Title: Snow Leopard
Characters/Pairings: Narcissa/Severus, can be read as a pairing or simply protective friendship.
Warnings: Mentioned character death, child neglect, violence/fighting, significant age difference/underage romance (if the character interaction is viewed in a pairing context).
Word Count: 2212
Prompt: #74 - Remus/Luna, Narcissa/Severus. This picture, creature habits. (by deathjunke)
Notes: Takes place while the two of them are still in Hogwarts - a few liberties taken with the ages, but only if the Black Family tapestry counts as canon. I'm not sure this is what the prompter was hoping for/expecting, but it's what came to mind for me when I saw the picture.
Severus is eleven, and battered, greasy hair dangling low as he hangs his head in shame. His robes are singed from an errant curse of James Potter’s, and there are fresh bruises scattered across his arms and face. The fight had gotten physical after Severus threw a handful of insults at Sirius Black, over his pureblood family. The family Black doesn’t deserve.
Severus stumbles into the Slytherin common room well past curfew, favoring his right leg as he walks—he'd twisted the opposite knee kicking Peter Pettigrew in the ribs—and doesn’t make it more than four steps toward the boys’ dormitory before Narcissa Black is standing there hovering over him, crooning sympathetically as her pale hands reach out to graze his injuries.
Narcissa is a curious creature, and one whom Severus can hardly claim to understand. Three years older than Severus and infinitely better off in every way imaginable, Narcissa Black is, to him, akin to something from another world entirely. Though related to that despicable Gryffindor, Sirius Black, as well as being the younger sister of the haughty Bellatrix, Narcissa is quite unlike either of them.
Sirius is like a dog, with his barking laughter and stupid disposition and his love for common things. Bellatrix, by contrast, is the eldest sister of three, scornful and arrogant, prideful of her name and the stature it affords her, beautiful and terrible, constantly fraying at the edges with her wild hair and hooded eyes.
Narcissa is none of these things. At first glance she seems pretty and delicate, with fair features and long pale hair. Her attitude is petty and snobbish toward outsiders—Severus still remembers how she’d wrinkled her nose at him during the Welcoming Feast, disgusted at the state of his clothes and hair—and yet she shares none of the haughty, aggressive attitude of her eldest sister. Narcissa would prefer to turn up her nose and walk away from a conflict, magical or otherwise. Such trivialities are beneath her.
Yet at the same time, Narcissa carries a powerful protective streak in her blood, something Severus has noticed in the way she lashes out at anyone who dares to insult her lover Lucius; in the way she mutters quiet jinxes at the pureblooded boys who spread rumors about her sister Andromeda for rejecting them.
That protectiveness stirs into action now as Narcissa kneels before Severus—whom she sees as an extension of Lucius, and therefore, perhaps, worth protecting. She’s a lady to the core, but with a gloss of something hard overlying, and Severus doesn’t miss the cold glint in her lovely blue eyes.
“What’s happened, what’s happened?” she murmurs, fussing at Severus’s ruffled clothes as if he were a gosling wandered away from its family and into some terrible trouble. “Was it those Gryffindor boys again? I keep telling you to avoid them.”
“It’s nothing!” Severus hisses, embarrassed, glancing about the empty common room like he might spy one of his year-mates hiding behind the furniture.
Narcissa frowns at his answer, and he relents. “All right, yes," Severus says, exasperated. "It was Potter and Black again—your cousin, I mean, Sirius—”
“I know who you mean,” she says, quite darkly, and Severus’s heart skips a beat in his chest. He realizes, belatedly, that her hands are remarkably soft on his skin.
“It wasn’t any big trouble,” he says uncomfortably, trying to tug away from her smoothing touches. “I’d have gotten them worse, only they brought their little sponge Pettigrew along as backup…”
Narcissa will have none of that: before he can so much as dig in his heels, she’s seized his wrist in her slender fingers and marched him over to the nearest green sofa. She forcefully sits him down and then alights upon the seat beside him, taking her wand out and wordlessly vanishing away the worst of the bruises.
