Disclaimer: Harry Potter, Severus Snape and all associated characters from the Harry Potter universe are the property of J.K. Rowling. The author of this fic and the website maintainers are making no profit by this story or any of the site's contents.
Author Notes: Stupid annoying story. I thought I wouldn't manage the minimum 20 pages, and look at this horrible thing now! Grr. I hate subplot.
A great big thanks to me betas - Leone and Liat.
Part of "From Dusk til Dawn - the Harry Potter/Severus Snape Fuh-Q-Fest" at: http://www.kardasi.com/HPSS.
Combo challenge, scenarios:
#78:"It is a fact generally acknowledged, that a young man in possession of a fortune must also be in search of a wife." (Jane Austen, Pride & Prejudice) The arrival of a young bachelor in the area of Hogsmeade sets all the unmarried men & women's hearts a-flutter. But it is the young man's friend, the proud Mr. Snape, who has caught Harry's attention. Will he be able to overcome prejudice to find happiness? (Diana);
#150: Incorporate the quote "Cry havoc and let lose the dogs of war" into the fic. (KC); and
#100: Snape's never had sex with a guy before. (Kira).
Pride and Prejudice
By Cat Samwise
Nobody knows where I was born.
Madam Pomfrey, from the orphanage, used to tell me that on one of the warmer autumn nights, she found a small bundle on the orphanage's steps and a letter on top of it.
That was me.
The letter said that my name was Harry James Potter, that I was born on July 31st that year and that both my parents were dead.
The orphanage in the town of Hogsmeade wasn't very large and was patroned by the church. The only good that came from that was that they taught us to read.
But I digress.
It was only because of Madam Pomfrey's compassion and love for children, and me, that I stayed. If it had been up to the church, I would have been sold as a slave to the first person who asked.
Growing up in the orphanage was no heaven. We often didn't have enough to eat, and would sneak into the market to steal a piece of fruit or two from the stands. That was a sort of adventure for us, the stronger and faster boys, because if the priest or one of his helpers found out about it, or we did anything that displeased them (like breathing), they'd beat us.
It was the reason only the stronger boys snuck out, so that if we were caught, we'd be able to take the beating.
I've got exactly two fond memories from that horrible place.
One, of Madam Pomfrey - we never knew her given name, it wasn't appropriate - as she'd come to our room after the church officials left from their inspection and tell us wonderful stories, about heroes and heroines, fighting dragons and saving their kingdoms. Sometimes she'd tell us about great romances of princes and princesses, about how they lived happily, at least for a while.
I remember us hanging onto every word she said. It wasn't surprising, as the priests in the church never told us anything interesting, only about the sins of man, and how we were the definition of sin because our parents didn't want us and therefore, neither did God. They would tell us to try and make up for them. And then they'd laugh.
It was then that I started to question that belief. It was impossible for me to understand why God would choose these men to carry out his faith; they weren't doing a good job, that's for sure. Which, ultimately, made me think he wasn't that great a God after all.
It was, of course, forbidden to express these thoughts out loud. I didn't want to be beaten within every inch of my life, did I?
The second good memory is of my best friend - later turned lover - Seamus, no last name, and I learning to read together.
Seamus had epilepsy. We suspected that this was the reason his parents had abandoned him, either unwilling or incapable to take care of him.
Most of the boys were afraid of Seamus, thinking him a witch-kid, and so they teased and abused him. I couldn't stand it then as I can't stand it now. I approached him and asked him to be my friend. He was doubtful at first, but it wasn't long before we were practically inseparable.
But by becoming his friend, I was immediately shunned from the company of the other boys. They began to tease me as well, and we almost never had a moment of peace and quiet.
That is the reason I cherish that memory the most - just him and I, sitting quietly, with nothing disturbing us.
Seamus died a month before he turned eighteen, a month before he could leave the orphanage and see the world outside.
The only person who managed to comfort me was Madam Pomfrey. She told me that it was better this way and that he was happy there with me, but out in the world he would have been miserable, that grown men could be cruller than teenaged boys. She said that God made sure he died happy.
I still think about that sometimes.
It makes me question some of the choices I've made. The major one, that it.
I think that half the reason I prefer men to women is the church preaching. They said one thing, and I did the exact opposite, just to spite it.
Brings a lot of satisfaction to a person that does. I don't know why though.
I stayed in the orphanage for another year after Seamus' death. Then, the day I turned eighteen, they literally kicked me out.
Madam Pomfrey, apparently aware of this policy, had prepared a small package of dried bread and an apple for me, so I wouldn't starve to death immediately.
In my innocence, I went to the church and asked for a bible, so I'd have something to read on the road, as I resolved to travel for a while.
"And damage the holiness with your filthy hands?" answered the priest.
"Well, you hold it, so I though it must be all right," was my reply. And I turned around and walked away without a second glance.
During my traveling I got to really appreciate the fact that I could read and write.
Wealthy families always looked for tutors for their children. The fact that I started off by teaching from the Bible pleased the parents immensely.
I used to stay about two months in each town or village I'd pass by, stocking on food and money for my journey, for I was not traveling without a thought or a purpose. My ultimate goal had been to find, if not a mention, but at least my parents' grave. Unfortunately, I had no luck.
But those long years of journeying did not end fruitless.
Through my tutoring I had managed to gain a name and a reputation between the well-established families. Instead of going from house to house offering my services, I started receiving formal invitations.
As a teacher I had a free access to the libraries of my patrons, so my theoretical knowledge grew immensely.
At one point, I had gathered the courage to ask one of my patrons to pay for their daughter's tutoring with piano lessons instead of money. The lady of the house had been horrified I didn't know how to play, and resolved to teach me herself.
Those eight years had been a most pleasant time of my life, if not a stable one. I had learned a lot, about people, about the so-called 'real world' and 'real life'. I acquired the necessary skills, as my dear Madam Pomfrey would have said, to survive.
I was proud of myself, and had some sense of accomplishment, but I was not happy.
In those eight years I had precious few lovers. I was not the kind to pick up or be picked up in a dark corner of a lounge. I wanted to feel belonging and love, which few people offered.
But it wasn't that either.
A few of my patron families had offered me a full time job - to stay in their house and teach their children until they grew up. One of these families had six, the eldest of which was five years my junior and the smallest, still in progress. It would have been a position for the rest of my life.
Not a few churches sought after me as well. I had great delight in turning those down.
Private schools, public schools, humble houses, rich houses, /everything/. As my twenty sixth birthday drew near, I understood that I should make up my mind, or be flooded with these offers.
But I couldn't accept any of these offers, and I couldn't figure out why. Until I received one more offer.
At the time, I was staying in a medium sized town in the north of Britain. It was lunchtime, about two hours before I had to go teach one of the mayor's daughters, a pleasant girl called Isabella, that I was sitting in my inn's lounge. I was enjoying a relaxing cup of tea when a young lady approached me.
It was no longer a rare occurrence since a lot of people knew about me. Most thought me handsome - though I strongly disagree - and generally considered me a good catch. I was beginning to be rather good at declining.
I stood up to greet her. She wasn't very tall and her frame suited her. She appeared to be about my age. Her brown, apparently curly, hair was tied into a ban under her cap. She wore a simple dress and did not wear any jewelry.
I smiled and bowed. She curtsied.
"It is a pleasure to finally meet you, Mr. Potter," she began. 'Mr. Potter.' I still wasn't used to that.
"As it is you. Only, I'm afraid I do not know your name," I answered politely.
"Forgive me. I am Mrs. Weasley." Mrs.? That was unusual, and bound to be interesting.
I gestured for her to sit down and followed suit in the opposite chair.
"How may I assist you, Mrs. Weasley?" I asked.
"My husband and I run a school, and I have come here to try and persuade you to help us," she said, looking straight at me. "We are well aware that you are a very sought after tutor, but maybe there might be something we could offer that you would not find anywhere else."
This woman's husband had let her travel all the way from wherever it is that they live to here, alone? I was starting to respect Mrs. Weasley and her husband already.
"Tell me," I said, to indulge her. "Where is your school located?"
"In the town of Hogsmeade -" she might have continued, but I didn't hear her.
Hogsmeade, the town where I grew up. There was a pang in my heart only from the thought of it. Not many good memories, but still, it was home. This was what had been missing.
She was looking at me politely, waiting for a response.
I smiled. "Could you come back tomorrow, please, so we can discuss this in more detail? I have pressing matters to attend to at the moment, but I would like to at least hear you out."
Her face lit up and she nodded. "Thank you, sir."
We got up and she left.
A week later I was sharing a carriage with Mrs. Weasley ("call me Hermione, please. I insist").
In a true business like fashion, I questioned Hermione about almost everything I wanted to know. Meaning, without her realizing she shouldn't talk.
As it turned out, she and her husband owned the estate of Hogwarts, just in the outskirts of Hogsmeade. From my childhood memories, I recalled hearing that it was /huge/." Hermione confirmed that it was.
She told me that it was much too big for her, her husband and their three children. So they had decided to have part of it turned into a school, as the Weasleys loved children, but didn't want any more of their own.
She had also told me about the town's news.
I was very sorry to discover that the church closed the orphanage a few years before, claming lack of founding. I was very glad to see Hermione furious about it.
Towards the end of the journey she became quiet and then, abruptly, she started watching me with an intense gaze.
I calmly waited for her to tell me what was on her mind. "We have agreed that we would provide you quarters within the castle." A strange look.
"We have heard of you. /I/ have heard a great deal of things about you, Mr. Potter."
I continued to look at her calmly. I would tell her what she needed or wanted to hear.
"They say you start by teaching children from, of and about the bible."
"And yet, you are unmarried, without an apparent house and poses an almost mysterious name." Her gaze intensified.
"I may remind you that you approached me," I noted. "I am no thief or con. I do my work honestly and true." She was insulting me, and yet she didn't flatter. If she wasn't a lady, she deserved to be one.
She nodded. "But there have been other things."
I smiled inwardly. Yes, the matter of corrupting her children. "I should point out that there have never been complains about my work."
She nodded. "Still -'
"My personal business is private. I prefer secrecy to a public shared. Does that satisfy you, my lady?" I couldn't help myself.
That quieted her down. She nodded and turned to look out of the window.
After a few silent hours we reached Hogsmeade, and ultimately, Hogwarts.
That place was HUGE!
I stared at it in speechless amazement for a few moments. How did they /get/ this place???
When I finally managed to tear my gaze away from the building, I found a tall man standing at the top of the staircase leading to the entrance. Hermione was standing next to him. They were talking.
He must have been Mr. Weasley. He was tall, much taller than me. He had flaming red hair that shone in the setting sun. He was plainly dressed.
Again, I couldn't help but wonder how they managed to get a place like this.
I climbed the stairs, and was soon standing in front of the Weasleys. "Mr. Potter!" he greeted me cheerfully. "It is a pleasure. I am Ronald Weasley. I hope the journey wasn't too tiresome."
"I'm used to it, sir." I shook his offered hand. "It's a great pleasure as well." Hermione frowned. I smirked inwardly.
"No need for formalities," Ronald was saying. "I'm just Ron to everyone, and if you're going to work with us, that includes you too."
I smiled. "Thank you."
"So, why are we standing here, outside? A hot meal is waiting for you." And Ron led the way.
Hermione disappeared rather quickly after that, doubtlessly to watch for any sign of so-called sin. Nevertheless, I had a wonderful meal with Ron. And I was sure that once I convinced the wife I wasn't bringing the devil into the house, we could all be good friends.
Ron had assigned on of the servants (for surely they needed several) to be my guide for the first couple of weeks, until I got used to it.
We parted, wishing each other good night, and I was led to my rooms. My belongings were already waiting for me inside.
First thing I did, although I was extremely tiered, was investigate. It was immediately evident that the Weasleys had a lot of room and not much to do with it.
These weren't 'quarters', it was an /apartment/. I had a sitting room, a lounge room, one horribly huge bedroom and another one a little smaller, a study and a library. Each bedroom had its own bathroom the /size/ of another room.
To say I was shocked was putting it mildly.
I had chosen the smaller bedroom, since the bigger one intimidated me somehow, undressed and collapsed on the bed.
Oh great Gods of Haven and Earth!
It was the softest thing I had ever had the fortune to lie on, and some of my patrons had been very generous.
It was at that point that it finally hit me.
I had a home, a permanent one. And where? In my childhood town, the one I had only two good memories of.
Settling into the job was fairly easy. I just had more students and more hours each day. The fact that most children liked my class and me helped a little as well.
I won Hermione's favor after about two weeks of /not/ harassing her husband and children, and the other two teachers, Padma Patil and Oliver Wood, made good company when one needed cheering up.
I even got used to not having to pack everything up every couple of months.
Hogwarts life had grown onto me.
I spent two very enjoyable years living without care, except, maybe, the occasional straying student.
I even nurtured a foolish hope that my third year would be appropriately similar.
One hot August night, mere days from my twenty eighth birthday, I had decided to escape the scorching heat of the outside by visiting the teachers' lounge. It's a small room to the left of the Great Hall, where us teachers could sit, relax and have careless and pointless chats.
I found that Padma and Oliver where already there, and assumed they decided to escape the heat just like me. Not giving them a second thought, I chose the couch furthest from them, and tried to sink into the book I had brought with me. About half an hour later, I came to the realization that if the two of them didn't shut up, I'd never be able to read in peace.
I was just about to go over and ask them to be a little quieter when Hermione walked in and joined their conversation, looking just as excited as the other two.
That was interesting. Then, I had to find out what it was all about. "Hello," I walked over and sat on a couch.
"Hello, stranger," Padma teased. "You don't write, don't visit, nothing. Are you in love with that dark corner of yours?"
"No, just my book." I teased back. "But I can't seem to spend enough quality time with it because of you lot. What's going on?"
"You mean you don't know?" asked Oliver, looking shocked.
"The whole town's talking about it!" added Hermione.
Interesting. I was burning with curiosity at that point. "No," I shrugged. "I've been busy here, preparing for the new year."
"Oh, you work too much!" said Hermione. "You have to get out, have a little fun." It was very hard not to stare at her in shock. Did I just hear that?
I shrugged in response. "Noted. Will try to comply. Now, what's going on?"
Both women's eyes started to shine and Oliver was grinning madly.
"There's been a rumor," started Padma. "That Lucius Malfoy is going to come to Hogsmeade, looking for a summer house."
I continued to look at my fellow teachers, which appeared to be the wrong reaction.
"Lord Lucius Malfoy," tried Hermione.
I had never taught anyone under the name of Malfoy, so had no idea who he was.
"The owner of most of the lands outside London, and this close to being the youngest Minister ever," suggested Oliver.
Oh, money. I let comprehension draw over my face. "Well, I can see how this might be appealing to you, Padma." I eyed Oliver cautiously. "But you, Hermione?"
"What, I can't have myself a rich lover?" she answered in mock indignation.
"And he's not coming alone," Padma piped in again.
"Yes, he'll bring all his friends along. Men /and/ women," said Oliver. Thank the Gods! I was starting to worry.
I smiled. "Now I see a reason for celebration. When is he /rumored/ to arrive?"
Padma slapped me playfully on the arm. "Nobody knows. Some say the beginning of September, some say late October, others say not until Christmas."
"Good God, I hope it's not September," I said jokingly. "Between the students and his lordship, when will you sleep?"
"Don't worry, mate," said Oliver, laughing. "I'm sure we'll find some nice lady to occupy your time as well."
We all laughed. But Hermione gave me a look, and I tried to look innocent.
After we all calmed down, a comfortable silence descended. Eventually, I broke it.
"So, how's the town dealing with this?"
"Everyone went /mad/," supplied Oliver.
"It's like Christmas came early," Hermione helped.
"Together with Halloween, Easter and Midsummer," added Padma.
I cringed. "That bad?"
They all nodded in union.
"Everyone is cleaning everything. I've never seen the town so clean in my life."
"I have to see that." Then I snorted. "Are you saying that Malfoy is bringing enough people to marry the whole town?"
Padma frowned. "Good lord! I haven't thought about that! Can you imagine the competition?"
That was just too fun to miss. "I also think that if anyone wanted to marry one of the Lord's friends they'd have to have the Lord's approval."
Padma's eyes grew as big as saucers. "Oh goodness! No wonder everyone is preparing this much! I'll never be ready if he comes in September!" With that she sprang to her feet and ran from the room.
