by She's a Star
Disclaimer: Harry Potter belongs to J.K. Rowling.
Author's Note: This is for my dear friend Crystal, who asked for a Snape/Narcissa fic. It kinda turned out not being quite with the shippiness, but . . . it has both of them. Interacting, even! Anyway, one of the other things I just adored about HBP was being introduced properly to Narcissa, whom I absolutely adore. After all the fandom/fanfic speculation, it was so cool to have some actual canon. And I also thought there was kinda a dynamic going on with her and dear ol' Severus.
And really, what comes next if not fic?
So, I kinda like the beginning of this. The second half, not so much. But don't mind me.
This is set almost immediately after HBP.
i could possibly be fading
or have something more to gain
i could feel myself growing colder
i could feel myself under your fate.
-Mazzy Star, 'Into Dust'
When he takes her away, she is happy to go. The house has been cavernous and cold without Lucius; she is overwhelmed by empty space and cannot train herself to sleep in the middle of the bed.
They disappear quite effectively, in a manner too quick to be deemed fading. She leaves nearly everything as per his request; he says that doing so strengthens the illusion cast by vanishing. She slips a pendant Lucius had given her before they'd married into her bag, but doesn't wear it. Occasionally she will take it out when she is alone and stare in a way that creates an odd feeling of idleness and indulgence, something she misses. She cannot be sure whether this is a secret.
True to his promise, he has taken care of Draco, though she is not quite satisfied that he has performed this task sufficiently. Her son doesn't speak and always now there is a peculiar spark in his eyes. It leaves her uneasy; she does not like to admit it and pretends that it is merely paranoia when it reminds her of Bellatrix. Her sister is no longer beautiful. The first time they'd met, after her escape from Azkaban, Bella had kissed her, hard and lingering, on the mouth in place of a hello. Trying to steal beauty, to inhale from Narcissa what she herself had lost. It sounds grandiose and ridiculous but regardless Narcissa knows, the way she simply knows some things.
Draco has not touched her, which is characteristic of him, but he has not pulled away either. He'd been a child once, hers and perfect and with this in mind, one night, she brushes his hair away from his forehead, presses her lips to it. He is burning up and this is unusual because it is a rare occurrence, him falling prey to a fever. Throughout his childhood, he'd almost never fallen ill.
"Are you all right, darling?" she asks, back of palm to searing flesh, a mother's gesture. He doesn't say anything. His eyes glint strangely as he looks at her and she tells him to rest.
She leaves him and steps outside. The moon is bright, and the air is hot and heavy. Her eyes flutter closed for a moment as she lifts her hair away from her neck.
It so happens that he is already there, though she does not notice until he speaks. She is too scattered to be observant these days.
"How is he, then?"
"Unwell," she responds, after a moment, and opens her eyes. "He's been different, ever since . . ."
There are certain things she doesn't say, and this is one of them.
"Yes, well," Severus responds, practically unconcerned. He is little more than a shell of a man, she thinks sometimes, and is still surprised he'd agreed to help her in the first place. Often, she wonders why. "I suspect that Dumbledore said something to him before I arrived. I doubt," he continues, and smirks wryly, "that the old man would have been able to resist such an ideal opportunity to sway a lost soul from the path of darkness."
"Don't," she chides, shaken despite herself. "It's not funny."
"And I did not say it was," he returns smoothly.
"You didn't have to," she says, her voice flickering into an unintended whisper. There are tears in her eyes and she knows she looks beautiful; moonlight has always flattered her.
Lucius cannot – could not resist her like this. At first, he'd scoff, deeming her pathetically weak and proclaiming that he was hardly fool enough to fall prey to such shameless airs. And then eventually, inevitably, he would kiss her eyes and take her in his arms, too proud to murmur reassurances, not really needing to anyway. She wonders how long he'll remain imprisoned. She wonders if he, too, will come back to her driven mad.
And then there is Severus, who is steady and (she sometimes suspects) soulless. He watches her and doesn't waver a bit. Instead, there is a thing like disgust in his eyes.
"I did as you requested," he reminds her. His tone is silken but something patronizing lurks beneath it. "I protected your son to the best of my abilities, and will continue to do so."
"Yes," she says vaguely, not agreeing. She turns her head, escaping his gaze; she knows that the curve of her throat shines, perfect ivory, in the moonlight; the tears glisten, not falling, in her eyes. He has no reaction to any of this. Even before now, she has suspected that there is no manipulating him, and does not care much anyway. It had been a halfhearted attempt.
She drops her hair and blinks the tears back.
"Ah, much better," Severus says. A smile twists at his mouth as he nods curtly in approval. "Your efforts toward inspiring some sense of guilt in me will always prove fruitless, I regret to inform you." He stands closer to her than he has ever attempted to before; it is something he had known better than to do with Lucius around. And here she has it, then. Another reason to miss her husband.
"You see," his left arm brushes her right, barely, "I have had enough experience in such matters that I am able to understand something that you are not."
She doesn't ask aloud, but at least turns to look at him. He seems to consider this prompting enough.
"It could have been much worse." His voice is quiet but somehow, regardless, does not get swallowed by the night. Perhaps the vastness and the blackness of all of this, of the silence and the moon, can be attributed wholly to her creation. It encompasses her; in the hot and maddened nights she tries to recall things as they'd been, lush and lovely, and finds that she cannot. There is no decadence here.
"All of this," she says viciously, struck by the sudden and strange realization that she is a Black before she is a Malfoy, that she has spent her entire life sleeping on silk sheets, that everything is falling into decay and dust and that before now she's never deigned to hold with such things, "it isn't worth anything. Unreasonable prices for shadows of triumph."
Part of her expects him to grow incensed at her words. It is a shocking thing that she's done after all, to question something so holy and untouched. Lucius would have been furious.
It is no matter, really; she'd never have said it to him.
Severus, though, is still and unaffected. When he speaks, his tone is almost genial. "You must remember, Narcissa, that it will all be over in time."
The words are strange, though she cannot discern why. For a fleeting instant, she thinks she may fear him.
"I suppose that makes it easier," she says coldly. She shivers and hopes he does not notice. It would be peculiar, after all, amidst the heat.
He stares straight ahead, not bothering to look at her. He seems too controlled, all of a sudden. Strange that she has not noticed it before. "I do not need things to be easy."
She considers things—
Draco's skin burning under her fingers, his eyes blank and bright. Bella's mouth against hers. Lucius in a cell, and Narcissa, Narcissa here without anything, such a tragic and beautiful creature.
"You wouldn't," she decides, and speaks more to the night than to him.
She knows he doesn't watch her as she leaves. When she cries herself to sleep, there is no satisfaction in it.