I also noticed that Severus made an effort to spend more time with him: one day when I'd made my way to the hut to check on Hagrid, I heard his distressed voice at tearful top volume and Severus' low response, remarkably soothing and gentle.
I slipped away -- Severus appeared to have the matter well in hand. I suspected Hagrid thought of Fang as his child, and the only way I could comfort him would risk bringing up my own loss; I wasn't anxious to reopen those wounds.
Cowardly, but true.
I knew next to nothing of Potions -- only the little I'd picked up from helping Ian with his homework, before he'd found mates in Hufflepuff to help him -- but I was fairly comfortable with translation. It was so engrossing that when the knock came at my door, I didn't even check the clock -- I simply called "Come in," and picked up mid-sentence with Seamus.
"-- I suspect they've used a Latin stem here -- I don't have enough to translate it, so you're going to have to check that as well --"
A none-too-gentle clearing of the throat made Seamus and me look 'round, and there stood Severus Snape, Potions Master: face impassive, but with a glint of malice in his eyes.
"Have you decided to take up teaching Potions as well?" he sardonically enquired.
I blushed at the rebuke, and it made me reply more sharply than I ought to have done. "Seamus needed help with the translation, that's all," I snapped.
Severus transferred his attention to Seamus. "A Potions assignment is just that, Mr Finnegan, not a free-for-all canvassing of the entire faculty: if you were in difficulty, you should have come to me."
"Sorry, sir," Seamus mumbled. "I didn't think you knew Ir-- "
"Precisely. You did not think. In future you should consult me first. Before you go behind my back."
Seamus reddened and began stuffing his notes in his bag: I stilled him, and then glared at Severus.
"Do you know any Old Irish, at all?" I demanded. (I shouldn't have: he was faculty and Seamus a student, even if we weren't technically on duty. But it ticked me off that he felt it necessary to pull rank in my rooms, on the weekend, when Seamus was there for help.)
"Of course not," he replied arrogantly. "It's a dead language, and there's nothing of any possible value written in it to pique my interest."
"Then why complain when Seamus goes to the one person who might be able to help him?" I shot back, and then called Severus something quite uncomplimentary under my breath, in Irish:.
Seamus choked back a laugh. (I'd quite forgot he'd catch it.)
Severus' face flushed. "What?" he asked, dangerously quiet.
"I said, 'typical English attitude,'" I explained, lying through my teeth. "Barbarian language, spoken by savages. 'Nothing of any possible value,' indeed. Go --" I waved him away toward the kitchen, "amuse yourself with pillaging my paltry wine cellar; we'll be done shortly."
Remarkably he did as I commanded, though he glowered at us from across the room and contributed derisive snorts as commentary when it suited him. I ignored him, and Seamus had the presence of mind to do so as well.
"You know..." I mused at last as Seamus was gathering up his things, "I wonder if they mean the Druid's egg when they say 'healing stone'."
"Druid's egg?" he asked, confused.
"What did they teach you in school, Seamus? Or rather, didn't?" I teased.
He grinned at me and shrugged. "The Old Religion wasn't in the curriculum," he admitted. "Isn't here, either."
"Why does that not surprise me?" I asked wryly and rhetorically. "Hang on." I scrambled from the sofa and reached for two books from the shelf. "It's a moot point, really. No one knows -- not Muggles, at least, you'll need to go back to the library for Wizarding references. It could be anything from glass beads to an ammonite, although the Romans claimed it was... well, snake spit, more or less," I said with a grin as I handed him The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles and A Brief History of the Druids.
The comment had the desired effect: Severus muttered under his breath, and Seamus and I had the satisfaction of ignoring him yet again.
"I don't think, given all this," I added with a gesture to Hogwarts in general, "that one ought to rule the last one out entirely."
"Thanks," Seamus said, and slipped the books into his bag as I showed him to the door. "Good evening, Professor Snape," he added over his shoulder.
"My office first thing Monday, Mr Finnegan," Severus responded darkly.
