A/N: Okay, yes, this fic is OC-centric, but all I ask is that you give it a chance, because I have put a lot of effort into avoiding Mary-Sueness. We're talking multiple litmus tests, some multiple times. Also, I would like to thank my wonderful beta, Sylvia. (See? How can it be horrible if I have a wonderful beta?)
Also, small note, I mentioned this in a later A/N, but I started this story before the Black Family Tree was available, so Narcissa's age is wrong. It occurred to me when reading a rant that I should make that clear to new readers from the outset. You'll see this again in Chapter 4, which is when I realized my mistake.
Disclamer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Between Love and War
Remus Lupin looked at his three best friends. Up until a week ago, James Potter, Sirius Black, and Peter Pettigrew had been the only students at Hogwarts who knew his secret. Then Sirius, in a moment of bad judgment, had decided to play a "prank" on Severus Snape. The boys, specifically James and Sirius, were infamous for the pranks they were continually playing on the other students and Severus was their favorite target. Usually their pranks were harmless, but this most recent one was not. Tired of Severus following them around and trying to get them in trouble, Sirius tricked him into entering a passage that led straight to Remus in transformed werewolf form. Fortunately, James had rescued Severus before he had been harmed. Unfortunately, Severus had seen Remus and now knew his lycanthropic secret. Remus had been furious, and refused to speak with Sirius for five days. Finally James had gotten him to agree to a meeting in the interest of damage control.
Peter tried to be optimistic. "Dumbledore made him promise to keep quiet. I'm sure that'll be enough." Dumbledore was the headmaster at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where all four boys were in their sixth year of studies and housed in the Gryffindor dormitory. Incidentally, Severus Snape was also in his sixth year, but he was in the Slytherin house.
"Yeah, but I think we should consider the possibility that he might break his promise to Dumbledore. Let's think, if Snivellus was going to tell anyone, who do you think it would be?" asked James, referring to Severus by the nickname they had given him.
The boys thought for a moment. Remus was the first to come up with an answer. "He doesn't really have any friends, so I think the first person he would go to would be his sister." The other three nodded in agreement.
"Okay… now that that's settled, what are we going to do?" asked Sirius.
"That's simple. You're going to ask her what she knows," Remus replied.
"One reason is that you have the best access. She is best friends with your cousin."
"A cousin who I never talk to and who hates me."
"But mostly it's because this whole thing is your fault. You planned the whole thing alone and you told Severus to go down there. You were completely thoughtless and risked-"
"Fine, if I ask her, will you forgive me?"
Remus hesitated. "Yes," he answered reluctantly
"Great, now how exactly am I supposed to get her to talk with me?"
James had an answer for this. "Flirt with her. Do whatever it is that makes girls follow you around."
"Girls do not follow me around. Besides, I tried to kill her brother. That might make her immune to my charms."
Remus was frustrated and tired. "I don't care if you have to sleep with her, just do whatever it takes to find out exactly what Severus told her," he said, effectively ending the matter.
The next afternoon, Sirius saw Vivian Snape walking with Narcissa Black. At first glance, Vivian did not really look much like her brother, because she did not share his one distinguishing feature. Severus had a long, hooked nose, whereas Vivian's was smaller and indistinctive. She was also easily ten centimeters shorter than her younger brother. Their hair and eyes were similar, but hers were more of a dark brown rather than Severus's black. Though her skin tone would be considered pale by conventional standards, next to her brother and her parents Vivian looked a little dark. Sirius was loath to admit it, but he did actually find Vivian somewhat attractive, and even though he was hoping that he would not have to use any extraordinary means to find out what he needed to know, he did not think he would have and trouble turning on the charm for her if it came to that. Both Vivian and Narcissa were Slytherin seventh years, and had a reputation for being very unapproachable. For this reason, they were, after James and Sirius, probably the most well known duo in the school. Normally Sirius would have avoided them at all costs, but today he was on a mission. He gritted his teeth and came up behind them.
"Hey Snape, can I talk to you?"
Both Narcissa and Vivian looked back. Narcissa looked vaguely repulsed, as if she could not stand the thought of people seeing her talking to Sirius. Vivian, on the other hand, just seemed surprised. "Oh, Sirius. What did you say?"
"Can I talk to you?"
"Yeah, that's what I thought." She crossed her arms and shrugged. "Didn't you try to kill my brother last week?"
Sirius rolled his eyes. "That's an exaggeration. It was just a prank. But that actually is what I wanted to talk to you about."
Vivian looked like she was about to refuse, but after looking at Narcissa she suddenly said, "Okay, let's talk." Then she turned back to Narcissa. "I'll catch up with you in the common room later." She watched her friend leave, but even after Narcissa was long gone, Vivian still did not turn back to Sirius.
