I didn't tell him Potter had nearly turned a hex on me, or which one I thought he'd been about to cast. I thought he'd be rather less amused. (I have apparently acquired some of Albus' understatement, haven't I?)
Even though it was unwitting and motivated purely by necessity, evidently I couldn't have given him a better wedding present if I'd tried.
I realised quite early on, thankfully, that while my husband had a tendency toward masterfulness (which I certainly appreciated in some aspects of the relationship), it seemed to be directed toward maintaining traditional formalities, like the wearing of a wedding band (mine, of course: he had none). It wasn't a proprietary issue: more 'that's the way things are done properly,' and it was even more important to him than usual since public recognition of the relationship was, for the time being, impossible.
(He didn't seem interested in controlling me, surprise wedding notwithstanding, and that was a bloody good thing. I couldn't have borne it had my assessment of his nature been wrong and had he turned out to be like Dennis Neill: my sister's marriage had been a hell.)
I had plenty of time, during his absences, to reflect on the absurdity of the situation.
I'd never expected to marry in the first place: I was absolutely serious when I'd told him last year that it was a far less attractive prospect than my career had been, at the time. I certainly would have made Severus the notable exception to that rule, had I been given the chance.
But to suddenly find myself wed to someone as contrary, demanding, and innately powerful in very real and demonstrable ways as Severus was, was... close to frightening.
I suspect that's why he handled it in the way he did: impatience with my anticipated mental waffling (among other things, not the least of which was his ardour, when he wasn't too tired to express it). I didn't care at all about the lack of ceremony, I just would have liked some input into it.
And he didn't seem in the least concerned about the differences in our cultures, while I would have appreciated at least a little time to seriously consider them: whether I, as a Muggle, really wanted to commit to living the rest of my life in a world not my own (no matter how much I loved him), and where some would always consider me an oddity -- not as a Muggle, but a Muggle living in the Wizarding World.
All right, I'm lying. As a Muggle, period. As lovely and accepting as the Hogwarts people had become, I knew the greater population would still think me a bit freakish.
But he'd made up his mind, and that was that. If anyone could beat me for stubbornness, it was he. And given the difficulties he was facing and the important if unrecognised part he played in prosecuting this war, I did my best to be patient and to keep my reservations to myself.
I often had reason to wish Albus had left me a generous helping of patience, rather than cash.
Severus would return from his longer trips drained, often enfuriated and railing against Fudge or whatever obstacle had set back his efforts, and I was the available sounding-board. (Within three weeks I think I'd heard every possible wizarding epithet in the book, and discovered Severus was well-acquainted with most Muggle ones, as well.)
Those nights were preferable, however, to the silent ones, when he would sit staring into the fire for hours, brooding and literally unable to talk: then eventually he would find me, callously interrupt my work, and indulge in intensely satisfying but exhausting, and often impersonal, passion. Not that he was ever brutal or neglected to take care of and with me, just that he was, somehow... not there. Desperate for distraction: focussed on the sex itself, rather than making love. (Not that I didn't appreciate it at times -- etymologically speaking, lust and pleasure go hand-in-hand, and I was discovering that I was no shrinking violet, at least where Severus was concerned.)
But it was not the most confidence-inspiring development, either personally or in terms of the war. After the first two times that happened, though, I realised that those more purely lustful encounters often seemed to happen after Death Eater attacks. So I swallowed my pride and did my best to distract him, knowing it was his pain and frustration spilling over. If I was successful, he could manage to get four or five good hours' sleep in before the nightmares would wake him. (The man who claimed to have little or no conscience obviously did, and he keenly felt his inability to stop or mitigate the horrors of the attacks.)
Pomfrey was the only one informed about the change in our relationship, for the obvious reason: we hadn't managed to impregnate ourselves on that first night, and I wasn't going to give Severus cause to worry about yet another innocent life. Poppy and I were constantly plotting strategies to keep him sane and healthy, as well. He didn't make it easy. He was burning the candle at both ends -- and would have done in the middle, if that were possible.
Actually, one other person knew, for certain -- Alastor. That damned magical eye could see through the cloaking spell on the ring: he was busily shoving a forkful of egg in his mouth when I sat at the High Table Monday morning, and he glanced and nodded a 'Good morning' -- and did a double-take, his normal eye bulging in surprise as he stared at my hand. Severus had to have known he could see it, but hadn't bothered to warn him -- probably purposely, so he could enjoy Alastor's reaction. Alastor confined his commentary to a later, whispered "Severus looks more relaxed -- amazing what a little loving exercise will do for a man, isn't it?" and hastily stumped off to the other side of the staff room before I had a chance to retaliate. I'm sure he needled Severus about it privately: I hope he did -- Severus deserved it, for causing all the mischief.
