Title: Variation on a One-Night Stand
Pairing: Snape/Narcissa, background Narcissa/Lucius
Summary: Shortly after the events of Half-Blood Prince, Narcissa comes to Snape looking for a one-night stand and finds something else instead.
Author's Notes: Thank you to yeomanrand for the beta! Originally written for dysfuncentine
Word Count: 1800
Narcissa Malfoy is faithful: to family, to blood, to the Dark Lord, to her husband. On the evening of her fortieth birthday, she decides one of those things will have to change, and she disentangles herself carefully from Lucius' arms. He does not awaken, and she smooths back a lock of his bright blond hair. Like a mother and a child, she thinks, and stifles the bitterness that automatically follows the thought. She doesn't feel guilty, she decides, in spite of what she is about to do. She is in every way a dutiful wife; not even Lucius recognizes that their relationship has changed. But she cannot give herself wholly to a man who is no longer her equal; if she tries, she will break, and neither she nor Draco nor Lucius can afford that.
The corridor outside their bedroom is dark; the thick and ancient carpets muffle her footsteps. She doubts that Severus will hear her coming, but he opens the door before she can knock, leaving her hand hanging awkwardly in the air, her fingers half-curled into a fist.
"Narcissa," he says blandly. He is still fully dressed in spite of the dark circles under his eyes, and she wonders how long it might take her to undo all those buttons. Assuming he would let her; she already feels off balance.
"May I come in?" she asks lightly, and he stares at her appraisingly for a moment before he steps aside and ushers her in with mock grandiosity. She is his host -- he can't deny her -- but his suspicion saddens her unexpectedly. She has no particular claim to his trust, but she had hoped to escape from the realities of their world for a moment.
"And might I inquire what brings you here at this late hour?" he asks. He looks suave, debonair; it's hard to believe the hovel he came from. Having seen it, she thinks the sophisticated language covers an honest question: he genuinely has no idea what she wants from him.
"Only a conversation with a friend," she says and realizes that it might be true. "Would that be too much to ask?" You saved my son's life, after all, she thinks. Surely a conversation is not too large a favor, but the look of terror on Severus' face is unmistakable, even though it was quickly replaced by the familiar blank mask.
"Not even a conversation. Just a moment alone if you prefer," she says, and she doesn't mind that the edges of her practiced smile look frayed. She can practically hear the wheels in his mind turning, calculating whether it would be safer to allow her to stay or order her to go. This is the world they live in, she thinks, where the risk of every conversation had to be weighed and measured. No use complaining.
"Severus," she says. "Look at me. I have no agenda. You don't have to take off your mask; only let me take off mine." She lets her mental shields down, inviting him to search her mind. It should be an intrusion, but the relief of it is exquisite: it reminds her of stepping out of her ball gown at the end of a long party and unpinning her hair. The image is faintly sexual, and so is doing this with Severus, letting him pull small thoughts and images from her mind.
He pulls back from her suddenly, as if slapped.
"Narcissa, surely you did not come here for..."
She waves a hand.
"Originally." The admission is no embarrassment; she's a beautiful woman, and lying to him is pointless anyway. "It's no matter. I'll take what you can give."
His companionship is enough, she realizes; she had wanted only to speak honestly with someone who did not require her protection. Not that she doesn't find satisfaction in the blush spreading across his pale cheekbones. It's a rare thing, to catch Severus Snape off-guard.
"You're more attractive than you know," she says, voice low. He is competent, intelligent, controlled. He had protected her son's life when Lucius would have led him to his death.
"Narcissa. You are placing yourself in danger." He puts a hand on her elbow, and she realizes he means to escort her to the door. "Think of your son."
She lets him guide her toward the door but she spins around and blocks the knob before he can open it.
"I am," she says. "And if I have to face Lucius' sniveling and simpering one more day, I'll fall apart. He's weak, Severus. I didn't marry a weak man. I didn't sign on to do this alone."
"None of us did, Narcissa. The difficulty must be borne."
"So you feel it too?" she asks. "The loneliness?"