"You're just too evil to be allowed," said Oliver after she was gone. "Scaring the little thing like that."
"If you care for her so much," I said with a grin. "Why don't you put her out of her misery and marry her yourself?"
He grinned back. "I thought you wanted her."
I had to laugh at that. "Don't worry, dear friend. Your coast is clear. I have no intention of marring now, or any time soon."
Oliver made a hurt expression. "And here I hoped to tease you some more."
I smiled. "How about I say you have one less man to compete against when you find your sweetheart between the Lordship's friends? Are we even now?"
Oliver grinned toothily. "Always." I smiled and got up. "Well, it's time for me to go. It's already late."
Hermione got up as well. "Yes, you're right. Ron will be waiting for me."
Oliver bid us goodnight and we exited.
Hermione took me under the arm as we started walking.
After a while she said, "It's nice of you to warn Oliver, but what about Padma? She doesn't know she has one more person to compete against."
I smiled. "Your faith in me is astonishing. Have I been anything but discreet these past two years?"
She stopped, thus halting me as well. "You had men here?"
I smirked. "That's for me to know, and you to wonder about."
She looked at me for a moment and then we continued walking.
"No," she said finally. "I'd know if you had anyone here."
"Really?" I raised an eyebrow. "Check my sheets do you?"
She laughed. "Don't be silly. You'd be glowing-happy-silly if you had someone."
"I resent ever being silly." I forged an offended tone and she laughed.
And we parted.
True to my word, the next day I headed into town in order to investigate.
Oliver, Padma and Hermione weren't joking. Everyone had gone /mad/ with the preparations. Someone actually yelled at me for walking over their freshly washed road.
I turned around to see who it was and found the smith glaring at me. "Sirius! Hello, how are you?" I said pleasantly.
"Fine, thank you. Now, please, get off the road."
I gave him a quizzical look. "Sirius, where would I be if not on the road?"
He shrugged. "The other side? Go wreck Fredric's side."
I was finding it hard not to stare. "All right. I'm sorry."
I moved on quickly, not wanting anyone else commenting on how I was adding to the mud on the road.
I reached Flourish's bookstore and entered. It had been a general goal of that trip. If I was going into town, I might as well check for new books in the bookstore.
I ducked into the science section quickly, hoping to avoid Flourish's over-eager assistant, Colin.
Scanning the shelves for new additions, I became aware of two female voices coming from the nearby isle.
"I can imagine that happening," said the first.
"Yes. She would be so lucky," answered the second one.
"On the other hand, you can't be sure he'll go for looks."
"Oh, really. If he won't, then someone else surely will. I can guarantee you that Cho won't walk out of this unmarried."
Both women giggled.
"Can you imagine poor Rose trying to catch someone's eye?" said the second one.
"Or Padma, for that matter," added the other and they both laughed.
I thought I might explode from anger. How dare they? What kind of right did they have? I willed my hands to stop shaking and my fists to unclench.
Staring at the rows and rows of books in front of me, I realized I could actually do something about it. After all, I did spend eight years in the shadow of royalty and riches.
Smiling to myself, I picked out a book, rounded the shelf and faced the two gossiping ducks.
I should have known. Who else could it be except Josephine Lastange and Pansy Parkinson?
"Hello, ladies," I smiled pleasantly and bowed. "Have a nice day." And I left.
I could hear them whispering as I paid for my book.
Luck was with me and I found Padma eating alone in the Great Hall.
"Hey, there," I called.
She looked up from her meal and smiled. "Hi."
"Mind if I join you?"
I sat down.
"So, what's going on?" She eyed me suspiciously. "You never seek out anyone's presence unless you're bored to tears."
I laughed. "Padma, you're my only close, unmarried, female friend, right?"
She narrowed her eyes. "Right."
"And you would like to get Lord Malfoy and his friends to notice you, right?"
"Right," she said again, very slowly.
"How about I help you out?"
Her eyes grew wide. "You'll what?"
"Help you out. Give you inside information, so to speak."
She looked at me wide eyed for a moment, then her eyes narrowed, and then she started to laugh.
"You'll give me inside information?" she managed between fits of laughter.
I was hurt. "Yes."
"You? The person who prefers dark corners and big books, you?"
It was my turn to narrow my eyes. "If you don't believe me, you can go ahead and ask Hermione."
She stopped laughing. "Really?"
"Before I started teaching here I was a road tutor, usually for the richest families. I picked up things here and there."
"What he means," said a voice behind us. I whirled around and found Hermione watching us. "Is that he can dance like a devil, play like a madman and knows things about the elite that most people here don't even dream about."
Padma's eyes returned to saucer size. "And you're willing to teach me?"
"That's great!" she exclaimed. "When?"
"Tomorrow?" I suggested.
"You could use the ballroom. Nobody ever uses it anyway," supplied Hermione.
Padma grinned. "Thank you!" She jumped from her seat and hugged and kissed me on both cheeks. "And thank you!" She did the same with Hermione and ran away to her rooms to start her preparations.
"Would you care to explain?" asked Hermione, sitting in the seat Padma had just vacated.
I shrugged. "I overheard Parkinson and Lastange talking while I was in town."
Hermione nodded. "Nice of you to do that, though. She'll really appreciate it."
I nodded. "She's worth getting one of the Lords much more than any other one of them."
"You're right." Hermione smiled. "Well, good luck, then."
As promised I started Padma's tutoring the next day.
Not knowing the date Lucius Malfoy was supposed to arrive was not helpful, as I didn't know how much time I had. So, I started with the essentials and moved from there.
First, came the dancing. Padma already knew how to dance, but she needed practice and small improvements. That was easily accomplished as we spent at least two hours in the ballroom doing just that.
Next came language and pronunciation. That wasn't hard either. One was required to know certain phrases and forms of addressing different people with different status. Padma mastered it quickly. As for her Scottish accent, we decided not to do anything about it, so she'd sound unique.
Then, we went over clothing and wardrobe. I explained to her about all the different types of dresses and the different occasions each type of dress was made for. As neither of us were very rich people, I told her to buy or pick a dress that could suit as many occasions as possible. I also told her not to wear all of her jewelry at once; for fear of looking cheep and over dressed, and that she should always smile.
Then came the hard part. I started teaching her to play the piano. She had no background with it nor with any other musical instrument, so it took her a while to grasp the basics. But neither she nor I gave up, and she managed to make a rather big progress.
The fact that Lord Lucius Malfoy and his entourage didn't arrive until late October, helped as well.
And arrive they did.
Ten carriages full of packages, boxes, trunks and what not arrived three days before the actual party together with the servants. The Lord, when he arrived, had a carriage for himself, which he shared with two of his closest friends. The rest of the entourage arrived in about ten more carriages with four passengers each. And of course, there were the servants.
In short, it looked like a whole city had decided to move.
I did not have much interest in the Arrival, as Padma called it, so I stayed at Hogwarts, giving extra lessons. But all of my colleges went and later spent a whole evening describing every single step his lordship made.
It was ridiculous.
What I couldn't escape was the welcoming party, which was scheduled for the next night. There were several reasons for that - I had to be there for Padma's mental support; I wanted to take a look at this Lord everyone made such a fuss about; I really, really wanted to see the townsmen make fools out of themselves; and it was being held at Hogwarts, having the necessary space for such an event.
The party was announced to be started at six in the evening, so that his lordship might rest. But there was not one single person at Hogwarts who relaxed.
Hermione made /everyone/ help somehow. Whether it was hanging decorations, preparing food in the kitchen, cleaning the floors, settling the musicians or just giving off-handed comments, she didn't care.
At five thirty everything was done and some of the earlier guests began to arrive. I had warned Hermione that Malfoy wouldn't arrive before seven. So we both enjoyed these people's cluelessness.
I ended up being right. Lord Malfoy and his friends arrived at about quarter past seven, while most of the townsmen were already there. No one dared to comment anything.
Just as the mayor stood up to speak, the doors opened again and in came Padma. She had a white and red evening dress she had bought for this occasion, her hair was falling in graceful waves down her back and shoulders, and there was a small sparkle on her neck. She looked perfect.
She smiled at everyone. "Sorry." And took her seat, not glancing at Malfoy even once.
There was a small murmur in the crowd, but from my hiding place in the shadows, I noticed Malfoy's eyes sparkling in interest as he watched her.
The mayor coughed to get the attention of the crowd and started speaking.
I took the time to evaluate Lord Malfoy. He was a tall, well-built man with shoulder length blond hair and blue-gray eyes. He gave off an air of authority and sneakiness like a swamp does toxic gasses. It was extremely obvious why everyone were falling all over themselves to be in his favor.
Malfoy leaned over to speak with one of his friends, and my breath caught in my throat.
His friend looked like the realization of every dream I ever had the courage to dream.
He was tall as well, but much taller than Malfoy. His figure wasn't bulky, but more on the artistically thin side. He had long black hair, which fell into equally dark eyes.
He lifted a hand to brush the hair away and I fell in love with those fingers, long, defined fingers. In that moment I longed for him.
I made myself look up from his hands.
My mystery man was surveying the room with a critical eye, probably ridiculing Hogsmeade's residences like I did in my head.
Malfoy said something to him, and his lips quirked up in a smirk. Gods, I wanted to kiss him.
It was strange, I had never believed in love at first sight before. Suited me right that did.
In the meantime, the mayor stopped speaking and the band started to play, but no one was dancing. Everyone looked like they were waiting for Malfoy's approval.
Malfoy smirked at his dark-haired friend, got up and strode to the other side of the hall. I could hear sharp intakes of breath from women he approached, and see the deep disappointment when he passed them.
He finally came to a stop in front of Padma, who was engaged in a conversation with Hermione and paid him no attention, all according to our little plan.
He coughed and she looked up.
"Yes?" she asked, smiling. I could hear everything perfectly, as even the musicians stopped playing to listen.
"I was wondering," he said in a sweat, honey voice. "If you would honor me with this dance?"
"Well," she started to say, as if to decline and turned to Hermione.
"No, go on," Hermione smiled back.
"If you insist," said Padma, got up and presented her hand to Malfoy.
He bowed, kissed her hand and led her to the clear space in front of the band, which started playing again.
>From my dark corner I watched in great satisfaction the horrified looks the rest of the women sent Padma's way.
Padma and Malfoy danced one song before other people joined them, and I was satisfied that I had completed my job.
I could return to watching Malfoy's friend in peace. But in the rush to the dance floor everyone left their seats, and I could not find him.
My heart sank heavily and I frantically searched for his tall, dark and foreboding frame in the crowd. I didn't think I could bear seeing him with a woman, but I had to find him.
"You're not much for these parties either?" said a voice behind me.
I jumped, spun around, and almost died on the spot.
There he was, standing in front of me, /talking/ to /me/. I managed to nod.
He eyed me, as if evaluating. Whatever it was, I wanted to pass it.
"You look different than the others." His voice, hot milk and rose thorns, almost drowned me.
I nodded again and commended my tongue not to stumble. "I spent some time with your crowd." He smirked, AT ME!
"My crowd indeed." His eyes wandered to the dancing couples. Not wanting to be caught staring, I did the same.
"What's your name?" he asked finally.
"Potter," I answered, glancing at him. "Harry Potter."
He considered it for a while. "I think I've heard of you before. But I can't seem to recall where."
I just had to satisfy his curiosity. Maybe, if he knew my reputation from the previous two years, he'd consider looking at me. "I used to be a road tutor." I chanced another glance at him.
"Yes, that's right." He had a strange glint in his eyes. "Someone mentioned to me once that they wanted to hire your services. But you seemed to disappear." He looked at me down his nose, which was quite impressive on closer look. I didn't mind.
I nodded again. "I came here." Brilliant, Harry, state the obvious. "A permanent teaching position."
He looked surprised. "Where?"
"Here," I indicated the building. "Hogwarts is a school."
"How interesting." His face was a guarded mask.
I wondered how his lips would look after I kissed him.
"Thank you," he said finally. "It was very - fortunate to meat you." And he was gone.
It was only after he left that I realized that I hadn't asked for his name.
I didn't stay in the hall for long after my conversation with Him.
What did I care about all these people around me dancing when I wasn't with him? I favored the solitude of my rooms and my thoughts.
I lit the fire in the hearth of my lounging room, and sank into one of the plush armrests.
He was probably the Lord's closest friend, but he didn't like the party and made fun of the people throwing it. He preferred solitude and darkness - shadows. He approached me, and spoke with me. He was interested in me, he listened to what /I/ said.
I let my head loll against the back of my seat. What angel sent him to me? What God gave me this mercy?
I sat up straight and looked at the flames for a few moments. No, I could not be in anyone's favor. He could not possibly want me, could not possibly prefer men, could never want someone like me, even as a friend.
I sighed heavily.
There really was no use contemplating these fantasies. I knew from experience how they ended.
I closed my eyes. Why, then, did I dream them up every single time?
No. This was different. HE was different. What I felt for him was different.
The others - they were nothing. I could never actually say I wanted to run away and live the rest of my life with them, raising sheep, goats and whatnot. Whereas with him....
I shook my head in amusement at my own thoughts. I didn't even know him, and I was making these foolish promises. He could be a sadistic.... The warm tingle that went through my body at the thought, made me face the fact that that might not be such a bad idea.
I sighed again. You are a foolish, foolish man, Harry James Potter. I went to sleep in my little bedroom alone, like always. But not before I retrieved another pillow, to wrap myself around.
I woke the next morning to the sound of very loud banging. After a moment of sleepy cluelessness, I realized that the noise might be coming from my front door.
I hastily put on my night robe and rushed to open the door.
I came face to face with a mildly angry Hermione.
"Well?" she said.
I blinked at her in confusion. It must have been too early, as I usually woke myself up.
"Where is he?" she demanded when I didn't answer.
I took a step back from her and gaped. "Where is who?"
She was getting very furious. "The man. Whoever it is you left the party with, and is the reason you missed breakfast."
I missed breakfast??? A hasty look at my clock assured me that I did. I gaped at the clock for a few moments.
She was clearly not expecting this reaction. "Harry?" she put her hand on my shoulder. I jumped and stared at her. "You know you can tell me, right?"
"I... I...." I didn't know what to say.
We stood silently in my doorway for a few extra moments before I gestured for her to come in.
"There was and is no man," I said finally, sitting in my favorite armchair.
Hermione didn't say anything for a long moment.
"You don't honestly think I'd believe that, do you?" she finally said. I smiled. "Yes. Why should you? It's the truth after all."
She smiled as well. "Harry, I've known you for two years. There hasn't been a day when you behaved like this. I know something's up."
"I might be tired, you know." Damn, wrong thing to say. "You know what I mean: with the stress of teaching Padma and all."
She nodded. I knew I was digging myself a bigger hole by fighting her, but I couldn't seem to stop.
Besides, I wasn't lying, exactly. There was nothing between us except a dozen or so words.
Hermione gave me one last assessing look and nodded again. "Alright. I'll let you off the hook this time. But I know you'd love to hear what happened at the party.... ?"
I smiled. Yes, a safe topic. Nodding, I said, "I wanted to ask you how Padma was. I couldn't seem to find her after the first dance."
Hermione's eyes sparkled. "Oh, she did /wonderfully/. At some point, Lord Malfoy asked if anyone was willing to play for him, and, of course, no one knows how, except you and Padma. So, she stepped forward, saying that she didn't like playing in front of so many people, but that she was willing to do it that once. I heard a few snickers from where I was standing." She gave me a meaningful look and I smirked. "But they all quieted down when she began playing.
"Good God, Harry! When did you teach her to play like that? She was magnificent!"
I smiled, content. "It wasn't easy, and no...." She opened her mouth to speak, but I stopped her. "No, I'm not going to teach you. Let me rest from Padma, will you?"
Hermione laughed, but nodded her head. "It's a deal."
The next day, while I was teaching a group of eleven-year-old children math and what they needed it for, I had a feeling I was being watched.
Looking around and out through the door's window I saw nothing. Deciding to investigate everything further after I was done with the children, I continued teaching, sending glances at the door from time to time.
I released the students, eventually, and sat by my desk to put some order on it before I went to investigate anything.
Looking up, I found an elderly man standing in front of me.
Boy, did I jump.
