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Narcissa Black's dressing table was legendary. It was littered with glass bottles and phials, each filled with a different coloured liquid - purple, greenish silver, mother-of-pearl, and even one that changed colour every time you looked at it - some gurgling and fizzing as though trying to escape their bottles. They might have been harmless perfumes, but it was popularly rumoured that many contained poisons and love potions. There were soft, multi-coloured Fwooper-feather brushes, tubs of powder, and pungent, heavy-scented creams. Here and there, she would leave a black opal broche, an ornate silver bracelet set with glimmering emeralds, but none of the other girls in her dormitory ever touched these valuable jewels. It was widely-known that Black family heirlooms could not be touched by non-members of the family - at least, not without incurring blisters, boils, un-removable stinks, even swarms of flies - the Black witches were jealous of their treasures and creative in their cursing.   

In the drawers beneath, there were handbooks on magical vanity, detailing the often malignant spells that could keep witches thin, unblemished and glowing with apparent health. Dark Magic, after all, was about gaining power, and there was no doubt that beauty conferred power. The idea that beauty could be enjoyed for its own sake had never occurred to Narcissa; she would have found it rather selfish.

This was Narcissa's laboratory. All the Black sisters were experimental - which was odd for girls who had been brought up to believe that the old ways and old blood-lines must be preserved at any cost. Bellatrix experimented with the science of cruelty, but this was too crude for Narcissa. She was naturally very indolent - not troubled with the fervour and zeal that afflicted Bella - but it did not follow that she was therefore lazy. She, like all Dark witches, wanted to experiment, wanted to test the limits of what magic could do and, more specifically (because the lust for power was in her blood, after all), what it could do for her.

She was not clever but she had a good eye for what suited her, and a great deal of money, which meant that she could acquire the most potent and exotic magical ingredients without too much difficulty. Sometimes, she would buy an ingredient - powdered werewolf tooth, spine of lionfish, crushed scarab beetles, or leaves from the Indonesian Butterfly Tree - for no particular reason, just because it looked good or sounded promising. She would put them away -folded carefully in tissue paper - and wait until a possibility occurred to her.

She had heard that unicorn blood, when rubbed into the skin, would prevent a woman from ever getting wrinkles, but Narcisa had never been able to get hold of this precious commodity, even with her vast fortune. It didn't bother her much, because she didn't need it yet, and when she did, she would have a lifetime's worth of favours to call in.    

Of course, where she had any doubt about an ingredient, she would never experiment on herself. Her face was too valuable, both for her own prospects and her family's, to risk. She needed to make a good, pure-blood marriage, and she wanted power in her own right. She wanted to set her whiles to work in the Ministry for Magic, in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement or the Department of International Magical Co-operation - somewhere she could make a difference.

Occasionally, she would pay fellow-students to try out her new potions and cosmetics. More often, however, she would plant them in the drinks of unsuspecting muggle-borns or Gryffindors. That way, if they went wrong, she was at least making a political statement.

Narcissa wasn't too interested in politics yet. Beyond the odd nose-wrinkling, Mudblood-calling activities that most of her fellow-Slytherins indulged in, she was content to let her enemies be.  

But when she got to the Ministry of Magic, all that was going to change. Quietly, charmingly, without impassioned speeches or vulgar campaigning, but in the background, whispering in the ears of Ministers and Judges while her perfume worked on their senses, she was going to get her way.   

When painting her nails or mirror-gazing, Narcissa could hypnotise herself into a state of calm, dauntless knowing. Everything would become clear to her: which colours to mix, which scents could influence the feelings of her prey, and in which directions. In this hypnotised state, possibilities would occur to her, combinations, experiments. She liked to think of this creative process as listening to her blood. She believed that great power, instinct, even intelligence, flowed through her veins, inherited from her noble ancestors, concentrated by their uncorrupted lineage.

The results of these entranced ideas were not always what she had hoped but she made the occasional break-through. She had discovered, for example, that a potion made from Billywig Stings (the Billywig was an Australian insect whose sting caused people to levitate temporarily), if taken every day, would eliminate the need for a witch to wear a bra.

Even when her ideas did not work, Narcissa was not the sort of girl to be disheartened, because she had never been heartened, and she was always careful to ensure that any unpleasant side-effects of her experiments were restricted to her enemies.

