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Severus took the long way back to the Hospital Wing, dragging his feet across the flagstones, and wondering what Madam Pomfrey remembered about the fire that had killed her parents.

And how often did she remember it? When she yelled at her patients, was it to distract herself from the sight of the flames? Whenever she saw students hurl fireballs at each other, or light up a cigarette, was it really their disregard for their own health that was making her wince?

It didn't matter exactly. It didn't give you the right to shout at people, and generally be a cantankerous old crone. But he was beginning to realize that Madam Pomfrey had more justification for her idiocy than a lot of the idiots he'd met.  

Severus plunged his hands deep into his pockets and dragged his feet forwards. He could hardly lift them. His shoes were just scraping along the flagstones. In fact, some of the portraits he passed were starting to tut meaningfully at the noise. He wondered vaguely if your body could mutiny. If you deprived it of food and sleep for long enough, could it throw you out, and go on a rampage of self-gratification? If it started doing that, he was fairly sure the first thing he would do – before he raided the kitchens for sticky toffee pudding – was punch Dumbledore in the face.

But there was the memory of the garden of Eden to keep his body quiet. Really, his body had never been treated so well. Food and sleep had always been secondary to Lily.

So he continued to shuffle along the corridor, as though he had weights tied to his feet. But the shackles dropped off him when he got to the door of the hospital wing. Walking into a room that contained Lily was like being splashed in the face with cold water. And then the water trickled down the collar of your shirt, and made you clammy, and uncomfortably aware of your whole body. But, even with all that excruciating consciousness you would still rather be in that room than anywhere else in the world.

Two things immediately assaulted his attention. Her bandaged hands, and her conspiratorial smile. The sight of the bandages was still painful, but the smile was like calamine lotion. She didn't smile like someone who was wounded or depressed. She smiled like an Amazon Queen who had sustained minor injuries while wiping her enemies off the face of the earth.

He probably shouldn't tell her that, though. One of the hardest lessons he'd learned in his years of volatile friendship with Lily was that something which might be a compliment to a Slytherin was often a deadly insult to a Gryffindor.

She drew a finger up to her lips and motioned towards a bed across the ward, which was surrounded by flower-patterned screens. Severus felt his spirits sink immediately.

"Who is it?" he murmured, perching on the edge of her bed.

"Claudia Kitson."

He wrinkled his forehead with the effort of remembering. "The bakery girl? What did she do? Eat one too many bakewell tarts?"

Lily frowned and smiled at the same time. She was the only person he knew who could do that. And she was the only person on earth who could do it and still look pretty.

"It's a collapsed lung," she murmured. "She… uh… well, it's quite serious, actually, although I know you'll just raise your eyebrows and tell me she was stupid."

"I can do that right now and get it over with, if you like. I'm fairly confident it's the correct assumption."  

She sighed. "It was a breast engorgement charm that just… kept on going. It was just supposed to be for the evening, but she didn't do the counter charm properly, and so they kept on growing while she was asleep, and they…"

"Suffocated her," said Severus, with a completely straight face.

"Well, not quite. I mean, we helped her in time. It was lucky Meg and Mary were here when she came in. They put an anti-gravity charm on her chest, so that she can get some sleep while she…"

"Deflates?"

"Be nice," Lily warned, lowering her eyes to hide her smile.

"What have I said that wasn't nice?" he protested.

"It's a big problem, really. Girls are taught to use engorgement charms on a daily basis, and they're also taught that they need to look like supermodels, so it's ten to one they'll put two and two together."

"What a nice numerical mixed metaphor."

Lily bit her lip. She was blushing adorably, and Severus was suddenly seized by the desire to kiss her. Well, seized up would be a more accurate description. He would have thought he would be too tired for butterflies in his stomach. And they were boyfriend and girlfriend now, after all. Weren't they supposed to kiss on sight? Wasn't that the usual method of greeting? But he couldn't do it. For all the weariness – for all the intimacy they now shared – he couldn't grab hold of her. He didn't understand why anyone would want him to.

They were silent for a while, and she gave him one of her conspiratorial smiles. It was like a coded message.  It said: we know something nobody else knows. They had always been secret friends, and now they were secret lovers.

Those smiles meant her thoughts were lingering on the events of that morning as much as his were. And suddenly, it seemed possible, not only that she was thinking about it, but that she was thinking about it with pleasure. The idea filled him with reckless joy – and that, in turn, filled him with a sense of foreboding.

There were so many things he had to think about if he wanted to keep feeling the bite of that joy. And, if he was thinking them, he could never let the joy bite very deep.

That was why her conspiratorial smiles had always flooded him with endorphins: they were a gesture of understanding. Even if it was just the illusion of understanding – because she could never know, when she flashed him an exasperated smile in the midst of Potter's boasts, just how many ways of killing him were passing through Snape's mind. She thought she understood how he was feeling – but, if she did, it was a drastically cleaned-up version.

She took his hand, and lined his finger-tips up with hers, just as she'd done in Madam Pomfrey's office, that first time.

"They say Regulus is ill," she mumbled.

"I shouldn't wonder," said Snape, with some satisfaction. "Dilys Derwent says it's magical overdose. Have you heard of that? Your magic was obviously too much for him."