I composed myself as quickly as I could. The man just stood there and watched me.
"May I help you?" I finally asked.
"Are you Mr. Harry Potter?" he asked in a rusty voice.
"Lord Malfoy invites you to a dinner party that your mayor was gracious enough to host." He handed me an envelope.
"Thank you," I smiled, unsure of how to continue.
"Please notify me if you are able to arrive, sir," he said with a stony face and voice. "Ask for Stewart Willingrew, his lordship's personal servant."
And he was gone.
I sat staring at the air for about five minutes before I got hold of myself. Malfoy must train his servants for years. Sighing, I looked down at the envelope. It wasn't sealed, but it had the mayor's symbol on it in the corner. Good Lords, that man was cheap.
I opened it up and read the invitation.
/BLACK TIE EVENING/ - it read.
/I, Cornelius Fudge, in association with his lordship, Lucius Malfoy, am glad to invite you to a relaxing evening at my house.
Intelligent conversation and pleasant music assured.
This event will take place on October the 29th, this Friday. Please, notify us if you are or unable to participate.
I smirked. Malfoy and his friends must have laughed their heads off reading this invitation.
For a moment, I contemplated refusing, just for the fun of it and the look on the mayor's face when I told him so. But then I realized who else was going to be at that party.
No force in Hell could stop me from going.
I finished my classes for the day, hurried to my room, and pulled my unused trunk out from under my bed.
I was no woman, but I do like to look good for my men.
I stopped for a moment, just letting that phrase roll around in my head - 'my men'. No, there was just one man for me.
I pulled out my trunk and opened it.
That trunk held all my unused things that I didn't want to put on display - memories of Seamus, of my life on the road. But except that it also held the one thing I didn't have any use of, but didn't have the heart to throw away - my evening dress suit.
I dug it out, tried to dust it up a little and looked for any permanent and lasting damage. There seemed to be none.
I sighed in relief. Good, the only thing I had to do is clean it. Considering Friday was three days away, I might just have enough time.
And then, on Friday....
A knock on my door interrupted my reverie.
I put the suit on a couch and went to see who it was. It turned out to be Hermione.
"So what's going on now?" she asked, walking in. "Some people saw a creepy old man getting in and out of the castle, but he spoke to no one, at least no one /I/ talked to."
"So people saw him?" I asked lifting the suit and examining it again. "I was sure the land swallowed him and spit him out where he wanted it to."
Hermione cocked her head to the side. "So he did talk to you. Who is he? What did he want?"
"He is Stewart Willingrew, Malfoy's personal servant. He gave me this." I handed her the invitation.
She read through it. "Are you going?"
I looked up from the suit. "Yes, why not?"
"Because you're Harry I-Do-Not-Spend-Time-With-People-Leave-Me-Alone Potter?"
"I'm offended by that. I spend time with people. Occasionally."
"See," she sank into on of my armchairs. "This is what I was talking about. /This/ is how I thought you'd act if you found someone."
I looked at her. "Like what?"
She shrugged. "All eager and semi happy and eager and /not normal/. You're never like this."
I put the suit down and sat across from her.
"Aren't you going to say something?" she asked.
"Yes. Can you please send someone to the mayor's house? Tell them to ask for this Stewart guy. Have them tell him that I would love to participate in an intellectual evening with minds that are older than ten."
She gaped at me.
"Oh, and can someone, please, help me with this suit?"
Some more gaping, and then she started to laugh.
"Yes, I understand," she finally managed. Hermione got up and hugged me, which I didn't expect. "You better introduce me to this guy of yours."
She took the suit and left.
I imagine I quite liked Fridays. What better day of the week? It was the last day of work, and in the evening, one got to go to gatherings and meet people.
Fine day, Friday.
I put on my then washed suit and walked to town.
The mayor's house was the biggest in Hogsmeade, if one didn't include Hogwarts. Cornelius Fudge was a very cheap man when he had to spend money on other people, namely not him. He supported the church. The priests, in return, made sure he was reelected every time. That was achieved by saying that whoever opposed him - that righteous and humble man - was a sinner whose place was in the deepest of Hell. Living in Hogsmeade was always fun.
I arrived at Fudge's house at half past seven, fifteen minutes after I was expected. A servant opened the door, took my coat and ushered me in.
There weren't many people in the room. Lord Malfoy was sitting by the fire, seemingly talking to Fudge, who sat opposite him. In reality Malfoy was watching and observing everyone in the room. Three other men were sitting on another couch, watching two others play chess. I noticed Flourish was winning.
No sign of my dark angel anywhere.
"So you arrived?"
For the second time in my life he made me jump almost out of my skin.
"Yes, I have." I turned to face him. He was clothed in black, which contrasted his pale skin and matched his hypnotizing eyes perfectly. His clothes resembled a robe much more than an evening suit. He looked gorgeous.
"Your townsmen aren't showing much respect," he commented, looking around the room.
I surveyed the room again. I noticed that many of the gusts hadn't arrived yet.
"They are simple folk," I answered him. "They copy the behavior of their superiors." I turned to look at him. "If anything, I thought it might be of amusement to you."
He was about to answer, a faint trace of a smile on his lips, when another voice interrupted us.
"Severus!" It was Lord Malfoy. For some untold reason, I was beginning to dislike the man. "What unfortunate young man have you caught in your clutches?"
We walked over to the fireplace and Fudge turned to look at us. His eyes narrowed when he saw me.
"He is no one, your lordship. You shouldn't concern yourself with him," he immediately said, trying to push me away.
"On the contrary," commented my dark angel. "This is the school teacher I mentioned to you, Lucius."
Malfoy looked me over. "You are Harry Potter?"
I bowed and nodded. "I am."
"I have heard a lot of things about you," he said.
"So have we, about you, your lordship," I answered, smiling. The look on Fudge's face was too comic for words.
Malfoy smiled as well. "All good things, I hope."
"As the birds sing in the evening," I said. From the corner of my eye I saw Him smirk. My heart swelled.
Malfoy laughed and Fudge looked absolutely lost. Five minutes and already this was turning out to be a fine evening.
The door opened and someone else entered. I took the opportunity to excuse myself and retreat to the back of the room.
I planned on spending the rest of the evening like that - sitting in the back, watching him, marveling at his presence. My plans never did work out well.
"And there you are again."
I turned and found Him. I had to laugh.
"Dear friend," I said at last. "It is now the third time you have scared breath from my breast. Prey, give me your name, for the fourth time will surly be my last, and what would I say to Gabriel when I reach the gates of heaven?"
He didn't laugh, but his lips quirked a little and it was enough for me. "I am Severus Snape. But only for that case alone did I give away my name."
"I would not dare to ask it otherwise." He seemed to enjoy those verbal jests and I would do anything to keep him at my side for a little longer.
He sat on a chair beside mine and we stopped talking. Severus Snape. A fine name, sharp, authorative, slick and elusive. I imagined it suited him perfectly. What a foolish man I am.
"Do you enjoy yourself here?" he broke the silence, but didn't look at me.
I wasn't sure how to answer him. "I love my work. Children are very smart and underestimated folk. I was tired of traveling. I needed to settle down."
His smirk was somewhat bittersweet. "That is not what I asked. The town, do you like the town?"
"Things need some changes." He looked at me, and I pointedly looked at Fudge. He smirked. "But most people are good, pleasant."
"What about the girl Lucius danced with in the welcoming party?" He tried to sound concerned, but I could somehow see through it. Malfoy sent him, to gather information. Severus would probably make an excellent spy, if he wanted to. I decided to indulge him. What bad could it bring?
"Padma? What about her?"
"You know her?"
"She works with me at Hogwarts."
"She's a maid."
I smiled. "No, a fellow teacher."
"Really?" He leaned back in his chair and looked me over again. "I can see everything now. I did wonder where she learned to play like that."
I laughed. "You are assuming too many things, Mr. Snape."
His eyes were laughing. "I thought we agreed you would only speak that name to Gabriel in the heavens."
I bowed to him. "My gravest apologies. What should I call you then?"
Yet another assessing look. "'Severus' will do fine. Now come." And he led me back to the light, and back to Malfoy.
"Lucius," Severus leaned over and whispered something in his friend's ear, while I stood behind him, with Fudge glaring at me.
"Oh, yes," said Malfoy after Severus finished telling him whatever it was he told him. "We were just discussing Ms. Patil."
"And as I was saying," Fudge interrupted. "You'll find yourself much more happy if you considered one of /my/ daughters, instead of...." His face showed obvious disgust.
An amused look passed between Severus and Malfoy. Something was definitely wrong there. I decided I would find everything out in time.
In the meantime, I said nothing, wanting to see what Malfoy would answer.
"Cornelius, dear man," said Malfoy. "Can your daughters dance like young Ms. Patil does? Can they play like she?" Fudge lowered his eyes. "I don't wish to hurt you, but your daughters do not catch the eye as Padma does." Another amused eye exchange with Severus. I needed to discuses this with Hermione the next day.
"Oh, speaking of playing," Malfoy hadn't stopped, but now he was looking at me. "Severus here tells me you can play some, for us. Cornelius, do you have a piano?"
Fudge looked outraged, but didn't dare to say anything, so he ordered one of the servants to bring the piano into the room.
"My Angelina is training on it," Fudge never gave up. "She is quite good. If your lordship would like...."
"I want to hear Mr. Potter play."
The piano was brought in and I sat in front of it. I tuned it to my liking and turned back to Lord Malfoy and Severus.
"What would you like me to play?"
Fudge was glaring at me. Most of the men in the room where gathered around the piano, gawking. Malfoy was just about to speak, but Severus interrupted him. He named one of the most difficult pieces adapted for the piano. The man was a genius. Gods, I loved him.
The room became silent and I smiled. "Alright."
I turned back to the piano and played.
Hermione was right, to a degree. I did play like a madman, but only when I wanted to. And at that moment I wanted to, desperately. If only for Severus to consider me as an equal, as a puzzle, as a mystery, as anything he wanted me to be, if only to get an ounce of attention from him, just one ounce.
As the music died down, I sat panting for a moment or two. That had been the fiercest I had played in my life.
I turned around and observed everyone's reaction.
The look on Fudge's face was quite satisfactory. I wished I could show it to Hermione, but my description would have to do.
The men from the town and Malfoy's friends were looking at me, awed. Well, not many people can play that piece, not to mention remember it by heart.
Malfoy looked mildly impressed, with a quirky little smile. I didn't like that expression.
Severus. Severus looked surprised, content - probably about making me play - and something else. I couldn't really read what it was. I would find out though.
Then Severus started clapping. After a second the other men joined them. A minute later and Malfoy clapped politely as well - and I thought that was beneath him. Fudge didn't clap. I had the vague feeling I was going to be sinner of the month again. Oh, well.
When the clapping died down, Malfoy made me sit with him and Fudge. Severus disappeared.
"Tell me," Malfoy said. "Who taught you to play like that?"
"Lady Fig," I answered without thinking. "Of the moors."
Malfoy looked surprised. "She was willing to teach you?"
"Yes," suspicion drew in my heart, but I had to answer. "In exchange for her daughter's tutoring."
"She paid you with /piano/ lessons instead of money???" Fudge.
"Yes," I said calmly to the outraged mayor.
He was just about to fault me in the biggest sin of the world, according to Fudge - not wanting money - when Malfoy interrupted him.
"You have excellent trading skills."
That definitely shut Fudge up.
I spent some more time with the two men, but their company was tiring, for I always had to watch my back. Besides, I didn't see a glimpse of Severus for the rest of the evening.
I eventually excused myself by saying I was extremely tired from working in the morning and afternoon.
When I finally dragged my exhausted body to Hogwarts and my rooms, my clock said it was past three in the morning.
I was /so/ glad that day was Friday and I did /not/ have to get up early the next day.
I collapsed on my bed, wrapped myself around the extra pillow and sighed.
I didn't find Hermione until after lunchtime.
She was in the teachers' lounge, going over some papers. It didn't surprise me. Her being the lady of the house, made her extremely busy, teaching aside.
"Hello," she said when I sat down next to her.
"Hi," I answered.
"How was last night?" she inquired, still looking over the papers.
"Complicated." She looked up. "Look, if you're busy, I'll come talk to you later."
"No. It's fine. Just some essays some of my kids wrote. I'll look at them later. Tell me what happened."
I told her everything, leaving only my feelings for Severus out.
"Something's not right," I finished.
"Look, Harry,' Hermione said after a while. "Are you sure you're not reading too much into this? I can see you don't like Lord Malfoy, but Padma is happy. I'd hate to see her get hurt."
I buried my face in my hands. "Me too. It's just that I'm afraid she'll get hurt anyway."
"Don't assume anything."
We sat in silence for several moments. Hermione started going over the kids' essays again.
"Do you mind if I investigate it a little further, though?" I said at last.
"Just don't hurt her."
"Yes, I know." I looked at her for a moment. "Actually, you can help me.'
She looked up again. "How?"
"Can I invite Malfoy and his friends to the baths and steam room here? I know they are almost never used. Ask Ron if he wants to come as well."
She thought about it for a moment, but then nodded. "Alright. I'll talk to Ron, see if he wants to come as well." She gave me a piercing gaze. "Be careful." I nodded again.
Naturally, I didn't tell her the other reason I had for inviting Malfoy and his friends over to the baths. The prospect of seeing Severus naked or at least partly unclothed was absolutely delicious.
I went up to my rooms and composed the invitation, a properly phrased one. I couldn't send them before I had Ron's approval, though; he was the master of the house, after all.
Uncharacteristically, I ate my dinner in the Great Hall, anxious to hear Hermione's reply.
She took me to the side once the meal was over.
"He agrees to have it here," she said, but her face was extremely serious, so I listened attentively. "Ron doesn't want to participate." I nodded. "But he wishes you to tell Lord Malfoy that Hogwarts is not for sale, under no circumstances, no amount of money, or any other pressure. Tell him to stop trying."
I was momentarily stunned. I nodded anyway. That explained Severus' interest in Hogwarts and conformed, in my eyes, his being a 'spy' for Malfoy.
She smiled. "Everything's fine then. The baths are all yours. But don't ruin them permanently."
I laughed. "Don't worry. And thank you." Her eyes twinkled mischievously.
I laughed even harder. "Stop your plotting, woman. I need to ask you one more thing."
"What is it?"
"I've got the invitation all ready in my rooms. Can you send someone to deliver it?" I put my best puppy face on.
It was her turn to laugh. "Yes, no problem. I'll send someone to your room tomorrow. To be delivered to Stewart again?"
I shrugged. "Not one of Fudge's servants, that's for sure."
Hermione shuddered. "Don't remind me."
We parted like that. I went to my rooms and she went about her business.
I spent the rest of the evening brooding in front of the fire with a glass of red wine.
What bothered me the most was the reason for Severus befriending someone like Malfoy.
It was painfully obvious, to anyone who had eyes, that Malfoy was a sneaky, malicious, plotting and selfish bastard. He would do anything to get what he wanted, even if it wasn't within the borders of the established law. I could see that from the way his eyes swept through a room, taking everyone in and assessing their level of value to him in his head, no doubt.
Severus didn't give off that vibe. As far as I could see, which wasn't much: Severus was a very private man. Politics didn't interest him. His needs were minimal. And he would, probably, be content to just sit in a dark corner of some library reading a stuffy old book, rather than socialize or spend time with people at all. On the other hand, I could see he cared a great deal about his friends, and was probably willing to do a lot for them.
I could see that that was only the tip of the iceberg for this man, and I longed to find out more. I wanted to sit with him and just talk, about anything, from who had the rights to America to the latest advances in science. I was sure his opinion would be very evaluated, and I imagined I'd have to think for a long time to come up with any kind of answer.
I wanted to hear his wit. I had enjoyed it for the briefest moments in the mayor's lounge, and I wanted more.
I wanted to hear him laugh. In all the times I saw him, the closest to a laugh he came was a briefly uncontrolled twitch of his lips. I wondered what I could say that would make him lose control. I imagined how his laugh would sound, and the way it would wash over me, leaving only a quivering mass of flesh in its wake.
I wanted everything. I wanted to hear about the what, the why, and the how - every single and last thing.
My only problem was that I didn't know how to go about this seduction. I needed him to understand I was interested in him, not only as a friend or as an acquaintance, but sexually as well.
