A/N: This is the last chapter, folks! I would really love reviews from those of you who haven't big eyes. It would mean a lot to a first-time HP fic writer!
Chapter Four (the last):
Narcissa was surprised by her friend's sudden departure. Then again, he had always been a bit... unpredictable. She guessed he was embarrassed about her gratitude; Severus Snape was uncomfortable around people and had learned minimal social graces. His time in Slytherin House had not helped him much in that regard. He had been teased and bullied mercilessly from inside and outside his House—proof, she thought wryly, that the good guys were not always very nice—and became embittered where he had only been awkward. She often wondered if he would have joined the Dark Lord if his years at Hogwarts had gone differently.
She tried to let him know what a valuable ally he was, not solely for the movement as a whole, but also for her and Lucius. He was the only hope for their son at that corrupted school. She winced at the long, shallow cut on her palm. He had also saved her life tonight, though he more likely saw it as an intrusion on his part.
She decided that she would do something kind for him. It might take her mind of her husband, and perhaps Severus would be too surprised to scowl, for once. But what could she do? She couldn't purchase anything overtly Dark for him; Dumbledore would sniff it out in a second. She realized that she had very little idea of his tastes in general, besides dreary. His cramped rooms at Hogwarts were certainly dreary, and she had the impression that he preferred them so.
She puzzled over this as she prepared herself for bed and drank a tiny drop of the potion he had provided for her. It worked perfectly; she drifted off in minutes, and she awoke after her first full night's sleep in months.
Severus Snape was an exceedingly difficult knot to unravel. To her exasperation, he didn't seem to like much of anything. She sorted through all the memories she possessed of her friend, but nothing stood out as helpful. The idea came to her suddenly while she was repairing the savaged bedroom the next morning. She smiled as she smoothed down the heavy scarlet comforter.
She shooed the house-elves out of the kitchen and searched for a full half hour before she located everything she would need. She carefully filled a velvet bag with her find and Disapparated. Her eyes strayed longingly toward the small but flourishing village near the school, but she didn't waver in her path. Hogsmeade was no London, but they always had a unique offering for shoppers. And because it was so near Hogwarts, it would be highly dangerous to show herself there. Of course, if Hogsmeade was dangerous, Hogwarts was an open trap.
She flicked her wand, murmured an illegal spell—as she did not possess the skills necessary to be a Metamorphmagus—and saw the blonde locks spilling freely down her shoulders darken and curl. Her skin took on a youthful glow and her eyes dimmed to a smoky green. She conjured a silver orb and gazed in appreciation at the figure reflected back at her. She could pass as a student, now. Another quick spell, and her dress became a robe greener than her eyes, stitched in silver. Her lips twitched at the thought that this detail would amuse Severus.
She strode up to the castle and through the unattended doors. Her breath caught in her throat when she saw the boy himself, black hair mussed around his scar. He looked at her quizzically, then saw her robes and averted his eyes. He bent near his friend, doubtless one of the dozen Weasleys, and whispered something. The red-headed boy turned and shrugged.
She hurried away toward the dungeon rooms. That child had brought down the Dark Lord as an infant and continued to thwart him. He shouldn't look so ordinary, she thought. But the scar was all the ornamention he needed.
The second surprise she had was the sight of her own son, deep in conversation with a girl she vaguely recognized. A Parkinson, likely. Two brutish boys tagged along, Crabbe and Goyle juniors. He looked so much like her father, but she could trace her image in that pale face too. She approached him and interrupted his conversation with the Parkinson girl, to the latter's chagrin. "Actions speak louder than words, Draco. I do hope you try to remember that." She left him gaping at her, for her voice had not changed with her form. The girl muttered something nasty.
She remembered the way to Severus's rooms easily and hoped he would be teaching now. As she passed the Potions classroom, she dared a quick peek and saw that he was sharply reprimanding a quivering girl. Perfect.
His rooms were sealed with a charm which dissipated at the right words. She entered and found the tiny kitchen adjacent to a study. It had seemed strange to her that he didn't simply order food from the house-elves when he didn't wish to dine with the rest of the school, but Severus was a man who valued his independence.
She took the ingredients from her bag and lay them out. Savory aromas soon filled the kitchen and study, thanks to Severus's precise teaching. She knew he could cook completely without magic if necessary, but she saw no reason to adhere to the same strictness. Really, all she did was speed up the process, and even so, she had nearly an hour until the meal would be ready.
His study was lined with books, most of which were dusty potions manuals. She tried a couple of volumes, but nothing held her interest. She knew it would be rude to enter his bedroom, but after three-quarters of an hour, she felt a bit claustrophobic in the dark room and decided to take a swift glance inside.
A plain bed with faded blankets, a battered armoire, and a nightstand. Simple enough. She began to leave when something caught her eye. A stray beam of light from the kitchen struck a silver frame. She inched her way inside, nervous but overwhelmingly curious. What sort of pictures would Severus keep by his bedside?
Ten minutes later, she stumbled out, oblivious to the odor of slightly burnt food. She fell into an armchair and sat there for a long time. The insistent smell of very burnt food reached her after awhile, and she blinked it out of existence with an impatient wave of her wand.
It was impossible. He should hate Lucius. He should hate Draco. He certainly shouldn't be visiting her and teaching her to cook. None of it made any sense, dammit! He was even more secretive than any of them had thought and more devious than they could have believed. He does his job well, she thought bitterly. They had all been so blind.
He had betrayed the Dark Lord and was now Dumbledore's lackey in the newly resurrected Order of the Phoenix. He had probably assisted in the capture of her husband and countless others. He was a role model for her son, and though Draco had never mentioned a suspicion of the professor's loyalties, she was sure he would subtly lead him away from the Dark Lord.
What was more, he was in love with her. She couldn't tell what the other pictures meant, but she knew enough. She saw his odd silences and awkward formality in a different light. She wondered how long he had loved her, how many evenings he had spent with the Malfoy family and tried to suppress those feelings.
She should kill him. She should go to the Potions classroom and blast him with Avada Kedavra before his students. Barring that, she should wait here and pretend ignorance until she lured him away from Hogwarts. It would be safest to do it at Malfoy Manor itself; it had seen its share of gore and was protected by more wards and secret rooms than she could count.
She got up and exited his rooms, checking to be sure he wasn't nearby. She kept her eyes down as she made her way through Hogwarts back to the gates. She didn't want to take the chance that she might see him. After she had walked a ways, she Apparated back home.
She rummaged through her husband's study until she found a blank parchment and a quill. There were so many things she wanted to say, wanted to demand of this man who had lied to them for years. But she wrote simply that although she was very grateful for his company for the past months, she felt she needed to begin returning to the world and would not require his presence again. She sent the letter with a grey, downy owl and then dropped her head into her hands.
It was reasonable request, after all, from one friend to another. Severus had chosen the wrong side, but that couldn't erase the time they'd all spent together, from their youth in the Slytherin common room to adulthood at Malfoy Manor. She couldn't forget soothing his hurts after the noble Gryffindors pulled another heartless prank and couldn't forget the times he had saved Lucius's life after ill-planned raids. She couldn't forget when he'd saved her life, just a few weeks ago. So now she would spare his, this once.
Edited to add that I've been told that the end is rather unclear. I did write it purposely to be a bit ambiguous, but I don't want it to detract from the story for anyone. Let's say the unclear stuff she found is other pictures, documents, which were magically encrypted (and which she magically un-encrypted) and told of his position as a spy for Dumbledore. That is what I wanted to imply happened during the mystery ten minutes but didn't seem to properly convey. Or maybe she just stumbled across something innocent and got all paranoid… it's up to you.