Seamus went white; I gave him a surreptitious wink as he slipped out the door.
"You shouldn't address him by his given name, you know," Severus noted sourly. "It encourages familiarity."
"Oh, for pity's -- the boy's family lives less than twenty miles from my home, we speak the same language, and it's the week end," I said irritably. "Don't tell me you never call your Slytherins by their Chri-- first names. Was the unpleasantness necessary?" I groused at him as I marched back to the bookcase and grabbed the chessboard.
"Was it necessary for you to abrogate my authority?" came the sardonic reply. I whirled on him to retort, and then abruptly changed tactic.
"Are you more upset that you feel I undermined you -- a totally erroneous assumption, by the way -- or that one of your students had the temerity to consult an authority other than yourself?"
His sallow skin flushed delicately. "Both are equally unacceptable, I assure you," he stated.
"I'm surprised you're not impressed with his initiative," I commented dryly. "Any other student with the exception of Granger would have been in your office snivelling about the impossibility of completing the assignment." I set the pieces on the board in ill-temper. "There are no Irish language primers, modern or Old, in the library at all, at all -- it's a disgrace," I said irritably, and without thinking barked, "Resume last game," at the chessmen. The pieces scattered with alacrity: even the little queens shot fearful glances at me as they scurried to their squares. "As to 'dead language' -- What?"
His eyes had narrowed, and his mouth twitched as he nodded to the board. I glanced back at it, and it dawned on me that I wasn't supposed to be able to tell the pieces what to do.
He chuckled, and I turned to glare at him.
"You are approximately two sentences away from lapsing into Irish," he observed, "and I am wondering what I can say that will goad you into it in one."
He nearly managed it with that comment alone.
I took a deep breath, walked around the sofa, and leant against it, arms folded across my chest.
"As to 'dead language'," I noted icily and in my best R.P., "Latin is as well, but you won't presume to tell me you don't find it useful."
"Of course not -- it is, as the root language and culture from which modern magic evolved. But with the exception of the text Finnegan unearthed -- for which diligence I will commend him, by the by -- Irish is useless. Poetry, fragments of tall tales, and boring litanies of history," he drawled as he filled a second wine glass and offered it me.
"That's the majority of what's survived," I corrected him as I took the glass. "You forget, too," I added as I seated myself behind the white side of the board, "that much of your Greek and Latin wouldn't have survived without Irish scholars."
"That's another matter entirely," he said laconically (and rightly). "Shall we begin?"
I considered my moves and reached over to make one.
"Don't," he said sharply. "Once they acknowledge your voice, you shouldn't have to touch them again. I shouldn't make that move, either. I've no desire to begin a new game tonight," he added snarkily.
I glared at him, but sat back to reconsider. "Queen's bishop to H4," I tried cautiously, and the little cleric clutched his mitre and obediently trotted to the proper square.
Severus snorted at that, more than a little annoyed that his personal set had decided to respond to me, and I smiled inwardly.
"You could have been a bit less oppressive," I grumbled. "It wouldn't have hurt to let Seamus think consorting with me out-of-hours is making you slip a little."
"It most certainly would have done," he retorted promptly. "Bad enough the Gryffindors will be gossiping about it in class. On the other hand," he said with a gleam in his eyes, "I should have a very good day Monday, deducting points."
"You would think that fun," I mumbled in disgust. The observation didn't bother him at all.
"McGonagall and Vector almost caught someone last night," he lazily offered, and then ordered, "Knight takes Rook." The black horse galloped over to my Rook, and its rider slashed at the piece with its blade; the decapitated rook waddled off the edge of the board, kicking its battlement before it. "Nothing amiss on the grounds, though."
"How in bloody blazes are they getting out?" I asked.
"The castle is honeycombed with secret passages and hidden entrances; that's the best way to circumvent the curfew wards -- your move," he prodded unnecessarily.
"I know -- stop trying to distract me," I muttered, and told a pawn to leave it original square.
"What did you call me, to make Finnegan's eyes pop from his head?"
"I told you -- I said you had a typical English attitude."
