Q: Who is this? A: This is Eros, god of love. Q: Why is he naked? A: To make us transparent in our love. Foolish to others. Exposed. Q: Why is he blind? A: He is blind to show how he takes away our ordinary vision, our mistaken vision, that depends on the appearance of things.
Metamorphoses by Mary Zimmerman, adapted from Ovid
"He's upset with me," Potter said quietly.
"I got that, Harry; that was hard to miss," I said rather too snidely. "There's not a blessed thing I can do about that. It's your response that has me worried, frankly."
"I'm sorry," he said. "I'm terribly sorry. I don't know what -- He's been doing this the last couple of years, he'll just go off on me. About Gringotts and the 'Boy Who Lived' stuff, and how his family's practically a charity case, and I -- I just couldn't take it anymore. He's supposed to be my friend."
True. And immaterial, given that I thought he was about to hex Ron with an Unforgivable.
"Friends are still human beings," I offered quietly. "They're still capable of jealousy and stupidity, on occasion. And while I could understand a need to tell him off, what you almost did out there was... well, it was fightening, Harry."
He nodded and buried his face in his hands which were, I noted, trembling.
"I don't know why," he said. "It just -- it was like I couldn't control it, all of a sudden."
I let him calm down a bit.
"You're all going to go through this," I said softly. "Adolescence is difficult for anyone, and more so for all of you, I suspect, because of the magical aspect. You and he are both trying to find your place, and he's having a difficult time of it. He's more ambitious than most of his siblings, I suspect, and he's not brilliant like Granger, and doesn't have your skill at Quidditch. There's bound to be some friction."
"But --" he lifted his face, tears threatening to spill over; he might have been sixteen, but he was still in many ways a child. "I didn't ask for this," he choked. "I didn't ask to be the bloody Boy Who Lived. I didn't know about any of this. I would've been happy to just be left alone --"
Damn it, Albus, what do you expect me to say to the boy? If you're still around, now would be a bloody good time to whisper in my ear.
He didn't, of course.
I really didn't know what to say. So I did the only thing I could think of.
I summoned an Elf and ordered us tea.
Don't laugh. It breaks the tension. And it was lunch time, anyway, and we needed to have something.
"I don't know what to tell you, Harry," I finally admitted when we were well into our first cups. "Maybe you need a break from each other. Don't think that will be too hard to manage, given the circumstances."
"Yeah, until Yule. Then I'm supposed to stay with the Weasleys again --"
A look of horror crossed his face.
"What if Mr. and Mrs. Weasley won't --"
"I'll talk to Molly myself, Harry," I said firmly. "She's far more understanding than Ron is, and I'm sure she's used to... scrums, with six boys. And in any event, you can always stay here, but I doubt that will be necessary."
"If only he wouldn't.... It's hard enough," he burst out, "with all the stupid things they write about me in the Prophet, and Snape hating my guts. And now Ron, too."
I sputtered a bit at the Snape part.
"I happen to know for a fact that he doesn't hate you, Harry," I said. "Professor Snape, I mean. He's just a big one for sticking to the rules and you have a tendency to break them, whether you mean to or not. Though I concede I think a bit of it's the... publicity, as well."
"Doesn't matter," Harry muttered. "I only have to deal with him three times a week. I share a room with Ron."
"The two of you are just going to have to work it out, when he's ready. You'll have to find a way to deal with it until then, but I suggest an apology would be proper, whether he wants to hear it or not. Probably a general one to the Common Room, as well. And I would suggest finding someone to speak with about the other matter -- Professor Moody, perhaps."
He nodded miserably.
His wand was burning a hole in my pocket, but I was, frankly, terrified of giving it back to him.
"I think," I said slowly, "that you've got a temper, Harry, and you're going to have to learn how to deal with it. Under the circumstances, I'm not comfortable giving your wand back immediately -- I'd feel responsible should anything happen in the interim. I'm going to explain the situation to Headmistress and give it to her, and let her deal with that part of it."
He flushed, but knew better than to argue with me.
"I expect she'll give you a good dressing-down, if not worse. For my part, this requires significant detention, you know, and there's not much I have for you to do. How are your Potions marks?"
"Oh, no, Professor Hunter, please, anything but --"
"No, I mean it."
"They could be better," he admitted grudgingly.