“I keep telling you to stay away from those nasty boys,” she sniffs, rubbing underneath one of his eyes to check that she's successfully gotten rid of the mark there. “Stay by Lucius. He’ll watch out over you.”
“I’m not a coward!” Severus argues hotly, drawing his face away from her hands. “I can handle them just fine! I’ve usually got Li—Evans at my back, and we almost always come off better than them in the fights—”
Without warning, Narcissa reaches out and painfully seizes a handful of his greasy hair; she forcibly yanks him back towards her, so that their faces are terrifyingly close:
“You don’t need help from filthy little mudbloods like her!”
Shocked, Severus lets out an involuntary noise of surprise, completely caught off-guard by Narcissa's sudden change in behavior. He’s never seen her like this, glowering in rage, with her eyes wide and fierce like an animal’s. Anyone else, even Lucius, Severus would have hexed for daring to breathe such an insult against his precious Lily. But against Narcissa, Severus can say nothing: he has to take a moment just to compose himself from the shock, and by then she’s already back to herself, loosening her grip on his hair until she’s merely stroking the lank strands instead of pulling them, the motion almost soothing.
“I’d hate for them to have a chance hurt you, Severus,” she croons, and it takes him a moment to register that she’s talking about Black and Potter again. “I only care about what’s best for you.”
Feeling rather numb, Severus doesn’t protest when Narcissa lets go of his hair and reaches out both her arms for his skinny frame, pulling him closer until he’s half in her lap, her chin resting atop his dirty hair. She lets out a contented hum against his skull, and he can feel the sound reverberating through his head, down his spine, to the tips of his fingers and toes.
No one has ever held him like this before, like an animal cub curled close to its mother so as to be kept out of harm’s way. Severus doesn’t know what to make of it, but he doesn’t attempt to pull free, either, and it seems he falls asleep like that—the next morning, he wakes up in his own bed like always, although perhaps the sheets are tucked about him a touch more securely than normal.
Severus is thirteen, and destroyed, limbs shaking as he staggers away from the Headmaster’s office and toward the Slytherin common room, the library, the kitchens; any place at all that isn’t the cavernous prison of his own mind.
His mother is dead. His mother, his surly, unkind mother, who’d shown him magic, who’d taught him hexes, who’d told him stories at his bedside once in a blue moon, even when he'd been acting like a pathetic, sniveling child—she’s dead.
And just like that, Severus has no home.
(Dumbledore had asked if Severus wanted to leave Hogwarts and return to Spinner’s End, to grieve. Severus can’t imagine anything he’d like less. Unbidden, his imagination brings forth the images to the front of his mind: sitting in the darkened, filthy rooms of his home, forbidden to use magic, with only his father for company…)
Severus is so distraught that he fails to notice Black and Potter tailing him into an empty corridor, their faces bright and eager at the opportunity to attack him with his guard down. It’s already too late when he sees them out of the corner of one eye, and Severus lets out a shuddering sob, slumping a bit in despair—what does he even care, anymore? When hexing them won’t bring her back?
“All right, Snivellus?” Potter jeers, circling in front of him while Black corners him from behind. All of the sudden, Severus is arrested by a sudden, furious hatred, a desire to make them bleed, and he wishes desperately that he had a spell to tear into them like knives, get their precious pure blood smeared all over the floor.
“Not so brave without Evans or Malfoy here to protect you, eh, Snivellus?” Black asks, expression predatory as he raises his wand. Severus halfheartedly goes for his own, knowing that Potter’s going to disarm him the moment he tries to throw up a shield, knowing that they’re both right anyway, he’s completely worthless and alone without Lucius’s protection, or Lily’s increasingly scant attention—
The light in the corridor suddenly flares unsteadily; Black and Potter glance up just in time to see the nearby torches disconnect from the walls and swoop furiously toward them.
“OY! What gives?” demands Black, jerking backward as the nearest lit torch flies down to rap him painfully over the head. “Prote —!”