"Will it hurt him?"

"We can only hope."   

Lily cleared her throat. "I don't want him to die," she mumbled.  

"Oh, really?" he whispered teasingly.

She looked at him with fond horror, as though he had always been whispering these devilish suggestions in her ears, but she'd been able to tune him out, until now. It made his guts writhe with foreboding. Or excitement. He couldn't tell the difference anymore.

"Yes, really," she said, in a wounded voice.  

"But he stole from us."

"Not from us, Severus."

"Oh, have it your way," he muttered with exasperation.  

"And he's obviously a good person, underneath. He got so annoyed, at that door, when you were saying nice things about him."

Severus frowned. "OK, that's pretty nonsensical, even for you."

She giggled, and drew her knees up to her chest. "You don't understand," she protested. And she was warming to her theme now – her cheeks had started to glow in a way that made him even more clammy and uncomfortable. "He knew he was just about to do something cruel, so it bothered him when you were nice about him."

"Obviously not enough."

Lily stared at the flower-patterned screen blocking Claudia Kitson from view.

"Bruiser's coming up to the castle to collect me tomorrow," she mumbled. "In his Porsche."

Severus groaned.

"I know," she said, blushing. "I told him 'inconspicuous'."

"He doesn't know the meaning of the word 'inconspicuous'."

"Will you come and visit me?" she asked shyly.

Severus kept his face determinedly expressionless. "What do you think?"

They were silent again, while she blushed, and he enjoyed the idea that he was making her just as uncomfortable as she was making him. He felt a sudden throb of longing, and cursed Claudia Kitson and her engorged breasts. He had never thought he would feel such animosity towards engorged breasts, but they were in the way of his Lily.  

Severus sat down on the bed beside hers, trying not to show that his aching muscles were screaming with protest.  

He wanted to ask her how she was – what her friends had said – why she'd decided to tell them – but he was too tired to bring up the subject of Meg Valance, and steer away from all the temptations to insult her. And he would only get angry if he thought about Lily's depression again. He wanted to believe that he'd solved it – that, every time she was tempted to despair, she would think about the tropical garden in the Room of Requirement. But he knew from experience that a truly despairing mind could gloss over the consolations.

He had so much work to do. He had to go back to sleep, so that he could watch over Madam Pomfrey in her claustrophobic post-war nightmare. Elsa Valance would already be tucked up in bed with her china dolls, wandering through other people's dreams, and kicking her heels with impatience.

But it was so tempting to just stay up with Lily, and let her chatter wash over him, like a warm tide. For once, sleep didn't seem like the most relaxing option.

She was lying on her side, propped up on one elbow, with her hair tucked behind her ears, and he was strongly reminded of sleep-overs at her house in Manchester. He could never relax there, either, of course – there was always the threat of that horse-faced sister bursting in – but it was peace tinged with dread, just like the feeling that was stealing through his limbs at the moment. Severus knew that feeling so well; it accompanied every stolen moment of peace or pleasure he'd ever experienced, because he was always counting the seconds before it was snatched away.  

Oh, he was going to suffer for this kind of soppy, sentimental thinking, he could feel it. He was starting to relax – all his wound-up nerves were starting to uncoil. His exasperated energy was turning into jubilation, and he had literally no idea what it was going to do. This had never happened before. And Severus didn't like being in unchartered territory – he didn't like facing events he couldn't plan for.

He shouldn't have let his defences down. His little Lily could turn out to be a Trojan Horse full of trouble. All these stolen moments of joy were going to cost him.

Somehow, they always did seem stolen. They belonged by right to other people – probably to spoilt brats like Potter, who always had praise and prosperity dropped in his lap – and Severus would be punished for borrowing them. It would be something like the punishment of Prometheus, when he stole fire from the gods, to give to mankind. Poor Prometheus was tied to a rock in the Caucasus mountains, where, each day, an eagle pecked out his liver, while each night, it was magically replenished, for the torture to begin again. That was how it was going to feel when Lily was snatched away. Grief and regret would be eating at him forever.

But even Prometheus's gruesome fate had its consolations. From his vantage-point on the mountain, he could look down at the camp-fires of civilization, as they spread relentlessly across the plains below, and smile.

That was how Severus felt. The eagle could tear out his liver, but it couldn't tear out his memories. Those moments with Lily had already changed the constitution of his soul. He could never be forced to give back what he'd stolen. He felt different, even when he was aching with tiredness, even when he was suffering from hunger or cramp. The pain wasn't lessened, but it had a different texture. It tasted of experience.  

Lily had been speaking all this time. She seldom needed a response – she was used to his quiet moods, and mainly found his silence therapeutic – but he still tried to rein-in his wandering thoughts to listen to her. He got so melodramatic when he was tired.

"And Narcissa was wearing this frankly pornographic dress to dinner. It looked like it had been painted on."

"It probably was."

Lily giggled. "I can just see a team of fifty House Elves dabbing away at her with paintbrushes while she gazes longingly into the mirror."

"She's getting desperate," said Severus, with some satisfaction.

"What do you mean?"

He leaned back, and sighed with vindictive happiness. "Nobody is looking at her anymore," he said.  



