Make your own free website on Tripod.com

 

A Measure of Equinimity
Why is Professor Snape such an unpleasant person? And does the ‘arch Slytherin’ have any vulnerabilities?  Whatever happened to kindly Professor Lupin? Can the great Professor Dumbledore make any use of Snape’s Slytherin temperament, or must heroic attempts to bring down the terrifying Lord Voldemort rest only with Gryffindor acts of bravery and chivalry? Can Voldemort actually be defeated, or has he found a means to make himself invincible?

 All these questions are answered here.  Read on … but at your peril – if you have not read the first four Harry Potter novels, reading this first will spoil them for you !

 Irreparably.

 And you will also find this story impossible to follow.

 You have been warned…

Bookmarks

Introduction & Disclaimer

Part 1 - Chapter 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6

Part 2 -  Chapter 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - 11 - 12

Part 3 - Chapter  13 - 14 - 15 - 16 - 17

Review

 


 Part Two

 

Chapter Thirteen -Nothing Real About Her?

In his mind Snape felt like an air bubble trapped in a deep well.  There was darkness around him but far above he could sense light.  Uncertainly, he began to wobble up towards the brightness, and around him, the dark, lukewarm water paled gradually to grey.  Sounds crept into the scene, soft music and confused mumbles of conversation.  He hovered for a while beneath the surface.  Finally, with an almost audible pop he broke through into reality.

He could see nothing.  Some soft material he couldn’t reach was covering his eyes.  All that he could tell was that the air was warm, gently fragrant, and filled with the sound of the music to the song Nights in White Satin, played quietly on stringed instruments.  He was lying on a bed, naked and face down, his face protruding through a hole in the place where on a normal bed the pillow would be.  But this was not a normal bed.  It felt firm and Snape sensed it was quite narrow and possibly high, like a hospital trolley.  He could still hear the voices, but muffled as if the speakers were smothered in blankets.  He had a foul taste in his mouth.  What amazed him most was what he could feel.

Stroking!  Something was stroking the length of his body from the base of his skull to his heels.  It was a soft something, like kitten fur.  It was the most soothing, calming sensation he had ever experienced and he was content to lie here forever and just let it happen.

After some minutes muttered commands levitated him and turned him over.  A pillow was slipped under his head, he was lowered gently into place and the stroking continued…

Fingertips touched his wrist.  “Pulse continues normal” a wizard’s voice said in a Scots accent.  “He’s coming round…  You can stop now, and we’ll get him to bed.”

The stroking ceased.  Snape was levitated again and lowered onto what turned out to be a four poster bed.  The turban-like cloth that bound up his hair was removed and his hair was gently brushed into place.  A lavender scented sheet and a blanket were drawn up to his neck.

“Can I remove the eye pads now?” Graham’s voice asked.

“In a moment.  Professor, would you like to sit here?”

“Thank you” Dumbledore’s voice replied and there was the sound of a chair being drawn up.

Oh, ye gods!  What have I done? Snape wondered.  Am I hurt?  Am I in trouble?  Have I killed anyone?  Will I be dismissed?

The music was growing fainter.  A spell was being used to remove the cotton pads that covered his eyes.  Snape flinched at the thought of brightness, but the room turned out to be quite dim – thick curtains had been drawn to block out the summer sunshine.

“Welcome back, Severus” Dumbledore said.

Suspiciously Snape looked around; or tried to.  As he turned his head a bolt of pain lanced up his neck into his brain.  Carefully he looked about as much as he was able.  A Ministry Mediwizard that he didn’t recognise stood reading some notes and Graham stood by a massage table, packing away the eye pads and a large fur muff that looked as if it was made of Angora.  She was wearing a white top and trousers, and her hair was clamped back in a hinged, scissor-like, double comb.  Her footsteps made no noise and he suspected her feet were bare.  She finished what she was doing, and came over.  Am I at Hogwarts? Snape wondered.  Graham smiled at Snape and turned to Dumbledore.  “I’ll be in my office, now, until you want me” she said to the Headmaster (as if in answer to Snape’s question).  Then she turned to the Mediwizard and said “Iain, would you like some tea?”

Quietly, they both slipped out of the room, leaving Snape and Dumbledore alone.  “How do you feel?” he asked.

“Bloody awful” Snape replied darkly.

“That Mediwizard was an MLE Rescue Officer” Dumbledore explained.  Our friends in the Law Enforcement medical team have done a little private analysis and consultation for me.  They believe you drank a poisoned potion, possibly a Nerve Calming Potion that was incorrectly made.  They said it would have the opposite effect to what was intended, rendering you both extremely ill and feeling exceptionally stressed.”  He lapsed into silence, allowing Snape time to reflect.

Snape was thinking furiously.  Events from many recent days were taking vague shape in his mind.  “I took several potions” he said at last.  “I felt very strung up.  Nothing seemed to work.  Finally, I did take a Nerve Calming Potion and… and… I don’t remember.  My mind was like a tumbling kaleidoscope.  I… yes, a Nerve Calming Potion!  And…  Oh no!”  The possibility had suddenly hit him.  “Macmillan’s potion” he gasped.  “After the NEWT practical I kept some of the students’ potions to put into store – Malfoy’s, Bulstrode’s and Granger’s.  I, err, was a bit under pressure I think.  I believe I may have included some of Ernest Macmillan’s potion by accident.  He had made a total mess of his work; I think I spent most of the exam swearing under my breath about it.  It might still be possible to check if that’s what I did, the exam sample will be with the Education Department.  If they still have it.  But there isn’t much point.  I’m almost certain now, that’s what happened.”

“You don’t think anyone poisoned you?”

“No.  No, I don’t think so.”

“You know whom I have in mind.”

“Yes!  No, Headmaster; I’m sure he didn’t.”  Snape looked troubled.  “What happens now?” he asked in a worried voice.

“You rest” Dumbledore said.  “You must rest.  You have almost eight weeks before term starts to get yourself fighting fit.”

An expression of relief washed over Snape’s pale face.  He began to look around him, to gauge his surroundings.  Some of the room was out of his field of vision but from what he could see he didn’t recognise this large bedchamber.  It was decorated in hues of soft purple, shading into lavender.  There was lots of foliage, ranging from tiny trailing ivies to quite large plants such as banana plants, and a Swiss cheese plant the size of a small tree.  In a corner was a group of musical instruments that had been charmed into playing.  And there were many books, shelf after shelf of them, from floor to ceiling either side of the fireplace.  A low fire burned in the grate.  In shades of olive green, a comfortable looking armchair stood at one side of a thick-piled rug by the fender, and a low, wide footstool stood opposite it.  “Whose room is this?” Snape asked, but he though he could guess.

Elizabeth’s” Dumbledore said simply.  “You will remain here for a few days and she and Poppy will be treating you.  You must do as they ask.  If you do not co-operate…  If you become aggressive…  (He let the sentence hang in mid air.)  I do not want this matter to be taken out of my hands, Severus!  Do you understand?” he added pointedly.

Snape sighed.  He did understand.  “Yes, very well” he said.  He sounded defeated.  “But why this room” he added tetchily, “and where will Elizabeth sleep?”

Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled.  “Why this room?  Because Elizabeth has many charms in place within it.  Where is she?  She, rather ironically, is sleeping in the hospital wing.  Now, are you comfortable?  Do you need to use the bathroom?”

“No, I’m fine thank you.”

“Then you must get some sleep.  I will be here when you wake.”

Snape lay back and had fallen asleep before he had time to wonder if he was going to be able to do so.

He awoke a few hours later.  He was given one of his grey nightshirts and his dressing gown to wear and he walked rather shakily to the bathroom.  Emerging sometime later, he complained that although some of his belongings were there, his soap and razor had been forgotten.

“You will be growing a beard for a few days” Dumbledore explained.  “You are to use Elizabeth’s brands of soap and shampoo.  That is actually a part of your treatment.”

Graham arrived.  She gave Snape water to drink but no food.  She stayed with him while Dumbledore dined and charmed her instruments into playing, very softly once again, Johann Sebastian Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.  Snape began to understand why this room had been chosen.  Unable to stay awake he fell asleep once more and woke nearer to midnight to find the room silent and Dumbledore dozing in the armchair by the fire.

The following morning Snape woke early.  There was a low murmur of voices in the room, Graham and Dumbledore were changing places by the armchair.  Graham was obviously going off duty, or perhaps to do her cash flow work, and Dumbledore was about to settle into the chair.  Catching sight of Snape struggling to stand, he helped him to the bathroom and gave him a clean nightshirt to change into.  When Snape got back to bed the Headmaster brought him water to drink.  Snape was relieved Graham had gone, he didn’t want her seeing his body first thing in the morning because he often woke with a large erection.  Also, although it had never bothered him before, he felt suddenly very conscious of his stubbly face and unwashed skin.

“Am I allowed a bath?” he asked Dumbledore.  “And when do I get fed?” he added irritably.

The Headmaster smiled.  “This sounds more like the old Severus” he replied.  “I cannot answer your questions.  You must wait for Mediwizard McKeller.  He’ll be here at half-past ten.  You can have as much water as you like.  And you can have sleep or music, I believe I can operate Elizabeth’s charm on these instruments.  Which would you like?”

Snape opted for another goblet of water and then to doze.  He still felt exhausted.

The Mediwizard woke him at ten-thirty to examine him and ask how he was.  He was very pleased with Snape’s progress, but didn’t want to tell him so in case it encouraged him to overdo things.  “You may start eating tonight” he concluded.  “A LIGHT meal.  In the meantime you may shower, but take great care in case you become dizzy.  It would be helpful to have someone in the room with you.  I suggest you shower, have a massage, then effleurage, then sleep.  Drink as much water as you can.”  He then spoke to Dumbledore who agreed to stay with Snape while he took a shower.

Half an hour later Snape sat on the bed wearing a hospital wing robe and rubbing a towel over his wet hair.  He wasn’t looking forward to the massage, and he said so.

Elizabeth is used to this” Dumbledore explained as he handed Snape back his wand.  “You are just meat on a slab to her Severus, as, I am sure, I and anyone else would be.  Remember her exercise classes.  She just sees people as muscle and bone.”

Snape thought this over.  “Would you mind staying?” he asked hesitantly.  Dumbledore readily agreed and sat in the armchair reading the Daily Prophet.

Finally Snape removed his clothing, lay face down on the massage table and Dumbledore summoned Graham.  She charmed Flitwick’s musical instruments into life, draped a towel across Snape’s buttocks, combed his hair away from his neck and secured it in a turban.

To the music of Johann Pachebel’s Cannon in D Major, the massage began.  Starting at Snape’s heels Graham worked up each leg, massaging him expertly with warm oil that smelt of lavender and Ylang-Ylang.  Each muscle was a knot of tension but she seemed to have the knack of releasing it.  Snape was a bundle of nerves and was very conscious of what she was doing.  He recognised the massage oil’s perfume as being similar to the shower gel he had used in her bathroom.

Graham removed the towel to work on the gluteus maximus, medius and minimus muscles, and replaced it when she got to Snape’s ribs.  She had hesitated slightly at his right ankle and worked on it with care.  The same happened when she drew her hands up his ribcage.  She knows, he realised; she knows I injured that ankle and that those lower right ribs were once cracked.

Graham worked thoroughly on his latissimus dorsi, trapezius and deltoid muscles.  The she moved down each arm.  After that she removed the towel, levitated and rotated his body, put a pillow under his head and draped the towel across him again.  Then she started work once again at his feet.

Albus is right, Snape thought, I am just meat on a slab to her.  He studied her face.  Her expression was one of careful concentration.  She still looked beautiful, but stern and watchful – professional.  She never made eye contact with him.  Her hair was drawn back into its clawed clamp again.  Her body looked shapeless in the white suit and Snape wondered if that was deliberate.  He remembered her donning the baggy T-shirt for the boy’s aerobics classes.  His mind recalled how she normally looked and as she worked on his left tibialis anterior, his penis began to erect beneath the towel.  Oh God, this is the last thing I wanted to happen! he screamed silently.  This is why I asked Albus to stay!  Didn’t think I could get aroused with him in the room!  Perhaps it isn’t going to work.  Oh heavens, Lizzy!  Why don’t you look more like Poppy?  Can I pretend that you do?  He tried to imagine it was Poppy Pomfrey that was tending him, but at that moment Graham lifted up the towel to work on his thigh muscles.  Despite his best efforts, his arousal increased.