He cleared his throat. "Can we talk now?"
"Huh?" She turned around. "Oh, I was actually just trying to get rid of Narcissa. She is such a bitch."
The last comment caught Sirius by surprise and he burst out laughing. Vivian just stood there impassively and waited for him to stop. Once he had, he asked, "Isn't she your best friend?"
"Yeah, she's my best friend; that doesn't make her a good friend. Did you see that look she gave me?"
"Like the mention of Severus reminded her that I'm from a low-class family, and my brother is a loser, and that she's doing me a favor by allowing me to be seen in public with her."
"If you mean the way her nose wrinkled up like she smelled something bad, Narcissa always looks like that. I think you're just being paranoid. Here, try again. What does my look convey?"
She stared at him. He wondered if she was truly trying to decipher his expression or if she was just bored with him. Finally she said, "You are amused by how class-conscious I am. And you have apparently forgotten that we hate each other, so if you could just get to the point here…"
"Right." Sirius realized they were still standing in the middle of the hallway, so he took her arm and pulled her off to the side. "I just wanted to know what exactly Sniv- Snape told you about the prank last week."
"You can't refer to both of us as 'Snape.'"
"He didn't tell me any details, just that you and your friends tried to kill him, but James Potter chickened out at the last minute and Dumbledore is forcing him keep quiet because, and I quote, 'he doesn't want his favorite students' records to be marred by this incident.'"
"That's absurd. James and I are always getting in trouble."
"Yes, I pointed that out, but, again according to Severus, those were pranks and this is attempted murder."
"It wasn't attempted murder; it was just a prank that got out of hand."
"Yeah, Sev hates you enough to embellish the details and he and I aren't really that close, so I would be inclined to believe that it was just a harmless prank if it weren't for one thing."
"The fact that you are here, talking to me, trying desperately to find out if I know anything about what happened that night."
"That's a good point. It is a little more complicated than I'd have you believe. And now that I've found out what I wanted to know, I'll let you go." He started to walk away, but suddenly he stopped and said, "By the way, I don't really think you're paranoid. Narcissa probably was thinking all those things."
Vivian nodded. "And were you really amused by how class-conscious I am?"
"Actually, I was. Can I ask you something?"
She smiled. "Why stop now?"
He took a few steps closer. "Why are you friends with Narcissa if you resent her so much?"
Vivian sighed. "To be honest, it's not just Narcissa I resent, it's all the people who were born into wealth and privilege and throw it in everyone else's face. And the people who toss it away because of some ridiculous idealism," she added as an after thought
He smirked. "I take it that's me."
"Well, you were the inspiration for that last part, but I actually meant all people who do that."
Sirius cocked his head to the side, as if seeing her in a new light. "I think I understand you now. You're very practical."
"What do you mean?"
"It was something you said about me tossing way my birthright for 'ridiculous idealism.' You're too practical for idealism. You're a smart girl. You could be destined for great things, as long as you ally yourself with the rich and powerful. In Slytherin you're surrounded by elitist snobs who value the purity of blood over everything else. So you befriend Narcissa and Lucius Malfoy, but to you they are stepping-stones on the path to greatness."
She stared at him, unsure of how to respond. "Wow, um,"—she cleared her throat—"that's an interesting theory that you've come up with after only talking to me for five minutes. The part of particular interest for me was how I'm too lazy to look outside my own house for allies. Just think about the implications of that statement. That would mean that I support people who kill Mudbloods, I mean, uh, muggle-borns, for the sole purpose of obtaining money and power. I'm curious, do you think I'm completely apathetic and have no views on this issue?"
Sirius paused for a moment. So much for flirting with her. "I think you're a cold, heartless, self-centered bitch. And it—"
She held up her hand to stop him. "Okay, that's… fine. I mean, I've worked hard to get that reputation, so… good! However, I don't really need to hear your theory. Here's the truth: I was raised this way, to believe these things."
"So was I, but—"
Vivian interrupted him again, ironically to say, "Let me finish. It wasn't that my parents told me that Muggles are inferior. As you may or may not know, my dad is a Muggle. He actually—"
"You mean the man who raised you was a Muggle."
Vivian blinked. "What?"
"Your father. I mean, you're adopted, right?"
"Oh, right. I didn't know that you knew that."
"I think everyone knows that. Your blood status is firmly 'pureblood' after all."
"Um, my biological parents abandoned me. They didn't want me so they foisted me off on his sis— Eileen and Tobias Snape are the only parents I've ever known. And despite the fact that… Severus is my brother, regardless of genetics. That's all I'm going to say about that. My dad actually tried to impart to us that Muggles are superior to wizarding folk. The prejudice against Muggle blood didn't come from my parents. Severus and I raised ourselves to feel this way because we hated our— and you see back then, we didn't know about—. Anyway, when people started to die, I mean, when the bodies really started to pile up, and I think by now everyone knows that it has escalated to that point, I started to doubt my beliefs. You're right; I've tried to favor realism over idealism, but I can't get these questions out of my mind. I mean,…"
Vivian shook her head. "I don't know why I just said that."