She was choosing darker, more emphatic, colours these days. Heatherberry lipstick and dusky blushers. She'd always had to paint a trail of emotion across her expressionless face but, these days, the trail was beginning to seem like the only thing there was.

It wasn't that she was getting paler – that would have been impossible. And, anyway, in Narcissa's world of heavy drapes and dark corners, pallor only made you stand out more. No, she wasn't growing pale, but colourless, as though she was made of water; a figure that bent light but didn't stop it.

When she put on her lipstick in front of the mirror, she had to feel her lips in order to be sure where they began.  The contours of her face had to be dusted with powder, like finger-prints, before they could be clearly made out. And, looking at her chest – which she had crammed into an emerald-green bodice tonight – she could clearly see the outline of the antique armoire behind her, even though she knew she should have been blocking it from view. Its shape was intruding itself between her collar-bones. And that was very ungrateful of it, because she knew for a fact that the armoire had been donated to Slytherin House by her great, great grandmother. Not even furniture respected pure blood anymore.

She was thinking at random, and it wasn't like her. She hadn't felt this way since… well, since Malfoy had shattered all her schemes by being so reckless and adorable in the wreckage of the Hanged Man.

Snape's curse was even preventing her thoughts from achieving solidity. But he wouldn't win. He didn't have the resources – he didn't have the pedigree – she had. It was simply impossible that he could be allowed to beat her.

That was the oddest thing – she couldn't accept that his curse was destroying her. She knew he was a formidably powerful wizard; she knew he had an encyclopedic knowledge of curses and an inexhaustible supply of hatred to back them up. But he was a half-blood. It wasn't right.   

Narcissa's mind was still trying to catch up to her situation. She felt as though she was treading water. But, ten minutes before, she'd been at a glittering party on the deck of the Titanic and, even though she had been dumped unceremoniously into the water, her mind was still full of the debutantes and romantic intrigues, the eligible bachelors in their tuxedoes. Soon, it would cross her mind that she was freezing cold and she couldn't swim. Soon, she would realize that the waves were lapping up to her chin, and she was going to sink without trace. That was the worst part. Without trace.

But it couldn't be true that she'd been knocked completely out of one world and into another. All her hard work on the decks – all the people she'd charmed and the connections she'd made – they would come to her aid somehow.

And then, just as she was standing in front of the mirror, dusting her face into visibility, they did.  

Jen Morgan burst in, pink-faced from exertion. And Narcissa only half-listened to the words she was gasping out, because she already had a gloomy presentiment of what the girl was going to say.

"Malfoy's here," Jen panted.  

It still made her stomach tighen. She realized, with a slow, spreading shudder, that she would rather disappear without trace than ask Lucius Malfoy for help.

"You will tell Mr. Malfoy that I am indisposed."

Jen leaned forward anxiously. She couldn't always hear Narcissa these days. It wasn't that she was speaking quietly – just that her voice was infused with distance. It had a dampened, echoey quality, and the syllables didn't always join up. Understanding her was like playing a puzzle in your head. And Jen Morgan had never been very good with puzzles.

"I will – what, sorry?"

Narcissa drew herself up to her full height. "You will tell him I am indisposed."

"Do you really think that will work?" said Jen doubtfully. "He might just sneak into the castle and kidnap you again."

Narcissa narrowed her eyes. "It will be the worse for him if he tries."

"I'm sorry?"

"Oh, forget it," she snapped.

Narcissa turned her eyes back to the mirror. She could see the glow of the lamp behind her, filtering in weird, watery ways through her skin. "Very well," she said at last. "Tell him I will be with him soon."  

And, summoning up all her composure, she painted a Heatherberry pout across the void that would ordinarily have been her face, and went out.



Her perfume was the first thing to announce her presence. Lucius felt a predatory lurch of excitement whenever he caught her scent on the air. The fact that this perfume had poisoned him on at least one previous occasion only heightened the sensation. He wouldn't have wanted a woman who was easy to get close to.

And so it wasn't just self-preservation, and the iron school-gates, that prevented him from kissing her when she wandered over. Lucius kissed her sparingly. He didn't want to get tired of her, the way he had got tired of every other woman in his life. He wanted her to last.

The rays of the setting sun were at her back when she reached the gates. She was so slight, she hardly seemed to block out the light at all, and there was no shadow at her feet. That was for sturdy, heavy-set girls, Lucius supposed. Bellatrix was all shadow. But Narcissa floated above the ground like a fine mist.

"Mr. Malfoy," she said coolly, giving him a barely-perceptible nod.

Lucius nodded back, and continued to gaze at her greedily. He hadn't seen her in days. Not since he'd come to Hogwarts to explain that he'd been placed under the Imperius Curse and forced to break up with her.

It had been hard for him to recover his dignity after that. Of course, it wasn't his fault. The mudblood had cursed him while his back was turned. And he'd been close to breaking free of her Imperius Curse when Snape captured her.  