However, Graham paid no attention to his unruly genitals.  She worked on his rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis and sartorius muscles, and then moved up to his hips, abdomen and waist.  Once she got to the ribcage she replaced the towel.

“Close you eyes” she commanded softly.  “Listen to the music.  Drink in the scent of the lavender…  In a moment… on the count of four… I want you to take a deep breath in as you swing your arms slowly out, away from your body, then hold the breath, then slowly breathe out as you return your arms to your sides.  OK.  Are you ready? …  Take a big breath in… two… three… four…  And hold it… two… three…  And slowly… let it… go.  That’s it.  Now I want you to repeat that when I tell you, but this time I’m going to push on the tops of your shoulders, because I don’t want you to raise your shoulders.  Just concentrate on filling the bottom of your lungs and let your stomach distend as well.  OK, here we go…”

Graham got Snape to repeat the deep breathing twice and then told him to continue to breathe evenly once again, in his own time.  “Empty your mind” she commanded soothingly.  “Hear the music.  Smell the perfume.  Empty your mind of all… higher… thought.”

Snape discovered that at last he could relax.  To the music of Erik Satie’s Gymnopedie Number 1, his thoughts began to lighten and drift away.  Graham rotated him again for effleurage and when she turned him over once again she put the eye pads in place.

Snape realised he must have drifted asleep because he awoke to find himself in bed.  He was warm, comfortable and totally at ease.  Graham was sitting by the low burning fire.  She was reading a book.  Softly, the instruments were playing Tomaso Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor.  He fell asleep again.

In the evening Graham brought him a bowl of fairly thin tomato soup and two dry rolls, which he thought was a starter.  He was horrified to learn this was all he was going to be allowed to eat.

“Is this it?” he asked in irritable disbelief.  “Can’t I at least have chicken?  Or oxtail?”

“Apart from as much water as you want, that’s it for today” she said firmly, as she tended her plants.  “Tomorrow morning you can have a little drop of thin porridge.  Don’t get too excited at the prospect!”

“Ye gods, I’m thin enough now” Snape retorted.  “Many more days like this and I shall become a wraith!”

On hearing that she gave him a sharp look.  “Frodo” she remarked as she put down her watering can.  “Frodo Baggins” she repeated by way of explanation, seeing Snape’s puzzled look.  “He said something like that.”

“Mmh, I believe he did” Snape replied, spooning up his soup as if he had been starved for a fortnight.  “You like Lord of the Rings?”

“One of my favourites” Graham explained.  “I’ve got it here.”  She dug out a fat and much thumbed paperback book – Unwin’s one-volume Unicorn edition which contained all three books of The Lord of the Rings together with its index and appendices.

When Snape had finished eating, Graham sat by the bed and they spent a pleasant evening discussing books.  Snape got to the bathroom unaided, and he settled down to sleep at half-past ten.  He slept soundly until a few minutes to seven and woke to find Pomfrey on duty in his room.  She set Graham’s instruments playing and they gave forth Debussy’s Clair De Lune.  She also handed Snape his razor, he was now allowed to shave.

He breakfasted to Léo Delibes’s music for The Flower Duet from Lakmé and later that morning he questioned Dumbledore closely as to who had treated him.  He was relieved to learn that Graham had only performed massage, the more intimate treatments had been carried out by the Mediwizards and Pomfrey.

In the afternoon Graham sat with Snape and they again talked, partly about classical music and partly about books.  They found they had similar tastes in music.  When it came to books Snape had read far more non-fiction; particularly history, biography and semi-technical books.  Conversely, he knew nothing of many of the 20th century popular Muggle novels Graham liked such as John Buchan, John Le Carré and Tom Clancy.

“If you can put up with being read to” she said “I’d like to read you Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.  It’s a great secret service story, about a mole – a long term under cover agent.”

Snape decided he might like being read to, it would be soothing to lie in bed and listen to Graham’s melodious voice.  “I might drift asleep” he warned.

She began the book that afternoon and continued it in the evening.  Dinner that evening consisted of chicken soup followed by a plate of pasta Bolognese.  “Good heavens!  Meat twice in one meal” he exclaimed.  “Things are looking up.”

The following morning Snape again woke before seven.  Sunlight filled the room and the instruments were playing Bill Withers’s Lovely Day so softly it was almost at the edge of his hearing.  The once-purple bedcover had mysteriously changed out of all recognition.  It was daffodil yellow, and patterned with small green stemmed tulip flowers in hard primary colours of pillar box red and French navy.  The walls of the room, which were now lemon yellow, glowed in the early morning sun.  The air smelt faintly of oranges and cinnamon.  Pomfrey sat in the armchair, flicking over the pages of Witch Weekly.

“Good morning, Severus” she announced cheerily.  “How are you?”

“What’s happened to this room?” he asked suspiciously.

“Well apparently this is Lizzy’s usual summer morning colour scheme” she in formed him.  “She likes to wake up to yellow – says it lifts her spirits.  She’s quite a dab hand at these sorts of illusions, this room’s natural colour is pale green.”

Snape looked angry.  “Is nothing real about her?” he said bitterly.

“Oh, don’t be hard on the girl” the elderly Matron scolded.  “She took endless pains to turn the room purple to relax you, and teaching Filly’s instruments new pieces of music.  She’s very fond of you, you know.  She’s got a heart of gold, that girl has!”

Snape felt slightly ashamed.  Charms and illusions were not his favourite forms of magic, he tended to dismiss them as trivia.  Saying no more, he slid out of bed and started to head for the bathroom.

“You can get up for breakfast this morning” Pomfrey told him, “as long as you don’t overdo it.  Don’t go rushing around; and don’t eat too much.  What’s the problem?” she added, seeing him hesitate.

“Err, nothing” he said airily.  “It would be nice to go down to breakfast.  I suppose Elizabeth has had hers?”

Pomfrey hid a smile.  “Not yet” she said.  “She doesn’t usually arrive until nine o’clock.  Now that she’s not doing her aerobics classes, she goes for a run before doing her money thing.”

Snape said nothing but he spent a long time showering, shaving, drying his hair and getting dressed.  He looked at himself in the wardrobe mirror as he used his wand to de-fluff his black robes.  At a quarter to nine and accompanied by Pomfrey, he walked slowly down to the Great Hall.  As at Christmas, the room held just one long table for the few staff who normally stayed at the school during the summer.

Some of those staff had breakfasted and gone, others had not arrived.  Hagrid apparently had been and gone, Dumbledore and McGonagall were finishing their breakfasts and Flitwick, who squeaked a good morning to him, seemed to be halfway through his.

Snape took a seat next to McGonagall.  “Nice to see you up and about, Severus” she said, rather unconvincingly, so Snape merely smiled and nodded in reply.

A moment later Graham arrived and sat at Snape’s right.  “I wondered if you’d be down today” she said brightly.  “Mmm, thanks” she added as he poured her some orange juice from the jug that stood between them.

Snape followed her example and consumed orange juice, porridge and toast.  He then felt exhausted.  “I think I’ll wander back upstairs” he muttered, rising carefully to his feet.  Elizabeth” he added, “If you have any time this afternoon, would you read some more of the book to me?”

“Of course” she replied.  “Do you not want to see me before then?”

“I cannot monopolise your whole day, but, whenever you are ready I will be most pleased to see you” he commented softly with a shy smile.  Then he turned and glided out of the Hall.

Graham arrived at her bedroom an hour later and found him sitting in the armchair filling in the Daily Prophet’s crossword.  He offered to give up the chair to her but she insisted he keep it.  She sat on the stool, reading Pomfrey’s Witch Weekly and helping Snape with the odd crossword clue.  At eleven o’clock Graham suddenly realised they had forgotten to have a mid-morning drink.

“Water or tea?  What’ll it be?” she asked.  Snape asked for chamomile tea and they sat and chatted and sipped their herbal drinks by the low-burning fire.  “If you feel up to taking a stroll we could walk in the grounds after lunch” she suggested.  “As long as you wrap up warmly.  We could even lie on a rug by the lake and I could read to you out of doors if you don’t get too cold.”

“That is an excellent idea” Snape said.  “I doubt we’ll remain uninterrupted though.”

They had a light lunch and then pottered outside with a tartan rug, a couple of cushions and the John Le Carré novel.  No one interrupted them except for Hagrid at three o’clock; he was heading back to his cabin and detoured to ask if they’d like to come in for a cup of tea.  Snape decided to accept, mainly because he couldn’t think of a polite way of declining and he didn’t want to appear too ungracious in front of Graham.  After tea he pleaded weariness, not untruthfully, and he and Graham returned to the castle.

Back in her room Graham stored the rug in her wardrobe.  “Would you like to sleep now?” she asked “Or would you like me to give you a massage?  Or… a game of chess!”

“A game of chess?” Snape said in amazement.  “I didn’t know you played.”

“I got a set at Christmas, a travelling set in my cracker” Graham said.  “Filly and I have had the odd game.  He beats me hollow of course, but I’m gradually improving.”

“He beats me hollow, too” Snape drawled.  “But I might be able to thrash you” he added darkly, with a cruel smile.  “Yes, it will probably exhaust me but I’ll give you a game.”

She grinned and they played until it was time to get ready for dinner.

“Playing chess with you is not like playing Filly” Snape observed when they finally decided to pack the pieces away.

“You mean I’m rubbish” Graham grinned.

“I mean you’re so light hearted about it” Snape explained.  He stopped.  “No, I don’t mean that” he said.  “Filly is light hearted too.”  He shook his head, he didn’t know what he meant, but there was a difference.  Something about the way she affects my mood, Snape decided.  Something about being less competitive when playing against a witch?  Catching something of her mood of fun?  Would I be the same with any witch?  Perhaps not – not with Minerva, surely.  And probably not with Poppy.

When they returned from dinner, Graham read a little more of the book and after an hour Snape felt exhausted – he had had a relatively busy day.  He settled down for a further night of uninterrupted sleep.

Review

 

Chapter Forteen - A Bed-of-Nails Mentality

The following day was Sunday and the Head of Slytherin rose at a more leisurely hour.  After breakfast Dumbledore asked Snape to accompany him to his dungeon bedroom.  They strolled down to the dungeons together and Snape remarked upon his new, very clean-looking, oak door.

“Ah yes, I vaporised the old one” Dumbledore chuckled.  “You changed your password and I was in rather a hurry to get in to you.”

The room was cold and uninviting but spotless, the bed neatly made and all the books and newspapers put back in place.

“It’s about time this room was redecorated” Dumbledore remarked.  “That is, unless I can persuade you to move elsewhere.”

“This is convenient for my classroom and storeroom, Headmaster” Snape pointed out.  “It is also near to the House common room.”

Dumbledore knew it was a virtually hopeless task to try to make him change his ways.  But he insisted Snape talk to Graham about getting the room refurbished.  Elizabeth will be able to show you how it might look” he said.  “She can use charms to demonstrate different effects.  Do take her up on it, Severus.”

“Oh very well, Headmaster” Snape said wearily.  Damn, there’s no avoiding this, he thought.  The Headmaster’s in one of his implacable moods.  He and I are once again ‘irresistible force’ and ‘immovable object’ but as ever, I will have to make some show of giving way!

Having obtained his grudging consent to the redecoration, the Headmaster then made Snape dispose of all of his stock of Nerve Calming Potion.  Snape agreed this was wise.  Once this was done there was no risk of him accidentally poisoning himself, or anyone else, with the residue of Macmillan’s faulty potion.

Snape then went in search of Graham and it didn’t take long to find her.  The bands of sunlight streaming into the corridor showed that her office door stood open, as did McGonagall’s, both propped open for maximum fresh air.  Snape glided through the empty Deputy Head’s room and came up behind Graham in her tiny office.  She was engrossed in working on income forecasts and did not sense his presence.  He stood quietly observing her, pleased that he had not lost the knack of moving around in virtual silence.  “Working on a Sunday, Elizabeth?” he murmured.

“Aaah!  You made me jump” she exclaimed, blotting her parchment.  “Yes” she continued as she tidied away the blot.  “Just seeing when the next maturity will be.  Because … if I invest on the day I get money back, and just ask Gringotts to transfer the difference, they only charge commission on the net amount.  So I’m trying to maximise my investments on maturity days.”

“And is this far too fascinating for you to put aside, to take a look at my room?” Snape asked, gliding up to her side.  “The Headmaster insists I get it redecorated.  He thought you might be able to suggest how it might look.”

“Awh yes!  He mentioned it to me” Graham said enthusiastically.  “Let’s go!  This cash stuff can wait.”

“If you’re sure.”

