Disclaimer: The characters and places in this story are all the property of JK Rowling. I have merely borrowed them and given them my own little twist.

Rating: PG

This is basically most of Chapter Two of book six – Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, written from the point of view of Severus Snape. I did this for the Snape POV at Chambers of Secrets earlier this week and thought I would post it here too. It will obviously contain spoilers for the second chapter of the book. If you have not read that chapter then don't read this story.

"Who could be calling at this hour?" Severus Snape grumbled to himself as he made his way to the door. He switched off the Wizard Wireless on his way to the door. Typical that guests would arrive unannounced in the middle of his favourite programme.

He opened the door a fraction and looked outside.

"Narcissa! What a pleasant surprise!" he greeted her, silently wondering what it was that couldn't wait until morning. It had been bad enough with Lucius harping on and nagging at him for the last year; now he was in Azkanban it was his wife plaguing him.

"Severus, may I speak with you?" she asked. "It's urgent."

Always is, Severus thought to himself. I wonder what it is this time. Draco fell off his broomstick or a misbehaving house elf? "But of course." he replied aloud, silently cursing the position he was in that prevented him speaking his mind.

He stood back to let her in, and it was only then that he spotted Narcissa's older sister had accompanied her.

"Snape," she said curtly as she passed him.

"Bellatrix," he replied, smirking slightly as he recalled how Bellatrix had looked in her prime. Every snide remark she had ever made about his appearance came to mind and he wondered whether to repay her in kind now...the years she had spent in Azkaban had not been good to her.

"So, what can I do for you?" Snape asked after they had all sat down.

"We...we are alone, aren't we?" Narcissa asked quietly.

Severus managed to stop himself from rolling his eyes at the question. Did the woman seriously think he would entertain guests in this house?

"Yes, of course. Well, Wormtail's here, but we're not counting vermin, are we?" he replied aloud, wondering whether he had put down enough mousetraps the previous week. Pointing his wand at the wall of books he magically opened the hidden door, and the small man known as Wormtail was revealed on the staircase. No, not enough traps, Severus thought to himself. But since he was still around he might as well make use of him.

"As you have clearly realised, Wormtail, we have guests."

Wormtail walked into the room and Snape watched him caressing his silver right hand with his left. If only he showed that much care when doing the cleaning the place might look less shabby and more fit for company, Snape scowled.

Wormtail made to greet the two women but Snape quickly cut him off with instructions to fetch drinks. If Wormtail got chatting to the two women he'd never get shot of them.

Wormtail winced as though Snape had thrown something at him. Don't tempt me, Snape thought as Wormtail, for the dozenth time since he had been at Spinner's End, declared that he was not a servant.

"Really? I was under the impression that the Dark Lord placed you here to assist me," Snape said in a deceptively pleasant conversational tone.

"To assist, yes - but not to make you drinks and - and clean your house!"

Clean? Snape thought to himself. Is that what he called it? The first year students at Hogwart's were more adept at cleaning spells than Wormtail was. But at least he made it clear to the uninvited guests where the fault lay when it came to the poor state of the house. But still...

"I had no idea, Wormtail, that you were craving more dangerous assignments. This can easily be arranged: I shall speak to the Dark Lord - "

"I can speak to him myself if I want to!" Wormtail interrupted.

"Of course you can," Snape sneered, knowing full well that Wormtail had things pretty easy right now and once the new school year started he would have it even easier. "But in the meantime, bring us drinks. Some of the elf-made wine will do."

Snape watched Wormtail hesitate a moment as if he might argue. He wondered if he would water it down to make up for the nips he had been indulging in when he thought Snape wasn't looking. Wormtail returned with the drinks and dropped them on the table with all the grace of a pregnant hippo before slamming out of the room. You just can't get the help these days.

Severus poured a glass for himself and one for each of his guests. He noticed Bellatrix didn't emulate her sister and thank him. Azkaban obviously hadn't done anything to improve her disgraceful bad manners.

He wondered who he should propose a toast to. Absent friends? He looked at Narcissa's concerned expression...perhaps not. "The Dark Lord," he said and they joined in him the toast.

When she had finished her second drink Narcissa finally spoke.

"Severus, I'm sorry to come here like this, but I had to see you. I think you are the only one who can help me - "

Flaming women, Severus silently rolled his eyes as he held up his hand to stop her. Bad enough she comes round at such an hour, she hasn't even the sense to realise when to hold her tongue instead of running off at the mouth. Pointing his wand at the hidden door he soon heard the sound of Wormtail scurrying back up the stairs.

