The sins of the Mother
(a tale in three parts)
Sunday morning at Malfoy Manor,
The morning after the night before.
Narcissa thought that she would be lucky to find more than a handful of times in the last fifteen years when she had felt so alive. It was a common belief, she thought, that one felt most alive when staring death in the face. But she had never found that, not in the darkest, bleakest, most terrifying moments of her existence.
Voldemort is back!
But, this morning …. she reached her arm across the lip of the fountain to trail her fingers in the clear, cool water. The early morning sunshine glittered on the water as if it was alive, and happy to be so. Narcissa leaned over to catch a glimpse of her own reflection, and smiled a little at what she saw. So lovely, so very lovely to behold. Irony twisted her lips into a smirk, as she considered the truth, that beauty was only skin deep. At least, in her case. But, to some men, certainly to the type of men she knew well, it was enough.
Voldemort is back!
She noticed that her fingers trembled slightly as she withdrew them and shook them, and glanced towards the manor. Most of the windows on the first floor were still draped, muffled to the light and purity of the morning, the rooms behind dim and stuffy, bodies twisted beneath the sheets soiled with sweat, semen and blood, air sour with the exhaled fumes of alcohol and rich food, chandeliers still trembling with cries, shouts, moans and screams.
Voldemort is back!
But he was not one of the bodies lying spent in the guest rooms of Malfoy Manor. He was still weak, she had heard, holed up in some secret place.
Hopefully far from here.
Her eyes scanned the entire length of the house, across the first then the second floors, working out which room Lucius was most likely to be in. It had not been a large party, probably no more than fifty guests, but then Lucius' gatherings tended to take up rather a lot of room. She had seen him with many women last night – inclining his pale head as he spoke, graceful fingers brushing bare arms, the palm of his hand placed on the small of a back as he edged past, meaningful silent glances exchanged across rooms.
Many women. And also men. He had spoken to them all last night. There was no-one he had not had some intimate moment with, except her. But she had become resigned to that, that the best she could ever hope for from Lucius in public was the most chaste of dry lips on her cheek and a formal proffered arm.
Not that she ever slept alone after these parties either. Only one person was usually that lucky, and that was Severus Snape. He was renowned for it - over the last fifteen years it had evolved from being a hilarious joke to a foregone conclusion and, to her knowledge, he had only ever broken his apparent vow of chastity once, when the Dark Lord had demanded it of him for a particular type of magic.
But soon the other revelers would be awake, and the taunts would fly at him again, because they had all seen him climb the stairs with her, her hand resting on the soft velvet of his arm, his head inclined towards hers, her in that scrap of a gown that barely covered her breasts. How would Severus bear it? Would he sneer, in that most delightful, practiced way, and admit that he had gone with her because she had begged him to? Would he betray her, to save face? Or would he play to her, and give this tenuous link to her future happiness some substance?
Was she able to get him to trust her, or would he force her hand, and make her take this all the way? She did not want to. She knew that her years as Lucius' wife had worn her courage, however it had honed her cunning.
Voldemort is back!
Her stomach churned. She folded her hands on her lap and closed her eyes, feeling the breeze caress her face and run the abandon of its hands through her hair, and she breathed slowly, forcing her throat to relax, calming the fear that made her want to be sick. The water of the fountain was soothing. Birds sang. House elves shuffled in the rose garden behind the wall to her right, and she heard the occasional metallic snip. Gravel crunched underfoot on the path to her right.
She opened her eyes to the approaching figure, dressed in black even on this most beautiful of summer mornings. She studied him and wondered again, did his appearance make him the creepy, sardonic, bitter and cruel man he seemed to be, or did he use his appearance more creatively than first glances assumed?
"Severus," she greeted, as smoothly as she could.
"Narcissa." He clipped his stride, turned on his heels and sat beside her.
There was a long silence. She started at her hands, occasionally flickering her eyes towards him. He was staring across at the manor, his aquiline profile quite composed.
"I would like an explanation," he said, finally, in a dry tone that he probably used on his students. He looked at her when she did not immediately reply.
"I'd have thought last night was enough explanation," she replied, after a moment.
"No," was all he said.
She resisted his tactics. Lucius did this, left long silences in the hope she would feel uncomfortable and try to fill them. She was more than used to it, she did not know how good at it Severus was. She thought carefully, and said, "I used you, Severus, and I'm not sorry. I can only thank you for …. all you did."
"Or did not." The ghost of a smile graced his lips.
Narcissa felt warmed by hope, but forced her thoughts back into focus: "I kept my part of the deal," she said, "Not only that: if you don't be seen to be partaking, they'll stop trusting you. You have too many grey areas for their liking." She took a deep breath. "I didn't lay a hand on you. Now I must know, will you keep our deal to yourself?"
He looked at her. He examined her eyes, then her face, her hair, and glanced down the length of her body. "Actually," he said, "I awoke around four to find you with your arms around me."
There had been nothing remotely appreciative in his examination of her, which worried her. "Unconsciously so," she said, quickly, knowing it to be the truth.
"Nevertheless, not one hand, but two," he said.
She caught a sharp breath, then to cover her impatience, made a frown. "It must have been terrible for you," she said, with only the slightest sarcasm. "I certainly didn't -."
"Narcissa," he said, softly, arching a brow, "rest assured, I don't for one minute think that you find me attractive."
