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In some ways, going back to the Slytherin common-room after the holidays was like coming home for Severus. It was a cool little haven of shadow – and there were plenty of out-of-the-way places in which to curl up with a book on dark magic, and plot hideous revenges on the Gryffindor Quidditch team.

People there were interested in magic – oh, they would still mock you for saying the wrong thing, or having an inferior blood-line – and they would probably mock you with more persistence than an idiot Gryffindor knew how to command – but no branch of magic was frowned upon here. The Slytherins understood that there was nothing intrinsically good or bad about magic, only the uses it was put to.

The common-room itself was dark and luxurious. It did not immediately look like the sort of room that would have been comfortable. The walls were cold stone (and usually rather damp), there were no windows, the ceiling was low and the floor uncarpeted, but capacious leather arm-chairs dotted the room, and every once in a while you stepped on a rug so soft and lusciously thick that you sank several inches into it (in fact, there was one - known collectively and affectionately amongst the Slytherins as 'Quick-Sandy' - that wouldn't let your feet go once you had sunken into it, unless you started singing. Nowadays, she only ensnared first-years and visitors from other houses, because everyone else knew to jump over her). The massive stone fireplace gave off a powerful heat, and the sickly scent of the smoke emanating from it made the air thick.

The room resembled a fascinating hunting lodge. There were animal heads on the walls, but these were of werewolves and manticores, rather than stags and bears. There were glass cases containing curious objects - a unicorn's horn, for example, and an enormous talon, with a milky-white stone clasped within it. This, a card beneath the case informed the reader, had been the talon of Rowena Ravenclaw's giant eagle and what it clutched within it was petrified memory - Ravenclaw's memories, frozen in stone, and inaccessible, even to the most brilliant wizarding minds. Many wondered why Ravenclaw had set posterity an unsolvable puzzle, but these were generally the people who didn't know enough about Rowena Ravenclaw to understand that most of the puzzles she had set were unsolvable to anyone but her.   

The room was a testament to the power of curiosity. You would be more comfortable in the Gryffindor common-room, but not so well-informed. Slytherins, like all good academics, never really relaxed.  

Reclining luxuriously by the fire was Bellatrix Black. Her eyes were heavily-lidded, and these lids had long, thick, drooping lashes, so that only the odd flash of dark iris could be seen beneath them. She looked as though she couldn't be bothered to open her eyes properly. She (like her sister) seemed permanently, imperiously bored but (unlike her sister) this expression was not softened by a pretty face.  

She was stroking a tortoiseshell cat that had settled on her lap. As Snape watched, she pointed her wand at it, and said, almost lazily: 'Crucio'.

Where Lily had an embarrassing excess of tenderness, Bellatrix had a worrying excess of aggression. It came out in odd and unexpected ways. For example, if you made her laugh (something that Snape tried to avoid anyway, because of the ear-splitting sound), she would slap or punch you hard on the arm in what she evidently assumed was an affectionate manner. He had also found that it was generally advisable not to sneak up on her.    

"New pet, Bella?" he asked cautiously.

"It's Pettigrew's."

"Oh." Snape brightened a little. He thought for a while, and then said. "You should do that in front of him."

Bella was cruel, but not particularly ingenious. Sometimes she needed a push in the right (or rather, wrong) direction. She seemed preoccupied at the moment, however.

"Snape," she murmured, watching the cat struggle under her wand. "Do you think some people feel pain more than others?"

Snape tried to think of a response that would neither amuse nor provoke her. He was always looking for this magical middle-ground with Bellatrix, but kept missing it, perhaps because it was only an inch wide, perhaps because it was nonexistent.   

"I think you're creative enough to make up the deficit, Bella."

She laughed and slapped him, this time around the face.

"Did you finish Slughorn's Antidotes essay?" she went on casually.

Snape was still holding his face. He was very angry with himself. "No, I'll do it tomorrow. I've got another detention with Dumbledore." In a voice dripping with disdain, he added. "This time, he assures me, there will be chocolate biscuits."

Bella shrugged contemptuously. It was amazing how much she resembled her cousin, Sirius, when she did this. "What kind of a teacher is he?"

"The senile kind," Snape said, without thinking.

Bella laughed again and punched him on the arm. Fortunately, she was distracted from any further demonstrations of approval by the entrance of Avery, Wilkes and Rodolphus Lestrange, Bella's long-suffering boyfriend.

Rodolphus was pale and listless. He had a very long face. He was slow on the uptake, but once he'd got an idea into his head, he didn't let it go. Bellatrix had decided that she was going to marry him sometime in their third year, and there was no arguing with Bellatrix (or, at least, not for Rodolphus).