“I’m sure.  C’mon, let’s go!”

Snape smiled at her enthusiasm.

Graham was shocked by Snape’s bedchamber, its smallness and its gloomy coldness.  She was shocked, too, by the lack of comfort, the bed that was no more than an upholstered shelf, and the oak pew bare of any cushioning.  She liked the books.

She found the bathroom dank and dreary but fascinating.  “This is like an ancient Roman latrine” she exclaimed.  And indeed it was.  The lavatory was a circular opening cut into a block of stone, polished on top but without a seat.  The bath was a scooped out long stone block, and the hand basin was similarly formed from an upright block; in each case only the bowls were polished.  There was no room for a shower cubicle.  All the items were fused together and to the floor and the stone walls, as if the whole room-space and it’s ‘fittings’ had simply been carved out of stone.

Although impervious, the stone itself resembled gritty, greenish-grey sandstone, flecked with tiny black specs.  The lavatory was flushed by stroking the head of a grotesque gargoyle.  The bath and sink were filled by a similar procedure, and were both plugged by spherical pebbles carved into monkey-like skulls.  These ‘plugs’ were not on chains, they simply lay in place when put over the plug holes, and remained immovable except by a spell.

Two things in the room were actually free-standing – an Ali-Baba linen basket, which was crammed into one corner and a Victorian pine towel stand which stood near to it alongside the wall.  It was a sombre but intriguing room, more suitable however as a curiosity in some museum than for late 20th century occupation.

A slab of yellow household soap lay by the sink and another by the bath.  “Where’s your shampoo ’n’ stuff?” Graham asked suspiciously.

“I use soap” Snape replied coldly.

“Mmm, that says a lot” she retorted.  How does he rinse his hair?  She looked at the bars of yellow soap that reminded her of the Sunlight Soap her mother used to use when she was a tiny child.  But not for washing skin and hair; surely not!  For washing … what?  Clothes?  Graham couldn’t remember.  Her mother, a Muggle single parent, had been very poor, but even they had had Lux soap or occasionally Palmolive for bathing.  And shampoo for their hair; Graham remembered brands such as Vosene and Clinic.  “Right, let’s try something” she said.

She waved her wand, muttering spell after spell.  The bars of soap shrank and turned into semi-square dark grey pebbles, veined in white.  Two pale grey stone bottles, stopper’d with corks and somewhat resembling small Victorian hot water bottles, grew up at a corner of the bath.  Runic characters were incising themselves into the surfaces; one bottle now bore the rune Hagalaz and the other Berkana.  “H and B.  Head and body, for shampoo and foam bath” Graham explained.  A stone pitcher appeared at another corner.  “For rinsing your hair by levitation charm!” Graham added, pointedly.  Plaited rush matting appeared on the floor.  It was thick enough to lift bare feet clear of the cold grey flagstones.  The frame of the oval mirror changed from dark oak to pale greenish-grey lime-washed wood, fantastically carved into ears of wheat and barley, berries, poppy seed heads, tiny pine cones, leaves and the flower heads of dried herbs.  Gold highlights appeared on the carving.  Next to arrive were a number of squat yellow candles.  They suddenly flamed and filled the air with an exotic scent of jasmine and nutmeg.  The room grew warmer and less depressing but no less mysterious.

Snape looked around, stunned!  He picked up a tablet of soap.  “There were stones on the beach like this when I was a boy” he said softly.  He glanced up at her, suddenly suspicious.  “How did you know?” he added fiercely.

“I didn’t know” Graham replied, with a trace of annoyance in her voice.  “I couldn’t know that, could I; but there were stones like that on the beaches I went to as a child, at Pevensey Bay on the south coast.  That’s where we had our holidays, staying with my Mum’s sister.  It was the only way we got a holiday.  I expect you stayed in posh hotels at much grander places.”

Without another word she walked back into the bedchamber; Snape at her heels.  Chilly, cramped, uninviting, she thought.  Hardly more comfort here than some field marshals have at their battle HQs.  She toyed with the idea of using a colour scheme of charcoal grey, shiny black and pale ivory cream in an Art Deco style.  But Art Deco, although it filtered down to humbler folk in the form of cinema architecture and bakerlite objects, had its roots in fine lacquered cabinetry, brass and glass building fittings, silk furnishings and elegant paraphernalia – the trappings of the houses of the wealthy, who could indulge their taste for 1920s Modernism.  Snape was more the brooding sorcerer, or the scholar in the tradition of the Celtic hermit or Greco-Latin recluse than an indolent, brazen millionaire.  “What do you like about this room, Severus?” she asked.

It was a difficult question.  Snape realised Graham’s room reflected her personality.  Normally it was light, warm and airy, and it was certainly full of plants.  It felt upbeat and convivial, allowing things to flourish.  His room reflected his personally – dark, cold, secret and ascetic – the lair of a hunted animal.  Realising he had to give her and answer he said “I like its… austerity.  I like it feeling like a hermit’s cell.  DON’T make it pretty!”

On hearing that, Graham found it hard to resist filling the room with frothy pink lace but she suspected he would not appreciate the joke and it may prove ultimately counterproductive, so she thought for some moments.  She cleaned a patch of the stone wall and studied its true colour.  Then she began again, waving her wand.

Layers of soot and grime from years of torches, candles and coal fires appeared to dissolve away, revealing the stone walls’ colours to be a mixture of pale oatmeal, ivory and biscuit.  The threadbare rug turned French beige, grew a deep pile and sprouted a smart fringe so dark brown it was almost black.  The dull bedclothes turned from a black blanket tucked in over coarse white linen, to a dark brown damask counterpane draped over fine cream linen and a cream wool blanket.  The hems of the crisp sheets and pillowcases were trimmed with two thin gold lines of silk thread.  Filling the gap from the mattress to the floor was a brown velvet valence.

Graham looked around.  She couldn’t decide how to curtain the tiny window that was glazed in acid etched glass and wedged into the apex of the steeply vaulted roof, but she lifted layers of old polish from the dark oak furniture, and placed a rectangular, brown velvet cushion pad on the pew.  She looked again at the neatly made bed and aimed her wand once more.

Two large square cushions appeared, covered in slubbed cream silk and with crisp, piped edges.  She regarded them for a moment and then muttered “Scribari Romana Aurius”.  In English she spoke some lines from a poem, whereupon a thin stream of golden dust poured from her wand and formed Latin words in gothic script on one side of each cushion.  The fragments of verse were from the seventeenth elegy of Publius Ovidius Naso, the ancient Roman poet famous for his love poetry, and better known by his shortened name of Ovid.

In translation the words said:

If Venus will abate my raging flame

Let me a fair and gentle mistress have,

And then proclaim aloud that I'm her slave.

There are more beauties, but there's none like thine.

There are more versed, but thou hast only mine.

No other charms can e’er inspire my muse,

And other themes, I … with disdain … refuse.

Graham made the cushions rotate and repeated the same lines on the reverse sides, but this time one was formed in Celtic medieval script and the other in Runes.  She looked again at the velvet cushion pad on the pew and changed the colour from brown to French beige.  She ran her wand along its centre muttering “Cnotta Gaelicae” and a panel of Gaelic knots ‘carved’ their way along the centre of the cushion like a thick spine.  She rotated the cushion and ran her wand around its edge near to the piping.  At her command “Scribari Tengwara” self-coloured words again formed in the velvet, this time in Tolkien’s Tengwar Runes.

Although he couldn’t immediately read the symbols, Snape knew what they said because Graham spoke, in English, the words to make the script appear:

Tall ships and tall kings,

Three times three,

What brought they from the foundered land

Over the flowing sea?

Seven stars and seven stones

And one white tree.”

Snape recognised the verse as being some of Gandalf’s words from the chapter entitled The Palantir in the second volume of The Lord of the Rings.

Deep in thought, Graham stood absolutely still.  “Nah!” she said finally, shaking her head dismissively.  “The pew cushion won’t do – too fussy; a little too feminine.”

She cleared the long velvet pad of its devices and spoke again “Depictus Hieroglyph Rosetta” whereupon Egyptian hieroglyphics of the year 196 B. C. carved themselves into the velvet.

In pictograms that Snape couldn’t read they actually declared:

With good fortune! It has seemed fitting to the priests of all the temples of Egypt, as to the honours which are due to King Ptolemy, living forever, the Manifest God whose excellence is fine, in the temples, and those which are due to the Father-loving Gods, who brought him into being, and those which are due to the Beneficent Gods, who brought into being those who brought him into being, and those which are due to the Brother-and-Sister Gods, who brought into being those who brought them into being, and those which are due to the Saviour Gods, the ancestors of his ancestors, to increase them; and that a statue should be set up for King Ptolemy, living forever, the Manifest God whose excellence is fine – which should be called ‘Ptolemy who has protected the Bright Land’.

“Yes!” she said in delight, once both sides were covered and the cushion had settled into place.  “In reality – comfortable to sit upon, yet it looks like a chunk of fairly rough concrete.  Just the sort of thing an ascetic wizard with a bed-of-nails mentality would sit upon.  It will need an anti-slip charm of course, to anchor it on the pew, but Penelope can manage that.  Now, let me think.”

Graham returned her wand to her sleeve.  Snape was about to speak, but she held up her hand as she checked the harmony of the colours – oatmeal, greyish beige, fawn, cream, a touch of gold, and shades of brown ranging from the richness of a horse chestnut to almost black.  Neutral, elegant and cool, but with a hint of luxury.  Finally she was satisfied.  “Well, whadderyer think?” she asked.

Snape walked back and forth looking at his bedroom and bathroom.  I can’t fault it, he thought.  These neutral colours keep the cool austerity, yet the unfriendly coldness has gone.  The sensuous Latin verse hints at a courtesan’s boudoir yet the choice of lettering gives it a stern gothic quality.  The cushion that is a copy of the Rosetta Stone is a masterstroke too – a gentle joke against my fetish for asceticism.  I must get it translated.  The Tengwar lettering was sheet artistry, as were the curvilinear knots.  Pity they had to go, but Elizabeth is right.  This witch is an artist.  Yes, I’ll have to have this.

“It’s wonderful” he said, knowing his choice of adjective was quite inadequate.  “Amazing.  Absolutely beautiful.  Thought provoking.”  His black eyes seemed almost close to tears as he gazed at her and whispered “Thank you, Elizabeth.”

“It’s all an illusion of course” she said ruefully.  “But it’s fixed in my mind now so it can be done for real.  I can’t decide how to ‘clothe’ that window, the angle of the roof and the stone ribs won’t allow for a curtain rail.  How about this?”

She pointed her wand again, and the white and clear glass turned into a stained glass window showing King Arthur pulling Excalibur from the anvil stone.  It was depicted in colours of green and gold with the sword, stone, anvil, and Arthur’s helmet in shades of grey.  “Trouble is, it doesn’t get the sun” Graham explained.  “I’ll show you what it would be like if it did.  Illuminare solem!”  False sunshine flooded through the window, washing the room in a light that was dappled with hues of green and spots of gold.

“Mmmm?  I don’t know” Graham said, shaking her head again.  “This won’t happen in reality.  And maybe the original glass was better.  Anyway, these charms will fade of their own accord in two days.  Shall we have some lunch and have a look again, later?  See if this still appeals to you?”

At lunchtime Snape found the traditional Sunday roast rather hard going.  He skipped the pudding and they returned to his dungeon room to look around.  “Yes.  I am still utterly enchanted by it all” he said.  “Except, like you I have reservations about the window.  I think it introduces too much colour.”

Graham laughed.  “Spartan to the nth degree is the ascetic Potions Master!  Yes, actually I agree with you.  It undermines the simplicity of these neutral shades.  I only thought of it when I failed to curtain the window.  I’ll put the original glass back.”  Deftly she reversed the stained glass charm.  “Well, let’s leave this for the Headmaster to find.  He said he would look in some time.  Err, shall I read to you?  Only I believe we left Peter Guillam in a bit of a sweat after snooping around the Circus.”

“Yes, we did” Snape agreed.  “Can we perhaps find a secluded spot in the grounds?  It’s such a lovely day, it seems a shame to be indoors.  However I must warn you, after that heavy meal I’ll be fighting to stay awake after an hour in the sun.”

“Mmm, so might I be” Graham agreed.

They found a hidden spot amongst some brambles and spread out the rug.  “So you lived in the south of England?” Snape observed, as they sat down.

London” she replied.  “Leytonstone, in the East End.  Yes, I can see by your face you’ve never heard of it.  Well, if you look at the tube map you’ll find it on the Central Line.  My mother was a Muggle.  I never knew my father.”