"But you did, so you may as well continue."
"Er, okay, even if I still believe we are superior, does that really give us the right to kill them? And that superiority is supposed to be in reference to magical ability, but it's obviously not true. Every day Muggle-borns are proving themselves to be just as capable as purebloods. So how can I believe that the purity of blood really matters? I think that's why I agreed to talk to you."
"I thought you were trying to get away from Narcissa."
"Yeah, that too. The doubting my entire belief system thing, that's why I'm still talking to you, having this conversation about idealism. Although I can't believe I actually just said all that out loud to someone I barely know."
"Yeah, it was strange," said Sirius quickly, trying to push past her reasons for the confession so that he could focus on its implications. "If you understand all that, why do you resent me for following conscience and risking my inheritance?"
"I've been poor, Sirius. I don't know why I said that in the past tense. I am poor, and even if I understand why you're doing it, I still… I'll be blunt. I still can't believe anyone would throw away that much money. Hell, I resent you just for the fact that you have an inheritance to risk. And you're not 'risking' it; you're going to lose it unless you repent immediately. Trust me, I kind of have an in on the Black family workings."
"I see. Thank you for your candor. Well, about the whole… pure-blood, belief system confusion, I think you should talk to Professor Dumbledore about it."
"Thanks." Vivian turned to leave, then she looked back at Sirius and said, "This was actually an almost pleasant conversation. Let's try not to make a habit of that."
"Agreed." Then Vivian and Sirius went their separate ways.
When Sirius got back to the Gryffindor common room, his three friends halted their conversation mid-sentence and looked at him expectantly.
When Sirius did not say anything, James spoke up. "Peter said he saw you talking to Snape's sister and the two of you looked very engrossed in conversation." This surprised Sirius. It was almost as if he had forgotten that other people existed while he was talking to her. He nodded. "So, what did she say?"
"So many things, really," Sirius said, still trying to wrap his mind around all the things Vivian had told him. "But specifically that Snivellus hasn't told her any details of the prank, and that so far he's keeping quiet because of Dumbledore."
"Well, that's good news," said James.
Remus was less relieved. "Yeah, for now." After a small pause, he asked, somewhat suspiciously, "How did you get her to talk to you?"
Sirius shrugged. "I didn't have to try too hard. She was perfectly willing to discuss it. Actually, the only reason she talked me was because she wanted a reason to get rid of Narcissa. I don't think they really like each other that much."
Peter was confused. "I thought they were best friends."
"Yeah, if they hate each other, why are they always together?" added James.
Sirius thought for a moment. "Because no one else will put up with them."
The other boys started laughing, but Sirius had a feeling he had hit upon the truth, and that just opened up more questions for him.
As she walked to her dormitory, Vivian could not believe the things she had said. Okay, she was having a small crisis of faith. Why did she have to tell Sirius Black of all people? And it wasn't just the things she said; it was the way she said them. Why wasn't she her usual snotty, condescending self? And why did she wish she were still talking to him instead of entering the Slytherin common room?
Her thoughts were interrupted by Narcissa. "What did my blood traitor of a cousin want?"
"To cover his own ass apparently. A prank went wrong and Severus almost died, so of course, Sirius wants to make sure no one knows the details."
Narcissa huffed haughtily. "Typical. Those Gryffindor boys are always doing something stupid. So, will you help me study for the potions exam now?"
Vivian sighed and sat next to Narcissa at the table. "Yeah, sure."
A couple days later Sirius saw Vivian again. She was leaving the Transfiguration classroom and this time she was alone. He jogged to catch up with her. "Hey Sna—Vivian, can we talk again?"
She looked up at him, a smile playing upon her lips. "I thought we had agreed not to."
"I just have a few questions about something we talked about before."
"If it's about my brother, I still don't know what happened that night, and if it's about my sympathies toward Mudbloods, forget I said anything."
"Why? No, never mind. It's not about either of those things."
"Now you've piqued my curiosity."
"I called you cold and heartless and you said that you had worked hard to get that reputation. What did you mean by that?"
"That's what you've been dying to find out for the last two days? Why does it even matter?"
Sirius tried to decide how in depth to go in his explanation. "I was talking to the guys and mentioned that you don't seem to like Narcissa. It occurred to me that maybe you and she are friends because nobody else will put up with you. But then why did you work hard to get that reputation that makes people think you're hard to get along with? Does that make sense?"