"That's it, then. If it's any consolation, Professor Snape will be equally snarked with me, I'm sure. He's been gone a lot, anyway, so you'll probably do most of it with Filch. Two weeks, though I can't promise Headmistress won't tack on more."
And that was that, as far as I was concerned. I dismissed him, reported to Minerva and gave her his wand, and hoped she would deal with it well. This wasn't a situation a la Draco Malfoy, with intentional malfeasance; it was one very confused and beleagured teenager trying to deal with attacks from all sides -- including from those from whom he least expected it -- and not doing particularly well at it, at the moment.
Molly had been very pragmatic about the whole thing. "I'll just give them separate rooms at the hols," she said, "and I'll tell Ron to keep his mouth shut and be civil. He's no idea, really, what that poor boy's been through."
"Yes, Molly, but you weren't there," I cautioned her. "I don't think he was going to cast something harmless. I've never seen that much rage or felt that much power from a student before -- it was terrifying. He was totally out of control."
I was closer to the mark than I thought at the time. I didn't fully understand what the 'Boy Who Lived' business entailed at the time, you see. If I had, I should have been much more worried. Harry Potter was walking a very fine line between maturity and good choices, or giving in to the worst part of his nature.
Ron Weasley pointedly took the furthest seat possible from Potter, next class, and Granger was miserable, caught in the cross-fire between her two best friends. Ron didn't handle the situation at all well, nor did he accept Harry's apology. Neville told me, during one of our infrequent conversations, that Ron was actively hostile and courting similar feelings in others in Gryffindor.
But if his mother of all people couldn't verbally smack some sense into him, there was nothing I could do.
Well. A royal summons. This is a red-letter day -- and he flooed instead of sending the raven, no less. Shocking informality.
Once I calmed down and shut off the snarkier portion of my brain, I decided that 'require distraction -- are you available' probably meant 'I'd like to see you.' Possibly even 'I miss you.'
I scribbled a reply on the back and sent it through the flue -- it was possible, now, without a special connection: the Headmistress and Deputy Head had direct floo connections to all the faculty sitting room fires.
I straightened up my desk, tidied myself a bit, and wrapped the invisibility cloak about myself before heading down for the dungeons. I hadn't been since Spring term: he'd been away so often on the week-end that the chess games had fallen by the wayside.
He gave me an odd look when he'd closed and warded the door.
"You still find that damned thing necessary?" he asked, his voice ever so slightly strained.
"I didn't really think about it," I said, surprised. "I didn't think you'd appreciate me being seen -- it's none of the students' business, after all. And the Baron doesn't challenge me if he can't see me."
"Ah. I hadn't considered that," Snape admitted. "I shall have a talk with him. As far as the students are concerned, I don't much care what they think, at this point. Unless you enjoy skulking about in it," he noted dubiously as he took the cloak from me and handed it off to the cloak tree beside the door. (The cloak trees at Hogwarts do that -- take your hats and coats from you. It so unnerved me my first year that I'd asked Filius to charm mine stationary.)
"It is rather fun, actually. I'd use it on hall patrol if I could -- just think of the curfew violations one could discover."
"That's precisely why I dislike it," he shot out. "It's a cheat."
"Well, for those of us at a disadvantage in the stealth department, it's a help, not a cheat."
"Hmmmmph." He obviously wasn't impressed.
"So, was São Paolo productive, cuisine notwithstanding?" I asked, seating myself in my usual chair.
"Relatively," he said, moving to the sideboard to pour us each a glass of wine. "I've always considered the Latin races more mystically-inclined than necessary -- both muggle and magical -- but it's an advantage, in this instance. They're rather more open to the possibility of Voldemort's return." He handed me a glass. "And it wasn't a total loss in the potables department, at least. This is a quite respectable vintage I discovered."
I took a sip and wordlessly agreed with him.
"The South American Conference of Wizards is sending a delegation next month -- covertly, of course," he said, leaning against the pillar of stone serpents that supported the fireplace's high mantle. "They'll be staying at Heart's Solace. As a cover, should one be needed, they're here to examine the Muggle Studies curriculum. I shall need you to spend some time with them."
I froze up a bit at his casual assumption -- not even an 'are you available,' this time.
'Require distraction,' my arse. This is a bloody business meeting.
I was miffed. It's one thing to set aside your work for someone on the grounds of a little relaxation, and another to find they've interrupted you for a minor matter that could have waited until working hours.
