Author's Note: my readers, thank you so much for being patient! I'm still working on putting together the overarching plot of this story now that Severus is back at Hogwarts, and that's going to require a bit of work if I want to keep the chapters substantial. That being said, I have NOT abandoned this story for Renegade Cause - I may be updating one or another a little more depending on my personal mood, but both will continue until the end. So as always, read, review, and enjoy!

Severus put a hand to his forehead with complete disgust as he surveyed the Slytherin table. "I swear, when will this bloody week just be over?"

"There's still Saturday left, Severus," Narcissa said wryly. "Come on now, I know you enjoy your classes –"

Regulus snorted, while Severus rolled his eyes. "'Enjoyed' is too strong of a word, but go on, Narcissa."

"You found them interesting at least, and I'm sure that Dumbledore's announcement last night that classes were cancelled today so we all could meet with the new Hogwarts fashion consultant was a little –"

"Ridiculous? Insufferable? Completely unnecessary?" Severus growled. "My first Arithmancy class was supposed to be today, and I wanted to go to that, but no, I've got to meet with Professor Paylen –"

"Feylen," Regulus corrected, setting his glass down with a hollow clunk on the worn wooden table. "Her name is Miranda Feylen."

"Whatever, I don't care," Severus snapped. "In any case, it just seems like a waste of time to me. I know how to dress like a Muggle, it's not that hard."

Regulus choked back a chuckle when Severus gave him a dangerous look. Don't even think about mentioning my work-out clothes, Regulus. Don't even think about it.

"Well, I don't know a lot about Muggle fashion, Severus, so you can skip your meeting with the consultant if you want, but I'm going to go," Narcissa said coolly.

"I'm obviously not going to skip it," Severus replied stiffly. "I just don't see the point in it. When is your appointment, by the way?"

"Just after lunch – the boys are in the morning, girls in the afternoon."

"Yeah, Feylen reckoned that the girls might need more time than the boys in the fashion department," Regulus added with a smirk.

"Obviously," Narcissa replied, a small grin growing across his face. "When's your appointment, Severus?"

"Early this morning, in about a half hour," Severus replied distractedly as he flipped a page of the Daily Prophet lying across his desk. "Oh, this could be interesting… Regulus, do you know anything about the Department of Experimental Charms?"

Regulus snorted. "Other than that it's bloody pointless, not much. Why?"

"Says here the Department of Magical Law Enforcement is deputizing a whole branch of Experimental Charms for work in the 'identification of strange magical effects and devices'," Severus read, his eyebrows furrowing behind the hair hanging in his face. Irritably brushing it aside, he scanned the article closer. "That's strange, why would they even bother with this?"

Regulus frowned. "Well, if it gives that Department something to do, I'm sure it's a good thing –"

"I'm not sure I like it," Severus muttered.

"Why would you even care?" Narcissa asked incredulously, sliding closer to Severus to examine the article.

"Because one of the negotiators involved in this is one Nathaniel Charon," Severus said in a low voice, his eyes flicking up to the staff table, where the strangely dressed professor was idly speaking to Professor McGonagall even as he ate his pancakes.

"What?" Regulus asked, leaning closer as well. "Why would the professor be involved in any of those negotiations?"

"He's been keen not to notice, I'm guessing," Severus murmured. "He didn't look at us when we mentioned his name like he usually does… so he likely knows we're talking about this and doesn't want to draw attention to it… but why?"

"Probably because it's a controversial move, and some high-level players aren't too thrilled about it," Narcissa replied, pointing at the article. "Crouch doesn't sound happy about it, and nor does Acontine."

"Acontine's going senile, and Crouch is going to replace him in a few years anyway, so he hardly counts," Regulus added with a snort. "I'm just curious what Charon's playing at –"

"Snape!" Closing his eyes and stifling a groan, Severus turned to Evan Rosier, who was standing behind him with a wide grin on his face. "And dear Narcissa, a pleasure to see you both!"

"Should it be a pleasure to see you?" Severus asked dully.

"It always should be a pleasure for one to meet with his friends, Severus, you know that," Rosier replied easily.

Suddenly, Narcissa's hand slipped around Severus's shoulders. He nearly jumped as her other hand slid up the side of his face.