"Castle Queenside --" he commanded, and gave a feral grin as his king moved out of reach of my last remaining Knight. "Your dialect thickens when you attempt to lie to me, you know."
"I did not lie," I said truculantly, "though I admit I've given you a paraphrase."
A considerable one. 'Typical English attitude' doesn't quite equate with 'patronising invading bastard.'
"You could always go look it up in the library," I added with a sweet smile, "and when you discover as poor Seamus did that that's useless as tits on a bull, you can beg me for the use of my Irish dictionary."
He reddened, and I came as close to checkmating him that night as I had ever done.
He surprised me by coming to my door late on a Tuesday night; he'd left the chessboard in his own rooms, as we'd taken to meeting in his for the past few sessions (just so the Slytherins would get an eyeful of me wandering to his rooms in the dungeons). He said nothing when I opened the door, but his face was set and grim, and he held his left arm stiffly; I stepped aside and he swept past me, crossing to the windows at the other end of the room. I closed and bolted the door, and turned to him.
"It's time," he said quietly.
I didn't know what to say. We hadn't anticipated this quite so soon, and had no plans for it as yet. Eventually I walked to the freezer and pulled an ice-pack from it. "Sit down," I directed him softly. He slowly complied, and then stiffened when I approached him, reached for his arm, and began matter-of-factly unbuttoning his coat-sleeve.
"What --" he started to demand, and I glared at him.
"Belt up," I said firmly, pulled back the heavy cloth, and put the pack against the linen covering his forearm. "You didn't realise you were favouring it?"
He shook his head, lips compressing in annoyance with himself. "You saw it in November, of course," he noted.
"And how it was paining you last year, during the Third Task. It's got to hurt like holy hell if you, of all people, can't hide it."
He stared at me for a long moment, and then deliberately removed the pack and slowly unbuttoned his shirt cuff, baring his arm to me.
The Mark itself was a dull greyish-purple, and the flesh on either side of it was hot and swollen all the way down to the wrist below it and up toward the bend of his elbow above. I hadn't before seen the form it took: when I'd run the flannel over it in November it had seemed no more than a particularly nasty bit of scar tissue, something he might easily have acquired during a botched potions experiment -- if one could imagine Severus Snape botching anything.
It was the ugliest thing I have ever seen.
"It burns black when Voldemort calls," he observed distantly, "and if the call is not answered within the hour, it glows red. It will continue to ache for several hours."
"Well, that would put a crimp in your social life, wouldn't it?" I muttered with morbid humour. "I thought it was a skull and snake."
"Morsmordre? That is the signal of a raid, purely to induce fear in the survivors and witnesses. Each Death Eater's personal mark is different, tailored to their nature, strengths, and weaknesses."
"And what do these signify?" I asked. I'd done enough homework to recognise the characters as runes, but not enough to translate them.
"The first is Eihwaz: initiation, death, and transformation: that is the same for us all. Secondly, Thurisaz: discipline. And lastly, Teiwaz: duty, and the warrior path." He replaced the pack directly on his arm, wincing slightly as the cold sank into the heated flesh, and continued his lecture (he really was a teacher through and through). "The runes are neither negative nor positive in and of themselves; it's the intent and magics used in their creation that make them one or the other."
"Discipline and duty, hmmm? He's anxious to keep you bound to him."
"I have my uses," he replied bitterly.
"I would have guessed it's because he fears you," I noted. "You're so strong-willed."
"Not enough, it appears. Not when it counted."
"I rather think now is when it counts," I said dryly.
He shook his head, dismissing my charitable interpretation; I changed the subject back to the most pressing matter at hand.
"So someone's finally tattled." I slipped back to the floor and sat cross-legged at his feet. "And what did you have to tell him when you went this evening?" I asked quietly.
