Written for ms_katanoic for hp_springsmut 2007
Under the Sign of the Silken Robe
by Beth H.
(c) March 8, 2007
"Oh, it's you. Been a month already, has it?"
Madam Allison's words weren't exactly welcoming, but neither were they precisely antagonistic, and in Severus Snape's world, that was rare enough to pass for a gesture of friendship.
He reached into the pocket of his still-serviceable robe for his worn coin purse and counted out seven Galleons, eleven Sickles, and six Knuts.
"I trust this will be sufficient," Severus said, setting the coins down on the table before him in precise rows.
A quick wave of her wand over the coins (a formality in certain financial transactions to ensure the customer hadn't used a Simulatus spell) and Madam Allison nodded.
"I'll see to it you have a bit of extra time tonight, I think."
Severus narrowed his eyes suspiciously. "I take it this generous offer isn't being made purely out of the goodness of your heart."
"Not precisely," the old witch said, quickly tucking the coins away inside a small velvet purse she kept between her breasts. "However, Atra may need a bit of time warming up to you, if you know what I mean."
"Oh, for God's sake," Severus groaned. "Not another virgin."
"Don't know what you're complaining about," Madam Allison sniffed. "Most of our clientele would pay a good deal extra to...."
"I am not most of your clientele."
She looked him up and down, then snorted in a most unladylike fashion. "No, I don't suppose you are. In any case, the girl's no virgin. But she's a bit new to entertaining gentleman callers in an establishment like this."
"Worse than a virgin, then," Severus muttered. "I thought I'd made it clear when I came here last time that I wanted...."
"She knows what you want, Mr. Snape." Madam Allison smiled, a bit condescendingly, if Severus was any judge. "All my girls do. I've seen to that."
Severus wasn't entirely sure whether to take umbrage at the thought that his preferences had apparently been broadcast to all and sundry, or to be grateful that he'd never have to suffer through another encounter like the one six months ago when his companion for the evening, (a former student, needless to say) listened attentively whilst he explained what he wanted, then started giggling and couldn't stop until one of the house-elves ran off to summon Madam Allison.
Severus had been both mortified and angered by the experience and vowed - loudly and at great length - not only to cease his patronage of the Silken Robe, but also to report its shoddy business practices to the Ministry's Liaison for Liaisons. When an hour had passed and Severus showed little sign of running out of steam, Madam Allison offered him three complimentary visits (nothing to sneeze at, for somebody in his financial position), and suddenly Severus discovered he was able to swallow his indignation.
The financial transaction having been sorted out, one of the house-elves escorted Severus to a green door at the end of the first floor corridor. The elf raised his hand as if preparing to knock, but the sight of Severus' glare caused him to flinch and immediately Disapparate from view.
For a moment or two, Severus stood silently before the door, waiting for his slightly erratic breathing to even out and cursing himself for being such a fool. It certainly wasn't as if he'd never visited the Silken Robe or other similar establishments before. If anything, the reverse was true, for Severus had little experience with any unpaid sexual activities (with the notable exception of self-pleasuring, of course) and was more than familiar with the ins and outs of such encounters. He knew he should rest easy - this was a "sure thing," after all - but each time he was forced to knock on the door of a new companion, he felt as if he were back at Hogwarts again, an awkward teenager standing alone on the sidelines at a school ball, face burning with shame after being rebuffed yet again by a prospective dance partner. From that time on, Severus had vowed he'd never again court that sort of humiliation, and even now that he was an adult, he felt extremely uncomfortable with any arrangement that forced him to take the first step in social situations.
However, no Snape (or Prince, for that matter) would pass up a social encounter that had already been bought and paid for, so Severus took a step forward, but before he could place his hand on the brass knocker, the door opened.
Standing in the doorway was an attractive brunette, clad in an enticing, though thoroughly respectable lavender robe. She was no longer in the first bloom of youth, but neither had she reached the stage where most of her colleagues start to enhance their appearance with glamours.
"Severus?" she said, smiling for the briefest of moments and inclining her head slightly in a style of welcome made fashionable by the more influential purebloods some years earlier.
He nodded, surprised to note that she seemed to be acting as if this were a purely social occasion.
"Please call me Atra." She extended her arm and - quite gracefully, he thought - ushered him into her rooms.
The furnishings in her sitting room were far more sophisticated than those to which he'd grown accustomed in his monthly visits to the Silken Robe. The other women's rooms tended towards bright reds and golds (a bit too Gryffindorish for Severus' tastes, regardless of how many years it had been since he'd had to consider House rivalries), but everything in Atra's rooms - from the tapestries on the walls to the tea service displayed on the inlaid mahogany sideboard - was subtle and understated.
