A Black Secret
"The best proof of love is trust."
- Joyce Brothers.
The woman knocked on the heavy wooden door. She stood there, panting slightly; breathing in the smell of the dirty river that was carried to her on the night breeze. The unyielding rain fell hard and unforgiving on her head, yet she didn't shiver. After a few seconds, movement was heard from behind the door, which soon opened with a crack. A sliver of a man could be seen looking out at her, a man with long black hair and deep black eyes.
Narcissa drew back her hood. She was pale, translucent even. Her long blonde hair lay on her head with no grace or charm. Glamour and elegance forgotten, her glassy eyes and anxious face gave her a sickly look.
"Cissy!" He cried in surprise. For a fleeting moment there was a glimmer of something other than indifference in the man's black eyes, but it was gone in an instant. "Ci—Narcissa… come in, what can I do for you?" he asked in a deeper voice.
Stepping directly into a dark, tiny sitting room, Narcissa threw her coat onto an armchair and looked around nervously.
"Sev—Severus… are we alone?" she asked in a strained whisper.
Snape raised a black eyebrow, "that we are," he stated, sitting in an armchair. "Brandy?" he asked the blonde, raising a glass of amber liquid in her direction.
"N-no." Narcissa shook her head and sat down nervously, patting her wet robes.
A couple of seconds passed before either of them gathered up the courage to break the icy silence.
"Not that I don't find your company delightful, Narcissa," Snape started, swirling his glass of liqueur. "But if you could have just flooed me, and I could have gone to the Manor. You needn't drag yourself to this dump in this horrible weather." He took a sip, and eyed her high-heels with a subtle sneer. "I'm afraid your shoes will be ruined."
"Do not patronize me, Severus Snape!" The blonde growled suddenly, anger and hurt flashing in her light blue eyes. "You know well enough that the elves and portraits of the Manor spy on me. They used to report to Lucius, but now he's in Azkaban…" she trailed off, as if afraid of vocalizing her fears. "Nobody can know… nobody can listen to this conversation," the woman finished briskly.
Snape raised an eyebrow, "and what may this conversation be about?"
Narcissa raised her face and looked at him straight in the eye, "Draco," she whispered. "The Dark Lord… he—"
"I am familiar with Draco's mission, Cissy," Snape interrupted. His face was cold and indifference but, for a second, something flashed in his eyes… something.
It was this something Narcissa Malfoy held on to.
"Severus, you must stop him, you must help him; he won't listen to me!" she cried.
"Help him?" the dark-haired man wondered out loud.
"Yes! Help him! Lucius's brainwashed him; he's a good boy, but he's so set on following his father's footsteps, and—"
"… and you don't want him to?" Snape asked slowly, soundlessly depositing his brandy on the rickety table that stood besides him.
Narcissa's head shot up, "No! Of course, I don't, Severus! You should know that!"
"Should I? Should I really, Cissy? I haven't spoken to you in full confidence since you married Lucius." Snape replied testily, his voice holding feeling for the first time. "How can I know Lucius didn't brainwash you too?"
Narcissa let out a self-deprecating laugh, "and you, Severus? You're the Death Eater, remember? I never knew whether you were faithful or a spy! Of course we haven't spoken in true confidence; you could have easily sold me out to my husband—or worse—to the Dark Lord!"
Snape seemed to study her for a second. "And what's changed, Narcissa?" he asked her, his voice colder than before. "I'm still a Death Eater, so what's changed?"
Narcissa shook her head and smiled sadly. "Nothing," she whispered, raising her blue eyes, and fixing them on his black ones. "Nothing's changed, but I'd rather be killed by my best friend than have my only son become a murderer."
Snape held her stare for a several minutes. The stretched silence soon became unbearable, the dull tic-toc of the old grandfather clock in the wall hammering in both of their ears.
Finally, the Potions Master sighed deeply and buried his head on his hands, showing an uncharacteristic amount of weakness.
Narcissa dared to hope.
Snape sighed deeply again and rubbed the bridge of his nose before he looked at the blonde.
"Fine," he said tiredly. "I'm a spy. I work for Dumbledore. I suppose you assumed this already?"
Narcissa beamed at him, "yes, yes I had hoped so."
"What do you want me to do then? Rest assured, Dumbledore knows of Draco's mission already."
Narcissa shook her head. "No! I don't want you to ship Draco away to Azkaban, I want you to convince him to leave the Dark Lord's side!" she pleaded. "I tried talking to him but he seems to think I'm just being overemotional. He doesn't understand what it means—what it really means—to be a Death Eater."
"None of us does until it's too late," Snape replied bitterly, "what I don't understand is why you seem to think I'll be successful where you've failed. I'm just his teacher, after all."
"His favorite teacher, and his godfather, and a role model; he looks up to you, Severus, I know he does."
Snape looked skeptic but said nothing. Narcissa lost all semblance of composure.
"Please, Severus—Sev—please!" she cried, grabbing his front robes with trembling hands. Snape seized her by the arms, trying to restrain her, but she flung herself onto him, sobbing loudly on his shoulder. Snape sighed and uncomfortably encompassed the blonde in his arms.
"Please, Severus. I can't let it happen again. I can't let Draco become Reggie!"
Snape winced visibly when Narcissa uttered the name of their old friend. He sighed and patted the blonde's back in a manner he hoped was comforting.
"Fine, I'll do my best to sway Draco away from the Dark Lord," he assured her.
Narcissa raised her tear-stained face to meet her long-lost friend's dark stare. "You promise?" she inquired quietly.
"I promise, Cissy" he assured her, daring to crack a half smile, "now, calm down. I'm as rubbish with crying women as I was twenty years ago."
Narcissa giggled weakly and wiped off her tears with both hands. "I think I can testify to that," she laughed, but her sad grin slipped quickly.
"Thank you, Severus," she said honestly, her voice cracking slightly. "I'm glad I have my best friend back."
Severus Snape sighed tiredly, but manage to smile back at her. "Anytime, Cissy. Anytime."
Narcissa Malfoy smiled back.
Outside, it stopped raining.
A/N: Okay, so now you're thinking 'what the hell is this?' It's basically a one-shot explaining how A Black Secret's story-line differs from HBP. I plan on writing a couple of more of these to explain how Draco and Narcissa came to the Order, how Dumbledore is still alive, and how Snape is still a good guy. Important note: A few of the introduction sentences have been paraphrased from HBP.
If you squint real hard, you may notice a refference to past events important to the story of Hermione's family. I might write a few one-shots of Hermione's parents' (and friends') Hogwarts years, their lives post-graduation, etc. too.
Please review and tell me if you think this is a good idea!