"That you were my... plaything, although I've not yet attained my goal. He is not averse to his Death Eaters finding amusement where they may, particularly with Muggles, but he was still... concerned." He shifted uncomfortably before continuing. "I thought it best not to admit that there was talent on your side of the family -- I attributed your nephew's skill to your brother-in-law. While... he is more focussed on Muggleborns at the moment, you're still in danger from the others. Many of them don't bother with the distinction, and in any event may seek to get at me through you. You shouldn't leave the grounds, for now."
"Is there anyone save Albus on either side that you're not hostile with?" I asked, amused.
"One or two," he answered snidely, and glowered at me.
"So what do we do now?" I questioned. "Did he give you instructions? I confess I don't have any idea how to proceed with this."
"I don't either," he admitted. "He gave me free rein; that in itself is worrying. He could still be testing me, although Albus' other diversions have been successful. It would be easier for you," he noted slowly, "if you were the one to make the break, but on the other hand, if it's clear that I have no further... use for you and you object to that treatment -- at least initially -- there's more scope for pyrotechnics, don't you think?"
I digested this in silence for a while, and then hazarded, "A gradual build-up to a physical confrontation?"
He nodded. "Nothing so extreme as a rape -- though certain people will be happy to construe it as such," he grimaced. "Albus couldn't keep me on in those circumstances, at any rate. Bruises would not be amiss, if you can manage that. No one in their right mind would imagine you capable of taking that from anyone, no matter how besotted you might appear or how depraved they care to think me. So perhaps..." he shifted uncomfortably. "...perhaps we should arrange a public demonstration of... intimacy before we proceed to hostilities."
Being caught snogging by students, he presumably meant.
It wasn't an entirely unpleasant prospect. (I'd gotten over the more frightening aspects of my dream-memory of that night in the Quad.)
But it all fairness it wasn't necessary. The cat had already been let out of the bag, and given his obvious embarrassment, I let him off the hook (so to speak -- he wasn't going to like this at all).
Then again it was all his fault anyway, for trying to get up Hooch's nose quite so spectacularly.
"Hang on," I said grimly, and pulled myself up to retrieve something I'd confiscated in class a week ago.
He sputtered indignantly when he read the note I thrust at him.
"Who in bloody blazes wrote it?" he asked through gritted teeth.
"Lavender Brown -- she has that irritating habit of not capitalising properly. I caught Fitzgerald with it, though I don't think either of the addenda are in his hand."
He went absolutely livid.
"The insolent, beast-buggering little shits --"
(That was the most charitable thing he had to call them, by the way -- I won't inflict the rest on you.)
"I hope you gave detentions all around," he fumed when he'd run out of nasty descriptors (it took a while).
"I took points from Brown, for running down a teacher." I sniffed. "I let her know I didn't appreciate her cohort's description of you. I would have done for being stupid enough not to disguise her writing, but then she's Gryffindor, not Slytherin, so that was redundant."
He snorted in disgust, but his complexion returned to sallow at my pot-shot at Gryffindor House. (I didn't mean it, of course, but I had to mollify him somehow. Although come to think of it, Gryffindors do lack the subtle guile that enables Slytherins to get away with things like this.)
"It explains some of the idiocy that's been perpetrated in my classroom this week, at least. I'm sorry --" he began to mutter.
"Don't be stupid. Look at it this way: Hooch and Hagrid did the work for us, and we got a free upgrade to a shag," I noted brightly.
He didn't give the last comment quite the appreciation I thought it deserved.
"You didn't show this to Albus, did you?" he asked suddenly, alarmed.
"No. I'm not that much a glutton for humiliation, I don't care how badly he needs a laugh at the moment. Probably knows, anyway."
"Good," he said in relief, and tossed the wretched scrap of parchment into the fire: the ice-pack fell from his other arm, and I picked it up from the floor. "It should be all over the school by now, so we can proceed directly to hostility."
"I imagine so. Why don't you surprise me, rather than planning this out," I said hesitantly. "It's easier for me to just react, and we won't have to worry about meeting to plot everything out."
"Let it develop naturally?" he said ironically.
I shrugged. "I think you can manage," I retorted. "You're probably as good at improvisation as I. In fact, I know you are. And quite good at adding corroborative detail."