“And when you got your letter?”

“My mother was terrified.  But, you know the system; Minerva had a ‘guardian angel’ already keeping an eye on me and poised to come and explain things.  Mum got to accept it over the summer, and let me come to Hogwarts.  Well, she said she’d let me try it for a year.  But I was so hooked after less than a term that there was no giving this up for Muggle school.”

Snape didn’t ask, but he wondered who paid her fees if Graham’s family were so poor.  He assumed Dumbledore and McGonagall knew.  It was quite possible they knew more about Graham’s family than she did!  “So you liked it here” he said, choosing to keep most of his thoughts to himself.

“It was scary at times” Graham admitted.  “Magic is … well … dangerous.  And I was teased and bullied a bit in my early years because of my background.  Suppose that’s how I became the clown of the classroom – joking and fooling around.  It was a sort of defence, and a way of trying to get people to like me.  Sounds silly now, when I come to say it.”

Snape found this surprising.  “But you always seemed so popular” he observed.

“Ha!  I was popular with the boys” Graham said derisively.  “From about the age of thirteen.  And yes, I suppose to outsiders I seemed to have lots of friends, but it wasn’t like that really.  I only had two real friends, Sandra Miller and Judy Matravers.  Muggle-born like me.  They were killed in the early days of Voldemort’s rise to power.”

Snape jumped at Graham’s casual use of Lord Voldemort’s name.  In his experience very few people could bring themselves to voice it – even McGonagall, the Deputy Head had been known to fight shy of saying it.

“I didn’t have lots of friends” Graham continued.  “Other people’s lives aren’t always how they look to those who aren’t forced to live them.  I remember you, though” she added, giving him a sharp, appraising look.  “You always seemed very clever.  Skilful.  Cunning.  Surrounded by powerful friends.  Ambitious people who would get somewhere.  I bet no one bullied you, Severus!”

“No.  No indeed not” Snape insisted fiercely.  “But as you so rightly point out, things are not always as they seem.  My friends would more accurately be termed ‘associates’.  As you probably realise I have no true friends – I am not by nature ‘friendly’.  And I did not have the wealthy family background you perhaps imagine, Elizabeth.  I would not describe my childhood as poor, all the basic material things were provided, but, you see, my parents died when I was very young and I spent most of my formative years in an orphanage.”

“I see” Graham replied.  “I’m sorry you lost your parents, Severus.  You were worse off than I was.  I don’t think I can imagine what it would be like to live in an orphanage.”

“Well I can only describe mine” Snape replied.  “It was strict and Spartan.  Cold” he added.  “Literally cold.  Lots of rules…  No ‘love’ – I suppose.  Little human contact.  Protection, security, certainly!  But no love.  I had never given that any thought before.”  He pulled himself out of his recollections.  “Come on, woman!  Let’s have some more of this book.  We are getting far too introspective.”

Graham read for a while and then they both dozed.  No one disturbed them.  The cooling shadow of the bushes woke them sometime before six.  “Ohrr, we ought to get back indoors and have some tea” Graham suggested.  She noticed Snape was lying back staring at the sky and lost in his thoughts.  “Penny for them” she said, “and I don’t mean Pendleton Rookwood.”

Unsmiling, he turned his black eyes on her.  “Why haven’t you ever remarried?” he asked bluntly.

Graham looked very taken by surprise.  “I’m not looking for marriage” she said at last.  “I don’t know why.  It doesn’t quite suit me.”

“Were you so very in love with Marcellus Ollivander?” he asked, feeling quite jealous of the adoration her late husband must have enjoyed.

“It’s not easy to explain, Severus” Graham replied.  “When I met and married Marcellus I had never loved anybody more than him.  But I can’t honestly pretend the marriage was ideal.  I would never have left him – reliability and faithfulness are very important to me.  And if I expect those things, I feel, too, that I must give them.  It’s no exaggeration to say my world fell apart when he was killed and when I lost my child.  I can’t have more children.  I was ill.  There were complications.  If I…”  She paused, trying to find the right words.  She sighed.  “If I could undo his death I would go back to the time when we were looking forward to our baby, and to our life together.  BUT, there is a part of me that says if I lived my life over again, then no, I would not have married Marcellus.  That sounds terrible doesn’t it!  I didn’t mean it to sound like that.  I just meant to be honest.  Accurate.  What about you?  You never got married.”

What do I say? Snape wondered.  I was too shy?  Too ugly?  No witch would have me?  There is a part of me that doesn’t need people?  There is a part of me that pushes people away from me?  And conversely there is a part of me that longs for affection?

He sat up, drew his feet in a little and rested his forearms on his knees.  “No.  Well, I fell in love with someone who was in love with somebody else” he admitted.  “Then I, got involved in, something stupid.  Through pride, mainly – through wanting to be A Wizard of Note.”  His eyes narrowed.  “I do not intend to say more about that” he added sternly.  “And then there was the Dark Lord” he continued.  “Years of war with the Dark Side.  Warriors make poor husbands, I’m sure.  Suffice it to say, here I am at forty-two, unattached and likely to remain so.  A teacher, who paradoxically, cannot stand children.”

“Then why teach?” Graham asked in surprise.

Snape gave her a bitter smile.  “Hogwarts is my home” he explained.  “I could not imagine living anywhere else.”

“Nor could I” Graham admitted, nodding gently.  “No, nor could I.  Not all my memories of here are happy, but a lot are, and I’m very happy here now.  Not all my memories of life away from here are happy.”

“Recent events didn’t destroy the enchantment for you?” Snape asked.  “I mean … Rookwood” he added.

“Ah, Mr Rookwood’s attempt at Imperio?  No.  I knew I could withstand it” Graham said with a quiet confidence that amazed him.

Snape’s whole body stiffened.  She remembers, he gasped, his fear getting in the way of his logic.  She knew what I intended that night in that classroom.

But Graham was still talking.  “… brother-in-law Justinian tried the same thing when I was newly married.  I never told anyone.  I don’t know how Marcellus would have taken it but it would have really hurt Hector, and I loved my father-in-law.  He was the father I never had.  But anyway, Justinian’s little ploy simply didn’t work.  I could hear his thoughts – his commands – in my head, but I had no compulsion to obey them.  My free will remained intact.  He felt such a fool; and worried too, as it was in itself a criminal action.  From that day on we never got on.”

She shivered.  The shadows had deepened imperceptibly while they had been talking.

“Shall we go in” she suggested, “and have a hot drink?  And then – what?  I could give you a massage?  Or do you want a rest from me?”

No Lizzy, Snape thought.  I believe I don’t ever want a rest from you.  Not yet anyway.  “Tea, I think” he replied, with a shy smile.

Review

 

Author's Note: My inspiration for some of the decorative lettering came from looking at the web pages of Dan Smith’s Fantasy Fonts for Windows.

Chapter Fifteen -Chameleon

A little while later Snape decided to be brave and choose massage.  “I’ll need to take a shower first” he pointed out.

“And I need to change my clothes and do up my hair.  There’s a lot of you to lean over” Graham replied.  “I’ll be back in half-an-hour.”

He was ready and lying face down on the table when she came back into the room.  She draped a towel over his buttocks, set the music playing, drew the curtains and turned the room into soft shades of purple.  Then she combed back his hair and began, working again from the feet up.

At first Snape was comfortably in control and the massage relaxed him.  But when he turned face up his body began to let him down.  He could feel himself becoming sexually aroused and wondered how Graham could ignore it.  Gradually his face burned with embarrassment.  Finally he had to speak.

“I’m sorry” he whispered.  “Sorry I can’t…”  His sentence halted midway as he realised he just didn’t know what to say.  He had never been in this situation, naked and alone with a witch he found so very attractive.

Graham worked on regardless.  “There is nothing wrong with your body, Severus” she stated calmly.  “Don’t be ashamed of it.  And don’t worry about it.  It is a magnificent body and has obviously served you well.  It’s certainly got some scars.”

At these matter-of-fact words Snape felt his embarrassment subsiding a little, though his arousal continued as strongly as ever.  He tried to lie calmly as she stood at the head of the bed and massaged the sides of his ribcage, working upwards (downwards to her) to his left pectoral and subclavius muscles, prior to moving down his arm.  She looks funny upside down, he decided.  Her breasts are just above me, swathed in layers of white material, shapeless and inaccessible.  Her nipples will be pink, like rosebuds.  Her lips would surely be soft.

Graham moved over and started work on his right pectoral.  Then she worked her way over his right deltoids and down his arm.

Finally, after what seemed an eternity, she was finished.  “Would you like effleurage today?” she asked.  Snape hesitated.  “Or would you like to snooze?” she continued, trying to help him to an answer.  “Or I can read to you again.”

“If I told you what I’d like” he said bravely, “you’d run a mile.  Maybe.”

Graham’s eyes were levelled very steadily at his.  “No, I don’t think I would” she replied calmly, her eyebrows arching.  “Let’s check your pulse.”  She moulded her hand into the side of his neck under his sharp jaw.  “Your pulse is still a bit high” she said with a trace of concern.  “Ha!  I can see only too clearly what you want, Severus.”  She sighed.  “And it would relax you.  Only problem is – we might be interrupted.  What’s the matter?” she asked, seeing his look of amazement.

“I’m not sure what you mean” he said softly.

“I mean” Graham said coolly “we are both mature adults, and we both have physical needs.  Sexual needs.  And we can be discrete.  Do you have any objections?”

“I…  We…  Would we be dismissed if we were caught sleeping together?” he asked, finding it suddenly difficult to speak.

“I don’t know.  Probably not.”  She smiled and added “Shall we risk it?”  The smile turned to a mischievous grin lighting her face and he saw again the captivating student Dizzy Lizzy who was always in some scrape.

Snape gulped.  His head was reeling.  Graham had shaken her hair free of its claw.  She was shedding her clothes.  “For gods’ sake woman, seal the door!” he implored.

Graham turned and pointed her wand at the door.  “Chameleon” she commanded.  Moments later they slid into bed.  Hesitantly he kissed her.  Yes, he thought, her lips are soft, and so inviting, drawing me in.  His trembling hands explored her naked body.  He broke away from the kiss to gaze at her erect nipples.  Yes, pink rosebuds, I was right, he realised.  She ran her fingers into his hair and guided his head down to her breasts.  “I do like this” she murmured as his lips and tongue found a nipple.

“You’ll have to teach me” he said hoarsely, feeling very foolish.  “You’ll have to make clear to me what you like.  I’m not experienced in these things.”

“Oh, I will!” she replied savagely.  “But first of all, what would you like?”

Snape could feel his face burning.  How can I tell her, he wondered frantically, that I’ve never seen a woman, intimately, close up?  I’ve assisted in minor capacities at Death Eater orgies, but never known a woman myself.  The closest I’ve got to a naked female form is on a magazine page.  She doesn’t seem bothered by my discomfiture.  She simply expects an answer to her question.  “I… I’d like to look, first” he said.  “May I?”

“Of course” Graham replied softly.  “Mmm, go ahead” she added, smiling happily.

Snape knelt back on his heels and gazed intently as she opened her thighs for him.  After a moment she stretched out her arms to encourage him to lie on top of her.  “Oh God, Lizzy!” Snape exclaimed as he melted into her embrace.  Skilfully she guided him into place…

*

After their lovemaking Snape fell asleep.  He woke up briefly, rolled off her, and dozed again, exhausted.  Graham grinned and finally kissed him awake.  “Are you going down to dinner tonight?” she asked, “or are you too tired?  I think you’ll need the food!”

Snape woke up properly and half sat up with a start.  He looked at her a little uncertainly.  She seemed to read his mind.  “You’re not committed to anything, Severus” she explained.  “This is just us, on our own, taking the comfort we need.  When we step outside that door, you are the Potions Master, I am the Admin Officer.  Two separate people.  Colleagues.  What happens in here – and I hope it will be repeated from time to time – is private.  Is that OK with you?”

“Yes” he whispered.  “How could it not be?”

Graham smiled at his bemused face.  “You’ll feel better after you’ve washed and got dressed.  You’ll feel more your old self.  Shall I shower first?”  He lay back and nodded, smiling weakly.  He felt confused and worried.

Snape found that she was right – he did indeed feel more normal when he was back in his black robes.  He wondered how witches felt on the day they lost their virginity.  He stood in front of the mirror once again, straightening his robes and gazing at the reflection of the man who at forty-two had just had sexual intercourse for the first time in his life.  He could almost still feel her fingers caressing his back, encouraging him, smoothing away his fear; her hands clutching his buttocks, guiding him skilfully to their moment of mutual ecstasy.

