Chapter 1: St Mungos
Everything hurt. Suddenly and completely, intense aching pain set into his being as his mind came back into consciousness like being doused with a bucket of ice water after stepping from a hot bath. His head throbbed and his eyes stung as he opened them against the dingy light. Severus Snape squinted through the pain to find himself in a small cot surrounded by time-worn curtains dressed only in a simple beige robe. He felt much too exposed, and underdressed. St Mungo’s - he was in hospital. He tried to sit up, and immediately regretted his actions as a wave of vertigo sent him back to the mattress nauseated.
How had he come to be here? He had meant to die. He had wanted to die. He had hoped to die. He strained his memory through the pulsing of his head. His last memory was a pair of large sparkling silvery eyes entering his fading vision as he stared up at the ceiling of the Shrieking Shack. As all feeling drained from his limbs, a metallic taste filling his mouth, and his heart struggled to keep pumping against the lost blood, he embraced the end. Then the strangely familiar eyes leaned closer before all went black.
“Oh, Professor. You are awake,” a soft songlike voice stated from somewhere beside him.
He turned to seek the source and met those very same sparkling silvery eyes. He blinked to find Ms. Luna Lovegood moving closer to his cot. Of all people to be sitting vigil at his bedside, why this one? Although anyone else would have perhaps been equally curious. He suppressed a groan.
He cleared his throat to respond which brought white hot searing pain into his neck that spread into the rest of his being like a lightning bolt, but no voice followed.
“Oh, Sir. Your throat. Try not to speak yet. Your injuries are still fresh.” Her hands hovered over him as though she wanted to touch him but thought better of it. She pulled them back, crossing her arms around her middle, her eyes wide with concern.
He reached his hands up to neck, feeling the thick dressings as the memories of the attack in the Shrieking Shack overwhelmed his thoughts. The Dark Lord, the wand, the snake, Lily’s son, the memories, the life languidly draining from his body, and then the feeling of gentle hands about his injuries and the silvery eyes as the last thing he thought he would see.
The witch rang a bell on the bedside table. “I will notify the Healers you are awake. I’m sure they can help your pain, Sir.”
He took a deep breath, swallowing down the dryness that had collected in his throat. The pain only intensified at this small gesture.
He must have grimaced or otherwise indicated his discomfort because Ms Lovegood leaned in once again and whispered, “Is it bad?” Her eyes focused on his neck.
But why was she here? How had she found him? Did this mean the War was over? How had it ended?
As if reading his thoughts Luna nodded. “We did it, Professor. He’s gone. It is finally over.”
He raised an eyebrow and nodded once.
“Harry did it. He destroyed He Who -- Voldemort, after everyone thought Harry was dead. And Neville beheaded that poor snake. But Harry wasn’t dead, can you believe it? He wasn’t, only the Death Eaters thought he was. And he did it! He surprised us all and --r.”
Of course she felt remorse for the snake. She probably felt the same toward him, some poor creature needing sympathy. She was about to continue but a wizard dressed in Healer green robes pulled back the curtain. “Ah, Mr Snape. So glad to see you awake. It’s been nearly two days since Ms Lovegood and Mr Longbottom brought you to us.”
Severus glanced over at Luna, who nodded in agreement.
“It is late Ms Lovegood.” The Healer turned to the young witch. “You should probably get some rest. I need to evaluate Mr Snape’s injuries.”
“Oh. Of course.” She bowed her head, several strands of her long blonde locks falling down around her shoulders as they came loose from her haphazard bun where she had stored her wand. “I will return in the morning. Good night, Professor.” She stood and nodded to the Healer. “Please, be gentle won’t you? He seems very uncomfortable.”
The Healer nodded in return. “Of course.”
She smiled. “Good night.”
“Good night.” The Healer said before returning his attention back to his patient. “She has been very concerned about you, Professor.”
He scoffed. His head already throbbed, but the pounding intensified. Why would she of all people feel anything but contempt and hatred toward him? She had witnessed and experienced more terrible things than most during her time trapped at Malfoy Manor than any one person should. He swallowed again, trying not to think further on those moments, and his memories were promptly replaced by another intense wave of pain in his throat conveniently pushing the memories out.
“Sir. Your injuries are healing very poorly due to the snake’s venom. I’ve devised an antivenom of sorts, but it takes time to brew. It should be complete in four days as the final ingredient must be gathered fresh under the light of the full moon. I’ve managed to slow it’s progress for now, however.”
He yearned to question the healer further on his antivenom recipe, but preferred to avoid further pain, especially if it were of no value, so only nodded in response. He remembered the Healer from his time at Hogwarts, Augustus Pye. As a student, he had met all expectations and scored O’s in O.W.L and N.E.W.T level potions. Snape supposed he was capable of even a complex antivenom potion as this was likely to require. It was his job after all.
“Now allow me to check these wounds, Sir.”
The healer pulled back the dressings and foul smell wafted up into Severus’s nares. The healer shook his head. “The dittany salves and healing potions are only minimally improving the situation. I fear you will have a nasty scar when this is over, and I am unsure how the deeper tissues will heal.”
Severus nodded again. He understood his former student was telling him he may not regain the use of his voice. As if survival had not been punishment enough.
“This is probably going to be uncomfortable.” The Healer paused and then applied a thick, greasy concoction to his neck.
Snape cringed as the shocking pain moved over him and his nostrils were invaded with the scent of dittany and camphor.
After replacing the thick dressings, the healer handed him three vials. “Wound healing potion, cough suppressant, and pain reliever. Anything else you might want, Sir?”
A swift Avada Kedavra to the chest? He shook his head.
The healer nodded and waved his wand at the odd bubble lights overhead, dimming them. “Good night, Mr Snape.”
Chapter 2: Dismissed
When his eyes opened the following morning, Ms Lovegood sat in the chair beside the bed yet again, a copy of the Prophet in her hand and book in her lap. “There is a very lovely article in here about you today, Professor,” her Irish accented sing-song voice said to him as soon as she noted him awake.
He scoffed and shook his head.
“Do you want me to read it to you?” She paused and looked over at him, her head tilted. “Although, there is probably nothing here you don’t already know, I suppose.” She gave a small smile.
He scowled at her. Why was she here? Why did she care?
“I knew before all this that you were on our side, of course…it made perfect sense. It all fits...”
His eyes snapped to her face to find her eyes wandering about the curtained space as his brow tightened.
She leaned in closer, folding the paper into her lap as she chewed her lower lip. “I suspected it before, at Hogwarts. You know, sending Neville, Ginny, and I to work with Hagrid as punishment for breaking into your office and all.” She laughed. “Hardly even an inconvenience, much less a punishment. I don’t even think you took house points.” She shrugged.
He glanced away. Had he forgotten to take house points? What an unfortunate oversight, not that Gryffindor had any left to give at that point, but certainly Ravenclaw.
Her melodic voice lowered. “I knew then you weren’t the same as the Carrows. We all noticed a line that the Carrows were afraid to cross and I knew it came from you.”
She swallowed, and he looked back to her. “But at Malfoy’s when, when, well... I could see in your eyes that you did not want to be doing it anymore than I did. Different from the others that hurt me before. That is why I didn’t scream, didn’t resist. I...I did not want to make it any worse than it had to be.”
He glared at her for as long as he could stand before looking instead to a point over her shoulder, reminding himself not to speak for fear of being overtaken with pain. She was worried about making her public defiling harder for him, her attacker? He scoffed and looked away. Ridiculous child. She had no idea what was going through his mind then. How dare she even presume to understand the decisions he had to make.
She cleared her throat, drawing his attention back to her wide eyes. “I assumed you had only agreed to do it because you knew the others would have been much worse.”
He nodded but pulled his gaze away from those strange eyes. Perhaps he gave her too little credit. She was an intuitive witch even if a little peculiar.
“It would have been much worse. I know…” she paused and took a deep breath. “Because those men, Rookwood and Rodolphus, told me so when they would come down to the cellar. They described the disgusting things they wanted to do to me in horrid detail if only you had not marked me first. They were angry with you. Very angry..” She reached for his hand, her gentle touch on his palm. “Thank you.” She whispered.
His eyes slowly looked to hers, finding her gratitude reflected back at him. He shook his head. “No,” he croaked out through damaged vocal cords, swallowing back the searing pain, pulling his hand free from hers. “I...am...a ...horrible,” he whispered, having to look away from her knowing gaze.
“No. No you are not. I know what you did. Harry told everyone that you were with us all along. He even told You Know Who. I was there. Without you, we would all be under Lord Voldemort’s rule now.” She hissed as her body stiffened. “Harry never would have been able to do what he did. That is why Neville and I went to the Shrieking Shack to find you. Once we heard the truth, we had to find you. It was not right to leave you there like that. And to find you still alive…” Her breath caught in her throat.
He looked back to her, her eyes now glistening with unfallen tears. She looked as though she had more to say to him, but bit her lower lip as she wrapped her arms about herself and leaned away from him.
“Rather be dead,” he hissed, and his body responded with a fit of agonizing coughing. He sat up and leaned against the headboard while it subsided.
The tears fell from her eyes. “I am very sorry you feel that way, Professor. But you are wrong. You don’t see it now, but you will. It is finally over, and you deserve to celebrate just as much as anyone else. More even.”
As Severus caught his breath, he shook his head. “Why are you here, Ms Lovegood?” He whispered.
She wiped the tears from her face. “Because you should know that someone cares about what happens to you. In fact, many people do. And --”
“You should leave.” He turned away from her, forcing down another coughing spell with clenched teeth as he shut his eyes.
She was silent for a long time, but finally he heard her gather her things. “As you wish, Professor. But I am still grateful for all that you did for me, and for everyone.” She paused, and he thought he heard her suppressing a sob. “Feel better soon, Sir.”
Her footsteps disappeared and then the door to the ward closed. He was alone.
Chapter 3: The Letter
He did not wake to Ms Lovegood or anyone else the following morning, much to his relief. His only interruptions were the twice daily dressing changes and the thrice daily meal trays. Too weak to get out of bed to do anything more taxing than take a piss, wandless, and bookless, his day passed very slowly, leaving him with only his thoughts and his memories, neither of which were especially therapeutic.
Why had Ms Lovegood really felt the need to hold vigil at his bedside? He sensed there was something more to her sudden interest in him than just the fact she had been grateful that he had “protected” her at Malfoy Manor. But no one other than that strange witch could really see what he had done as anything other than heinous.
His body shuddered as the memories involuntarily invaded his thoughts. Try as he might, his mental shields were even weaker than his physical body. He had had to pretend the young witch was one of the buxom bartenders he had once lusted over in Hogsmeade to even complete the evil act; an older, curvier, more willing and more experienced witch and not the half starved, teenage-student he had known since the age of 11 to whom The Dark Lord expected him to teach a lasting lesson about defiance and blood-purity in front of an audience of other Death Eaters. He had managed to do so to the Dark Lord's satisfaction, but just barely. At least they left her alone after that, convinced she had nothing else of value to give.
The taste of acid filled his mouth as his stomach turned. She had not made a sound during the entire encounter, and when he pulled away, her gaze stayed on the darkness out the window, her eyes half closed, her small frame visibly trembling.
When it was over, The Dark Lord smiled upon him and patted his shoulder. When Severus had implied to the gathering he would like permission to have the girl as his own for later use, The Dark Lord granted him exclusive access and forbade any of the others from touching her. “An interesting choice, Severus. But she comes from a long pureblood line and seems... quite compliant now,” the Dark Lord sneered and the room laughed. Severus had forced a laugh as well as he thanked him with a glare toward Rookwood and Lestrange.
The taste of bile replaced the acid as he tried to push back both the memories and the urge to vomit. He was not deserving of any gratitude from anyone, especially the eccentric blonde Ravenclaw to whom he had most certainly done irreparable harm.
He pulled back the beige sleeve of his hospital robe to look down at his left forearm. The Dark Mark had faded, leaving only a crisscross of scars to remind him of what once was.
With a sigh, Severus repositioned himself on the cot, pulling the sheets tight around his frame when he noticed the witch’s copy of The Prophet laid half hidden under the bedside table. He pulled down the stiff linens and grabbed it.
“IN HONOUR OF THOSE LOST TOO SOON,” the headline read. So many faces looked up from the pages, all familiar. Too many faces, too many students. He stared at each in turn, fifty-six in total. The last was his own.
The wizarding world thought he was dead. At least that was some good news. He tossed the paper onto the table and pulled the linens over him once again.
The following morning, his silence was interrupted by another unexpected guest. “How can you be so cruel?” Neville Longbottom shouted at him from the foot of his bed the moment his eyes opened from a potion induced dreamless slumber.
He took a step closer, the healing bruises along his cheekbones now evident. “She has been so worried about you since the moment we found you still barely breathing on the floor of that damn shack. She insisted we apparate despite her state directly here instead of bringing you back to the castle. Insisting on your health and wellbeing above her own. And you can’t even fake a little gratitude?”
He raised an eyebrow. “She is injured?” He forced out barely above a whisper despite the expected slicing pain to his throat. He felt his gut lurch. He had not bothered to ask about her own wellbeing. In fact, he had barely bothered to observe her condition at all. She had been through the battle at Hogwarts. She must have taken some injury.
Neville laughed. “She didn’t tell you? Oh Merlin. I can’t believe she has been sitting at your bedside all this time and still has not told you.” He threw his hands in the air. “No. I can’t be the one. You will find out soon enough. One way or another.” He stepped to the bedside and leaned in close. “But if you hurt her again, I promise you there is a whole line of people waiting behind me that would be happy to show you how we feel about that.”
Severus pinched the bridge of his nose. “I do not know what she wants from me?” He hissed in a loud whisper.
Neville scoffed as he leaned closer. “She doesn’t want anything from you. But for some strange reason, she can't stomach the thought of you being here all alone. Probably the same reason she begged me to come looking for you in the first place. Said it was wrong for you to be left alone there while the rest of the World celebrated a victory you had a hand in or something like that. It’s Luna. Who can really know what goes on in that head of hers?” He threw his arms up as he stepped back.
Severus snorted in response. Who indeed?
“Anyway, she made me come to return this to you. She had planned on doing it herself but was not sure she would be welcome.” Neville set down Severus’s wand on the bedside table. “She’s been extra scattered lately and had forgotten that she found it in the Shack until yesterday.”
Neville Longbottom turned and left the room without another word.
He sighed. He really was a terrible person. Ms Lovegood had meant well, and he could not even fake a bit of gratitude toward her. She had come to tell him something and he shewed her away like a doxy from the drapes.
It only now occurred to him that she must have returned to Hogwarts to fight after her escape from Malfoy’s Manor even after everything she had been through. Even after her father being sent to Azkaban and her friends being put in exile or tortured by the Carrows. Even after the abuse she’d suffered at the Manor, at his hands and others. She did not have to return. She had already done enough, but she had.
He groaned to drown out the growing discomfort deep in his chest. He rang the bell at the bedside table and a nurse-witch responded a minute later. “Yes, Mr Snape?”
“I need to write a letter,” he whispered.
Within a minute, the witch returned with a quill, a bottle of ink, and some parchment. “Breakfast will be ready shortly. I can pick up your letter when I bring in your tray.”
As she left, he swung his legs over the edge of the cot and pulled over the bedside table.
Ms Lovegood. My apologies.
He paused. What else was there to say? I don’t know why you care? You should not waste your energy? Find something better to do with your time? I am not worth it? The world thinks I am dead, why don’t we leave it at that?
Y our concern for my well being is difficult for me to understand but never-the-less appreciated.
Was that true? Appreciated may be too strong a word. A better word might be acknowledged, but that felt too hollow.
He reread the brief note and decided anything else would be too much. He folded it over and placed Luna Lovegood’s name on the front. He only hoped an owl would be able to locate her as he actually had no idea where she might be staying. He knew her father’s home had been destroyed the afternoon that Death Eaters had been summoned there in hopes of capturing Harry Potter. He had no idea where she might have spent the time between her escape from Malfoy Manor and her return to Hogwarts. Would she have returned there now or perhaps she is staying with friends elsewhere?
He set the letter on the table and kicked his feet back into bed. Even the short amount of time upright seemed to drain him of most of his energy and send his head swimming. He sighed and laid his head back onto his pillow to stare up at the ceiling. He was a terrible person, but perhaps he could be less so.
Chapter 4: Her Secret
To his surprise and vexation, Ms Lovegood once again greeted him as soon as his eyes opened the next morning. “Good morning. I hope you slept well.” Her long fair hair was again tangled up with her wand in a pile on top of her head. She wore a Ravenclaw blue jumper over a pair of brightly patterned trousers and some sort of cork hanging on a beaded necklace around her neck. Her eyes were as wide and dreamy as ever as she looked to him for a response.
He grumbled out a weak “Morning,” and pushed himself into a seated position.
She held his letter in her hand and smiled brightly at his words. She must be staying nearby. Was it because of him? He hoped not.
“How are you feeling, Sir?” She leaned in.
“Still too early to tell,” he whispered, noting the slight throb in his head and the gnawing burn in his throat.
She laughed. “Of course. I will ask you again in a bit then. Can I get you anything?”
He shook his head as he inspected her. She appeared well, perhaps a little pale with fatigue evident around her otherwise bright eyes, but she had put on some weight since he’d seen her last at the Malfoy Manor months ago. He saw no outward evidence of injury, but had no doubt she had suffered because of everything she had been through. How could she not?
“I received your letter. Thank you. It was lovely.”
He cleared his throat, and her large, bright, grey eyes met his. “How are you, Ms Lovegood?” his damaged voice managed with only a fraction of the pain from the days prior.
“Oh?” She leaned back in the chair and fingered the letter in her hands. “I am still a bit odd most would say.”
Severus got the impression she was being reticent. He scowled.
She smiled and gave him a characteristic dreamy look in response. “I am different now.”
He nodded. “We all are,” he murmured.
She nodded as she chewed her lip. “You seem stronger today.”
He nodded. He was. It seemed likely he would survive this all.
“I’m glad. I really hoped we weren’t too late. But your poor voice. I do hope you are not in too much pain, Sir.”
He shook his head. How was he going to pry out the information from her about her own injuries if she remained so focused on his well being. He lacked the strength and control for legilimens.
They sat in silence for a while until Healer Pye pulled back the curtains. “Good morning, Mr Snape.” He nodded to Severus who returned the nod. “And Ms Lovegood. Thank you for bringing the moondew.” He handed a vile to Snape. “Drink up, Professor. This should help considerably”
Severus held the vile between his thumb and index finger, examining it by the poor lighting from the ceiling lamp at the center of the room. The color and viscosity seemed appropriate. He pulled off the stopper and sniffed its contents. Peppermint overwhelmed his senses but there were more subtle scents as well. As both the witch and mediwizard stared, he downed the vial and handed it back to the healer.
The healer nodded and looked to Luna. “I need to change that dressing. If you would excuse us a moment.”
“Of course.” She stood, becoming suddenly paler as her eyes became even more distant.
Before the healer could intervene, the witch collapsed to the floor with a thud, unconscious.
Ignoring his aching, stiff body and the tight burning in his throat, Severus jumped from the bed to join the healer next to Ms Lovegood. He reached for her wrist to find a strong pulse and the soft hum of her magic beneath his fingertips. Thank gods.
As he leaned over the witch, her eyes started to flutter open. “Oh!” She gasped and placed a hand over her diaphragm. “I guess I should have eaten breakfast this morning.”
The healer waved his wand over the supine Ravenclaw running some sort of diagnostic charm and his eyes widened. “Ms Lovegood. Let’s get you to a bed. I should do a more thorough evaluation. Can you stand?”
She sat up slowly, her eyes still distant. “Yes. I think so.”
Both Severus and the healer assisted her to the cot next to his. “Are you ill?” Severus asked in a whisper as she laid back against the headboard.
The witch flushed as she shook her head and looked sideways at the healer. “No. I am as well as is to be expected. Probably just a bit dehydrated.”
He had never known Ms Lovegood to be dishonest. He narrowed his eyes remembering Longbottom’s words from yesterday. “Luna?” His injured voice chided despite the discomfort in his throat.
Her eyes snapped to his face at hearing her given name.
His stare continued until she looked away, flushing again.
“Healer Pye, could you excuse us a moment?” She said softly. “I promise I am well enough for now.”
The mediwizard nodded. “Of course. This is not my area of expertise, anyhow. I will find you a more suitable Healer.”
Her eyes slowly turned back to Severus, and she swallowed before looking away to the curtain. “I am not ill, Sir. I am… I am…” She paused and took a deep breath, looking at him again. “Why is this so difficult? I had no trouble at all telling Ginny or Neville.” She shook her head.
He sat at the edge of her bed, still watching her with a raised eyebrow. His mind was flooded with images of the girl back at Hogwarts, dreamy-eyed and usually shoeless, in her Ravenclaw robes that never quite seemed to hang on her properly and usually adorned with some odd piece of jewelry; of her chewing her lip in potions lab as she struggled to stay focused on her work and not to daydream or conjecture aloud alternatives to the assigned recipe; of her constant defiance of him and the Carrows last year. Never, not even that night when he had been forced to harm her in front of an audience of Death Eaters, had she ever looked so unsure of herself.
“Luna? You are worrying me.” He whispered, still feeling the sting from his last attempt at speech.
Her eyes brightened as they met his.. “Really? That’s nice.” She replied in her songlike tone.
He cleared his throat.
“I rather thought you had no feelings toward me one way or the other.”
He clenched his jaw and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Is there not a point to get to?” He sighed.
She looked down at the letter which she still clutched in her hand. “Well, yes. There is. You see, Sir. I am not ill exactly, I am pregnant.”
His jaw went slack. These were the last words he had expected from this former student, especially this one. He looked her up and down and swallowed against the sour taste in his throat, ignoring the burn, and cleared his throat. “How...how do you know?” His voice raspy but present.
“Well. There are many ways one knows, or course.” She paused, her eyes closing briefly as she inhaled deeply. “None of which you likely want to hear details.”