I suspected that Sirius knew as well. Despite the care I'd taken to ensure Severus' scent was on neither my body nor clothes, Sirius' nostrils had flared the first time he, as Valentine Jonson, had sat next to me at the Head Table. He shot me an astonished look, which turned rapidly to a warning glare, and then to resignation.
Sweet Jaysus. What's the bloody use of a poker face when there's a canine Animagus on faculty?
Otherwise, in public Professors Snape and Hunter continued much as before: with muted congeniality on my part, and grudging tolerance on his.
Severus and I were walking into Hogsmeade to meet them, behaving with rather more formality than was necessary. I'm not sure how he felt, but it was rather difficult for me to deal with the Jekyll-and-Hyde nature of the relationship. It was even harder to keep up this double life than it had been last year -- to square this formal, formidable, business-like man with the one who would suddenly appear in my bed in the middle of the night, exhibiting extreme passion and occasional tenderness, sometimes despite his obvious exhaustion. (He'd fall asleep almost immediately after -- telling, in terms of the trust he had for me; he might be a typical male in some respects, but years of constantly watching his back made him wary and high-strung even in his own bed, and he was a light sleeper to boot.)
"The Brazilian, Almeida, is more or less Albus' equal," Severus was saying at the moment, "and he's quite fluent in English, so you won't have a problem." (Good thing, as I had little Spanish and no Portugese.) "I've suggested that they spend tomorrow with you in classes, and at mealtimes in the Great Hall. The rest of the time they'll be at Heart's Solace, and you won't have to bother with them then."
Heart's Solace was the new Headquarters for the Resistance (as I still thought of it). Severus had an office there, and Percy had joined him, defecting from the Ministry (surprisingly -- he was incredibly ambitious, for a Gryffindor and Weasley). I think his father had pointed out to him that there wasn't much point, after all, if this business turned out ill.
There was plenty of room -- the Twins were living above the shop in Diagon Alley -- and Molly was a good hostess, as I knew, though a bit too maternal at times.
We stepped through Hogwarts' gates, and suddenly Severus grabbed my hand, pulled me from the road and well into the trees.
"What are you --"
"Be quiet," he muttered, and backed me up against a tree and kissed me thoroughly.
"We're going to be late," I noted severely when he let up, "and this is not making things any easier."
"No, we won't," he contradicted me, "and I never promised you this would be easy. I don't have many opportunities to kiss my wife in the cold light of day, and I'm not going to waste this one."
My wife was said with a certain visceral possessiveness, and as it was the first time he'd admitted it, it excited me not a little. The feminist in me was dying a slow and painful death -- but he was making it worth it.
"I'm not going to be of any use to you today if you addle my wits --" I started to grumble as he swooped down for another kiss and wrapped his arms tightly about me -- and then I felt the now-familiar disorientation of Apparition.
"Don't do that," I hissed, and shoved him away when I was certain we'd arrived. He'd popped us to a copse of trees, just outside the back garden of Heart's Solace.
"I told you we wouldn't be late," he said in amusement, and reached over to twitch my coat lapel back in order. "Shall we see if they've arrived?"
I hated how easily he could switch gears. It always took me a while.
At least the cold will explain my red cheeks.
The visitors started to arrive just as we turned the corner of the property and stepped into the path -- the leader, César Almeida, first, followed by a tall, willowy woman and a another, rather younger man.
"Doctor Almeida," Severus greeted him, and glanced uneasily at the other two who shivered in the unaccustomed cold. "I thought --?"
"Professor Snape," Almeida said gravely. "Castilho has, I am afraid, been detained."
"Ah. Why don't we go inside and get you settled before we make our introductions?" Severus suggested, and opened the gate to usher us through. Molly was already waiting with the door open.
"May I present Luisa Martinez, Jorge Velasquez," Almeida said formally when we'd all trooped in to the hall.
"This is Professor Hunter, Muggle Studies," Severus murmured as they each stepped forward to shake my hand. "And your hosts for the next few days are Arthur and Molly Weasley."
"You must be chilled through," Molly said promptly on taking Martinez' hand. "Arthur, why don't you get them settled and I'll get some tea -- no, Miranda, it's all ready, you go on in." And she bustled off to the kitchen as Arthur shepherded the visitors upstairs.
I shed my coat, hung it on the (blessedly unanimated) cloak tree, and followed Severus into the sitting room (it actually qualified as a drawing room, I suppose, though when the Weasley clan was fully assembled it didn't seem nearly big enough).
"Martinez is Mexican and Velasquez Peruvian. Castilho is the Chilean representative," Severus informed me in a low voice. "And I suspect from Almeida's response that his absence is ominous."
"You think someone's tipped off Voldemort?"
"Possible, though it could be coincidence."
Molly hurried in with the tea things. "Not dressed very warmly, are they?"
"I'm sure they'll manage, Molly. Don't fuss over them too much," Severus advised.
"Extra blankets won't hurt," she shot back, and sent me a knowing look. (Translation: "Men -- no sense.") I tended to concur.