He looked at his sallow face.  Does she not mind skin as pale as a corpse? he wondered.  Does she not mind my uneven, not so white teeth and my rather yellow trembling fingers?  How strange are the minds of witches.  Perhaps there are advantages to being the conqueror of Voldemort.  He turned around and found Graham was staring out of the window at the faraway heather-covered hills.  “I’m ready” he said.

She turned and smiled at him.  “So am I” she replied.

At the single dining table Graham again sat between Hagrid and Filch, and Snape took a seat between McGonagall and Flitwick.  “Fancy a game of chess after dinner, Severus?” Flitwick asked.  Snape looked uncertain; he glanced at Graham.

“It would make a nice change I expect” she said with a kindly smile.  “Severus needs to play against a decent player.  Make a difference from playing me.”

On hearing this Snape’s mouth rippled into a cruel grin.  “Thank you, Filly” he said darkly.  “As it happens I have thrashed Lizzy a few times.  But she is improving!  I need you to help me keep my form.  Must keep ahead of her.”

Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled.  He leant around McGonagall to talk to Snape.  “I had a look at your old room this afternoon” he said.  “I take it you are happy with it.”

“I am indeed, Headmaster.”

“Then the redecoration should start immediately.  You will soon want to give up Elizabeth’s room and let her move back; and anyway she will need to do so before the start of term.  Elizabeth, what needs to be done?”

“Well, err, when are the chimney sweeps coming, Argus?” she said turning momentarily to Filch.  “Tuesday?  If they do Severus’s chimney first, and any that connect to it of course, then the house-elves can start cleaning.  That just leaves fabrics to be chosen, Headmaster, plus a few bits and pieces for the bathroom.  Severus, can we go to London later this week? – and choose your new bedding and upholstery?”

“Uhm, yes” he agreed.  “Any day you like, really.  How about Wednesday?”

“Wednesday’s fine with me.  Headmaster, how does that sound?”

“Excellent” Dumbledore replied.  “I am most relieved you feel well enough to make the trip, Severus.  Don’t tire him out too much, Elizabeth!”

“No, Headmaster” Graham replied, trying to suppress a smile.  She concentrated hard on her food for a while.

*

“He knows” Snape said.  It was some way past midnight, and Graham was lying in his arms in a happy post-coital daze, in her big four-poster bed.

“He guesses” she replied dreamily.  “He doesn’t know.  Anyway, he doesn’t mind.  We had better get to sleep.  You’re going to be awfully tired tomorrow!”

Contrary to her prediction Snape was at the breakfast table much earlier than usual.  Graham had gone for her early morning run and then to do her cash flow task.  Feeling fit and relaxed but suddenly lonely without her lying next to him, Snape had got up and was now in the Great Hall pouring himself some orange juice from the jug the Headmaster had handed to him.

“You know don’t you, Headmaster” he said pointedly to Dumbledore.

The Headmaster smiled.  “If you mean about yourself and Elizabeth, let us say … I have a shrewd idea” he replied.  “I do know she is very devoted to you.  And she has been much in your company lately.  No one else has made any comment.  There are few people here to notice.”

“Why do you claim she is devoted to me?” Snape asked in surprise.

“Because Rookwood accused her point blank of being in love with you, and she couldn’t deny it.  He had realised it.”

“Merlin’s beard!” Snape exclaimed in horror.  “Did he have anything else to say?”

Dumbledore hesitated for half a second and then decided to tell the truth.  “Actually, yes, he did.”  His eyes twinkled wickedly as he added “Rookwood told Elizabeth you were once a Death Eater.”  He noticed Snape’s pale face turn even paler.  “Do not worry, Severus –”

“Do – not – worry?  Are you mad?” Snape hissed.

“It obviously doesn’t matter to her, does it?” the Headmaster explained reasonably.  “Remember this was weeks before all the treatments she gave you.  All the things she devised for you.  Think about it, man!  This relationship is between you and her, and there doesn’t seem to be a problem.  Don’t make problems where there are none.”

Snape reflected.  Dumbledore had a similar relationship with McGonagall and it was managed with decorum.  Yes, he thought, I can do the same.  “I’m a very lucky man” he muttered.

“Indeed” the Headmaster agreed.  “Ah, here comes Minerva.  Change of subject, I think…”

McGonagall glided elegantly to the breakfast table, and Graham followed a few minutes later.  The conversation turned to plans for the day.

“We’re off to see my brother” Dumbledore explained.  “We’ll not be in for dinner tonight, will we Minerva.”

“That’s correct” McGonagall replied.  “Well Elizabeth, what are you up to today?”

“I’m going to spend a couple of hours preparing the new and returning students letters, and then I really don’t know” Graham replied.  She glanced at Snape.  “Severus, would you mind checking with Argus to make sure he’s got the house-elves ready to start cleaning your room?  And he’s supposed to be moving a second armchair into my room today.  Then, do you fancy a walk into Hogsmeade?”

“Possibly.  Is it going to be fine today?”

“Yes, hot!” McGonagall warned.  “Don’t get burned, Elizabeth.”

“A picnic!” Graham exclaimed suddenly.  “How about getting a couple of brooms and flying round the mountain.  Find a good spot for a picnic.  I know of at least one particularly good spot.  Not sure I can remember exactly how to get there, though.  It’s been a few years since I was a pupil here.  Anyway, do you feel up to flying, Severus?”

“Yes, I think so” Snape replied.  “I’m sure I’ll be alright.  It sounds an excellent idea.  The kitchen will be able to make us a packed lunch.  And we can take the book and perhaps your chess set.”

“Oh?  What book is this?” McGonagall asked.

“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” Graham replied.  “John le Carré.  I’m reading it to Severus.  Actually we’ve nearly finished it now.  Do you know it?”

McGonagall did not.  It seemed she and Graham did not have similar tastes in novels.

“Well, if it’s going to be hot, you’ll bake in those black robes” Graham pointed out.

Snape sneered.  “Then I will have to surprise you” he replied cryptically.

Snape had been slightly intrigued to hear that both Dumbledore and McGonagall were going to visit the Headmaster’s brother.  Aberforth Dumbledore was actually half-brother to Albus, son of the late Acer Dumbledore’s second wife.  The half-brothers were not alike in personality and McGonagall did not particularly care for Aberforth.  However that meant little, she had a poor opinion of many people.  Aberforth was much younger than Albus – Snape estimated him to be between one-hundred-and-five and one-hundred-and-twenty years of age, because his long, softly wavy hair was not entirely grey; strands of its original pale gold could still be seen.

After a moment’s reflection Snape gave this no more thought; eagerly his mind turned instead to plans for his own day.

For the picnic Snape changed into an olive green silk shirt that he wore loose over khaki jeans that Graham recognised as coming from Genie of the Jean, the wizarding jeans manufacturers who had a retail outlet at the corner of Knockturn Alley.  Genie of the Jean denims were very expensive, they were loaded with stretch-and-recover and anti-fade charms which made them look as good as new years after they were bought.  At the base of the immaculate jeans Snape’s long, bony bare feet were thrust into dark brown leather sandals.  Graham was very impressed!  She wore a full length button-through denim dress and buckskin mules.

They flew about a dozen miles to a secluded spot amongst gorse and heather, spread out their rug and set out their belongings.

Snape wondered about making love in the open air, but he was concerned that they may be seen.  “Someone may fly over” he pointed out.

“Well, I’m prepared to risk it” Graham replied playfully.  “There aren’t any Muggle buildings for dozens of miles; there’s hardly anyone at the school.  If you really want to do this, now is the perfect time.  I’m not coming here in the middle of winter – if you’d prefer a roll in the snow, you’ll have to bring a different witch!”

“You always were a crazy, madcap girl” Snape sighed.

He lay back and Graham leant over him, snaking a fingernail through the sparse, black hair on his chest, and slowly undoing his shirt buttons.  “You won’t be easily seen if I sit astride you” she said impishly.  “The full skirt of my dress will hide you.”

His dark eyes searched her face.  They held an expression he would have been horrified to learn was not unlike Rookwood’s faithful spaniel look.  “Are you sure?” he murmured.

“Let me show you” she whispered…

*

As he lay in bed that night Snape grinned savagely in the darkness.  He couldn’t believe how much his life had changed.  I’ll have to slow down or I’ll wear myself out, he decided.  But he realised things might be different when the new term started.  He wanted to make the most of the lovely summer.  The night was hot and they lay on top of the bed with the bedclothes rolled back.  Graham lay face down beside him, her arms folded across her pillow, her face resting on her hands.  He drew a finger down her back, tracing the curves of he back and buttocks.  She mumbled something but didn’t wake up.

He wondered whose daughter she was.  Her Muggle mother had died the year Graham got married.  Graham said her mother would never talk about her father.  Presumably he was a wizard if he had provided for her to go to Hogwarts.  A thought suddenly struck Snape.  Could Dumbledore be her father?  He cared for her in a paternal sort of way.  He and Hector Ollivander had been friends from way back.  Dumbledore engineered Elizabeth into this job when Ollivander died.  It could be…

No, he decided.  Albus is so casual about our relationship.  Surely a real father would have more to say about it.  And surely Albus would not have let Lizzy and her mother struggle in poverty.  What was it she said to me this afternoon about her first meeting with Marcellus?  In the darkness Snape concentrated, recalling Graham’s words…

“Father – I mean Hector – used to see quite a lot of the Headmaster; they were friends.  Albus called me to his office one day, and up I went, assuming I was in hot water again.  And there they were, Hector on one of his customary visits, this time with two of his sons, the younger ones.”

“And what did you think of Marcellus?” Snape had asked.

“A pleasant man.  Not brash.  Quite handsome.  A good deal older than me, but not old in his ways.  Rather studious, though.  We didn’t say much to each other, but a few days later he owled me and asked me out.  He was the first wizard who didn’t simply want to get me into bed.

“Rookwood called me an empty-headed bimbo and an air-head Hufflepuff – God that hurt!  But there was an honesty in his attitude; in my school days that’s how I was usually seen.  Well, you know Hufflepuffs generally get looked down upon.  I always felt the Ollivander family looked down on me a bit.  As you probably know, they were all Ravenclaws.  But Marcellus was good to me, and he taught me a lot – encouraged me to complete my training and helped with my broader education too.  And Hector was exceptionally kind.  Hector was a learned man, a classical scholar who had brought his sons up the same way.  They could read Latin; they knew about literature and music, science and history, philosophy – far more stuff than I knew, and I hadn’t had a bad early education for a Muggle.  I would have gone to Walthamstow High if I’d not gone to Hogwarts.  It’s a good school…

“Some while later I began to suspect the meeting with the Ollivanders had been deliberately arranged.  I wasn’t in any particular trouble; and if I had been, it was always Amy who gave me my detentions.”  She laughed, remembering the house points she used to lose.  “Oh dear, if I wasn’t in hot water with my House Head, you could bet I’d done something to annoy Minerva!  I could always count on Filly to forgive me though, he was quite thrilled by my skill with Charms…”

Could she perhaps be related to the Ollivanders? Snape wondered.  The illegitimate daughter of some distant relative of old Hector?  It was possible.  But how could it have happened?  She said her mother wouldn’t talk about the circumstances.  Her mother had a humble job in some club in London – got her fares paid and her meals provided.  Her mother seemed… ‘used to finer things’, no, not quite that, but as if she had been ‘exposed to finer things’… like a servant in a big house…

I must get some sleep, Snape decided.  Hope I’m not slipping back to my old, bad sleeping patterns.  I must try this year not to exist on potions – hyping myself up to get through the days and then taking a sleeping potion each night.  Well, if I have Lizzy for company I won’t need to do that.  If I have Lizzy…  I wonder how different things will be once term starts?  It’s odd not sleeping alone.  But the companionship is surprisingly good – supportive without being invasive.  Not at all as I expected.

Snape was starting to feel cold.  He reached down and pulled the sheet to his waist.  Graham was obviously cold too, she turned and snuggled her back and buttocks against his body, subconsciously seeking out his warmth and protection.  He curled around her, kissed her shoulder, pulled the sheet over them both and promptly fell asleep.

Review

 

Chapter Sixteen -Very Tate Modern

Graham spent most of Tuesday continuing to prepare the students’ letters.  On Wednesday, when the staff gathered for breakfast Dumbledore said he and McGonagall would be interviewing candidates for the Defence Against the Dark Arts position at the start of the following week.