"I get more pleasure," Narcissa said in a sultry voice, not even making eye contact with Rosier, "with Severus than I ever get meeting with you, Rosier."

And before Severus could say a word, she slid close and kissed him, in front of Rosier and half of the Great Hall.

Regulus dropped his fork with an audible clunk. Several wolf-whistles erupted around the table as Narcissa pressed even closer against Severus, who was completely astounded at the turn of events. His astonishment vanished along with his rationality as a warm feeling welled up inside his head…

Narcissa suddenly broke the kiss and leaned back slightly, her smug eyes meeting Rosier's gaze with cool triumph. Despite himself, Severus allowed a small grin to creep onto his face. And if the school didn't think we were a couple now…

* * *

"Moony, give me your bag, please," Sirius said quietly, his face pale.

"Why?" Remus asked cautiously.

"Because I think I'm going to puke in it –"

Remus rolled his eyes as he shoved his bag further under his seat. "Honestly, Padfoot, it shouldn't be a big deal if Narcissa and Severus are going out –"

"But did they have to kiss in front of the entire Merlin-forsaken school over breakfast?" Sirius demanded. "We have to consider the good digestion of the student populace –"

"What about the time you ran across the Great Hall completely naked during breakfast holding a toothbrush and shouting 'Even though I'm a Black, I sparkle white all over'?" Peter asked suddenly. "And then you proceeded to insert that toothbrush –"

"You see, that was bad for the digestion," Remus groaned. "Thanks a lot, Wormtail."

"You're very welcome," Peter replied, a dignified expression on his face as he picked up the muffin on his plate.

Remus sighed heavily. "Look, Sirius, I know you're angry that Snape is actually kissing a girl in public –"

"Especially considering the girl's my cousin and one of the most popular girls in Hogwarts!" Sirius snapped.

"My, Padfoot, I didn't know you cared."

"I don't, it's just… weird. Disturbing. Shocking. Nauseating."

"I wouldn't go that far, Padfoot," James said calmly, leaning back in his chair with a satisfied expression on his face. "Who would have known that Snivellus was such a good kisser?"

"And why are you so happy?" Sirius groaned.

"Well, Snivellus was one of the main obstacles in Operation Victory Lily, and considering as he's obviously moved on, my path is becoming clearer all the time." James smiled widely as he twirled his wand around his finger. "Things are finally looking up, Marauders."

"I wouldn't be so sure all your obstacles are gone yet, Prongs," Remus said, his voice a mixture of exasperation, surprise, and amusement.

"Why would you say that?"

Peter peered down the table. "Well," he said slowly, "it's probably because Lily looks like she's going to kill both of those two with her bare hands."

* * *

"You know," Mary said thoughtfully as she slowly poured coffee into her mug, "if it didn't look so strange, one could say that they're a cute couple –"

"Mary, a little help here!" Athena snarled as she struggled to keep a firm hold on Lily, who was struggling to get to her feet and draw her wand. "I'm all for commentary, but we have a situation!"

"Lily, control yourself," Catherine pleaded, her light eyes wide. "You don't want to hurt anybody and lose us house points –"

Lily was breathing very fast. "How could he? How dare he? After everything he said –"

"Is there a problem, young ladies?" a sharp voice said from directly behind Lily's seat. Athena and Catherine let go of Lily's robes immediately, and she nearly got to her feet, her eyes fixed on the couple across the hall.

"No, Professor McGonagall, it's nothing," Mary said quickly, kicking Lily sharply under the table. "Right, Lily?"

She took a long slow breath and slowly – ever so slowly – turned to face the sternly disapproving face of her Head of House.

"There's no problem, Professor," she replied, straining to keep the edge of anger out of her voice.

"Good," Professor McGonagall replied crisply, "because I would hate to have to dock Gryffindor points for the behavior of the house's prefects. And despite the… unfortunate events planned for today," she added, biting off each word as if it had a particularly bitter taste, "we must maintain our dignity and good grace. Clear, Miss Evans?"

"Yes, Professor," Lily replied quietly, as she slowly lowered herself back into her seat and turning back towards her book.