He nodded in agreement when she looked up to him.
“So it is probably easiest just to show you.”
A weight grew in his chest, but he leaned into the witch as she repositioned herself as he wondered what she could mean to show him. Laying back on the bed, she pulled up her blue pullover to expose a sliver of her porcelain skin. She pulled her wand from her hair causing it to tumble down around her face and shoulders in waves before she pressed the wand tip just below her navel and mumbled an incantation under her breath. The sound of galloping hooves, like a hippogriff stampede, flowed from the wand. “It’s a heartbeat, can you hear it?” She smiled. “Mrs Weasley taught me that charm. I think it’s wonderful.” She closed her eyes again for a long moment before looking up at him.
He nodded. His throat felt dryer and sorer than moments before. “How long have you known?”
She pulled her wand away and the sound ceased. “I assumed all along.”
He looked at her abdomen, seeing the beginning of the roundness to hint of what was happening within. “How long have you been…with child?”
“Just over four months.” She pulled down her sweater.
The blood drained from his face as his mind quickly calculated that that put her at Malfoy Manor. “Whose?”
Her eyes widened even further, if even possible, as that strange look of uncertainty appeared on her features again.
“Yours…” her tiny whisper answered as her eyes kept his, in a way few ever dared.
He swallowed as her words echoed in his thoughts. “Are you cerain?” Her face darkened, and he immediately felt guilty for what his words implied. “I mean, it was only a single encounter.”
She nodded, still watching him. “Oh yes. That is why I am sure. There have been no others.” She sat, pulling her knees into her chest with a small sigh.
He stood, running his hands through his hair. His throat tightened and his lungs burned as he struggled to maintain his breath and his mind. He had spent days suppressing the memory of his assault on Ms Lovegood so many months ago. It had disgusted him and the guilt became so distracting that he could not concentrate on anything else for days, but never once had he considered this consequence. But of course she had no access to her wand in the cellar of Malfoy Manor. How could he be so dense? This was completely preventable and entirely his fault if only he had been thinking clearly. He had let his own disgust and hatred cloud his better judgement. In his misguided and cruel attempts to protect her in the only way he could think, he had harmed her in ways he had not even bothered to consider. Fool.
“You said you assumed all along.” He returned to the edge of her bed as his strength drained from his legs and his head felt light.
She nodded, staring up at the ceiling, a soft smile still on her lips.
He closed his eyes to stop the spinning. “How?” He looked back to her.
“It was a full moon. I could see it out the window.” Her smile widened, and she patted the top of his hand as though this completely explained all he needed to know.
He willed himself not to pull away from her soft touch, as he tried to reason out her response. After a moment’s thought, struggling to connect the moon with what had occurred between them, it dawned on him that she must be implying a correlation between the moon’s cycle and her own, well, cycle. The peculiar witch would be synced with the moon.
“And you said nothing?” His brow tightened.
“Come now, Professor.” She clicked her tongue.
He cringed at her unfortunate choice of words.
“Who was I going to tell? Draco? Bellatrix? Rodolphus?” She laughed at her own joke as she tucked her wand behind her left ear. “You?”
He shook his head. He had not laid eyes on the girl after that night until the Shrieking Shack. He could not bring himself to. He sighed. Had he been less of a coward, he could have at least checked on her wellbeing on occasion, even once might have changed this for her. He had the perfect excuse, considering the bargain he had made with the Dark Lord.
“I am not upset so why should you be?” She locked eyes with him again.
“But you are just a child!” The words tasted insincere coming out of his mouth and brought with them another fit of pain. As he struggled to gain his composure, he observed the witch sitting before him and the falsehood became all the more apparent. She was no longer that shoeless girl from seven years ago. She had seen more in those seven years than most see in a lifetime. She had resisted harder than many, experienced more darkness than many, and paid a higher price than most. Furthermore, in Pureblood families such as hers, it was not unusual for a woman to be married shortly after graduation. Luna’s own mother likely conceived her within a year or two of completion of Hogwarts if she followed the traditional expectations.
“Stop calling me that.” He groaned as he stood again, pacing the small space beside the bed within the closed curtain. Why must she remind him of his position as her former professor?
“Of course, Sir. I’m sorry.” She picked up his letter from where it laid on the crisp hospital linen, caressing its edges, tracing his writing.
He groaned again as his fatigued body forced him to sit on her bedside again. “Did you not consider your options?”
She laughed, genuinely and deeply as she looked back to him. “Oh yes. I thought of many things while sitting in the cellar with Mr Ollivander. Mostly food.” Her gaze became distant. “But I knew of spells and potions I could use had I been anywhere else. I even thought perhaps I could try to talk with Mrs Malfoy, but she never looked at me when she came to the cellar.” Her eyes darkened briefly.
His mouth snapped shut. He was being unfair. She was a Ravenclaw afterall, even if a bit eccentric. Of course she had thoroughly considered her situation from all angles.
“When finally the opportunity to do something came to me, I knew I could not risk the chance of being incapacitated for days or even weeks with everything going on so I gave the potion back to Fleur and decided not to take it.”
“Shite, girl! Does everyone in the entire Wizarding World know about this except me?” His entire body tensed.
“Don’t be unfair.” She clicked her tongue again. “I needed support. And only Ginny and Neville understand your involvement in this. Mrs Weasley suspects the worst, of course. Fleur asked no questions, though. She and Bill have been wonderful hosts. I’m not sure what Dean and I and Griphook would have done without them. So, really, I’m lucky, don’t you think?”
He felt his face darken with both anger and embarrassment. “Gods, Luna…” he gasped, truly at a loss for other words.
“Sir, don’t make this a tragedy. I’m not planning to.” She gave him a crooked smile.
He looked up at her. “Call me Severus.”
Her face brightened. “Yes...Severus.”
They sat in silence, her eyes with their usual dreamy look about them as he tried and failed not to take another glance at the witch’s abdomen.
“In other news, your voice seems to be recovering nicely.”
He snorted. “Indeed.”
A female voice interrupted from outside the curtain. “Ms Lovegood. It is Healer Hughes. Healer Pye sent me.”
“You may enter, Ma’am,” Luna replied.
The woman in green pulled back the curtain and gave a look of surprise at seeing Severus sitting at the edge of the bed. “Oh, I apologize for the interruption.”
Severus cleared his throat, experiencing only minimal discomfort. “I will step out.” He stood, moved out of her curtained space and back to his own.
Flopping onto the bed, he let out a long sigh. He had to be dreaming or in some sort of twisted afterlife. There was no reality in which the powers of the universe would even consider him as a potential father. And to punish poor Ms Lovegood is such a way. Was the war not over? Had they not defeated the Dark Lord and his throng? Why then did Luna have to continue to suffer as though it weren’t so? Why should she give the rest of her life for his negligence?
He shuddered as he forced back the memories of his hands on the young witch as others leered. Her body trembled under his rough touch, but she never struggled, never cried out, and never even cringed. Briefly, his eyes had met hers, wide and deep, probing into his own as though trying to see the thoughts beyond. He had forgotten about that moment until now, buried it within his many mental walls. A look he had mistaken for surrender, he now understood had been resolve, and perhaps something more. Had she really seen his motives? Did she really understand the terrible choice he made then as she said? She of all witches might have. She had swallowed down her fear, closed her eyes and looked away; to the window, to see the full moon staring back at her. That is when he had tuned her out, started his fantasy of the other women in order to complete the assault. When it finally ended, much to the sneering delight of those around them, he could not bear to look his student in the face again. To see the judgement, fear, and hatred in her bright eyes, but would it have been there? Now, he wondered if he would have found that same look of resolve had he dared to look, or perhaps even the forgiveness he found in her eyes now.
“Okay, Ms Lovegood. No need to worry. Both you and the little one are well and on track,” Healer Hughes pronounced from the bed next door.
“Thank you very much, Ma’am,” Luna responded. “Sorry for all the bother.”
“No bother at all, Dear. Best of luck with the next six months. I would be happy to see you for your routine prenatal care if you wish.” She stepped out from the curtains.
“Oh yes. Thank you. I will return then.”
The healer’s footsteps moved out of the room and silence seemed to echo in his ears as his thoughts swirled.
He looked up to see Luna standing at his bedside, head cocked as she looked down on him.
“You do not--”
“Shh, Sir. I have made my decision.” She responded, clearly predicting what he planned to say.
“But how... How will you provide?”
She smiled and her eyes took on an even dreamier appearance. “I have the Quibbler.”
He scoffed, and her face fell.
“You should give me more credit. I’ve already sold out of our first post-War edition. It outsold our previous best-selling issue by hundreds of copies, and we had to print more, thanks to an exclusive from Harry about how he did it and the whole Horcrux thing. Really great article in his own words. And I’ve got loads more planned. Everyone outside of Hogwarts is begging for details on what happened that night and before and what’s next for Hogwarts and the Ministry. And thanks to the Order of the Phoenix, I’ve got connections to all of that.”
“It’s only been four days…” He mumbled, his throat aching again.
She nodded. “Yes well, as I said, you should really give me some more credit. I survived it all, and I intend to continue to do so.” She gave him one of her dreamy looks.
He nodded. “Yes. I would seem so.” He swallowed hard, as he remembered why the witch was here. Closing his eyes, he rested his head back against the headboard.
“Oh! I’m sorry. You need rest. I should leave now.”
“Luna…” He forced himself to look at her. “I--” a coughing fit overtook him.
She placed a hand on his back. “We can talk later, Si--Severus. Rest now.” She handed him the glass of water on his bedside table. As he drank, she stood and left the room, her loose golden waves flowing in her wake.
He shook his head before allowing it to fall back against the headboard. Gritting his teeth, he sighed, hoping Healer Pye would bring him some Dreamless Sleep soon. Perhaps he could request some Mind Numbing potion as well.
Chapter 5: What We Must
As his mind drifted back into consciousness the following morning, he felt the witch’s presence before his eyes opened. “Ms Lovegood?”
“Yes. It’s Luna.” Her voice was quiet and close, but it sounded strained.
He slowly opened his eyes, to see her wiping tears from her face.
“What is it?”
She shook her head. “It’s nothing.”
He frowned. “Luna?”
“I...it’s just such a beautiful tribute...I wish I could write like Ginny.” She handed him the paper in her hands.
“Hero’s Come in Many Forms.” Read the Quibbler’s headline. His eyes quickly scanned the article eulogizing the many victims of the Dark Lord prior to The Battle of Hogwarts; Amelia Bones, Professor Charity Burbage, Emmeline Vance, Alastor Moody, a houself called Dobby, Bathilda Bagshot, Edward Tonks, and Xenophilus Lovegood.
“We had to take a different angle, you know, because of the Prophet’s first post-Battle article.” She sniffed. “And all I could think about how no one would ever know what Dobby did for us unless we told them...Ginny and Hermione took it from there. Hermione said my father had been amazingly brave, continuing to support Harry and counter the lies coming from everywhere else even with all the threats against him.”
The article concluded, “ Mr Lovegood, a loving father until the very end, refused to give up his soul to the dementor’s kiss, and therefore gave his life instead. His final words were reportedly, ‘My soul is not mine to give for it is with my Luna, wherever she may be. ”
He glanced up at the girl. He had forgotten the eccentric journalist had not survived Azkaban. How could that have slipped his mind?
“They killed him to get to me.” The tears fell again. “He had no idea where I was or that I had escaped, much less how.” Her shoulders shook. “And poor Dobby, he was such a kind creature. He too died for me. So many people are gone. Fred, Professor Lupin, Ms Tonks.”
Severus watched her tears, trying not to let her pain wash over him, trying to stay distant as always, but then the witch leaned forward, as the sobs overtook her.
Her hot tears dripped onto the bed sheets beside him. He glanced around. The small ward was empty except for the two of them.
With a sigh, his shields fell as he reached an arm up to touch Ms Lovegood’s shoulder.
With a loud gasp, she fell against his chest, burying her face into him.
His arm wrapped around her shoulders awkwardly as they sat together. He attempted to find some words of comfort but nothing seemed adequate so he chose to say nothing.
Finally, she pulled back and wiped her face. “That was nice, thank you, Profe--Severus.”
His name in her voice sounded at once foreign and comfortable.
She looked up at him. “It’s been so long since I’ve had a good cry. Sometimes it can be such a release.” She sniffed again and then smiled.
He scoffed. He could not recall such a thing as a “good cry.” Personally, he preferred to avoid anything even resembling a cry at almost any cost. In fact the last time he had shed tears had been...his stomach lurched, as the tightly repressed memory surfaced. The last tears he had shed had been the night he had assaulted Ms Lovegood. Before that, the night he had learned the truth of Dumbledoor’s plan for Potter. And before that, the night of Lily’s murder. The fact that these three moments stood so distinct in his memory was enough proof that crying was not something positive.
"Severus?" She leaned close again.
He looked to her, raising an eyebrow.
"It must be exhausting. Keeping it all in all the time."
His gaze narrowed, as his mental shields snapped back into place. "We do what we must to survive."
She shook her head. "But don't you see, we did it. We survived. It's over now."
He scoffed again. "I fear it has just begun for you. You have a whole new battle to fight."
Her hand brushed over her abdomen as a dreamy look overtook her features. "I don't see it that way at all. More like a Phoenix rising from the ashes. Just think, this child will be of the first generation since our great grandparents, not to fear Death Eaters and Dark Lords."
He was going to comment on the fact that they were indeed part of different generations, to remind her that he was in fact a few years older than her own parents, but the faraway look in her eyes told him she was no longer listening anyway.
Finally, she smiled as her gaze returned to his face. "Isn't that a lovely thought?"
"I fear it is too soon to be sure of such a future. The Dark Lord's void is likely not to stay empty for long."
This time it was Luna who scoffed. "Can't you at least pretend for a moment? Pull that darkness out from over your eyes and appreciate the good in the world?"
Her face fell again as fresh tears began to fall. "I only wish my father was here to see it all."
His body stiffened. "Luna...I...I am sorry for your tremendous loss."
She fell against his chest yet again, her hot tears soaking his thin robe as her arms wrapped around him.
He swallowed down his discomfort for her sake, wondering how she could even tolerate such closeness considering all she had been through… all he had put her through. Then again that may be precisely why she sought it. He was no expert in the ways of the female brain, even one less mysterious than that of Luna Lovegoods, but perhaps his actions now could provide something he had failed to provide before, consideration for her needs.
He rested his head back against the headboard as his arms draped over her form, less awkwardly this time. Her tears slowed and soon so did her breaths. As her body melted against him, he realized the witch had fallen asleep, and he sighed.
He started awake, and glanced around. Luna still slept on his chest, her legs curled into his side. His back throbbed in complaint of the awkward position and the feeling in his right leg had been lost but he hesitated, not wanting to wake the witch.
Briefly, he considered the pleasant sensations of her warmth against him, her soft hair under his chin, but quickly dismissed it. He would not allow himself such thoughts.
She stirred against him. "Oh Dear. I am so sorry…" She sat up, rubbing her face before smoothing her hair down. "I did not -"
"Do not apologize."
She smiled. *Okay. I am not sorry. I have not slept that well in days."
He nodded and then shifted positions. As the sensation returned to his leg, he swallowed down the dryness that had accumulated in his throat.
"Where have you been staying, Luna?" Her father’s home had been destroyed in the Death Eater’s raid.
"Oh, well, I have a room at the Leaky Cauldron for now. I've been flooing to the Weasley's most days. Mr Weasley helped me repair my father's press so we've been printing from his shed. And Ginny, Hermione, Neville, and Harry have been helping with content and delivery. I think everyone just needed a project to distract them from dwelling on our losses. I guess the Quibbler has been that for all of us. Even Mrs Weasley has taken time to voice her thoughts despite her grief.” She sighed.
“I know eventually I will need something more permanent, but I can't bring myself to rebuild the house yet. I could barely look at it all when we returned for the press. My home, my things, my memories..."
"Are you eating enough? Sleeping enough?"
"Oh, don't you start too?" She pulled away leaving a chill. "Can no one just believe that I am as well as I can be, all things considered?"
He nodded slowly. "I apologize. I believe you are."
"Thank you. I actually believe you when you say it, unlike the others." Her mouth tightened.
The door at the opposite end of the ward swung open as Healer Pye strolled in. "Oh. Ms Lovegood, I did not realize you were still here. Mr. Snape, I should change those dressings again."
Luna stood, “It is late. Good night, Severus.” She smiled sadly at him. “Good night Healer Pye." She bowed her head to each in turn before strolling across the large ward, closing the door as she left.
The temperature of the room seemed colder as the mediwizard sat down beside him. He pulled back the dressings from the potion master’s wounds. There was no longer the stench of rotting flesh or coagulated blood, just the dull scent of the spent herbal poultice . “I think I’ve managed to do about all I can do for your injuries at this point. I believe the rest is just a matter of time and patience. I suspect you will have many months ahead before your strength, endurance, and the like return to near previous levels. I feel more confident however, that your voice should nearly fully mend considering how much progress has been made so far.”
The healer slathered a new dressing with a layer of the healing paste before charming it into place over the damaged tissue. “Do you have anyone to help you when you leave, Sir? It would be best if you had assistance for a while.”
Severus closed his eyes, suppressing a groan. “Likely not,” he mumbled
“What of Ms Lovegood? Would she --”
“No,” he snapped. “She has burdened herself enough on my behalf.”
“As you say, Sir. I can recommend a possible nurse for hire, if you wish.”
Severus nodded although had his doubts he would follow through with that plan. He would manage as he always did.
Chapter 6: An Offering
Severus sat in his arm chair in his sitting room of his house at Spinner’s End staring at the faded spines of the many books on the shelves of the opposite wall. He had been discharged from St Mungo’s yesterday morning and had left as soon as he was able, hoping to avoid an encounter with Ms Lovegood at which he had thankfully been successful. But now, as he sat he found he could not free her from his thoughts. He had not wanted to involve her in his needs and did not trust Healer Pye to respect those wishes. He knew no other way to avoid the inevitable awkward encounter that was sure to happen other than to ensure she was not present when he discharged. In retrospect, it seemed unusually cruel to not even have left a note thanking her for her concern. But what could he have possibly written -- best of luck with that pregnancy and childrearing situation?
He sipped the firewhiskey in his left hand as he turned his wand in his right. Yesterday, he had momentarily forgotten the whole situation with a hot shower and a change out of the St Mungo’s robes into his own attire. He had managed to clean and dress his wounds, but it had been awkward and clumsy being that he could not see the area without a mirror and he still fatigued so easily. Sleep eluded him so now he found himself with nothing else for distraction and even the alcohol was not enough to cloud his thoughts.
Was she sitting alone at the Leaky Cauldron now, or perhaps cursing his name with the Weasley clan? Or Potter? His jaw tightened as he sneered. The fact that he was bothered by the thought bothered him even further.
She would be judged harshly when it became obvious she was bearing a child out of wedlock, even though she deserved to be revered as a war hero as her friends most certainly would be. And now, thanks to Potter’s big mouth, he himself likely would be as well. But a pureblood witch, even if a bit odd stemming from an eccentric family, pregnant and husbandless would likely still be a scandal, even with all the war gossip to keep minds busy. And could the Quibbler really keep her afloat? He doubted it. Eventually, things would stabilize and the war would become old news. What then would she have with which to complete against The Prophet? Back to the conspiracy theories and fantastical beasts?
But what was he to do about it? Luna had been very clear that ending the pregnancy was no longer an option in her mind even if he could provide that for her, and at this point, not a very safe option even if she had been willing. Although he was quite confident he could provide her with appropriate potions to resolve it and treat her afterwards. Perhaps he could insist upon it. Did he not have a say in all this nonsense? No, and he was a terrible person to even think he deserved an opinion. He had lost that option months ago.
If not that, then what else could he offer? It is not like he could just up and propose to her considering the circumstances. Not that she would have that, either. He doubted she would even accept financial support, not that he had much to give. He was currently unemployed, aging, and convalescing after all. Such a catch.
He sighed as he stood. “You are a fool,” he whispered to himself as he grabbed a handful of floo powder and stepped into the flames. “The Leaky Cauldron.”
Severus brushed the soot from his black robes as he stepped free from the hearth. Approaching the bar, he cleared his throat. He recognized Tom, the owner, behind the bar.
Tom, glanced up, his eyes widened and jaw slacked. “M-M-Mr Snape? But you--”
“Yes, I am dead. So I have been made aware. Unfortunately, that rumor is false.” He leaned in closer. “However, I quite prefer the rumor persists as long as possible.”
Tom regained his composure and looked around at the empty room. “Of course. Then how might I help you, Sir?”
“I am looking for Ms Luna Lovegood. She informed me she was staying here.”
“Did she?” Tom raised an eyebrow.
“Is she here?” He tightened his brow.
“I am not at liberty to say.” He cleared his throat, looking around the room again. “But perhaps you will stay for dinner. Might I suggest the table over there?” He nodded his head toward a small table near the fireplace.
Severus followed his gaze hoping he had correctly interpreted that that was Luna’s usual seat. “You may. I will have the steak and kidney pie.”
“Yes. And to drink?”
“I will have it right over.”
Severus nodded and proceeded to the table. Staring down at the two chairs, he questioned himself. But with a long sigh, he sat, rubbing his temples as he stared into the fireplace.
He heard her soft footsteps approach from behind him.
“Sir, you look terrible,” the blonde witch chided as she sat before him, dressed uncharacteristically drab in a grey jumper and dark trousers without her usual adornments with her wand in its usual perch behind her ear. She frowned.
He stiffened in the wooden chair. “I haven't slept much. And you may still call me Severus.”
Her eyes brightened. “Of course, Severus. You look terrible. But I suppose it is to be expected, all things considered.”
He nodded. “I suppose so.”
She smiled. The corner of his mouth twitched in response. “I do prefer this attire though. It suits you,” she added.