But I was desperately afraid it would scare him away.
I hoped that inviting him to the baths would solve a least one part of the problem.
If he would glance my way, look at me or show any other sign of interest, I might as well start constructing his path to my arms. But if he didn't - I would just have to start off by being his friend and seeing what that would lead to.
Around midnight, I retired to my bed, leaving an empty bottle of wine on the table beside the couch I had vacated and holding the hope that he, one day, might share it with me.
Stewart came to me with Malfoy's answer on Tuesday, saying that Malfoy thought it was a refreshing idea and that they would come on Wednesday.
That was perfectly fine with me, as I had the baths and the steam room almost finished. The only thing that I was worried about was that Severus might decide not to come.
I needn't have worried that much. He did.
I met Malfoy and his party by Hogwarts' gates. It wasn't very late, but not many of the residents were in the house, so we didn't encounter anyone on our way.
I tried to lead my guests through the darker corners of the castle, to try and discourage Malfoy, but he seemed to be enjoying himself rather than anything else.
"Through here." I gestured to the door in the wall.
We, seven in number, entered the changing room. Malfoy's eyes swept around greedily.
I forced a smile on my face. "This room should serve us as our changing room. Through that door." I gestured to the door in the back of the room. "Are the baths. The steam room is connected to the baths. We would have to get through this room to get back out."
"Isn't there a room where /I/ could change?" The arrogant bastard. "No, your lordship," was all I said.
With a mildly disgusted look, Malfoy stalked into a corner to undress. "Good evening," Severus had selected a spot next to me on one of the benches.
"Hello," I answered, smiling.
"I see you haven't had the fortune to meet Gabriel, yet," he said as he took his shoes of.
"Finally," I said, as I took my shirt and under shirt off. "I have found your sinister plan!"
I didn't get an answer to that, so I glanced at him. His eyes were glued to my chest, traveling from my collarbone to my navel and back. He then averted his gaze quickly.
Struggling not to grin like a fool, I gave conversation another try. "So in what way will you kill me?"
He looked back at me. "Why should I tell you? It's your birthday surprise." I noticed he was struggling not to look lower than my neck. I made an offended face. "My birthday is in July. Do I really have to wait that long?"
"Easter then," he said. I had problems not to stare as /he/ took his shirt off.
We continued to undress in relative silence. At one point I turned around to take my pants and shoes off. I imagined I could feel how his eyes travel my behind and legs. If it weren't for Malfoy and the four other men, I would have gone down on my knees before him and begged him to take me.
When I finally turned around, Severus and all the others were fully undressed and were going into the next room. I grabbed a towel and followed them, trying to get Severus' body out of my head. Malfoy took hold of one of the larger baths and the rest of us had to share the others.
I left my towel at the edge of one of them and sank in. The water was warm and I could feel all my muscles melt into batter, an extremely relaxing sensation, if I didn't have the thought of Malfoy nagging at the back of my head.
After about half an hour Malfoy rose, and entered the steam room. Two of his friends joined him. Severus stayed.
Fifteen minutes later, the three returned, and after a five minutes break they went back, taking the other two with them.
That left us alone.
Severus beckoned me to join him in one of the other baths. I rose from my own and moved into his.
I noticed Severus' pupils were a little dilated as I sank into the water.
"How does his lordship enjoy his visit?" I asked.
"He finds Hogwarts quite extraordinary," answered Severus.
I smiled and sank lower in the water. "That's not what I meant."
"Wasn't it?" He looked at me, his eyes piercing into mine. "What was it you asked then?"
I closed my eyes, giving an off-handed appearance. "There were many rumors about your arrival."
"Mine?" He was teasing me!
I opened one eye and smirked at him. "Who else's?"
His lips twitched. "Continue."
"Some said Lord Malfoy was looking for a wife." I looked at him, to see his reaction. "He seemed to find that." Severus averted his gaze. Something was definitely wrong there. "Or...."
He looked back at me. "Yes?"
"Others said that he was looking for a summer house." This time his features were blank.
I sank completely into the water for a few moments. When I surfaced, I found Severus leaning back against the edge and looking at the ceiling.
"It's a shame though."
He turned to me again. "What is?"
"The fact that he's wasting his time on Hogwarts."
His eyes narrowed. "What are you talking about?"
"Well," I smiled cheekily. "He won't get it. You see, it's not for sale. It's all in Hogsmeade's law. The only way to get Hogwarts is through heritage, and I don't reckon that's possible for his lordship."
I let him chew on that for a few moments.
"I'm going to the steam room," I said finally. "Join me?"
He shook his head and I got up, wrapped a towel around myself and purposely walked to the door at the far left side of the room.
Malfoy and his four companions were just walking out as I entered.
Malfoy smirked. "Severus boring you already?" His companions snickered. "Doesn't talk about anything except his science books, does he?"
I shrugged and entered the suffocating steam room. I could still hear their snickering.
After ten minutes I needed out to breath. I found them all sitting in Malfoy's bath.
"Can't stand the heat, Potter?" said one of them.
I shrugged. "I don't take much for steam."
"Oh, let the lad be, Gregory," said Malfoy. "Come join us, we were just talking about...."
The next two hours were spent in much the same fashion. We would sit and talk intellectually, while they would venture to the steam room from time to time. I stayed in the baths.
I didn't manage to be alone with Severus again, but I could feel his eyes on me. I took it as a good sign.
Eventually Malfoy rose from his bath and announced they should go.
I called the men in the steam room, and we all returned to the changing room. We dressed in silence and I walked them through Hogwarts and the grounds.
We exchanged pleasantries, Malfoy said they'd be in touch and they left.
I stayed at the gates until I couldn't see Severus' retreating back anymore. Only then did I turn and started walking back to the castle, and my rooms.
All in all, it had been a fairly good evening.
Two out of the three things I set out to do were accomplished. I found out if Severus was interested in me other than as a friend - which was a decisive yes. And I made it clear that Hogwarts was not for sale, and there was no way Malfoy could get his hands on it.
There was no progress in the Padma case, as I called it. But I was sure that sooner or later I would find out something.
To say I was happy would have been a horrible understatement. I could see myself with Severus as clear as crystal. It didn't matter how, I'd think about that later, but at that moment I was /sure/ of the end result.
I pictured myself waking up to feel Severus' strong arms, protectively wrapped around me. I pictured myself sleepily blinking and looking up to see his face above me, and how he'd really smile and not just twitch his lips a little.
I imagined myself tackling him back to bed while he tried to get up and get breakfast. I could hear our laughter in my ear as we wrestled playfully, like little kids. That image brought a smile to my lips.
Another image sprung to my mind: Severus sitting by the fire in an armchair with a book in his hand. I would sit at his feet and just stare at the flames, as he would run his fingers through my hair.
Other, more playful thought ran through my mind as well: of him writhing beneath me as I kissed and licked every inch of his body. I wondered how he would feel inside me, how it would feel to be inside of him.
I got a tingle all over my body from the last thought.
I had to have him. I didn't think I could live without him. He was, in one word -/everything/.
As high as my hopes rose during that night, as high they fell in the following week. I didn't hear, see or /smell/ Malfoy, not to mention Severus.
I didn't know what to do with myself.
I would teach the whole day and in the evening, I would lock myself in my rooms, drinking my wine and trying to figure out what I did wrong. It wasn't helping much, as I couldn't think of anything. I was positive Severus looked at me while we were in the baths. Could it really be that because Malfoy couldn't have Hogwarts, Severus would deny all connection to me?
By Friday I couldn't even look at my rooms, and on top of everything, I was getting extremely lonely.
I decided that I might as well seek out one of my coworkers, except maybe Padma, who was glowing with happiness these days. I didn't think that would make me feel better.
I checked the teachers' lounge and the Great Hall, but they were both empty. I couldn't really look for Oliver or Hermione in their private rooms, which was inappropriate, so I settled on checking their classrooms. Those were empty as well.
I was short from total despair when I passed by a window and saw someone sitting by the lake. It was as good a try as anything.
It turned out to be Oliver, sitting on the grass with a half empty bottle of scotch next to him. I stared at him for a moment.
He looked up and half way smiled. "Hello, Harry."
I nodded my head. "Oliver."
"What brings you here in thins ungahha -" he got a little tongue tied for a moment, but managed eventually. "Ungodly hour?"
"A lot of things." I looked at the lake.
"Perfect!" He was extremely drunk. I had never seen him like that before. I couldn't imagine what might have happened to bring him to this state. "Have a seat."
I sat next to him. "What happened?"
He grabbed the bottle and drank from it, then shoved it in front of my face. "Fancy a drink?"
I took the bottle from him and took a small swallow. Gods, that stuff was strong.
"Do you know what's it like when you look for something your whole life and then realize it was under your nose the whole time?"
"Hmm," I said, taking another sip from the scotch.
"Or when you find out that all those sayings like, you never miss something until it's gone, are actually true?"
I cocked my head to the side and handed him back the bottle. "You didn't find a lady between the Lord's friends, did you?"
He took several gallops from the bottle. "How could I? With - with - with /her/?"
He passed out.
I sighed. "Padma."
I sat for a short moment where I was, just breathing in the fresh air, then I sighed again, got up and lifted Oliver's body off the ground. I started carrying him back to Hogwarts and, ultimately, his quarters, if only I could find out where they were.
Luckily, I ran into Hermione in the entrance hall.
"Harry! What happened?"
"He got drunk and passed out. I was going to take him to his rooms."
"Harry!" she had the most outraged look on her face. I was starting to get really annoyed with her.
"Would you stop that already?" I snapped. "Help me get him to his rooms and I'll tell you. I was going to look for you anyway."
She looked hesitant for a moment, but then nodded and started walking in the direction of the kitchens. I sighed and followed, still carrying Oliver.
After we settled him into his bed, we backtracked through the whole castle and came to a stop in my rooms.
"Well?" Hermione said. Sitting on the couch. "What happened?"
I sank into my armchair and started massaging my temples. "Padma happened."
Her jaw dropped. "What?"
"You heard me." I looked up at her. "Apparently, when Padma caught Malfoy's eye, she also caught Oliver's heart."
Hermione continued to stare at me in shock. "Oh, good Lord."
We sat and listened to the cracks of the fire in the hearth for a long while.
"Good angels in the heaven," Hermione said at last.
"You don't say." I started massaging my temples again.
"And she's been so happy, bragging to everyone and everything -" I nodded.
"I feel so sorry for him."
"That's fine," I said. "But we have to, somehow, make sure he won't drown himself."
She turned to look at me. "But - how?"
I smiled bitterly. "Good question."
We sat in silence again, only this time it was clear Hermione was thinking something up.
"You know," she said. "I recon every Saturday he goes to the Dragon's Head down in the village. Why don't you go there too?"
"And do what? What could I possible tell him?"
"I don't know. You could just be there for him." She looked pleading.
"You mean I should get drunk with him?" I was extremely skeptical. " I don't think that's a good idea."
"Right. When you're drunk, you get all quiet and go to sleep."
I grimaced. "I didn't know you had private detectives spying my every move."
She made a face. "Not now, alright."
I rolled my eyes. "Fine. You want me to go talk to him in the Dragon's Head, fine. I might as well make up some lovely story about how /my/ heart was broken once, but I managed to live through it."
Her face shone. "Yes, do that."
There is no way around Hermione, so I found myself on my way to the Dragon's Head that Saturday.
The Dragon's Head was Hogsmeade's least respectable establishment. That didn't say much, considering Hogsmeade didn't have that many establishments in the first place. It was darker than the others, people came there to get drunk and not be asked questions. That's exactly what happened: the owner didn't ask questions, she just went to the town's gossipers and told them everything the next day.
I didn't like it much. Nobody asked questions in my house /and/ the whole town didn't know about it in the morning.
I reached it and stood looking at the door. I /really/ didn't want to be there.
I opened the door and went in. The bartender looked up from the counter and gave me a knowing look. Otherwise my entrance was unnoticed.
Ignoring Tom, I scanned the lounge's occupants. To my surprise, I found that Oliver was not there.
Sighing to myself, I took up a booth at the far end of the room, where I could watch the door and the room as a whole, but few would be able to see me.
Mrs. Flamel came to my table and asked for my order. I declined firmly.
"Are you sure?" she asked, giving me a look.
"Yes," I answered. "I'm not here to drink."
"Of course you aren't." That damn look again.
"Have you seen Oliver Wood here today?" Might save me sometime, that one.
"I don't give away information about my clients," she answered preparing to leave.
I stopped her. "Listen, I need to find Oliver. If you tell me where he is, I'll go and find him. If you don't, I'll be forced to sit here the whole night and wait for him, occupying a booth and not ordering anything."
I could see the wheels turning in her head. "Very well. He's been here, left some hours ago. Don't know where he went."
"Thank you," I got up and left some money. I wasn't sure it would buy her silence, but reluctance was good enough.
My work there was done, and I could happily return to Hogwarts and tell Hermione that I couldn't find him.
I walked out of the lounge and resolved on walking purposefully to Hogwarts. It was as I was rounding a house at the outskirts of Hogsmeade that my resolve crumbled.
At first, the only thing I heard was voices. But that in itself was highly unusual. This was a part of Hogsmeade and the woods of Hogwarts that hardly anyone visited, especially at night.
Basically, I couldn't tame my curiosity.
I slowed my pace and took care of where I was stepping. I hoped dearly I wouldn't be discovered.
As I came closer to the place the voices where coming from, I could hear snatches of conversation.
"...You high class scum!" one voice said. It was followed by a loud noise, like something was hit.
"You think you can come here and dictate how we should live?" said another voice. More hitting sounds.
"You should think again," the first voice again.
Good Gods, they caught one of Malfoy's friends. I might have disliked Malfoy, but this....
I tried to go faster. Maybe if I could surprise them.
"Go back to your /lord/," the last word was spat out. "And tell him to get out of here." More hitting. A groan. I was almost there.
Unfortunately, I stepped on something. They must have heard it.
"Who's there?" called the first one.
"You better get out of here," called the second.
Suddenly, I heard a dried chuckle. "It's you that should get out of here."
Oh. Good. Gods.
That was Severus. They were hurting Severus.
My brain shut down completely. I grabbed the first thing that came to hand and started advancing on Severus' captors.
Again, they must have heard me, because Severus continued talking. "Did you hear that? Lord Malfoy has powerful friends. You don't want to be here when they get here."
It must have convinced them, as when I finally reached Severus there was no one there. I could hear the sound of two sets of running feet, though.
I dropped whatever it was I picked up and rushed to Severus' side.
"Are you alright?"
"I'll live," he grunted.
I helped him sit up and then stand up.
"Did they, by any chance, say who they were?" I asked.
"Pettigrew and Smith. Not very bright attackers, if one thinks about it." He was leaning heavily on me.
I sighed and started leading him back to town. "They weren't expecting you to live through."
"The moment I say a word to Lucius -"
"Don't," I interrupted him.
He turned his head and looked at me. "Always listen to a school teacher," he mumbled. Louder he said, "Why shouldn't I?"
I sighed again. "Smith is our highest priest and Pettigrew - he does errands for Fudge. I, personally, think he's an assassin. Both keep Fudge in charge. He won't do anything against them."
We walked through the woods silently.
"He won't -"
"No. Hogsmeade is for sure. Fudge won't give it up just for a maybe. He'll always keep a back door."
"For someone who pretends not to be involved, you know a great deal," Severus said finally.
"Eight years is a long time to live on the road," I answered.
Severus came to a stop. Looking around, I realized we were a few feet away from Hogsmeade's main road.
"Well, thank you," he said.
"You're welcome," I answered, half smiling.
"You don't need to come further with me."
I raised an eyebrow. "You can't stand on your own."
He glared at me down his nose. I thought fast.
"You are not in a perfect shape. If you were caught when you were, imagine what might happen now."
He continued glaring at me.
I stood my ground. "I'm going to make sure you get to the mayor's house. There's nothing you can do to stop me.
He glared at me for additional five minutes. I looked at him, unfazed. "Very well," he said at last.
When we were almost at the mayor's house, Severus looked at me again. "You live in this town, Potter. Tell me, is there a place where a man can drink quietly?"
"There is the Three Broomsticks, which is acceptable," I answered, not adding that my house is open for him as well.
