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The Lake in the Hogwarts Grounds was churning with agitation. The wind was skimming off it, spraying the foamy black water onto the bank. Narcissa was getting soaked, but she was too miserable to care. Above the howling of the wind, she could hear her grandmother’s voice, proceeding from the cool marble picture frame in her hand:

“You should be in your dormitory, making yourself look beautiful, grand-daughter. How do you expect to enthrall powerful men if you look as though you’ve been dragged through a dragon’s nest backwards?”

Narcissa didn’t answer immediately. She was hot and agitated, and the spray from the lake was blissfully cool as it dappled her face. It was very unlike her to be anxious. The world had never delivered anything to vex her before – except for Malfoy sleeping with her sister. And even that, though painful, had caused her to marvel at Malfoy’s bad taste, rather than suspect herself of having inferior charms. Still, she knew she had to reply: her grandmother was an awe-inspiring creature.

“You said Severus was imaginative enough to want anyone,” she murmured resentfully, looking up at the lighted windows of the castle, and their warped reflections in the black water. The lake looked gilded – as though little squares of wrinkled gold foil had been rubbed onto its surface. “Surely he could want a woman who’s been dragged through a dragon’s nest backwards, if he had a mind to?”

“I daresay he could, if you were the best on offer to tempt him, but there are other women, with equal wealth and blood, who take better care of their appearance.”

Narcissa knew that this wasn’t true, but she wasn’t brave enough to contradict her grandmother.  

“You mark my words,” Claudia Black went on, “there will be others who have noticed his talent and ambition.”

“I’ve never seen any,” Narcissa replied. “Most girls shudder whenever he goes near them.”

“Then they are not as perceptive as you, are they?”

Narcissa didn’t answer. Her doubts were creasing her forehead in what she was sure was a most unflattering way, but she was too heavy-hearted to care. What had started out as a trivial worry about losing Malfoy had turned into a strangling fear of hurting Malfoy.

She didn’t think it would be wrong – she had no concept of doing wrong: she was the most beautiful daughter of the House of Black; rules of right and wrong didn’t apply to her. She just knew that she had a profound desire to spare Malfoy any pain. It was bewildering: she wasn’t even necessarily going to hurt him. He might never find out about Severus. She could do this without hurting anyone. She could break Severus’ intolerable pride: make him lose that expression of sneering indifference, if only for a moment.

She would never doubt herself again if she could conquer Severus – because he had brought her close to doubting her own charms, when he’d refused her. If she could make Severus beg for her body, she would know that her beauty was proof against any amount of cleverness, dark magic, anger or hatred. She would know that she could survive in this world – because, for a woman with no real talents, she wanted a lot out of life. Perhaps she could even try to seduce the Dark Lord: they said he didn’t notice beauty, but Narcissa couldn’t believe it. Dark Magic sharpened carnal appetites, in her experience; it made your soul creep into your skin, until the only joy you could feel was through physical pleasure.

Narcissa had seen this in the men of her family. It was why their wives had always been able to control and manipulate them. Appeal to people’s appetites, and you would never go hungry.  

And Malfoy had slept with her sister. He wasn’t exactly an innocent victim in all this – nor had he acted like one when he’d kidnapped her and imprisoned her in the oubliette.

But he had been so… exciting. She had always seen him as a calm, controlled, sneering puritan before: she had heard stories about his wild, hedonistic youth – seducing teachers and experimenting with potions that had been banned by the Ministry for their dangerous and addictive properties – there were stories that he’d even poisoned Filch’s cat for a bet, and buried it in the Forbidden Forest. These days, however, Malfoy dressed soberly and disapproved of everything, from Floo Powder to the Weird Sisters. Everything was an evil innovation that flouted wizard tradition and slapped his ancestors in the face.

But, in the oubliette, he’d been different. He had been revolutionary.

It was so hard! Narcissa knew she didn’t have to choose; she didn’t have to compromise; she could have Severus and Lucius; she could have respectability and power, but, tonight, she didn’t want either of those things. For the first time in her life, she wanted love.

She had never needed it before: money and respect could supply its place, for a time, but tonight, she had a wild, unreasonable urge to be vulnerable, to be in danger, to depend on someone completely. How ridiculous of her. How unlike any of the women in her family! They had never held power or public office themselves – but they had always been in complete control of their influential, dim-witted husbands. Her great grandmother had been wife to the Minister for Magic, and had practically ruled the wizarding world for twenty years, from behind the scenes, without any vulgarity or show.

Narcissa had spent the whole day mirror-gazing, in an effort to hypnotize herself into that state in which she could hear the whisperings of her noble blood, desperately hoping that they would say something to contradict her grandmother.