I didn't mean it that way. But that's how he took it, unfortunately.
His cheeks reddened ever so slightly, and he rolled down his shirtcuff and fastened the buttons -- fumbling just a bit, I noted: flexing his arm was painful, and I suspected his unease with the general topic had made him awkward, as well.
"That's that, then," he said, appropos of nothing and probably to cover said embarrassment. (The man never used an unnecessary word or hackneyed phrase, ever: this was a red-letter day.)
"I suppose," I said quietly, equally mundane, and fiddled with the ice-pack. "I.... Thank you," I offered, "for the company, regardless of the circumstances. I think Albus was right about the distraction. It's been a rough six months, and you've kept me from going totally to ground."
He shot me a look as he finished up on the coat-cuff. "At least it wasn't an complete waste of time, then," he muttered. "Do you need more Dreamless Sleep Draught, before we... commence outright war? Poppy will be rather less forthcoming on a regular basis."
"No, I'm fine. I have several doses left and I've not needed it for a while."
"Very well." He rose and I showed him to the door. "Good evening," he said formally, impassive mask once more firmly in place.
"Good night. I'll see you at breakfast," I said quietly, and let him out.
It didn't occur to me until well after he left to wonder why he'd shown me the Mark when I'd gone to the trouble of trying to leave him some privacy.
He might as well have bared his soul.
It came to a head after the next staff meeting. Black had finally been acknowledged to the staff in his own form, and had made several attempts to charm me in full view of the others. I'd always sidestepped his efforts before, but this time, despite my insistence that we not involve Black against his knowledge, I caved in. Not so much as to appear that I was trying to deliberately hurt Severus: but I responded to Black's comments with rather more warmth and encouragement than I had been.
It paid off. Immediately after the meeting I moved to head Severus off before he left the room on the pretext of discussing one of the students: he brushed past me, none to gently, with a disdainful smirk. Hooch watched from across the room with a certain grim satisfaction as I rubbed at my shoulder, and Black loped over before I could leave the room myself.
"Are you all right?" he asked anxiously.
"I'll be fine," I whispered, and resettled a stack of essay books in the crook of my arm.
"I didn't mean to cause trouble, really," Black assured me as he guided me out to the corridor, away from Hooch's frank interest.
"It's not you," I assured him, with a distinct twinge of guilt at the deception. "He's been like this all week -- I've no idea what's the matter."
"He's the matter," Black muttered. "I wanted to warn you about him, but Headmaster'd told me to stay out of it --"
"Oh, really, I am an adult," I said, exasperated. "I just need to talk to him -- if I can get him to sit still long enough," I added doubtfully.
"Well, if you need to talk, Miranda..." Black offered, peering at me through untidy black hair (funny, how similar his and Snape's colouring were).
"Thanks, Sirius. I'm sure it'll be fine, once we iron things out." I smiled brightly at him as I headed down the hall.
Well, the staff and faculty are mostly covered... now to get the students.
I made a very public visit to the Potions classroom that evening. It was directly on the way to the Slytherin Common Room, and there would be a lot of traffic in the corridor. Sure enough, he was waiting for me, bent over at stack of scrolls at his clerk's desk at the head of the room.
"Is your shoulder all right?" he asked me abruptly, not looking up from his work.
"It's fine, thank you -- you didn't bump me that hard," I replied, taken aback.
"The dramatics were for Black's benefit, then," he said sourly.
"He wasn't the only one in the room, you know. Though he made certain," I admitted wryly, "that I knew he was available if I needed to talk."
He shot me a decidedly 'I told you so,' look.
"You're making more of that than it is," I retorted. "I'm not getting any vibes from him."
"Vibrations. Impression of that kind of interest. Instincts."
"I think you know by now how I feel about instincts," he murmured, and took a particularly violent swipe with the quill at the scroll before him.
"Yes, I know -- no more lectures, please, I am capable of restraining myself, and handling him."
He snorted and continued mutilating the scroll.