"Not quite, but I think I know what you mean. You want to know why I wanted to be thought of as difficult to get along with. I think your earlier theory covered why I'm friends with Narcissa."
"Right, but that theory doesn't account for you wanting a bad reputation."
"Maybe I've molded myself into the kind of person Narcissa would be friends with so that I can ride her coattails to wealth and power. Or maybe what I meant when I said that was that I am heartless and difficult to get along with and I want my reputation to reflect that. For the longest time people would come up to me and want to talk. Apparently I have a friendly, inviting face. It's very annoying. But for the last few years, it hasn't happened that often."
Sirius shook his head. "No, that's not it."
"What makes you so sure? You don't even know me. Where does this sudden insight into my mind come from?"
"From the things you say and the way you act. I don't believe you're heartless, not with the way you're struggling with the ethics of your fundamental pureblood beliefs. I am talking to you; I can tell you're not cold or difficult."
"Then why did you call me cold and heartless?"
"I'm fairly sure I was going purely on reputation, which makes me wonder why you want this reputation."
"And we've come full circle. Look, I gave you the standard answer. I'm not going to delve any deeper because I barely know you and you tried to kill my brother."
"You fascinate me. I can't stop talking to you. Everything you say makes me want to know more."
"Really? It sounds like you have a crush on me, Sirius."
"I sincerely doubt that's what it is."
"I'm going to try not to be offended by that statement. Why doesn't anyone ever have a crush on me?"
"Probably because of your reputation."
"Let it go. I meant that it's always Narcissa, who has the same reputation by the way. Yeah, she's tall and thin and blonde, but I think I'm cute too."
"Why are you telling me this? You barely know me."
"You're still fascinated, aren't you? Because you are the one who won't admit he has a crush on me."
"There's a difference between a fascination and a crush."
"Okay. Y'know, I have often thought that I am being overshadowed by Narcissa and if it weren't for her, I could be in the running for the prettiest girl at the school."
"What about Lysandra Godfrey?"
"The Ravenclaw sixth year with curly brown hair and big doe eyes."
"Look, I'm not saying I would be crowned 'The Prettiest Girl at Hogwarts,' I just think I could be in the running, but not next to Narcissa with her perfect little body."
"Nobody actually likes Narcissa."
"They don't like her, but they still want her. Oh, I'm not talking about you. I didn't mean—I'm not saying you lust after your cousin. I just meant guys in general."
"Why did you segue into this subject?"
"I've wondered about this for a few years now, and I'm hoping that since you have a crush on me, you'll be biased enough to confirm it."
"You're flirting with me." He said in an amazed tone. "I have to know, are you flirting purely to fuel my fascination or do you have a crush on me?"
Of course she had a bit of a crush on him. Every girl in the school did, but she certainly was not going to tell him that. Instead she laughed as if the thought were ridiculous. "I'm not flirting with you."
Sirius's eyes grew wide. "You do! That's why you keep saying that I have a crush on you; you're projecting. If you didn't, why would you be trying so hard to get me to tell you you're attractive?"
"Because you are the first guy, other than my brother and possibly my father, that I have had a decent conversation with in the last six years. And as a bonus you're related to Narcissa, so you, hopefully, aren't attracted to her, like Lucius Malfoy, who I just remembered. So, yes, I really want to know, do you find me attractive?"
"So spending all your time with Narcissa has given you low self-esteem. She's rich, she's beautiful, and you feel inadequate next to her."
"Could you stop analyzing me for two seconds and answer my question?"
"Oh." He hesitated. "Yes, you are attractive in a girl-next-door way. That just means I'm able to appreciate you aesthetically. And I prefer brunettes, so you have that advantage. It doesn't mean I have a crush on you."
Vivian was smiling broadly while he spoke. Once he finished, she said, "There is a very real, very specific reason I want to be known as the bitch. It's also very personal, and I want to tell you that if we keep having conversations like this I'll eventually explain it, in hopes of playing on the interest that has drawn you in this far. Because I actually enjoy these weird conversations we have. Anyway, but the truth is I can't promise that I'll tell you at some later time because it might not be true. And I am not saying this to fuel your infatuation with me. I just want you to know that you can keep talking to me and trying to figure out what goes on in my head, but you deserve to know that you may never… I may never tell you about the things that really shape my personality."
"This is why I can't stop talking to you. You started out normal, but since then you have just gotten more and more neurotic. I mean, I thought you had topped out when you asked me if I find you attractive, but that last speech was far beyond anything you've said before. The first time we talked you sort of contradicted yourself a couple times; it was nothing like this. Now I wished I'd never asked you to explain, because I think I'd talk to you forever just to find out what those things that shaped your personality are."
"As long as you understand that you may know."
"Oh, I understand that."