We stopped in front of the front door and he leaned on the doorframe instead of me. I missed that contact already, as little as there were.
He knocked on the door. "I'm here. You may go."
I half smiled at him. "Good night."
I thought of his body pressed to mine the whole way to Hogwarts. Maybe I should start visiting the Three Broomsticks. I've heard they have a fine collection of wine there.
I turned around and saw Hermione running in my direction from the Great Hall. I just entered Hogwarts and was headed to my rooms for a bit of a lie down.
"Where have you been?" she cried as she reached me.
"At the Dragon's Head, like you asked me," I answered, looking questioningly at her.
"I know, but you were gone for so long and Oliver came back hours ago, saying he didn't see you. Lord, Harry, I was so worried."
I smiled at her. "I'm flattered. But I'm fine. I would like to go to my rooms, if you please."
She nodded, so I turned around and started walking to wards the steps. I only made a few steps when she called me back.
"Why do you have mud on your shoes and clothes?"
I sighed. "I went through the woods."
"But the road from Hogsmeade to Hogwarts was cleared yesterday."
I turned around again and looked at her. "Fine. Come on."
We started walking side by side in the general direction of my rooms. When I was sure we were far enough from praying ears, I looked down at her.
"One of Malfoy's people was attacked."
She gasped. "What?"
"Yes. I heard voices in the woods and went to see what it was. By the time I got there they fled. I found the man and made sure he got to Malfoy. He said they were Smith and Pettigrew."
Hermione thought about that for a moment. "You think Fudge sent them?" "I don't know. Why would he do that?"
"To scare Malfoy away?"
"What for? I thought he wanted an in into politics."
"You're right." She pulled me into one of the unused classrooms in the hall. "Maybe they did it for their own benefit."
"Which is?" I leaned on one of the desks as she started pacing in front of me."
"I don't know. What do you think?"
"That Fudge doesn't give them as much attention as he used to?"
Hermione snorted. "Harry."
I smiled. "Yes?"
She exhaled sharply. "I just don't know. But keep up the good work. And tell me anything you find."
"Yes, Captain Weasley." I sidestepped her as she tried to hit me.
I decided I should go to the Three Broomsticks on Tuesday.
I took up a table in one of the corners, ordered a glass of wine and waited.
He never came.
I went back on Friday. No luck again.
It wasn't until Wednesday the week after that that I spotted him. He had a booth at a darker corner than mine. I might have missed him the previous times.
I took up my usual table and ordered my usual drink.
I came back several times again. Sometimes I saw him, and sometimes I didn't.
It took us another week to actually talk to each other, and even that was an accident.
I had bumped into someone going in, so I turned around to apologize when I was met with his hypnotizing half amused, half unreadable gaze.
"Interesting to meet you here, Mr. Potter," he said.
I nodded, smiling slightly. "I come here quite often."
"Do you?" his tone suggested he knew that already. Could it be that he was looking for me as I was for him?
We stood silently in front of the entrance to the lounge.
"I was just going in," I said finally, breaking the silence and trying to over come the fluttering in my stomach.
"Yes," he said, and was about to leave.
"Would you like to join me?" I asked, before he would be out of earshot.
He turned around and eyed me carefully.
I offered him a small smiled. "I would appreciate the company."
"I am supposed to meet with Cornelius in a short while, but I suppose I could spare some time."
I suppressed a grin. We were going to sit together. /We/ were going to sit TOGETHER.
He entered first and led us to his own regular table. He took the seat against the wall, and I took the one in front of him, with my back to the room.
Rosmerta, the owner, came by and took our orders. He ordered scotch. "So," I said, after a prolonged silence. "What are you meeting the mayor for?"
Severus looked at me. He said nothing and I was becoming uneasy, maybe inviting him for a drink wasn't such a good thing after all.
"We're planning the Christmas party." He startled me so much I almost jumped out of my seat.
I regained my composure quickly. "Christmas party? But Christmas isn't until -"
I looked at him and recalled he was right. Boy, did I live in my own little world.
I laughed. "You're right. Frankly speaking, I'd probably forget my own birthday if Hermione didn't remind me."
Severus gave me a quizzical look. "Who's Hermione?"
Was he jealous??? "Mrs. Weasley," I said out loud. "My employer."
"So," I said yet again. "What's with the party?"
"Cornelius wants to show Lucius how you common-folk celebrate the joy of Christmas."
I laughed. "Trying to impress Lord Malfoy again?"
Rosmerta came back with our drinks. I smiled and thanked her. She left.
Severus nodded. "He doesn't understand it's useless."
I sipped my wine and smiled at him. "People suck up to Lord Malfoy every day, Fudge doesn't understand he doesn't want people like that around."
"I knew it!"
This time I did jump. "What?"
"That you're behind that girl's scheme." His eyes were shining. I didn't know with what, but I liked it.
"What girl? What are you talking about?"
"Patil -" Severus waved a hand around. "Padma. You're behind her act of not caring. You're the one who told her to act like that."
There really was no use denying it. "It worked, didn't it?" I smiled and sipped some more wine.
His lips twitched. "Yes it did. Even I noticed her."
/Even he/? What does /that/ mean???
I frowned a little. "Don't tell his lordship, will you? Padma is enjoying herself too much."
He smirked. "I won't spoil your game. I would rather like to see what happens next myself."
Damn the man for talking in riddles. And bless him as well. How I loved him.
We spent most of the rest of the night talking about the upcoming Christmas party. Severus liked to ridicule and degrade people so very much. I couldn't help but laugh.
Throughout the evening, I had one little question that was nagging to be asked. I finally managed the courage to ask it, as we walked out of the lounge and were heading to our respectable houses. That way I had an open escape route.
"You don't suppose I'll be invited to the party, do you?" I said half smiling at him.
"Why would you say that?" He didn't even look at me.
"Well, I'm not exactly in his lordship's favor since I told you about Hogwarts." I was still smiling. From the corner of my eye I saw him looking at me, trying to read me.
"Besides, Fudge doesn't like me much either." I looked at him then, but he was looking straight forward.
"I don't necessary think that matters." His reply was very carefully calculated.
"Oh, please," I snorted. "How many live messengers do you know?" His lips twitched a little more than usual. I /will/ make you smile, Severus Snape.
"I will see what I can do," he said.
"Oh, thank you. You can't imagine how much I enjoy these parties!" This time not only did his lips twitch, but his eyes were twinkling too.
"Good night, Mr. Potter."
I didn't notice w reached a fork in the road. I needed to go right, to Hogwarts, and he had to go left for Fudge's house. How I hated Fudge at that moment.
"You know," I said. "You /could/ call me Harry. Considering I am only to call you Severus."
He smirked. "Very well, /Harry/."
If I were to die right there and there, I would have died a happy man. My name on his lips.... There were no words to describe it. I managed to smile. "Good night, Severus."
I turned from him and started walking in the direction of Hogwarts. I imagined his eyes following me until he couldn't see me anymore. I wished I could turn around and check if he did.
Severus and Malfoy must have been very close friends.
I wasn't fooled when Stewart came to my classroom the next day and delivered my invitation to the Christmas party. I knew that if I hadn't asked Severus about it, Malfoy wouldn't even think about me. What surprised me was that at the bottom of the official invitation, there were a few words, written in a neat handwriting and black ink. It read - /As much as I understand you would find pleasure in refusing this invitation, at least as much as myself, I'm sure, I have no such option. Would it be too much of a bother to come and witness the idiotism that is other people?
I reread those lines several times. Was that Severus-speech for: "I really enjoy your company. Would you like to spend an evening with me"?
I reread it one more time, just to make sure.
I remember someone saying that life throws surprises at you. Whoever said they couldn't be pleasant once in a while?
Naturally, I didn't refuse.
On the assigned day, I put on my suit, with minor changes, to make it look different, and went to the mayor's house.
I arrived about ten minutes after I was expected and was ushered in immediately. I bowed to Malfoy, nodded curtly to Fudge and went away to find myself a dark corner. It was only luck that Severus was already occupying it.
"Good evening, Severus."
He looked up from the glass he was swirling in his hand. "Good evening."
His voice betrayed nothing, but there was something in his eyes - something that hinted he might just be pleased to see me.
"May I sit?" I asked.
He made a by all means gesture with his hand. "Don't get too comfortable though. The banquet is to start shortly."
I smiled. "How did the planning go?"
"We accomplished everything we sought out to do. Although Cornelius did turn an interesting shade of purple the other day, when I wasn't there for our meeting." He gave me look.
I smirked. "It /is/ one of my life's goals," I said.
"Yes," he said rather thoughtfully. "I presumed you'd like that piece of information."
He thought that--
One of the servants entered calling everyone into the dinning room. As I expected, according to Fudge's arrangement I was to sit at the furthest possible seat from Malfoy, and consequently, Severus as well.
Ultimately, I didn't mind much. It gave me the opportunity to observe Severus and Malfoy. They were so very different, I couldn't phantom how they came to be friends. Malfoy was loud and probably lived on attention, everything /had/ to be about him, everyone /had/ to talk to him. Severus, on the other hand, preferred the shadows. He gave short answers when asked, and generally looked like he wanted to be left alone.
It wasn't until after the official part of the banquet was over that I could speak to him.
Everyone moved back to the lounge, and I went to what I was starting to call /our corner/. He was already there.
I sat down next to him, saying nothing. We stayed like that, silent, for a while.
"I imagine you enjoyed yourself these past few hours," he said at last.
I smiled. "Of course! So many people who had never seen a fork in their lives in one room. What is there not to enjoy?"
We sat in silence for another long while.
"Can I ask you a question?" I finally gathered the courage. He looked at me quizzically.
"How did you and Lord -"
"Lucius." I would have called him God if he wanted me to. "Meet?" He lifted an eyebrow.
"I don't mean to pry. You are just so very different. I can't settle it in my head."
He smirked. "We met at his parents' funeral." I must have looked shocked, because his smirked widened.
He shook his head. "Don't be. I didn't know them. Lucius was ten and I was nine at the time. The only reason my parents and I went was because we were his closest relatives and had to take him with us."
"How close are you?" I asked, fascinated.
"Very distant cousins." He looked very amused.
"Oh," was all I managed.
We spent the rest of the evening talking about some new inventions that the Americans had come up with.
The one good thing that came out of that evening was that Severus told me - in Severus-speech, of course - that he enjoyed the Three Broomsticks, and wouldn't mind seeing me there, that Wednesday, seven in the evening, meet you there.
Considering I gave him my word, I felt /obligated/ to appear.
We spent a very pleasant evening together. His corner of the room was much more isolated than mine, and I discovered there was a huge mirror hanging behind the bar, through which I could observe the room quite easily.
Our conversation revolved mainly around the state of cricket and polo in our area and Britain in general.
The most eventful part of our conversation came to be as we were parting.
"Why don't you come to Hogwarts on Monday?" I asked, smiling half-drunkenly at him.
He gave me a stern look. "Whatever for?"
"I'll show you around a bit, plus I have a bigger collection than this establishment seems to have."
He looked thoughtful for a moment. "Alright. I'll come by."
He must have been really, really drunk to accept. But unfortunately, I was too drunk myself to appreciate it.
To my complete embarrassment, I even managed to forget he was supposed to come.
One can imagine my surprise when, as I dismissed my last class of the day, a tall, dark figure entered the classroom and terrified the children. It took me a moment to realize who it was and why he was there. When I did, I smiled broadly at him.
"Severus!" I said after the last of the children left, or more accurately, fled. "Thank you for coming."
"You have promised some sort of entertainment, if I remember correctly," he said. "I might as well call you on your offer."
I continued to smile pleasantly. This was all Severus-speech for 'I'm glad to be here'.
"Just give me a moment then," I said. "I need to sort out through these papers."
Five minutes later, we were out of my classroom and I was showing him around. Severus seemed very interested in the aspect of teaching, and asked me endless questions about how I passed on knowledge to the children.
When we were finally seated in my chambers, in front of the fire, he with a glass of scotch and me with my wine, I laughed.
"You're talking like you're testing me, Severus," I said. "You're not planning on stealing me away and making me teach your children, do you?" Gods, I hoped he didn't.
"Children? Me?" he scoffed, much to my relief. "I don't like the nuisances."
I smiled. "They are. If you don't know how to keep them quiet."
"And you can?" he asked with a smirk on his face.
"Of course I can!"
That evolved into a lengthy discussion of how to keep little children busy.
I was surprised to find that Severus was quite knowledgeable in the subject, as much as he tried to deny it.
We ended up talking until a very late hour. When he prepared to leave, I asked him not to.
"It's passed one in the morning," I told him. "You can't go out into the forest this late."
"What do you suggest I do?" he sneered at me. "Stay here?"
"Yes!" I exclaimed. He looked taken aback. "Look." I rubbed my temples. "I have a spare room. Spend the night here and then leave in the morning. It will be on my conscience if you leave now."
He ended up staying.
It was the first night we spent under one roof. I admit, not in the same bed, but it was progress. I could honestly say I went to sleep a lot happier that night.
The next time Severus and I met was purely accidental.
After spending the night in my spare room, Severus left with a curt goodbye, no breakfast or nothing.
I didn't know what to do.
In all truth, I should have gone to Hermione. She would have given me the right advice in no time. But in my stubbornness, I had to convince her that I was /not/ in love with anyone. The fact that that was a lie was completely irrelevant.
Anyway, I ended up spotting him in the Three Broomsticks the next week on Wednesday.
I sat in my corner alone again and waited for my chance. It took a while but it came.
When Severus looked like he was about to leave, I left my seat and my coat.
I stayed a little way away from the lounge for a few moments and then doubled back to retrieve my 'forgotten' coat.
I bumped into Severus just inside the door.
"Sorry," I mumbled, pretending not to pay attention to him. My heart was beating like mad in my chest, though.
He stopped me. I hoped so much that he would. "Harry?"
I turned around and smiled. "Hello!"
He was about to say something, but I stopped him.
"Just a second, will you? I left my coat here and I'm bloody freezing." This was a very public scene. No way was I going to have a conversation of any sort with him there.
He nodded and I went to my seat and took the coat.
Not saying a word, we both stepped out into the street. He must have realized what a mistake talking in front of the front door might be, as well.
"So," I said, when we were far enough from the Three Broomsticks. "How are you?"
"I'm -" he clearly didn't expect that question. He glanced at me, but I wasn't going to be of any help. "I'm fine," he settled finally.
"Listen, about what happened -"
Gods, he was talking like we slept together. I gave him a quizzical look.
"I'm sorry I left like I did," he managed eventually.
I just had to laugh. "Are you drunk?"
"What???" Again, a question he did not expect.
"Are - You - Drunk?" I repeated.
"What does that have to do with anything?"
"You're not acting like your usual self."
Severus raised an eyebrow.
"Well, for one, I didn't expect the words 'I'm sorry' to ever come out of your mouth."
"Oh," he gave me a smirk. "You should know, then, that there are a lot of things you don't know about me."
He should know I was going to find it all out, but I didn't say that.
I decided to let that particular topic go, for the moment. "You can make it up to me."
He gave me a quizzical look again.
"You said you were sorry, I'm saying you can make it up to me."
Severus thought about it for a long moment.
During our walk we managed to reach the fork that separated us. We just stood, not making a move in either direction.
"Fine," Severus said at last. "How can I do that?"
I grinned at him like a five-year-old with a present. "Come by again on Saturday. Unless our mayor has something planned, of course." I made a face.
"I presume I can manage." His lips formed half a smile.
How drunk was he? I wondered if I could get him drunk enough to smile completely. I nodded at him, though, not sure what to say next.
"Good night, Harry," he said and turned to leave.
"Good night, Severus," I answered and began walking in the opposite direction.
On Saturday evening everything was perfect.
I rearranged the couch and armchairs in the main room so they stood around a small table and in front of the fireplace. On the table itself, I placed two plates and some candles. We were going to have a date even if it was going to kill me.
Severus arrived at half past seven, wearing his usual black outfit. It wasn't terribly formal, but I felt like I should change, since I was barefoot and in a stained shirt, although he did look a little uncomfortable as well.
I smiled at him. "Come in."
He nodded and stepped in.
There was a long awkward silence as we sat in front of each other on the couches.
At last I laughed. "This is ridiculous. We're acting like two friends who grew apart and have nothing to say to each other.