"Of course," I said shortly. "Just tell me how visible it needs to be, if it's really necessary."
He seemed puzzled at my brusqueness, but dismissed it and stood ruminating, staring into his wineglass. An uncomfortable silence stretched between us.
"Is that it? I do have rather a lot of marking," I stated, and he scowled at me.
"What in Merlin's name is wrong?" he asked irritably.
"You might have flooed that, you know. I feel particularly stupid, now, having come all the way down here just for marching orders."
He caught on.
"That was incidental," he explained, trying unsuccessfully to mask his exasperation. "Is it entirely beyond the realm of possibility that I might simply want your company?"
I'm afraid my jaw dropped.
Oh, bloody hell, it was 'I miss you.'
"Do close your mouth," he continued impatiently, "unless it's your intent to catch billywigs by that method."
I shut it.
"It's just that we've been so business-like this term," I stammered, "and the chessboard's not out...."
"There are several things I should like to do with you at the moment," he snapped, "and I can assure you that playing chess is not one of them." I don't think he intended to admit it -- he coloured up as soon as the words were out of his mouth.
And the blush told me he wasn't talking about the desire to strangle me for my rudeness, either. At least not primarily.
After a shocked, paralysing moment, I laughed. "I'm sorry. The invitation wasn't unwelcome -- I just wasn't expecting it, given the limits you set last summer. And the tone of the note was a bit ambiguous."
"I'm no good at this," he mumbled, focussing again at the glass in his hands: the sweep of hair at his temples fell forward, and though he usually tossed in out of his eyes impatiently, he didn't now. "I've never been able to... to communicate personal things clearly."
"No, you can't," I agreed. "Minerva let slip once -- though I know now from my own experience as well -- that you aren't unsuccessful when it comes to demonstrating them. She said she'd caught you 'canoodling' more than once."
He coloured even more deeply and muttered an imprecation against Headmistress. "I'm simply not a babbling, romantic fool."
"Absolutely not," I assured him. "I'm not terribly comfortable with sweet nothings, myself, and I certainly don't expect them from you. You're a man of action, not of words."
I didn't intend to make it sound as bold as it did -- not consciously, at least: I'd meant it as a simple statement of fact. I think.
His face lifted so he could meet my eyes, and something extraordinary passed across his features -- astonishment and a bit of relief, I think -- and then he purposefully set his glass on the mantle and reached me in two long strides, pulling me to my feet, pausing only long enough to gently pull my glasses from my face and to toss them -- carelessly -- onto the table.
On reflection, encouraging him might not have been wise -- though this promises to be exceptionally interesting.
His arms were about me, one hand tangled in my hair, and he was mercilessly kissing me -- almost frantically. The wineglass fell from my hand and shattered on the hearth. Good thing, too: it freed my fingers to stroke his neck (my other hand was occupied elsewhere) as he buried his face in my shoulder.
"Nice to know your feelings haven't changed since July," I gasped.
He fingers clenched at my waist, then stilled, and he pulled away enough to stare at me with fierce eyes.
"I realise my loyalty is doubted by all and sundry, but I should have thought you --" he began.
"Don't be ridiculous," I replied testily. "It's just that a lot's changed in the last three months --"
He stopped my mouth with another kiss, and muttered "Not this," against my lips before moving down to my jaw. "This is considerably worse."
Only Severus Snape would think of deepening desire as worse. Moreover, it was a damning statement, perilously close to admitting that he couldn't control his emotions any longer.
I certainly didn't expect this tonight....
His lips moved down to my throat again and he ran his hands up my body to impatiently pull the teaching robes from my shoulders.
He mumbled something unintelligible into my skin -- probably a command to shut up -- before deliberately tugging at the front of my blouse, sending buttons popping to the floor to join the shards of glass at the hearth-tiles.
"Oi," I managed in a half-hearted attempt at indignation.
"House Elves'll mend it," he observed indistinctly as he pulled the blouse from my shoulders and unceremoniously removed my bra as well.
"I'd rather not have the household staff speculating as to how -- oh, please," I gasped as I arched into him, clutching his shoulders: he'd sunk to his knees and was very effectively exploring territory he'd never allowed himself before, murmuring snippets of Donne's poetry all the while. (His breath on my skin and the vibration of his voice against my ribcage were not by any means the least arousing sensation he was producing.)