"And you should know that I'm not normally this neurotic; this isn't a secret side I'm hiding. You get me all flustered."
"Coming from an ice princess, I think that's the best compliment I've ever gotten."
"Oh no! I have to go. I'm going to be late for Charms."
"Yeah, I have a class too. I'll talk to you later."
The next morning at breakfast, Vivian marched over to the Gryffindor table. She interrupted Sirius in an icy tone. "I need to talk to you about something my brother just told me."
Sirius sighed. If she knew what happened that night, then this would probably be the last time she talked to him, and there was still so much he wanted to know. "Yeah, okay. Can we talk privately though?"
"I think that would be best."
Once they had gotten out to the hall, he asked, "So, you know?"
"No, he didn't tell me anything, although I must say I'm curious. I just needed a legitimate excuse to pull you aside. By the way, the Slytherins think I'm trying to bully you into telling me because Severus won't."
"Then what is this really about?"
"We can't keep talking in the halls. Whatever it is that's happening between us, and I don't feel like defining it right now, I want that to stay between us. I think that we are both happy with the current public opinion of us, and the last thing we want is to be seen together. This will be our last public conversation. So if you want to practice your amateur psychology on me, or even if you just fancy me, we need to schedule a private meeting in a completely out of the way place."
"You mean like a date, don't you?"
"That would be defining our relationship, and we can do that when we meet for our secret date."
Sirius knew she was teasing him, but he couldn't help but be a little miffed. "I'm going to forget that you just said 'relationship' and 'date,' and go ahead with the arrangement. I will meet you tonight outside the entrance to Slytherin at two a.m. I may be able to get my hands on an invisibility cloak. If I don't show up by quarter after, assume that I was unable to get the cloak."
"Wow, you came up with that rather quickly."
"I was actually thinking the same thing about being seen in public. You're always smiling at me and you never smile. It looks suspicious. When we go back in, I'm going to tell my friends that you knew nothing and were trying to trick me into telling you the details. If you say the same thing to your housemates, everyone will think that's what happened and they'll never know that we actually get along."
"That's very plausible, and it's handy to know that you're so good at lying. I'll see you later." Then she turned around and walked angrily back into the Great Room.
Sirius followed her in and sat with his friends again. Remus looked scared, but Sirius reassured him. "She doesn't know anything. She was bluffing, trying to get me to let something slip. She's dying to know what happened, but as far as I can tell Severus is going to keep his mouth shut."
"Well that's good news."
"Actually, the good news is that if she does find out, she'll probably come to me first and I'll get a shot at convincing her to stay quiet."
Peter looked skeptical. "Why would you be able to convince her to keep quiet? She looked rather hostile when she came over here. If anything, she'd probably spread the news just to spite you."
"No, she's not spiteful."
"Who's not spiteful?" asked Lily Evans as she sat down with the group. Lily was also a sixth year in Gryffindor. It was common knowledge that James fancied her, but what most people did not know was that secretly Lily liked him too. She always said that she started hanging around with the boys because of her friendship with Remus, and while it was true that she and Remus had become good friends over the last couple years, James was the real reason she had befriended the others. However she had no intention of letting him know that. In Lily's opinion, James was overconfident in his skills, as a student, Quidditch player and a member of the opposite sex. She didn't want to like him, but she couldn't help it.
"Vivian Snape, the girl who just dragged me out of here to yell at me."
"Yeah, what was that about anyway?"
The four boys exchanged glances. Lily did not know that Remus was a werewolf, and although she was a friend and probably the most understanding person he knew, he didn't want her to find out. In fact, Remus had not intended for the other three to find out either, but they had put all the clues together on their own, especially since he always disappeared at the full moon.
"It was about the way we treat her brother. She wants us to stop being so hard on him." James was satisfied with his answer since it was, as far as he knew, technically true.
"I can see her point. You guys are really mean to him."
James rolled his eyes. The one thing Lily and he disagreed about the most was Severus. James did not understand why she defended him. Severus always said horrible things to her because she had been born to a muggle family, but Lily would just shrug it off and get angry at James for picking on him. He looked over at Sirius, but his friend was lost in his own world.
James's response had gotten Sirius thinking. He realized that at some point he had forgotten that Vivian was actually Severus's sister. If he was going to keep seeing her, it would probably mean that he'd have to start being nicer to Severus. The thought left a bad taste in his mouth. He decided that was definitely something they need to talk about that night, because it could be a deal breaker.
"—idea. Right, Sirius?
Sirius had not heard a word Remus had said. "What?"
"Where were you just now?" asked Peter.
"I was, um… thinking."
Peter was not going to let it go. "About?"
"Vivian." Sirius replied simply, unable to think of anything else to say. "The things she's said, the way she's acted. I'm just trying to get some insight." He was surprised to see Lily nodding and wondered what exactly Remus had just told her. "So what were we talking about?"