But every rule of sense and reason agreed with her. Severus would be powerful. He was destined for great things, and he could take Narcissa along for the ride, if she could manage to sink her hooks into him.

“Now, go inside and get ready, my girl,” said Claudia. “Don’t waste the gifts that nature gave you. Normally, a woman would have to drink the blood of a baby unicorn to get skin that soft. Now, use a Luxus Charm to make your cheeks glow, and dragon’s blood to make your lips full and red – and put on your rain-drop earrings, and that green eye-shadow made from powdered dragon-scales. That looked good on you.”

“Oh God, I don’t want any of it,” Narcissa gasped, horrified with herself.

“What?”

“I don’t want to be some sort of prize for the rich and powerful. I don’t want to be beautiful.”

“What?”

“It’s not real, any of it! Luxus Charms, dragon’s blood, Billywig potions, hemlock perfumes. Who’s going to love me when I take them off?”

“May I remind you that Malfoy only loves you because of one of these potions?” Claudia asked shrewdly.

“He said he loved me before - ,”

“When he was sleeping with Bellatrix?”

Narcissa fell silent.

“Beauty is all that nature gave you, my girl,” Claudia said, in what she evidently thought was a kindly tone. “I’m family, so I can say these things to you. Normally, a woman of your incurable laziness and unnatural stupidity wouldn’t have a chance of getting anywhere in li - ,”

But she never got to finish, because Narcissa hurled her picture into the lake.

For about ten minutes, she stood frozen on the edge of the black water, horrified with what she’d done. The lake didn’t seem to like Claudia Black. Its rippling and churning only increased as the picture frame dropped into it.

Narcissa had never, ever defied her family before. Her family was her life. It was the source of all her pride, all her inspiration, all her confidence. She wasn’t impetuous or dramatic, like Bella. She never did anything in anger, except torment mud-bloods, and that hardly counted, as far as she was concerned.  

She was lost, now. Moving stiffly, she made her way back to her dormitory and stared into the mirrors on top of her dressing table. But she couldn’t sink into her hypnotized state. The promptings of her noble blood were silent. The palm of her hand felt light and empty, without the cool weight of her grandmother’s picture frame nestling in it. She felt utterly alone.

And it begged the question: if she didn’t want to be beautiful, what exactly did she want to be?


She got dressed up, simply because she had no idea what else to do. When in doubt, Narcissa put on make-up and combed her hair. She dusted her eye-lids with green eye-shadow made from powdered dragon scales; she put on a silk night-dress that was roughly the same shade as her ice-white skin.

It was the last word in luxury: Arabian silk, trimmed with lace, and studded here and there with glimmering, water-coloured crystals. It was not really to Narcissa’s tastes – because, on the whole, she liked things to look simple and elegant. She believed that her body was the greatest asset, and any ornamentation that distracted from it was doing more harm than good.

But she wanted to impress Severus with her wealth, as well as her looks. She wanted to be awe-inspiring, not simply pretty. With a richer man, she wouldn’t have bothered but, the problem was, when all the trappings of wealth and luxury were cast off, pure-bloods tended to look the same as half-bloods (well, she didn’t; she would always be superior: she had been constructed to a superior plan – but half-bloods like Severus, without their drab, second-hand robes to mark their inferior blood-status, could look like anyone.)

She wanted some markers, some signifiers, of class that would keep him in his place, because nakedness was the ultimate leveler.

When he came in, she saw him first in the mirrors over her dressing-table: he looked pale and breathless, and was blinking as though in a bright light. Narcissa was used to having this effect on people – but never on Severus. He normally looked at her as though she was an unwashed House Elf, scrabbling around in the dust.

Narcissa didn’t turn away from her mirrors at once: she didn’t want to seem too eager: in fact, she could hardly have felt any less eager, but she wouldn’t betray it. She was utterly miserable. The fear of hurting Malfoy had been beating her around the head all evening, but she didn’t know how to get out of this.

Severus was powerful, terrifying and disdainful. Her ambition and pride were extremely drawn to him. Just not her heart.

Still, he didn’t look so very powerful, terrifying and disdainful at the moment. In fact, he looked as though he was having an asthma attack.

“Severus…” she murmured, biting her lip.

“Yes?” he breathed.  

“Do you think we could just… talk?”

“Talk?” Snape’s voice was suddenly leaden.

“Yes… it’s just… I’ve been thinking about Malfoy.”

The hook-nosed half-blood just stared at her. His mouth was hanging open. “Malfoy?”

“I think… I would rather be with Malfoy,” she said, wincing in anticipation of the effect these words would cause. She wished he would do something other than echo her like a concussed parrot.

“You’d rather…?”