It was difficult to explain that to Narcissa. The fact that he'd been manipulated by a woman – and, loath as they both were to admit it, an attractive woman – made his misfortune close to a betrayal. She knew – because he'd taken the Unbreakable Vow to be faithful to her for the rest of his life – that nothing untoward had gone on. Malfoy, in love with somebody else, and a firm believer that mudbloods really did have mud coursing through their veins, would have been sick to contemplate the idea, but clearly Narcissa had contemplated the idea, whether it made her sick or not.

She hadn't slapped him or sulked with him; she hadn't even been aloof – well, no more than usual, anyway. She had told him it was alright.

Of all the things he'd done that rankled with him – of all the distasteful memories – that was the worst. He had slept with bar-wenches, Veela and Metamorphmagi; he had even slept with muggles – holding his nose the entire time, of course; he had tried every form of illicit potion known to wizard-kind; he had performed the Cruciatus Curse and the Rapturus Charm at the same time – often on the same people (well, that was Bellatrix for you – she never could make up her mind). But nothing made his guts writhe with nausea like the memory of Narcissa, with her sagging shoulders and her downcast eyes, telling him it was alright.

She hadn't been angry; she had been disappointed. She had expected better of him. Nobody had ever expected better of Lucius Malfoy. To everyone else, what he did was automatically the right thing to do, because he was Lucius Malfoy. The few people who weren't charmed by his looks and his pure-blood celebrity status – like Dumbledore – never expected him to behave better than he did.

But Narcissa was somewhere in-between the sycophants and the enemies. She didn't expect him to be good, but she expected him to be strong.

She looked as though he could have passed his hand straight through her, like smoke. When she wrapped her fingers around the bars of the school-gates, he let his hands hover close to them, trying to feel the heat that she radiated, but she snatched them away abruptly.

That was the first thing he really registered as strange. She had never shied away from teasing him before.

"I wanted you to know that I've reclaimed my property from Borgin," he told her. "He didn't even try to get his money back."

Narcissa looked up hopefully, but he forestalled her. "The coronet," he added swiftly, "was stolen from Borgin's warehouse. It will take me a few days to track it down, but it will be returned to us."

"I'm sure you're right," said Narcissa listlessly. Her voice seemed to be coming from very far away, as though she was shouting up to him from the bottom of a well.

Lucius tilted his head to look at her. Then he focused his eyes on the bars she had wrapped her fingers around a moment ago. There were finger-marks of white powder on them. Now that he looked closely, her hands, her face, her neck – every visible part of her – had been dusted with powder. And she was shivering – or shaking – in the evening breeze.

Lucius felt a surge of protectiveness towards her. He had always been puzzled by how such a tiny, delicate girl not only kept herself alive but radiated power like a cold furnace. But now, it seemed, she was faltering. She was so prickly and proud, but she needed him.

"Is everything alright, Narcissa?"



She had done her best to make herself visible. She had jabbed scarlet-and-silver hairpins into her elegantly-drawn-back hair. She had dusted her eyelids with that shimmery eye-shadow made of powdered dragon scales. If she sparkled enough, it might confuse him. He might assume that the light shining through her was just glancing off her.

She was wearing a tight-bodiced emerald gown that blossomed outwards at her hips, so that folds of silk arced out and poured down to her feet like a one-coloured rainbow. Narcissa refused to wear school-uniform in the evenings. What was the point in living if you couldn't put on evening-dress for dinner, and then rustle around the Slytherin common-room in fabrics that were designed to glow subtly in the candlelight?  

But he had noticed something. Perhaps it was because she couldn't keep her hands steady. It was the reality of the situation – the reality of what she was losing – suddenly dawning on her. She might never see Lucius again. And he would certainly not be able to see her.

He repeated the question. Is everything alright, Narcissa? And she wanted to laugh out loud at it. She wanted to scream: no, everything is not alright. You let a mudblood induce you to forget me. That shouldn't even be possible! And now I'm never going to see you again. How can you ask me if everything's alright?

But that would have been indecorous. Narcissa had been well-bred, which meant that the more annoyed she was, the more chillingly polite she got.

"Quite alright, thank you," she replied.

He didn't believe her, but it took a while for him to come up with a tactful way of telling her so. She watched his struggles for a few moments, and it made her feel suddenly tired.  She felt as though all the energy had been leeched out of her. She felt as though a vampire had fastened its fangs around her ankles and drained her dry while her mind was elsewhere. There was probably even room to hide a vampire under the skirts of this dress.  

"I am quite well, Lucius," she interrupted, in a softened voice. "Please don't concern yourself. It has been a long day, that's all. You've heard Regulus is ill? Some form of magical fever. I've been researching his cure, and Professor Slughorn is demanding my potions project - ,"

"Would you like me to speak with him?" Lucius interrupted.

Her eyes narrowed for a moment, and then, with a return of the chilly politeness, she answered: "I'm quite capable of dealing with him."

"If you're sure - ,"

"And now I'd better see to Regulus. Goodnight, Lucius."  

Narcissa saw the lust in his eyes. It was fighting, as usual, with the breathless reverence that her presence seemed to induce in him. But there was something else… something proprietorial – even pitying – about the way he looked at her. It rankled with Narcissa. Her pure-blood hackles sat up and screamed.

He didn't own her yet. And he would never own her will. She had hidden her thoughts from the Dark Lord. She had been by his side when he raided Azkaban. She didn't need the help of someone who had sold the coronet of the Malfoy matriarchs for eight sickles.