After he picked her up that night, Sirius led Vivian to a deserted classroom on the first floor. It was filled with spare desks. Vivian used an Imperturbable Charm on the door so that no teacher patrolling the area would be able to hear the voices coming from the room.
She sat cross-legged on top of a desk. "So, do you have any new questions for me?"
Sirius thought of asking about Severus, but he knew that would probably start a fight, or worse cause her to storm out and never talk to him again. At that moment he knew for sure that he did like her in some capacity, because he was not ready for this to end. "Yes. Why did you talk to me that first day? I mean you clearly stated that you hated me. Wait, did you really hate me?"
She nodded her head. "Yes. Well, maybe not that much, I don't know. I talked to you because… I'm tired, of being isolated and of trying to be strong and of pushing people away. I think I was desperate for someone I could really talk to, but I don't know why that's you. I guess when you started analyzing me, I realized that I wanted someone to care. Oh," She scrunched up her nose. "I sound pathetic."
"No, you don't. It's not pathetic to want someone to talk to. I certainly understand that you couldn't talk to Narcissa. Let's see… what do you want to do when you get out of here?"
"That was random. I'm going to be a healer. But, more specifically, I want to work in the pharmacology laboratory at St. Mungo's."
"Oh, right. Aren't you some kind of potions prodigy?"
"No. No, you're thinking of Severus. He's the prodigy; I'm just really good at them. Professor Slughorn once told me that he didn't understand why I couldn't do this really difficult potion. Severus could do it when he was a fourth year. He said that right in front of the whole class. I should not have to try to live up to my younger brother. It was a NEWT level potion, for Merlin's sake! Sorry, I can get a little sensitive about that."
"Yeah, fortunately I haven't had that problem with my little brother."
"So what do you want to do after school?"
"I want to be an Auror."
"That's exciting. There must be a lot of work for an Auror, a lot of dark wizards with You-Know-Who gaining power."
"Yeah, speaking of dark wizards, did you say earlier that— Is Narcissa involved with Malfoy?" Vivian nodded. "Isn't he a little old for her?"
"He's only five years older than us. 'Us' being Narcissa and myself. That's not really that much of an age difference anymore if you think about it. Of course, maybe it is for you, because you're still just a kid."
"Yeah, five years older isn't much of a difference, but one year younger? That's unheard of. It occurs to me that you probably know more about what's going on with my family than I do."
"Well, about your cousins, certainly."
"So… what's going on with them?"
"All three of them?"
"Oh, let's see. Bellatrix and her husband are trying to get pregnant."
"That's a scary thought."
"Yes. Bella doesn't particularly want to become a mother, but Rodolphus insists that they need to start on the next generation of Death Eaters. However, so far they've had no luck. That 'traitorous slut,' Andromeda and her 'Mudblood' husband— Narcissa"s words, not mine—actually had a child a few years ago, which I'm sure you knew. Bellatrix is very upset about this, even though they had little—" She paused to remember the child's name. "—Nymphadora long before Bella even thought of having her own. And… actually I guess that's all for Bellatrix. As for Narcissa, she is engaged to Lucius Malfoy."
Sirius jumped on that word. "Engaged? I had no idea they were that involved."
"But you had to know how involved the families are. It isn't a marriage; it's a merger."
Sirius started to laugh. "That's true. Actually I suppose it should have been my merger; I was intended for Malfoy's little sister."
"I assume that was before you turned your back on the family values."
"I guess so. It doesn't matter. I never intended to marry Portia anyway. If I ever get married it's going to be because I'm in love, not because my mother arranged it."
"Why did you say it like that, 'If I get married?'? That's very cynical. I always say 'when.' When I get married, it's going to be a calculated power move, like Narcissa's."
"And you called me cynical. What if you fall in love, like Andromeda?"
"Love fades more quickly than power."
Sirius smiled. "How practical."
"Why are you smiling?"
"It's just that I was right about you from the start. You're too practical for idealism or love. Just because you're questioning You-Know-Who's methods doesn't mean you're going to do anything about it. There was a lot of misdirection in the later conversation, but it all comes back to practical."
"You make it sound so simple. Yes, I have one dominant principle that influences everything I do, but it's not practicalism— practic…ality." Vivian's cheeks colored slightly at her error. "It's not practicality. I'm not too practical for love; I just don't believe in it. My mum was in love with my dad, and look where that got her."
"Which mum and dad?"
"The Snape ones. Whenever I say 'my parents,' assume I mean the Snapes."
"There are worse things than being poor, you know."
"That's not what I—. You're right. I'm sorry. I am overly obsessed with social standing."
"Is that your driving principle, or goal, to improve your social standing?"