At the moment, she was holding a little glass bottle embossed with delicate white bones from a Golden Snidget's wing. They were in place to keep the oily, black potion within from decaying. The bottle was filled with Acromantula Venom - non-lethal in small doses; in fact, a tiny drop actually caused the cheeks to glow and the eyes to sparkle, because it induced a mild fever. She had discovered this by slipping a little into Mary MacDonald's pumpkin juice. The Mudblood had never looked so good.

Narcissa sighed. People really did not appreciate what she did for them, what she did for women everywhere.  

Tonight, however, she doubted she would be using the contents of this bottle for cosmetic purposes. Tonight, she was turning her cool, methodical attention to the business of revenge. She was sedentary and indolent by nature, but she could still feel anger; it made her brow wrinkle in a way she didn't like.

Narcissa rhythmically dabbed blusher onto her high, delicate cheek-bones and pondered.  

Ten minutes later, she glided down the stairs to the Slytherin common room and scanned the crowd for Severus Snape.

She was glowing with the consciousness of her beauty (which, of course, only enhanced it). Her skin was white and disconcertingly matte, like powdered snow that had been crushed and compacted into a flawless finish. Her eyes were hooded with shimmering green eye-shadow (made from powdered dragon scales) and she had dabbed her neck with Befuddlement Perfume, a mixture of Hemlock and vanilla that reduced the intelligence of any man who inhaled it. Of course, it meant that if anyone kissed her on the neck, they would be poisoned. She was going to have to remember to stop using it when she went on dates. At the moment, however, she was not interested in that kind of thing. She wanted power, not passion.

She would discover passion later. In fact, eventually, she would be its slave but, at the moment, she didn't care whether the men who kissed her neck did get poisoned. As far as she was concerned, it was a fitting punishment for the audacity of touching her.       

She had discovered that some men were immune to her cosmetic ingenuity, but she had never thought that this might be because they were already in love. Love was a subject Narcissa seldom thought of; she was not sentimental; like all good pure-blood witches, she considered love as a superfluous ingredient in life (it was especially superfluous in marriage). As a means of gaining power, it was too uncertain, and as a means of receiving comfort, it was too unreliable. Better to put your trust in what you could control.   

She found Severus Snape in a corner of the Common Room, hunched in a chair beside the fire. He looked tense - like a tightly-wound spring, poised to recoil at anyone who approached him. He was often like this; solitary but vicious. He reminded Narcissa of a Copperhead snake or a stalking jungle cat. She approved of these images; they invested Snape with the grace and beauty that he so conspicuously lacked.

Narcissa was breathtakingly shallow, and so would normally wrinkle her nose at Snape for his greasy hair and sallow skin, his jerky movements and perpetual frown. He was not normally someone she would allow herself to be seen with, but there was something impressive about his fierce, unhappy face.

She didn't think he was too clever to be manipulated - Narcissa's magic could not be undone by cleverness - but she determined to be careful with him all the same.

"You were going to ask me something," she said abruptly, hands on her hips, "when you spoke to me earlier today."

Snape looked up from his book. For a moment, his face was inscrutable, but then it curved into a smile.

"I was just concerned about you," he said.  

"You really weren't sent by him to keep an eye on me?"

"By who?"

"Luci -," Narcissa stopped. She couldn't bring herself to say his first name. "Mr Malfoy," she corrected herself smoothly.


Snape's voice was gentle but Narcissa still bristled. So Mr Malfoy didn't even think she was worth an apology! She calmed herself, however, and pressed her face into a smile.

Snape was considering her with the same inscrutable expression that had puzzled her to begin with.

"I heard from a girl in your dormitory that you have Acromantula venom," he said.

Narcissa smiled. She leaned closer to him, so that he could smell her perfume. "You won't tell Slughorn, will you?" she whispered.  

"He'd probably try to buy it off you," Snape said with a shrug. "But no, I won't tell him. Where did you get it?"

"I have an uncle who works in the Office of Confiscated Magical Substances. He brings me lots of things."

Snape made a mental note of this.         

Narcissa sat on the arm of his chair and leaned down so that she could whisper in his ear. She smelled sickly sweet - a scent that reminded Snape of rotting hot-house flowers, but he didn't draw back when she leaned forward.