"Was there anything else, Mr. Malfoy?"



Malfoy didn't push her, because he knew her well enough to realize that it never worked. But he took a detour before going back to Malfoy Manor. He Apparated onto the cobblestones outside Aloysius Black's townhouse, and knocked at the door.

He was greeted by the House-Elf, closely followed by the anxious, eager, and discomfortingly pretty face of Oblivia Black. She led him into the sitting-room and absent-mindedly fluffed a few pillows.

"I'm afraid Aloysius is having drinks with the Minister," she mumbled. It was the longest sentence he'd ever heard from her.

"Thank you," said Malfoy, "but I was actually hoping to speak with Claudia Black's portrait."

With an apologetic smile, Oblivia motioned towards the blank stretch of canvas that was hanging above the fireplace. "I'm afraid she's in even more rarely than Aloysius these days."

Malfoy tried desperately to stop himself from analyzing that sentence. He needed to stay away from Oblivia Black. She was so eager to please him, and women who were eager to please him always woke his demons up.  

"She'll come when I call her," he said firmly. "If I could speak with her in private…?"

"Of course," said Oblivia. She looked horrified that a guest in her house had had to ask for something, instead of being offered it. "I'll join you with tea and scones in half an hour."

And then she bowed out of the room. She was already tying on her apron. Malfoy breathed a sigh that was half-exasperation and half-relief, but it had barely passed his lips when a shrill female voice rang out across the sitting-room.

"I was expecting you yesterday," it said.  

He turned, with a sense of foreboding in his stomach, to face the voice's owner – the most brilliant witch since Rowena Ravenclaw, and the most terrifying portrait since Dorian Gray's. She had inky black hair and rather bulbous eyes. She was not attractive, but she had somehow managed to marry fifteen times – and her ex-husbands were amongst the most illustrious wizards of the age. She had poisoned most of them, but one was still living – if you could call it that – in a glass coffin at the bottom of the garden. He had spent most of their married life in a coma, which was perhaps why he appeared to be her favourite.

"You want to know what's happening to Narcissa," she said breezily. "Well, hurry up and sit down, because the domestic goddess will be back soon. Think it takes her half an hour to make a batch of scones? Hah! She's spent her whole life making them. She'll be listening at the door inside of five minutes, I guarantee it."

Malfoy was half-way into a chair before he realized that he didn't have to do everything this woman said. It was hard to resist the note of authority in her voice.

"What is happening to Narcissa?" he demanded, remaining resolutely on his feet.

"She's been cursed," said Caludia Black. "She's fading away – becoming invisible, inaudible and insubstantial. It's actually quite a brilliant piece of magic - ,"

"Who cursed her?" he interrupted angrily.

Claudia Black rolled her eyes. "That's men all over," she sighed. "Always more concerned with retribution than solutions. My grand-daughter is disappearing, and all you can think about is throttling the person who hasn't even succeeded in killing her yet."

"It seems all that you can think about is the academic complexity of the curse," Malfoy replied stiffly. "Who is responsible?"  

Claudia Black sniffed. "That Snape boy, if you must know."

"Snape is behind this?"

"Narcissa turned his mudblood into a muggle. She damaged his property."

Malfoy raised his eyebrows. "The shame of fraternizing with a muggle is scarcely less than the shame of fraternizing with a mudblood."

"Small amounts of shame, like small amounts of money, become more important the further you slide down the social scale."

"He cannot be trusted where that mudblood is concerned."

Claudia Black brushed away the objection. "He's useful. He doesn't have to be trustworthy. Let him have his vices. I believe you had a few of your own not so long ago."

Malfoy, most uncharacteristically, blushed. He was ashamed of the hedonism of his youth, even though he never failed to blame other people for it.

"I was led astray by - ,"

"Yes, yes," Claudia Black interrupted impatiently. "Unwholesome influences. Lewd company. I'm not interested. Concentrate on curing Narcissa and Regulus. The Black line must continue, and they are the only hope I see for it. Neither of them are the brightest individuals, but at least they're not blood-traitors or lunatics."

Malfoy scowled. "Narcissa is neither. But I'd take a closer look at Regulus, if I were you."

Claudia Black smiled complacently. "The little king has power you couldn't imagine. And Narcissa has pragmatism you couldn't imagine. She survives, and she takes care of her own. Not because she likes them, but because they're hers. She'll ensure the blood continues, even if she has to make other people's blood pour out."

She gave him an appraising look. "You would not have been my first choice for my grand-daughter's husband. Personally, I prefer original minds, but yours is of a cast that has been reasonably successful before. Narcissa has chosen you, and now you need to make yourself useful. The curse destroying her is personal, and so must the remedy be. A symbolic act to confer consequence upon her, in her own eyes. Your job is to engineer it. Rather stupidly, she seems to care for you, so your actions will count for more in her eyes."

"I think I know," said Malfoy slowly.

"Malfoys don't think they know; they know they know!" she snapped. "God, the pure-blood youth of this country is being corrupted! Your father would have known what to do. And anyone who tried to stop him would have been hanging upside-down over a pit of half-starved werewolves by now."