He smirked. "You're right."
I nodded. "Good."
"Alright," this time Severus spoke. "Did you know that I know practically nothing about you?"
I snorted. "I don't know that much about you either."
"True. But you have been interrogating me since we met."
I smiled. "Fine. What would you like to know?"
"Tell me of the places you've seen during your traveling."
"That's not about me, now is it?"
"Still, I'd like to hear about it."
I cocked my head to the side. "What would you like to hear?"
Severus shrugged. He actually did a semi-casual gesture. I thought I might die of happiness. "Tell me something interesting. I haven't traveled much."
I smiled. "You still have the rest of your life. But I'll indulge you."
He leaned back in his armchair, his hair half covering his face and prepared to listen.
I wrecked my head for some thing interesting to tell him, as I got comfortable in my seat as well.
"There is this one story I think you'd like," I said at last and looked at him. He nodded.
"It was one on off my first teaching jobs, and as I was raised in a monastery, the only thing I'd ever read in my life were the holy writings. So, naturally, when I was asked to teach a nobleman's daughter in one of the towns southward from here, I asked for a Bible. You should have seen the look on that nobleman's face when I did that. I honestly thought his eyes would fall off of his face. He then told me that he had only one copy of the bible and that it belonged to his late wife so there was no chance he was going to give it to me. I, of course, apologized for his loss and asked where I could obtain one. He said that the local church must have one."
"/Must/ have one?" Severus interrupted, raising an eyebrow. I smirked and nodded. "Let me finish. "I ended up going to the local church everyday with the daughter so she could learn to read and then come back to the man's house to study writing.
"One day, one of the priests stopped me and asked me how in the name of everything holy I managed to get that family inside the church." I laughed at Severus' expression. "It turned out that the man declined the church after they wouldn't give him a divorce from his third wife and found him guilty of the murder of his second one. On top of everything, the poor girl was from his first wife, who was found dead in the local river under mysterious circumstances."
Severus stared at me for a few long moments. "That sounds too bizarre to be true."
I continued to smile. "And it isn't over yet."
"Oh? What more could have happened?"
"Well, I was fired and chased out of town after the girl announced she was going to be a nun."
Severus actually chuckled then. I suppressed the urge to close my eyes and let the sound run through me. It was everything I imagined it to be - rich, powerful and soft at the same time, liquid honey.
Severus stopped and gave me a penetrating gaze. "You said you were raised in a monastery."
I nodded. "Yes."
"Your parents wanted a priest in the family?" He gave me a smirk.
"No," I shook my head. "I was found on the doorstep of an orphanage run by the ministry. As far as the note that came with me went, my parents are dead."
Another penetrating gaze. "I apologize."
I smiled. "It's fine. I don't remember them."
"So why didn't you stay at the monastery?"
"Because I hate the place?"
Another smirk. "Do tell."
"You don't want to hear about that! You'll lose all faith in our church," I said and got up. "Why don't I bring dinner instead?"
"Fine, but you won't run away from this." He had a glint in his eyes as he said that. I hoped it was a content one.
I busied myself with the dishes, plates and silverware. I felt like a good little housewife, bringing food for her man that came from a hard day's work. But I couldn't bring myself to care. I thought I could do it for the rest of my life, if he wanted me to.
We both sat on the couch in front of the table and the fire, since it was the most comfortable way to eat.
"I don't reckon the food at Cornelius' is like this," Severus said at last.
Could that be a compliment? "I don't think we have the same cooks," I smiled at him.
"My compliments to whoever it is then," he said, giving me a sideways look. "I'd prefer this any day."
Would he? I cocked my head to the side. "I'll be sure to tell him then."
We continued to eat.
When we were done, I cleaned the table, gave him his glass of scotch and poured myself some wine.
We sat on the couch and I continued telling him about my traveling, avoiding the subject of the church like a plague.
Eventually, I mustered the courage to try and take our relationship a little further. I was sure I read all the signs right and I might be on the road to happiness at last.
I placed my hand on his knee as we talked. It rested there for about five seconds, before he leapt to his feet, mumbled something about the time and that he had forgotten something. He grabbed his coat and was gone. All before I managed to realize what had happened.
When I finally did, it was too late. He was already gone.
I sat and stared at the flames for a few moments. That could /not/ have happened.
Severus did /not/ flee the moment I tried to--
It wasn't possible.
What of the glances? The looks? Why did he show me a side of himself no one else ever saw?
I couldn't grasp that that happened. It was generally impossible.
We were supposed to continue talking. He should have put his hand over mine. I would have kissed him. We would have spent the night and the rest of our lives together.
That could NOT have happened.
I dragged myself to my bed, undressed and slid under the covers. My last thought was that I would find out. I would find him.
Unfortunately, it looked like chance was against me again.
I couldn't find Severus anywhere and when I asked for him at Fudge's house, I was told that his lordship and his friends did not associate with common folk and that I should go back to whatever hole I crawled out of.
When I returned to Hogwarts, I was still speechless.
No way in any kind of Hell.
An unknown amount time and several glasses of wine later, I realized that I let myself sink into fantasyland again.
I didn't really think someone would love me, did I? That /I/ would find some sort of happiness?
I had to snort at that. Really, Harry, what came over you?
The only thing that annoyed me, through the haze of drunkenness and all, was that I didn't get a straightforward rejection.
Who did he think he was? Who did he think I was? I decided he wouldn't get rid of me that easily. If he didn't want me, he was going to tell it to my face and not that avoiding business.
Yes, I decided. I would find him, and he would tell me what his problem was.
It might not have occurred to me that that might hurt three times as much as what I was experiencing then, but I was too drunk to think of the finer details.
I had made up my mind, and when I did that, there was nothing that could stop me.
Then I passed out.
Like I already said, chance wasn't on my side anymore. Try as I might, I couldn't find Severus. It was like the earth had swallowed him.
Of course, it was more likely that he had left Hogsmeade or just never left Fudge's house. But I didn't think about it.
The only thing that troubled my mind was the question why.
I could not have been that mistaken. It was impossible for me to be /that/ mistaken. I didn't deny I could be wrong, but to that degree?
One evening, about two weeks after Severus fled, I sat looking at my glass, which stood at the table, and tried to think where I went wrong.
It was possible that at our first meetings I had imagined things. I had fallen in love with him; I couldn't get my mind off of him. I could have seen things that weren't there. But he was the one to start talking to me all those times.
And what of the baths? He had looked at me differently then, there was no doubt about it. I was too busy watching Malfoy to dream about Severus.
On the other hand, I was the one to initiate our talks at the Three Broomsticks. It was me that invited him to my house. /I/ was the one who initiated the contact.
Could it be that he kept his contact with me only because I kept nagging him about it?
But why would he talk to me, then? Why would he tell me things about himself? Admittedly, it wasn't much, but it was something.
Frustrated, I drowned my glass, and many more that followed.
I was at a complete loss.
Eventually, I ventured to the teachers' lounge and found Oliver there, nurturing his own drink.
Things hit me then. I recalled Padma was still seeing Malfoy, and that Oliver was now in love with her but couldn't have her. His melancholy reached for me.
I sat next to him and poured myself a glass as well.
Oliver lifted his eyes. "Harry."
"Hey," I said.
"It's been a long time."
We sat in silence.
"How are you?" I asked at last, my voice heavy with concern.
He smiled bitterly. "I haven't changed. Except that Hermione won't let me out of the castle alone any more. Thinks I might not come back."
I nodded my head solemnly and sipped my drink. "Feel like that myself."
"Oh? Your lady left?"
I let that slide, mainly because it brought a real smile to his face; I imagined he didn't have many of those. "Nah. You know me - I'm a loner. Just these holidays. Get to me every year."
"Really?" he took a sip from his own drink. "How come I haven't seen you like this before?"
I smiled bitterly. "Last year everyone else were a lot less cheerful, made being alone easier. Now, one keeps thinking about what one is missing."
"Too true." He sighed.
Another silence stretched between us. Though I didn't have the urge to fill it. It felt comfortable. We were two people with similar problems - although he didn't know it - sharing the time of day and a drink.
"Say, why don't we go in town?" I asked suddenly,
"But -" he started.
"Hermione told you not to go alone, and you're not going alone. I'd be honored to share a drink with you. I don't want to be alone anyway, and being out of here would do us both some good."
He looked at me for a moment. "Fine," he said. "I agree. Let's go." And so, we started this kind of tradition.
Hermione was, naturally, furious. I actually got a lecture from her on how drinking ourselves unconscious was not going to help us. But when I asked her what might help, and whether we actually needed or wanted help, she couldn't answer.
So, practically every night - when we didn't have too much work from school, we were teachers after all - we went into town.
This pastime lasted over a month. That is, until I finally spotted Severus.
Oliver and I were at the Three Broomsticks. Oliver was telling me about a prank he pulled on one of his brothers as a little kid, when I felt a heavy gaze drilling into the back of my head. I turned around and found myself lost in a pair of too familiar eyes.
It was early in the evening, so I hadn't had a lot to drink yet, and felt very glad for it. If I had, there was no telling what I could have done.
As it was, I spent the night between half-listening to Oliver and keeping an eye on Severus. He was /not/ getting away from me this time.
About half past eleven, Oliver announced it was a wrap, so we both left the lounge. I managed to find someone trustworthy, one of the servants from Hogwarts, to make sure Oliver made it back and stayed watching the Three Broomstick's door.
About half an hour later, Severus walked out. I followed him along one of the streets, and when he came out onto a bigger road, I called him back.
He stopped and looked around.
I stepped out of the shadows and stood in front of him. "Hello." To his credit, he didn't run away screaming.
"What do you want?" he asked with a drawl.
"Nothing," I said. "Just to talk."
He stared at me in silence. After a while he said, "Well, talk."
I looked at him. "I guess I wanted to ask you what happened."
"And this couldn't wait till morning?" he scoffed and prepared to leave.
"Wait." I reached out to hold his arm. "Listen to me, will you?"
Gods, I sounded like a puppy begging for his owner's forgiveness. But he did turn around. "Fine."
I let go of him. "This couldn't wait for tomorrow, because I wouldn't be able to find you in the morning. Or did you forget about the no entrance orders at Fudge's?"
He crossed his arms over his chest and glared at me. Ah, we were on Severus-speech again. That meant he was prepared to listen.
I raked my hand through me hair. "I simply want to know what went wrong," I said. "One moment we're sitting and talking, the next you're avoiding me like a disease and there are orders for my execution."
He snorted, ten points to the home team.
"Tell me what's wrong." I knew I sounded defeated, but I really couldn't help it.
"What you did," said Severus. "Was unacceptable."
So he was playing innocent. Fine, two can play that game. "What did I do?"
"Touch me. That kind of /thing/ is not acceptable."
"That kind of thing," I repeated mockingly. "What kind of thing? I just touched your arm, was that unacceptable? When I gave you your glass, is that unacceptable? You do understand you're being unreasonable, don't you?"
He stared at me, hard. "That wasn't that kind of touch."
"Really? Then what kind was it? Do tell. I made it, I might as well know." I was killing every chance I ever had with him, and I knew it. But maybe, I might save myself a friendship with him.
He opened his mouth to speak, and then stopped himself, settling on a glare.
"You are reading too much into this, Severus." I smirked. "One might think you /wanted/ it to have some kind of sinister meaning."
His glare intensified.
I laughed. "I'm sorry I took up your time. If you think of anything to say, you know where to find me. Good night."
And I walked off. Maybe this ignoring technique would help me, just like it helped Padma.
Thinking of Padma brought Oliver back to my mind. So, I hurried back to Hogwarts, to make sure he made it back all right.
One thing I could say though, was that I had a much lighter heart after my conversation with Severus. He didn't /exactly/ reject me, and on top of everything, there was even some hope of salvation.
On Saturday night that week, I went with Oliver to the Three Broomsticks. He had wanted to go to the Dragon's Head, but I convinced him not to. I didn't exactly give him a reason, but he knew of my dislike of the place and didn't ask many questions.
The first thing I did upon entering was to quickly look for Severus, but I couldn't find him. Oliver continued talking about the children under our care, a topic we started on our way. I half listened.
It was evident that in the past month or so, Oliver had improved. It wasn't a dramatic change, he still drank too much and was too melancholy for his own good, but it was getting better.
He was a lot more sociable, for once. People could approach and talk to him. He also looked better, more well kept. Like he was taking care of himself.
It gave /me/ a good feeling, thinking that I might have had some part in that transformation.
The evening, on the whole, was spent pleasantly. Oliver didn't drink himself to a stutter, and could actually get to Hogwarts by himself. Another sign of change. He couldn't do that before.
It came in useful as well, as this time, I was the one called back. Oliver turned around with me and took a step to my side.
I smiled. "Go on without me."
"Are you sure?" he asked me, putting a hand on my shoulder. So he wasn't /completely/ sober. But he always was on the melodramatic side.
I nodded. "Yes. I'll be fine. Go."
He gave a look in the direction the voice came from, turned around, and left.
"A close friend of yours?" asked Severus, stepping out of the shadows and crossing his arms over his chest.
"A fellow teacher." Who was he to interrogate /me/ about my friends? I suppressed the urge to cross my arms as well.
He, in turn, just looked at me.
No way was I going to give in on this game.
Finally, he inhaled deeply. "I apologize."
"Oh?" I said. "And for what?" I might as well have some fun, shouldn't I?
"What?" He thought the darkness covered his surprised expression. He was wrong.
"What are you apologizing for? I want to hear it."
His expression grew hard. "You're making fun of me."
"Well, yes," I answered cocking my head to the side. "But I deserve to, considering you made fun of me."
He sighed. "Very well. I apologize for jumping to conclusions and blaming you for things you didn't do."
"And...." I encouraged him.
"And -" He stopped. "And what?"
"And for avoiding me and not giving me an explanation."
"And for avoiding you and not giving you an explanation," he repeated.
"Oh, good," I said, smiling. "Good night then."
"Wait." This time, it was he who grabbed my arm. "I'd appreciate if we act like we did before."
"And how was that?" I half turned to look at him.
"Talking, drinking together."
We stood in silence.
"Well?" he finally asked.
I shrugged. "We did have insightful conversations. And I don't know many people with your kind of wit, which, honestly, I rather like."
"So what do you decide?" It was nice to hear someone else groveling for a change.
That was a full smile! I was prepared to bet my life that he didn't know I could see it.
"I'll see you at the Three Broomsticks, then," I said and, again, turned to go.
"Good night," he called.
I turned and smiled. "Good night, Severus."
He did end up meeting me at the Three Broomsticks the next week.
Conversation was strained at first. Severus looked rather nervous. We just sat in silence for more than an hour. Until Rosmerta came by our table and commented on how quiet we were.
"I don't know how you stand it," she said. "This is not the place for low spirits, you know."
"How a person spends one's time is none of your business," snapped Severus. "All you care about is that we pay."
She shrugged. "I do care if you're wrecking the mood for everyone else."
"Oh, off with you, woman," Severus answered.
I couldn't suppress a snicker as Rosmerta went away.
"She irritates me," said Severus, giving me a look.
"She, or the whole female race?"
"You're mocking me.'
"How perceptive we are today."
He glared at me, but there was a certain glint in his eyes.
We ended up discussing our favorite pastimes. And I discovered that Severus really enjoyed listening to music.
"No wonder you made me play that horrible piece that night!" I scoffed at him.
"Well, yes," he smirked. "Though I didn't imagine you know it by heart."
I shrugged. "Agrabella believed in pushing her students head first into the water to see if they could swim."
That earned me a whole half-smile. It was a very productive evening.
We met again from time to time, generally talking and getting to know each other better.
I didn't have the courage to ask Severus to Hogwarts again. Every time I thought of bringing it up, I kept getting the image of him running from my rooms. I just couldn't do it again.
In the meantime, I was beginning to distance myself from Oliver again. I wasn't doing it in one blow, and I was feeling extremely bad about it, but I couldn't help it.
I had found Severus again. And although all hope for a future with him had been extinguished, I had a friendship to fall back upon.
I wished that Oliver could see he had that too, but, like previously said, he had his melodramatic streaks and wouldn't listen.
We didn't go as much to town as we used to. I much preferred to go alone, in hope of encountering Severus.