"My apologies," said Snape, explaining that Wormtail had been listening at doors recently, not that he should have to explain it to the infernal woman since she had seen him listening at the very same door not half an hour before.

"Severus," Narcissa continued once Wormtail was safely out of earshot. "I know I ought not to be here, I have been told to say nothing to anyone, but-"

"Then you ought to hold your tongue!" Bellatrix snarled as she interrupted.

Great Severus thought with a degree of impatience. Nothing changed between the two sisters, still squabbling, still unable to agree on anything, and still dragging him into the middle of their petty little arguments.

"Particularly in present company!" Bellatrix continued.

Oh great, we're back on that again are we? Snape sighed, quietly enough that they couldn't hear him.

"Present company?" he asked instead. "And what am I to understand by that Bellatrix?"

"That I don't trust you, Snape, as you very well know!"

Yes, we're back on that again, Severus thought. How many times would the woman drag this up before she'd learn to mind her own business. She was worse than Rita Skeeter for prying into the lives of others. Maybe he should suggest she take up a new career in that area...the amount of rubbish the Daily Prophet had been churning out in the last year they could hardly do much worse.

Snape turned to Narcissa who was knocking back the wine like there was no tomorrow. He would have to make sure the next bottle was watered down if they carried on like this much longer.

"Narcissa, I think we ought to hear what Bellatrix is bursting to say; it will save tedious interruptions." Snape turned to her sister. "Well continue, Bellatrix. Why is it that you do not trust me?"

"A hundred reasons!" she declared in a loud voice as she slammed her glass upon the table. If she breaks the glass then she can clean up the mess Snape resolved as she launched into the various complaints she had against him.

"Where were you when the Dark Lord fell?" Enjoying rather a nice feast at Hogwart's actually.

"Why did you never make any attempt to find him when he vanished?" What? Am I a private investigator now?

"What have you been doing all these years that you've lived in Dumbledore's pocket?" Ah, the sour grapes that I've not been in Azkaban with her.

"Why did you stop the Dark Lord procuring the Philosopher's Stone?" Because I don't have x-ray vision.

"Why did you not return at once when the Dark Lord was reborn?" Didn't the woman ever read Hogwart's: A History? How many people still think you can apparate out of there for goodness sake?

"Where were you a few weeks ago, when we battled to retrieve the prophecy for the Dark Lord?" Like I'd be getting myself caught up in the middle of that disaster waiting to happen!

"And why, Snape, is Harry Potter still alive, when you have had him at your mercy for five years?" Because it's far more fun making him suffer as long as I can.

Snape looked at Bellatrix when she came to the end of her rants. She had a little more colour in her cheeks now that she had had her say, unlike her paler sister who was still sitting with her face in her hands.

He wondered whether to give them the explanations he knew would keep them quiet only for a short time. Rumours never truly died and the more he tried to justify his actions the more it would seem like defending himself and covering up lies. No matter what he said there would always be someone who didn't believe him. It had taken long enough for Voldemort to accept his story; somehow he suspected Bellatrix would be a tougher audience than even the Dark Lord was.

But there was no choice, he would have to answer her questions or the pair of them would never leave him in peace.

"Before I answer you - oh, yes, Bellatrix, I am going to answer! You can carry my words back to the others who whisper behind my back, and carry false tales of my treachery to the Dark Lord! Before I answer you, I say, let me ask you a question in turn. Do you really think that the Dark Lord has not asked me each and every one of those questions? And do you really think that, had I not been able to give satisfactory answers, I would be sitting here talking to you?"

Snape watched her hesitate. He knew she was itching to say what she really thought but did not know whether he would carry her words in turn back to Voldemort.

"I know he believes you, but-"

Ah here it comes he thought. "You think he is mistaken? Or that I have somehow hoodwinked him? Fooled the Dark Lord, the greatest wizard, the most accomplished Legilimens the world has ever seen?"

What Bellatrix, no answer? Coward!

Severus then went on to explain his actions, making sure to draw attention to the points where he was working on Voldemort's orders. She knew his orders as well as he did, and could not argue against them.

When it came to explaining why he had not tried to find Voldemort he did not hesitate to bring Lucius to the forefront as an example of another person who had not bothered to track down the defeated wizard. Was she going to criticise him in front of his beloved wife? Didn't think so, he thought as she skimmed over that point and instead drew attention to the fact she had spent years in prison for him.