"I really did want to discuss Barrett with you this morning," I stated firmly, to change the subject. "Her work is continuing to degrade, and when she's not actually falling asleep in class, she's sullen and uncommunicative."
He laid down his quill and twisted on his stool to face me. "Ah. I can enlighten you on that score." He gestured for me to take a seat, and I took the nearest -- far back in the room, as I hadn't moved much beyond the door.
I don't know why I was so wary of approaching him that night -- I'd never been shy about it before: but he was exuding a distinct air of noli me tangere, and for once I was respecting it. He rose and stood in front of the desk, arms crossed in what I'd taken to thinking of as his "lecture" pose.
"Barrett's father disappeared last autumn, about the time you first noticed a change in her," he informed me. "Septimus Barrett was never a Death Eater, but he'd given some support for activities in the 1970s -- he was one of those who straddled the fence, waiting to see which side was most likely to win. It wasn't important at the time, because the Barretts are one of the lower families in the pureblood hierarchy, and they've never been known for their commitment to much of anything other than themselves.
"However, last fall Malfoy approached him with an ultimatum: join the Death Eaters and give his full support, or suffer the consequences. He acquiesced, of course -- one doesn't turn down Malfoy unless one is very powerful or very foolish -- but he made the mistake of trying to run. He alone, by the way: he was content to leave his wife and Delia in harms' way," he said savagely. "Typical of him -- he always was a feckless coward: he was several years ahead of me at Hogwarts. He never made his safe location. The person who arranged it is a contact of mine, and the last they'd heard he was in London, on his way. He's disappeared -- undoubtedly dead."
"Mightn't he have simply abandoned the arrangements, to throw Malfoy off the scent?"
"I doubt he was that insightful, though gods know he should have been paranoid enough. No, it's a wonder he made it to London in the first place -- Malfoy's agents are unusually good at sniffing out plots like that, and Malfoy knew Barrett as well as I so he must have expected it of him. The body still hasn't been found, but even if he isn't already dead he might as well be, or will be soon."
"So Barrett's father abandoned her." I nodded slowly. "Good enough reason for the poor attitude, I think. I can deal with that."
"I wish you more luck than I've had," Severus said dryly. "She's a singularly close-mouthed little thing, even for a Slytherin. Draco isn't making things easier for her, either -- his father's probably given him leave to torment her, and given my status I'm in no position to stop him."
"I doubt she'll be willing to talk to me either, but I can at least let her know I'm available."
He shrugged. "That will have to do, then."
"What must Voldemort be --" I started to ask, and then coloured and shut up. "Sorry. It's not my business."
"No, it isn't, but go ahead," he sighed wearily, and rested an elbow on his desk, his weight off-center. "I'd rather satisfy your idle curiosity at this point than have you come up with fantastical scenarios and suppositions."
"Well, if the Barretts aren't that important, why should he want their full support now? Is he making a final push, or is he so desperate that he's scraping the bottom of the barrel, so to speak?"
"A bit of both, I imagine," he mused. "He's planning something rather elaborate, that I know, but I've been unable to determine what. He probably wanted Barrett for scut work, something for which he wouldn't want to risk Malfoy or the higher-ranking officers. It's impossible to guess -- he's secretive even with his most trusted men. I doubt even Pettigrew and Malfoy are in his confidence."
I nodded. We sat in silence a while, and then he said, rather apologetically, for him, "If that's all, I do have marking."
"Oh, sorry." I stood, but didn't move to the door just yet: there was one more unpleasant bit of business to get through tonight. "Best get this over with, then," I muttered, and pushed my sleeves up to my elbows.
"You're not serious --" he blurted out, taken aback.
"How did you think? I can't just throw myself against the furniture. It won't look right." And I'm not sneaking outside to let the Whomping Willow take a shot at me, either.
"Can't you.... Good gods, woman, don't you have some trick or other --"
"I could use makeup, yes --" I explained patiently, "-- I still have my theatrical kit. But if Poppy or anyone else gets too nosy...." I shrugged matter-of-factly.