“Are there many applicants, Headmaster” Snape enquired.

“Five” McGonagall cut in.  “It’s going to be a busy day.”

Snape fought hard to contain his curiosity.  Dumbledore looked at him and his eyes twinkled – a reaction that Snape thought most odd.  Then Graham appeared and he assumed her presence explained the Headmasters expression.  Nevertheless he still thought it odd.

“How are the finances, Elizabeth?” Dumbledore asked.

“Going quite well” Graham said, obviously delighted.  “I’m hopeful we will be able to buy quite a few new brooms in time for the next Quidditch season.”

“You won’t go spending all the money in Diagon Alley today then?”

“No, I promise not to, although Severus’s room is long overdue for a refit” Graham pointed out.

An hour later Snape and Graham Disapparated from the Forest and emerged in Diagon Alley.  They ordered the fabrics and bedding from Miss Penelope’s Fantasy Fabrics.  Snape found that Penelope Malkin, Madam Malkin’s daughter-in-law, knew Graham quite well.  She was very impressed with Graham’s design ideas.  “If Hogwarts ever throws you out, you will come and work with me, won’t you” she pleaded.

On leaving Penelope’s, Graham steered Snape towards Lewenden’s Lotions and Potions to buy shampoo, foam bath and soap.  She knew they stocked a range in suitable glazed stone bottles that were a good approximation of the stone containers she had charmed into the illusion of existence in Snape’s bathroom three days earlier.  Lewenden also had a range of soaps that looked like stones.  “I don’t see why I need to bother with this” Snape snapped.  “That plain soap I get from the kitchen has done perfectly well, thank you very mu–”

“Perfectly well?” Graham retorted.  “Severus, look!”  She forced him to a halt outside Flourish and Blotts.  “Look at yourself in the window” she commanded.  “See your hair?  Lustrous and silky.  In perfect condition.  Not hanging in greasy ropes like it always used to.  That’s why you need shampoo; because it reveals your hair’s true beauty.”  She sighed and looked at him in pure exasperation.  “You don’t like to look attractive, do you?” she said, “and yet you can’t bear your clothes to be anything less than immaculate.  What a man of contradictions you are!  And don’t tell me you don’t like lounging in a bath of hot foam, you spend enough time lounging in my bath.  You know it feels good.  And it’s relaxing!”

Snape tried to sneer but it gave way to a sheepish grin as he allowed himself to be dragged into the Lotion Maker’s.

Mr Lewenden the Lotion Maker knew Graham quite well, in fact better it seemed than he knew Snape.  He bid them both good morning and asked how Graham was getting on at Hogwarts.  “Oh, fine thank you” Graham replied.  I’ve been there well over half-a-year now!”

“And how are you, Professor?” Lewenden enquired.  “Don’t often see you here, sir.”

“No … well … I’m after toiletries today” Snape explained.  “It seems eventually one has to stock up.”

“Thought you’d make your own, Professor!  Well I mustn’t talk myself out of a sale must I.  What can I get you?”

“Some things from the Strata range, please” Graham explained.  “Preferably fragrances that are relaxing.  There; I’ve interfered enough – I’ll leave you to it.”

“Yes.  Do!” Snape replied tetchily.

Graham left Snape to make his own choice of fragrances and hoped Mr Lewenden had tablets of soap like the ones she had designed.  She browsed, oblivious of their discrete conversation as Snape carefully selected and paid for his purchases.  He glanced in her direction a few times but she was engrossed in trying on earrings from a conical, velour-covered display stand.  Finally he pocketed his purchases.  “Will Miss Graham require any of those?” he said softly to Mr Lewenden.

“No, Professor.  They’re for pierced ears” the Lotion Maker explained.  “Liz just likes to look at the designs.”

“Very well, thank you.”  Snape then raised his voice.  “When you’re quite ready, Elizabeth” he called acidly “Some of us could do with lunch, or at least a cup of coffee!”

Ohrr, OK; coming” Graham called, pushing a silver drop back into the stand and clattering after him with a hurried goodbye to Mr Lewenden.

They lunched at The Leaky Cauldron.  Snape tried to insist on paying, but Graham was adamant about splitting the bill.  In the afternoon they ordered the carpet and rush matting from Orient and Occident – Flying and Static Carpets and Flooring from Around the World.  They also looked at mirrors in Mallory’s Framing Service.  There was nothing that matched the beauty of Graham’s design so they commissioned a frame to be carved.  Finally, a trawl around All Things Witchy procured squat, yellow, aromatherapy candles, glass dishes in which they would stand and a stone pitcher that Snape could use for rinsing his hair.

“Well, I’m tired and my feet ache” Graham complained as they emerged again into the hot, crowded Alleyway.  “Shall we have an ice cream at Florean’s?”

“Only if I can take care of the bill this time!” Snape insisted.  Graham grinned her thanks.

They sat, chatting over the day’s events, under a large red, blue and yellow umbrella outside Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour; Snape with a knickerbocker glory and Graham with a choco-nut sundae.  They were both very pleased with how things had gone.  Everything was either purchased, or on order to be delivered in a few days time, or commissioned to be made to Graham’s designs.  It was a weary pair of Hogwarts staff that Apparated in the Forbidden Forest at half past five and trudged up to the castle.

*

As Graham busied herself with writing the letters to the new students, Snape’s new bedding arrived the following morning, and the house-elves placed it temporarily in the linen store.  By the weekend Graham had completed her first year letters and was starting on those for the returning students, and the cleaning of Snape’s room had been completed.  The rug arrived on the following Monday and the upholstery and bathroom mirror were delivered on Friday 24th.  Snape’s refurbished room was ready for occupation before the end of July.

Dumbledore was delighted.  Snape had mixed feelings.  He was exceedingly glad to recover his personal territory, but suddenly it seemed less easy to lay claim to Graham’s attentions and he wanted those attentions every night.  Would he now have to seek her ‘permission’?  With something of a heavy heart Snape wandered into her bathroom on the Monday morning to collect his toothbrush and razor.  Elvira the sprite peeped down at him from the rim of her water lily flower but she was, as ever, too nervous to speak to him.  He wandered back to the bedroom and stood looking out of the window.

Graham was already up.  She had risen some time earlier, gone for her run and Snape guessed she was probably in her office working on her cash flow calculations.  He wondered if the post had arrived…

Suddenly the door opened and Graham pattered in, a box in her hands.  “Severus!  You angel!  You didn’t have to” she exclaimed.

She put the box on the bed, turned and gave him a deep, passionate kiss, and then grabbed the box again and disappeared into the bathroom.  Snape strolled over and stood in the bathroom doorway, watching her unpacking shampoo, foam bath, shower gel and soap.  “Well, I thought I’d used enough of yours” he explained.

Amongst the toiletries was a gift wrapped object.  The glitzy wrapping revealed a bottle of Enchanter’s Kiss, a perfume by Thierry and Laurent Lavoisier, the famous Parisian wizard perfumerers.  Enchanter’s Kiss was their latest expensive creation.  It has been launched in the previous December and was much praised in witches’ glossy magazines.  Graham was delighted, and was already trying it on.

“I think you’re probably worth it” Snape remarked dryly.  “You have been rather good to me lately.  Have you had your breakfast?”

“No.  Have you?”

“No.  Shall we go?”

“Wait; do I smell good?”

“Be patient, witch, and I’ll show you how good – tonight” he murmured.

They ambled down to the Great Hall.  “What time did Lewenden’s owl arrive?” Snape asked.

“There were two owls carrying that box” Graham replied.  “I got to my desk at half seven and they were waiting on the platform.  Then the Gringotts’ owl arrived and within a few seconds two more turned up with post for Minerva and Albus.  There was a bit of a tussle and a lot of frantic tapping on the access hatch.”

At breakfast Dumbledore announced that he and McGonagall had made a decision about the Defence Against the Dark Arts vacancy.  “We have offered it to Fleur Delacour” he said “And she has accepted.  She arrives at the end of August – Friday 28th.”

Blast! Snape thought.  Dumbledore saw his expression.  “You look less than happy, Severus.  Do you not approve of our decision?”

“I’m sure she’ll do the job perfectly well, Headmaster” Snape replied in his driest voice.  Well, well Severus! he thought.  This will put you to the test.  Will this spell the end of your relationship with Lizzy?  Because at some point you are going to make an idiot of yourself in front of the delectable Fleur and upset one of the witches – or possibly both of them!  But, if you’re clever, perhaps you can have both of them.  Tricky.  Ambitious – certainly for you!  But… who knows…?  Inwardly Snape smiled and a fierce gleam lit his eyes.  Carefully he turned his attention to his breakfast.

That night he and Graham went for a drink at the Three Broomsticks.  They sat in the garden, at a secluded table.  It was a warm evening but from time to time there was a rumble of thunder.

“You don’t seem too happy about this Fleur Delacour witch” Graham remarked.  “What do you know about her?”

“She was here briefly three years ago” Snape explained sadly.  “She was Beauxbaton’s Triwizard Champion.  She is, I’m sure, a very accomplished witch.”

“And what is she like?”

“Very slim” he said thoughtfully.  “Beautiful.  Cold.  Unfriendly.  Proud.  Probably quite insufferable.”

“Oh; quite like you then” Graham replied coolly.

Snape gave her a careful look.  “I don’t qualify as beautiful” he replied acidly.

“Hmm, you say she’s beautiful” Graham pondered.  “You mean you fancy her.”

Snape gave a short barking laugh.  “Close, but no cigar” he sneered.  “Miss Delacour is part Veela!”  He raised his eyebrows as Graham’s face took on a knowing look.  “Yes, exactly.  And she isn’t a student any more.  Nor do I have Voldemort’s threatened presence to distract me.  Nor am I quite the inexperienced, angst-ridden cretin I was before you laid hands on me!  So if at some point you catch me acting like a total moron in her presence, I can only apologise now.  I know I’m going to make a fool of myself at some stage during the year.  I expect I’ll get my face slapped; by her and then by you!  I don’t know which unnerves me most – the thought of hurting you, or the thought of humiliating myself.”

“I don’t have any claims on you, Severus” Graham said with complete sincerity.

“That’s not the point” he snapped.  “You are a good friend.  You cannot imagine what a difference you have made to my life.”

“I’m a Hufflepuff” Graham reminded him.  “And I haven’t forgotten you’re a Slytherin.  Stop worrying, and just accept that you’re human.  And we’re different.  I will always be here for you.”  She reached out and gave his hand a brief squeeze.  “By the way, you don’t have to move your stuff out of my bathroom.  You can keep a spare razor and toothbrush in there if you like.”  Seeing his hesitant look, she added “Don’t get the wrong idea, I’m not going to start barging into your room.  I won’t enter it except whenever I have express permission.  But you may always enter my room.  You know the password – chameleon.  The room will not be sealed against you.”

“But…  But, this isn’t…”

“Just accept, the rules are not symmetrical.  Strange, that seems to worry you.”

“I don’t understand it?” he replied suspiciously.

“So…?  Does that matter?”

“I suppose I don’t trust it.”

“Well, that’s the Slytherin in you” she said emphatically.  There was a loud rumble of thunder.  Large raindrops began to splatter on their table.  “Perhaps we had better go” Graham suggested.  “It’s getting late anyway, and haven’t we got position one-million-and-fifty-two of the Karma Sutra to try out tonight?”

Snape gave her his half-shy wolfish grin and they drained their drinks.

***

Snape sat up in the darkness.  Beside him, in the four-poster bed Graham stirred in her sleep.  “What day is it?” he murmured.

“Hmmm?”  Graham turned over, trying to get comfortable.  The evening storm had helped to make the weather less humid but the night was still warm.  She slid her arm across to Snape and then woke up as she realised he was no longer lying flat down beside her.  “Wha’samadder?” she asked.  “Did you say what day is it?”

“Yes.”

“What time is it, more like.”  She lit her wand and looked at her watch.  “Severus, it’s ten-to-four!  Don’t you ever sleep?”

Snape didn’t answer.  He was thinking.  At the end of every December and every July he made a tour of the Operational Bases to check on his supplies and he realised it was now due again.  Overdue in fact, since he had felt too ill to attempt it in the winter.  He wondered again whether they now fulfilled any useful purpose.  I suppose I’ll have to close them down, he concluded.  Not much point in keeping them going now Voldemort’s no possible threat.  Or is there?  Who knows when they might come in handy again?  A new Dark Lord could arise tomorrow!  Or next week!  That means I’ll have to get the phones to the Ministry for recharging.  I could take Elizabeth with me.  She might enjoy it.  No…  No…  If I need the OBs, they must remain secret.  Pity!

