A/N: Written for the lurvely Sly Severus over on Mugglenet Fan-Fiction, for a Slytherin Secret Santa exchange. I never thought that I'd be writing this pairing (because, goshdarnnit, Severus is supposed to be MINE:D), but I knew that Severus/Bellatrix was one of her favorites, so I decided to give it a shot. I hope I did it at least some justice. :)

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If someone had told Bellatrix Lestrange that she would be visiting the dump that was Spinner's End yet again, she would have scoffed and rolled her eyes (and, were the person who told her this anything less than a pureblood, most likely she would have also murdered them on the spot).

Still, that was what she was doing. Just last July, she had grudgingly come here with her sister – and now here she was again in late December, stomping along the familiar path, though quite alone this time.

She slipped through the alleys in silence, past one dilapidated house after another, until at last she reached the end of the street. She moved up the walkway and knocked on the rough wooden door, scowling into the darkness.

After several moments, the door creaked open. "Bellatrix," a voice drawled, and then the door opened wider, throwing light onto Bellatrix standing on the house's doorstep. "What an . . . unexpected . . . arrival."

"I wanted to talk to you," Bellatrix spat out through her clenched teeth.

"Come in, then," sneered Severus, in what was probably supposed to be a welcoming tone, but came out as more of a ridiculing one. He stepped back to allow her entry, and she brushed by him, walking several feet inside before halting and whirling back around to face him.

"You'll have to forgive me," said Severus, as he closed the door with a snap. "As I was not expecting company, the house is not in a very fit state. However, I could offer you some wine, if you desire it."

"No, thank you," she said stiffly. "I plan to spend as little time here as necessary."

"Please, sit down," Severus invited, gesturing to the sitting room, his eyes scintillating, full of mirth at her expense.

"I don't plan to spend enough time to even sit," Bellatrix replied coldly. "I wanted to talk to you about – about your assignment," she went on sleekly. "The one concerning Draco's task."

"What about it?"

"Draco still has not completed it. And I want to know why."

"You'll have to ask him," said Severus expressionlessly.

"Don't play games with me, Snape," Bellatrix threatened, taking a step closer to him. "Draco is no fool. He is very cunning, and very competent. He's had four months to do the deed, to kill the man, and yet Dumbledore is still alive."

Severus looked at her, nonplussed, saying nothing.

"What have you been doing?" she persisted. "What have you been doing to hinder him? I know you're still working with Dumbledore, I know the two of you must be working on something together to foil Draco and lock him up in Azkaban with Lucius – "

"Bellatrix, I had thought you were more intelligent than this," Severus replied, raising a sardonic brow at her. "You really still think I am being disloyal to the Dark Lord? All I said to you mere months before, you have already forgotten it all?"

"I thought you might be speaking the truth at the time," said Bellatrix, her eyes narrowing. "It has become clear, however, that it was merely your usual puffed-up, false words."

"If you have it all figured out, then why did you even bother coming here?" Severus questioned, spreading his hands in a manner of one who is confused.

"Because I don't know how you're doing it, and – "

"So going along with your hypothetical theory that I am the reason Dumbledore has yet to be killed by Draco," Severus went on amicably, "you came here tonight, expecting me to tell you the secret of how I am preventing the old man's death? You believed I would easily relinquish the reason it has not happened yet, that I simply would tell you I have been going against the Unbreakable Vow I made with your sister?"

Bellatrix pulled out her wand, balancing it between her index and middle finger as she aimed it between his eyes. "I could always force you," she said casually.

Severus drew his own wand, pointing it indifferently at her heart. "I could always retaliate," he responded, just as casually. "However, I doubt that either of us cursing the other would really do any good. I shall go get some Firewhiskey, shall I? That should calm your wired and jittery nerves." He gave her a cold smile, and brushed past her towards his small, dumpy kitchen.

"I don't want any," she called after him, but he did not reply. Clenching her jaw, she followed him into the next room, pausing under the doorway as she looked upward. She smirked, raising an elegant eyebrow at the sight above her.

"Mistletoe, Snape?" she jeered. "Why, I never would have predicted this of you. Hoping for some holiday cheer, are you?"

"Your eyes have failed you, it seems," Severus intoned, as he leaned with his back against the counter, flicking his wand lazily to command two glasses to emerge from the cupboards. The cups landed neatly on the counter surface, and a wine bottle floated out from another cupboard, skittering to a halt beside the mugs.

"My eyes are fine, thank you."

"If you were to take a closer look," Severus drawled, "you would find that's a mint plant, not mistletoe." He took a step towards her, eyes mocking, but also with a sly glint to them. "Of course, if you would like to delude yourself into thinking it is mistletoe, by all means, have a ball with the idea . . ."

"Are you suggesting that you would like to delude yourself into thinking that it's mistletoe?" she snipped back at him bitingly.

"Hardly," he said, rolling his eyes. "Just trying to be . . . accommodating . . . to my guest."