Malfoy was starting to wish Oblivia would come back with the scones. She wouldn't represent any temptation to him now. He had a plan. The fanatical part of his mind was racing. It had always been impossible to give Narcissa something she didn't already have. She was rich, cunning and beautiful. Even with the dizzying wealth of the Malfoy family at his disposal, Lucius had never been able to delude himself that he was necessary to her. The only things she had ever wanted from him were his touch, and the coronet. And he had foolishly denied her both.

His touch, and the coronet. And she would be hard and luminous as steel again. Malfoy declined the scones, when Oblivia came back in, and hurried out into the night. He couldn't understand how he'd ever been fanatical about anything else.
Continuing from The Garden of Eden [link]

I'm soooooo sorry it's been so long since I posted a chapter - I hope there are still people out there willing to read it! I've been insanely, sleeplessly, busy for the past couple of weeks, and I've had a lot of trouble getting back into the habit of writing, so please be gentle with me if this chapter isn't up to scratch!

Oh, also, I seem to have decided to keep the names Aloysius and Oblivia Black, even though people have pointed out that they should be called Cygnus and Druella. Actually, I'm neutral about Aloysius, but Oblivia's name is so central to my idea of her character that I can't seem to change it. Apologies to the canon-purists!

As ever, thank you for reading :) :hug:
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polkadotpeony Featured By Owner Nov 10, 2011
"He had never thought he would feel such animosity towards engorged breasts, but they were in the way of his Lily. "

This line seriously made me LOL. Oh God how I LOVE your Severus. He is so incredibly witty and intelligent and sarcastic. It makes me way too happy. :) And may I add how much I love this whole secret lovers thing. I can just imagine the look on Lily's face when talking to him and it must be so damn sexy to Severus. This whole, "are you thinking about what I'm thinking about?" Hehe.

And I also hate when Snape starts thinking of everything being taken away, it depresses me. Snape and I are far too similar and we both have huge imaginations that usually think up the worst case scenario. So it just depresses me more when he starts thinking of Lily being taken away. Poor guy, he deserves to be happy with Lily and not think of such things. :(
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Nov 10, 2011
"He had never thought he would feel such animosity towards engorged breasts, but they were in the way of his Lily.

:lmao: Oh dear, I totally forgot about this line! Perhaps it isn't such a good thing that my parents read this story... :blush: :giggle:
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:iconwearesevenstudios:
WeAreSevenStudios Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2010  Professional Artisan Crafter
One of the hardest lessons he'd learned in his years of volatile friendship with Lily was that something which might be a compliment to a Slytherin was often a deadly insult to a Gryffindor.
Yes! Proof that he can learn (while she's still alive)!

They belonged by right to other people – probably to spoilt brats like Potter, who always had praise and prosperity dropped in his lap – and Severus would be punished for borrowing them.
That sounds foreboding...

:tears: Great. Now I'll always see Professor Snape as Prometheus, with his liver being eaten every day by eaglets in the shape of first years.

All this talk of priceless memories, and the multiple instances of memory-altering spells and devices is making me wonder if wizards can make back-up copies of their most important memories, so that they can keep them somewhere safe, and still have the originals in their heads.

She had expected better of him. Nobody had ever expected better of Lucius Malfoy.
I heard somewhere (I think it might have been on the show "Six Feet Under"), the phrase, 'a soulmate is the person who causes us to grow the most.' If Narcissa is the only one who is immune to his Malfoy-ish-ness (her Narcissa Black-ish-ness seems to cancel it out), that would explain why they seem so perfect together, and why I love them so much. :D

Always more concerned with retribution than solutions.
Ha. I love that line.

I'm excited over the possibility we'll see Malfoy actually do something and be the hero for once! I love him, but even in HBP and DH, it was really Narcissa that saved everyone's skin. I tend to see Lucius as a very impressive display piece. :giggle:
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2010
:giggle: This made me laugh: Great. Now I'll always see Professor Snape as Prometheus, with his liver being eaten every day by eaglets in the shape of first years. I can just imagine those dunderheads as fluffy little eaglets! (Although I don't like to imagine them eating poor Sev's liver!)

Well, that's it - you've completely caught up with me now. I'd better get off my ass and do some writing. :sprint:

I'm excited at the thought of Malfoy being a hero too. I feel as though I owe him, because somehow this story always seems to end up punishing him. I totally agree with you (and love that quote, by the way) that Narcissa and Lucius cause each other to grow (although maybe not in conventional directions - they continue to be snobby and prejudiced, but their morality within that world of snobbery and prejudice kind of opens up.)

It's so cool you mentioned that thing about memories. There's an interesting discussion on Bewitched Mind about how magical memories might work - a discussion that I tried to join in with, but was hopelessly outclassed in terms of knowledge of the books! :giggle: It's here, if you'd like to read it: [link]
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:iconwearesevenstudios:
WeAreSevenStudios Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2010  Professional Artisan Crafter
Ooh, thank you for the link. What a cool discussion. I'll keep an eye on it, but I doubt I'll add to it - I tend to make a lovable fool of myself in forums. ;)
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:iconflameofthewest7:
FlameoftheWest7 Featured By Owner Jun 1, 2010
He couldn't understand how he'd ever been fanatical about anything else.