He glanced down at his black frock coat and trousers. It was his usual choice, but compared to the beige St Mungo’s garb, it was certainly more fitting.
“And you Ms Lovegood? How are you fairing?”
“I am as I always am.” She chewed her lip as her eyes wandered.
He grunted at her cryptic answer.
“Did you need something, Severus?” She tilted her head as she looked at him.
“I am not really sure.” He sighed.
She nodded. “Oh really? I find that surprising.”
He simply nodded. So did he.
“I tried to send you a letter. But, the owl returned it.”
He nodded again. “I find myself in a difficult situation that I am unsure how to navigate. What do you want from me, Luna?”
“I don't want anything from you.” Shaking her head, she laughed as if it was truly an absurd notion that she could desire anything from him in this situation or any other. “I only wish for you to be happy.”
He leaned over the small wooden table, his eyes narrowed. “Are you happy, Luna?”
Her silvery eyes locked on him, so wide. They sat in silence for several long breaths as so many emotions flashed across her face. “I would like to say yes.”
“But that would not be entirely honest.” She paused, looking away and then back. “It is not that I am unhappy, I don’t think. I am simply... overwhelmed.” She broke their gaze and stared down at her lap.
He nodded. “I would think to be anything less would be more unusual.”
“Do you think so?” She glanced up at him, a smile playing at her lips.
“Yes. In fact, I think you saying such is probably the most unpredictably predictable thing I have encountered about you, Luna.”
Her smile grew. “And what were you expecting?”
“Moon frogs and nargles, I suppose.” He huffed.
She laughed as her dreamy eyed look overtook her features. “So you do remember from before...I wasn’t sure.”
He rubbed a temple. “You do leave an impression, Luna.”
“Thank you. That might be the closest thing to a compliment I’ve ever heard you speak.”
“An error in judgement, perhaps,” he mumbled.
She shook her head. “But, Severus?”
He glanced back at her.
“Really, what brought you here?” Her face was suddenly serious, filled with concern.
He stared over her shoulder to the flames behind her. What exactly had he been hoping for? He swallowed, his mouth suddenly dry.
"Severus. You're bleeding." The witch gasped as she stood.
He reached for his neck, feeling the warm dampness at his collar.
"Here," she touched his shoulder as she moved close. "Come to my room, and we can get you fixed up."
Standing, he scanned the room, still no one but her and Tom. Strange it was so empty.
"Tom, Sir. I will take dinner in my room if that is okay?" Luna said as they passed by the bar.
Severus glared at the cocked look the barkeep gave them as they ascended the stairs together.
As they entered, papers went flying off the small desk. Her school trunk sat open at the end of the unmade bed and overflowed with brightly colored clothing, shoes, robes, parchment, quills and books endlessly across the floor, almost like an abstract painting, swirled with color everywhere about the otherwise very brown room. “Sorry for the mess…” She hurriedly pushed some of her belongings back into the trunk.
He sat in the chair beside the desk as she indicated. It was littered with copies of the Daily Prophet and the Quibbler.
She dug through the mess for a moment before pulling her wand from behind her ear with her left hand. “ Accio medikit.” A tin box surfaced from the bottom of the pile and jumped into her hand. She clicked it open and pulled out the dressings and wound healing salve.
Rolling up her sleeves, she leaned in close to him, the dandelion scent of her soap wafted over him. He tried to focus his eyes on a point on the ceiling above her.
“Does it still hurt?” she asked softly, her breath on his cheek.
“Not like before.” He reached for his top button.
“Allow me,” She reached for his collar.
He raised his hand as he stiffened. “That is not necessary.”
She clicked her tongue. “This dressing looks awful. Did you do it in the dark?”
He sighed and dropped his hands.
She nodded as she began to loosen his collar and remove the old dressing. “I am glad your voice is mostly unharmed.”
He raised an eyebrow.
“You wield it so well.” She pressed her wand to his skin and mouthed her quiet healing spell. “Would be a pity to lose that.”
He snorted. “Indeed.”
She gave a half smile. “I really worried I might never hear it again. I did so enjoy listening to it in class. Bewitch the mind and ensnare the senses and all...” She trailed off.
His eyes drifted down to where her sweater met her trousers only half hearing her words. He sighed. "I wish you would reconsider, Luna."
"Reconsider what?" She mumbled as she studied his wounds.
"This...the… your...um, pregnancy. It is not fair for you to have to bear this burden for my transgressions."
She paused pulling her wand away from his flesh and let out a soft sigh. "I cannot." Her hand brushed her abdomen. "I've already heard his heartbeat and felt him move. He's real to me now. We are connected."
He felt the blood drain from his face. A son. "Him...he?"
Her wand touched his neck again as her fingers probed the tender injuries. "Well, I cannot tell for sure, of course. There is no spell for that that I know of. But when I first felt the tiny fairy wings this morning…” her hand drifted to her rest below the waistband of her trousers. “I just sensed something that makes me think so."
"Just this morning?" He swallowed. He should have come to her yesterday.
"Yes." She smiled brightly as her gaze became distant. "Such a strange thing. I wish I had better words to describe it for you."
“But still, Luna. Are you sure?”
She sighed and stepped back from him. “Severus, I meant what I said before when I said I wanted you to be happy. But my answer is no. If that means we pretend this never happened, that is okay. I am quite fine with that.”
He closed his eyes as his jaw tightened. “There will be questions.” He attempted to catch her gaze.
“I know.” Her eyes avoided his as she continued her healing efforts.
“And what will you say?”
“I don't have to say anything at all. People are welcome to assume whatever they wish. They will anyway. I am quite used to it already”. Her eyes briefly met his.
Severus huffed in response. “And of your happiness, Luna?”
“I will find it.” Her eyes remained on her work, her soft fingers on his inflamed flesh.
“You sound so confident.”
“Because I am.” She charmed the clean dressing in place. “That’s better.”
A knock at the door drew her attention away. “A moment.” She waved her wand over each of her hands in turn with a cleansing charm and stepped to the door.
Tom stepped in with the two dinners trays.
“Thank you, Tom.” Luna reached for the trays, but Severus jumped up to grab them.
Tom gave him another curious look as he bowed his head. “Have a good night Ms Lovegood, Mr Snape.”
“You too, Tom.” Luna replied and turned to grab her tray.
She took a seat on the bed, set her tray down beside her, and twisted her wand back into her hair over her left ear. She sighed as she reached for a chip.
“What is it?” He watched her.
“I still have nausea and no appetite.” She popped the chip into her mouth, chewing slowly. “Nothing tastes quite right.”
He nodded, downing his whiskey. “It is my understanding that those symptoms are common.”
“Yes. But Ms Weasley said I should be starting to feel better by now. That this is the time where things get easier before they get hard again.” Her lips tightened.
“I imagine she would know better than I.” While there were few things he would admit that Molly Weasley could best him at, understanding the happenings of the female body, especially in gestation, was one of those, considering her brood of redheads.
Luna laughed. “I imagine.”
They sat quietly, each picking at their meals in seeming quiet contemplation. But the truth for Severus at least, was his mind was paralized with fear. The witch had quickened with his offspring and would bring that life forth into this new world. And she would do it with or without him. He knew he should feel something about this, to do something about this, to say something about this, but his mental faculties were failing him as he struggled against invading thoughts, struggling to keep his focus and failing.
“I have a house. You are welcome to it.” The words fell out before he had even had the chance to think them through. Damn whiskey.
She looked over at him, her eyes wide with uncertainty.
“It is not anything. A small muggle home in a muggle neighborhood. But it is private and well protected.”
She still said nothing.
“You should not be spending your resources on room and board.”
She nodded. “I know.”
“Okay,” she whispered.
His brow tightened. “Okay?”
She nodded again. “I will. I would be honored to accept the offer of your home.”
“Then it is done.” He stood. “I will go prepare and gather my things.”
Her face tightened. “Gather your things? You don’t mean you plan to move out if I move in?”
“Indeed.” He buttoned his collar and straightened his robes. “Anything else would be improper.”
Luna laughed. “Who cares about proper?”
“That is really unnecessary, and I’d rather stay here if that is the alternative.”
He sighed. Had he thought his actions through, he would have anticipated that response. But if he had thought through his actions, he would have not made the offer to begin with.
“Besides. I can help you with that mess,” she motioned to her neck.
“I do not need a caretaker, Luna.”
“How about a friend then?”
He snorted. Not possible under such circumstances.
Her face sunk. “We can call it whatever you prefer.”
“Necessity. We will do what is necessary. Regardless, I still must prepare. I shall return tomorrow.” He paused. “If that is acceptable?”
She nodded. “Yes. But please don’t overtax yourself on my behalf. You are still recovering.”
He nodded. “Until then.”
She smiled. “Yes. See you soon.”
He stepped from the room, a tightness in his chest growing with each step. He descended the stairs to find the innkeep watching him.
“I require a few things, Tom. Do you think you might discretely procure them for me?”
Tom nodded. “Of course, Sir.” Tom pulled out a piece of parchment and quill from beneath the bar and handed them to Snape.
He jotted down the list of necessities required to sustain two individuals in his house for the time being. “I shall return to tomorrow for these. I do appreciate your respect for my wishes to remain dead, of course.” He cleared his throat. “And for Ms Lovegood’s privacy.” He added.
His house was more of a disaster than he had previously appreciated. The spines of the books on the many shelves that lined his sitting room were hardly visible through the dust. The furniture had migrated into a haphazard array and empty tumblers sat on every flat surface. He charmed the dust pans and dusters to get to work followed by the broom and the mop and pushed the sofa, end tables, and chair back into place.
As he struggled to find his breath, he cursed his still ailing body. He could not recall the last time he had really cleaned the place as he hated wasting energy on cleaning spells. He supposed Pettigrew had done a fair job during his brief stay, but it was likely nothing had been dealt with since.
He ascended the narrow staircase to the bedrooms, his heart rate reminding him yet again of his weakened state. He coughed and then spasmed as a sudden burn stung his throat and chest. So much dust. He mumbled his irritation under his breath as he glanced at the old, worn bedding. The linens were probably older than his soon-to-be house guest. He would have to do something about that later. He performed a cleansing charm to the bedding before manually making the bed and fluffing the sad lumpy pillows. He did the same in the second bedroom before setting to work a second broom and duster.
As he stepped into the bathroom, finding dressing supplies, ointments, potions and empty bottles strewn about haphazardly and the St Mungo’s gown still on the floor, he groaned. When did he become such a sloven?
His silent contemplations were suddenly interrupted by a pounding at his front door.
“Severus. I know you are here, and I am not afraid to blast through this door,” said the stern but feminine Scottich brogue.
He stepped out of the bathroom and moved back down the stairs. He swung the front door wide. Knowing whom he would see, he scowled at the elder witch in green robes.
“Why did you not tell me you were alive? Why did I have to hear the rumors, Severus?” Minerva McGonagall returned his sour look.
“Why are you here, Minerva?” He sighed.
She stepped over the threshold. “Of course I will come in, thank you.”
He followed her into the sitting room, his jaw clenched. “Minerva, I have no patience for games.”
“I asked first. You answer first.”
“I have been a bit preoccupied.” He sighed.
“Now what trouble have you caused?” She stuck a finger in his chest.
He stepped back, sinking into the threadbare davenport, his hands on his face.
“Severus?” She approached and placed a hand on his shoulder, sitting down beside him. “It was in jest.”
He swallowed hard. “But that is it, I have caused trouble. There is no proper way to say it.” He cleared his throat. “But I have caused irreparable harm to a former student, and I do not know how to remedy it.”
She stiffened beside him. “What sort of harm?” Her voice was tense.
He closed his eyes as the breath stuck in his lungs. He pulled up every mental shield he could muster to keep the memories from flooding in.
“Severus? I cannot help you without the facts.”
He stood, approaching the fireplace to stare into the blackness. “I should have refused to do it.” He heard the words to the Dark Lord demanding the deed from him. “There had to be another alternative, I just did not seek hard enough. I should not have touched her.” He paced the room as he pushed back the faces in his memories of the masked figures surrounding the pale, thin frame of Luna Lovegood stripped to nothing but her knickers. “But if it weren’t me, it would have been another. I could not spare her that, not without losing everything we were working toward. Not without losing my hard-fought position and confidence. Even an ounce of concern for her would have shattered it all. I had to, didn’t I? I had to.”
The witch stood and blocked his path, placing her hands on his shoulders. “Look at me, Severus. Please?”
He met her gaze, full of concern and even compassion.
“I raped the girl, Minerva. I’ve done something that can never be undone. Took something that can never be returned.”
She did not pull away but her gaze briefly shifted from compassion to horror to sympathy and back to compassion as she nodded. “Yes.”
“I should have refused. There had to be another way. At the very least, I should have understood the consequences. I failed to take into consideration all the possibilities.” He tried to push Minerva away but she held strong, still locking eyes with him.
“Who?” Her voice was soft but clear.
He closed his eyes and shook his head. “No.”
“Severus, who is it?”
He turned away staring into the emptiness fireplace again. “But what is worse, is that she cannot seem to see the horror in what has been done. She does not seem to understand the burden she now carries. And I can’t fix it. No magic exists to undo this.”
“Maybe that is okay,” she finally replied after a long silence.
“No,” he almost shouted before regaining his composure. “You do not understand. It will never be okay, because it will never be over for her. She is with child.”
“Oh dear,” Minerva said under her breath. “Severus, I --”
“There is nothing you can say, Minerva. There are no appropriate words for this situation because this situation should not exist.”
“So you have spoken with the student in question since?”
“Yes. The woman kept vigil at my damn bedside for three days.”
“Lovegood?” Minerva’s eyes widened as she stepped away. The Weasley’s must have told her everything. Who else?
Lightheadedness overtook him, and he was forced to sit again. “Yes…it is Ms Lovegood, of all people.”
Minerva sat in the chair opposite and kept her eyes trained on the faded rug before her. “You are sure?”
“Unfortunately.” He sighed. “And…” he swallowed. “She has quickened.”
“Merlin, Severus...I don’t know what to say.”
“There is nothing to be said. She will consider no alternatives.”
“So you have spoken to her about that as well.” She looked up at him.
“Indeed. In so much as you can speak to her about anything. But she is Ravenclaw afterall, so in her way, she has thoroughly considered her limited options.”
Minerva nodded. “I feel like I greatly underestimated her early on. She has really become quite a remarkable witch.
Severus groaned. “And I’ve ruined any chance she has to make something of that.”
“You do not think motherhood to be a worthy pursuit?” She raised an eyebrow as she studied him.
“Not like that. Not now. Not… not ...with me!” He gestured to his dust covered half-unbuttoned frock coat and ran his fingers through his overgrown hair. Almost anyone would be better.
She sighed again and folded her hands into her lap. “Severus, I know it goes against your very nature to be optimistic, but if anyone can make a regrettable situation into something positive, I believe it is Luna.”
“So I should just let her be all sunshine and rainbows about this all then because you know that is her nature.”
“And what is wrong with it? What does she accomplish dwelling on it?”
He grit his teeth. “But it is not something to be glad about. This will define her for the rest of her life?”
“Maybe. But maybe that’s okay.”
“No it is not. She is being punished for my crimes.”
“It’s only punishment if she feels it is.”
He rubbed his temples. “So because she’s okay with this, I am to be as well?”
“No.” The witch moved to reposition herself on the sofa next to him and placed a hand on his shoulder. “Just stop trying to convince her she should not be. Let her feel however she wants to feel and let that be acceptable. Don’t let your guilt become hers, and stop trying to sooth your guilt through her.”
His jaw tightened as he pulled away from her touch. “That is not --”
“Do not lie to yourself, or me, Severus. You want her to be angry with you because that would make you feel better.”
His mouth opened to argue but he had no words of disagreement. “Yes. Perhaps a bit,” he mumbled a bit sheepish. Minerva knew him better than he knew himself sometimes. He had often wondered how, but he supposed she had known him for a very long time.
“Well stop that. It isn’t fair to her.”
He swallowed and nodded. “Yes. But what can I do?”
“I do not think I can answer that. What do you want to do?”
“I want to make it right, but I don’t know how.” His shoulders slumped.
“Follow her lead perhaps?”
He sighed. “I invited her here.”
Minerva eyed the charmed broom and duster. “That explains the cleaning. Your homemaking charms could use some work.”
“To stay…” He put his head in his hands. “It was a laughable idea, but she accepted.”
Minerva laughed under her breath. “You are a survivor, Severus. You always have been. You will get through this.”
He sighed again. He was tired of being a survivor, but he did not think he knew how to be anything else. He had not known anything other than that since, well since his childhood if he were being honest. Could he really learn to be something different now?
“I hope perhaps, you may learn something from Ms Lovegood.”
He pulled his hands away from his face and raised an eyebrow. “How’s that?”
“A little bit of sunshine and rainbows would not hurt you.”
He snorted. “I believe it might.”
Minerva shook her head. “Even when all choices are terrible choices, we can still make the best of them.”
“That is worthless advice, Minerva.”
“You may think so now, but I think it will mean more later.”
“I don’t know how to share space. I have not done so since seventh year and you know I prefered my space even then.”
She put her arm around him. “Just be kind, Severus.”
He tensed at her touch. “I will try.” He pinched the bridge of his nose. "Truly."
“Well, now that I have verified the fact of your survival. I think I can leave you to your efforts.” She stood. Her eyes narrowed, “But Severus, I mean it. You better be kind to her or else she has a --”
“--whole line of people waiting behind you that would be happy to show you how they feel about that.” He finished, parroting Mr Longbottom’s words from St Mungos.
The witch’s both snapped shut. She raised her brow.
“You aren’t the first to say as much, and I imagine not the last.”
“Luna has that effect on people, Severus.”
He nodded. “Yes.” Even on him.
She stood and flicked her wand at the broom and duster, calming their erratic motions into more effective ones before cleansing the rug with another flourish of her wand. “I am here if you need anything.”
He nodded. “Thank you, Minerva.”
She patted his shoulder. “It will all work out. Just be kind.” She stepped from his sitting room and disapperated once outside his wards.
He sank back into the sofa mentally, physically, and magically exhausted.
Updates may come a bit more slowly after this. I have to figure out how to get these two where I want them, but I do promise to finish. If you have your own thoughts, please send them my way. Thanks!
Chapter 8: Complicated
As Luna Lovegood stepped into the sitting room from the fireplace, the dingy room immediately brightened, not just because of her yellow jumper paired and blue leggings and striped socks, or the way her long fair hair pooled about her shoulders, or the ridiculous cork necklace about her neck, but her actual presence in the grey room in the grey house in the grey neighborhood.
She looked up at him as she pulled her blue knit hat from her head and shook out the soot. “What?”
He shook his head. “I do not believe this house has seen so much color since before either of us was born.” If ever.
As she scanned the room as she set her large woven shoulder bag down on her trunk which had arrived earlier, he cringed imagining the thoughts that must be running through her head.
“So many books…” she mumbled. “Have you read them all?”
“Yes, with a few exceptions.” His eyes followed her as he stood motionless and tense.
“That’s wonderful,” she said under her breath as she walked along the bookshelves, her delicate-seeming fingers grazing the spines. “Muggle titles too…”
He nodded and swallowed down the growing lump in his chest. This was a terrible idea. He could not share space, especially not this space with all its difficult memories, especially not with this dotty witch.
She pulled her fingers away as she looked his way.
“Shall I show you to your room?”
She smiled and gave him a dreamy-eyed look that only Luna Lovegood could. “That would be wonderful.”
He pulled open the bookcase that hid the stairway and motioned her up the stairs.
“Is this the home you grew up in then?” She wondered aloud.
He nodded. She was already delving into it then. “Yes.”
He grunted. “You may have this room.” He swung the door on the left at the top of the stairs open to reveal the large four poster bed covered in grey linens.
She glanced up at him, eyes narrowed. “But this is the master…”
She tilted her head. “Are you sure?”
“Yes. This is the master. I am sure,” he replied sarcastically, but held back his preferred sneering tone, willing himself to be less severe with her, which was more difficult than he had anticipated as it had clearly become his default after all these years among students and other imbeciles.
She laughed. “No. Are you sure you wish me to take this? Isn't it yours?”
“I will be fine across the hall. Do not concern yourself about that.”
She gave him an exacerbated sighed with eyes to match. “But Si--Severus. You are still recovering. You --”
“Luna, please. I insist.” His face tightened as he felt his heart rate jump.
She stepped into the room without further protest and jumped up onto the mattress, kicking her boots from her striped socks with two loud thumps. She smiled. “Thank you.” She then yawned.
The tension fell from his jaw as he nodded. “Shall I leave you to rest, then?”
“That would be fine.”
“The bathroom is across the hall. The necessities are stocked. I will be downstairs should you require anything.”
She stood up, crossing the room. She looked up at him, her grey eyes deep with swirling concern. “I know this all must be very difficult for you.”
He leaned away from her presence. “Luna, I - that does not matter.”
“Listen to me, Severus. This is important.” Her eyes became focused and intense in a way he could not recall seeing on her dreamy features before.
He nodded, swallowing back against the ache that had found its way back into his chest as she stepped even closer.
“I need you to know something.” Her eyes locked on his.
He raised an eyebrow. “Yes?”
“I need you to know that if you had come to me beforehand and told me what you were being asked to do to me, I would have agreed to let you. I would have played my part for the greater cause.”
He stepped away from the witch. “That is absurd,” he said in a voice barely above a whisper.
“Is it not what you did?” She tilted her chin up, stepping closer. “Participated in horrible things for the greater good? Had to make many terrible choices?”
He closed his eyes and took a long slow breath, clenching his teeth. “That is not at all comparable.”
“Look at me!” His eyes snapped to her face as she continued, her voice strained. “Do you want me to hate you? Would that make you feel better somehow? I can play that part too.”
“Why do you give a shit about what I want, Luna? I did not afford you the same. How can you not hate me?” He replied in a slow, controlled tone even as his inner thoughts screamed curses mostly directed at himself.