To my great luck, Oliver understood. He even went as far as 'release me of my brotherly duties'.
I laughed, and told him he was not a duty, and that I enjoyed spending time with him.
He just smiled and clapped me on the back.
One night, another month later, Severus and I sat in our usual corner in the Three Broomsticks and discussed life.
As that line of conversation came to an end, I made my mind to ask Severus a question that had been interesting me for a long time.
"Remember when we first spoke together, and you had asked my name?" I asked.
He sipped his drink and looked at me. "Yes?"
"You said you heard of me before. When was that?"
"Oh," he waved in an off-hand manner. "The Malfoys wanted a tutor for their son, and someone said there was this renown tutor named Harry Potter. It was nothing."
I nodded and the conversation went on.
The evening was spent rather pleasantly, but there was something about that bit of conversation that wouldn't leave me alone.
I excused myself rather early, telling Severus I was not feeling so well. He was concerned in his own way, and even managed to get away with walking me as far as the forest around Hogwarts.
I was thankful and pleased, but I needed time alone to think.
As I went through the woods the line 'the Malfoys wanted a tutor for their son' kept running through my head, again and again and again.
The Malfoys, the Malfoys, the Malfoys.
What was it about the Malfoys that bothered me? I couldn't figure it out.
Just the Malfoys.
There was something wrong with that sentence. What could it possibly be?
It was coming back to that again and again.
I had finally reached Hogwarts when I realized.
Good Gods above! The /Malfoys/!
I had never run that fast in my life like I did then.
The realization of what was happening didn't even hit me the, but I knew I had to get to Hermione.
Hermione, Hermione, Hermione.
Oh Gods all mighty who look upon this wretched earth.
It wasn't very late and I had the fortune to find her straight away - in the Great Hall. The only problem was that Padma was with her.
I ran towards them and tried to tell Hermione everything, but I was too out of breath.
"Down... Pub... Severus... Talk.... Lucius... /Malfoys/!"
"Harry, calm down," said Hermione with a concerned look on her face. "You're not making any sense."
"No... Time," I panted, flopping on an available stool.
"What are you talking about?" asked Padma. "What's going on with Lucius?"
Hermione shushed her. "Tell us everything. By order."
"I was down in town at the Three Broomsticks, talking with Severus -"
"Who's Severus?" frowned Hermione.
"One of Malfoy's friends, I talk to him. Never mind that." I waved my arm around to get her back on topic. "He told me before that he had heard of me before we met. Tonight, I asked him when. He told me that the /Malfoys/ wanted to hire me as a tutor for their /son/."
That didn't cause the affect I was looking for. The two women just continued looking at me.
"So?" Hermione finally asked. "There might be lots of Malfoy families."
"That's the thing," I sighed rubbing my temples and not looking at Padma. "There aren't. A while back Severus told me that he met Malfoy at his parents' funeral when they were just kids. Severus' parents had to take Malfoy in because they were his only living relatives."
"That doesn't prove anything," said Hermione. "In fact -"
"His name is Severus Snape," I interrupted.
There was no breaking to the silence that stretched between us.
After a few moments, I risked lifting my head.
Hermione's face was unreadable. She was just staring at the far wall as if it held all the secrets of the universe. Padma's eyes, on the other hand, were drilling into mine. I hoped she could see how sorry I was.
Several long moments later, Padma broke her stare and ran way from the Hall. I could see her wiping her face as she did so.
I sat at the far end of the table in the Great Hall and watched Padma cry on Oliver's shoulder.
It was two days after I told her of Malfoy. I knew that she had made a scene at Fudge's house, and that now he and all his entourage were leaving. This was not a scandal they wanted to spread.
"You did the right thing." I almost jumped at the voice. It turned out to be Hermione.
"I know," I said. "But I still feel bad for her."
She took the seat next to mine. "I know you do, but it would have been much worse if you hadn't told her."
We watched Padma and Oliver in silence.
"That's why they were laughing then," I said suddenly.
"What?" Hermione looked at me quizzically. "When?"
"At the first party. Remember I told you Fudge was trying to convince Malfoy to leave Padma and take one of his girls instead."
"Oh." Hermione sighed. "They all laughed because of this."
Another long silence issued between us.
"So tell me about Severus." Hermione had a playful look in her eyes. I sighed. "He's no one. Let it be."
"Was he the reason you started hanging with Oliver?" She just wouldn't give up.
"Hermione." I glared at her. "It doesn't matter. Even if he was, he's leaving with Malfoy."
We didn't say much to each other after that.
Although I didn't go to Malfoy's arrival, I had to watch him leave.
It wasn't that I gave one damn about him, but the thought that Severus was sitting in one of those carriages was shattering my heart. I just had to be there.
At least Oliver and Padma were happy again. Padma had leaned on Oliver for support after her row with Malfoy, and they were beginning to be very close to each other.
It still didn't ease my pain.
What selfish creatures we all are.
The last of the carriages disappeared from my view. I sighed heavily and turned to go, but was halted by a hand on my shoulder.
I slowly turned around, and stared in amazement.
There, in front of me, stood Severus. He looked uncomfortable.
He nodded. "I stayed."
Severus had rented a room above the Three Broomstick's and we continued meeting periodically.
I was becoming used to being just his friend. At least I was getting to know him better.
Hermione had annoyed me at first with her questions, demanding to know about this Severus person. I managed to dodge her. Mainly, what I said was that it was none of her business. She did leave me alone, but started looking at me with a smug look on her face. It was really unnerving.
Oliver and Padma were happy. Padma even went so far as to /thank/ me for telling her about Malfoy.
"I would never have found my true love otherwise!" she said.
All in all, life was beginning to remind me of normal. It was a nice change. I had feared I had forgotten what that felt like.
It didn't last long, though.
One warm March day, I was preparing to go to town, in hopes of meeting Severus.
I had taken a bath, and was trying to decide what to wear when a knock sounded at my door.
I called for whomever it was to enter and that I was in my bedroom, thinking it was Hermione. We had an agreement that in situations like that, she would wait for me in the main room.
It wasn't Hermione.
Actually, I found that out when my bedroom door was opened and Severus stepped inside. He then froze completely.
A natural reaction considering I wasn't wearing much - um, anything. Severus just stared at me.
About a moment later, when I regained my ability to think, I realized he was actually checking me out. Severus' eyes were traveling up and down my body, occasionally pausing at certain places, and his mouth was hanging open. It was quite uncharacteristic of him.
But then he too realized what he was doing - or that I noticed - and looked away. "I'm sorry. I'll - I'll wait out side."
After he closed the door I allowed myself a slight smile.
All was not lost after all. If I played my cards right this time and didn't scare him, I might have a chance.
Feeling very happy with myself, I quickly dressed and went out into the main room.
I found Severus pacing nervously in front of the fireplace. I hid a smile.
Coughing lightly, I made my presence known. He looked up.
"Harry!" He looked like a rabbit, totally scared and extremely adorable. "I'm sorry - I didn't mean -"
I waved my hand and smiled openly at him. "It's fine. I thought you were someone else."
"Somebody else?" Was that jealousy I heard in his voice?
I nodded. "Hermione usually drops by here, to see how I'm doing."
We stood awkwardly in front of each other.
"Good Lord," I finally said. "This is ridiculous. Severus, please sit. Would you like something to drink?"
He sat in an armchair and nodded, looking rather relieved.
I poured him a glass and sat opposite him.
"So, what brought you around?" I asked.
He drowned his drink. "I wanted to spend time with you without the whole town listening in."
Severus just gave me a straightforward answer without me having to labor over it for at least a month. Wow.
He must have noticed how speechless I was, because he smirked. "Don't worry, the world isn't coming to an end. I just got sick of the Broomsticks."
Oh, Gods, he shouldn't scare me like that!
I managed a lopsided grin. "And here I was hoping everything would finally end."
He sipped his refilled glass. "So sorry to disappoint you."
The rest of the evening was spent in light conversation. It was refreshing to be able to talk without fearing someone might overhear you.
That night was the beginning of a new era. Or at least, that's how I thought about it.
Severus came by to visit Hogwarts very frequently, and even spent a few nights in my spare room.
We were actually becoming closer friends, and I could see him starting to trust me and relax in my presence again. I could tell, since he was starting to tell me jokes and even chuckle lightly of some of mine.
At one point he even encountered Hermione.
I couldn't help but laugh at his description of it.
He told me she had approached him in the hallway, as he was headed to my quarters, and demanded he tell her where he was going. He, not thinking much of it, told her he was meeting with me. He said that a most peculiar look came over her face then, a cross between amazement, relief, happiness, smugness and disagreement.
It was quite hard to imagine that, especially considering I was laughing uncontrollably at the time.
Severus didn't quite understand Hermione's reaction, or mine. But I was laughing too hard to explain it to him.
Eventually, I even managed to offer myself again.
It was late on a Saturday evening, after Severus had agreed to spend the night in my rooms and we were both properly tipsy that I said it.
"You know, there's nothing to be afraid of."
He looked up at me and stared. "Really?"
"Really. There's nothing wrong with being different," I assured him.
"Different," he repeated and looked back at the flames.
After a relatively short silence he turned back to me. "You know, I have no idea what you're talking about."
He was determined to make things difficult. I felt like growling.
I switched my seat, sat next to him on the couch, and looked him in the eyes. He looked sobered.
"I just want you to know that I'm here and that I'm not going to hurt or harm you. I need you to know that."
He looked at me for a long moment and then looked away.
"Severus?" I lifted my hand to touch him, but I was afraid it would scare him. I let it drop back into my lap.
At last, he nodded.
A spark lit in the pit of my stomach. I had a chance! I had a chance! /I had a chance!/
Severus finished his drink and excused himself to my spare room.
I was left staring at the closed door of the bedroom.
But the only thing that went through my head was that Severus did /not/ say 'no'!
I dropped the subject for the next few days. Severus seemed a little tense and I didn't want him to run again. So I kept my silence.
I had come up with millions of fantasies in my head though, each wilder than the last.
I imagined how I would storm into Severus' room in the Three Broomsticks and demand he gave me an answer. He would then dramatically turn away from me and tell me it could never be, but I would rush to him and kiss him, and he would melt into my arms.
In another fantasy, it would be Severus who came charging into Hogwarts and interrupting my class. He would demanded to speak with me at once, and when we would be in my office, he would sweep me into his arms and tell me it was all just an act to test me, and that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me.
But those were all fantasies and fancy wishes. I couldn't wait for Severus to make up his mind.
It came faster than I thought.
On one of the evenings Severus was supposed to come and visit, I went outside to have a walk before I met him. On my way back, I met him by chance and we walked to Hogwarts together.
We were entering the castle, discussing the mayor's resent decision concerning Hogsmeade's businesses, when we encountered a most peculiar sight.
More to the point, we found Oliver and Padma in a rather compromising position under the main staircase. We wouldn't have noticed them, if it weren't for the noise they were making.
Severus and I carefully passed the staircase and practically ran to my rooms, where we collapsed on the couch, laughing like children. Well, I laughed. Severus chuckled a little.
When we calmed down, I realized we were in a rather compromising position of our own.
When we collapsed on the couch, we managed to do so, so we were practically spooning together. I had my head on his shoulder, and his right arm was draped across of me.
I carefully looked up at him, and he turned his head to look at me. We stayed like that for a few precious moments, as I managed to get lost in his eyes.
What broke it was me finally mustering the courage to kiss him.
I kissed him!
His lips were soft and gentle, although he didn't respond at first. But a moment later he did, and his arms came around my back and mine sneaked around his neck and Good Gods!
Unfortunately, he stopped.
He broke away and distanced himself from me a little. Well, only a little because my fingers were entangled in his hair - Gods, his hair! - and I was too numb and too shocked to let go.
"Harry," he whispered, a little breathlessly.
My heart skipped a bit. No body ever said my name like that before. Then it dawned on me. He could be trying to push me away! No!
"No!" I said out loud, disentangled one of my hands and put it of his mouth. "Don't damn this, and me. Don't. You don't know how this could be. There's nothing wrong with this. The church's corrupted, what they say and think doesn't matter. Don't push me away again. I'm sorry. I don't care what people think. They're wrong. This is right. Don't push this away -"
I was babbling and talking to fast for him to stop me. Gods, if only I could change his mind about me.
"Harry!" he took my hand off of his mouth. But it didn't manage to stop me.
He sighed and kissed me.
/That/ stopped me.
When we broke off again, I looked at him with dazed eyes.
"I just -" he stopped for a moment, averted his gaze and then looked back at me. "I just wanted to tell you that I've never done this before."
I looked at him for a moment. "With a man?" I asked gently. He nodded.
I smiled. "Don't worry. I'm not going to hurt you. And I won't do anything you don't want me to."
He nodded again.
"Good." This said, I kissed him again.
This time I introduced tongue. He opened his mouth immediately and sucked me in.
I explored his mouth lasciviously. It was so worm and hot and wet. I felt like I was drowning.
Then the stakes rose. Not only did he push his tongue against mine and wrestled it inside my mouth - nothing I didn't enjoy immensely - but one of his hands also slipped inside my shirt.
This time when we broke off, we were both breathless, more than a little flushed and definitely aroused.
I grinned at him and pressed closer to his side.
"Would you like to take this somewhere - more comfortable?" I purred in his ear and ducked my head to lick his neck.
Severus gasped slightly, pulled my head up and kissed me again. "Yes," he whispered against my lips when we broke away.
I smiled, kissed him lightly again and got up. I shed my jacket and shirt and was about to rid of my under-shirt as well, when I looked at him.
Severus stayed in his place, looking at me as if mesmerized.
I smiled again and extended my hand. He looked at it for a second and then took it. I pulled him up against me.
"Why are you so shy?" I whispered, wrapping my arms around his shoulders. "You've seen me naked before."
"Hmm." He kissed me. "It wasn't all for me then."
That alone deserved a kiss.
I took his hand again and led him to my bedroom. He looked around, assessing. After all, he had never been in it before, or at least, the one time he was, his attention was elsewhere.
We came to a stop by the bed, and I immediately started on his waistcoat, shirt and under-shirt, too much clothing for my liking.
He wasn't passive, busy taking off my under-shirt, and driving me mad with tiny touches to my chest and shoulders.
When I was finally done with his upper half, I proceeded to lightly kiss and lick my way downward, pushing him back in the process.
He sat on the bed, his hands clenching my shoulders, as I knelt between his legs and feasted on his navel. My hands were busy parting him from his shoes and socks.
Apparently it all got too much for Severus, because he suddenly tangled one of his hands in my hair and pulled me up for a ravishing kiss.
It was so affective that I ended up practically sitting in his lap.
"Get in here," he hissed in between kisses.
I laughed, got up to my feet, turned around and bent down to get rid of my own footwear. The gasp form Severus was most satisfactory.
When I turned back around, Severus grabbed me by the arm and pulled me on top of him so we were lying on the bed.
"You've had practice," he growled, as I feasted on his neck.
"Hmm." His neck was positively delicious. The way it vibrated as he talked and his Adam's-Apple, and the sounds he was making as I bit into it, it all made me want to purr.
"Does it bother you?" I asked when I remembered he'd said something.
Yes," he growled, pushing me off of him, and rolling on top of me.
I arched my lower body towards him and our erections brushed together. He gasped.
"Show me how much."
He thought about it for a moment, and then fastened his lips to my neck like I did to him. I moaned.
He feasted on my neck for long agonizing minutes, while his hands roamed my torso, wrenching as many gasps as his mouth. I felt like I was on fire.
Then, he very slowly started his descend on my body. He tasted my collarbone, my ribs, my navel. He stopped inches away from my trousers.
I lifted my head and looked at him with half closed eyes.
"How did I do?" he asked, blowing air on my stomach.
"Brilliant," I panted. "But you could use improvement."
"Really?" His tongue sneaked around my navel again.
"Really." My hands, which were conveniently in his hair, tugged him up, until he was face to face with me again.
"Let me show you." I kissed him again and rolled us over so I was on top again.
Severus wrapped his arms around me and started caressing my back. I momentarily forgot what I was supposed to do, especially since our erections were pressed so nicely together.
Severus moaned into my mouth and I broke off.
"I like it when you make noises," I said and licked the underside of his chin.
Severus sighed. "Noted."
