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Villain of the Piece

Part 2  Youthful Indiscretions

- Chapter  32 -

Chapter 32:   Silk and Satin

11th to 28th June 1980

For the rest of that week Severus concentrated on getting his life into order.  Firstly he visited Voldemort at the Malfoys’ mansion to give him the good news that Dumbledore had promised him a teaching job from the September of 1981.  Voldemort was not pleased at the delay but he was glad to have secured one Death Eater placement at Hogwarts.  He was also preoccupied with the trials and with his own battle situation – in a skirmish with Aurors, Evan Rosier had almost been caught and had run away, and Dorcas refused to say where he might be hiding, which pleased the Dark Lord not at all.

Things had become so tense that Severus was glad to leave Wilshire and set off for London again, even though it was only to his humble lodging-house room.  The need to run back to it gave him an appreciation of how Evan might be feeling, and he wondered where he might be hiding.  He considered trying to contact Amycus or Regulus to ask if they had news of Evan, but steered clear of doing so because unless asked to act under Dumbledore’s direct instructions he wanted to put a bit of distance between himself and the other Death Eaters and the activities of the Dark Side generally.  So instead of sniffing out rumour of Evan he decided on other things to fill the last two days of his holiday.

On the Thursday he visited his mother again and stayed overnight at Snarebeck, and on the Friday evening he called at Honor’s flat, having first spent the day in Muggle London, shopping.

Honor couldn’t disguise the fact that she was pleased to see him.  She was also intrigued by his gift when he gently pulled a pocket of his robe inside out and a small heap of audio cassettes clattered onto the scrubbed, pine table.

“What are these?” she asked.  “The Beatles?  Simon and Garfunkel?  Where did you get these?  Oh, Charles Aznavour – ‘She’ – I love that one!  These are great!”

And so having spent a delightful weekend with Honor, Severus set off for Nobody’s Perfect on Monday morning, feeling very self-satisfied.  His relationship with his girlfriend was repaired, his long-term future was as secure as he could make it, and he was still a trusted Death Eater, highly valued by Voldemort and Lucius, and looked up to by the lesser members of the Dark Side.  Now at last life was starting to give him the recognition he wanted.  When he collected his day’s caseload from Tanya he saw a letter from Bertrand Rackharrow amongst the papers.

“What’s this?  Have I got my cards?” he asked, half-joking and half serious.

“Hardly” Tanya said.  “We’ve all had that letter – it’s details about the move.  There’s a model of the new clinic in Rackharrow’s office.  You can inspect it if you book a time.  Just ask Doreen.”

He took a look at the three-dimensional model at lunchtime.  It was of a Neoclassical house called Wychenden Hall and it was beside a small forest and near to Ludlow.  It faced north so the rear gardens were in full sun.  The front and the east wing were designated as part of the clinic but the western wing was marked private and had a separate entrance that connected with a lane winding away into deciduous woodland labelled Wychelm Woods.  In the wide parterre between the wings of the house shrubbery was indicated; tall shrubbery designed to screen one wing from another.

“That’s the owner’s end” Doreen explained, tapping a quill on the roof of the west wing.  “That’ll be totally cut off from the clinic.  Even the garden’ll have a hedge across the middle.  This formal planting will be dug out, their side, and be changed for informal shrubs.  Our side’ll be a herb garden, a bit like an old physic garden.  In keeping with us being a clinic.  Should look good.”

“What’s the latest on when we move?” Severus asked her.

“We should be in by Christmas” she replied.  “Bertie said contracts have been signed but not yet exchanged.  After that it’ll take a month to completion.  And then there’s the fitting out to do – getting it into shape for us.  So Bertie reckons Christmas should see us installed.  It’ll be great, won’t it.”

Yes, he decided, it did look rather nice.  It wouldn’t cure the innate monotony of the work, but he noticed that the staff facilities included a canteen, a rest room, and access to the garden.  His last few months at Nobody’s Perfect should be an improvement on the previous two years.

He almost wished that he could tell Honor, but having made so much of the fact that his job was hush-hush and delicate, and therefore having let her think it was a Ministry job, he felt silly about telling her the truth, so he decided to continue to keep quiet about it.  He expected to see her at the weekend and was surprised when he called on Friday night and got no reply.  As he stood at the Honor’s door, patiently waiting, footsteps sounded on the stone steps that led down from the main front door to the street.

The footsteps were Axel’s, and he turned, peering round at Severus in the gloom of the basement doorway.  “She’s out” he called.

“Do you know when she’ll be back?”

“No idea.”

“Do you know where she’s gone?”

“At that uncle of hers, I beliff.”

“Where is that?”

“No idea.”

Severus didn’t believe him.  He watched the wizard stride off up the road, his hands thrust into the pockets of a bomber jacket, and on a moment of impulse Severus decided to follow.  But Axel might have guessed he would do that because he made to cross the road, walked behind a parked Morris Marina and didn’t appear at the other side of it; he had Disapparated.

Cursing him, Severus returned to Honor’s front door, then he set aside his misgivings and Apparated inside.