Big deal, Severus thought to himself. Does she think she's getting a pat on the back from me because she was stupid enough to let herself get caught and thrown in Azkaban?

"Of course, you weren't a lot of use to him in prison, but the gesture was undoubtedly fine -" Severus said in a bored tone, having heard more than enough about her trials and tribulations in the wizard prison to last a lifetime.

"Gesture!" Bellatrix shrieked. "While I endured the Dementors, you remained at Hogwarts, comfortably playing Dumbledore's pet!"

Severus drew a breath. What was the point of him sending Wormtail away from the door if this stupid woman kept bellowing at the top of her lungs? They could probably hear her in Diagon Alley the volume she was yelling at.

"Not quite," he replied however, hoping that his quiet calm tone of voice would be hint enough for her. "He wouldn't give me the Defence Against the Dark Arts job, you know. Seemed to think it might, ah, bring about a relapse...tempt me into my old ways."

There see, he thought to himself, I know all about sacrifices. He was not surprised to find that she was not impressed at what he had given up to remain at Hogwarts but he sealed any question of his usefulness of being there with a final dig..."I had sixteen years of information on Dumbledore to give him when he returned, a rather more useful welcome-back present than endless reminiscences of how unpleasant Azkaban is..."

But Bellatrix was still unsatisfied and only a final point that the Voldemort accepted his reasons so she should too, finally put a stop to her questions on why he had stayed at Hogwarts.

When it came to the whole business about the Philosopher's Stone Severus at least knew that the simplest explanation was the best. He didn't know that Quirrell was harbouring Voldemort and had done everything to stop him getting the stone. He wondered why no one had realised this point in the first place. Was it too much to ask that they use their brains? Or had Azkaban managed to destroy basic reasoning skills too?

Severus then went on to explain why he had been late returning and again made sure to press home the point that Voldemort was pleased that he had done as he had. Bellatrix might argue with him but the Dark Lord was another matter entirely.

"But what use have you been?" sneered Bellatrix. "What useful information have we had from you?"

Good grief, was there no end to her questions? What does she want information for anyway? Was she about to start a Death Eaters newsletter with a section on spy reports from Hogwarts and personal tales from inside the walls of Azkaban?

He pointed out to her that his information went directly to Voldemort, only to have her argue that he in turn shared all his information with her.

Foolish woman...he never shares everything with anyone!

"He calls me his most loyal, his most faithful-" Bellatrix bleated.

"Does he?" Snape replied. "Does he still, after the fiasco at the Ministry?"

"That was not my fault!" Bellatrix retorted as Snape mentally chalked another point onto his score chart.

He was so busy mentally counting the points he didn't realise that Bellatrix had brought Lucius into the discussion again, much to the fury of Narcissa who finally let on that she was actually listening to the conversation.

"There is no point apportioning blame," Snape interjected eager to put a stop to the feminine squabbles before they started again. "What is done is done."

He wondered at the wisdom of his final words when Bellatrix homed in on them to once again bemoan the fact that he was not at the Ministry.

Humph, if I'd been there he'd have had the prophecy with no problem, Snape thought to himself. I wouldn't have been picking a fight with a bunch of juvenile delinquents and bodging the job.

He reminded Bellatrix yet again of his orders from Voldemort, knowing she could not argue with them.

But of course it was not enough to satisfy Bellatrix who once again brought up the subject of the Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix.

How many times do I have to explain the concept of the secret keeper enchantment? Snape sighed.

He explained the concept nevertheless and decided things might move a little faster if he could just get her on side and so offered a little praise for her efforts in finishing off Sirius Black. He toasted her but she didn't seem to appreciate the gesture. Pity, since he meant it wholeheartedly. Sent through the veil by Bellatrix Black...couldn't have happened to a nicer person.

Finally Snape settled her question of why he had not killed Harry Potter. He wondered whether to point out to her the fact that he was the luckiest brat on the face of the Earth or just to give her the same explanation he had given Voldemort. He decided on the latter and after putting forward his explanations for why Dumbledore still trusted him Bellatrix finally seemed at a loss for words.

He wouldn't say she was satisfied but at least she had shut up questioning him long enough for him to turn to Narcissa and find out what the heck it was she wanted.

"Now...you came to ask me for help Narcissa?"

She looked up, her expression showing that she was likely to fall apart at any moment. As long as she waited until she had left before she collapsed into hysterics, he thought.