YES!!! I am so excited for this part of the plot. Lucius has a quest! I can't wait to see how it plays out. As usual, I love the way you write their interactions. I noticed that Lucius is becoming more possessive than ever now that a sense of protectiveness is occurring to him--he positively covets her, and it is so authentically Malfoy! I liked the phrase about the "predatory lurch of excitement" she inspires, and "The fact that this perfume had poisoned him on at least one previous occasion only heightened the sensation."

You are doing an great job with Narcissa as well. This was an excellent evaluation of her feelings toward Lucius: She didn't expect him to be good, but she expected him to be strong. They are such a fascinating couple and I love the way you write them. Good work!

Don't be upset with yourself about taking longer to post! Honestly, when I checked DA tonight, it was the first time in a couple weeks, because I've been so busy myself! Probably it's that way for a lot of people.
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Jun 2, 2010
:hug: I was hoping you'd like this chapter! A lot of the inspiration for Lucius's quest came from our conversations (I forget which chapter it was on - but we were talking about how he was going to reclaim the coronet, and I decided that writing about that was too good an opportunity to miss! :) So thank you for sharing your ideas about this couple with me!)

I loved this bit of your comment:

'he positively covets her, and it is so authentically Malfoy!'

I like the idea that Malfoy is so materialistic that he only knows how to express love by thinking of his loved one as a priceless heirloom that needs to be guarded! I always think of their relationship as very physical, even though they try to avoid touching each other, and the idea that they want to own each other seems to fit so perfectly.

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:iconflameofthewest7:
FlameoftheWest7 Featured By Owner Jun 2, 2010
Of course I love this chapter! And I am thrilled that you were able to derive enough sense from some comment of mine (doubtlessly a gushy, Lucissa-obsessed one!) to let your imagination weave together the loose ends. No matter where you decide to take this, I'm sure it will be a big turning point in their relationship. Lucius will have to apply his energy and faculties in pursuit of something positive, to achieve something rather than destroy something. Despite her selfishness and pettiness, she's spurring him on to greater heights, and it is only natural that he may come to associate her with the best and most sacred of his ideals, almost as the culmination of them. I remember a sentence from a chapter of yours (from a long time ago)about how "she was the opposite of everything that disgusted and wearied him in other people." Narcissa is a little slower to fall for him, but this episode may well give her the opportunity to learn to trust him more, and start to feel the same way. It is for this reason, their exclusive love of themselves and each other, that I think their marriage is able to withstand all the conflict and hardship Rowling hurled at them throughout the series. Since they are so limited in the number of people they allow themselves to feel empathy for, all the love that people normally extend to a wide circle of family and friends has nowhere to go but the one object of their obsessive devotion (and later on, Draco). I think Lucius and Narcissa are each other's idol!
...but as always, just my humble opinion (from one who has given this way too much thought! ;)
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2010
Oooh, I love this idea:

Since they are so limited in the number of people they allow themselves to feel empathy for, all the love that people normally extend to a wide circle of family and friends has nowhere to go but the one object of their obsessive devotion.

Their love is so exclusive that it becomes really concentrated and intense! I think that would bind them together even if they didn't love each other, because your eyes aren't going to stray if you know you're married to the most superior specimen of blood-purity in the world!

I love your comments and insights on these characters. :hug: There is no such thing as giving them too much thought!
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:iconvizen:
Vizen Featured By Owner May 30, 2010
I could almost sympathize with Cissy here...

yaip, I agree with Sam. Canon is canon, but it is precisely just that. I mean, Rowling's books are the beginning of our passion, it has not to be the end of it !

If we had only Rowling's version to explore, we would not have fanfictions and we would have only the books to read. And we would be without your wonderful own imaginary.
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner May 30, 2010
:hug: Thank you, my dear! I felt bad for Narcissa here too! But at least it gives Lucius the chance to be heroic (finally! He's been very badly treated in this story, I fear! ;))
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:iconvizen:
Vizen Featured By Owner May 31, 2010
Well, Malfoys can be heroic in their own way :love:
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:iconnorthangel27:
northangel27 Featured By Owner May 28, 2010  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Canon purists can get over it. Your story is so much your own creation by now, I figure you can do what you want with the characters! Especially if Oblivia's name is central to character concept (and also considering that she was a very minor character in the books), I don't think you should worry about what people might say.

Anyway, I admittedly do not have the time to read this at the moment, but I have a long weekend coming up, so I'm sure I will get to read it sometime over the next three days. I'll comment again on the content when I've had the chance.

I'm just so impressed that you are still writing this. You seem really disciplined. As you well know, I am anything but! ;-)
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner May 29, 2010
:hug: I'm no way disciplined, this is just the only chance I get to do something creative, and the only time in my life anyone has actually cared that I've done it! :giggle: That's hard to walk away from. (Oh, also, I love the characters, but that is hard to remember at midnight, when you've got work the next day, and you're getting annoyed with yourself for your inability to construct a simple sentence! ;))

Don't worry about reading straight away, take your time. I have a long weekend too (Monday is a bank holiday in Britain :dance:). I hope you enjoy yours :glomp:
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:iconnorthangel27:
northangel27 Featured By Owner May 29, 2010  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I hope you enjoy yours too!
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:iconmelorik:
Melorik Featured By Owner May 28, 2010
I'm quite relieved to see that you've not fallen off the face of the earth :D.