"You're lucky you didn't lose us house points," Mary said the second the professor was out of earshot. "She knew what was going on, and considering how you reacted –"

"He lied to me," Lily said in a low voice, her eyes fixed on a spot in the middle of the table. "All this time…"

"All this time you haven't gotten over him, but apparently he has," Athena replied heatedly, shoving her empty plate aside. "And now the whole bloody school knows too. Why the hell haven't you gotten over Snape already? Clearly the shameless bastard doesn't mind hurting you, so why should you give a rat's arse about him?"

Lily swallowed hard. "He was a close friend –"

"And that was it, Lily!" Athena interrupted, her patience clearly gone. "Look, I know you're angry because you think –"

"I know –"

"You think," Athena snapped, "that Snape had feelings for you, since you obviously had feelings for him. Frankly, I don't know how you could have had feelings for the snarky git, but I'm not you and I never will be. The point I'm trying to make is that any connection you two had is gone, Lily. He's moved on – so should you."

"I can't lie to myself, Athena," Lily said quietly. "I still –"

Catherine sympathetically put her hand on Lily's shoulder. "I understand, Lily. Why don't you focus on other things, then? Forget about Snape and all that mess – leave it as the juicy gossip material that it is and spend your time… oh, I don't know, seeing other guys, schoolwork, your prefect duties –"

"Quidditch," Athena added with a smirk.

"Hell, even if you could help organize those social events that Dumbledore's talking about," Catherine finished. "Just to keep your mind off of him, okay?"

Lily sighed heavily, but didn't say a word as she ran a hand through her red hair. I'm being a fool expecting something out of Snape, she thought, especially considering I don't even understand where these feelings came from. Maybe the best thing is just to put them aside… forget the jealousy and move on…

That won't be so easy to do, though, the little voice in the back of her mind remarked, at least not as simple as you might think…

* * *

"Well, how did it go?" Regulus asked impatiently as Severus emerged from the Muggle Studies classroom, looking distinctly harassed and dragging behind him a small trunk.

"How do you think it went, Regulus?" Severus shot back with irritation, tossing his hair out of his face. "Feylen took two looks at me and nearly proclaimed me a lost cause. It was only after I could prove to her that I did indeed know how to dress somewhat decently did she give me any clothes."

"What did she give you?" Regulus asked curiously, moving around to the trunk and carefully pulling it open. "Doesn't look like a lot."

Severus snorted. "Trust me, it's more than enough. I only agreed to take it because it was all free, paid for 'on a Hogwarts budget', she said. Love to see her justify that investment, particularly when she meets with the girls this afternoon."

"I'm no judge of Muggle clothing, but it looks like you've got some nice stuff in here," Regulus mused, clearly intrigued as he pulled out a sweater. "Nice fabrics, I take it."

"Well, none of it is 'Muggle vintage', according to Feylen, but it's cut in Muggle styles," Severus grumbled, taking the sweater from Regulus, and carefully shutting it inside the trunk. "Probably has a whole team of house elves working nonstop while she's taking the measurements –"

"And since when have you cared about house elves?" Regulus asked, cocking an eyebrow. "Still, it's some nice clothes. I'm curious what that woman will give me."

"Well, if you cooperate, you'll likely get more, and the stuff will be of better quality," Severus muttered darkly, his eyes falling on Rosier, who was angrily talking to Mulciber in the corner. Both had small trunks – even smaller than Severus' – sitting behind them. "From the looks of things, I don't think their interviews went well."

"Rosier was in a foul temper before he met with Feylen," Regulus replied in a low voice, "probably because you kissed Narcissa in the Great Hall this morning –"

"She initiated it, not me!" Severus snapped. "I would have been content with something much less –"

"Keep your voice down," Regulus hissed, but Severus was undaunted, drawing his wand from his robe pocket.

"Muffliato. There, now I don't have to keep my voice down," Severus said evenly, crossing his arms over his chest.

"People will still see us talking."

"The corridor's busy, and nobody cares anyway about what I say. I'm not bloody Rosier, for Merlin's sake," Severus replied caustically. "Besides, we don't have much time to chat anyways; I've got to get to work. Did you talk to Baddock about Quidditch trials?"