I don't think I'm ready to deal with this, not yet -- I'm not prepared, in any sense, and -- oh, how did he know that would.... Damnation, it's not fair. How can he make me go up in flames with little more than his voice and the look in his eyes and a few phrases of admittedly glorious verse?
I finally caught both wits and breath and managed a desperate, "Severus."
I'd finally gotten through to him, and he raised his head from my breasts. "What --?"
He sounded amusingly incoherent, considering he'd just been quite eloquently reciting one of the more erotic sonnets (the scansion had been badly off as he'd interspersed kisses amongst the words, but it still sounded wonderful, with his voice). In different circumstances I'd have thought it funny to see him so flummoxed.
His face was flushed, disordered strands of hair falling into his eyes: they were glazed, I was gratified to note, with equal parts lust and its more polite sibling, desire.
I knew damn well I should find a graceful way to call a halt to this, but I couldn't bear to any more than I wanted to. The strain of an entire year had vanished from his face, and the tension that radiated from him now was the totally normal and wholesome stress of the male body focussed on one biological imperative alone. It was both beautiful and intimidating: I'd never seen his rational mind so utterly divorced from his body and emotions, even when racked by the seizures after Crucio.
Face it, you eej, Life is uncertain in the best of circumstances -- and far more than usual, now. You might lose him before too long, and that's not a regret you're willing to live with. You want him body and soul, and he wants you -- end of story.
I smoothed the hair away from his damp forehead and stared into his eyes.
"Don't bother with the poetry," I commanded, remarkably calm. "Show me."
He did -- several times in the course of a largely sleepless night, and to both our satisfactions.
"As delightful as this is," he murmured huskily in my ear, "the Quidditch final begins in less than two hours."
I groaned and buried my face in the pillow: he took advantage of the move, which had laid bare the nape of my neck.
"The Deputy Head," he stated between kisses, "must make an appearance. I don't suppose --?"
"Only," I stipulated, voice clotted with the little sleep I'd got, "if you wake me up properly."
"Insatiable wench." He set about obliging me with languorous enthusiasm. (He would have done anyway, regardless of my suggestion -- he was apparently a typical male first thing in the morning, as I'd discovered when he'd snuggled me closer. I mentally thanked Poppy and whatever guardian spirit watched over Severus Snape for repairing last spring's damage.)
I stretched again and started to twist in his arms to face him -- and stopped dead when I felt an unfamiliar weight on my finger. The ring-finger of my left hand, to be precise.
"Severus --" I began, my voice going queer and strained.
My tension didn't distract him from his actions in the least.
"What did we do last night?"
He snorted against my skin, and the puff of air sent a shiver through me. "You need me to enlighten you?" There was a sly tease under the sarcasm.
"You know what I mean," I said severely, and pulled away from him to sit upright. "After the first time, when you went all... rhapsodic on me."
He leaned back into the pillow and casually said, "A Binding ritual."
Binding? What in bloody hell is that supposed to.... Oh, no, he couldn't ha-- he didn't -- he wouldn't dare --
"A Binding --? You -- you --"
"Married," he suggested helpfully, greatly amused by my stammers. "Fortunately there are no witnesses required with this form."
"-- you married me last night," I accused, "without my knowledge or consent?"
"I grant you were a bit distracted. But your response was enthusiastic and appropriate, I assure you."
I was so stunned that the novelty of sitting upright in bed, totally naked and exposed (and with an obviously aroused Severus Snape in a similar state) didn't sink in at all.
I could kill him. I could kill him right now, and no one would blame me. That's taking Slytherin guile just a little too far....
"You could have asked me to recite the bloody telephone directory last night, and I'd have done it," I retorted hotly. "You know I haven't got much Latin --"
"It's your own fault then, isn't it?" He smirked.
I was as close to striking him in anger as I'd ever been. It wasn't that I wouldn't have married him had he asked me outright: it was that he'd made the decision all on his own, without any consideration for the problems it would cause or the additional strain it might place on both of us, in the long run.
Besides, it was an overbearingly masterful and downright sneaky thing to do. The feminist in me was shrieking with rage, if truth be told.
But he was right, I should have thought about it at the time: after all, you can take the boy out of Slytherin, but you can't take the Slytherin out of the boy -- certainly not this one. (I don't mean that as an insult to Slytherins, either: they have many fine qualities, but it's the easiest House to sort -- at least for me, though Lord knows how long it really takes the Hat -- as the characteristics are so obvious and so deeply entrenched in their natures.)