I lifted my head and smirked at him. "Alright then."
And I started in earnest. I began with his fingers, licking and sucking each digit into my mouth, and enjoying the startled and amazed look on his face. I continued up the arms to his shoulders, biting a little harder on the spot where shoulder met neck. Then I went downward. Not avoiding the nipples, as he had, but spending extra time on them until Severus moaned when I blew air on them.
Downward again. I tasted the ribs, sneaked my tongue into his navel and kissed just above his trousers.
By the time I got there, he was trembling beneath me.
I smiled, opened his trousers and slid them off together with his undergarments.
Severus dropped his head back on the pillows and clutched the beddings, and I continued my descend, avoiding his straining member completely.
"Harry," he panted as I lapped at his left inner thigh. "You're going to kill me."
I smiled, kissed the thigh and looked up. "Have you had enough?"
He groaned and trashed his head to the side. "If I could only reach you...."
I decided not to find out what he'd do, and sucked his cock into my mouth.
Severus moaned. "Harry!"
I smiled around my mouthful, bobbed my head up and down a couple of times, scraped my teeth against it to get another delicious groan, and lifted my head completely.
"What are you doing?" he demanded.
I smiled as I climbed up his body again. "You were going to come and leave me like this." I rubbed myself against him.
One of his hands trailed down my back. "What are you going to do then?"
"Other than drive you insane?" I got smacked on the arse for that. "Wait until you're a little calmer and continue."
Severus tensed. "Continue how?"
I kissed him reassuringly. "I'm not going to hurt you."
He nodded, and I turned around.
"Where are you going?" he demanded.
I turned back. "I didn't realize you like these trousers so much."
He growled. I laughed and took the rest of my clothing off.
When I was done, I stretched next to him and he turned on his side to face me. His hands started trailing on my torso, tracing downward slightly.
"May I?" he asked.
I smiled and kissed him. "All yours," I whispered in his ear.
He kissed me again and his hand took hold of my cock. I couldn't help but moan.
It felt amazing. The strokes were tentative and rather light, but the thought of him doing it to me alone brought me to the edge.
I broke away from him and put a hand on his. "Stop!" I panted.
He lifted an eyebrow.
I hid my face in his neck. "Shut up."
He let go of my cock and lifted my chin to face him again. We kissed.
"Should we continue now?" he asked as we broke off.
I had some body lotion in my bedside table, so I retrieved it.
"What is that for?" Severus asked suspiciously.
I smiled reassuringly. "To ease the way."
Severus opened his mouth to protest, but I stopped him. "Trust me."
Severus sighed, but nodded.
I kissed him, the straddled his stomach, facing his legs.
I opened the jar of lotion, coated my fingers in it and brought it to my own opening.
Behind me, Severus gasped.
I teased myself a little, and then slipped one finger inside.
"This is where your cock is going," I told Severus, a little breathlessly. I added another finger.
Severus put his left hand on my hip, clutching it.
I scissored my fingers inside me, and wiggled them around, gasping when I hit that point inside. I added the third one.
"Would you like to do that?" I asked him.
Severus didn't answer out loud, but he took the lotion and put his fingers inside.
I took my own fingers out, moaning at the loss, and spread my arse a little wider for him.
"Put three fingers in," I instructed. Severus, gasped but did as I said.
I cried out. His long, beautiful fingers were touching me delicately and carefully, hitting the one spot inside over and over again.
I /needed/ him inside.
I brought my coated hand to his cock and prepared him. Severus moaned.
"Take the fingers out," I instructed and they disappeared.
I immediately turned around and positioned him at my entrance. One of my hands were on his cock, the other on his chest. He held my hips.
I locked eyes with him. He nodded.
Gently and carefully I started to slide down, taking him deeper and deeper inside. It had been a long time since I had someone inside me, so it burned, but I ignored it.
And then he was completely in me and we were both panting, his eyes wild and my arms trembling.
A moment, and then I carefully lifted up, only to sit back down again. Severus gasped.
I set a slow careful pace, designed to drive us both mad.
When Severus started squirming beneath me and trying to quicken the pace, I stopped completely.
His eyes, which had closed at some point, flew open.
"You would like to go faster?" I panted out.
"Yes," he growled.
"Good." I lay down on him, wrapped my arms and legs around him and rolled us over, so that I was on my back.
Severus looked at me for a moment and then flexed his hips experimentally. He hit my prostate. My eyes rolled in my head and I moaned.
That apparently set him at ease, because he immediately started thrusting hard and fast into me.
I could do nothing but hold on, moan and cry out his name.
My whole body was on fire, from the inside out, his cock in me, my own hand on mine, and his teeth on my shoulder - everything.
It didn't take us long and soon we both came, me with a shout and him with a low growl.
He slipped carefully out of me and lay next to me.
I pulled the covers around the two of us, put and an arm around him and my head on his shoulder and fell asleep. I only half registered that his arms were around my waist, one of them stroking my lower back.
I woke up again at some point during the night. It took me a moment to realize that the reason I woke up were the hands caressing my sides. I turned around and found myself in Severus' arms. He was awake as well and pressed quit nicely to me.
"Hmm," I purred and stretched my neck to kiss him. "Why did you wake me?"
He kissed me for a long moment before moving along my jaw to my ear.
"I hoped we could do something," he whispered.
I was definitely /up/ for that.
"What did you have in mind?" I tilted my head back to give him better access to my throat, while I ran my hands up and down his back.
"I thought you might -" he trailed off, nipping at my collarbone.
"What?' I brought his head up to look at me. "What would you like?"
He kissed me again. "I thought you'd want - what I did to you -"
I smiled, stroking his cheek. "Would /you/ like that?"
Severus gave me a little shrug. "You seemed to like it."
I laughed. "You silly thing. I'm not going to do it unless you're sure. I'll tell you what." My right hand started trailing downward to grip his straining member. "I'll suck you some and we'll do that some other time." I licked his ear.
He appeared to think about it for a moment, while trailing his hands down my back. One of those hands went a little lower and squeezed my arse cheeks. I moaned and pressed a little closer to him.
"And what about you?" he asked, one hand still on my arse, the other then gripping my cock.
I moaned again and pressed into his hand. "I'll - manage," I panted.
"I doubt that," said Severus, squeezing me a little harder.
"Then fuck me again," I said, struggling not to hump his hand like a dog in heat.
"Like I said, you seemed to like it a lot," Severus grinned. One time that he lost his darted self-control and the only thing /I/ can think about is how good his hands feel on me.
"Yes," I moaned.
"So why won't you do it to me?" He asked, attaching his teeth to my neck.
"Because," I panted. "I'm afraid I'll hurt you."
He stopped everything and looked at me. "Did I hurt you last night?"
I closed my eyes and sighed. "Yes. A little. But it went away quickly." I chanced a look at him. He looked stricken.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean -" I put a finger to his lips to make him stop.
"I enjoyed it. Everything."
He kissed me and wrapped his arms around me. It was a long moment before we spoke again.
"Show me," he said.
I nodded and reached for the jar of lotion on the bedside table.
"Turn on your stomach," I whispered. "It'll be more comfortable like that."
He did as I said and I lay on top of him.
He was extremely tense, so I started slow, kissing and nipping at his neck. I didn't move until he moaned and shifted underneath me. Then, I started, slowly, moving down his neck to his spine and lower back. By the time I reached his buttocks he was groaning, moaning and shifting beneath me, all but begging me to continue.
I smiled to myself and dipped my head to lick at the cleft of his arse.
"Oh." He didn't expect that and tried to turn around.
"Sh," I said, stroking his thighs. "Relax." Amazingly, he did.
A few more strokes of my tongue and we were ready to continue. I uncapped the jar and dipped my fingers inside.
I prepared him gently, mindful of his tensing, or any other form of reaction. But he accepted the intrusion rather well, and in no time I had three fingers inside his wonderful warm body.
"Harry!" He moaned. I lifted my head. I must have lost myself completely in what I was doing.
"What is it, love?" I asked gently.
"Hurry," he whispered.
I smiled. He was ready.
"All right," I whispered back at him. I prepared my member swiftly and positioned it at his entrance. "Remember, this will hurt a little. Just say the word, and I'll stop."
He nodded into the pillow.
As gently as I could, I started sliding inside. It was better than anything I've ever experienced, thought or dreamt of. He was deliciously tight and hot and gripping, and I thought I might lose my mind from the pleasure. Somehow, I even managed not to hurt him as I went, and before I knew it, I was lying on top of him, and we were both panting.
"Are you alright?" I asked, my fingers tracing circles on his hips.
"It feels amazing," he said.
I smiled and kissed his shoulder. "It gets better."
I shifted my hips a little and hit his prostate. He cried out and tightened around me.
I hissed. "Gods, Severus!"
I nodded into his shoulder, although he couldn't see it, and started the first shallow thrusts.
Not long after that, he started meeting them and trying to quicken the pace.
"No." I smiled.
"I won't continue."
"Because, I'm not going to hurt you."
"You're not hurting me. Just - just be done with it already."
I chuckled a little. "I'll tell you what. Get on your hands and knees, and I'll see about it."
Severus grumbled a little, but complied. I took hold of his leaking member and continued in the same pace as before. He didn't seem to mind it that much.
A few moments later we came, me a little later than Severus.
I gently slipped out and eased him on his side on the bed.
"You all right?" I asked, kissing his neck.
"That was amazing," he said and turned around to kiss me.
I smiled. "Good."
We were both exhausted; so it didn't take us long to fall asleep.
The next time I woke up, it was already morning. I basked in the warmth of the sheets around me and turned around to pull Severus closer. It took me a moment to comprehend that I was alone in the bed.
I sat up hurriedly, dread filling my stomach. He didn't leave me, did he?
My desperate question was answered when the bathroom door opened and Severus walked in.
He walked through the room and sat on the bed next to me. He was half dressed and I pouted at that.
"You're insatiable," Severus said with a glint in his eyes as he leaned forward to kiss me.
I wrapped my arms around him and pulled him back on the bed and on top of me.
"Harry," he murmured as I kissed and licked his neck.
"Hmm," was my response, as I was unwilling to leave his neck alone.
"We have to get up," he said.
"No," I whined and moved to his ear. "Stay here."
He chuckled a little and I placed my hands on his naked chest to feel the vibrations. "You have to teach and I have to go back in town."
I let go of his ear and moved my head to look him in the eyes. "I don't want to."
"Neither do I," he assured me and kissed the breath out of my lungs.
I sighed and pulled him closer, trying to give him better access.
"Get dressed," he said when we broke away. I nodded and he left the room.
I got out of the bed and went straight to the bathroom to wash away the mess that was my body, a pleasant mess, but a mess after all.
After the quick clean up, I got dressed and joined my lover in the sitting room.
He, apparently, found the few edible items I had, for when I slept in and missed breakfast, or didn't want any company, and was half way into a decent breakfast.
I sat on the chair next to Severus, smiled at him and started eating.
"This is delicious," I said after a while. "Thank you." I kissed him on the cheek.
He looked a little surprised and I laughed.
"What?" I had to ask. "Were you expecting me to throw you on the table and have my wicked way with you?"
He hurriedly looked at his plate.
I smiled and leaned closer to him. "Would you have minded?" I asked in a husky voice, straight in his ear.
Severus shivered. Then looked at me. "You're amazing."
I blushed and he chuckled.
"Finish your breakfast," I mumbled. It was my turn to look at my plate.
We finished eating quickly, and in no time at all, it was time for him to go.
I walked him to the door and kissed him.
I smiled when we broke apart, leaning my head against his shoulder. "I'll miss you."
He kissed the top of my head in response.
I lifted my face. "You'll come back this evening?"
"Of course." Half smile, the little things that made my happy.
"I'll see you then," I whispered and kissed him again.
When the kiss was over, we disentangled ourselves and he turned to go. But then he immediately turned back around. Severus looked as if he wanted to tell me something, but couldn't gather the courage. That was a first.
"What is it?" I asked gently.
Severus looked down, then an me and then he grabbed my hand in his own. "Come to London with me."
"What?" I laughed. "On a trip?"
"No." He brought my hand to his lips. "Live with me in London."
I stared at him for a moment. "Severus, you know I can't do that. I have to finish the year. Besides, I hate big cities. You know that."
"Please," he said and started kissing my forearm. "I'm quite wealthy, you'll be living like a prince."
I laughed and stroke his hair. "I'm not that poor either. Severus, what's gotten into you?"
He stopped his ministrations and looked at me. It was a different look than the one he usually gave me, even before last night. This one was evaluating, judging, cold and harsh. I felt like a horse in a contest.
A moment, and it all passed. Severus squeezed my hand.
"I'll see you this evening."
I leaned over to have another kiss, but he was out of the door already. That left me quite confused. But I shrugged it off.
The one important thing was that I finally had Severus, and we were going to be together.
Finally, something in my life was right. And was going to stay that way.
I filled my lungs with air. That feeling, of true happiness, was so utterly--
I didn't even know how to describe it. And I'd be damned if I was letting it slip away.
My day passed in a perfect shade of bliss. Even Oliver, who only noticed Padma, commented how I seemed to smile more than usual.
Hermione kept looking at me strangely. I smiled at her.
By the time the evening came, though, I was on pins and needles.
What did Severus expect of this evening? Did he want to talk? Eat? Shag? Everything?
I couldn't decide what to do. I didn't want to seem over eager, for fear of scaring him away. I didn't want to appear too casual. Severus might think I didn't want him as much as I did.
Gods, what could I do? What could I do?
I resolved to take out a bottle of wine and whisky and putting them on the table in the sitting room, and pace around until Severus came.
Severus appeared at eight and I suddenly couldn't shake off a horrible feeling of dread in my stomach.
I pushed it away and smiled brightly. "Severus!" I exclaimed and started walking towards him for my kiss.
He stepped back.
I stopped in my tracks and looked at him, confused. "What's wrong?"
"I didn't come here for what you think." His voice was quiet and deadly.
I took a step back in shock. Severus never, /never/ spoke with me like that.
"What did come here for then?" I asked, my voice a little shaky.
"To tell you I'm leaving."
"You heard me." H looked me in the eyes and I was shocked at the utter coldness in them.
"You can't leave." He raised an eyebrow. All right, I was familiar with that, at least. "What about us?"
"There is no 'us'." Again with the deadly tone that was killing me alive.
"What about last night?" I cried out. I would not cry. /I would not cry/. "You can't tell me you didn't enjoy it."
"Last night was something that would never happen again. I was seduced and deluded."
My heart flared with anger. How dare he?
"You wanted me," I screamed at him. "You wanted me, you asked for me. You begged."
"I was deluded. You probably dragged me."
Severus was - Oh, Gods.
"You didn't drink or even touch a drop of my wine," I murmured, not knowing what to do, how to convince him.
"And your point would be?" He smirked at me.
He. Smirked. At me. That got me going again.
"My point is that I'm not letting you go. You can tell yourself whatever you want, but I know the truth." During my speech I advanced toward him, trying to make him see reason.
But I was caught by surprise when he slapped me so hard that I fell on the floor.
I looked up at him, clutching my burning cheek, on the brink of tears and not daring to stand up.
He snarled at me. "Don't dare come near me again." He took a deep breath and glared at me. "You can cry havoc and let loose the dogs of war, but I will /never/ set foot within twenty miles of your filthy soul."
That said he turned around on his heals and strode forcefully away.
That was when the tears came.
"And that's how I found you."
I look up at you. You sit on my favorite armchair. I'm still on the floor where Severus left me, utterly broken. I nod.
"Good," you say.
"What are you going to do?" I ask.
You look into the flames I lit for Severus and I feel a fresh wave of tears and despair.
It wasn't supposed to be this way. We should be happy. We should be together.
"I'm not sure of everything yet." Your words bring me back to the present. "But I sure am glad that the Easter holidays start tomorrow."
I continue looking at you, in hope that you will explain yourself.
"It will give me enough time to find a new teacher."
I hand my head against my chest and let the tears roll down my cheeks. I should have expected this.
Should have, should have, should have.
You get up and walk to the door.
"Everything that is still in these rooms at the break of dawn tomorrow will be burned."
The door closes behind you.
O Rose, thou art sick!
The invisible worm
That flies in the night,
In the howling storm,
Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy,
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.
-- William Blake, "The Sic Rose"
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