"Perhaps some wine," Atra said as she led Severus to the couch. "I'm in possession of a lovely Echezeaux, if you'd care for a glass."
Severus raised an eyebrow, then nodded in acknowledgment. He watched with interest as she poured the wine, its colour so deep a red that it was almost purple. It wasn't as if Severus had never been offered a drink here before, but the quality, well...suffice it to say that in the Muggle world, those wines would have been boxed and sitting on the discount shelf in Sainsbury's.
Atra placed the glass in his hand, then sat down beside him on the couch, inclining her shoulder towards him.
"Your eyes are quite beautiful," she said with a quiet intensity as she began to stroke his hair. "Dark and deep. I wonder what secrets they hold?"
Severus might have asked the same question of Atra if he'd been able to turn and look into her eyes. As was so often the case at the start of these evenings, the ability to meet a lovely woman's gaze required a degree of relaxation that would take more than a single glass of wine to achieve.
How did she know, Severus wondered, that he wouldn't have been receptive to a compliment about any of his other features? Appealing as it would have been to think of himself as attractive, Severus knew full well he was "not shaped for sportive tricks, nor made to court an amorous looking glass." His eyes though, well...even that strained the limits of credulity a bit, but only just.
"I trust the wine is to your liking," said Atra. "I hope you don't think I'm forward if I take a little taste for myself."
He had only barely begun to consider whether a response was required when Atra took the wine glass from his hand and set it down on the table, then began to nibble on his bottom lip.
"What a unique flavour," she murmured. "So very rich and complex."
Severus closed his eyes, then leaned back and breathed deeply, trying to concentrate on the tantalizing and oddly-familiar scent Atra wore, but he found it increasingly difficult to do so as she licked across the line of his jaw, then down his neck and over his Adam's apple. Severus swallowed hard, willing his pent-up tension to leave his body as Atra's hands slid slowly down from his shoulders to his hands.
She raised each hand - first one, then the other - up to her mouth and kissed his palms, then unfastened her robes with a barely-whispered charm and set his hands down upon her soft, smooth breasts. His fingers twitched automatically, and Atra moaned, the soft sounds intensifying as Severus' fingers brushed lightly over her nipples.
"I always thought these were the hands of an artist," she breathed.
Severus frowned, although he wasn't quite certain why he felt suddenly disquieted, but in the next moment he was distracted by one of Atra's cool, slim-fingered hands sliding between the top two buttons of his robe.
"Your skin feels so warm against my hand," said Atra, as she started to undo the buttons of his robes, one after another. "Almost feverish. What will your cock feel like, I wonder?"
Involuntarily, his hold on Atra's breast tightened.
She tilted her head slightly to the side and smiled at him. "Oh yes, I think you liked it when I said 'cock,' didn't you? Is your cock growing hard for me?"
He groaned and shifted in place, the head of his erection rubbing against the silken lining of his robes. Torturously slowly, Atra undid another button, then another, until only the final three buttons remained fastened. Severus, his nipples hardening, could see the tip of his cock straining up against his stomach, and he thrust his hips forward.
"Patience," Atra chided in a sing-song voice, speaking almost to herself as she undid the penultimate button. "As Lucius always said, if you..."
Whatever advice she'd intended to share with Severus was lost as he twisted beneath her, grasped both of her wrists in his hands and bent her backwards over the coffee table.
"Who are you?" Severus hissed, tightening his grip on her wrists and pinning her against the table, his knee planted hard against her breastbone. "Tell me who you really are, or I'll have you begging for the Killing Curse."
She whimpered and tried to pull herself free of his grasp, but he was far too strong.
"You're hurting me, Severus."
"Tell. Me. Your. Name!"
"It's Narcissa . . . Narcissa Malfoy."
He narrowed his eyes, his expression one of utter disbelief. "Narcissa Malfoy . . . a common prostitute?"
Casting as imperious a look as was possible in her position, she said haughtily, "There is nothing in the least bit common about me, as you have every reason to know, you horrid little half-blood."
He scowled at her, but he relaxed his grip on her wrists slightly. "Yes, well...that's sounding a bit more like the Narcissa I've known for more than two decades; however, forgive me if I require further proof."
For a moment, she said nothing, just glared up at him, then she looked away. When she spoke, her voice was little more than a whisper.
"The flames that wrapped around our joined hands the day we made the Vow took the form of a snake."
Severus closed his eyes briefly, then let loose his hold on Narcissa's hands and sat back on the couch, all his energy spent.
It was plain to Severus, if proof were actually needed, that his spying days were well and truly over. Clearly, Narcissa had been using Polyjuice to keep from being recognized by old acquaintances, but how could Severus have possibly missed all the signs of her true identity? Her mannerisms, her taste in wine, her clothes: all belonged unmistakably to Narcissa Malfoy. Even the scent she wore - the one that had seemed so damned familiar - was one that he had brewed as a birthday gift for her years ago.