Wilkes was thick-set and freckled. Avery was thin and elfish. He had rather pointed ears and teeth. Of the three, he was the only one with a glimmering of intelligence, but he would only apply it in the cause of cruelty. On the single occasion he had received a good mark in Transfiguration, (on the day they had been transforming toads into tea-cups), Avery had stolen Mary Macdonald's toad to transfigure and, when it was a perfect tea-cup, smashed it right in front of her. He had even stamped on the shattered pieces (which, to Snape's mind, had been somewhat excessive. It had looked like the sort of absent-minded savagery that Bellatrix usually came out with).  

He remembered waiting with Lily outside Professor McGonagall's office while the pieces of teacup were painstakingly reassembled back into a toad.

Mary had emerged from the office, red-faced and panting, and when Lily had said: "What happened, Mary? Is he… is he dead?", Mary had burst into tears and run off up the corridor in hysterics.

"I'd call that a big 'yes'" Snape had said, leaning against the wall and staring indifferently after her.

"I'll get him for this." Lily had said, her low voice prickling with quiet ferocity.

"It's only a toad."

"Oh, 'only a toad', 'only a Muggle'! Everything's always 'only' to you, isn't it? Don't you care about anything?"

Snape hadn't known what to say to this, so he had let her storm off up the corridor after Mary.       

This had been the beginning of a bitter feud between Mary Macdonald and Avery, which, for a while, had taken the form of a friendly contest between Snape and Lily, to see who could teach their friends the best hexes to use against their enemy. Snape had, of course, prudently let her win. He hadn't wanted her to know how many horrific curses he was familiar with.    

Avery, Wilkes and Rodolphus settled in the good seats by the fire (turfing out some first-year girls, who had already been sitting in them) and slouched with the languorous arrogance that only teenage boys can pull off.

"Hey, Severus?" Avery said, taking a copy of a magazine, Manic and Magical Monsters, out of his bag (Avery's favourite subject was Care of Magical Creatures, though the creatures in question had to have pretty big fangs in order to excite his interest). "You know that Ravenclaw Quidditch Captain? Davey? The one who's going out with your red-haired Mudblood friend?"

Snape closed his eyes momentarily and then said, in a hollow voice: "'Mudblood friend' is a contradiction in terms."

Bellatrix barked with laughter and punched him again. This time, though, Snape felt her attack as a welcome distraction from a different kind of pain, and he almost smiled at her.    

"Well," Avery went on, "McGonagall's just given him about a month's worth of detentions. Apparently, he was trying to break into Madam Hooch's office to jinx the Gryffindor team's broomsticks. Don't think his Mudblood was too pleased with him. In fact, I have it on good authority that his Mudblood finished with him. Imagine how you'd feel if even a Mudblod didn't want you!"

Snape didn't need to imagine, but was too happy to dwell on that fact now. A grin spread irresistibly across his sallow face. And the best part was, he didn't even have to hide it. It was practically admirable for a Slytherin to be happy about the misfortunes of a Quidditch Player from a rival house.

Of course, this didn't change anything about Potter. Potter was still going to pay.

He spent the rest of the evening waiting around for Narcissa to make an appearance in the common-room. She wouldn't be keen to speak to him, because she knew he was friends with Lucius Malfoy – if the term 'friendship' could really be applied to a cautious, tactical alliance between Slytherins. But he needed her key to the Black family vault, and her icy disdain would be positively soothing after all her sister's slaps and punches. Maybe that was why Mr and Mrs Black had brought Narcissa up to be so cold – they knew that a soothing ice-pack would be required after Bella's fiery excesses.

When she eventually swanned into the room, she was a picture of elegance. She wore the same school-uniform as everyone else but, somehow, she managed to make it look like an expensive, designer evening-dress from Madam Malkin's.  
She was very thin – Snape suspected she had been making use of the Dark Diets book in the Restricted Section – and glacial, both in manner and appearance. Her features were delicate and exquisite, as though they had been sculpted out of ice, and her eyes were grey and dead-looking, like Dementor flesh.

Snape had spoken to her only once before, in Knockturn Alley, in the Tavern opposite Borgin and Burkes, the Hanged Man. He had been explaining to Lucius Malfoy how to use Undetectable Poisons (which needed to be Disillusioned before they were administered), and she had waltzed in, with her House Elf behind her carrying a teetering stack of boxes. Flirting was difficult for Narcissa, because she never seemed to smile, but she had stared through her delicate eyelashes at Malfoy while he flirted with her, and wrinkled her nose at Snape. If someone was powerful, however, Narcissa learned to be civil to them, and she had evidently sensed power in Snape, because she had deigned to give him a haughty little nod when she passed him in the corridors ever since.  