He realised sadly that there would always be a part of his life he couldn’t share.  He though about the spy story Graham had recently finished reading to him.  Is that why Ann and Smiley’s marriage really ran into difficulties? he wondered.  The loneliness?  The not being a full part of his life?  He sighed, knowing he had the same difficult personality – a paradoxical mixture of a need for human love and a need for being left alone.

Graham ran a fingernail down his forearm.  “Are you OK?” she whispered.

“Yes” he replied.  “Just thinking.”

“Severus” she said “Have you ever seen the sun rise out of the sea?”

“No, I don’t believe so.  Why?”

“If we got up now we could be at the coast in time to see it.”

“That’s a typically potty, romantic idea” he replied acidly.  “Only a witch could dream that up.”

“Lets’ do it!  Let’s go down to Beachy Head.”

“Where?”

“It’s in Sussex.  Come on.  You can’t sleep.  We can watch the sunrise, have a snooze and then find some breakfast.  Then we can walk on the beach and find some of those stones!  Come on.”

“Oh, very well.  If we must.  But it’ll be freezing cold!”

“We’ll wrap up.  Come on.  I’ll leave a note for Minerva.  She’ll see to my Gringotts owl.  She won’t mind.”

In less than half an hour they were setting off for the Forbidden Forest, dressed rather alike in jeans and sweatshirts over, in Snape’s case a shirt, and in Graham’s case a T-shirt.  Graham had a fleece jacket over her sweatshirt and a rucksack slung across her back.  She was dressed in shades of blue, but Snape wore a black sweatshirt over a dark green shirt and his Genie of the Jean jeans were of a military green colour.  He carried a black donkey jacket.

“Are all your clothes black or green?” Graham asked.

“Very nearly” he replied.  “I do possess two pairs of blue Muggle jeans and some navy T-shirts and sweatshirts.  Um, I’ve got some white shirts.  But, yes, most of my clothes are black or green.  My favourite colours.  I prefer wizard robes anyway.”

He held her hand as they Disapparated.  Moments later they were standing on the short grass of the chalk headland just west of the south coast town of Eastbourne, and five-hundred feet below them the sea shlooshed against the chalk cliff.  To their left the sodium street lamps of the seaside town turned the sky a dingy orange, but out to sea it was still dark.  A cold wind wafted their hair.  Snape donned his thick jacket.  “It is cold” he said vehemently.  “Let’s find some shelter.  Are you sure you’re warm enough?”

Rabbits scampered away from their feet as they walked through cowslips, milkwort, birdsfoot trefoil, and knapweed to the shelter of some gorse bushes.

Graham unpacked the rug and charmed it with the Impervius charm to make it waterproof on one side, so that they could sit down comfortably on the damp grass.  They waited for what seemed an eternity as the night sky grew paler; in reality it took not much more than half an hour.  Finally Graham gripped his arm and hissed.  “Hey, it’s happening.”  Together they stood up and watched the sea turning from near black to navy blue.  Particles of light like moon dust began to sparkle across its surface.  The sea’s colour changed smoothly through shades of French navy and Oxford blue as the red-gold sun nudged an edge above the water and worked its way clear of the horizon.  Across the water a broad band of orange-gold stretched towards them like a road.  Snape stood transfixed by the whole process.  Graham smiled.  “Good, isn’t it” she remarked.

Snape shivered.  “Far too early” he moaned.  “The sun should get up later, when it’s warmer.”  He caught her eye and returned her smile.

They sat down again and she produced a flask of hot, fragrant, carrot, coriander and ginger soup.  “Oh, very good” Snape drawled.  “You do seem to have come prepared.”

“I have done this before” Graham pointed out.

Snape sat and gratefully sipped his soup, glad too of the warm cup around which he could wrap his hands.  As he drained his second cup the sea’s colour had become closer to grey than blue, and the light sparkled on its surface like diamonds.

“It’s odd isn’t it” Graham said.  “It always looks as though those little bits of light are above the water rather than on the water.”

They dozed for almost two hours.  When they awoke one or two cars were buzzing by on the road, a few people were out walking their dogs, and a little way inland from them three skylarks were twittering high above.  Graham checked the time and found it to be twenty to eight.  “Shall we get some breakfast?” she suggested.  “We could walk down to one of the hotels or Apparate across to a place I know of in Pevensey.”

Snape opted for an hotel on the understanding that it wasn’t far to walk.  A quarter of an hour’s brisk walk brought them to The Hydro Hotel, a three-star establishment on the edge of Eastbourne near to Meads village.  They strolled into the silent, spacious reception area and up to the young Muggle lady in sage green livery who sat behind the reception desk.

“Good morning.  Can we have breakfast please?” Graham asked, lowering her rucksack to the floor.

“Erm, are you guests here, Madam?” the Receptionist asked.  When they said they were not she seemed unsure about whether they could have breakfast.  The hotel was not full, but she wasn’t sure if it was allowed.

“Do you do afternoon tea?” Snape enquired.

“Yes we do, sir” she replied.

“For non-residents?”

“Oh yes, sir.”

“Then if you would let us in later for tea, surely you will let us in now for breakfast” Snape said, trying hard not to sneer.

There was something irrefutable about this logic and the Receptionist summoned a waiter to show them to the breakfast room.  “Would you like to sit in the conservatory, sir?” the waiter asked.  “It’s quite popular for breakfasts.  The guests like to watch the sunrise.”

“Thank you, that would be delightful” Snape said, and he and Graham exchanged grins and surreptitious nudges as they were directed to a table.

They sat overlooking the croquet lawn, with a view out to sea and the sound of herring gulls squabbling on the Edwardian rooftops.  After a splendid and leisurely breakfast they took a blue and cream double-decker bus along the winding coast road to Cuckmere Haven and then walked across the Exceat Bridge.  Snape was amused by the name of the tavern on the Cuckmere’s west bank – The Golden Galleon.  “We ought to have lunch there and pay in gold galleons” he pointed out.

They walked downstream to the shingle at the River Cuckmere’s estuary and there they both found stones of the type Snape and Graham remembered as children.  Graham stowed a few of the most interesting ones in her rucksack.  At half past ten they turned inland and wandered up the river valley to the village of Alfriston.  The weather had turned very hot and they took off their sweatshirts and tied them around their waists.  The pretty village of Alfriston was, as ever, crowded with people and traffic, but they found a lovely half-timbered inn in which to have lunch.

“Have you thought about when you are going to take the rest of your holiday?” Snape asked, as they munched their way through warm baguettes filled with medium rare roast beef and hot creamed horse-radish.

“No.  Well, I’m taking it mostly in bits and pieces” Graham explained.  “The past few afternoons have been half days and today is a full day.  While you were ill, Albus and Minerva let me be totally flexible about it.”

Snape lowered his tankard of Somerset cider in alarm. “You don’t mean you treated me in your own time!” he gasped.

“No, no” Graham assured him.  “The treatments were work, and so was working on your room, and going to Diagon Alley.  But the picnic was holiday.  I don’t normally go away on holiday.  I had that week with Guy and Laura because I don’t see so much of them now I’m at Hogwarts.  I get on well with Laura as you know, and Gaius is OK now all that argument about the will is sorted out.  But normally, I’m very happy to holiday at home and just pop to London for a few hours or pop anywhere for a few hours.  What about you?”

“I don’t go away on holiday” Snape admitted.  “Apart from Diagon Alley, I never want to be anywhere much except Hogwarts.  Impromptu days out like this are most enjoyable, but as you know I’m happy reading or walking the Forest or playing chess.”

“I’m quite happy working in the mornings” Graham said, “doing the cash and the correspondence, and having the afternoons off to do what ever I want.  Maybe when I’ve been at Hogwarts a bit longer I’ll appreciate taking a long break away from it, but at the moment it’s very special.  I’m not used to servants to wait on me, supply my meals and clean my room.  I actually have far more leisure time at Hogwarts than I had before.”  She drained her tankard and stood up.  “Another cider?” she asked.

After lunch they visited the Clergy House, a fourteenth century thatched Wealden “hall house” that in 1896, was the first property to be acquired by the National Trust.  They toyed with the idea of walking to St Michael’s Church at the nearby village of Berwick, to look at the wall paintings by Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell, but they were just too tired, and decided that visit would have to wait for another time.  So from Alfriston they walked a short distance upstream to Disapparate from a quiet spot amongst some blackthorn bushes a little way short of the A27 trunk road.

When they returned to the castle Snape allowed Graham to charm the collection of stones into an artistic heap beside his bathroom wash basin.  “Oh, very Tate Modern!” he said scathingly, but he was secretly rather pleased.

That night they lay in bed and reviewed the day.  “Now that against my better judgement you have dragged me out to see the sunrise over the sea” Snape murmured, “I will have to insist you accompany me to see the moonlight on the sea.  Hopefully sometime soon, while this fine weather lasts.  The Tolkienish, elvish moonlight” he whispered, winding a finger in her hair.  Elizabeth, have you ever been to the Farne Islands?”

“I see I’m not the only one to have potty, romantic ideas” Graham replied.  “Elvish moonlight has got to rate as – hey, hang on, wasn’t it starlight, anyway?  A Elbereth Gilthoniel, silivren penna miriel.  Ouch!” she exclaimed.  (Snape, piqued as ever by her ability to quote literature accurately, had wound his finger tight and pulled.)  “Anyway, to answer your question – no, I’ve never been to the Farne Islands.  But I have read bits about Lindisfarne and the Northumbrian Renaissance.  I’d love to go.”

Snape was delighted and he determined that, weather permitting, they should make the trip at the next full moon.  He wondered whether they might find a small deserted island on which to spend the night.  “So you want to make love by moonlight now” Graham said.  “You’re keen on these outdoor romps aren’t you.  I suppose you want me to turn the tartan rug into a tiger skin.  Or do you have visions of tethering me to a rock?”

Although he wouldn’t be drawn by the last two comments, Snape admitted surprisingly readily that he was keen on outdoor lovemaking, and partly because he rather enjoyed the slim risk of being discovered.  However when Graham went on to ask him what his favourite sexual position was, Snape fought shy of answering.  What do I tell her? he wondered.  Do I yet know?  Maybe I do.  I like her on top because it seems to absolve me of responsibility.  I like to take her from behind because it seems vaguely wicked.  I like anal because of its bestial quality and because it feels different.  I like her to give me oral because it seems an abuse and it has a dimension of master / slave about it.  No, I surely can’t tell her that!  Surely wizards don’t talk to witches as frankly as that.  I like the conventional position too – to lie in her arms and feel enfolded, feel cared for.  And I like the fact that she never complains when, afterwards, I fall asleep on top of her.  No, I can’t tell her yet.  Maybe in years to come I can, and maybe when we’ve made more discoveries together.

If she lets me…  I think she will…  Yes, I’m certain she will.  If I’m clever… which I am.

Review

 

Author's Note: The Golden Galleon Tavern (which has now been renamed simply as The Golden Galleon), the Hydro Hotel, the Clergy House at Alfriston, and St Michael’s Church at Berwick all have a basis in fact and the East Sussex geographical details are accurate.

Chapter Seventeen- As Though of Hemlock I had Drunk

The following morning Snape spent an hour in Dumbledore’s office.  They discussed what to do about the Operational Bases and Dumbledore agreed with Snape’s idea of keeping them active.  Dumbledore also wanted to know whether Snape felt well, and to be sure he was happy with his refurbished room.

“I am perfectly well now, Headmaster” Snape assured him.  “I am extremely happy with my room.  I know I am not good at saying so, but I am very grateful for the care I have been given, from you and from Poppy, and from Elizabeth of course.  Elizabeth is a good friend.”  He noticed Dumbledore’s expression.  “Yes, a friend” he confirmed.  “An intimate friend, I don’t deny, but a friend.  No more.  I am not inclined to marry.  Too set in my ways, perhaps.  Too independent; self-sufficient.”

Elizabeth accepts this?” Dumbledore asked sharply.  “She understands this?”

“She does” Snape confirmed.  “Headmaster” he asked carefully, “whose daughter is she?”

Dumbledore’s eyes took on a hard, penetrating look.  “Why should you want to know that?” he enquired.

Elizabeth said her mother was a poor Muggle” Snape replied.  “A single parent.  Yet someone paid her Hogwarts fees.  She’s the daughter of a wizard, isn’t she.  A wealthy wizard.  Does she know?”