"Goal is a better word for it, but no. And I'm not trying to use you to achieve that end either, in case you were wondering."
"Then what is it?"
"I thought you understood that you may never find out the answer to that question."
"Can't hurt to try. Every time I think I've got it, you confuse me again."
"You're trying too hard. The way to get to know someone is to talk to them for a while and then form a theory when you have all the information."
"You just made it clear that you haven't decided whether to give me all the information or not."
Vivian opened her mouth to speak, and then she closed it. She looked pensive for a moment before burying her face in her hands. "What am I doing here?"
Sirius did not know what had caused this sudden change, but he had a feeling he had just gotten that much closer to finding out the answer to all his questions. He was staring so intently at her body language that he jumped when she began to speak again.
"I almost let it slip before when we were talking. And even if I wanted to tell someone, it's not just my secret. But I don't want to tell anyone. I have worked for years not to tell anyone! And after what you did to Severus- I can't believe I almost told you of all people. What if after all these years, I end up like her anyway?"
"Like who?" he asked gently.
She looked up and threw her arms in the air. "There I go again! I don't know why I came here. I don't know why I was so willing to talk to you, but my senses have returned and I want you to take me back to my room."
"Is this about Severus? Because I can be nicer to him." That was not what Sirius had intended to say when he brought up the subject of how he treated her brother, but he meant it if it would stop Vivian from freaking out.
She got up off the desk. "I sincerely doubt that. It's not about him anyway; it's about me. I made a mistake when I agreed to talk to you."
"What just happened here? One minute we were doing the dance I'd come to expect with you, where I ask questions and you skirt the issue. And suddenly you…" Sirius's sentence trailed off. He noticed that Vivian had started pacing as he was talking. She seemed to be working herself up even more.
"I have things I don't want to talk about. I think that's clear. I became so relaxed with you that I almost said something, a couple times. I need to get away from you because I have lost control and I really don't like feeling out of control."
"Can we do this again sometime?"
"I really don't think that would be wise."
"Will you at least tell me what your secret goal is?"
She laughed mirthlessly. "Isn't it obvious? The only goal I have in life is not to end up like her. That's why I need you to take me back to my room now."
"One last question, then we'll go, I swear. Am I supposed to know who this mysterious 'her' is?"
"You don't appear to know the story, and for that I am truly grateful, on many different levels."
Sirius sighed. He wanted to ask one more question, but he had promised. Besides, he told himself, with Vivian there would probably always be "one more question." So he picked up the invisibility cloak, draped it over himself and Vivian, and made his way back to the dungeons that housed the Slytherin common room.
When she turned to go back into her house, Sirius grabbed her arm. "Wait!" Vivian visibly flinched. He found that odd, but continued with his original thought. "I don't see the use of going around in circles anymore. If you set up another meeting, I'm going to expect to hear her story. Otherwise it's pointless." He looked deep into her eyes when he said this
She broke eye contact by looking down at his hand still on her arm and pulled away violently. "That's okay. I think I have it out of my system."
Sirius could not get back to sleep. He lay awake all night, tracing and retracing the conversation. Until the very end of it, he was not sure that he really believed that she had a deep, dark secret. This whole time, even as he had struggled to figure her out, he had thought that she was probably just messing with his mind. And maybe she still was, but he could not shake the feeling that Vivian was hiding very real demons.
Even if I wanted to tell someone, it's not just my secret.
He could understand that. If he had wanted to tell Vivian what really happened that night with Severus, he would have to also tell her that Remus was a werewolf, but that was not his secret to tell. He wondered what secret she was hiding for this mysterious woman, and how intertwined Vivian was in her story. And then there was the story. Did he really not know, or had he just not connected it to her? And who was this woman? Everything Vivian said implied that she would love to end up just like Narcissa. That was it. Narcissa was the only woman he could think of in connection with Vivian.
He had threatened her, saying that he wouldn't talk to her again until she was ready to tell him these things. The assumption there was that she was as interested in him as he was in her. Actually he had gotten the impression that she was more interested in him than her was in her. He had never liked a girl who did not reciprocate, and it upset him to think that maybe his assumption was wrong. Not that he was really that interested in her, he told himself firmly. His desire to know what she was hiding came purely from curiosity.
Hours passed while Sirius went over everything he could remember, searching for clues, but when the sun came up and everyone started to get ready for classes, he was no closer to the truth than when he started.
Vivian lay awake the rest of the night. She asked herself the same questions she had before. What's wrong with me? Why was I so willing— no eager— to talk to Sirius Black? But now she knew the answers. She did not know when it had happened but somehow Sirius had gotten under her skin. She did not by any means have him out of her system, as she had told him, but that didn't matter. She could never talk to him again because the last thing she needed was to fall in love with Sirius Black. Despite all her teasing, she knew that Sirius probably would not reciprocate. And even if he did, he was definitely not the man for her.
