misunderstandings in the future."
This statement inevitably piqued my curiosity. "How can you be so certain?" I asked. "I don't know much about love, but I'm quite sure it isn't something you can just decide about rationally. I don't want to fall in love with you, but you've just said yourself that this might change in the future. Why should it be any different with you?"
"Because it is," said Severus simply.
I knew better than to question him any further. As far as I could judge, the time for conversation was over. My eyes found his, searching for confirmation. For a while our gazes remained locked; I found I was getting lost in the black depths of his eyes. There was an intensity in his gaze that made me dizzy with desire. I could hear my heart pounding in my chest. My breathing had become quick and shallow. Finally I could stand it no longer and I threw myself at him, claiming his lips in a fiery kiss. My fingers groped in his hair as if I were a drowning person grabbing wildly for something to hold onto. My body was pressed so tightly against his that I could feel his heartbeat, as fast as mine. His hands were all over me, each touch sending a new wave of pleasure through my entire being. I could not get enough of him; again and again I crushed my mouth against his, as if trying to swallow him, again and again I pressed myself on him, as if hoping that our bodies would fuse into one. All my fears, all my loneliness melted with the kiss. I was virtually aching with desire, the kind I had never felt with Lucius. It was like my hormones, keeping dormant until now, finally awoke and flooded every single fibre of my body.
Just when I thought I would faint from sheer pleasure Severus pulled away. Slightly out of breath, his hair tousled and his eyes clouded with desire, he motioned towards a door behind his desk, which I knew to lead to his private quarters.
"Follow me," he ordered, and with a swish of his black robes disappeared through the door. I did as I was told, and soon found myself in a spacious living room, which I was familiar with from my visits with Lucius. Severus, however, did not stop there, and continued straight through another door, leading, I presumed, to the bedroom. My already racing heart sped up even more as I followed him in.
I found him standing next to his bed, a huge four-poster with sheets in Slytherin colours. The same intense expression I had noticed earlier was playing on his face, alluring, hypnotizing. I stood frozen to the spot; it was as if I were caught in a trance. I do not know how long we stayed like that, just gazing at each other, but at last he lowered his eyes and I felt free to move again. I needed nothing more. Like a spring that had suddenly been released I once again threw my body against his, covering his mouth with mine, tasting him, devouring him. In a tangle of limbs we eventually dropped on the bed, almost unconsciously kicking off our shoes as we feverishly continued kissing. But soon it was not enough; I needed to feel more skin that I could press myself against. Impatiently, my hands trembling slightly, I started tearing on his robes. Taking his cue from me, Severus attacked my clothes, too. Of course, we could have done it by magic, but it would never have been the same. This, this was pure frenzy. It was as if our lives depended on getting rid of our clothes as quickly as possible, it was as if they choked us. Both half mad with desire, we tugged and pulled and unbuttoned, all the while kissing, touching, yet constantly craving for more.
At last all our garments were off, at last I felt I could breathe freely again. As if it were the end of the world and the contact would save me, I pressed myself against the pale bare skin of Severus's chest, kissing his neck hungrily. His body felt warm against mine; I could smell his faint scent, unique and beautiful. I could not get enough of him, his hands all over my body, sending my mind swimming, his breath, hot and heavy on my neck, his growing arousal pressing on the inside of my thigh, making me want to cry with delight. And then he was inside me, and I thought the pleasure would surely kill me, but still I wanted more, and so I pushed against him, and we heaved, and we sighed, and then I could feel him spill inside me, but he kept going until I, too, reached my climax and collapsed against the green and silver pillows, dizzy and breathless.
For a long, long time I just lay there, incoherent thoughts whirring through my mind. Despite the pleasure I had just experienced, or maybe exactly because of it, I felt ready to cry. Never, never in the twenty odd years of my marriage with Lucius had I been given the chance to feel the way Severus had made me feel. For Lucius I was a tool. For Severus I was an equal. I still could not quite believe that he had actually been considerate enough to wait for me to come, too. Such a simple gesture, and yet... All of a sudden, the hopelessness of my entire life washed over me like a tidal wave. My childhood, where everybody doted on the already spoilt Bella. My marriage, where everything only ever revolved around Lucius. Or possibly Draco, when Lucius happened to fall into one of his magnanimous moods. But me? Who had ever spared a thought for me? How I felt? What I wanted? What I needed?
My mind poisoned with despair, I began to weep. I wept over my ruined life. I wept for Draco, alone and afraid. I wept to erase all the injustices of the world. I wept and wept, only vaguely aware of Severus placing his hand on top of mine. As if he understood. As if he cared.
Gradually I found myself drifting to sleep, perhaps thanks to him, perhaps from sheer exhaustion. I dreamt of darkness and despair, as I often did, but for the first time I felt a glimmer of hope, too.
I do not know how long I slept. It was always dark in the dungeons; it was impossible to tell the time. The room was freezing cold, so I picked up my wand from the bedside table, where I had thrown it the evening before, and lit the fire in the grate. I saw Severus stir on the bed beside me, but he did not wake. Wrapping the blanket around my naked body to stop myself from shivering, I studied his face in the soft glow emanating from the fireplace. Now that he was asleep, the lines etching his face seemed to have smoothed out, and his expression seemed much more serene than what I was used to. Compared to Lucius, who was by far the most handsome man I had ever met, he could not be called beautiful, but there was a certain presence about him, a certain grace. One simply had to notice him, even in a room full of people. Unable to help myself, I reached out my hand to touch his hair ... and cried out in shock as Severus's own hand shot out and caught my wrist in a vice-like grip.
"Severus!" I exclaimed. "I thought you were asleep!"
"I have been awake ever since you first stirred," smirked Severus. "I would have been dead long ago if I had not learned to react to the smallest of sounds even in my sleep."
"I wasn't going to kill you," I muttered, feeling slightly hurt. "So you can let go of my hand now."
Severus gazed at me for a moment or two as if deciding whether to grant my wish or not, then slowly released his deathly grip. He said nothing.
I absent-mindedly massaged my hand, then, unable to bear the ongoing silence, blurted out, "I apologize for last night. I didn't mean to cry. It probably wasn't quite the reaction you expected after what ... what we'd done."
Severus, however, merely shook his head. "Sex is known to release pent-up emotions," he observed.
"Oh. I see. Because I just didn't understand it. I really enjoyed last night. I should've been happy. But suddenly it all just came over me..."
"Nevertheless, you feel better now."
I thought about it. Now that he mentioned it, I did notice that I felt somehow ... lighter, as if a part of my grief had gone. I told him so.
"In that case, I see no problem," he concluded. "Is that not one of the reasons why you sought me out? To ease your mind a little?"
"Yes, but ... what about you? Did you enjoy the experience, too? It would be selfish of me to ask you to satisfy my needs, and get nothing in return." And as such end up behaving like Lucius, I added to myself.
To my disconcertion, Severus responded with a look that one would normally reserve for the occupants of the St Mungo's ward for the mentally ill. "Was it not obvious?" he asked. "I would have thought my behaviour last night made it clear that I was far from bored. It has been a long time since I last had a woman in bed, and I must say I found the change quite pleasant."
I sighed with relief; I knew that was the biggest form of compliment I would ever get out of Severus Snape. I endowed him with what I hoped to be a seductive smile. "If that is the case, then you surely wouldn't mind continuing where we left off last night," I ventured.
He regarded me in that unnerving way of his for a while, then finally gave me a half-smile of his own. "If you absolutely insist," he drawled, and, with feigned reluctance, pulled me towards him. Not that he managed to uphold his act for long, I was happy to see.