"You have accommodated enough," she spat out.

Smiling, he took the two wine glasses from the counter, then tarried over nearer and handed one to her. "What should we drink to?" he asked.

She looked up at him scornfully, and was surprised to see that there was currently no animosity or ridicule within his own gaze. "What do you suggest?" she articulated, a little unnerved by his open, unguarded gaze.

"Your good health and fortune," he responded seriously, without missing a beat. The familiar smirk twisted its way onto his features. "And your good eyesight, as well." He clinked the edge of his glass against hers and took a swig.

Though she had said she wanted none, Bellatrix sipped the alcohol as well. It did taste nice; she hadn't had Firewhiskey in a while. A tingling, almost breath-taking warmth was spreading throughout here, as the liquid poured down her insides. She had not remembered Firewhiskey being quite this wonderful. She hadn't remember any drink being this wonderful in a long time, actually . . .

A nasty voice in her mind taunted her: Maybe it's not the Firewhiskey that's making you feel this way. She quickly pushed it away, disgusted with herself.

"So," she said tartly, as Severus topped off his glass, "what are you doing that's delaying Draco in his task?"

"Nothing," said Severus.

"I don't believe you."

"Then don't believe me," he said in return. "Quite honestly, I couldn't care less whether or not you do."

"I don't see how Draco could possibly not have already done his mission – unless someone else has been in his way," she commented darkly. "Draco has wanted to join the Dark Lord since he was four years old, you know."

"Reality can often be a lot more harsh than our dreams," said Severus. "And trust me, Bellatrix, when I say that Draco truly cannot – or will not, I am not sure – commit such sins."

"Don't be daft," said Bellatrix, but her opinions were wavering with his words. "Draco has quite a lot of potential. Potential to do – lots of things."

"I agree," Severus stated simply. "Perhaps, however, his potential merely lies elsewhere. But as I have said, if you would like to go on blaming me, please do."

Bellatrix scowled at him, but there was not quite as much menace behind it as before.

"Not everyone is quite as 'sinful' as you or I, Bellatrix," Severus added after a pause, as he considered her carefully. He glanced up at the mint plant growing above them, then back down to meet her gaze again. She gave a fleeting look to the mint as well.

Damn. Why couldn't that have been mistletoe? she thought to herself, vaguely, as she stared at the plant, and then lowered her eyes back to Severus. She instantly chastised herself for this thought, disgusted with herself. This was Severus Snape she was standing opposite of, the greasy git she had known since her schooldays, the man she loathed. A man who had the oiliest hair she'd ever seen, who had a nose of abnormal proportions, who was always mocking her, who seemed to never wipe a sneer off his face, who was rude and irritating and tiresome and strangely alluring . . . no!

"Th-they could be," she said then, more to fill the silence than anything else.

"They could what?" Severus asked, blinking, as though resurfacing from a slight trance.

"They could be 'sinful', they could be 'evil', if they wanted to be. I mean, we all have that potential."

"We all do have the potential," Severus agreed. "We all have the potential to do any number of things. But it's not the potential that matters. It's having the will to act upon it, to do what you think – or feel – " was it her imagination, or had he just leaned a little closer to her? " – is best."

She gazed at him, looked deep into his eyes, spellbound and dazed, and he looked right back. His face couldn't have been more than several inches away from hers. But then the moment, the perfect moment of absolute silence and anticipation and understanding, it was gone – he was drawing away from her, taking away her empty glass and moving towards the counter, cleaning up. She stood there, motionless, trying to get her racing mind to slow down enough to reconnect with her body (it wasn't working well).

After some minutes, he turned back around to face her, and took several steps in her direction. "Well, if that matter was all you came here for, I guess you'll be off now," he said, and then gave her a smile that was contorted in some strange combination of bitterness and wistfulness. "Happy Christmas."

"Happy Christmas," she echoed back dimly. And then – she wasn't sure exactly how it happened – if she moved in closer to him, or he moved closer to her, or perhaps they both moved forward until they met in the middle. But whatever the case, she was suddenly beside him, against him, with him, his arms curving tightly around her back as her own wrapped around his neck, their mouths meeting hungrily, kissing each other underneath the mint plant.

It was some time before their embrace was broken. When it was, she had a very hard time comprehending what had just happened, as her wide eyes stared into his, her lungs slightly air deprived – whether from the long lip-lock or from her high-strung emotions, she was not sure.

Severus did not seem to know what to say either, for once in his life, because it was a while before he opened his mouth and at last said, "Perhaps your eyes were not deceiving you, Bellatrix, when you claimed to see mistletoe."

"No, they were, but mistletoe can easily be substituted, don't you think?" she countered brazenly, surprised to find her mouth still able to function. "After all, why stick with old traditions when you can make your own?"

He smiled wryly, his hands still on her waist. "Why, indeed," he said, pulling her closer once again.

-Fin