Malfoy had had his eye on her ever since she was born. There were only so many pure-blood witches, and he was adamant that, if he was going to marry one of the Black sisters, it was going to be the prettiest. Snape had advised him to give the compulsively sadistic Bellatrix a wide berth (though, as it turned out, Lucius rather liked aggressive women). Andromeda, who was haughty and impressive, but outspoken and full of dangerous opinions, was probably not going to meet with Malfoy's approval either, so that just left the Ice Queen.

Snape liked her better than the other Black sisters, though there was no denying that she was tedious. Her conversation was almost alarmingly shallow. Whenever he sat near her and her friends at the Slytherin table, the incessant babble about dress robes, parties and love potions made his head hurt.

When Snape approached her in the common room, she brushed her hair out of her eyes with unconscious elegance and blinked enquiringly at him.

"Have you come to apologise for him?" she asked coldly. "I should have known he'd send one of his lackeys to do his dirty work."

Snape shook his head calmly. "No, I haven't. This leaves two possibilities. Either I'm not Malfoy's lackey, or he didn't even consider you worth a lackey. I do hope you'll opt for the former. It's the one most flattering to both of us, after all."

He would not have thought it possible but Narcissa seemed to grow paler. The effect of this was to make her almost translucent. "I'm sorry," she mumbled, clearing the books from the armchair next to her so that he could sit down. "What do you want?"

He surveyed her coldly before sitting down. Some civil preliminaries were clearly required before he got to the point. "I came to see how you were." He smiled slightly, then added. "You looked terrible in the Great Hall this evening."  

"Thank you for your concern, Severus," she muttered. A blush looked as though it was trying to surface through the thick ice of her complexion. "But I'll be fine. Mr Malfoy is not the only pure-blood wizard in the world."

This was like modifying the phrase 'There are plenty more fish in the sea' to read 'There are about five more fish in the sea', and Narcissa seemed to know it, because she gave a delicate little cough (nothing as vulgar as a laugh had been known to issue from that perfect little mouth), and continued.

"After all, I have a great deal to recommend me."

"Certainly," he said

She sniffed. "I keep listening to that muggle song 'Unbreak My Heart'. It's perfect."

"It would be perfect if it was called 'Un-sleep With My Sister'."

Narcissa collapsed into tears again. Snape sighed wearily and decided it would probably be best to come back later.
More descriptions of beloved Hogwarts characters cobbled together into nothing resembling a plot! I'm thinking that Bellatrix has a crush on Snape, which is why she hits him so frequently. I just love their relationship (sadistic aggression on one side, withering sarcasm and strained patience on the other), so will hopefully write more about them in future.

EDIT (2011): Expanded a little, and combined with the chapter formerly entitled Narcissa Black.
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:iconveronika-art:
Veronika-Art Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2015
So very sorry it took me YEARS (literally) to read this... I apologize. I have no excuse... well, I do, but I cannot understand why I didn´t read this before. Maybe it was the chapter before... it was too dark for me... sorry Lu, but well, I am here... enjoying everybit of this one!!!! Amazing!

So, I missed the part where Malfoy sleeps with Bellatrix or am I going mad??????  I love how you wrote this one... it´s dark and Snape is himself... I honestly admire how you are capable to write a character in situations where he has to be dark and yet, keep his love deep inside... very real, and very interesting... 
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:iconmuumi2three:
Muumi2three Featured By Owner Sep 5, 2012
I love how once Severus saw the Dark Diets book, he seems to look at the slender Slytherin girls with constant suspicion. Also the way you write Bellatrix - and yes, Bella/Snape. "I think you're creative enough to make up the deficit"!
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Sep 6, 2012
:giggle: Thank you! I love writing Bella/Snape! He gets to be so mercilessly sarcastic with her! :heart:
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:iconwearesevenstudios:
WeAreSevenStudios Featured By Owner Apr 7, 2010  Professional Artisan Crafter
Bella crushing on Snape? That’d be interesting...

But then, “Spinner’s End” is one of my favorite chapters ever. It is so very nice to see Bella getting pwned so mercilessly by Snape. If they each weren’t so eternally obsessed with other people, they might have made a truly terrifying couple.
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2010
:rofl: I loved the Spinner's End chapter too! You're right, she is relentlessly pwned by Snape!
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:iconchaobaby7:
Chaobaby7 Featured By Owner Jan 17, 2008
I love it. Your fan fics are good.

:batty::kitty:
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:iconmalfoyfanatic:
MalfoyFanatic Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2007  Hobbyist Photographer
“‘Mudblood friend’ is a contradiction in terms.” << that quote is great xD
you've got a great style!!!
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:iconlily-in-utopia:
Lily-in-Utopia Featured By Owner Nov 8, 2007
i like the way you write bellatrix. lol "mudblood friend is a contradiction in terms". i can SO picture him saying that!
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:iconsayuritsukikochan:
SayuriTsukikoChan Featured By Owner Nov 3, 2007
lol
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