Don't worry about being rusty, your writing is quite good as always. I rather enjoyed this line:

...he was beginning to realize that Madam Pomfrey had more justification for her idiocy than a lot of the idiots he'd met.

I can just picture Severus writing " The Idiot's Compendium: A Study and Classification of Dunderhead's Worldwide". He could sort the various kinds of idiots by category and criteria ;).

So Moribund was one of Claudia's husbands eh. Perhaps he put himself in a coma not to have to listen to her incessant yapping :D. Seeing as he's Snape's ancestor... it makes perfect sense I think.

At least the irksome canvas actually had a good idea for once. Telling Malfoy to focus on finding a cure for Cissa rather then just trying to kill Snape (and probably getting himself killed in the process). Loved her comment about vices as well... still... it's a pity that the Bogart didn't get a chance to burn down Claudia's portraits along with the wardrobe :p.

Good to see that Lily will be with Bruiser! And that's not just cause there can never be enough Bruiser... but because he can keep her safe. DD might be a great wizard but his track record of protecting people is about as reliable as BP's safety standards :P.

Keep it up!

Cheers,

Sam
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner May 29, 2010
:rofl: The Idiot's Compendium: A Study and Classification of Dunderhead's Worldwide I love it! The introduction would say: 'You probably think you're reading this from a purely academic perspective. Rest assured, reader, you're in here. If you wish to learn more about yourself, read on. If you would like to continue labouring under the delusion that you're a rational member of society, close the book right now and go back to your game of Quidditch'.

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:iconmelorik:
Melorik Featured By Owner May 30, 2010
Section 1 - Deadly Idiots:

Doofus Ignoramus Maximums : The Ignoramus is one of the rarer breeds of idiot, as his stupidity can have adverse effects on those around him beyond that of mere annoyance. This fact sets him apart from conventional practitioners of idiocy, as merely ignoring his existence is not only an inadequate remedy, but is often counterproductive and harmful.

Common physical features of an ignoramus include a striking facial resemblance to the Rodentia family of mammals, and Gerbils in particular. Additionally, the Ignoramus seeks to draw attention to its idiocy through acts that continuously draw ones attention to his existence. This includes the deliberate mismanagement of hair, excelling in meaningless sporting event (often for the amusement of lesser idiots - Quidditch being a prime example), and rallying other lesser idiots to persecute the ignoramus' intellectual superiors.

More deadly still, the ignoramus is aware of its limited and vastly inadequate potential. As such, at first oppertunity, he will attempt to seek out and mate with a superior female of his species, in an attempt to improve his genetic worth. This above all else must be prevented dear reader. Such a union would not mitigate the taint of idiocy from the offspring, but merely create a lesser breed of idiot known as the Dunderhead . This child would have the ability to blend in with common society, but would in fact be hindered from birth due to being fathered by an ignoramus.

Lastly, the ignoramus as shown himself consistently to be incapable of adequately insuring the safety of those who are charmed by him. Having an inherent inability to analyze a dangerous situation, and a compulsion to draw attention to himself as mentioned above, the ignoramus will often alert enemies to his pressence in the most obvious and unsubtle fashion. The result is not only the likely annhilation of his own person (an event that would certainly not be unwelcome), but the likely destruction of those nearby.

Unfortunately, the pressence of an Ignoramus is often not apparent until he has sufficiently wormed his way into society, and thus making his direct removal a precarious affair. One cannot simply dispose of him as they would a rodent, despite the similarity. Rather, when encountering an ignoramus, the most prudent course of action would be to safeguard ones own property, person and those one cares about. In this way, one can avoid being infected by the taint of idiocy. Effective methods will be discussed in the upcoming supplementary compendium.

-----


There you go :D. I think this would be the first entry in the first chapter, and the first sort of idiot Sev would classify and expose ;).

Cheers,

Sam
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner May 30, 2010
:lmao: Oh, you should so write this book! :rofl: Favourite parts:

Common physical features of an ignoramus include a striking facial resemblance to the Rodentia family of mammals, and Gerbils in particular.

Such a union would not mitigate the taint of idiocy from the offspring, but merely create a lesser breed of idiot known as the Dunderhead.

I also love the 'deliberate mismanagement of hair' :giggle: Trust Sev to take a scientific approach to the subject!
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:iconmelorik:
Melorik Featured By Owner May 30, 2010
Ha ha... glad you enjoyed it!

Also, just to echo what others have said. I hardly give canon much consideration as it is... beyond being the universe that simply set the stage. If I had it my way, there'd be a nice whole chunk of it that would get hit with a ret-con stick :D. So don't you worry yourself.

Cheers,

Sam
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:iconvizen:
Vizen Featured By Owner May 28, 2010
You silly - :) Of course there are people out there very very very willing to read it.
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner May 29, 2010
:hug: :blush: I'm very neurotic about posting new chapters!
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