“There is no reason--”
“You would have chosen this?” He motioned to her and then to himself, a little less controlled.
“I would have been a willing conspirator in whatever you needed to keep your good graces with the Death Eaters if it meant defeating Voldemort like we did. In fact, when I looked into your eyes that night, I understood the choice you had to make, and I became a willing participant. We were on the same side. I know it now, and I suspected as much then. Don’t you see?”
“And this?” He waved at her abdomen.
She glanced down and back at him. “Well...If I am honest,” She chewed her lip and took a deep breath. “Because of this,” she placed her hand on her midsection. “I am even more grateful it was you and not any of the others there that night.” She visibly shuttered as she took another deep breath.
Her words washed over him. How could she be so sanguine about this? “But don’t you see Luna. I failed you. I could have prevented this if I had been less worried about my own despair and thought of yours. A contraceptive charm would have been nothing had I given your needs any thought. You should be furious.”
“I am unsure you get to be the judge of that, Severus,” her voice soft, calm even. “What about me? I could have not gotten caught in the first place, or given in to the Death Eaters demands for compliance and loyalty, or at least faked it like you did.” She sighed as the resolve returned to her features. “But there is no value in thinking about those things. My father had this saying that I always liked but did not really understand until recently, 'yesterday means nothing to tomorrow.'"
He studied her, there was not much to her physically, more hair than anything else, but her presence seemed so much bigger than her stature, especially in the way she looked at him now. “You think you are to blame in any way for any of this?”
She shook her head, her hair flowing about her. “No. I think it is silly to even cast blame on what has been done. It does not change anything really, does it?” She shrugged.
Her logic was sound. Blame rarely solved anything. “No. It is usually a worthless endeavor.”
“You want me to hate you, but hate is too simple, too easy. I hate the situation we were forced into, and I hate Voldemort. But this...” She motioned between them. “...is too complicated for hate. I don't hate you, and I hope someday you won’t either.” Taking a deep breath, she turned from him to look out the shaded window.
He stared at her back finding her words echoing in his thoughts. “Unlikely,” he snorted.
She looked over her shoulder. “What?”
“Unlikely. Hate may be too complicated for you Luna, but I find it suits me well.”
She turned. “Suit yourself.” She crossed the space between them again and looked up at him. “Forgive me?"
He raised a brow, "Whatever for?"
"This." She wrapped her arms around his waist and pulled herself close. She stayed that way for a long breath before pulling away.
Severus, for his part, held his breath until she pulled free, Minerva’s words running through his head, just be kind .
Sleep failed to find him that night as he replayed her words over and over in his head. Horrible things. Terrible choices. Hate is too simple. Willing conspirator. Grateful it was you.
Did the strange witch really believe these words, or was it all part of her annoying undying optimism. Spending these recent days with the witch, he frequently suspected her demeanor to be as much as a facade as his own. No one could be that serene and hopeful all the damn time, especially not someone with such first hand knowledge of all the darkness that existed in this world, of the cruel nature of people, could they?
But if anyone could, it was likely Luna Lovegood. He shook his head as he reluctantly allowed his thoughts to drift to last year, of Hogwarts and of Malfoy Manor. He thought of the moment he had caught her, Longbottom and the youngest Weasley attempting to steal the sword from his office. It was the first time he really had considered her anything more than the Loony Ravenclaw that struggled to stay focused (and to wear appropriate footwear) in potions labs but still managed high marks in his classes despite her seeming constant level of distraction. When he had stormed into his office to find them, she was the only one to stand tall and look him straight in the eyes with those swirling silvery orbs, with a mix of defiance and curiosity, but not fear and not regret.
Those damn eyes. Always catching him off guard, never hesitating to meet his own as few others dared. Now that he thought of it, she had always been one of the few to do so, even before. He’d paid no mind back then, seeing her as just another irritating student, just a bit odder than most. Did she always see his secrets there? She seemed to have little trouble doing so recently.
Massaging his temples, he closed his eyes, wishing sleep could find him and silence his thoughts if even briefly. Instead, his exhausted mind continued to feed him unwelcomed images of the witch; her nonanswers and silence during her interrogations at Malfoy Manor, mostly at the hands of Bellatrix, her silver eyes dimmed but not defeated; her waifish, nearly nude form splayed before him and a room full of mocking masked wizards, the look of resolve in those deep, probing orbs.
Finally, he kicked free of the bedding and stood. His joints cracked and his body ached as he stretched and groaned. He supposed a shower and some caffeine would have to suffice in place of sleep for today.
Chapter 9: Just Tea
Luna picked at the jellied toast he had prepared them both for breakfast that day as he watched over his tea cup, his mental wards raised, his memories and emotions back in check.
“Still nauseated?” He took a bite of his toast.
She nodded. “Better than the vomiting like before.” She took a small bite with a shrug.
“I can brew you something for it.” Unfortunately, it could only be teas and tinctures until he could get access to a potions lab again, but he would make due with what he could brew in his kitchen for now.
She nodded again, her eyes tired. “Thank you.”
“I will go to the grocer today. What else might you require?”
“A muggle grocer?” She looked up at him with her wide, curious eyes.
He nodded. “Yes. There is one a short walk from here.”
She watched him in silence, but her mind was clearly busy. “Yes. That makes sense then.” She tilted her head, still studying him. “Not sleeping well?”
He shook his head. “Neither are you.” He could see the dark circles beneath her bright eyes.
“That’s true. Sleep has not been my friend recently.” She sighed. “So strange as I do love to dream. Don’t you?”
He snorted. He hardly remembered the time when his dreams had been something to welcome.
“No? That’s sad. But I imagine your dreams are not always pleasant.”
His jaw tightened as he checked his mental shields yet again. If she had been inside his head, he would have detected her by now. No one was that good, not even the Dark Lord.
She nodded and then looked down at the table. “I guess mine haven’t always been recently either.”
He swallowed as something inside him dropped into his gut. “The reason sleep has been so elusive, perhaps?”
“Perhaps…” She picked at her toast.
This was why he despised sharing space. He sensed he should say more, part of him even wanted to say more, but he dreaded where that conversation may lead. The proper thing, he knew, would be to ask her to elaborate or offer some words of comfort. He needed to say something at least, but he did not need to hear her speak the words to know what dark things haunted her dreams as they were likely some of the same which haunted him.
He stood, his limbs suddenly restless, and moved to pour himself another cup of tea. “More tea?”
She shook her head, her blond hair falling about her face. “If it is okay with you, I would like to go to the Weasley’s today. We need to get another issue together soon if I am going to keep on schedule.” She tucked the loose strands away.
He nodded. Would anyone actually notice if their Quibbler was late? He opted to keep those thoughts to himself. “And what will you tell them of your current living situation?”
“The truth.” Her bright eyes locked onto his gaze.
“Which is what in your view?”
“That I am comfortable and well taken care of by a kind and generous friend. Unless you would prefer something else?” She raised an eyebrow.
“Maybe something more believable like nargles or vampire kidnapping?” He raised an eyebrow in return.
She gave him a sour look but replaced it with a crooked smile, revealing a lopsided dimple. “Many might believe you a vampire, Severus. I don’t think it would take much to get that rumor going if that is your preference.”
He huffed. “Likely so.”
“But I am a terrible liar…” Her lips pursed. “I always have been. My father said it was because I usually just say whatever is on my mind. I don’t entirely agree with him though. I just don’t see a point in speaking contrary to it, but I am plenty capable of keeping my thoughts to myself when I choose.”
He could argue that she rarely seemed to choose to do so, but what would that accomplish? “You are free to come and go as you please, Luna. I am not your guardian, and you are not a child anymore. The floo is open to you. Others, however...”
She laughed. “Are you worried I might surprise you with a sitting room full of Gryffindors?”
“It had crossed my mind.”
“As amusing as that could be, I won’t disrespect your kindness by overstepping.”
“Luna, as long as you choose it, this space is as much yours as it is mine.” It was the least he could offer, considering.
She reached over the table and touched his hand. He flinched as the warmth of her soft hand caught him off guard, and she pulled away. “Thank you.” She smiled again. “Have a good day, Severus. Breakfast was lovely. I’m sorry I couldn’t eat it and that I was such poor company. I will try to be better in the future.” She bounced out of the room with another smile.
Such a strange witch.
The trip to the grocer had been mercifully uneventful. He had procured the necessities without issue, and no one knew of him or cared of his existence now or before. And the walk there and back brought much needed cerebration on his current predicament with Ms Lovegood. How long would it take before she tired of this arrangement? He imagined it would not last through the end of the week, but again what alternative did she really have? She could not possibly have the resources to rebuild her childhood home at this point. Go back to paying room and board at the Leaky Cauldron or the like? But they could not possibly go on playing house forever. At some point, there would be a child...his child. Their child.
He approached his front door and stopped, taking a slow deep breath, emptying his thoughts, clearing his head, and erected his mental walls.
As he stood in his kitchen over the pot of boiling water and a pile of freshly prepared tea leaves, he breathed in the aroma and thought about the potions lab; the soft sounds of a simmering cauldron, the smell of burning wood, the slight haze that hung in the air reflecting the flickering flames when he brewed. He missed it all. Most of all he missed the endless stock of ingredients readily available for whatever potion he dreamed or required. He thought of how easily he could brew a perfect abortifacient if only he had access to those stocks. How simple it would be to brew it into his anti-nausea tea undetectably and offer it to Luna. Then this ridiculous situation would end, and she could move on with her life. There would be no child.
He stared down at the tea kettle. Would Luna be able to connect the dots and pass the blame to him or would she simply believe it was meant to be? She did have the uncanny knack for seeing straight through his facade, but she also seemed to harbor an unearned amount of trust in him. He began listing the necessary ingredients in his head, anise, mugwort, thuja and pennyroyal to start but these would not be obtainable at the local grocer. He could owl his suppliers and have what he needed delivered easy enough, but he would therefore have to reveal himself, and would arouse suspicion surely with that ingredient list, neither of which he was not yet prepared to do.
He had brewed the potion before, more times than he would like to consider, first for fellow classmates and later for desperate students. Why did they always come to him? Of course that question was rhetorical. He knew exactly why. But he had never seen the effects in someone who had already quickened. Certainly, it would be much more dramatic and perhaps require multiple doses to be fully effective, but would it be harmful? As much as he wanted to tell himself that this was unlikely, he knew he could not bring himself to risk it. At least not without the proper research which was impossible in his current situation. Therefore, he would have to only continue to imagine the possibility rather than follow through.
He sighed as he placed the tea and boiling water into his tea pot to brew, inhaling the herbal and citrusy aroma. He had expected her to return by now. It was nearing dinner, but Molly probably ensured her a proper meal, or at least tried. That thought comforted and disgusted him at once. He could only imagine the snide commentary that Luna received from her companions today.
She entered the kitchen, her effervescent essence betraying her presence before she spoke. He might once have found this annoying, but today it brought an odd sense of relief.
“There you are.” She approached, her face bright.
He poured the freshly brewed tea into a cup. “For your nausea.”
She accepted, giving it a sniff as she watched him through narrow eyes over the cup.
He could not blame her for her suspicions, but again found himself taken aback by her ability to see into his head. “It is only that, I swear it, Luna.”
“Peppermint, ginger, lemon and nettles?” She sipped tentatively, her features relaxing.
He nodded. “Yes. I’ve made some chamomile tea to assist in your insomnia should you desire.” He pointed to the cupboard next to the stove.
“Thank you.” She sipped again. “I think it is helping already.”
He watched her as he sipped his own tea he had prepared earlier. Be kind . “How was your day?” He asked, the words feeling unnatural on his lips. Had he ever asked anyone something so mundane?
She shrugged. “Oh. Quite difficult actually. It is like we all have wrackspurts or something.” She sighed and sat at the table. “Everyone is so distracted. The enthusiasm for the Quibbler has waned already. I expected it would eventually, but not so soon. Even I struggled to find motivation today.” She circled her fingers on the wooden surface. “I think we have all finally started to feel all the things we have been trying not to. It was all rather unproductive but no one wanted to talk about why.” She sighed again.
He considered what she could be feeling now that she’d been hiding from, but did not dare to ask, not wanting to hear those answers just yet, especially not in Luna’s bluntness.
“We’ve already used up Harry’s story,” she continued. “It was brilliant, of course, but it is not an easy thing to follow. I think we are a bit intimidated by that fact. But the readers just want more and more and more about it all, and we all don’t understand what else there is to want to know really. Harry really summed it up, and it’s over now.” She shrugged.
He nodded and sat across from her. It was not over for her, nor himself, considering, but verbalizing that thought would not be helpful at this moment. As they sipped their tea in silence, watching each other, he was again struck how she was not the same girl from before, at how much she had changed in such a short time. “What of Mr Longbottom, Ms Weasley, and yourself? You certainly have stories of what happened during your final year, do you not? Your own battles fought before the final one?”
Luna mumbled something under her breath that he could not understand.
“Do you disagree?” He raised a brow.
“No. I had considered that, and I think it would be a brilliant story...” Her lips tightened.
“But it likely would not be flattering for you, would it?” Her pale cheeks reddened as she met his eyes with hers. “You were in charge when that all occurred and it really was awful even before my kidnapping.”
He nodded slowly. Awful was too kind. “I was also an active participant, do not forget. The underlying circumstances do not change that fact. As a journalist, you should not fear the facts.”
“I know. And Ginny would do an amazing job at writing it.” She stirred her tea slowly, her gaze beyond the wall in front of her.
“And I’m now a martyr, thanks to Potter,” he hissed, his teeth clenching.
"I guess people will likely understand now that they've heard Harry's story…” She looked unto her cup. “Yes. I will let her know to get working on it right away. It’s not too late for this issue. Thank you.” Her eyes returned to his.
How strange it was to have company in this kitchen. As before, her presence seemed to brighten the room even though today she wore a muted teal jumper over maroon trousers and what appeared to be dirigible plums hanging from her ears very clearly visible the way she chose to braid her long locks back down her spine. Strange witch.
She sat sipping her tea, he assumed her mind on the Quibbler.
“This is nice.” She smiled.
“Thank you for inviting me here.”
He nodded again. Her eyes indicated she had more to say.
“I..um...I feel safe here.” She chewed her pale pink lip as she watched him.
Something twisted in his chest, but he held his stoic gaze. “I am glad.”
“That is your happy face?” Her brow wrinkled as she tilted her head.
He huffed. “Yes.”
She shook her head and smiled. “I don’t believe it.”
He shrugged, noticing the single dimple in her left cheek. “So be it.”
She frowned, dimple fading. “I thought maybe you were less uptight in your own home, but maybe I was wrong.”
“It would appear that way.” He leaned back in his chair, sipping his tea, feeling the witch’s eyes studying him.
“I mean, all buttoned up all the time, that same hardened expression on your face. When do you relax, Severus? I hope you aren’t avoiding it because of me. Are you worried I might reveal that you are actually capable of anything else? Because I promise you, your secrets are safe with me.” Her face twisted in a look of concern.
He took another long sip of tea as he considered her imploring gaze. This was about as relaxed as he had been in ages if he were being honest. He reached up and unbuttoned the top button of his frock coat. “Happy?”
She laughed. “It’s a start, thank you.”
He gave a single nod, resisting the smile pulling at the corners of his mouth. “How is the nausea?”
“Better, thank you.”
She yawned. “No, thank you. I ate at The Burrow, or tried anyway. Mrs Weasley made a lovely meal as always. It was almost like being back at Hogwarts.”
He was about to insist she ate something more but held back, not sure how to do so without demanding it of her. He had no right to demand anything of her.
“I think I will attempt some sleep though.” She stood. “Good night, Severus.” She bowed her head as she passed him. “Thank you.” She paused at the doorway and looked back at him with her unfocused, dreamy stare.
“Good night, Luna.”
She smiled and turned.
As he heard her footsteps on the stairs, he leaned over the table, placing his head in his hands and sighed. Closing his eyes, he took some long breaths. He raised his head and unbuttoned the cuff of his left sleeve, pulling back the cloth to reveal the faded criss-crossing scars of the remnants of the Dark Mark. He traced the lines with his fingers. A faded reminder of the person he had once been, a wizard choosing power over all else. He knew better now, understood the sacrifices he had made, the suffering his choices had caused, and that power was not the only thing worth having. But did that really make him a changed man? He could never redeem himself from his terrible choices. A part of him would always be a Death Eater and that made him particularly unqualified to be any sort of parental figure, certainly not a father, and certainly not with someone so utterly contrary to himself.
The following morning, Luna found him reading the Daily Prophet in the sitting room as she exited the bookcase doorway. He looked up as she entered.
“Good morning, Severus.” She paused, her bright eyes scanning him. “You look different today.”
He grunted as he folded the paper into his lap. He had not bothered to put on his black frock coat today, opting instead for a black button up in place of the usual white one. Of course she would vocalize the obvious. And he had slept, free of disturbing images all night long, the first without potions in ages. But despite this, he found himself particularly irritable this morning. He tightened his jaw, reminding himself to try to avoid taking it out on the young witch.
“Today is the memorial at Hogwarts. Won’t you join me?” She wore an aubergine colored dress with billowed sleeves over pale blue leggings and her usual laced up boots with her cork necklace dangling around her neck. Her hair flowed loosely about her shoulders, and her wand was tucked into her woven shoulder bag instead of its perch above her left ear. It seemed a bit bright for a memorial, but then again, it seemed fairly subdued compared to her usual, lacking the patterns, striped socks, or insect earrings she preferred.
Severus shook his head. “I don’t see that as the most appropriate time to reveal myself, do you?” Nor did he believe he would be welcomed, even with the revelations of Mr Potter to “redeem” him. His irritable mood was now explained. He may have consciously forgotten about the memorial until she had mentioned it, but he doubted his subconscious had allowed it to slip as easily.
Her brows tightened as she considered his words. “No. I suppose you are right.” She sighed. “But it does not seem fair.”
He nodded, choosing not to comment on the unfairness of life as he normally was inclined to do when such statements were uttered. She had plenty of first hand knowledge of the fact. He could not stop himself from glancing down at the Ravenclaw’s midsection, which had he not known her secret, gave nothing away in her airy dress. “How will you be traveling?”
“Floo. I am meeting Neville in Hogsmeade, and we will walk over to the castle together. I imagine Harry, Ron, Ginny, and Hermione will be there too.”
He tensed at the mention of Mr Longbottom. “I imagine many will be there.”
“Well, yes, of course.” She smiled. “I best be off before the Floo Network gets overwhelmed.”
“Yes,” he mumbled.
“I will see you this evening?” She tilted her head as she repositioned her shoulder bag.
“I will be here.” He unfolded the paper from his lap.
“Have a good day, Severus.” She disappeared into the fireplace.
Severus scanned the remaining pages of the publication mostly uninterested. He stood as the emptiness of the space hit him like a foul odor, and he stared into the dark fireplace. Moving to the kitchen to escape it, he poured himself a cup of tea, contemplating a dash of something stronger. It was definitely too early for firewhiskey, but perhaps breakfast would be more appropriate.
As he fried an egg at the stove, he considered how dreary his small kitchen felt this morning without his houseguest joining him at the table. Had he already become accustomed to Ms Lovegood’s company? After so many years alone, had it really only taken so few days? He snorted. Ridiculous.
He sat at the empty table eating his egg and sipping his tea. Could he have made an appearance at the memorial today? Had Harry’s words really redeemed him? Luna said people were likely to understand now that they knew, but could anyone really understand? He’d participated in horrible things in the name of a greater good, a greater good he’d once been actively working against.
He rubbed his left forearm. He’d once been the very thing he fought against, only come around by force. Would he have changed if it hadn’t been for Lily’s death? He really doubted it.
He cleared his throat as he forced the thoughts from his head and strengthened his mental shields, however, the intrusive thoughts still found their way in. He must be weaker than he thought, still recovering from his injuries.
He thought of Lucius and Karkaroff. Was he really any different than these men? Perhaps a bit more clever and definitely a great deal more talented, but not any less deplorable just because he chose to change allegiances when he did. An admirable man would not have been there to begin with. A better man would have followed Lily into the Order and put his talents to use there, ignoring the torments of Potter and his minions.
Finally, he forced his mental walls back in place, and breathed a long sigh of relief. He did not want to continue down those memories. He stood, grabbed a tumbler from the cupboard, and poured himself a double of firewhiskey. With a long drink, he moved back to the sitting room.
Luna stepped into the sitting room from the fireplace that evening, brightening the space immediately even as she gave him a sad smile. Her swollen red eyes betrayed her as she attempted to cover them with her usual dreamy-eyed stare and a weak smile. “Good evening, Severus.”
“Sit. I will bring you something to drink.” He wished he had something more to offer her, but as it were, it was all he could think of in the moment.
Her eyes widened, but she did as instructed, sitting on the sofa. “Tea would be wonderful.”
He rushed into the kitchen and charmed the tea kettle as he prepared the chamomile tea.
He heard her enter and sit at the table behind him.
“It was a difficult day,” she said softly.
He turned to her and nodded. “Yes..”
“But it really was a lovely memorial. Professor McGonagall presided over the whole thing as the new Headmaster with Fawkes at her side. She is going to be so wonderful as Headmaster, don’t you think?” She looked up at him, her eyes sparkling.
He nodded. She already was.
“Minister Shackelbolt was there with some brilliantly spoken words of healing and togetherness. I really like him. He seems to have a good heart but not afraid to literally fight for what is right.” Her fingers twisted a lock of blonde hair.
“The merpeople sang a bittersweet lament and the centaurs paid their respects with flaming arrows to the heavens. There were even fireworks.” Her eyes widened.
Fireworks seemed a bit much, but he bit his tongue and nodded. “May I get you something to eat?”
She sighed. “Maybe just some toast or something.”
He nodded and casually waved a hand over his shoulder. Two slices of bread moved from the breadbox into the charmed toaster; a spell he was all too familiar with in this kitchen. With another wave the butter crock and butter knife moved to the table. It was simple magic, but it was reassuring to cast it effortlessly.