"Surprisingly, he pulled himself together faster than even I expected. They've already been scheduled for next week Wednesday," Regulus said, a small grin creeping onto his face. "There are two spots available, according to him: Keeper and Chaser. Any idea which one you want?"

Severus shrugged. "I was thinking Keeper –"

"Not if you want to impress Miss Evans, you're not," Regulus cut him off tersely. "Go for Chaser – between them and the Seeker, they're the ones that get the glory and attention, and the more Evans' eyes are on you, the better it will be."

"I'm not convinced –"

"And as Chaser," Regulus added, his eyes glinting, "you'll be able to test your skills – personally – against James Potter."

Severus' eyes hardened, and Regulus immediately knew that he had gotten through to him. "Of course," the younger boy added, "you have to make the team, first, and that means a broom. Brooms aren't cheap either, Severus."

Severus smirked. "Can I borrow your owl? I need to send an order."

"Good plan," Regulus agreed, his eyes twinkling. "So what are you thinking? What's your price range?"

"I was considering one of those Silver Arrows," Severus replied, cancelling the Muffliato charm with a wave of his wand as he set out with Regulus down the hall. "What do you think?"

Regulus pursed his lips. "Not a bad choice. They're quick and maneuverable, but there have been reports and criticisms about the stabilization charms. Apparently they aren't as good as the Comet or Cleansweep series."

Severus cocked an eyebrow. "Do you see me affording a Comet Two-Hundred or a Cleansweep Seventy or for Merlin's sake a Nimbus anytime soon?"

"I didn't expect to see you flying again, Severus, let alone contemplating broom choices," Regulus replied with a shrug. "But you raise a good point – Silver Arrows aren't cheap, particularly the latest models. How are you going to be able to afford –"

"The money's not an object for once, Regulus, and that's all I'll say," Severus replied seriously. "Now aren't you supposed to be in a meeting?"

Regulus quickly looked down at his watch and swore. "Damn, I have to run. Any advice on meeting this fashion consultant?"

Severus snorted. "You're asking me?"


"Try to be respectful, intelligent, and make sure to get a heavier sweater with decent sleeves," Severus said crisply as he twirled his wand around his finger.

Regulus frowned. "Why the latter?"

"Because, like it or not, you're going to end up wearing Muggle clothes at some point in a Potions class, and there's a very good reason why our robes have long sleeves."

* * *

"I don't know what she sees him…"

"She had such a good match already planned too, and then she threw it all away…"

"You know, I wonder what the scandal was between her and Lucius – it must have been truly nasty if she's reacting like this –"

"Reacting like what?"

The three girls all looked towards the door – where Narcissa Black was casually leaning, her wand drawn and tapping lightly against the frame.

The girl closest to Narcissa, a tall brunette with a surprisingly delicate set of features, gave Narcissa a winning smile. "We were just commenting on how gorgeous you and Snape looked together –"

"Sure." Narcissa's smile didn't waver as she slowly closed the door behind her. The three girls in the room exchanged slightly nervous glances. Finally, a short, rather swarthy-looking girl glared at Narcissa and huffed with indignation.

"Were you listening at the door?"

Narcissa gave the girl an exasperated glance. "What do you think, Miranda Selwyn? Would I stoop to that kind of behavior with friends?"

All of the girls barely restrained incredulous remarks – every single one of them knew that they would eavesdrop in a heartbeat if it could better their station in Slytherin.

The third girl tossed her sweeping black hair back away from her stunning features and fixed Narcissa with a penetrating expression. "And who," she began slowly, "are you to be throwing accusations of spying or gossiping at us, Narcissa Black? If you're stooping to going out with Snape, you've got lower standards than I thought."

"Those words, coming from you, Aphrodite Zabini, are absolutely meaningless," Narcissa replied with a sweet smile. "Considering you've slept nearly as many boys as Evan Rosier has girls, you've got no right to be calling me a slut."

"How dare you –"

"I don't care if you're a seventh year, Zabini, we both know you wouldn't last ten seconds against me in any competition," Narcissa spat, the mirth suddenly gone from her face. "Now, I know better than anybody that I attracted a bit of… attention today, by kissing Severus publically –"

"Was he any good?" the brunette asked suddenly. At the disgusted looks of her two 'friends', she raised her hands in surrender. "I'm curious, what more do you want?"