There were so many reasons that she could not let herself fall for Sirius, the least of which being his lack of romantic interest. He was a Gryffindor and a blood traitor, which, she reminded herself, she was not yet. He was obnoxious and arrogant. But most of all, he was actually a man she could see herself falling for. She had decided years ago that she would not fall in love with the man she married. That was always the first mistake. No, she would not choose a husband for love; she would choose a man who was weak, malleable. Marrying a strong man was the second mistake. Her mind involuntarily turned to her father. She thought of the nights he'd come home drunk and hit her mother. She knew her father couldn't have always been like that. He must have been different before they were married. It was easy to blame the alcohol, but that would be another mistake. Alcohol doesn't make a man abusive; it only lowers his inhibitons toward being abusive. She had to be vigilant and watch for the warning signs. She was not going to end up like her mother or get caught in a cycle of abuse like Severus. But Severus was not completely to blame for his own torture. No, Sirius, the torturer, was. He'd almost gotten Severus killed; if that wasn't a warning sign, she didn't know what was. So how could she let herself grow to care for Sirius? No, this flirtation ends now.
Sirius spent the next week on the lookout for Vivian. He waited impatiently for her to give in and seek him out, but the next time he ran into her he knew that was not going to happen. She was exactly what her reputation dictated, cold and distant. He could see it in her eyes. Whatever connection they had shared, it was gone. Even though he knew it would be futile, he still tried to strike up a conversation.
"What happened before?"
Vivian sighed and leaned her shoulder against the wall. "This—" she pointed back and forth between herself and Sirius, "—ended. That's what happened."
"Yeah. What I really meant was: why?"
Vivian sighed again. She was silent for a long time before saying, "If you didn't understand that night, I don't know what I could say to make you understand now."
"Okay, I'm sorry about the ultimatum. If you don't want to talk about what happened to that girl, it's okay."
"It's not about the ultimatum. I don't want to talk about her, but also, I don't want to talk to you, at all."
"Those are the questions I was asking. Why don't you want to talk to me anymore? What happened?"
I started to care about you too much. "I was starting to let you in and I don't want to let you in. It wasn't fun for me anymore."
"So you never had feelings for me?"
She started. "What? Where did that come from?"
"It just seemed, at times, that you flirting with me."
Vivian did not know how to respond to that. She had been flirting with him, but she wanted to say something now that would get rid of him for good. "I may have entertained, for a brief moment, the idea of marrying you and becoming Mrs. Black. But I never really had feelings for you."
Sirius was confused. "And yet you were thinking of marriage… Oh, a cold, calculated power move, right?"
"I'm not proud of it. But come on, the money and the… pedigree. It was all very tempting. I'm tired of being surrounded by all these rich and perfectly pure people. The Blacks and the Malfoys. You don't know what it's like to be a Snape."
She didn't know why Sirius looked so hurt. He stared at the ceiling, laughing bloodlessly. "You said you weren't trying to use me to improve your social standing."
Had she really said that? She couldn't even remember anymore. He was still staring at the ceiling. Before she spoke, she glanced up to see if there was anything up there, but she saw nothing out of the ordinary. "By that time I wasn't. It was really just a thought. I wouldn't have really tried to use you. At least, I don't think I would have."
Sirius shook his head and walked away.
Vivian watched him, not knowing that she had just broken his heart. However, Sirius, who also seemed so cool and carefree, had one major point of insecurity. Although he had always done extremely well with women, he often had trouble ignoring the tiny voice in the back of his head that told him all the girls were really interested in was his money. He realized that Vivian did not speak for all women and that it was entirely possible that she was the only gold-digger he had failed to identify so far, but it still horrified him to hear it put so bluntly.
Even if someone had told Vivian that Sirius had grown to care for her in that short time, she would not have believed it. She was everything he hated. She was a Slytherin who could see the truth and still continued to support those who would kill Muggle-borns. Of course, she never stopped to consider that she had grown to like him despite the fact that he was everything she hated, in theory.
A/N: I started this story long before HBP came out, but I decided to wait so that I could incorporate all the new canon in. I was prepared for almost anything, confirmation that Snape was an only child, S/R becoming indisputable canon, anything except that Snape wasn't a pureblood. That was the one thing I thought would never happen. So, if you want to know why Vivian is adopted, I felt that her purity was too central to the character. For example, a half-blood Vivian could have never gotten into Slytherin. I've gone back and taken out other sue-isms so that it all evens out, but I felt the need to acknowledge the biggest of my Sue sins. And the abuse... I didn't necessarily want to do that, but it's what I saw in the OotP canon.