"Yes, Severus. I - I think you are the only one who can help me, I have nowhere else to turn. Lucius is in jail and..."

Oh great, bring up Azkaban again why don't you? Just the thing to set your sister off again. Oh and here come the waterworks.

"The Dark Lord has forbidden me to speak of it," Narcissa continued. "He wishes none to know of the plan. It is...very secret. But-"

"If he has forbidden it, you ought not to speak," Snape interrupted, hoping she would take his advice and make her excuses and leave. "The Dark Lord's word is law."

Narcissa looked like she might take his advice and Bellatrix was certainly in agreement with him for the first time since her arrival. It was the fact that she was agreeing with him that made him wonder what it was that they knew that he didn't. With the pretence of checking for spies on the deserted street Snape considered his options. Voldemort never trusted anyone with all his secrets and it looked like the sisters had one that he didn't. He wondered how hard it would be to get it out of them. He looked back at them and realised it would not be that difficult at all, especially if they thought he already knew.

Narcissa readily believed that he already knew of the plans although he was not surprised to find that Bellatrix was rather more sceptical. Though he knew he could have handed her the plans written on scrolls in his own blood and she still would have believed he didn't know and somehow had managed to fake them. There really was no pleasing her at all.

He turned his attention back to Narcissa who was weeping openly over Draco who was clearly involved in this plan of theirs.

Draco? he thought to himself. What sort of idiot would entrust Draco with anything? Voldemort really had lost it this time, he might be back in body but his mind was far from restored if he thought Draco Malfoy was worth trusting with anything even remotely important.

Narcissa continued to bewail her son's fate, moaning about punishments in return for Lucius's mistakes. He wondered briefly what mistake she was referring to - the mess at the Ministry or Draco himself.

He was still trying to figure out what it was that her darling boy had been asked to do when Narcissa began to suggest and then openly ask that he take over the job instead.

He was still hedging his bets on what to reply when Narcissa fell down at his feet and began sobbing and moaning on the floor.

It must be bad if the snobbish and vain Narcissa Malfoy was grovelling in the far from clean floor for a favour.

Bellatrix at least had finally stopped getting on Snape's case and was now seemingly doing everything she could to upset her sister further. Each time she opened her tactless mouth she triggered another sob, scream or moan from her younger sister.

Whatever it was that Draco was to do was clearly something life threatening. He just wished that one of the two women would get to the point, preferably before daybreak.

He suggested that he thought the Dark Lord did want him to complete the task if Draco failed but it didn't seem to either appease the women or encourage them to put forth any useful information. He had to admit though that he had a suspicion of what it was that Draco had been ordered to do. A suspicion that seemed ridiculous when you considered Draco was only sixteen years old...but a valid suspicion for the ambitious young student nonetheless.

Narcissa meanwhile was screaming and sobbing enough that even Severus had had his fill and he manually lifted her up and steered her back to the sofa before slamming another glass of wine into her hand.

She drank a little, and spilled more, as she begged Severus to help, guide and watch over Draco in the months to come.

Severus gave vague promises which he hoped would suffice. The breaking of the glass as she flung it across the room told him that it wouldn't. A moment later she was back on the floor at his feet again and she spoke the fateful words as she asked him to make an Unbreakable Vow.

He echoed her words, unsure whether to believe what he was hearing. He didn't need to see Bellatrix's face to tell what her response was. Ms-Know-It-All was so sure he wouldn't entertain the idea. He'd show her.

He looked at Narcissa, weeping yet again as he agreed. "Certainly, Narcissa, I shall make the Unbreakable Vow. Perhaps your sister will consent to be our Bonder?"

He saw Bellatrix's mouth fall open. Hah - that shut her up.

He wished that he had forced Wormtail to clean properly as he knelt on the floor. He hoped he wouldn't have rat-droppings all over his robes when he stood up again.

All too soon the Vow was taken. And still he didn't know what it was that Draco had been entrusted to do. He hoped he figured it out before the Vow worked his magic and he died for lack of keeping it.

He looked at Narcissa's relieved and grateful expression and Bellatrix's astonished one. He wondered how long it would take to get the pair of them out of his house now that Narcissa finally had what she came for.

An hour later, all the wine had gone, his programme on the wireless had long since finished and the former Black sisters had gone on their way. Wormtail returned back down the stairs and popped his head round the hidden door.

"Nice party?" he asked with a snicker.

I definitely need to stock up on mousetraps, Severus thought as he raised his wand and slammed the door shut for the final time that night.