“It was well attended, I imagine.”
“Oh, yes. Very. I think every student and their families attended as well as most of the high ranking Ministry officials. Even Mr Ollivander was there.” She caressed the wand perched above her left ear. “It was lovely to see him. He looks well.”
Severus swallowed the unpleasant bitterness that had developed in his mouth as he forced back the vile thoughts of the last time he had seen Mr Ollivander at Malfoy Manor.
He turned when the toaster popped, grabbed a plate from the cupboard and served the warm toast to his guest. “Enjoy.”
“Thank you.” She smiled weakly.
“Are you well otherwise?”
“Other than my grief?” She raised an eyebrow as she took a bite of toast.
She chewed slowly, her eyes distant. “I am not really sure how I should be feeling these days, but I guess I feel well enough.”
He nodded again. He did not know either.
“I mean, my grief is overwhelming at times.” She sighed and swallowed. “And it is hard to imagine that it will go away, even though I know it will get better with time. That is the nature of it after all. Grief I mean.”
He had agreed not to question her nutrition or her sleep, but the concern was still present. He had hardly witnessed her eat much more than toast, tea, and a few chips in these past few days. And those circles under her eyes were only more pronounced by the redness of her lids.
“I was so young when Mum died, but it did get easier. Do you think it will be different now?”
“Yes.” He stiffened.
“Yes?” She bit her lower lip again.
“Your entire life has been upended, Luna. Everything is different now.”
She sighed as she nodded. “Everything is different now.” She sat quietly in her thoughts for a long moment.
Severus collected her now empty tea cup and placed it into the sink. As he turned back toward her, leaning against the basin, he questioned what was happening behind those distant eyes.
The fog scattered from her face as she looked up at him suddenly. With a tired smile, she stood. “Good night Severus.” She yawned. “Thank you.”
“I hope you find sleep tonight.”
“You too.” She paused momentarily as she passed close to him as if she might want to say something or reach out to touch him but reconsidered.
His dark eyes followed her movements out. Once he heard the creak of the door at the top of the stairs, he reached for the bottle of firewhiskey. With a long sigh, he poured a glass, trying not to count which glass this would be for the day. He took a slow sip, savoring the burn and welcoming the numbness that would follow.
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Chapter 11: Drop Scones
An owl tapped on the window of the kitchen as Severus stood at the stove attempting to make drop scones that following morning which in fact he had never made before but thought they might be preferable to eggs for his ever nauseated houseguest. He opened the window and the bird flew inside, dropping his parcel onto the kitchen table before flying out the window again.
He untied the string wrapped around the Quibbler, and stared down at the front page. The War Within the Walls: Inside Hogwarts Before the Final Battle . Dozens of smiling faces beamed up at him from the photo of the self-proclaimed “Dumbledore's Army” just below the headline.
He hissed as the odor of burning batter drew his attention back to his pan. “Damnit.” He rushed back to the stove and flipped the scones out of the pan to the plate. Those would be his. With a sigh, he dropped more batter into the hot oil.
“It smells so good in here.” Luna stepped into the kitchen wearing an emerald green jumper over jeans swirled with some elaborate design in grey. ”Oh, are those drop scones?. Who knew you were so domestic?” Her eyes became distant for a moment. She blinked and added, “But if I think about it, it really is not that surprising. Potions and cooking have many similarities.” She shrugged.
He grunted. “I hope my potion work has been more successful than these pan cakes.”
She laughed. “What do you mean? They look perfectly golden brown.”
“Is that an appetite I sense?” His eyebrow cocked.
“It is.” She nodded sending the odd dangles of color hanging from her ears into a curious dance about her cheekbones.
“Then sit.” He motioned to the table with a jerk of his chin.
She sat down at the table, her eyes still on him. “You do know I am plenty capable of cooking for myself, don’t you?”
“Likely so.” He piled the scones onto a plate and placed it before her. “Honey? Jam?
She stood and grabbed some cutlery from the drawer near the stove. Pausing inches from him, she looked up at him. “You smell different.”
“I smell different?” An odd observation.
“Apparently one of the many joys of pregnancy.” She tapped her nose. “Super-smelling.”
“Do elaborate.” He leaned back.
“Well, I mean, I guess maybe I just always associated you with the smell of the potions lab - like embers and ink. Or the scent of the potions text. Sometimes there was also a hint of dittany and arnica.”
He swallowed down the dryness in his throat as he looked down at the witch who now seemed so close he had little doubt she could smell his odor. He could certainly smell her airy fragrance of dandelion and citrus. He cleared his throat. “Were you in the practice of smelling all of your professors, Ms Lovegood?” As apparently, even before her super-smelling abilities, her olfactory abilities were keen.
“No. Just the ones in the habit of moving into my personal space while I worked.” She shrugged. “Professor Flitwick smelled like green tea and candlewax usually.”
“How enlightening,” he drawled.
“But today…” She drew herself closer and inhaled, her eyes closing. “Today, I smell cinnamon, well-worn leather, and a hint of..” She inhaled again. “Something earthy. Is that valerian maybe?”
He swallowed again as the warmth of her closeness settled over him. The damn witch had to be in his head. It was impossible for her to perceive so much with just his scent. His jaw tightened. Perhaps she did not actually understand the significance of what she described; did not know the ditany and arnica were the primary ingredients of his wound healing salve he often needed after being called to the Dark Lord’s side; the valerian the principal ingredient in his calming tinctures of which he’d depended on a bit too much as of late. The cinnamon was likely the firewhiskey which replaced the tinctures when they failed. And the leather, well, he’d practically planted himself in that leather armchair while Luna spent her days with the Weasley clan.
“It’s quite pleasant, really,” she almost whispered as she looked up at him with her deep, swirling, silver eyes.
He met her gaze, feeling himself drawn in deeper, almost as though they begged him to enter her thoughts. It would be so simple to dive into her head, swim through her feelings, her memories, her secrets. He could know for sure if she had been in his head and how much she knew. He grit his teeth and looked away to the table. “Shall we eat?”
“Oh, yes.” She moved back to the table seemingly oblivious to the temptation she had just provided him.
Probably for the better , he thought. He did not want to even try to imagine what sort of overwhelmingly saccharine world existed behind those sparkling irises. To experience the world through those eyes would likely overwhelm him in ways he could not fathom. It almost caused nausea simply to try.
They sat, and he watched as she pulled two drop scones onto her plate and proceeded to tuck them away without hesitation. “These are wonderful.”
“I am relieved you think so.” He would make them for every meal if it meant her continued intake.
“Very much so. Thank you.” She pulled another two cakes onto her plate.
He nodded as he took a bite of his own food, pleasantly surprised at the flavor. He would have to experiment with additional recipes in the future. As Luna had keenly observed, cooking was really a form of potions, combining the ingredients just so and adding the right amount of energy to achieve the desired results.
Luna reached for the Quibbler. “Did you read it?”
He shook his head. “Only the headline.”
“Ginny really might have outdone herself with this one, I think. It reads like a short story more than a column, but she got in all the facts without cutting any of the emotion, dangers, or frustrations. It probably helped that she kept a journal through it all. She remembered so many things that I had forgotten or did not even know in the first place.”
Severus reached for the magazine and started to scan the exposé.
“ You reassembled that group of rebels?” he scoffed.
“In the DA, I found my true friends, and as it grew, so did my friendships. I needed them then more than ever. I never really meant it to become what it did, but Ginny and Neville sort of took it from there.” She smiled, as she stared past him.. “You can understand about wanting to belong to something like that, can’t you?”
He narrowed his eyes. “Yes.” His left fist tightened as he recalled the first time Lucius had invited him to join a group of what would become the Death Eaters. He had been asked to teach them a few of his darker self-created spells which he had readily done without reservation at the time. How they all hung on his every word for those brief moments. How they all suddenly knew who he was and wanted to be in his presence after that. If only he had foreseen how deep he would go.
He suppressed a sigh as he continued to read. He cleared his throat as he read of the cruciatus practice rounds. He had known of them at the time but reading of them now, picturing the witch before him writhing in agony for her revolt caused his stomach to lurch.
Her eyes met his as he looked over at her. “It was much worse to be on the performing end, than the receiving…” she mumbled clearly understanding the meaning in his look.
“Gods, Luna…I did not know.” Luna Lovegood had cast Unforgivables on her fellow classmates. He did not believe it possible.
“That was intentional, I imagine. Thankfully for my classmates, I was not very good at it.”
“You have to really mean it…” he mumbled.
“Yes,” she whispered. “I never did…never could…”
“Even now, after everything you have been through?” He raised an eyebrow.
“I don’t think so, although there are few I would be willing to try against.” Her face tightened.
He nodded, his mouth suddenly dry. Just how much had she really suffered? He had managed to shield her from severe punishment the day he’d caught her and the others breaking into his office to steal the Sword, but clearly that would have just been one of many apparently. Perhaps he should have taken a chance in her head. He took a long sip of tea as he continued reading.
“Did you really stun Alecto?” He refilled their tea cups
She shrugged. “Yes. She had worse coming, but it was what came to me first.” She sipped her tea. “I guess I should have taken my practice seasons more seriously…”
He closed the publication and sighed. It was a compelling account to say the least. It would likely get attention if anyone actually read it.
“The youngest Weasley does have a certain knack for writing.”
“Is that a compliment, Severus?” She cocked her head.
“I must be getting soft.” He sneered.
She laughed. “Subscription requests skyrocketed last week.” Her face brightened.
He had underestimated the potential of this once quirky publication. As he flipped through the remainder of the magazine, he encountered ads for almost every business in Diagon Alley and several in Hogsmeade, some sort of puzzle game, and a note from the Minister of Magic and Headmistress McGonagal on the reopening of Hogwarts in the fall. The final pages contained coverage of the memorial. He closed the last page. “I do believe it has been well earned.”
“Are you feeling well, Severus? That was two compliments back to back.”
She was right. He had let two complimentary phrases slip back to back. He really was getting soft. He shrugged, a very uncharacteristic response, so much so, he felt an odd weight hang in his shoulders after.
“I promise not to tell anyone.” She smiled.
“No one would believe you if you tried.”
She laughed again, the sweet sound echoing in his ears. “Yes. Fair point.” She smiled. “Would you like to join me today?”
The tension returned to his jaw as he looked into his tea. “I must decline.”
“Oh. But I can’t stand the thought of you sitting around here alone all day.” Her smile faded.
“It really is not any different from before.”
She observed in silence for a long moment. “I still don’t like it. You must be lonely...” Her brow tightened as she watched him.
“It is not any different from before,” he repeated.
Luna shook her head. “That doesn’t make it right?”
“I assure you, I do not mind in the least.”
Her eyes narrowed as she appeared to study him in silence. “It is hard to miss what you have never had…”
He frowned. “You presume too much, Miss Lovegood.” A throb echoed in his temples as his teeth gnawed.
Her eyes widened as her pale lips fell open. “My apologies, Sir. I didn't mean to make assumptions.”
He inhaled sharply, regaining his resolve over his desire to make some cutting remark. “Some of us enjoy our solitude.”
“Yes. I understand. I only meant that you would be welcome if you so wished…” She licked her lips and looked down at her hands next to her plate. “And thought perhaps it has been a while since you’ve truly felt welcome,” she added softly.
Something twisted in his gut. Damnit. How did she do it? He huffed as the throbbing in his head grew.
“But perhaps another time.” She stood. “Do you need any assistance with ..” She motioned to her neck.
“I think I can manage.”
Her mouth opened as though she might argue and closed again as she nodded. “Of course. I hope you have a good day, Sir.”
He nodded and watched as she left the room. With a deep sigh, he dragged his hands over his face.
Chapter 12: Reading the Tea Leaves
That afternoon, she returned, a basket in her arms and a wide smile on her face.
“You appear even more cheery than usual.” He mumbled, as he looked up from his book.
“Oh, I am.” She stepped into the room and set the basket and her bag down. “Ms Weasley sent some dinner for us. Are you hungry?”
“She doesn’t trust me to feed you?” He frowned as he stood and picked up the basket, the smell of warm bread overcoming his disapproval.
“Don’t be ridiculous. She knows you are still recovering and of my questionable stomach.” She moved to the kitchen, and he followed.
Together, they unpacked the basket and set the table for two.
As they sat she smiled. “We had an interesting conversation today.”
“Only one? You were away all day.”
She chuckled. “Well, this one in particular I thought you might take interest in.”
His eyes narrowed. “How enlightening. And what might that be?
“Let us tell your story next, Severus!” Her eyes begged, “Your survival is big news. Let The Quibbler be the one to tell the world.”
He pinched the bridge of his nose. “Do not be daft.”
She frowned, and he regretted his words. He cleared his throat. “What I mean is that you are likely the only one to have any positive emotion on my survival. And I still do not understand that.” He shook his head.
“Severus. That’s not true. Harry is grateful for everything, even said you were a hero. Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Neville, have all been positive. Even Mrs Weasley will likely forgive you at some point.” Her eyes widened as her face brightened further. “You really should come with me to the Burrow next time.”
He shook his head.
“Comon, Severus. It’s going to get out sooner or later. You can’t stay holed up here forever. Even if you try to go full Muggle, you will eventually be discovered. Why not let me take advantage of it all?”
He huffed and took a bit of the still warm bread. “I never saw you as one to try to take advantage of anyone, Ms Lovegood.”
She flushed again. “I...I did not mean it exactly like that.”
He laughed under his breath. “Of course not. I do not think you are capable of such thoughts.”
“No. I probably am.” She smothered some fresh butter onto her bread, and her eyes widened again. “Oh! We could get Rita Skeeter to write it. She’s been after Harry every day to get his ‘real story’ ever since the memorial.” She rolled her eyes. “I cannot even imagine what she would think of this scoop.” She giggled.
Severus’s lip curled. “That sounds charming.”
“But seriously. For some reason, people love her columns. It would be guaranteed to be a big deal. Won’t you please consider it?” She leaned over the table, her silver eyes begging him as though they had been friends for years.
“You will? You will do it?” She leaned closer.
“No. I will consider it.” He said dryly.
“Thank you.” She smiled, and continued to work at her dinner. “How was your day?”
She shook her head but did not respond as they both continued to partake in Mrs Weasley’s generous offering.
Severus set the tea kettle to boil as he cleared the table. “Chamomile?”
“Yes. Thank you.”
He turned from the witch and prepared two cups of tea, adding a bit of calming tincture to his own cup as he considered her previous request. He had no desire for any fanfare or celebrity, but it would be relief in some ways to control the circumstances around his reveal and to once again go about his daily activities without inevitable awkward encounters and disbelief.
Handing her a cup, he sat back at the table.
She leaned back and sipped her tea, watching him with her strange wide eyes.
He tried to ignore her eyes, but even more so, he tried to ignore how exposed he felt beneath her gaze despite his usual black coat layered over his white collared shirt buttoned as though he were in front of the classroom.
“Improving. I have found certain foods more appetising that others, but Mrs Weasley tells me that is quite normal and will last throughout. She said to expect odd cravings as well, but I have not had any at this point.”
He nodded and took a long drink of his cup. “Please inform me if there are any preferences of which I can accommodate.”
Her wide eyes locked onto his. “I am capable of providing for my own needs, Severus. Even more so now that the Quibbler is making a profit.”
“When have you ever been required to obtain your own essentials, Luna?”
“Daddy and I had a lovely garden at home. It provided quite a lot.” She shrugged as her smile faded.
Severus stared out the window about the stove. His garden that had once brimmed with potions necessities, herbs, and a few vegetables and berry vine or two had long since been overtaken by weeds and neglect. “Would you like to help redeem the garden here?”
Luna stood and went to the window. “Oh yes. Very much.”
“Then it is yours to do with what you please.” He waved a hand to the window.
“Wonderful. I will get started tomorrow.” With one last loud sip of her tea, she looked down into the cup, humming to herself as she sat back down. “Oooh.”
“What do you see in that cup of yours, Luna?” He leaned forward. He knew it was rubbish, divining tea leaves, but her answer may still be of interest.
“I don’t know yet. May I have yours?” She asked with a mischievous grin.
He pushed his empty cup to her after a moment. .
She stared into the two vessels for a long moment and grinned. “I think you are going to agree to let me tell your survival story.” Her begging eyes met his again.
He sat, as rigid as ever, but very much alive in his characteristic crisp black frock coat buttoned to the chin and flowing jet black robes, sipping something from his tea cup; Hogwarts’ now infamous potions master, Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor, and briefly Headmaster, Severus Snape, until this point believed dead. His piercing dark eyes watched me with suspicion and his smooth baritone voice almost imperceptibly altered by the once assumed fatal injury to his neck, spoke to me as though I were still his student.
Luna giggled as she read the article aloud sitting on the sofa across from him. “I think she fancies you, Severus.”
“An unpleasant thought.”
She giggled again.
He spoke of the Potter-boy’s recount of events as, “an overly sentimental version of the facts... It is true I was once close with Lily Evans. She lived just down the street from myself when we were children.”
And the romance? “A wayward friendship that became difficult to maintain in the later years. It was never anything more.”
She looked up at him, eyes full of questions, but said nothing, to his relief, and continued reading.
And of the supposed love-magic that protected Mr Potter from death that night eighteen years ago. “She loved that boy with all she had, as I am sure many mother’s do. I have no doubt that that love contains very powerful magic; a magic Tom Riddle would have never understood or conceived of. Turned out to be his Achilles Heel, it seems. Albus [Dumbledore] suspected it would be from the beginning. His plans depended on it. Fortunately for all of us, he was correct.” Although the wizard-spy had not always been as confident. When Harry Potter reported the return of the He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and the death of Cedric Diggory during the Triwizard Tournament, he was unsure if playing the role of triple agent was doing anything more than delaying the inevitable.
With great pains, he returned to the ranks of Death Eaters to do the bidding of the now deceased Headmaster. From the inside, he warned of the impending dangers and states he did what he could to minimize the damage. Despite his best efforts, he did witness many horrific things. How much he actively participated in remains a partial mystery, but he does state, murder is not on his conscience.
And of Headmaster Dumbledore’s death? “It is as Mr Potter reported.” Despite further questioning, he would not elaborate on the account leaving one to only assume he has strong feelings hidden beneath that cold persona.
“Rubbish,” Severus interrupted. “Potter already said all that is needed on the subject.”
Luna raised her eyebrows but continued.
Snape readily admits at one time being drawn to the allure of the dark arts and the many promises made by the now defeated He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named but learning of his plans to target infants, especially those of his former close friends and schoolmates, quickly changed his allegiances.
And yet he seemingly had no trouble torturing his students, even the youngest, during his brief time spent as Headmaster of Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry, if previous reports from some of those students are to be believed. “Yes, well, I do not know any Professor who has not at least considered it in their career.”
“Did you really say that?” she frowned.
“It was taken out of context, but yes.” He shrugged.
She shook her head, a small smile on her face. “I always wondered if you enjoyed some of the things you did to us?”
“You always wondered?” He raised an eyebrow. How often had she considered him before their unfortunate meeting at Malfoy Manor?
“Well yes. Taking points from anyone but Slytherin seemed to be a particular passion for you, even when not entirely justified. And you certainly seemed to have it out for Harry, Ron, and Hermione.”
“Did I?” He did, but had it been so apparent or just to the perceptions of this uniquely perceptive witch?
She nodded. “And you could be quite rude at times.”
“Patience has never been my strong point.”
“Oh, I disagree. You were always incredibly patient with me. Perhaps just with those three. Oh, and Neville, of course. But I suppose you had your reasons didn’t you?”
He gave a single nod.
“I mean, if I think about it, they probably reminded you a lot of some of the students you went to school with. What I know of Harry’s father, and his friends… and what I’ve put together from listening to Harry -”
“I think that’s enough theorizing about the inner workings of my mind, Ms Lovegood.” He interrupted, jaw tense as he tried to keep his voice steady.
Her eyes widened. “I’m sorry, Sir. I didn't mean to get so assume again...” She looked away.
He sighed as he assessed his mental shields. Could Potter have toldt her of his stolen memories? He did not want to believe the witch could read him so plainly. But she was correct. The Potter boy and his following very much reminded him of those Gryffindors from his youth in so many ways. At least, however, they had chosen something more valuable to do with their time than tormenting less fortunate students.
She broke the silence as she cleared her throat. “Shall I continue reading?”
A friend of the Professor, Lucius Malfoy, responded to the news of his survival. “There has always been more to Severus than most credit him for. I cannot say I am entirely surprised by any of the recent revelations. Although he did fool many.”
His wife, Narcissa added, “He has been willing on many occasions to protect his students, even with his life. Many should be grateful for his presence throughout this tumultuous time. We all had to make difficult choices during it all.”
Her eyes narrowed as she bit her lower lip. She must be considering her own experiences with the Malfoy’s.
“Such flattery. A pity Lucius was able to avoid all punishment.”
She nodded. “But not surprising. It is the way of things, isn’t it? The powerful and well connected are always given benefits others are not.”
He nodded. Again the young witch proved wise beyond her years, but perhaps it was because she had seen much beyond her few years as well.
And how did he survive the attempt on his life? “Quick actions by some heroic students. Some of the same well known to be part of the resistance against my administration, and the brilliant care by those at St Mungos. I had no part in that.”
He had fully meant to die. Perhaps even planned it as atonement for his past transgressions. But he would not elaborate on that either.
And of the future? For once since graduating Hogwarts, his life will not be defined by rising dark lords or Magical Wars. He says he will, “Finish a few potions manuscripts and take time to catch up on some reading.” Although, my sources suggest he may return to Hogwarts in the spring, the ever cryptic wizard would neither confirm or deny this.
“So? Will you be returning to Hogwarts this spring?”
“I have not been asked to do so. I am unaware of her ‘sources.’”
“If you were?” She continued staring at the parchment in her hand.
“The income would be advantageous considering the circumstances.”