"The name you've been using," Severus said, frowning slightly. "'Atra' means 'Black' in Latin."
"Well, of course it does," Narcissa replied impatiently. "Oh, for God's sake, Severus...tuck yourself back into your robes; you look absolutely ridiculous with your prick waving about in the breeze."
He glared at her, but did as she ordered. "I don't know why I'm not just finishing what we started. Honestly, Narcissa . . . the Silken Robe?"
"And what, precisely, would you have had me do instead?" Narcissa said, her voice cold as ice. "I left Hogwarts at sixteen. What did I need with qualifications when I was going to become a Malfoy?" She laughed bitterly. "And now my husband and my son are dead. My former friends and associates are either in Azkaban or have fled the country. My home, my money, my influence: everything is gone."
"But...a prostitute, Narcissa? Surely you might have chosen to...."
"You're a damned hypocrite, Severus. Or are you going to try and convince me you paid for 'Atra's' time so that we could play a game of chess? Here for the intellectual stimulation, are you?"
"It's not the same thing."
"It's exactly the same thing. In an odd way, this is what I've trained my whole life to do, isn't it? The only difference is that now when I'm asked to fuck strange men, they aren't Death Eaters . . . present company excepted, of course."
"Of course," Severus muttered.
Narcissa smoothed her hair - now blonde again - and twisted it into a chignon, then sat beside Severus on the couch.
"Would you like another glass of wine?" she asked.
"Oh, I think more alcohol is definitely in order," he said.
Summoning a second glass, Narcissa poured two glasses of wine and handed one to Severus.
"Thank you," he said.
Narcissa's voice was expressionless, but the almost-imperceptible tapping of her index finger on the stem of her wine glass belied her calm exterior. Perhaps she'd be interested in considering a proposal for a mutually beneficial arrangement.
"You know, Narcissa," Severus said slowly, setting his glass back down on the table. "You really needn't stay here."
"What do you suggest I do instead? Don't tell me that you're asking whether I'd like to set up housekeeping with you." Narcissa's eyes widened. "Oh, God...you are, aren't you?"
"I just thought that . . . ."
"Oh, but the idea is just too absurd!" Narcissa exclaimed, then patted Severus on the arm. "Surely you must see that."
Severus scowled, but said nothing.
"Where are you suggesting we live, Severus? I heard from one of my...colleagues that despite the services you provided during the war, the Ministry seized all your property, including that decrepit hovel in Spinner's End."
"My present flat is sufficient for . . . ."
"Your flat is a single room, two flights above the flobberworm merchant's shop in Irashun Alley, your bed is most likely a transfigured step stool, and I would wager all the Galleons I possess that you have no house-elf."
"Are material possessions really the only things that matter to you?" Severus asked angrily.
Narcissa glanced around her richly appointed rooms, then smoothed out an invisible wrinkle on her robes and looked pointedly at Severus.
"Oh, well," Severus muttered. "It was just a thought."
"No," Narcissa said, shaking her head a bit, "I don't think that would have worked out well at all, and in any case, I can't see how you were hoping to benefit from the arrangement, unless . . . hmm, I don't suppose the idea of saving seven Galleons, eleven Sickles, and six Knuts a month might have factored into your decision."
"Oh, shut up, Narcissa." Severus could feel a flush start creeping up from the base of his neck. This really was not what he'd had in mind when he set out this morning.
Narcissa laughed softly, then turned towards Severus, her expression suddenly serious.
"You know, Severus, what you did for Draco during the war . . . I can never repay you for that."
Severus shook his head. "You owe me nothing. In the end, I wasn't able to . . . ."
"You tried harder to protect my son than anybody did," Narcissa said, taking Severus' hands in her own. "Harder, I believe, than his own father. For that I owe you everything." Narcissa leaned in and kissed Severus softly on the mouth. "If there's ever anything I can do for you . . . ."
"Well, now that you mention it," Severus said, looking down at their joined hands. "There is something you could do."
"Anything, my dear. Just say the word."
He took a deep breath.
"It's only . . . look, any minute now, that old hag you work for is going to send an elf to tell me my time's up, and we still haven't . . . oh, for fuck's sake, Narcissa: are you actually going to just sit there and make me beg for you to do something about my aching cock?"
Looking very much as if that was exactly what she intended to do, Narcissa laughed.
Note: The lines quoted by Severus early on in the story are from Shakespeare's play Richard III (I.i.14-15). Severus Snape is, I hasten to add, far less unattractive than was Shakespeare's king (...which can also be said of the historical Richard III).
Comments, critiques, chit chat: bethbethbeth [at] gmail
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