Narcissa smirked. "Well, if you put it that way, Helen, then yes, he was good. He's a damn good kisser, I'll admit that."

"So you are dating him?" Selwyn asked incredulously. "Him? Snape?"

"Yes," Narcissa replied simply, crossing her arms over her chest. "Is that a problem?"

"You ditched Lucius for him?" Zabini asked bluntly, raising a delicate eyebrow. "Have some bloody shame, Black, at least Lucius Malfoy has class and money, unlike that craven excuse for a man."

"Says the girl who has slept with Evan Rosier at last count six times," Narcissa replied smugly, "an even more craven excuse for a human being than Severus Snape. What, Aphrodite, did you get tired of screwing quality men like Yaxley and decided to consort with trash?"

Zabini was bright red. "How dare you –"

"I've got better sources of information than you'll ever have, Zabini," Narcissa said with a shrug, "and frankly, it's a waste of time plotting against me."

"Why would we –"

"Oh, please," Narcissa spat, her eyes icy as she twirled her wand around her finger. "There was only three real powers in Slytherin after my sister and Malfoy left, and one of those is set to leave this year – and when Baddock leaves, it'll be me or Rosier, and you know which one to whom you'd rather pay service."

"At least Rosier is willing to reward his people," Selwyn growled. "Reward them well, might I add –"

"If you're as sex-starved as the boys in this school to seek favours from Rosier, you have less shame than I thought, Miranda," Narcissa said with disgust. "You know better than anyone what he does to girls, and yet you keep going back to him."

Zabini crossed her arms over her ample chest. "We all have our reasons for what we do. Well, at least most of us do – you, on the other hand, haven't even bothered to explain why you've taken up with Snape. Now that's not a typical pureblood name, if I do say –"

"And if you can't tell by now that Severus is on the way up, then you're stupider than I would imagined, Aphrodite," Narcissa growled, taking a single step closer. "As I said, there are three serious 'powers' in the upper years of Slytherin right now. One's Baddock, one's Rosier, and the last one is me. And it is never a good idea to ignore or double-cross one of those powers." She cocked an eyebrow as she surveyed the three girls. "And I won't pander favours with any of you – it's not worth my time."

"Don't give yourself airs, Narcissa Black," Zabini snarled. "You're not in Rosier's league –"

"But Severus is," Narcissa cut her off, a mirthless smile on her cold face, "and I'm throwing my allegiance behind the winning side."

"I think you're just letting emotions cloud your judgment," Zabini said with a disdainful smile.

Narcissa rolled her eyes. "Are you so stupid not to have realized that Severus Snape would never accept something like that?"

"You're throwing your power behind a nonentity, Narcissa," Helen Davies said quietly. "That's…"

"It's stupid, that's what it is," Zabini snapped, her eyes blazing with barely controlled rage. "And it's even more stupid to expect us to play along. Just because you have money and political power does not mean –"

"That I can't do what I want?" Narcissa interrupted. "Oh, I think you're wrong there, Aphrodite. The sad thing is that I can't have you three slandering my good name in your little power struggle, which isn't worth my time in the first place."

"You're not as 'above us' as you like to think, Narcissa," Selwyn spat. "Three-on-one is poor odds."

Narcissa's wand stopped in mid-turn as she took another step forward, a slow deliberate smile spreading across her face. "Go ahead, then," she said, raising a hand. "Fire off your jinxes, if you dare."

None of the girls raised their wands, and Narcissa's smile deepened. Despite all of their talk, they don't have the nerve to take me on – and that means I still control the balance of power, for now. Still, Severus needs to get a political boost, and fast, or I could be in for some rough times.

"So let's make this clear, shall we?" she began, setting her wand twirling around her finger again with a practiced motion. "You don't spread your shameless gossip around the school about me and Severus, and I let you keep your social and political status in Slytherin. You know very well that I can ruin all of you – I just choose not to."

"Nice bluff," Selwyn sneered.

"Try me, then," Narcissa replied with a sweet smile. "Oh, and I wouldn't be so determined to condemn Severus so fast – he's more powerful, and he's bound to be more charitable to those he considers allies."