She blinked, forced a smile and altered her approach. Sympathy. "I'm nervous. Bear with me."
"You are asking if I will keep our secret? I want to know first, why you begged me to stay with you? What do you get from this? And please –" he rolled his eyes "- don't tell me you're secretly in love with me." .
She had begged, he was right: she had taken his hands and murmured to him, her lips brushing his ear, her nose filled with the pungent herby smell of his hair. It could have been erotic, if one could have had an erotic experience with the asexual Snape.
Her thoughts were leading her astray, and she shoved them aside.
"Avery had me lined up for himself," she said. "You must know what Avery's in to. He arrives with a suitcase."
Snape glanced away into the distance again. His expression was unreadable.
"I wasn't trying to be the one who broke the will of Solitary Severus Snape," she said. "It was not a ploy to get you into my bed. I did not see you as a challenge or a sexual mystery to be illuminated. I did not desire you, nor want you to desire me. I was not looking to ruin your reputation. I needed your protection. I thought I might at least be able to rely upon your, ah, reputation."
"You've been with Avery before. Many times."
"I'm a Metamorphmagus," she said, bitterly. "Avery likes that."
At last, a flicker of interest in the depths of his eyes – or was it a reflection of the sunshine? "Still," he said, "I've never noticed you complain. On the contrary, you have seemed to appreciate each other's company."
"Well," she said, with the softest hint of irony, "one can have too much of a good thing."
Snape shrugged, studying her face. "He did not seem to miss you. I saw him disappear with Ignatia Winterton. And Arabella Lyon. And Samuel Lafayette."
Narcissa shuddered. It was uncontrolled and spontaneous. He watched her, still giving nothing away.
"No doubt Lucius will demand a full account," he said.
"He's probably not the only one."
"We should have discussed this further last night," he said, with a thoughtful frown.
"I thought you would think I was trying to … inflame you with details," she said, quite truthfully.
Snape grimaced and suddenly laughed. "I've told you many times before when you've tried to seduce me, Narcissa - you expect men to fall at your feet. I can assure you there is nothing more likely to turn me off. I did wonder if last night was a new approach at seduction. Yet now I suspect you were genuine."
She bridled, then recovered herself, and said, "We'll agree then, on the details of the seduction."
"Let's see," Snape murmured, resting is chin on his fist. "I was incredibly frustrated, almost frantic from years alone. I needed to be coaxed, but once free from the shackles of my self-imposed solitude –" he broke off, looking almost amused, but with the hint of something else, another emotion.
"I like to be licked," Narcissa said, softly, "all over. Special attention to my … to certain areas. It's my trademark. Lucius will expect that I demanded that of you."
"Oh?" he asked, perhaps sharply, certainly a different tone than she was used to from him.
"No doubt I would have reciprocated the favour," she replied. "I like to have control. I don't get it very often, so it would have been an ideal opportunity."
"I will defer to the voice of experience," he said, silkily, though she noted his jaw was set and a muscle twitched beneath his eye. "I'm happy to let you deal with the erotic details, Narcissa."
"Sit down, Severus," she said, "We have to do this together."
"They will have to think me too coy to reveal details of my conquest. I'm not in the mood for a lesson in what Lady Malfoy likes to do in bed – which would be, you must agree, more information that I will ever need."
She cast him her most lascivious smile. "If I'd had you, Severus, you would be bragging about it."
He stared at her, and gave a weary sigh. "Don't start flirting with me now, Narcissa. Though we may find ourselves – unlikely bed partners." He gave an odd smile.
And it will bring us closer, she thought: allies, Severus and I! In the space of twenty-four hours she had come from having no-one to help her, to being presented with this …. gift, if one could refer to Severus in that way.
By the Dark Mark, what was she thinking? – but, she knew, she had no choice. But, after last night and what she had learned, Severus was possibly as dangerous to her as he was her only chance, their only chance ….Voldemort …
"Alright," she said. "Thank you, Severus."
"One further question - what happens next time?"
She had already considered this, at length. "There are many factors in this, many other people, all with their own agenda. I would be … pleased to share a chaste bed with you again in the future."
" I'd like to add, at this point, that I wouldn't like either of us to think we had a bond of responsibility towards the other."
"Of course not," she assured him.
Then she said, standing and smoothing out her rumpled skirts: "By the way, were you aware that you talk in your sleep?"
His eyes snapped to her, his expression frozen. "I do not."
"You do." She wet her lips with her tongue. "Gobbledygook, mostly."
Snape thrust out his chin, his dark eyes glittering as the sun caught them alight – not like on the water, she thought. She wondered, suddenly, if she had moved too fast. But she pressed her point – there was no going back now.
She swooped and kissed his cheek, quickly, before his surprised flinch moved him out of range. "Don't worry, Severus," she said, kindly, "we're still even. I never had any interest in potions."
And she turned on her heel and walked back towards the house. I did it, she thought, triumphantly. She walked lightly, feeling like she wanted to dance, almost drunk on the elation of the chase, the thrill of her secrets: there was a point to all this, her life, her pain and her humiliation, after all.
For Draco, she thought, for Draco!
Voldemort was back, flesh and blood, and that could only mean one thing for Draco.
But his mother had a plan.
In the next installment - blackmail in 'Sins of the Mother' Chapter Two!