Snape attempted to pull himself up further onto his pillows and winced as he did. He supposed his pain potion was likely wearing off. However, he said nothing, merely waited for Aurora to answer.
"Natalia who?" she finally spoke several moments later.
"Natalia Sirov," he patiently repeated. He caught his daughter's eyes watching him curiously. No doubt, she was soaking every little detail they were saying into her innocent little mind. He frowned in response. It was definitely not a story for his little girl to hear. He had made a habit over the years to shield her from most unpleasantness. He didn't want his daughter to grow up like him quite frankly. "She was a," he paused as he searched for a word, "colleague of mine you could say." He noticed Aurora's eyes narrow instantly before she glanced down at their daughter. She understood. Good. He knew he had married her for a reason.
"Sweetheart, Mummy and Daddy need to talk with each other again. Just for Mummy and Daddy's ears only. You remember our deal?" The little girl nodded slowly with a clear look of disappointment. "Won't be long, love."
The five-year-old sighed loudly, her bottom lip out slightly. "You really don't have to, Mummy. I know who she is. She's one of Daddy's girlfriends."
Snape groaned silently. Why did his daughter have to take after him already? Why couldn't she have just slowly grown into her magic like every other magical child? He watched Aurora kiss the girl's forehead and sighed inwardly. That was not how he wanted her to find out about Natalia.
"What have Mummy and Daddy said about that, Celes?" his wife asked, using their daughter's nickname.
"Not to," answered the young girl. "But really, Mummy, it's nothing I don't know already."
"It's something your dad doesn't want you to know, though, love."
"Only cause he thinks it'll make me bad," the little girl argued.
"It's because your daddy loves you very much and wants you to stay his sweet innocent Angel until you're as old as Mummy."
"But, Mummy, I won't ever be that old."
Snape closed his eyes immediately. There was his five-year-old daughter showing her age again. He reopened his eyes and watched Aurora shake her head.
"Oh, just play with your bear, brat," he quietly scolded, giving his daughter a look.
"You love me, Daddy."
She shook her head at once, her little blond curls bouncing adorably. "Always, Daddy."
He quickly cast Muffliato around them and sighed.
"Was she right? Is this Natalia one of your old girlfriends?" Aurora asked quietly.
"No. I admit I slept with her, but I didn't love her in the slightest."
"You do know you don't have to protect my feelings, Severus, right? I can handle you being with someone before me."
He frowned before he glanced at her. "Yes, Aurora. I'm aware that you're not some delicate flower. However, I stand by my earlier words. I did not love her."
"Then, why didn't you ever tell me about her before now?"
He glanced up at the ceiling and counted for a few moments in his mind. It was hard to kill old habits, and his sarcasm was deeply engrained in him. "I didn't inform you because I didn't feel it was necessary. The last I had heard she had been killed. So, I let the past stay there."
"And now I figure that I should at least entertain the possibility that she faked her death. It is one plausible theory that could explain why I'm alive and the others are not."
"Oh. Because she loved you. Lovely."
He growled, glaring at Aurora. "No, you jealous witch. Neither one of us loved each other. In fact, the sex was more painful than pleasurable." He shook his head when he saw his wife satisfied nod. "Now, if you're done projecting your self-doubt, may I continue?"
"Yes, dear," Aurora replied with a forced smile.
"Thank you." He huffed. "Dumbledore introduced us. After I turned and became a double agent for him, he asked me to meet one of his associates at a rundown motel outside of Muggle London." His lips pinched together as he recalled that meeting, recounting it as the memory flashed before his eyes.
In the pouring rain, twenty-year-old Severus Snape strode through the gravel parking lot towards room number 7 that was situated at the far end of the building, popping up his hood on his long black raincoat as he did. He sneered when he saw the crooked number on the chipped off painted door. This whole place looked like it belonged in Cokeworth, the pathetic Muggle town he had grown up in. His black eyes darted left then right before he knocked loudly against the metal. Hearing no reply, he slipped his wand into his hand, hidden by the long sleeves. He cast a silent Alohomora and easily slipped inside the room a moment later, closing the door behind him.
His dark eyes darted about the darkened room. The bed clearly hadn't been touched, so whoever he was to meet hadn't tried to sleep. There were no bags littering the floor, so likely someone who didn't stay in one place long. His eyes passed over the nightstand and then the dresser, finding no clues. The remote for the telly hadn't even been touched. No lights were on. So either the associate wasn't here or he or she was playing hide-and-seek with him, a game he abhorred. He tensed when a knife suddenly was pressed against his throat, the blade digging in.
"Find anything interesting?" a female voice asked directly behind him.
"No," Snape replied, his mind already thinking of various ways to get out of this situation.
"Who are you?" she demanded, pressing the blade further against his skin, a thin line of blood running down his throat now.
"Severus Snape." He moved his neck slightly from the knife and winced. "And I'd appreciate it if you'd kindly remove that damn knife from my throat. I was asked to meet you."
"Phoenix," Snape growled lowly, knowing that if she was an associate of Dumbledore's that she'd recognize the code name as his immediately. "Now, remove the damn knife." Reluctantly, the knife fell away a moment later. He quickly stepped back from her, holding a hand to his neck. He thankfully wasn't bleeding profusely. "Thank you."