"I need your help, Severus," she said. "You see, I need to get even with him. For the sake of my family's honour. You can understand that, can't you? I mean, you're half-muggle but -,"

Snape raised his eyebrows, but Narcissa recovered beautifully.

"The Princes," she said, "were a fine wizarding family. They even had a connection with the Blacks, going back to when Claudia Black -,"

" - Married Moribund Prince," he interrupted. "I know."

Narcissa leaned forward again. Her lips were almost touching his ear. "Then you'll know that members of the Black family always avenge their wrongs. I am going to poison Lucius Malfoy."  

Snape could absorb any amount of shocking information without the barest flicker of surprise. He never had any trouble believing the worst of people. So there was nothing but simple curiosity in his voice when he asked:

"Aren't you a little young to be plotting murder?"

"I'm fifteen," Narcissa protested, in her warm, forceful, fragrant whisper. "Claudia Black was fifteen when she married your ancestor."

Snape wasn't quite sure what she was getting at there, but he listened politely all the same.   

For the first time, Narcissa's voice resonated with enthusiasm. "My great grandmother poisoned six husbands and eight lovers. My grandmother made a coat out of the skins of muggles who failed to show her the proper respect (she said it repelled jinxes because it was so thoroughly un-magical). My mother transfigured a servant who'd been stealing from her into a hind and had her dogs chase him across the moors until they tore him apart."

"Well, at least she was sporting about it," Snape said.  

"My point is that Black women are not to be trifled with."

Severus thought that 'trifled with' was a rather mild expression for what Malfoy had been doing to Bellatrix at his manor house during the holidays. Not for the first time, he regretted being privy to so much sensitive information.

"So what do you intend to do to Malfoy?" he asked.

Narcissa shrugged languidly. "I was thinking of Amortentia."

Again, Severus exhibited no surprise. "That's a very complicated potion," he said mechanically, as though reading these lines from a script. "You'd probably need an experienced potion-brewer to help you."

Narcissa smiled. "He'd have to be absolutely the best in the school," she said artfully. "Or I wouldn't trust him with such a delicate operation."

Snape raised his eyebrows. "I think we could manage that."

"You'd do it for me?" she asked softly.

Snape hesitated. He was angry; he could feel it bubbling under his skin, always just beneath the surface. It was a kind of constant background drone. He wanted to hurt Lily, just to get her attention, just to get her to look at him again, and he hated himself for it.  

Suddenly, he found himself looking into Narcissa's dead, grey eyes and feeling sick.

But this was all he had now. The past was wrecked. And if that was gone, it didn't matter what else he wrecked.

"Yes," he said. "I'll do it. But maybe you could do something for me in return."

Narcissa's charming smile faltered, but she recovered magnificently. "Anything."

"I need you to fetch the Dark Snitch from your family vault, and make sure Potter gets hold of it."

Narcissa hesitated. She didn't understand Quidditch, but she was quite well-versed in dark magic, and she knew the Dark Snitch's reputation. Still, she was un-shockable. After all, murder and curses – if inflicted on the right people – were time-honoured traditions in her family.

Her first, instinctive, thought was: what right does this skinny son-of-a-muggle have to plot the ruin of pure-blood wizards? But that was soon replaced by the equally snobbish consideration that the pure-bloods he was targeting were an embarrassment to their family names in any case. It would be no loss to the wizarding world if a blood-traitor like Potter was prudently disposed of. And, if Sirius got in the way – as he always did when Potter was involved – then a potential source of embarrassment to her own family would be removed as well.

Of course, she didn't necessarily want him dead. Just humbled. Perhaps Severus Snape wanted the same thing – although it was difficult to believe at this moment, as she stared into his smouldering black eyes.

"Very well," she said, smoothing out the creases in her skirt. "And, in return, you will brew the Amortentia? And make sure Malfoy drinks it?"

He nodded briefly. "It might kill him, you know."

Narcissa gave him a withering look. She wanted to say that she knew more about love potions than he could possibly imagine; she wanted to say that every girl in her family had been brought up to experiment with them from the age of five. But it was vulgar to advertize one's own gifts, especially when she had more immediately noticeable gifts which would always keep her interlocutor's eyes busy.