And with that, she walked straight out of the room, letting out a shaky breath with each quick step towards the library.

* * *

"Severus, we need to talk."

"Narcissa, I can appreciate that you're –"

Narcissa slammed a hand on the book resting on Severus' desk, a dangerous look in her eyes. "We can talk now – this is important."

Severus slowly drew his wand. "How important? Enough that I should be setting up charms –"

"If we keep our voices down, we should be fine," Narcissa said in a low voice, sliding into a seat across from Severus. "Besides, the fact that you chose the most out-of-the-way table in the entire Merlin-forsaken library gives me the impression that you didn't want to be disturbed either."

"You still found me."

"That's because I was looking for you," Narcissa said quietly. "And for a very good reason. It's about Rosier."

Severus stiffened. "I know he's a threat."

"More than you know," Narcissa said, clenching a fist. "He's starting to make advances among the girls in my year, and if that's the case, he's likely already got his hooks in those in the younger years."

Severus shrugged. "And? Despite my complete distaste for his relentless shagging, it's not my problem if –"

"Severus, listen to me," Narcissa hissed. "The girls in Slytherin are dangerous for two reasons. Firstly, they often have as much influence as the boys – hell, I'm living proof of that. Secondly, they're not afraid to use their feminine charms as a weapon. You might have the Amortentia, but most of them have been brewing love potions since the age of twelve."

Severus gave her an incredulous glance. "You're saying," he began, "that they want to give me a love potion?"

"I'm saying they're manipulative, and can be just as dangerous as Rosier," Narcissa replied evenly. "And Rosier's already making moves to destabilize my power base. He got to Zabini and Selwyn."

Severus' eyes narrowed. "Zabini, you say? Isn't she already supposed to be engaged to some rich ponce who graduated three years ago?"

"A ponce who's too thick to realize that the bitch will likely strip him of his money within the year and murder him a month later," Narcissa muttered. "But that's not the point. Severus, Zabini's a seventh year, and we both knew they'd be trouble for you. And if Aphrodite Zabini is allied with Rosier – which is hard to believe, but given he probably bought her off, it makes sense – we could have a big problem on our hands. That girl has no shame whatsoever, you know."

Severus put a hand to his forehead. "Do you think you can handle her?"

"I can try, Severus, but there's only so much I do," Narcissa said, raising her hands with mock helplessness. "You need to build your political power base if you want to have a hope of holding Rosier off."

"Don't you think I know that, Narcissa?" Severus growled, massaging his scalp. "There's only so much I can do here!"

"I know, Severus, believe me." She sighed. "I think I can handle Zabini for now, but not for long. But this shows that Rosier's already moving – you said yourself that you suspect he's trying to send a message to you to back down."

"He knows this game better than I do."

"And it doesn't help he now has Polyjuice Potion," Narcissa added, swallowing hard. "Do you know how easy it is to access the school laundry, what channels he might need to go through?"

Severus frowned. "I was under the impression that Dumbledore kept the house elves in charge of laundry secluded, so that they couldn't be bought off, especially after the Marauders stole a load of lingerie from the Hufflepuff girls –"

"You have to admit, it was a good prank –"

"Although one has to wonder where the school laundry is even done," Severus muttered, scratching his chin. "So you think that Rosier will steal hairs from the clothes for his Polyjuice?"

"Don't you?"

"Unfortunately, if he nicked enough from that vat, there's no telling what he'll do with it," Severus said darkly. "I only filled maybe five or six flasks of Amortentia, there wasn't much more I steal without catching Slughorn's notice. Rosier, on the other hand –"

"He could have nicked the whole cauldron, and Slughorn would never had noticed," Narcissa said in a hushed voice. "That's not good at all."

Severus' frown grew deeper. "Well, a reactive stance won't work here – I can't just wait for him to steal hairs and cause mayhem. And it wouldn't exactly be difficult either, especially…"

His voice trailed off, and he suddenly got to his feet. "I've got an idea. Come with me."

"But Severus –" she began, but he was already moving, moving down the aisles with a fixed, determined expression on his face. A few seconds later, he stopped suddenly, turned to the right shelves, and carefully removed a slightly battered book from the bottom shelf. It didn't look like an old book, but it was certainly in rough shape.