He stared at me, part outrage and part shock.
"I'm not telling you to black my eye, Severus," I said gently. "The wrists will do. I can probably manage something around the collarbone myself." It wouldn't take much: I bruised easily, and he'd unconsciously marked me the day Fang died when he'd grabbed my wrist to keep me from leaving his rooms.
He was terribly angry with me, and I couldn't blame him. For all that he was demanding and temperamental, he had never intentionally harmed me physically: his intimidation always stopped short of contact.
I was quite certain, though, that he hadn't been above it in the past -- which was why he probably hated me at this moment. He'd turned away from it, and here I was pushing him back into it. But it had to be done. I couldn't see any way around it -- none that would stand up to close scrutiny. And he knew it too.
"You," he snarled, "are going to regret this."
I've never seen a human being move so inhumanly fast. In a flash he'd crossed the room and pinned me against the classroom door with such force that it rattled on its hinges -- though he took care to cradle the back of my head so I didn't cosh it against the stone-hard oak.
I took stock of the damage when I undressed for bed, hands shaking. He'd left unmistakable fingerprints on my wrists and forearms, the red streaks already blossoming into purplish bruises.
He'd decided to deal with the other for me, too. He'd pinioned my arms above my head and thrust one long thigh between my own to keep me still: after a few agonizing seconds of staring into my eyes, he'd bent his head to my neck, kissed and suckled gently at the skin, and then inflicted several love-bites that promised to turn into impressive and angry stains. I'd have to keep those covered for a while before I could, in all decency, use them for their intended purpose.
Not that decency had anything to do with this mess.
He'd managed it so skillfully that at the time the pleasure far outweighed the pain; he'd even distracted me from the unbearable pressure of his fingers compressing the tendons at my wrists.
I took a Dreamless Sleep Draught, and with my last conscious, waking thought I damned Albus Dumbledore to perdition.
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I'm not making up the Druid's egg -- there is evidence that it was used, at least from those first sociologist/anthropologists, the Romans (but be cautious of accepting all their evidence: they were motivated by conquest, and were therefore biased). And if you want to study it further, both The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles by Ronald Hutton (Blackwell Publishers, Inc.: Malden, MA, 2000) and A Brief History of the Druids by Peter Berresford Ellis (Carroll ∓ Graf Publishers: NY, 2002) are real books, though Pagan Religions is far more academically rigorous and factual.
'R.P.': Received Pronunciation. See previous chapter.
'the root language and culture from which modern magic evolved': it makes sense to me, since almost all spells and charms have Latin roots, that the modern acknowledged magic, as practiced at Hogwarts, is a transplant from the Romans, and would have first appeared in the British Isles during their settlement there (possibly supplanting or challenging the native forms, like Druidism). While Christianity is what really appears to have killed off true pagan Druidism, I can imagine it being weakened by the earlier influx of Romans into the territory (and then the Danes, et al).
The shirt-cuff buttoning and unbuttoning is for Rebecca, though I know damned well she wants unbuttoned (and it was in there well before her fascination came to my attention). The arm-flexing is new, however, and is for lizbee. (You'll be happy to know Miranda feels the same as both of you.)
Fudging on the Mark: I dunno. I liked the idea of using runes rather than one standard Mark, for reasons that will become apparent. And since we haven't actually seen his mark in canon yet.... I am adamantly ignoring the fact that we may have seen someone else's, or will in future. I doubt JKR would turn them into something more elaborate than she has -- going too far into Real-World territory, which causes all kinds of problems in terms of the "Harry Potter is the devil and teaches witchcraft," argument.
'noli me tangere': touch me not.
Sorry -- didn't expect to get your citrus this way, didja? Neither did I. Miranda really pushes the envelope sometimes, and I'm not sure whether to commend her for courage or smack her for insensitivity.
There is a Snape POV available for the classroom incident, but it contains material that may be offensive to some. By clicking this link you are verifying that you are 17 years of age or older. I am old enough to read Snape's innermost thoughts.