He flinches - infinitesimally, but she notices. He's standing very close to her, and he isn't afraid for her, she realizes, but for himself.
"Please," she whispers. Her throat strains against the unfamiliar word. "Severus, there's no one else. Please may we sit down?"
"Do not imagine, Narcissa, that I will keep your secrets."
She smiles ruefully. "My secrets are worth nothing. I am tired; I fear for my son; I know that the Dark Lord has done me a dubious honor in choosing my home as his residence. Everyone knows these things, including the Dark Lord himself. You have nothing to gain by peddling the thoughts of a woman beneath his notice."
"But I am afraid that you and your family have much to gain at the moment."
"And you think that in one conversation, I will find something to betray you with? Something so large it will overcome even the killing of the Dark Lord's only rival? I shouldn't imagine such a thing exists." Although it would be terribly interesting if it did, she thinks, and the idea on increases her appreciation for the man standing before her, his eyebrows raised in trademark bland expression.
"I do not underestimate you, Narcissa."
"Mmm," she says, feigning boredom and leaning against the doorframe. "Can't underestimate anyone in these times, I suppose. Constant vigilance and all that."
"You misunderstand me. I do not underestimate you, Narcissa."
"Thank you," she says, looking him in the eye. She smooths a wrinkle in his robe, a gesture more affectionate than sexual. He looks baffled, and she smiles in spite of her exhaustion. "You know I haven't come here to betray you."
She steps around him and saunters toward the couch.
"If I wanted to do that, I would have drugged your tea and asked you questions."
She settles into a corner of the sofa, her back against the armrest and her feet tucked beneath her. Severus is off-balance now too, but also -- if she flatters herself -- intrigued and a bit admiring. It's sexy, even if it isn't sex, and her mind feels awake in a way that it hasn't in a long time.
"Didn't think of that, did you? You might start carrying around your own flask. I wouldn't do it; I don't betray my child's protectors. I can't vouch for Bella though."
Severus settles on the couch beside her, though not close enough to give her any illusions about his intentions for the night.
"Have you really tired of your golden boy, Narcissa?" hessked, looking at her shrewdly.
"No," she says and wishes she had a glass of wine to twirl between her fingers. She hadn't realized how much she depended on these small gestures to entrance and enthrall the men around her; without them, she feels strangely naked. "I will always love Lucius; he gave me Draco. But it's boring, actually, terribly, terribly boring to be married to someone who's falling apart. It's such a stupid thing to be bothered about, but I thought I might be alright if only I could have an interesting conversation with someone. I do so miss our banter."
"And you came to me?"
"You're a witty man, Severus," she says, forcing herself to look at him instead of her non-existent glass of wine. She will be honest tonight; she won't play the coquette. Otherwise, she won't be able to forgive herself for what she's done -- or tried to do.
"And are you satisfied?"
"Yes. It's better, I think, than what I came here for."
"And have you said all you wish to say?"
His eyes are softer than she's ever seen them. She swallows, and her voice catches.
"Then what is it, Narcissa?"
The tension in his body belies the softness in his eyes; he doesn't know what she's going to say, whether it will endanger them both, but he'll listen anyway. It's kind, she thinks.
"Do you think it will be better after the war's won? Less cruel?"
She believes in the righteousness of their cause; only, she had not understood the price of fighting for it.
"No," he says, his expression unreadable. It's a risk not to lecture her; they both know it. If she were interrogated for some reason, her memory of that single word would be damning. She nods slowly, focusing her whole being on gratitude for his honesty rather than fear of what lay ahead.
"Do you have what you need?" he asks. He looks at her searchingly. It's different from the way he'd looked at her when she'd come to him to beg for Draco's life, less calculating. They're just two people now, she thinks, as much as either of them could afford to be.
"Almost," she says. Her heart is beating faster than it ought to, and she follows her impulse to lay her head against his shoulder. His whole body goes still for a moment, and though he does not relax against her, he does not ask her to leave.
"You will survive this, Narcissa," he says. "And your son with you."
She decides to believe him.