She merely inclined her head, sheathing her blade. Her cold amber eyes passed over him slowly before she crossed her arms. "Good of him to send the one sensible man left on this planet," she remarked with a forced smile. "I think I would have regretted slitting your throat and spilling your blood, especially since you're of a dying breed, Severus." She purred his name.
Paranoia had become his friend these past few months, allowing him to recognize how much of an open book he had been before. So when he frowned and shifted his weight slightly a moment later, he instantly chided himself. He had to throw her off kilter now, get her to back off. Relying on his sharp tongue, he struck his prey.
"Unlike you, I have better things to do with my time than to watch some common whore like you pathetically attempt to seduce me." He brushed off her loud laugh. "In fact, I suggest you frequent the pubs if you require a shag that desperately." He raised a brow at her and looked at her distastefully. "I'd imagine the men would quite enjoy you before they discarded you on the floor," he sneered.
"Ooh. Aren't we snarky?" She scoffed. "As if I'd ever shag you. I mean, if I wanted grease all over me, I'd cook me up some delicious bacon. It'd satisfy me better."
Snape clenched his jaw. "I was informed to meet with you tonight for some asinine reason. So, may we get on with it before we both die of boredom?"
She smiled. "Down to business we go." She quickly adopted a more formal and business-like tone. "I'm told that your, uh, boss is looking for some new blood, and I'd like you to introduce me to him. I'm certain that can't be too hard for you, considering you've yet to find someone to recruit in order to maintain your quota."
"You wish to meet him? Why?"
She shrugged. "I've got a thing for danger. What can I say?"
Snape frowned inwardly. She wanted to meet the Dark Lord? Honestly? Merlin, stupid came in all kinds nowadays.
"And just what sort of meeting would you like me to arrange exactly?" he asked neutrally. If she wanted to get herself killed, then there had better be a damn good reason for it in his opinion. As it was, he was tired of watching people die lately.
When she walked closer to him, he forced himself not to react to her closeness. He had a feeling that's what she was hoping for. He sneered at the feel of her hand suddenly clasping over his sleeved left forearm directly over his Dark Mark.
"Oh, you know the sort," she purred.
"You wish to join the Him?" Impossible. Had Dumbledore even met this woman before?
"Yeah. Gotta admit. That killing of Muggles really gets me going. You know what I mean?"
He snarled and yanked his arm back from her.
"I'll consider your request," he spat.
He whirled around a moment later, Disapparating. He needed a shower to get the crazy off him. Merlin above. When he reappeared, he headed up to the castle with a frown. Why in the nine hell's had Dumbledore sent him to meet her? He soon found himself in front of the familiar oak door and knocked on it, walking into the Headmaster's office when he heard the soft 'enter.'
"Ah, Severus." Dumbledore's cheerfulness quickly vanished upon seeing Snape's face. "Is something the matter, my boy?"
"Why did you send me to meet her? She's an idiot." Snape's jaw clenched when Dumbledore chuckled. "She wishes for me to introduce her to Him."
"I'm aware." Dumbledore leaned back in his chair, completely relaxed.
"Ah. I see." Snape scoffed, shaking his head. "You wish for her to become another spy because you don't trust me."
"No, my boy," Dumbledore stated fiercely, shaking his head. "I trust you completely."
"Then, why? Why did you send me to meet her?"
"Because I wished you to get to know each other, trust one another."
"Why?" Snape had a sickening feeling deep in his belly that he wouldn't like the answer.
"Because you're going to work with each other as partners, Severus."
"I don't require a partner, Headmaster," Snape quietly enunciated, just barely keeping the hiss out of his voice. "In fact, I prefer to work alone."
"I'm aware. However, it is in the best interest of the boy, Severus, Lily's son you remember, that we have all available eyes and ears open. She will just be another pair of eyes and ears."
Snape gritted his teeth and stood rigid. How dare Dumbledore bring up that brat. A part of him wanted to leap across the desk and shake the older wizard to death. However, instead, he stood ramrod.
"And if I refuse, Headmaster?"
"Then, I suppose I will need to speak with the Aurors concerning your actions as of late," Dumbledore replied with a carefree shrug.
Snape drew in a sharp breath before he clenched his jaw even more. That bastard. If only he didn't need Dumbledore's protection. He inclined his head a moment later.
"As you wish, Headmaster."
"Excellent, Severus," Dumbledore grinned. "Lemon drop, my boy?"
Snape forced a polite smile. "No thank you. If you'll excuse me?"
"Of course. Of course." The white-bearded wizard waved his hand to him. "I'll send word to her that you agree. Good night, Severus."
"Good night." Snape whirled around and swiftly strode out of the office. He wanted to scream. He wanted to snarl at a few first-years until they cried. He wanted to destroy every piece of crap Dumbledore held dear to him and break the older man. However, instead, Snape briskly walked through the opened portrait that guarded his rooms and promptly proceeded to get as drunk as he could to forget all of it. Puppet masters toying with their marionette. Dance, monkey. Dance.
He was on his—oh, bugger he had lost count at this point—shot of Firewhiskey when his fireplace roared to life, a single piece of paper floating onto the floor. He frowned and summoned it. His eyes passed over the few words written sloppily. "See you tomorrow, partner. Natalia Sirov."