She nodded as her large eyes became distant. “Yes. I suppose that is practical.”
“Oh, there’s one last line.” She waved the manuscript.
Severus Snape; Scoundrel or Saint? Perhaps only time will be the judge of that.
Luna looked up at him from behind the draft. “So?”
He circled his hand before him, stirring the liquid in his tumbler and took a slow sip. “Scoundrel, I should say.”
Luna laughed so hard she practically convulsed. “No. I mean. Can I publish it? I promised you would get the final say.”
“No one is really going to care about this drivel.”
“Then I can?” Her face became hopeful.
“If you insist,” he grumbled.
“Good. I already paid Ms Skeeter. She included these photographs. Which do you prefer?”
He resisted the urge to roll his eyes. “Must there be a photo?”
“Of course, it can’t be a front page without a photo?” She flipped through the stack of photos. “I find myself agreeing with Ms Skeeter’s choice.” She handed him the photo.
In it, he sat half shadowed, stirring the grey tea cup. He huffed. “It will do.”
Luna took it back and cocked her head as she stared at it. “It makes you appear very mysterious. I think it fits the tone of the article well.”
“And what will you call your article, Scoundrel or Saint?” He took another sip of whiskey as he watched as she chewed her lower lip in thought.
“No. That sounds like something Skeeter would call one of her dreadful books.” Her nose wrinkled. “Perhaps ‘Severus Snape, Very Much Alive.’”
That would do. He nodded.
Chapter 13: Threats Received and Secrets Revealed
Sorry for the long absence. I reworked this section several times. Still not sure about it. Please let me know your thoughts.
The owls started arriving the same day the article published; hundreds of letters addressed to him in various forms of formality or insults. He sneered curses with each knock at the window. Destroying several Howlers before they could begin their tirades, he watched as each fizzled to the ground with satisfaction. When he stopped letting the owls in, the letters came down the fireplace instead. Finally, he just collected them as they fell and stacked them on his side table with a huff. He would have to make this place unplottable if they did not stop.
He had no interest in any of it, but when Luna stepped from the fireplace that afternoon after spending her day at the Weasley’s, she gasped at the pile building on his side table.
“Oh. They are here too?” We’ve got hundreds at the shop too.” As she had recently started calling Mr Weasley’s shed in which her press currently stood. She sighed.
“You burned them, I hope,” he mumbled as he pinched the bridge of his nose.
“No. Ron and Harry amused themselves by reading them all today. I think you should read some. I saved the best for you.” She pulled the letters from her shoulder bag and offered them to him as he sat in his armchair..
He eyed them for a moment before shaking his head. “That will not be necessary.”
She sat them on the table with the rest. “Then there’s this one…” her voice wavered as she pulled out another letter.
He took it from her trembling hands, eying the scrawled address on the front before opening the folds. You should have stayed in hiding, but now I have found you. Who will protect you now that the Dark Lord is gone, the traitorous potions master? I will have you yet.
Her eyes were wide and clouded with distress “It was not signed…”
“But you suspect someone?” His grip tightened on the parchment and his shoulders tensed as he examined the black wax seal.
She nodded. “Rodolphus,” she nearly whispered.
His eyes narrowed. “Why him?”
Her wide eyes narrowed in turn as her voice hardened. “Because he said very similar things to me in….well, before.”
“He should be in Azkaban.” He stood, suddenly feeling restless.
“He is supposed to be.” She reached into her bag again and pulled out a copy of the Daily Prophet and showed him the list of those captured and sent to Azkaban after the battle at Hogwarts. Rodolphus Lestrange was indeed listed.
“Perhaps he managed to get a letter out.”
She nodded. “Yes. Maybe. Or perhaps it was someone else...”
He grabbed her hand and her silvery eyes shot to his face. “Luna, I will protect you.”
She nodded as she looked at where his hand enveloped hers. “I know.”
“Then why do you look so frightened?”
To his surprise, she laughed a strange dark laugh as she squeezed his hand tight. “I’m not frightened, Severus. I am furious.” She laughed again, this time sounding exacerbated. “It has hardly been a month since the last battle. Not even a month of peace, and here we are under threat again.” Her face tightened in a way he had not seen before. To know her thoughts.
“I will investigate this.” He folded the note again, tucking it into his shirt pocket.
“The Weasley’s said the same.” She sighed.
“Yes.” He withheld further audible judgement on the Weasleys’ ability to provide her adequate protection.
He cleared his throat. “Do you really want to keep working, considering this?”
Her eyes widened as she pulled her hand free. “I will not allow myself to be scared by a piece of paper?”
“It is more than that, Luna.” He rubbed his temple and swallowed down his growing irritation.
“Yes, of course it is. But perhaps that is the goal. To frighten me, to silence me.” She cocked her head.
He nodded. “Yes. I believe that is a part of it. But you most certainly should assume you are in real physical danger. Rodolphus never took well to being denied what he felt was rightfully his.”
She moved away from him and stared into the darkness of the fireplace. “I need The Quibbler. I can’t give it up at the first sign of trouble. What would Daddy say?”
“Luna, your safety is paramount.”
“I will stay aware. I can protect myself, Severus, and this one too.” She raised her chin as she turned back toward him, a hand resting protectively over her midsection.
He snorted. “You are a capable dueler, you have more than proven that. But staying aware is not exactly a strong point of yours.”
“You underestimate me.” She clicked her tongue as her bright eyes seemed to sparkle with amusement.
“Care to prove that?” He grabbed his wand from its place within his sleeve and spun it in his fingers.
She fingered the wand resting above her left ear. “What did you have in mind?”
“A game of sorts.” He cocked a brow.
She leaned closer. “A game? I did not know you were capable of such things.”
“Yes. Well, it is more of an exercise if you prefer.” His lip twitched into a half smile. “I will attempt to hex you with a mild stinging charm, nothing dangerous, at random moments without warning. You try to block me. Simple.” He shrugged his shoulders.
Her lips tightened as she considered him. “Seems simple enough. Will you be using wandless magic as well?”
“Perhaps.” The other half of his lip curled to reveal a small smile. She was perhaps more observant than he had credited her for.
“Then perhaps I will too.” She winked and gave him a bright grin before turning from him to gather up the many letters.
He raised an eyebrow. Had the witch really mastered wandless magic?
To both Severus’s surprise and dismay, Luna turned out to be quite good at his game. He tried to curse her a few minutes later while she flipped through a stack of letters on his table.
Without even looking away from the letter, she blocked him, quickly grabbing her wand from her hair as though she had been expecting it entirely before tucking the wand precariously back behind her ear. “Oh look, this witch has included a rather risque photo for you, Severus.” She held up the letter and photo not even acknowledging that he had just tried to hex her.
He sighed, stood, took it from her, and threw it directly into the fireplace. “ Incendio,” he mumbled and the contents burst into flames as she giggled. He suppressed a smile at the pleasing sound of it.
Some time later, while she sang to herself in the kitchen as she prepared some tea, he tried again. His curse bounced off her back and came flying back to him.
“Stinging me in the back, really?” She shook her head as she offered him some tea.
That evening, as she sat in the arm chair, after they had eaten their dinner, he targeted her feet with a silent spell. She simply raised them up, avoiding the hit and snickered. “Are you even trying, Severus?”
“Yes.” He frowned. His first attempt had been rather feeble, but this time and the last he had truly meant to catch her off guard. He was slow. He must be still weakened from his injuries or was subconsciously not able to allow harm to come to her. His jaw tightened. How else could this diminutive witch best him? He swallowed down a sigh.
“Just promise me you won’t attack me in my sleep, okay? I’m finally sleeping again.” Her eyes pleaded, revealing more intensity than her words.
“That is fair.” He looked away, his chest aching.
“Good night, then?”
“Good night.” He nodded, his gaze following her as she entered the bookcase stairwell and disappeared up the stairs, feeling the emptiness of the room immediately. He would never voice it aloud, but it was nice to have some company in this house.
The following morning, he awaited her as she emerged from the loo, wrapped in one of his old towels. Blocking the curse with her palm and a quiet, hurried protego, she frowned. “Ugh, I don’t even have my wand, and I almost dropped my towel.”
He raised an eyebrow, considering the outcome had she not been as quick. He was unsure whether to be regretful or disappointed, but quickly chastised himself for such thoughts. “Very good, Luna. Perhaps, I have underestimated you. Did that ridiculous dueling club actually teach you something?”
“Certainly a lot more than I ever learned in DADA or Charms.” She stepped into her room and closed the door.
He nodded. She did not mention potions. “I will see you downstairs for breakfast, Luna. And you should always have your wand.”
She stepped into the kitchen, dressed in lavender floral overalls, maroon t-shirt, her hair braided back, her usual cork necklace, and what appeared to be beetles hanging from her ears.
She sat in the chair across from him where he had already set her a plate of home made muffins which he had prepared when he could not sleep overnight, jam, and a hard boiled egg. His cooking and baking talents were coming right along thanks to an old recipe book from his mother’s library and frequent visits to the local grocer while Luna was away during the day. At least it gave him something useful to do.
“Tea?” He offered.
“Of course,” she smiled as she took a bite of her muffin. “Mmm.”
Severus poured her a cup of tea and handed it to her. “You did not learn the wandless magic from your classes last year. That is a late seventh year skill.”
“No. Some of the seventh years in the DA could do some and tried to teach us, but I never mastered it then.” She took another bite of muffin.
His eyes narrowed. Was she trying to be evasive or was she just being Luna? “Then where?” He sipped his tea.
“I had a lot of spare time on my hands at Malfoy’s…” Her eyes became distant. “Mr Ollivander showed me a few things, but he was not very skilled at that sort of thing. We mostly used it for warming and cleansing spells.”
“No, I suppose his skills lie in other areas.” His throat tightened as he tried not to consider the need for warming and cleansing spells while spending months in Malfoy’s dungeon, but his mind pictured the witch dirty and huddled in a corner with the frail elder wizard anyway. How had he not bothered to check on her even once? His teeth clenched.
Luna nodded. “But Bill and Fleur are quite skilled in nonverbal and wandless magic and great teachers as well. They knew I intended to return to Hogwarts at some point and said I needed to be as prepared as possible. Did a fair amount of dueling practice as well. Fleur said the pregnancy would give me extra instincts. Is that a thing?”
“You would be better off asking Molly Weasley that question.” He sniffed.
“I did.” She took another bite of muffin.
“And?” He sipped his tea.
“She said you become something stronger when you have someone other than yourself to protect.”
He nodded. “Seems right enough.” His mind flashed to a pair of green eyes behind round glasses briefly before he was able regain control of his thoughts. He looked up at Luna’s bright eyes.
“So is our game done now?”
“I believe you have proven yourself.” He waved a hand contemplating the idea that her keenness may be attributed in part to her pregnancy and not just his own apparent impairments, whatever those might be. His hand absently went to the collar of his button up.
“You sound surprised.” She smirked, revealing the lopsided dimple that he had recently come to appreciate.
“Do I?” He raised an eyebrow.
“Slightly.” She shrugged. “But why would you know any of that about me without me having said so.”
He nodded. “And yet…”
She cocked her head. “Yes?”
“You have a strange way of seemingly knowing a great deal about me that I have not revealed.”
“Do I?” She looked away, out the small window over the sink.
He cleared his throat, drawing her attention back to him, as a tension built along his spine. “It seems as such.”
She chewed her plump lower lip as she held his gaze.
He watched her as he took another sip of tea and reassessed his mental wards for signs of her intrusion. “Are you secretly a legilimens as well?”
She snorted a laugh and shook her head wildly. “Is that your concern? Even if I could, I doubt I would want to know what happens in that head of yours.” She laughed again.
He snorted in return. “That is precisely what has kept me out of your head.”
Her mouth gaped. “You are a Legilimens?”
He nodded, a twinge of something swelling in his chest. A secret Miss Lovegood had yet to uncover?
Her lips slowly closed into a thoughtful pout, as she cocked her head again. “I mean, of course you are. It fits. I don’t know why it did not occur to me sooner.”
“And why is that?” He leaned over his teacup.
She too leaned closer. “It seems like a terrifically useful skill for a spy. And you were apparently a very good one. And a talent only a very skilled wizard can master.”
“Yes.” He watched her in silence, considering how much of himself he would be revealing with his next words. “So then, how is it you seem to read me so well?”
“I don’t mean to.” Her blonde brows knitted. “But a person's energy and environment says so much. I can’t help it…”
His eyes narrowed. His energy? What was she going on about? And what more could be gleaned from his environment other than his love of reading and greys and black, and poor housekeeping skills? He had been quite careful about keeping his home rather void of anything that might prove insightful to the wrong eyes, not that he often had guests.
“I see.” He leaned back in his chair.
She stood and reached for their dishes. “Would you like to join me today?”
His lip curled. “I think it would be prudent to do so.”
“Really?” Her face lit up.
“Yes.” He sighed, a sour taste building in his mouth.
“How wonderful.” She clasped her hands.
He sighed again, contemplating rescinding the offer. “Very well.” He stood. “Shall we then?”
Chapter 14: The Burrow and The Rookery
The sour taste returned to his tongue as they stepped from the fireplace into the sitting room of The Burrow.
Molly sat on the sofa as they appeared on her hearth. Her eyes darkened briefly before she smiled and stood, straightening her apron over her skirts. “Ah Severus. Luna said she’d hope you’d be joining us one of these days. Welcome.”
He lowered his head in acknowledgement. “She has been rather persistent about that desire.”
Luna smiled. “Isn’t it wonderful?” She stepped past him and spun a slow circle before heading toward the kitchen to join Harry and Ron who both appeared to still be dressed in their pajamas and just starting their breakfasts.
Molly nodded. “Yes. I can believe that. Please, make yourself comfortable.”
His jaw tightened. He did not believe that would be possible. “Yes. Thank you.” He sat in one of the many armchairs which cluttered the small sitting room and took in the home before him which seemed the exact opposite to Spinner’s End in almost every way, filled with color, sentimental things, and set to accommodate a herd of people at any moment.
“May I offer you anything? Breakfast? A beverage?” Molly asked.
“No. Thank you.”
She sat back into the sofa, her eyes trained on him. “Luna tells me you have welcomed her into your home.”
“She is not one to lie.” He steepled his fingers together as he watched the witch.
“Yes, well...I imagine it must be difficult for a bachelor like yourself to suddenly have a teenager in the home.”
His eyes narrowed. Did she really not know the entirety of their situation? The Weasley daughter certainly knew. He was unsure whether to be relieved or frustrated. “Yes, well, Luna is a considerate houseguest and not your average teenage witch.”
He glanced over at the table in the kitchen to find that the youngest Weasley had joined the other three at the table. They poured over something Luna and produced from her handbag.
Passing over the further formalities, he cleared his throat. “Has Luna made you aware of the threats she has received, Molly?”
“Yes. Arthur reported them to his superiors in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.”
“Is the Ministry in any shape to even manage such a thing at this point?”
Molly shook her head. “Not entirely, but obviously the Order has taken the threats very seriously as well.”
As much as he hated to admit it, that was something of a relief. “Yes. A wise decision.”
A look of surprise crossed Molly’s countenance. “Yes. Well, of course she has our protection here as well.” She glanced over at the kitchen table and then motioned up to the clock hanging on the wall behind her.
Severus studied the interesting piece for a moment, seeing the names of each of the Weasley’s, Harry, and Luna etched onto the hands currently all pointing to ‘Home.’ he nodded as he considered the other options around the clock face. ‘Mortal Peril’ apparently did not currently apply to Luna’s situation, assuming the magic was sound. “Thank you.”
She narrowed her eyes. “Why the interest in her, Severus?”
“She is the one responsible for my current situation. If not for her and Mr Longbottom, I would not be alive.”
“And her current situation ?” Her lips tightened as she leaned closer.
He sighed. “I am not sure it is my place to say.”
“But you are aware?” He voice lowered.
“Yes. She has confided in me.”
Her face twisted, almost as though in pain, undoubtedly wondering why Luna would disclose her secret to him, and not to her.
He placed his hands on his lap. He looked away from the imploring gaze of Molly Weasley, back to Luna.
"Severus. I can't help but to imagine the worst," Molly almost whispered. "Please, at least put my mind at ease."
He closed his eyes, taking a long slow breath. "I cannot." He looked at her, wondering if she could even come close to imagining the truth
Molly hissed as her face twisted further.
He observed the matronly witch practically feeling the emotion washing off her in waves, her disgust, her frustration, her concern, but also her love and her distress. “She is strong, Molly.”
She nodded as she sniffed back her building disquiet. “I know. But she shouldn’t have to be. She’s been through enough already.” She looked over at the table again.
He nodded, suddenly unable to remember why he had disliked the woman. He sighed again. “I agree.”
She stood. “I think I need some tea.” She walked into the kitchen.
Severus stared into the fireplace, his fingers taping the fabric on the armrests.
A flash of flames and a figure appeared in the fireplace. “I think I have our next scoop,” Hermione Granger said as she stepped into the living room. She froze as she noted him sitting in the arm chair. “Prof--Professor Snape.”
“I am no longer your professor, Ms Granger. Carry on.” He casually waved a hand although pleased at her reaction.
“Yes, Sir.” She ducked her head as she moved into the kitchen.
“Luna, I’ve got some big news!” Hermione continued.
Luna’s face brightened as she moved over on the bench to make room for Hermione to join them. “Great. We were just discussing the next issue. “We need another big story, and we’re thinking something more in the order of moving forward, rather than looking back.”
“This will be perfect then. Listen.” She sat. “Minister Shackelbolt asked to meet with me this morning.”
They all stared at her.
“Anyway. He told me that the Ministry has been discussing how to rebuild, and he requested my thoughts on one specific proposal.”
“Just get on with it ‘Mione, what do you know?” Ron said through a mouth full of toast and jam.
Hermione rolled her eyes at him. “He thinks that those of us of age who fought in the final battle have already proven themselves more than worthy witches and wizards and will be granted interviews for positions within the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and possibly other departments as long as we pass end of year exams. Also, exams will be offered this fall to all those who would have been able to sit last month. So that means we can all graduate afterall and work at the Ministry together!”
Ron rolled his eyes. “Only you would think the opportunity to take exams is good news.”
Harry shook his head. “No. She’s right. Think about it Ron, we could be Aurors! Without N.E.W.T.S!”
Ron’s face twisted, “If we pass.”
“What are you talking about Ron? Of course you will pass. You fought Death Eaters and won. What is any stupid exam compared to that?” Ginny retorted.
Luna watched the exchange silently, a distant look on her features.
“As I was saying, Minister Shackelbolt believes those that fought are exactly the ones who should lead us through this time. And ,” she took a deep breath. “He wants the Quibbler to have the honor of publishing his proclamation.”
With the mention of the Quibbler, Luna’s attention jumped to Hermione’s face. “Oh. That is big news. Thank you, Hermione. Would you be willing to write it up and send it to the Minister for final approval?”
“Of course. I’ll get started right away. Then I need to get a revision schedule together. Two months is hardly enough time to prepare. I’ll make one for each of you too.” She hurried out of the kitchen and up the stairs leaving the others, including Severus and Molly to stare after her.
“Well, I guess that takes care of the front page now, doesn’t it?” Ginny turned back to Luna and scribbled something onto the parchment before them.
Molly returned to the Living Room, handing him a cup of tea, and taking a seat nearest him on the sofa.
“She’s hardly eating you know?”
“Are you not worried? It is not good for her or the baby. To have nausea this long is atypical you know.”
Severus’s lips tightened as he glared at the witch, and she drew back slightly. “I am aware, as is she.”
“And I promised not to harass her about it at her request.” He took a sip of tea, his eyes not leaving Molly’s face.
“Oh. Yes. That was probably wise.” She huffed and sipped from her own cup. “I know she is trying.” She added with a glance over her shoulder back to the kitchen. “And you Severus, how are you?”
He nearly aspirated his tea at the question. Regaining himself with a brief throat clearing, he considered her question. “Is that actual concern for my well being, Molly?”
“It was...but now I regret it.” Her face soured.
He relaxed back into the chair. “Honestly?”
“Yes, of course. I would not ask if I did not want an honest answer.” She huffed, but her features relaxed. “Honestly, Severus.”
“Death would have been easier,” he met her gaze.
She did not look away, but nodded as her eyes softened. “You have been given a second chance…"
She did not need to complete the thought for him to understand her implication. He needed to appreciate the opportunity instead of lamenting it. “Yes. One not deserved when so many much more worthy were not.” Molly undoubtedly was thinking of her lost son. Why did Severus get to survive when Fred Weasley did not. Such a tragedy to lose a great mind so young.
“Then earn it, Severus. Find a way now to make it something.”
He glanced into the kitchen again to see Luna smiling as the four huddled over more of her notes. “I am trying…”
Molly’s gaze followed his own, but she said nothing. They sipped their tea in silence as the group in the kitchen continued their discussions of The Quibbler and later of returning to Hogwarts. Finally, Molly stood. “About time for lunch.”
Severus would never admit it aloud, but the day was not as unpleasant as he had anticipated. His space and boundaries were mostly respected and there were no confrontations although he sensed the youngest Weasley struggled to bite her tongue. Molly graciously provided a satisfying lunch as Luna and Ginny assisted. He observed quietly from the living room as Molly attempted to teach the witches some domestic charms. Ginny was clearly disinterested but Luna enthusiastically practiced her new skills in the kitchen. He did get several sideways glances and awkward beginnings at conversation from Mr Potter, but thankfully “The Boy Who Lived” never got around the speaking whatever was on his mind.
Luna approached him as the Quibbler discussions came to a natural end for the day. “Severus….do you think we could walk up to my place before heading back?” Her silver eyes implored him.
He nodded. “If you wish.”
“Mrs Weasely, would it be alright if we return in a bit to use your Floo?”
“What’s that? Oh, yes, of course, Dear.” Molly replied from the kitchen. “Arthur will be home shortly. I’m sure he will have questions about your mock-up for the next issue anyway.”