On the other hand, thinking had been beyond me at that point, and he'd known it. He'd taken control of the proceedings -- I'd willingly given it to him, in fact -- and, trustingly, I'd simply assumed he'd switched from Donne to Ovid or something.
"Congratulations -- you've neatly evaded a proposal. Proud of yourself?" I asked sourly (and irrelevantly -- he obviously was).
"There was most definitely a proposal, though the words were borrowed."
I furiously wracked my memory for the words of the previous night, and then it dawned on me. "'License my roving hands, and let them' --?" I hazarded weakly.
"So you planned this?"
"Not the proposal, no. Although the ring has been in my possession for some time." He smiled, damn him: I wished he wouldn't, as he had beautifully formed lips (when they weren't tightly compressed) and they were distracting me.
He was enjoying my reaction immensely, and idly drew his fingers down my arm and back again. My anger wasn't discouraging him in the least from his determination to exercise his newly-acquired marital rights.
I glared back, helpless. "You've missed your calling," I growled. "You should have been a politician if you can parse 'It pleases me' into 'Yes, Severus Snape, I will marry you.'"
"'Yes' is implied," he retorted. "And there is absolutely no reason to insult me to quite that degree."
The teasing fingers running up and down my arm suddenly latched onto my wrist and he pulled me down to him. "In the interest of fairness," he confided, "a divorce is possible and, under the circumstances, relatively easy to acquire. I'd suggest an annulment, but --"
"But you made certain that wasn't an option, didn't you?" I retorted, and he smiled.
"It had to be difficult enough that you'd have time to calm down and re-evaluate the situation," he said reasonably. "And there was the remote possibility you'd surprise me and accept this with some equanimity. It's a pity my more... forthright efforts don't seem to have impressed you, much."
"Don't fish for compliments," I grumbled. "You know bloody well you made me feel gloriously."
Primal masculine ego appreciated that, and he smiled sweetly before he was able to stifle the impulse -- it was lovely, and took ten years off his age. "Well, the evening wasn't a total loss, then," he observed, and pulled me closer, mere inches away from his dark, glittering eyes, full of amusement and self-satisfaction.
"Having crossed the Rubicon --" he said softly and distinctly, and growing serious, "-- and a wantonly foolish and indulgent act it was, for which I blame only myself -- I have no intention of now denying myself the pleasure of your mind and body. And as Minerva can be distressingly conventional at times, a perfectly legal if secret marriage will satisfy her, should we be discovered. Think of it as an expedient measure."
I took a moment to process that; it would appear the invisibility cloak would still be getting use -- that, or the floo connection. A lot of use, if last night was anything to judge by. "I understand that," I said as patiently as I could, though 'expedient' galled. "But are you certain --? I imagine this puts you beyond the pale --"
"Don't," he said sharply, and the thumb that had been stroking my lower lip stilled, his fingers tightening on my jaw. "Not any boundary that I care to acknowledge, or to which I aspire any longer." His voice and and fingers gentled and he added, "I will not tolerate any idiocy between us regarding accidents of birth, not now or ever. Is -- that -- clear?"
Crystalline. Despite his best, bastardly Potions Master tone, it was absolutely clear that Severus Snape was prepared to damn pureblood prejudice to hell and back, excuses of expedience and pleasure notwithstanding.
I couldn't manage speech at that point, so I sidled up his body and kissed at the crease between his brows to smooth it away, and then moved to his temples and eyes. He hissed and shuddered slightly, and his body stirred against mine.
"We are down," he reminded me, voice tight, "to an hour and a half -- far less, considering bathing...."
"Better hurry, then," I whispered in his ear, provoking another shiver from him. "But not too much."
We made it to the Quidditch match on time -- barely. I couldn't locate my bra for the longest time, and only found it when I went to grab the invisibility cloak: in his exuberance Severus had flung the bra well behind him, and the cloak tree had snagged it and neatly hung it up.
And just to prove to Severus that acquiesence to his tactics did not constitute approval, I coolly left his side when we reached the faculty stand and inserted myself on a bench between Hagrid and Flitwick, remaining there throughout the game.
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Snape POV cookie is available. Warning: Snape is not particular about some of the euphemisms he uses, particularly when he refers to his own body. I am old enough to examine Snape's very explicit memories.