“This is no concern of yours, Severus” Dumbledore replied sharply.  “Indeed, you have just made it clear you and she are only friends.  I just might possibly feel inclined to say something about this to a prospective husband, but not to a colleague, not even to a friend.”

“So you do know” Snape concluded bitterly.  For a moment his lips curled angrily.  Then he put his next question.  “Is she your daughter?”

“If you wait for an answer to this, you will wait in vain” Dumbledore replied, his voice icy.

“But if Elizabeth asked, you would I hope be honest with her!” Snape growled.

For less than a second the Headmaster stopped in his tracks.  He knew that Marcellus had told Graham who her natural father was, and that psychologically she had reached some accommodation about his refusal to acknowledge her.  Graham had had to make other such adjustments about subsequent unhappy aspects of her life.  She now chose never to speak of her father, and with that in mind Dumbledore decided upon his response to Snape.  “I would” he replied.  “She has never asked.  Do you intend to incite her to do so?”

Snape lowered his face and finally shook his head.  “No” he sighed.  He stood up; his anger ebbing away.  “Perhaps we had better leave it there, Headmaster” he said sadly, and he walked slowly towards the door.  He looked back and made up his mind.  “It isn’t you!” he said in a tone of flat certainty.

“You are suddenly very sure of that” Dumbledore replied.

“You would not have left them both so poor” Snape decided.

The Headmaster smiled through his sadness and nodded his head.  “You have not lost your powers of deduction, Severus” he observed.

Snape left his office deep in thought.  He knows who it is, he fumed.  He will never divulge it.  Presumably her father does not want to acknowledge Elizabeth.  I get the impression Albus disapproves, but feels he must be loyal to the father.  Yet he takes care to protect Elizabeth.  Perhaps the father is dead.  Yet somehow I don’t think so.  If he was someone notorious – a Death Eater for example – he wouldn’t worry about my knowing that.  Perhaps it’s more personal.  A member of his family maybe?  I wonder…

Snape left the puzzle of Graham’s parentage and went to find Pomfrey.  He sat in her office and graciously accepted a beaker of chamomile tea.

“Your definitely better now, aren’t you” Pomfrey observed.

“I am” Snape said.  “I’m here to say thank you, Poppy.  You saved my life.”

“Nonsense.”

“Oh, but you did!” Snape insisted.  “You pumped me out in time.  The Headmaster informed me.  The medics told him.”

“We can’t afford to lose you, Severus” she said with a half-embarrassed smile.  “By the way, the school will be keeping that massage table.  Albus has struck a deal with the MLE medical team.  When Elizabeth has done with it – that is, when you’ve finished with it – it will come here to the hospital wing.”

They chatted for a while and then Snape went in search of Graham and of lunch.

It was a wet afternoon so they went to her room.  Snape thought he might read to her.  “What would you like?” he asked.

“Mmm?  Something poetic” Graham decided.

“Something poetic…”  Snape though for a while and then, without a book to read from, he began in a slow and measured voice to recite…  “The curfew tolls the knell of parting day, the lowing herd winds slowly o’er the lea, the ploughman homeward plods his weary way, and leaves the world to darkness… … and to me…  Thomas Grey” he announced.  Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard.  Or… what about…?  My heart aches… and a drowsy numbness pains my sense… as though of hemlock I had drunk…  Do you like John Keats?”

Graham sat transfixed, unable to reply.  Snape’s voice was so mellow and soft.  “Wow!” she said at last.  “Yes, I do…  Err… let’s think, let’s think…  Much have I travelled in the realms of gold…”

She dug out a small, blue-covered book that turned out to be Francis T. Palgrave’s Golden Treasury of Songs and Lyrics.  “I bought this on my tenth birthday” she said.  “From Foyle’s, in the Charring Cross Road.  First time I’d been to Foyle’s.  Anyway.  Yes, I like Keats, Shelley, Byron, Wordsworth…  But quite honestly, Severus, if you recited the phone book you could make it sound wonderful!  Choose anything you like.  But if you want me to choose something, let’s have On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer and then Ozymandias of Egypt.”

When Snape was weary of reading, Graham began reading him John Buchan’s The Thirty Nine Steps.

After dinner they walked to Hogsmeade with Flitwick and Hagrid for a drink at the Three Broomsticks.  The rain had stopped and drips fell from the trees bordering the lane.  The foliage smelt delicious in the warm evening air.

The following morning while Graham worked, Snape began the rounds of the OBs.  It took him three days in all to finish them, working on the mornings of Thursday, Friday and the following Monday.  He found it a wearing job.  It took far less time for Graham to finish reading him The Thirty Nine Steps and after a day’s rest she started on Greenmantle, the second book in John Buchan’s ‘Richard Hannay’ series.  Picking up her ancient little Penguin paperback to glance ahead, Snape spotted the word caravanserai in one of the chapter titles.  “Good lord!” he exclaimed.  “The Rescue Squad Officer who thought of that for a code word must be a John Buchan fan.  I meant to look that word up; I’ll do so now.”

***

With the despatch of her returning students’ letters completed, Graham had a fairly idle August stretching before her.  As activity at the school was at its minimum there was hardy any post and the cash flow task took negligible time.  Consequently Snape and Graham had the rest of the summer virtually to themselves.  On the night spanning the seventh and eighth of August they carried out their plan to visit the Farne Islands to see the moonlight on the sea.  And later in the month they spent a sunny and breezy day walking the Malvern Hills in Worcestershire; but most of their time was taken up with pottering in the school grounds and the Forbidden Forest, or strolling to Hogsmeade, or flying off around the mountains for secluded picnics.

Snape completed his mental and physical recovery during the summer.  When the new academic year began he was in better shape than he had been in decades, in fact better in some ways than when he had first joined the Death Eaters.  Dumbledore was relieved to see that Snape now looked more like a wizard of forty-two than a worried wreck of eighty.

Gradually Snape learned to believe and trust in Graham’s understated devotion.  When on rare occasions he lazed alone in his bedchamber, propped up with pillows and cushions as he completed a crossword, he would sometimes look at the Latin verses she had chosen.  Well, a ‘fair and gentle mistress’ I do indeed have, he mused, though I am not ‘her slave’.  ‘There are more beauties, but there's none like thine.  There are more versed, but thou hast only mine…’  Yes, Elizabeth, you are the only one to judge me to be handsome, and surely no one else will ever commit such a notion to verse!

The beautiful Fleur Delacour arrived at the end of August and competently took up the reins of Professor of Defence Against the Dark Arts.  When, as they assembled for dinner, McGonagall performed the introductions Snape steeled himself against the inevitable onslaught of Delacour’s powers of attraction, and found he was not too severely aroused by her presence.  She’s going to be as cold and unfriendly as ever, he sighed gratefully.  It’s almost a pity Rookwood isn’t here, I’d have liked to have seen how he fared in the exquisite ice-maiden’s environment.  Across the Hall, Snape caught sight of Graham watching his slightly flushed but guarded reaction to Delacour.  She grinned mercilessly at him, and he glared furiously back.  “You bitch!” he mouthed silently to her when the opportunity presented itself.  He strolled past her chair at the end of dinner and bent down to her left ear.  “I’ll have to discipline you for that later, Madam!” he whispered in his baritone purr.

“Mmm, I do hope so” Graham murmured back, without looking up at him.

* * *

A knocking at Snape’s bedchamber door at five o’clock on the afternoon of Friday 30th October drew an angry snarl from the Potions Master.  He was looking forward to a relaxing bath at the end of the week’s classes.  This had better not be some wretched student, he fumed.  He opened the door to find a house-elf holding out a squashy parcel.  “Oh!  Thank you” he mumbled in surprise.  “Err, please wait.”

He pulled off the silver ribbon and dark green wrapping paper to reveal a luxurious bathrobe in fluffy creamy-white towelling.  There was also a pair of flat mule slippers, again in creamy-white towelling.  Both robe and slippers were made from unbleached, organic cotton, and had a guaranteed unbreakable ‘permanent fluffy pile’ charm.  Amidst the clothing was a note on a small piece of parchment:

I know it’s not your birthday until tomorrow, but I though you would prefer to receive this here instead of having it delivered rather publicly at breakfast.

Happy Birthday, Severus

Lizzy

There was no term of endearment and no birthday card, but none was needed.  You clever girl, Snape said to himself, You clever, discrete witch!  I wonder when you birthday is?  He regarded the house-elf.  “Please find Miss Graham and tell her from me ‘thank you very much – your gift is ideal and your timing impeccable’.  Have you got that?”

The elf assured him that he had, and disappeared with a faint pop, to deliver the message.

Snape tried on the robe and slippers and found them to be a perfect fit and very comfortable.  He lit an aromatherapy candle, filled the bath with warm and foamy water, undressed, climbed in and lay back for an hour’s doze.  May you always love me, Lizzy, he said to himself, and may I never quite deserve you.

* * *

On the evening of the Hallowe’en Feast Graham took her usual seat near to Hagrid.  Recalling his recent weekend trip to France, she gave him a penetrating look.  “I meant to ask you, Rubeus” she enquired, “how did your meeting with Olympe go?”

“Not bad” Hagrid replied, sounding quite optimistic.  “We gettin’ on a lot better agen, now.  She’s asked me ter drop by at Christmas, if I get time.”

“You will get time, won’t you” Graham said.

“Yeah” he agreed, nodding determinedly.  “Yeah, course I will.”

“Good.  Perhaps you and I could go shopping before your next trip” Graham ventured.  “Maybe help you choose a new suit.”

“Would yer?” Hagrid asked, amazed.  “What, jus’ you an’ me?  Professor Snape wouldn’t mine, would ’e?”

Graham laughed.  “Professor Snape and I are friends, Rubeus” she said firmly.  “He doesn’t own me.  Nor do I own him.  No” she assured him, “he won’t mind.”  She grinned, and her eyes twinkled with a sudden craftiness.  “You watch him” she whispered impishly.  “Keep an eye on him this year.  See how he gets on with Fleur.”

“Wha’?”

“Yeah.  Sev and Fleur” she whispered.  “Don’t say anything to anyone.  Just keep watch.”

Hagrid sneaked a look along the table.  Then he glanced quickly back.  He shrugged.  “Yer don’ mine, then?” he observed.

Graham arched an eyebrow in reply.  “Severus is my best friend” she explained.  “But, never forget he’s the Head of Slytherin House.”

Hagrid grinned back at her and slowly shook his head in disbelief.

Unaware of their conversation Snape looked over the sea of eager, shining students’ faces in the Great Hall.  Under a ceiling of twinkling stars and dark massing clouds, the Hall was resplendent with fluttering black bats and hollowed, flame-filled pumpkins carved into grotesque faces.  The tables groaned under the weight of the scrumptious feast.

Snape’s new intake of Slytherins were, as he had sadly suspected, nothing special.  There were no budding Malfoys and certainly no Tom Riddles nor even any Rookwoods.  This year’s Griffindors also showed no one of the calibre of Potter, Granger, or the Weasleys.  Aside from the crazy Creevey brothers who were now in their seventh and fifth years, and with Hufflepuff’s Geoffrey Branstone as Head Boy and Gryffindor’s Ginny Weasley as Head Girl, the staff were likely to find this a relatively uneventful year.

Perhaps that’s best, Snape thought.  These past seven years have been an awful strain.  I need to be able to wind down, and be content with nothing more challenging than giving my House as many points as I can, and taking as many as I can from the others.  And letting Slytherin’s Quidditch tactics outrage Minerva.

He glanced to his right.  Beyond the inscrutable Rea Sinistra, Fleur Delacour sat in typically chilly silence, her face half hidden by her sheet of shining silver-blonde hair.  She was indeed an accomplished witch and as beautiful as he had remembered, but also – at least, so far, in her dealings with him – as cold and unkindly.

Snape looked to his left.  Across the room and around the table’s corner from Hagrid, Graham sat in happy conversation with the half-giant.  Snape noticed that she still had the ability to balance any residual inner sadness with perky jollity, and nothing threatened to overturn the genuine warmth of her personality, nor the steadfast nature of her character.  Friend to all and lover to me, Snape mused.  There is nothing else I need.  Perhaps in years to come a new Dark Power will arise and I will take a part in fighting it.  I will be ready by then.  Voldemort is truly behind me now.  I have achieved what Albus, through a long life and several tough battles, knows only too well how to attain – a measure of equanimity.

The End

Review

 

Home - Part 1 - Part 2  -