“Wonderful. Thank you.”
She moved to the kitchen door and waited for him to join.
They walked through the Weasley’s abundant garden, up the sloping hillside, down the other side, and back up again. Severus found his lungs and limbs to be less tolerant of this activity than they had once been. He felt older than his years. Luna must have sensed his fatigue as she seemed to slow her pace and drift slowly from side to side exploring the plants along the way, quietly humming to herself. Despite his aching body, the fresh summer country air and sound of the breeze through the prairie grass did set about a certain ease within him even as he surveyed their surroundings intently for signs of danger.
Luna stopped and stiffened before him as they approached the broken down gate in front of the zigzagging path up to the ruins of her childhood home. “Someone has been here…” She whispered, grabbing her wand.
“How do you know?”
“The energy is different from when we came for the press…”
Severus pulled his wand from his robes as the two stepped through the gate. He silently cast protection and detection charms but sensed no immediate threat.
Luna stooped down reaching for something as they approached the former doorway. As she stood, he noted the metallic eagle door knocker in her hand before tucking it into her shoulder bag.
“Are we looking for something in particular, Luna?”
She shook her head. “No… just memories.” She stepped over the threshold.
As Severus followed, it became immediately apparent, even through the rubble, that Luna Lovegood’s childhood experience was very different from his own. The space was filled with color and joy. Family photos laid amongst the rubble as well as pieces to wizards chess and other games with which he was unfamiliar. At his feet laid a copy of The Tales of Beedle the Bard. He stooped down to collect it.
Luna too bent down to pick up something. “The letters have been sent here too…” She turned the paper in her hands to reveal the black wax seal and the scrawling handwritten Luna Lovegood, Ruins of the Lovegood Household, Ottery St Catchpole.
He took it from her and placed it into an inner pocket of his robes as the both surveyed the space, wands outstretched.
“I think we are alone.” Luna kicked a stray brick as she paced the perimeter of the structure. “It’s still hard to see it all this way…”
“Why did you want to come here then?”
“I already told you… for the memories. It is easier to find them here.” She reached out to touch the remaining wall.
Severus did not interrupt the witch’s silent meditation.
After she’d paced the entire structure she turned into what was once likely the kitchen. “My father always had a story to tell as we sat down at the table together in the evenings, even if we’d spent all day together. Some of them were probably completely fabricated, but I always went along with it, even as I got older. He was such a good storyteller that sometimes I can’t tell the difference between my actual memories or those he told me. They always seemed so real.”
“I just keep thinking this place is still standing as it always was and that he has been here just waiting like he did while I was in school…”
He sighed as he stepped toward her. “It is not the memories you seek, but the reminder…”
Her silvery eyes glistened with unwept tears as she looked over at him and nodded. She inhaled sharply and closed her eyes.
A sudden urge to touch the witch, to offer some sort of physical comfort, came over him, and he closed the short distance between them thinking of the tears she’d shed at his bedside while at St Mungos.
As he moved to her, Luna leaned her forehead into his chest. He wrapped his arms about her without hesitation. Her form relaxed into him as her warm tears seeped into the layers of fabric covering his chest, and he closed his eyes.
She pulled away, wiping her face. “Thank you. I think I’m ready to leave now.”
He nodded and dropped his arms to his sides, still holding the book of fairytales. “Yes.”
She glanced around one final time before moving out of the ruins. “Everything is different now,” she mumbled.
Chapter 15: Weeds
My apologies for the long delay. We lost power and internet due to the Derecho that devastated much of Iowa and things are just finally getting back to a state of normalcy after so many weeks. Here is a short chapter. More to come but slowly as I catch up.
The gates to Malfoy Manor opened as he approached. As he moved to the large oak double doors, he pulled his wand from his robes and twisted it in his hand.
“Ah, Severus. How good to see you,” Lucius greeted him as he stepped inside the large entry hall.
“Lucius, you appear well.” Severus bowed his head to the fair-haired wizard dressed in dark green robes, his color less pale and his face less gaunt than the last time they’d met.
“I did not come back from the dead. You look surprisingly alive. How is that I had to read of your survival from The Quibbler of all places? Not very kind of you to inform Ms Skeeter of it before me.” He led them into the sitting room.
“I was unsure how you would receive me, all things considered.” Severus replied as he tucked his wand back into his robes.
“As a friend as always, Severus. Are we not friends?” He stopped to look him up and down, his eyes narrowing.
“As always.” Severus nodded as his jaw tightened.
“Drink?” Lucius poured a Firewhiskey into a tumbler.
“Why not.” He accepted the offered drink.
“What brings you to visit, Severus, as it clearly must be more important than the news that you are alive.” Lucius poured a second drink and sat on one of the ornate chairs, motioning for Severus to do the same.
Severus took the seat across and cleared his throat. “I am seeking some information.”
“Of course.” Lucius leaned closer, drumming his long finger against his glass.
“As I am sure you can guess, the news of my survival has not been well received by all.” Severus swirled his drink.
“Oh? I suppose there are still a few that are bitter knowing they were fooled by you.”
“Yes, well I am more concerned on how they will make that bitterness known.”
“Are you worried for your safety, Severus?” Lucius smiled and sipped his beverage.
“Not mine, exactly. It has come to my attention that threats are being directed toward Hogwarts students.” He laced his fingers around his tumbler.
“Students? Really?” Lucius frowned. “That is disheartening. I have heard very little to be honest. Is there someone you suspect?”
“Rookwood and Rodolphus come to mind.”
Lucius raised his eyebrows. “They are both in Azkaban last I knew.”
“Is either a threat from there?”
“Rodolphus has many connections. He is always a threat. Rookwood is not faring so well this time around against the dementors, I’m told.” He relaxed back in his chair. “But I am not aware of any specific threats.”
Mirroring his host, Severus leaned back. “Thank you, Lucius. They are still my charges, despite it all. I still feel responsibility for their safety.” He took a slow sip and watched the man across from him. “If you do become aware of anything concerning, I do hope you will inform me.”
“Yes. Of course, Severus.” He took another long drink from his glass. “I am curious. How did your big reveal end up in the likes of The Quibbler?” His lip sneered.
Severus’s eyes narrowed as he quickly considered that Lucius was just as likely of a candidate to send threats to Luna. “It was the Lovegood girl that found me near death and ensured my survival. I gave her the interview in return.”
“Lovegood? The same witch we kept in the cellar for months?” Lucius’s eyes look toward the floor.
He nodded. “The same.”
“A strange one, that witch. Why would she help you of all people?” Lucius smirked and Severus could only assume he was imagining Luna’s assault.
Snape fought to keep the tension from his face as he felt his anger boil. “My understanding is that she expected to find me dead.”
“Many others would have made sure of it,” he laughed and finished his drink.
He nodded. “Yes. Indeed. As you said, a strange witch.”
“No different from her father…”
Severus huffed. “How is Narcissa?”
Lucius frowned. “She and Draco have decided they needed some time away in France.”
He nodded. “It was not easy for her to be worried about Draco like she has been. But they are both well?”
“Yes. They seem it.”
“Yes, well, please give them my regards when they return.”
“Of course.” Lucius smiled.
Severus drained his tumbler. “Unless you have anything else to share with me, I will allow you to return to your private affairs.” Severus stood and bowed slightly. As he stood, he reached his mind into that of the man before him. Briefly, he saw the events of the Battle of Hogwarts and the fallout afterward including Lucius’s brilliant ability to shift blame and name names to protect himself and his family. Rookwood and Rodolphus were in Azkaban because of information he provided regarding their whereabouts. Lucius was not a threat, in fact he was just as likely to be a target as Luna or himself. But there was something more. Lucius was afraid. Outwardly, he was his usual poised self, but inwardly he was unsettled.
He dug deeper until he found it; the memory of the letter with the black seal. This is not over for you. It read in the same scroll Luna’s had been written.
Lucius stood and Severus pulled free from his head. “You are always welcome, Severus. Do return soon.”
“Yes. I will try. Please, if you learn of anything, do let me know.”
He nodded and smiled. “Of course.”
When Severus returned to Spinner’s End, he found Luna was not in the sitting room nor the kitchens. He drew his wand as his pulse rose and his stomach worked its way into his chest.
“Luna?” His voice was tight. She must be here. She would not leave without saying anything and there was no sign of struggle. He took a deep breath as he noticed the basket on the table filled with freshly picked raspberries. His body relaxed as he glanced out the window to see Luna with her sleeves rolled up, hair twisted a top her head with her wand tangled in the center, covered in dirt and sweat in the garden behind the house.
Swallowing back the painful dryness in his throat, he pushed open the door.
“Hello, Severus. I was starting to get worried about you. Wondered how I was going to track you down if you did not return.” She frowned.
He mirrored the frown. He had left this morning without telling her a thing of his plans. She always made it a point to tell him of her comings and goings. He had at first found it odd. He wasn’t her father, but now considered that she likely did not want him to worry needlessly about her, which given his most recent reaction, he clearly seemed to be at risk of. He would try to afford her similar consideration in the future.
“What are you up to?”
“Weeding.” She gestured to a pile of pulled up flora as she wiped her gloved hands over her brow.
He nodded as he surveyed her work.
“Your raspberries are actually doing quite well. I put a basket full in the kitchen.”
“You are covered in dirt.”
“It would be difficult not to be.” She tugged another plant free but the roots and tossed in aside.
“I am quite sure there is a spell for that,” he mumbled. He did not know it himself as he had never allowed the garden to go to weeds when he actually had tended to it.
She looked up at him and smiled. “Oh yes.” She pulled her wand from her hair and pointed it at another weed. “ Runco.” The target popped from the soil, and she tossed it onto the pile with the others with a laugh. “No. I think I prefer to do it by hand.” She pulled out another weed. “Much more satisfying.” She tossed it aside.
“Suite yourself.” He shook his head and turned to go back inside.
She huffed in protest. “Won’t you join me, Severus?”
He stopped and spun to face her again. Her hair stood wild about her dirt and sweat stained face, her wand tucked behind her ear. Her bright eyes and lopsided dimple beckoned him silently.
With a sigh, he pulled free from his robes and set them aside on an old wrought iron table long neglected beneath the kitchen window. She watched him with a mischievous grin as he unbuttoned his frock coat and set it on his robes before rolling up his sleeves. As he knelt beside her, she giggled.
“Sometimes a little dirt under the fingernails is just the thing.” She pulled at another weed.
He rolled his eyes as he reached for one of the many undesirable plants.
Chapter 16: A Disturbance in the Night
A short update. More to come but have some major reworking/editing to get through. Hope you enjoy.
He awoke from his deep slumber at the sense of his wards being disturbed. Someone unauthorized had entered his home. Grabbing his wand from the bedside table, he dashed across the hall as his overworked muscles from his afternoon of gardening protested. The door to the master opened easily beneath his grip as he lit his wand.
“What is it?” Luna groggily questioned as she reached for her own wand.
“Shh. Stay alert. The wards have been triggered.” He pointed to the floor. “Do not leave this room until I return.”
She was out of bed, wand drawn beside him before he even finished his warning. “I will stay for now.”
He wanted to argue with the witch but did not have the time to waste. He crept from the room and down the stairs, feeling Luna’s eyes on him from the bedroom doorway.
As the bookcase swung open, a soft crack of apparition could be heard. Severus scanned the sitting room from behind his drawn wand, finding no one, before going into the kitchen.
As he returned back to the sitting room, Luna stood in a Ravenclaw blue button down nightgown surveying the space.
“He was here…” She mumbled as she pointed to the emptiness before her.
“Someone was, yes.” He followed her gaze
“How can you be sure?”
“His stench is still here.” Her nose creased.
Severus sniffed the air. “I smell nothing.”
Luna sighed as she sat on the old sofa, her eyes distant.
He watched her for a long moment, sensing some hidden meaning in the mundane actions.
Severus turned with a sigh of his own, inspecting the door and then the small window. Both were undisturbed. “But how did he get in?” He went to the fireplace and waved his wand. Luna had been the last to use the Floo according to the records and they were the only two with access to this entry point.
Luna looked around the room. “Did something happen to the wards?”
He returned to the front door. Tapping the door frame, he assessed his wards mostly to humor the witch because he knew there were very few that could breach his protective charms, and two of those wizards were recently deceased.
Luna stood from the sofa, reaching for something under his chair. “Oh!” She cried out as her hand went to her abdomen.
He was beside before realising he had even moved. “What is it?”
She grabbed his hand and placed it under hers as they both knelt on the floor face to face. “Do you feel him? The kicks have become stronger now.”
He shook his head as he swallowed down the sudden dryness in his throat, the intruder all but forgotten.
She pulled him closer. “Close your eyes.” She closed hers, and he followed suit.
“There. You must have felt that one,” her throaty voice came to his ears as the little taps came to his fingertips.
“Yes,” he breathed, afraid to raise his voice for fear it would scare the life within. His son or daughter made themselves known to him.
“Isn’t it wonderful?” She cooed.
“Yes.” He opened his eyes to find her intense gaze on his face, so close he could feel her breath against his skin and smell her earthy scent.
“The most amazing kind of magic...new life.” She closed her eyes again as a few more nudges pushed against his hand.
He also closed his eyes again.
Her forehead pressed against his as they silently enjoyed the sensations playing out beneath his fingers.
Luna took a deep breath. “I think he is settling down now.” She rubbed the growing roundness that had just recently become noticeable and started to hum softly, something he recognized from his childhood. Something his mother sang before she stopped singing.
Slowly, he stood and assisted the witch to follow. “That tune. What is it?”
“An old lullaby. Mum used to sing it to me.” She sang softly, “I am glad the stars are over me and not beneath my feet…”
The words came quickly to his mind now that his memories had opened. “Where we should trample on them like cobbles in the street,” he mumbled.
She nodded. “I think it is a happy thing that they were set so far.”
“It is best to have to look up high when you would see a star,” he finished.
“It was always my favorite. I think I liked the idea of trampling on the stars like stepping stones into my dreams.” She smiled.
He nodded. That would have been a pleasant thought while drifting off to sleep back when he once looked forward to dreams.
Luna waved her wand mumbling, “ Tempus .” She groaned. “It’s nearly 3 AM but I doubt I’ll find much more sleep tonight.” She sighed.
Severus nodded. Sleep was the last thing on his mind as well. “Luna. I’ve failed you.” He sighed and dragged his hands down his face. “This invasion is unacceptable.”
“Severus, nothing happened. I am fine, just tired.” She smiled.
“That is beside the point, Luna. Something could have happened.”
“No. Your wards warned you. They worked as they should. We are all safe.” Her face became serious and her large eyes focused and intense.
“It is not enough. We need to become untraceable - repelling and disguising spells.” He stood.
“But we need to be reachable somehow…”
“You are plenty reachable through the Quibbler. No one else needs to know you are here.”
“But he already knows…” she whispered.
“Then we need to get you out of here. Go somewhere else. We need you safe.” He paced. This was all his fault. He had become complacent, lost his vigilance. Playing house with the young witch had brought his guard down.
“Severus stop, please.” She stood up and blocked his path.
He glared at the sliver of a woman before him, and she took a step back. He continued to pace as she watched in silence. His skin crawled as he attempted to rein in his emotion. He clenched and unclenched his hands at his sides.
As he slowed his pacing and came to a stop beside her, he sighed. “It was different when it was just me Luna. It is easy to be brave when you don’t fear death.”
She shook her head. “Don’t do that. Don’t downplay what you did. It is not fair.”
“Life isn’t fair, Ms Lovegood.” He spat.
Most would have pulled away or at least cringed at the acidity in his tone, but not Luna Lovegood. Her deep silvery eyes stayed on his, her body without an ounce of tension.
Something dropped from his chest into his gut as he watched the emotions silently play across her features. She knew better than to argue with him at this moment, even if she easily could remind him that she of all people understood the unfairness of life. He saw the restraint it took not to argue with him, the frustration and confusion with his behavior, and the empathy and sympathy she had for him.
Closing his eyes, he looked away. He did not deserve her.
She reached for his hand and led him to the sofa. She sat and pulled him next to him.
Unable to look at her, he sighed. “I am going to visit Minerva in the morning…” He intended to ask her help in ensuring Luna’s safety. Perhaps the Order would take her in, offer what he could not.
She nodded as she reached out and tucked the hair back behind his ear. “You are getting grey, Severus.”
He huffed, taken off guard by the witch’s familiarity. “I am an old man, Luna.”
She laughed. “You are no older than my father.”
“Precisely. More than twice that of yourself.”
“That is not yet even middle age. Don’t be so dramatic.” She tilted her head examining him.
“And it does not bother you?”
“What?” Her face tightened.
“The age difference?”
She leaned closer. “Why should it?”
“You are just barely of age, have not even yet finished school.” He looked into the dark fireplace. “You have a lifetime ahead of you.”
“Neither of us knows that for sure.”
“What do you mean?” He turned to her, his lips tightening.
“Well,” she looked down and her hands where they rested on her midsection. “None of us really knows how much time we have left, only how much time we have spent, right?”
His gaze followed hers. “Yes.”
“Then what difference does age make?” Her eyes met his again. “By age, my Mum and Dad should have had decades together, but they barely had one before my mother’s accident.”
“Yes, but --”
“But, even if my father would have known that at the beginning, I know he would have still married her. He would not have given up all the love and magic they created together. And theirs was an arranged marriage, you know? They barely knew each other in the beginning other than a few shared classes at Hogwarts, but they found love.”
He could not deny the logic in her words, even if overly poetic. “And you think you could grow to love someone like me?” He snorted. Why would she even want to try?
She shrugged. “Well, I already care a great deal for you, Severus. And at least I thought you might have some positive feelings toward me by now.” Her face fell.
He gave a single nod. “Against my better judgement.”
She smiled, her entire being brightening. “Oh good.” She touched his cheek.
The corners of his mouth turned up in a weak smile as he pulled her hand from his face to his chest. “I do know I will protect you with everything I have, Luna.”
She nodded again. “Yes. I know.” She rested her head on his shoulder as she settled against him. “Thank you.”
They sat together in silence until her breathing slowed and her eyes drifted close. Could he really be part of her future? The notion of it, even as some hypothetical fantasy, was difficult to wrap his mind around. He had only once in his life before this had such inklings about his future with a woman, and when Lily had rejected him so entirely and with such finality, he accepted in that moment that he did not deserve that future with any witch. But a lot had changed since then, including himself.
He swallowed back a snort as he struggled to imagine quirky, young witch chasing toddlers around Spinner’s End or harder yet, sharing his bed. He tensed as he chastised himself for allowing his mind to even go there, and then cringed as his thoughts jumped to visions of his assault on her. He may have changed, but he still did not deserve that future.
Cautiously, he stood and lowered Luna’s relaxed form to the sofa. With a flick of his wand, a blanket came down the stairs, and he tucked it around her.
As he stood, his eye caught something under the chair across the small room. He reached for it as his stiff body complained. Pulling the folded paper, he examined it in the dull lamp light.
“I thought I burned all these…” he mumbled as he touched the black wax seal. He lifted the flap and read, “You will never be safe. As long as these words find you, so can I.” He hissed and lit the letter ablaze, tossing it into the fireplace.
Chapter 17: Apologies and propositions
Severus sat across the Headmistress’s desk, his shoulders pulled back, and his chin raised, falling into his curated facade the walls of Hogwarts seemed to bring out in him as soon as he entered them. Fawkes snored on the perch behind the desk and curtains were drawn over the portraits.
“Severus…” Minerva sighed as she sat across from him. “I want to apologize for doubt --”
“Don’t, Minerva. You weren’t meant to know and the fact that you did not meant I played my role well.” He rubbed his temples. He would not hear her excuses or her apologies. They didn’t matter. He felt no animosity toward the elder witch. He would have done the same in her position. She had given him her trust up until Dumbledoor’s demise, and perhaps even a time after that, not wanting to believe her trust had been misplaced, but he made sure even she turned against him. He had to. There was no other way. Just another one of the many terrible choices he had been forced to make.
“Fine. I will just say this; I am glad I was wrong.”
He nodded, his jaw tight.
She leaned over the large oak desk, locking eyes with him. “And thank you.”
He nodded again and cleared his throat. “Now that that is over with, perhaps we can discuss my reason for visiting today.”
“I read you were hoping for a position on my staff?” She smiled.
He huffed, crossing his arms over his chest. “My sources told me that you would be begging for my return before the start of the year.”
She sat back in her chair. “Well, I must admit, no one really wants to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts to a bunch of students that have already witnessed it first hand.”
“Potter seems to have a knack for such things.” He snorted.
“Indeed, but he has other aspirations in mind and has not completed his final year exams yet.” She sighed.
“Yes, well, enough about that, Minerva, I am here about Luna.”
The witch’s face tightened as her posture straightened. “Yes?”
He took a deep breath. “I do not trust myself to keep her safe anymore.” He slumped.
“Is this about the letters?”
He shook his head. “No. Someone gained access to my home overnight. And I have no idea how.” He sighed and fought down the lump in his chest.
“Do you know who?” Her brow tightened.
His lip curled. “Luna believes it is Rodolphus Lestrange. She is likely correct.”
Minerva shook her head. “But he is in Azkaban.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Are you sure?”
“Well, I have not independently verified it, no.”
“I will discuss it with the Minister. Kingsley has no doubt confirmed.” She sighed. “So what do you propose for Luna?”
“I was hoping the Order might take her in again. Perhaps Mr Weasley and Ms Delecour? Is there home not unplottable? She would be safer there and they have treated her well in the past.”
“And Luna is in favor of this?” The witch leaned in.
“What does that matter?” He snapped.
She clasped her hands on the desk before her. “She is not a child any longer. She has a right to an opinion on her own fate.”
“I have not mentioned it.” He looked away, swallowing back the surprising pain in his throat.
He forced himself to look at the elder woman. “Yes?”
“I will inquire at options, but you need to be the one to tell her.”