Snape's eyes didn't linger on her as much as she would have liked, though. He was staring angrily into the middle distance, as though seeing a whole parade of humiliations and bitter memories pass before his eyes. He frightened her a little, when he was too lost in fury to notice her charms. It made her feel powerless, and she was not accustomed to feeling powerless.  

"Tell me what you want me to do," she said, in an effort to nudge him out of his preoccupation.

He blinked, re-focused on her, and said: "Get the Dark Snitch from the vault and take it to the locker-room after the Gryffindor team's practice tomorrow night. Potter always hangs around there with his cronies, milking their praise." That last sentence was spat out with venom. "Let him see you trying to plant the box in Madam Hooch's locker. Let him think he's discovered an attempted sabotage – just so long as he gets his hands on the Dark Snitch. His own ego will do the rest."

"Is he going to believe I'd be that stupid?" Narcissa asked. "Planting the snitch in the locker room immediately after the Gryffindor team practice?"

"Trust me," said Snape darkly, "he'll be too caught up in his own cleverness to consider your stupidity."

Narcissa sniffed. She didn't really like the way that had been phrased.

Still, it would be no great stretch to fool Potter. She was a good actress. Women who set out to trap rich pure-bloods into marriage had to be. She was pretty enough and rich enough not to need the traps, of course, but there was an art to it. It was her family craft; the consuming passion of all her ingenious female ancestors, and Narcissa idolized her female ancestors above everyone else in the world.

Somehow, she sensed that Severus Snape would give her plenty of scope for her wiles. For the first time, she was beginning to realize how satisfying it would be to be an active participant in your own success, rather than having it handed to you on a plate. Severus wouldn't understand that, of course. Probably, nothing had ever been handed to him on a plate until somebody else had finished with it. But still, there was something enthralling about his dark eyes and his nervous energy. She knew immediately that she needed to stay on his good side.
This chapter mainly came about as an excuse to write long lists of weird, exotic potion ingredients! I'm also fascinated by the bizarre sexual chemistry between Snape and Narcissa. So here is a few pages of both.

EDIT 2011: New ending.
Add a Comment:
Veronika-Art Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2015
Fascinating... really Lucy, you managed to write this flawlessly. I was never a fan of Narcissa, but now, I don´t know... she is incredibly interesting... 

"Snape hesitated. He was angry; he could feel it bubbling under his skin, always just beneath the surface. It was a kind of constant background drone. He wanted to hurt Lily, just to get her attention, just to get her to look at him again, and he hated himself for it"

Again, you managed to keep Snape in his character. Thank you so much!!!!!!
Muumi2three Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2012
"Probably, nothing had ever been handed to him on a plate until somebody else had finished with it."

I like the way you take a clichéd idiom or metaphor, give it a sudden twist, and stand it on its head. Very Pratchettesque of you. ;)

(Would it be too boring and repetitious if I made essentially the same comment on future chapters, as long as I change the example that excited my admiration? Because you do it a lot, and I always enjoy it.)
ls269 Featured By Owner Sep 15, 2012
Hello, dear! :hug: I'm so sorry about the late reply - I've had a hellish week! But seeing your comment has totally cheered me up - any comparison between my writing and Terry Pratchett's is bound to do that, because he's my favourite writer EVER! :heart:) So thank you and sorry and you're awesome for commenting on my story! :love:
LuxminderO831 Featured By Owner Aug 6, 2012
Did you write a chapter about Lucius and Bellatrix sleeping together? I'm reading them from your list and I don't think I've skipped any chapters.
ls269 Featured By Owner Aug 6, 2012
Oooh, no, that's just my bad organization! I was intending to go back and write about that, as a sort of prequel to the story, but somehow never got round to it. I'm terrible with writing things in chronological order! :faint:
WeAreSevenStudios Featured By Owner Apr 18, 2010  Professional Artisan Crafter
The idea that beauty could be enjoyed for its own sake had never occurred to Narcissa; she would have found it rather selfish.

That's an interesting comment on her sort of vanity. : ponders :

She had discovered, for example, that a potion made from Billywig Stings (the Billywig was an Australian insect whose sting caused people to levitate temporarily), if taken every day, would eliminate the need for a witch to wear a bra.