"Thank you for helping Molly," I said softly. I wasn't at all certain he would have thought to say as much, though I don't doubt he felt it: when on task he could be careless of the niceties.
"How are the Twins?" he asked her, surprising me a bit.
"Don't get me started on them," she replied, eyes flashing. "Got themselves evicted, they have. They're looking for another shop, but after that last incident no one will take them on."
"Oh -- that was them, then?" I laughed. "With the exploding taffy."
"How could you doubt it?" Severus said dryly.
"And they did it again with something or other, not two weeks later," Molly said. "I don't know what I'll do with them underfoot here, I honestly don't. Merlin knows they can't be messing about here and blowing up your house, Severus."
"I should certainly prefer they didn't. Perhaps something will turn up in the village."
The visitors made their way into the sitting room: Molly settled us with our tea, and then tactfully withdrew.
"Shall we expect Castilho to join us later?" Severus asked quietly.
"Professor Hunter is aware of the situation?" Almeida asked Severus with a look at me. (Meaning, was I trustworthy.)
"Yes, though there are recent developments of which she is unaware, as are you. I only received the information a week ago."
"I see. No, Señor Castilho will not be with us."
He meant more than the visit.
"He was contacted?"
"I believe so, though he would not admit to it. Luisa and Jorge were as well, though I was not -- they knew I would not be swayed. Fortunately I had not told Castilho of the real purpose of the visit or its date. I had reason to believe he could be influenced."
"Ah. That was well done. We have a little time, then."
Almeida nodded and sipped his tea delicately. "Perhaps you should advise us of these new developments."
"Very well." Severus paused for a moment to gather his thoughts. "Four weeks ago a man named Pettigrew was arrested in Knockturn Alley and taken to the Ministry for questioning. They had presumed him to be deceased, though I have known for some time that he was alive. He is, in fact, a lackey of Voldemort's, and intimately aware of many of his plans."
Martinez' English was evidently better than Velasquez': she was quietly translating for him as Severus spoke.
"Pettigrew admitted to several things under Veritaserum -- including the murder of several Muggles, for which an entirely innocent man had been blamed."
"I recall the incident," Almeida murmured. "Just after Voldemort was set back in 1981, was it not? There was quite a problem explaining away the deaths. Albus Dumbledore and I corresponded regarding that."
"Precisely." Severus hesitated, and then decided to clarify the issue. "In fact, the murder of the Potters by Voldemort was the incident which led to the confrontation between Pettigrew and this third party."
"The Potters?" Almeida suddenly sat upright in interest, and set his tea down. "The parents of The Boy Who Lived?"
"Yes. Pettigrew was their Secret Keeper, and betrayed them to Voldemort."
Martinez sucked in a breath at that: it was obviously a big taboo. This was all new information for me -- I didn't recognise the term Secret Keeper, but it gave me enough to work with. Black had confronted Pettigrew over the murder of Harry's parents, and Pettigrew had not only managed to escape, but had pinned the resulting collateral damage on Black.
"And how old now is The Boy Who Lived?" Almeida asked with interest. "Is he still at Hogwarts?"
Severus' jaw clenched briefly. "Harry Potter is in his Sixth year."
Velasquez jumped into the conversation. "The Prophecy -- is the boy --" he floundered about, looking for the word.
"I have no doubt Potter has the potential to be a powerful wizard," Severus said. "He has bested Voldemort on several occasions, though luck has often played a part." He hesitated, and then offered, "He is not yet particularly self-aware or fully confident, and I feel that is a stumbling-block toward tapping into that potential."
Martinez, who'd been rapidly translating, stopped. "In his Sixth year and not beginning to realise his potential?"
"Headmaster Dumbledore was very cautious in challenging him, given the trauma he received at an early age," Severus said, "and preferred to let the boy discover his strengths and weaknesses on his own, whenever possible. Headmistress McGonagall also feels this is the best course. It is not a policy I ascribe to, under the circumstances, but...." Severus shrugged eloquently.
Knowing Severus, that was taking diplomacy to the extremes of understatement.
"So we cannot count on Potter," Almeida concluded.
"It would be unwise to do so. Escaping from Voldemort relatively unscathed is quite a different thing than defeating him. Contingiency plans are necessary."
Almeida's shrewd eyes examined Severus, assessing him; Severus withstood it, and Almeida finally nodded acceptance.
"Yes, I think you are correct. But I took you from your main point -- what other information did this Pettigrew provide?"
"That Voldemort seeks the Elixir of the Gods."
You could have heard -- quite clearly -- a hair drop in the room, never mind a pin. Everyone but me knew what Severus was talking about, though I could guess -- there were only two or three god-like attributes that most people hunger for, after all: immortality, invulnerability, and unlimited power. Possibly omniscience, as well.
None of which one would want a homicidal maniac to acquire, singly or in combination. Under any circumstances.
Back to BNW Index