Narcissa started to get impatient. He must be leading up to some kind of savagely sarcastic put-down, and she wasn’t going to wait for it. “Yes, Malfoy, alright? He’s a pure-blood, and he’s handsome, and he loves me, and he’s… exciting.”

Severus seemed to come back to his senses, though his mouth was still hanging open. “You mean it?” he whispered. “I can’t believe it…”  

“I’m sorry.”

“You’re unbelievable.”

“I said I was sorry,” she added defensively.  

“I’m so happy…” he muttered. Then he blushed and added, “you know… for him.”

Narcissa raised her eyebrows. Severus was being… nice. She knew he hadn’t wanted her in the first place, but she hadn’t expected this level of understanding from a teenage-boy who was being told that he wasn’t handsome enough, noble enough, or exciting enough, to get the girl.

But perhaps that was the only way you ever got on with Severus Snape: by being honest with him, without any posing or self-importance or hollow gestures. Certainly, the mudblood had never had any of those.  

She turned round to face him for the first time, allowing her haughty restraint to be replaced by a girlish smile.

“Will you tell me about him?” she whispered. Her grey eyes were alight with the same enthusiasm they harboured when she was mixing cosmetics.

“What do you want to know?” he asked, grinning as though he’d been Confunded.  

“Is it true that he sneaked Scarlet Women into Dumbledore’s Office, in an attempt to get him fired?”

“Yes.”

“Is it true that he seduced the Defence Against the Dark Arts Teacher in a broom cupboard?”

“Yes,” Snape said hesitantly. “She was very ugly,” he added, “nothing like you...”

But Narcissa batted away this compliment, eager to hear more of Malfoy’s debauchery.  

“Is it true that he poisoned Filch’s cat, and buried her in the Forbidden Forest, but Filch couldn’t live without her, so he brought her back from the dead using Voodoo Magic?”

“Sure,” Snape said weakly. “Why not?”

“Is it true that Malfoy knows the three Unforgettable Curses?”

“There are only two,” he said happily. “They’re the opposite of the Unforgivable Curses – one causes pleasure, one instills self-confidence and independence – but there’s no magic that can restore life. There’s no antidote to the Avada Kedavra Curse.”

“And… this spell that causes pleasure…?”

“The Rapturus Charm?”

“Right. Can he do that just… anywhere?”

A smile was spreading irresistibly across Snape’s sallow face. “I’ll tell him you’re curious, next time I see him. I can’t do it. He’s a much better wizard than me.”

Narcissa was much too eager to be suspicious of this most uncharacteristic humility. “When will you see him again?” she asked.

“I can see him tonight.”

She looked stricken. “He’s not… here?”

“No,” Snape replied swiftly. “But he can get back here, whenever you want to see him. How about tomorrow night?”

“He’s going to hate me when the Amortentia wears off,” she muttered, looking down at her hands.  

“Oh, I can’t imagine him doing that.”

“Do you think he’ll promise to marry me before… you know…”

“I think he’ll promise anything.”  

Narcissa felt inexpressibly grateful to him. She had never had such a selfless friend. She was suddenly struck by the notion that he might want something in return.

“I can pay you, of course,” she muttered, hoping that this wouldn’t insult him. He was a curious man, Severus Snape – dreadfully poor, but proud as an aristocrat – prouder than any wealthy pure-blood she had ever met.

“I don’t want anything,” he said, still grinning stupidly.

“I won’t tell anyone about the mudblood,” Narcissa murmured, in an uncharacteristic surge of generosity.  

Severus blinked. “Mudblood?”

“The mudblood you kissed in the oubliette,” she whispered. “That Evans woman. In fact, I’ll try and persuade Bella not to kill her when she leaves school, if you like.”

Severus was silent. “Yes…” he said eventually. “Why don’t you do that?”

“Thank you for everything, Severus,” Narcissa muttered, pulling him into a jerky hug. She wasn’t used to showing affection this way. She wasn’t used to showing it at all. But she didn’t know how to deal with selfless people. She felt completely naked before them: they couldn’t be manipulated or exploited, they didn’t want sex or money; they were bewildering. A hug was all she felt qualified to give him.

“Tomorrow night, then?” he asked eagerly, when she eventually (and very politely) prized his arms off her.

“Yes,” she said. “But tell him he’s going to have to make the Unbreakable Vow not to kill me, first. And also,” she added, getting an idea, “he’s going to have to promise to be faithful to me all his life.”

“Done and done,” Severus replied happily. “Anything else?”

“Tell him I want to know about this Rapturus Charm,” she said.

Snape kissed her. She hadn’t been expecting this, but, in a way, it was reassuring. Perhaps he was not as selfless as she had initially thought.

