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A Hundred Indecisions by Scrivenshaft Winnersierrachar

Rating: PG. Created: October 11th, 2005. Updated: October 11th, 2005. Read Reviews (4)
Disclaimer: Characters, the magical world, etc, is property of J. K. Rowling and Warner Bros, not the owner of this fic.

A/N: Some bits of it have been tweaked slightly since I submitted it for the Scrivenshaft Challenges, but nothing big. Just a word or two. Please let me know what you think. :)

A Hundred Indecisions

And indeed there will be time For the yellow smoke that slides along the street, Rubbing its back upon the window-panes; 25 There will be time, there will be time To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet; There will be time to murder and create, And time for all the works and days of hands That lift and drop a question on your plate; 30 Time for you and time for me, And time yet for a hundred indecisions, And for a hundred visions and revisions, Before the taking of a toast and tea.

The night was appropriately foggy and dim. Snape wondered if this was just an eerie coincidence or a phenomenon of the Dark Lord’s choosing. He rubbed the Dark Mark on his arm in agitation and wrapped the cool, damp sleeve of his cloak around it tightly, knowing even as he did so that this would not alleviate the burning sensation in his skin.

He should have Apparated there by now, and the longer he waited the worse the burning got, but when the Dark Lord summoned him he’d been in the middle of a game of chance, gambling for several giant squid livers, and could not easily get away.

Snape hurried along the streets of London and down a dark alley to where only Muggle dogs would have been brave enough to stray, and stopped a moment to ready himself.

Snape gathered his secrets about him and emptied his mind of them. His memories scurried to a secret compartment in his mind, which he shut and then locked viciously, rendering them inaccessible. Lines of worry slipped off his face, his eyes cooled and then hardened into an obedient yet ruthless sort of gaze, and his mind slipped stealthily into another frame. His Dark Mark burned intensely, his mind buzzed with vicious spells, and his Death Eater mask slipped over his face to complete the illusion. The puffs of yellow smoke in the alley swirled around him, and with a pop! he was gone.

He was among the last to arrive, but the Dark Lord saved his rage for Peter Pettigrew, who was late as always, and already trembling from head to foot when he appeared.

The meeting was brief, and the mission simple. The Death Eaters shot off into the night like missiles, each burning with the desire to seek and destroy.

Severus always felt, on nights like this, he should have a chance to go into a bathroom afterwards and wash the blood off his hands.

But there was no blood.

There were no bleeding corpses, no oozing sores, no lines of blood trickling under doors; no clutching of stomachs and shrieking in pain…just blank, glassy eyes that would not see daylight again.

Bellatrix and Rodolphus were by far the sickest. Severus preferred just to kill them and be done with it; but no, the Lestranges had to scare and torture the Muggles until they went half-insane, and then kill them from behind, laughing, as they tried to run away.

Bellatrix killed a young boy, and his Muggle girlfriend collapsed next to him, weeping. Bellatrix re-animated the boy’s corpse and shrieked with laughter as the young girl howled in fear, her dead lover chasing her around the garden with stiff, clumsy legs and a limp, lolling head. Rodolphus appeared out of nowhere and the young girl ran into him, stumbling and falling backwards into the corpse’s arms.

Severus could only imagine, as she shrieked and shivered and finally collapsed onto the ground in despair, what must have been going through her mind.

Rodolphus gave a hearty laugh before killing her. He re-animated her corpse as well, and the Lestranges doubled over laughing as they made the corpses dance around the garden together.

“LESTRANGE!” Severus bellowed, losing his patience. “Both of you—stop fooling around, we have work to do!”

Two Death Eater masks turned in Snape’s direction, and the Lestranges, clearly disappointed, let the Muggle bodies collapse on the ground.

“We were just having a little fun,” Bellatrix pouted.

“We’re not here to have fun, we’re here to work,” Severus hissed, and stalked across the yard to help Lucius kill several children who were trying to hide in the bushes.

The Lestranges were more efficient when they weren’t trying to have fun, and the next time Snape turned to look at them, the task was completed.

Bellatrix lifted her wand into the air and yelled, “MORSMORDRE!” into the sky. A streak of emerald light erupted from the end of her wand, and the Dark Mark painted itself in luminescent green against the night. Bellatrix admired her work for a second, and then lowered her head, her face turning toward Snape. He could almost see the smirk behind her mask.

“Let’s go,” she said, and with a whirl and a pop! disappeared into the night.

The rest of the Death Eaters followed suit, and within minutes Voldemort had appraised and complimented their work, and then dismissed them to continue their lives. He was rarely more thorough than this, and none of the Death Eaters seemed abashed that their night’s work was already at an end.

In the absence of the Dark Lord, his faithful servants removed their masks and regarded each other with a certain sense of accomplishment.

“You’re all welcome to join me for a drink at Malfoy Manor, of course,” Lucius said, tucking his mask into his robes. “Narcissa will be delighted to entertain you, I’m sure.”

“I c—can’t,” Peter said, trembling again. “I have to go to J—James and Lily’s. They’re going to find me out this time, I’m sure of it—”

“Oh, stop being ridiculous, Wormtail,” Lucius snapped. “Potter thinks you’re his friend—Dumbledore let you in his Order—honestly, you sniveling idiot, you’re our most successful spy, and you act as though the Dark Lord hasn’t taken extreme precautions so you won’t be found out.”

“But I was supposed to be there an hour—”

“Just GO!” Lucius roared, losing his patience.

Peter squeaked and trembled again before Disapparating.

Snape shook his head at Peter and wiped at his face, rubbing some of the oil off. He always sweated profusely under his Death Eater mask, with the result that his hair and skin were rather more greasy-looking than usual. “Thanks for the invitation, Lucius,” Severus said pleasantly. “I think I’ll go home and get washed up a bit before I come over.”