“Not today, Sirius,” comes an icy voice behind them, and out of nowhere a burst of white light races down the corridor to connect with Black—he falls to the ground, bellowing and clutching his swelling face.
Severus and Potter whip around in unison to see Narcissa Black walking toward them, her wand arm outstretched. She’s surrounded on all sides by a ring of flying torches, and, encircled by the flames, she is the only thing in the corridor still fully illuminated. Her expression is calm, but Severus can sense a glint of something feral and dangerous lurking in her cold eyes.
Potter collects his wits immediately, standing tall with a defiant expression. “What was that for?” he shouts, still batting away torches attempting to light his hair on fire. “Come off it, Black!”
“Talking to her, now, James?” asks Black—Sirius—who stands, seemingly recovered from the Stinging Hex. He’s not looking at Potter, however; instead, he's staring quite murderously at Narcissa. “Go on, Cissy. This isn’t any of your business.”
Her nostrils flare, and Severus has to stop himself from taking a step back. He doesn’t see this side of Narcissa often, but when she’s truly angry, even Bellatrix has a hard time laughing her off.
“I would suggest that you both go back to your dormitories,” she hisses, and the flickering torch-lights cast a glare off the Head Girl badge pinned to her robes. “Or perhaps, the muggle-lovers would rather get themselves a detention?”
“What’s this, then, Snivellus—did you call your old boyfriend’s girlfriend for backup?” Potter asks incredulously, turning to Severus again. “You’re sorrier than I thought! Does Malfoy send his house-elf to wash your trousers, too?”
“Potter,” Narcissa begins coolly, drawing closer to Severus, “You might do well to watch how you speak of Lucius. There will come a day when he has the power to make you regret those words.”
“Will he, now?” asks Black bitterly, struggling to put out a small fire set to his robes by one of the torches still swooping down at him like a flaming bat. “Him and all his Death Eater friends?”
He could not have possibly picked anything more dangerous to say—the torches fall out of the air at once, instantaneously, all of them clattering noisily to the ground. Spinning on his heel, Severus gets just a second’s glance at Narcissa’s frozen expression before the flames die out in unison, leaving the corridor plunged into total darkness. Then:
“Flagrante,” comes a breathless whisper in the dark.
Suddenly, Black and Potter are screaming in pain, the noise echoing deafeningly throughout the pitch-black corridor. Severus realizes with a rush that Narcissa has cursed them, cursed Potter and Black right here out in the open of the castle, right under Dumbledore’s nose. Numb with shock, he doesn’t fight as she pulls at his arm and navigates them both through another series of corridors, racing away from the scene of the altercation.
Before long, the two of them reach a hanging portrait near the Owlery, where Narcissa waves her wand to reveal a hidden alcove in the wall. She tugs Severus inside and seals the opening shut again behind them, waiting patiently, and he doesn’t disappoint her—within minutes he’s broken down sobbing, burying himself into her robes, and Narcissa drags her sharp immaculate nails comfortingly along his scalp as Severus tells her about his mother’s death, about everything.
She holds him this way for hours, and, even cradled in her arms like an infant, with his walls all shattered to bits—even with his mother gone—Severus finds himself at one point wondering, why, exactly, a person like Narcissa Black would ever spare him this sort of attention. Is it because Lucius is gone from the school, off to make himself a career at the Ministry? Is it because Andromeda Black eloped with that muggle-born boy last summer? Is there some problem with Bellatrix? Or might it be the rumors, the ones flying through the castle, about a secretive new society of dark wizards…?
Or perhaps, Narcissa is simply too protective for her own good. Dumbledore will have her Head Girl badge for this, Severus knows, and her family will likely be furious—and all for some stupid small whelp like Severus, who can’t even defend himself properly—
“I expect you’ll make an excellent mother someday, Narcissa,” he says dully, voice muffled with his face still pressed into her robes.
He feels her body shift a bit beside him, and her fingers tighten their grip in his hair, but not enough to hurt.
“Hush,” she says, primly, and he does.