“Sorry,” he said, pulling away from her. “I just didn’t know how to tell you how brilliant you are.”  

“You’re usually very good with words, Severus,” she replied reproachfully. “In fact, actions do not suit you.”  

“Sorry,” he said again, but he didn’t look it.

“Goodnight, then?” Narcissa prompted coldly.

He got up, gave her one last smile of luminous happiness (no expression had ever looked stranger on the face of Severus Snape), and left.
Another chapter about Malfoy and Narcissa's bizarre relationship. Severus in this chapter is, of course, Malfoy under the Polyjuice Potion (see The Corona for the origins of this plan). Sorry for getting rid of Claudia Black only three chapters after introducing her, but she isn't gone for good, I like her too much!
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:icon28dragons:
28dragons Featured By Owner Oct 27, 2013
Loved the abruptness when she threw Claudia's picture into the lake. Also, it does not bode well for Snape that Malfoy knows about Lily, eh? 
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:iconluxmindero831:
LuxminderO831 Featured By Owner Aug 7, 2012
I like how you're developing her a heart. At first, your depiction of her didn't really align with the way I viewed her. I mean I knew she would have been a bitch, but not such a heartless one. This is good. Her character is beginning to coalesce more to the canon.
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Aug 8, 2012
Thank you! :hug: Yes, she's a far more interesting character if she's a loving woman who is also evil - I like that weird, contradictory mix of good and bad in characters!
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:iconwearesevenstudios:
WeAreSevenStudios Featured By Owner May 9, 2010  Professional Artisan Crafter
I love it. :love:

I was actually rooting for Narcissa in this one. You really know how to play to your readers, especially where developing characters are concerned.
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner May 10, 2010
Yay! Thank you :hug: I'm so glad it's possible to empathize with Narcissa in this chapter, because sometimes I worry that I make her too evil! (Being related to Bella and Claudia Black, she's surrounded by people who are slightly more evil than she is, which might help make her sympathetic by contrast! ;))
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:iconchaobaby7:
Chaobaby7 Featured By Owner Aug 8, 2008
Wonderful chapter of this gripping story.
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Aug 8, 2008
Thank you! :) I so appreciate you reading it! I love Lucius and Narcissa - they can be sweet when they're not ranting about 'mudbloods' and wrinkling their noses!
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:iconchaobaby7:
Chaobaby7 Featured By Owner Aug 8, 2008
I think they are a gorgeous pair.;)
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:iconnorthangel27:
northangel27 Featured By Owner Aug 8, 2008  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Lucius in Severus body is just hilarious to me, especially a Lucius under the influences of love potion. But I do worry now that Lucius knows about Lily. Not good, that. Wonderful as always. Can't wait for the next installment.
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Aug 8, 2008
lol! It makes me laugh, too. Severus smiling and blushing and gawping is just so weird! He's going to be very embarrassed when he finds out how nice Lucius was when he took on his appearance! :)
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:iconnorthangel27:
northangel27 Featured By Owner Aug 8, 2008  Hobbyist Digital Artist
lol, no kidding. Here he probably just thought they'd be shagging like rabbits, and instead Narcissa has to be all in love all of a sudden, and Lucius, of course, was just 0_o!!! There was so much subtle humor in this chapter. I just loved it.

Oh, and I meant to say that I really appreciated the subtle and slow transformation of Narcissa here. Its amazing what love will do to a person, even one as shallow and selfish as teenage Cissa. I got a little flash of the woman she will become here. Very well done.
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Aug 8, 2008
Thank you! :hug: I've really found myself liking Narcissa - she's proud and snooty and arrogant and prejudiced but, alone of her family, she has a spark of tenderness. That was what always amazed me about the Malfoys - they can bully and sneer and plot destruction, but they still love each other! I fear I do not treat them as seriously as Snape and Lily, because they just make me laugh, but I do like them (and I wanted something nice to happen to Lucius, for once! Poor boy!)
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:iconnorthangel27:
northangel27 Featured By Owner Aug 8, 2008  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I know he was so cute here. lol. I could almost hear his brain derailing when she said she actually wanted to be with him. I wonder what will happen when the potion wears off and she gets the real Lucius though, he can have a brutal side in my opinion, at least in private, and though he is very interested in Cissa, I don't think he will take to kindly to having been drugged against his will. Oh poor Cissa... It always stinks when you have to pay the consequences for your meddling, and she is about to in spades, I wager.
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Aug 8, 2008
Yes, poor Cissa! I don't know how Malfoy will react yet, but Cissa's a practical little thing, she'll be prepared for it! :)
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:iconnorthangel27:
northangel27 Featured By Owner Aug 8, 2008  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Yes, I'll give her that. Cissa is always prepared.
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