“Ooh, that’s a good idea,” Bellatrix said immediately. “I want to go home and change so Cissy can see my new robes. Do you mind, Rudy?” she directed at her husband.

“Just so long as you don’t mind me going on ahead of you,” he replied.

Bellatrix pouted for a moment. “Oh, all right,” she decided finally. “Just ask Cissy to make me a bit of tea, would you? I’m not sure I’d like anything stronger tonight.”

Bellatrix vanished with a pop! and Severus quickly followed suit; Lucius and Rodolphus went in search of a fireplace, for Malfoy Manor was impossible to reach by Apparition.

Severus Apparated to his flat to wash up. He didn’t look particularly wonderful tonight—his skin always looked a bit sallow after a killing—but once he’d gotten the grime out of his hair and the grease off his face, he looked, at least, no worse than usual.

He sank into the couch and prepared himself for the rest of the night. What to say—how to act--?

Visiting the Malfoys was always a chore, because acting around Narcissa like he didn’t care very much about her took almost as great a bit of Occlumency as it did to sit through the Dark Lord’s cursory inspection of his mind before each Death Eater meeting. Not that there was anything to find, of course; his doubts about being a Death Eater were so small, so infinitesimal, that it wasn’t much of a chore to lock them away.Still, though…Snape spent hours practicing Occlumency…locking his doubts away…closing his mind so even the most skilled of Legilimens would not suspect….

But Severus Snape did not like to linger upon his doubts, so instead of sitting on the couch worrying about it, he stood up and tossed a handful of Floo powder into the fireplace. “Malfoy Manor!” he bellowed, and Floo network whisked him away.

The Malfoys’ drawing room materialized about him in a flurry of ash and Floo powder. He was not surprised to see a tall, thin blonde woman waiting for him on the couch.

“Hullo, Severus,” Narcissa said quietly, gazing at his face. “My husband said you’d be coming.”

“Er—yes,” Snape agreed, hoping that he had indeed removed all the grime and oil from his face.

“I trust you’re doing well?” she continued, her eyes not leaving his. She sounded calm and normal, but she was sitting farther forward on the couch than usual, her shoulders leaning toward the fireplace with a suggestion of prolonged hesitation.

“As well as can be expected,” he said finally, and stepped away from the fireplace, his position in front if it making him uncomfortably warm. “And—and you?”

“I’m well,” Narcissa replied. “Draco is also,” she added, though he hadn’t asked after her son. “He said his first words just last week. He’s very smart,” she added softly, and for the first time her gaze slipped from Severus’s.

“I can imagine,” Severus replied, feeling a slight constriction in his throat. He did not think Narcissa noticed.

“I expect he’ll be showing signs of magic before long. He keeps trying to steal his father’s wand. Which Lucius doesn’t appreciate…as you can imagine.”

“Yes,” Snape agreed. A silence fell between them, and Narcissa lifted her gaze to his once again.

Snape blocked his mind up so severely that if he was having any thoughts of his own at that moment, he didn’t know what they were. Narcissa blinked at him, her expression falling just barely, and her gaze slipped away again.

“I expect they’ll be asking after you,” she said finally, tilting even further away from the couch. “And they’ll wonder what’s become of my tea.”

She pushed against the couch cushions and stood, and the atmosphere loosened, almost imperceptibly. Severus watched her intently as she turned her back to him, and his mind slipped—just for a moment—

Narcissa whirled and looked at him, her eyes wide and very blue, though normally they were a pale sort of grey. She clutched the skirts of her robes in her hands so hard her knuckles were turning white.

“Don’t do that,” Severus said finally, and reached over and loosened Narcissa’s grip on her robes. He took her hands into his and just held them for a moment.

Narcissa gazed at him for a long while, her face pinched, her eyes searching his, her hands curling around his, warm and smooth and comforting. Severus slipped again, and something passed between them—a jolt—a sudden warmth—a nervous skip of the heart—and then came an overwhelming rush, a flushing heat, a sweep of goosebumps from where their hands connected, up to their heads where a sudden color appeared in their cheeks.

Narcissa’s face relaxed immediately—her eyes softened and then glittered with emotion—and her cheeks, flushed with warmth, lifted into a kind of involuntary smile. She brought Severus’s hands to her face, kissed the backs of them, and then pressed his hands against her cheeks, cupping their warmth against her face and reveling in it.

Severus, astonished, allowed her to do this for a moment, and then stroked his thumb against her cheek, memorized her face and the sweet soft flushing of her cheeks, stared in wonder as she turned her face and kissed his palm—

Then withdrew his hands, slipping them out of hers and letting them fall, limp and useless, at his side.

The flush withdrew from Narcissa’s cheeks and she looked at him for a moment, almost longingly, before the bright shining warmth slipped out of her eyes and she nodded, gathering her skirts in her hand again and turning away, no more hesitancy in her posture.

“Narcissa,” Severus said, as the warmth began to ebb away from his hands. She turned and looked at him again, still composed, but her look was softer. “I’m glad to hear about Draco. He has—a good father. He’ll make you proud.”

Narcissa seemed to warm again at these words. Not as she had before, but in a fierce, motherly sort of way, and once again something passed between them. A sort of odd, muted vow of friendship—of loyalty—of passion directed to better uses. She smiled again, warm and innocent and genuine, and Severus could not help but think, even as he blocked his mind up again, that she had never looked more beautiful.

“Thank you,” she said finally. “It means a lot to hear you say so.”

Severus couldn’t find any appropriate words, so he just nodded. They held each other’s gaze a long while.

“We should be going,” Narcissa said, breaking the silence.

“Yes,” Snape agreed. “They’ll be expecting us at tea.”

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