The flat was dark, all the curtains were closed.  A new television stood in the corner of the main room.  Out of curiosity he switched it on and found a tolerable comedy programme, so he sat in Honor’s armchair and watched it.  An hour later he was still watching.  The comedy programme had given way to a film; and, feeling hungry, Severus had helped himself to bread, cheese and pickles, and a bottle of Stella Artois to go with them.  When Honor got home soon after ten o’clock he was wiping a crust of bread around his plate to mop up the last of the Branston.  Her owl was keeping him company and the table was littered with owl treats as well as crumbs.

There was a click as she snapped on the electric light, and her wand was pointing at him.

“Honor, dear!  At last” he exclaimed, wondering how angry she would be to see that he had ‘broken in’.

“You’ve made yourself at home” she observed.  The tone was distinctly chilly.

“Ah, yes.  Well, you were a long time and I felt a bit peckish.  I’ll replace these things tomorrow.  Hope you don’t mind.”

“You’ve got a nerve.”  But she was starting to smile; all was retrieved.  “You want coffee now, I suppose.”

“Well, that would be nice–”

“Well, you can make it then.  You know where everything is.”

He took the hint and tidied up, returning the owl to his perch in the bedroom.  Honor, meanwhile, trotted to and fro, and when she settled in her chair, ready for her coffee, she was wearing a new silk dressing gown.

“I got you this” she said, holding up a knee-length pyjama coat in black satin.

It has a green dragon embroidered across the back, and some Japanese characters at the left shoulder on the front.  Severus felt the satin – the quality was good.

“It’s beautiful” he said, impressed.  Then his attention turned to her.  “What have you got under here–?”

“Severus–!”

“Ah, a silk nightdress.  Well, I hope we don’t slide out of bed.  Sorry – was my hand cold?”

Honor was laughing.

“Do you know what these characters stand for?” he added, examining the shoulder motif of his new gift.  “I don’t know Japanese.”

“Nor do I” Honor said.  “They are supposed to say ‘Lord of the Night’.  But I bet they don’t – I bet they say ‘King Dick’ or some such thing.  Anyway, I thought it was better than you sleeping with your shirt on…”

 

“Severus” Honor whispered at five o’clock the next morning.

“Mmm?” he replied, not really wanting to be awake.

“How did you find out how to work my telly?”

He chuckled softly.

The room was already as bright as day.  A taxi rattled up, clearly audible through the open window, and deposited a neighbour, who made rather a noisy job of entering the house next door.  On his perch Honor’s owl ruffed his feathers and settled again to sleep, his night’s hunting long over.

Honor rolled onto her stomach and traced a finger through the hair on Severus’s chest.  “Am I going to get an answer?” she asked.

“Well, aside from the fact that the instruction book in on the rack under the television” he sneered, “It was rather obvious.  Anyway, I only had to turn it on and work out how to change channels – I just pressed buttons and watched what happens.  A bit like making love to you, really.”

“Oh, clever dick!”

She wasn’t angry, but she was restless; she got up and took a shower.  When he staggered out of bed half an hour later she was preparing breakfast.  He sat at the kitchen bench and drank a glass of orange juice, trying to wake up.

“Are you alright, Honor?”

“Yeah, well, got things on my mind.”

“Not still cross with me for breaking in yesterday evening–?”

“Good lord, no!” Honor said, whisking up eggs for scrambling.  “No … it’s Benjy.  Remember Benjy?  You met him at my party.  There’s been no sign of him for a while.  It doesn’t feel right.”

“Not another of your ‘disappearances’.  You’re getting paranoid, dear girl.”

“No I’m not” she replied firmly.  “Suddenly Benjy’s just not around.”

“Well, it’s summer … so … gone on holiday, perhaps?” Severus suggested, trying to think of logical explanations.

“No” Honor said blankly.  “Well if he has, he didn’t let his employers know.  Benjy would never do that, though.  He’s very responsible.”

“What does he actually do for a living?”

“Lab work.  He’s my equivalent at the Ministry.”

Somewhere deep inside Severus’s head a warning bell began to ring.  “What is his name?” he asked causally.  “I only know him as Benjy.  But, Benjy what?”

“Fenwick” Honor replied.  “Benjamin Fenwick.  Everyone calls him Benjy…”

* * *

Fenwick – the name was not lost on Severus.  He did not say to Honor that this was probably the same person who had been a member of the Order of the Phoenix, but the coincidence was too great to be mere chance; Benjy Fenwick must be the newly deceased Order Member whom Dumbledore had spoken of.  Should he wheedle his way amongst the Death Eaters again to see what he could learn?

As soon as he had time he called briefly on the Malfoys, ostensibly to see how Narcissa and Draco were faring, but learned nothing more than Draco was gaining weight and looked less pale.  He would not mention ‘Fenwick’ directly in case using the name revealed his special relationship with Dumbledore, or his connection with Honor.  But no mention of Fenwick’s death or of Death Eater activities at the Ministry was made by Lucius; the visit was a total waste of time.  He might as well put the whole matter to the back of his mind and get on with enjoying the summer as best he could.