Ha! Excellent. I want some...

Not for the first time, he regretted being privy to so much sensitive information.

Aw, poor Severus. It surely won't be the last. How destined he is to live life as a spy. :(
ls269 Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2010
Yes, poor Sev! :( Everyone around him is mean and crazy - it must be a lonely life!

(You know, I've been thinking that these early chapters are a lot more depressing than the later ones. I hope they're not too gloomy!)
WeAreSevenStudios Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2010  Professional Artisan Crafter
If they weren't so depressing, they wouldn't be accurately depicting Severus' school years. :(
Makes me think of the Potterpuffs quote: "Severus Snape hits the high point of his life when he's about 10, sadly."
ls269 Featured By Owner Apr 20, 2010
:sniff: Poor thing! And even the high-point wasn't that high, because he had shabby, mismatched clothes and his parents argued all the time! :crying:
MelissaLianne Featured By Owner Mar 4, 2008
Wow ... that was breath-taking. You REALLY captured Narcissa! Like, woah. I mean, I don't write about her like that (as in my fanfic she's been deemed a blood traitor cause shes friends with the marauders for a bit...) but wow. I prefer your outlook on Narcissa =D lol. But woooow. I love how you mentioned Snape's past too ... perfect story. :D
ls269 Featured By Owner Mar 4, 2008
Thanks! I'm hoping to give Narcissa some redeeming features. After all, she does kind of turn out alright in the end. Are your stories on DA? I'd like to read them.
MelissaLianne Featured By Owner Mar 4, 2008
haha she does ^_^ :D and you're welcome! your stories made my lunchtime at school lmao.. i was taking a break from studying yesturday and bambam, found me some awesome writing to keep me occupied.

and naw, they're on fanfiction ^^ are you on there?
ls269 Featured By Owner Mar 5, 2008
No, I should try posting on fanfiction - I just get stuck on DeviantArt, looking at all the beautiful pictures! There was so much artwork here that inspired me to write, I thought I should keep my stories on the same site as them. Wish I could draw!
Happy to have helped distract you from studying, LOL!
MelissaLianne Featured By Owner Mar 5, 2008
Ahhh I know what you mean! The artwork on here is bloody magnificent. I try to draw but I'm not very good... xD so I write instead. =P muahaha. and you're welcome about helping to distract me..lmao. and yesss, join fanfiction *pokepoke*
Chaobaby7 Featured By Owner Mar 3, 2008
Oh gorgeous, I love making Severus and Narcissa stories. I also love the list of potions and cosmetics, I've been making my own cosmetics and potions for many years and love old still room recipes, I would be an apothecarist if i could. Lovely. :)
ls269 Featured By Owner Mar 4, 2008
Yay! I'm so glad you liked it - I thought of your sketches of Snape when I was describing him as a stalking jungle cat - you make him so graceful!
Chaobaby7 Featured By Owner Mar 5, 2008
Thank you. I think Severus would have had the grace of a cat, thin built people do, even with his oily hair and twitchy nervous movement, and hooked noses are so beautiful and elegant. With confidence and someone to wash his hair and give him a goos massage ( me ;) and to build up his self esteem he would have his own, unique grace and beauty, as for coal black eyes, I've only seen a black person with black eyes, they would be very striking on a white person, so unusual.
ls269 Featured By Owner Mar 6, 2008
He is a very visually striking character. Makes me wish I could draw in order to do justice to him. Whenever I see beautiful things, I try to capture it in words, but it never really seems sufficient. I end up getting tongue-tied and just going 'wow' a lot!
Chaobaby7 Featured By Owner Mar 7, 2008
I love beautiful things, places and people. I think you capture it very well in words, I love your stories and how you described Severus. :)
ls269 Featured By Owner Mar 7, 2008
Thank you, I'm really glad you like them!
Chaobaby7 Featured By Owner Mar 8, 2008

I've been drawing Snapey today, drawing from "Dream Traveler" as usual.
ls269 Featured By Owner Mar 9, 2008
Cool, can't wait to see more pictures! What's Dream Traveler? I'm always thinking about Snape - I had really greasy hair yesterday because I stayed over at a friend's house and couldn't shower, and thought 'I am a walking tribute to Severus'!
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