"Severus, this is the Muggle Studies section," Narcissa said with distaste. "How are any of these books going to help us with Rosier?"

But Severus was already flipping through the small book, his dark eyes scanning the densely written text. "I think… this might be what we want," he said with a smirk, carefully marking the page as he moved back to his table.

"Severus, what is that?" Narcissa demanded, her eyes narrowed in confusion. "Damn it, you better have a good –"

"Here's what I'm thinking, Narcissa," Severus cut her off abruptly, slamming the book on the table and flipping it open to the marked page. "Take a look at this."

She frowned as she quickly scanned the title. "Severus, what is…'sexually transmitted diseases'?" Her frown deepened as she looked back up. "Are you suggesting –"

"It's a well known fact in this school that Rosier is promiscuous, almost as much as your beloved cousin," Severus whispered quickly, "so all you need to do to put a little 'dent' in his controlling efforts is spread the rumour that he contracted one of these. All of them are contagious – some even deadly. And if everything is correct, wizards haven't been able to cure any of them."

Narcissa's eyes widened. "No girl will want to sleep with him once they know this –"

"And subsequently one of his greatest methods of control is destroyed," Severus finished, a cool grin moving across his face. "If you start spreading our little story, Rosier won't know what hit him."

"My cousin should be thanking us," Narcissa muttered wryly as she carefully closed the book. "Where did you find this, anyways?"

Severus rolled her eyes. "If you must know, Lily showed it to me. She was doing a bit of research for Athena Moon when the stupid girl thought she got herself pregnant."

"Surely this school isn't all so… brazen," Narcissa said distastefully, sitting down again across from Severus. "Don't they have some class?"

"According to the Muggle papers, we're part of the generation at the end of the 'sexual revolution'," Severus replied with a snort. "Besides, isn't it a bit rich of you to call anyone brazen when you kissed me today in the middle of breakfast –"

"Oh, you liked it, shut up," Narcissa cut him off hastily, but Severus was already chuckling as he reopened his book. "What are you working on, anyways? We don't have any homework."

"I'm working on trying to translate the symbols on that damned brooch," Severus growled, pulling another heavy book open with his free hand. "I think I might be getting close on tracing the runic dialect, and once that is done, half the battle is already won."

"How close are you?"

"Not close enough, that's for damned sure," Severus muttered, scribbling down a few notes in his cramped handwriting. "I've managed to trace the dialect to the sixteenth century runic forms, but there were dozens of variants in that century, none of which I'm fluent in. Unraveling this magic is going to take some time."

"Do you want me to check the family records? I can have Bellatrix –"

Severus gave her an exasperated look. "You should know, by now, that that would be a mistake. She'd want to know why we have it and likely demand it back."

"That's a good point," Narcissa mused, "but if she mailed us the records –"

"There you are!"

Severus and Narcissa both nearly jumped out of their seats as Regulus walked into Severus' little alcove, a slight smirk on his face. "I've been looking all over for you."

"I'm sure," Narcissa replied irritably. "How was your meeting with Feylen?"

"Not an issue," Regulus replied easily, leaning against the bookshelf. "What about you, Narcissa?"

Surprisingly, a dull pink flush crept into her features as she hastily turned away. Severus cocked an eyebrow.


"I never thought I'd actually say it… but the Muggle clothes aren't exactly bad," Narcissa muttered, her flush deepening with every word.

Regulus laughed while Severus just shook his head. "Why were you looking for us, Regulus?" he asked heavily. "Surely your brother hasn't done something stupid already –"

"No, it's just that Dumbledore's posted the first 'Muggle social activity'," Regulus replied with a slight grimace. "Posters have gone up all over the school. It's called 'Hogwarts: A Homecoming."

Severus put his hand to his forehead. "Please tell me you're kidding me."

"Nope. And according to Dumbledore, it's a 'grand opportunity for House unification and celebration of the entire school'."

Narcissa turned to Severus, an incredulous expression on her face. "You know, I think you might be right. He is going senile."

"And that only bodes ill for us all," Severus muttered, already envisioning the catastrophe that the event would become.