He pulled a hand down his face. “Why me?”
“Don’t tell me you honestly believe that after you two have been living together for weeks, you think she will be fine with being relocated on your whim.”
“She will do what she must.”
“Of course she will, but that does not mean she won’t feel abandoned and hurt.”
He scoffed. “You presume a great deal, Minerva.”
“No. I simply understand that an 18 year old woman with no one else in a time of great need will be very likely to feel a great many things if that person pulls away.”
His eyes narrowed. What was she implying? “She has many people, Minerva.”
“Are you really this dense or truly in denial, Severus? I want to believe the latter.”
He stood, slamming his hands down on the desk before him. “Merlin! I’ve already done enough to the girl. I will not steal her future too.” He grit his teeth as he stepped away. “If that means I have to cause her pain … again, well...” He closed his eyes. “I will do what I must. I promised her I would protect her. Nothing else matters. Nothing.”
“Be that as it may, please talk to her, Severus. She deserves to know.”
He grit his teeth as he turned back toward her. “She is so damn perceptive, she probably already knows.” He sat with a sigh as his head dropped to his hands.
Minerva smiled. “That she is. The fact that you have tolerated it this long quite surprises me. I know how much you value your secrets.”
“Everything is different now,” he mumbled, shaking his head.
“Yes.” Minerva sighed and pulled open her desk drawer. “Drink?” She pulled out two tumblers and a bottle of scotch.
She passed him a glass and raised her own. “To everything being different now.”
He tapped his glass to hers before taking a long, slow drink. “Yes.”
“So, will you be joining the staff this fall, Severus?”
He glared at her. He really had no alternative options. “I want Potions. I need my lab back.”
“Very well.” She took a drink.
“And a raise.” He smiled.
“Then it is done.” He downed his glass and placed it back on the Headmistress’s desk.
“Welcome back, Severus.” Minerva smiled. “This place would not be the same without you.”
Sleep refused to find him that night as he considered the difficult conversations ahead. The unease built in his chest as he chided his absurd sentimentality, and he tossed and turned until his joints ached. Cursing under his breath, he stepped from the bed and crept into the hall.
Pulling open the kitchen door, he found Luna already sitting at the table in an oversized Ravenclaw jumper, stirring her tea absently.
“Nice pajamas,” she mumbled as she looked up, her eyes rimmed with fatigue.
He glanced down at his black silk button down shirt and matching pants, faded with age.
“Do you own anything that is not black?”
He huffed. “I have a matching set in Slytherin green.”
She smiled. “I’d like to see those.”
“Not sleeping again?”
She rubbed her abdomen. “He gets quite active at this time.” She pulled out her wand from behind her ear and levitated a second teacup to the table. “Join me?”
He sat across from her, and she filled the cup with milk and tea from the milk bottle and tea pot before her. Taking a long sip, he leaned back. “Is something bothering you, Luna?”
She tilted her head. “Nothing specific really, and you?”
“The usual insomnia,” he lied.
She nodded. “Do you want to talk about it?”
He shook his head.
Luna nodded. “Then do you want to feel him?” She caressed her growing figure, and his eyes followed her fingers.
“I would,” he replied looking up at her.
She smiled and moved her chair beside him. As before, she took his hand and placed it on her midsection.
“I feel it,” he whispered, feeling the tension fall from his shoulders as he awed at the wonder beneath his fingertips.
“I think he likes your tea.”
“That might defeat the purpose of a sleep tea.” He cocked a brow.
She laughed and the kicks within increased. She placed her hand on top of his, and yawned. “No, I think it is doing a fine job.” She placed her head on his shoulder, her hair falling onto his chest, the scent of dandelions drifting over him.
“Let’s get you up to bed.”
“No, this is nice.” She yawned again.
He closed his eyes and inhaled the witch’s scent. This was nice. He wrapped his other arm around her shoulder and closed his eyes. He would miss this, he admitted to himself. Not just the ease at which Luna relaxed into him, but more the way her presence lifted the fog of loneliness that always hung about him. “Come, Luna.”
He stood, and she reluctantly followed him from the kitchen and into the sitting room. He pulled open the door to the staircase and guided her heavy steps up the stairs, watching her fair slender bare legs as she ascended the steps ahead of him wondering if they were as soft as they appeared.
When they reached the door to her room, she turned to him and took his hand. “Severus?” She looked up at him, eyes wide with that begging look of hers.
He raised an eyebrow, feeling his breath catch in his throat.
“Would you...um, tuck me in?” She pulled him into the room.
The lamplight cast an intimate glow in the small bedroom, lighting up the colors and images Luna had apparently painted on his walls.
He turned from her, to look at the scenes.
“They are just charms, nothing permanent,” she said softly, moving to stand just behind him. “That one is the view from my window at Shell Cottage. Isn’t it lovely? Bill and Fleur are so lucky to have that place. It is like a dream.” She pointed to the dunes rising from the sea with the bright sunset in the background. “That is the Forbidden Forest.” She pointed to the images of unicorns and thestrals among the tall, dark trees. “But you probably already knew that. And that is the hills in Sweden where Dad and I hunted the crumple-horned snorkack.” She pointed to the third wall. “We never found one, but it was a beautiful place.”
He nodded as he admired the quality charm work, following the waves of color, so bright and whimsical. “An interesting talent. Where did you learn it?” And when did she do them? Perhaps she was not sleeping as well as he had assumed.
“I’m not sure. Dad said I was doing it even before I got my first wand. Probably something my mother would have done.” Her fingers brushed against his hand.
He turned to her, swallowing.
“I don’t mean to make you uncomfortable.” She bit her lip, pressing closer.
“Shhh, you need rest, Luna.” He placed his hand on the small of her back and led her over to the bed. “In you go.”
She climbed into the bed with another yawn.
He pulled the blankets up over her form and patted her shoulder. “Good night, Luna.”
“Good night, Severus.” She smiled.
Severus moved out of the room and closed the door. Resting his forehead against the door frame, he sighed. How had he gotten here?
He stepped from the loo a few minutes later, heading to his room when he heard the master bedroom door creak open. Luna stepped out, her hair wild about her head and shoulders, her jumper hanging off one shoulder, and her eyes still closed. She stepped out into the hallway and headed to the stairs.
He stepped in front of her, suddenly reminded of patrol duties at Hogwarts, finding the witch trembling with cold, barefoot in various parts of the castle unsure how or why she was there. “Luna?”
She did not respond so he reached for her shoulders and attempted to steer her back to bed. The witch resisted his efforts. He leaned over and whispered in her ear, “Luna. Wake up?”
She pushed against him. “Mmmm,” she purred. “Severus, is that you?” Her eyes fluttered open. She wrapped her arms around his waist and looked up at him. “Sleepwalking again?”
He nodded slowly as he looked down at her, feeling the curve of her changing body against him through the thin silk of his night clothes. “Yes.”
He spun her around back toward her room, his hands on her shoulders.
Luna hopped back on the bed with a sigh.
“What is it?”
She looked up at him as she reached for his arm, her delicate fingers stroking down the silk. “I think we would both sleep better if you stayed in here tonight.”
“Do you?” His mouth was suddenly dry.
She nodded. “Please?”
He licked his lips and swallowed hard. He should not be tempted, but yet he could not pull away.
She pulled back the linens, her eyes locked on his as if trying to pull him in with her mind.
He swallowed again as he slipped between the sheets beside the witch, his eyes still on hers.
She smiled as she moved to give him more room.
He leaned back against the headboard and looked to the ceiling to find Luna had charmed a painted night sky there.
Luna reached over him to turn down the lamp. “Good night, Severus,” she whispered as she settled herself against him. “Thank you.
With a deep sigh, he settled down into the bed and closed his eyes. He would regret this. So probably would she. “Sleep well, Luna.”
He woke to the witch still asleep at his side, her arm rested across his chest, her hair draped about them both. He reached and stroked the locks where they fell alongside her arm, again appreciating the faint earthy scent of soap.
She had not been wrong; he had slept soundly knowing being so close meant he could better protect her and apparently she had as well. He stared at the enchanted ceiling, now with painted clouds slowly drifting across it. Luna's world was so different from his own, filled with color, joy, and optimism; always finding the silver lining in everything and seeing the good in everyone, even those that did her wrong. Even with all the bullying she experienced at Hogwarts, he only knew of her to anger once, and that was over insults toward her father, not herself; so unlike his own reaction to similar taunts and attacks during his time as a student.
She stirred against him, turning and curling into his side as she looked to him. “Good morning.” Her fingers played with one of the buttons of his pajamas.
“Good morning.” He met her eyes, finding them bright and alert and absent of the fatigue he had been noting there recently.
“What time is it?” She mumbled.
“No idea.” He patted her hands.
“That’s wonderful.” She laughed. “Thank you for staying with me. Can we make it a habit?”
“I will take it under consideration.” He looked back to the ceiling as Luna settled into his shoulder.
“Something is on your mind, I can see it in your eyes.”
“Can I know it?”
“I was considering how different the two of us are, and yet how similar.”
“Were you? That is nice. I’ve often considered that same thing.”
“Have you?” He looked over to her.
“Oh yes. But I realized I don't really know all that much about you, I mean really know. I have suspicions on many things, but not many facts.” Her lips tightened.
“And what is it that you suspect about me?” He raised a brow.
She pushed herself up onto her elbow and looked down at him, her other hand still on his chest. “Well, if this home is your childhood home, I get the feeling that you, as a child I mean, did not feel very welcomed here. Unless you changed it drastically since then, it seems quite void of childhood pleasures. No evidence of milestones like doorframe growth charts, saved favorite toys or children’s books or art, and no color. I imagine you did not spend very much time here, once you were able to leave.”
He nodded somewhat impressed that these walls gave up so many of his secrets. “A fairly accurate assessment.”
“And no family portraits. In fact, I do not believe you have any pictures at all.”
“I do still have an old poster of the Falmouth Falcons hanging in the other bedroom. And a Slytherin house photo on the desk from my first year.” He thought also of the torn photo of Lily hidden in the drawer.
She nodded, and her eyes danced as she thought. “Hogwarts was more your home and your classmates more your family.” Her hand rested on his chest.
“Also accurate.” He swallowed.
“But you also had difficulties there…?”
He nodded, jaw tight.
She chewed her lip for a moment and watched him as if unsure whether she should continue. “Like me, you were probably an easy target due to perceived differences; the way you dressed, the way you thought; or maybe who your parents were?”
“Yes, Luna. Perhaps you understand me better than either of us knew.” He looked away from her inquiring eyes.
“So why do you keep the house?”
He sighed. “Because some of the few good memories I have of my childhood are connected to this place.” His thoughts went to the park down the way where he first encountered Lily.
Her hand still toyed with a button over his chest. “Yes. Well, I hope you can find some other happy memories here in the future.”
He looked back to her and reached for her hand.
She looked at his face and gave him a sweet smile, dimple on full display.
He knew it was improper before he felt his lips touch hers, but once she pressed back against him he no longer cared. His fingers laced into her soft hair as she grasped his silk pajamas.
“Oooh, I’ve never been kissed like that,” she whispered when he pulled away. Her lips chased his, pushing him into the pillow as her hair fell in a curtain around them.
Gods, she tasted wonderful. Her scent washed over him and through him as did the subtle pulse of her magical energy as she pressed her body tighter onto his. His hands moved down her flanks to rest on her hips, fingers caressing her soft curves.
Her hand reached for his jaw, as their lips met again.
He groaned when his conscience caught up with his actions. “Luna, we--”
“Shhh, you do not need to say anything.” She pulled back and smiled. “I understand.” She settled in beside him again. “It was lovely though, thank you.”
He nodded, believing that she might actually understand and grateful this time how easily she seemed to be able to read him.
He pulled himself up as she pulled away, a slight blush on her fair cheeks.
“Breakfast?” She asked.
He looked at the bright glow coming through the small window. “It is probably more likely brunch, but yes.”
She giggled. “My turn to cook.”
Thank you all for the amazing support. As always, I love your thoughts. But as things are starting to heat up a bit between these two, I also want you to share some inspiration. Have a song that reminds you of these two? A poem? Artwork? Please share!
Chapter 19: Full Disclosure
Thank to all who sent their songs, art, poetry etc. I truly enjoyed each and found inspiration. Keep them coming if so inclined. Thank you.
Once again Severus found himself sitting in the Weasley’s sitting room, sipping tea with Molly Weasley as his former students discussed their newest publishing endeavors at the kitchen table. To his relief, Molly did not force small talk and niceties his way but allowed him his silent contemplations, but he felt her probing eyes on him.
Finishing his tea, he took a deep breath and glanced around the small room. “Take a walk with me, Molly?”
She jumped at the sound of her name, almost spilling her tea into her lap. “Of course, Severus.”
As they stood, they both glanced at Molly’s clock. Seeing no one in “mortal peril,” they quietly exited the door into the garden.
“What is it Severus?” Molly implored as soon as they were out of ear shot from The Burrow, her voice full of concern.
He sighed, clasping his hands behind his back. “I believe I need some advice.”
“Of course. Anything.”
“But first.” His jaw tightened. “I need to disclose some difficult information.”
Molly stiffened, watching him. “Yes?”
He stopped and turned toward the witch. He did not need legilimency to know her mind was already inundated with horrible considerations as to what he was about the reveal. He was also fairly sure she would not fathom the truth. “I am the one responsible for Luna’s current situation.”
Molly hissed as her eyes closed. “Oh Luna…” Her eyes shot open and locked on to him as her face twisted. “How could you?”
He stumbled back as the witch’s stinging hex hit him in the chest. He deserved that.
“I…” he swallowed and cleared his throat. “I did not want to.” He ran his hands over his face, feeling her glare boring into his forehead. “But if it had not been myself, it would have been someone else. Someone worse...please believe that much.”
Molly trained his wand on him again.
He raised his hands up. “I had the foolish notion that I could somehow protect her by causing her this pain.” He sighed, stepping back from the witch. “I did not believe there were any other options at the time. I am still not sure what I could have done differently even though I consider it constantly.”
Her wand lowered as her face fell. “Severus… how? The poor girl.”
He dropped his hands back to his side. “I promise you Molly, had I thought I had other options...any other option that would have kept her safe from harm and satisfied the fucking Dark Lord.” He sighed. “But I stupidly did not consider this particular consequence.”
“Most men don’t,” she spat.
He nodded, rubbing his chest. “Yes. But now I am trying my best to accept responsibility.”
Molly sighed. “As you should.”
He nodded. “I’m no good at this, Molly.” He started walking again. “And now I worry I cannot protect her as I promised.”
Molly caught up to him. “Did something else happen?” The concern returning to her voice.
“Two nights ago, someone gained entrance into my home but escaped before their identity could be confirmed. I believe it is likely the same person sending the threatening letters.”
Her eyes widened. “Is Luna okay?”
“She seemed unfazed, but it is sometimes difficult to tell with her.”
“I need her safe. Nothing else matters. I cannot bear the thought that I could be responsible for further harm to her.”
“But I fear the only way to keep her safe is to ask her to leave, and I worry that too might cause her pain.” He stopped, shook his head, and closed his eyes. “And I’m tired of hurting her.”
“And you want my advice on how best to kick her out?”
“Not my choice of words, but yes.” He sighed.
“Well as a parent, I really do not care if my children like me or even are angry with me as long as I know it is their best interests which I am protecting. I know in the end they will always know I love them, no matter how upset they are.” She stopped, and he turned to her. “But this is different. You are not exactly her parent, are you?” Her brow tightened. “What do you consider yourself to her, Severus?”
He pinched the bridge of his nose. Before last evening’s events he would have simply replied, her protector , but now, that seemed inadequate. “I do not know. Nothing seems sufficient nor appropriate.”
“And do you know how she sees you?”
“I hesitate to fathom, but I worry it is something more than I could ever actually be to her.”
“Don’t you dare break her spirit, Severus. Mark my words, if you do, no amount of pentatence will be enough.” Molly glared at him in a way only a mother was capable of doing, amplifying her words.
His shoulders slumped. “That is the last thing I wish to do. But she is a young woman with her whole life ahead of her, and I am an old, worn-out shell of a man. I do not even know how to speak with her most of the time.”
“You need to be honest with her. Not just the need to keep her safe, but about everything. Let her in. She will understand more than most would.”
He nodded. “Thank you, Molly. Truly.”
Molly sighed. “How did we get here? Voldemort is gone. Why must so many continue to suffer?”
“Such is the way of war. With great victories come great losses.”
“Yes, but it shouldn’t be the youngest among us that suffer the greatest.”
“No. It should not.” His mind drifted to Lily and reluctantly James Potter and then to the names of the many others lost at the Battle of Hogwarts, all former students, lastly he thought of Molly’s fallen son. “I never gave you my condolences, Molly. The loss of Fred.” He sighed. “There are not words for what you must be going through. He was truly a gifted wizard and the world will be less bright without him.”
Molly smiled even as a tear built in her eye. “Thank you,” she whispered. “I appreciate that.”
Molly cleared her throat and wiped her eyes. “We best be getting back.”
I will enjoyed this chapter. I hope you will too. Please leave my your thoughts!
Luna was uncharacteristically somber as they returned to Spinner’s End that afternoon.
“Is something wrong, Luna?” He asked as he watched her remove her shoulder bag and drop it to the floor beside the sofa.
“Hmm?” She looked up at him, her eyes wide, but dimmed. “Oh, not wrong really.”
She sighed. “Hermione gave me a revision schedule for exams today.”
“And the thought of studying has you distraught?” He raised a brow. Some Ravenclaw.
“No. I quite enjoy studying.” She flopped into the cushion.
“What then?” He sat in the nearby armchair and tented his fingers near his chest.
“It’s just that I don’t really see how it will be practical for me to return to Hogwarts in the fall, even if only for exams.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. Of course you can return. It is only a week.”
She pulled out some parchment from her bag and unrolled it. “But there is just no way I can keep up with the Quibbler and study a whole year’s worth of material in the next two months.” She sighed as she stared down at the notes scrawled in Ms Granger’s hand.
Severus closed his eyes as he struggled to find an appropriate response, and moreso, a way to actually be of assistance to her. The twisting in his gut that he had been experiencing far too often recently, tightened. Just when she needed something he could actually provide her, he would be sending her away instead. It seems fate had not yet bored of harassing him.
He grit his teeth, running through his conversation with Molly from earlier today. Moving to the opposite end of the sofa, he sat and looked over at her. “You are living with a professor. Perhaps I might be of service?”
“A former professor you mean.” She gave him a weak smile.
“Not as of yesterday. I have agreed to teach Potions next year.”
Her eyes brightened. “That is wonderful. It would be a shame not to have you back there.”
He snorted. “I doubt most would feel the same.”
“Do you even like teaching, Severus?” She tilted her head.
“On occasion. To those that actually care. Mostly, I need my lab back.” He sighed. “The money is a necessary evil as well.”
Luna stretched her legs out over the sofa’s arm and laid her head down next to his thighs. She looked up at him. “I see.” She chewed her plump lower lip as her grey eyes grew distant. “Must I call you Professor again, Sir?”
He gazed down at the witch, finding her smiling brightly, revealing that lovely dimple. “No. I think not.” He shook his head.
“Oh good. I don’t think I could. And do you really think you can teach me all I need to pass my exams?”
“I believe you already know more than you need, but I would be happy to assist in a refresher.”
“Does this mean you will allow me to stay, then?” Her smile faded as her features tightened with question.
His face tightened as he shook his head. “Are you sure you are not in my head, Luna?”
She sat up. “I would never! But you have been so protective and cautious since the intrusion, I just knew you doubted my safety. I guess I assumed that meant you would ask me to find a new safe place since this place was no longer.”
He nodded. “I had every intention of doing so.”
“Had?” She leaned closer, her eyes widening.
“I am finding it difficult to do so.” He looked away.
Her fingers snaked into his where his hand sat between them. “Harry said I can stay at his Uncle’s old place. He says it is unplottable and highly protected because the Order used it. He spends all his time at the Burrow anyway so he won’t be there much. Feels it’s his duty to be there for them. He blames himself for Fred’s death. And all the others too.”
“Yes.” He stared into the darkness of the empty fireplace.
She sighed, drawing his attention to her.
“What is it?” He raised a brow.
“I don’t want to have this baby in hiding.” She rubbed her abdomen with her free hand. “What kind of life is that?”
Severus gave her hand a tight squeeze, and she leaned into his shoulder.
“It will only be temporary,” he nearly whispered. It had to be. She could not very well raise his child alone in another man’s house, especially that house.
“Come with me,” she whispered back. “Wherever I am to go, come with me?”
He rested his chin against the top of her head as he considered the offer. He did not deserve to accept it for his own desires, but for her needs, it could be justified. “It would be rather difficult to tutor you from afar.”
She burrowed closer to him. “Thank you.”
He suppressed a sigh. This would be another terrible choice in hindsight, but for the moment, it felt right.
They stood at the hearth in the sitting room of 12 Grimmauld Place, bags at their feet.
Harry Potter stood from his chair. “There you are. Welcome.” He approached Luna and gave her a hug before looking sideways up at him. “I was worried maybe you changed your minds.”
Luna smiled. “No, just needed some time. My things are so unruly sometimes.”
“Nargles?” Harry teased.
“Oh no. Severus’s home has none.” She giggled and glanced up at Severus.
“Oh, yeah. Of course not.” Harry cleared his throat. “Anyway. Professor, Sir, I know you have been here before, but Luna, let me show you around.”
“Wonderful.” Luna clapped her hands together.
“This is the main sitting room. This fireplace is the only one connected to the Floo system. Now that you have arrived, it will only take you to The Burrow. All other access has been closed for safety. And all the house wards have been reassessed. Minister Shacklebolt and Professor McGonagall double checked them just this morning.
“Oh, that reminds me, Professor. There is a letter for you on the mantle.” Harry motioned toward the fireplace.
“You may call me Severus, Potter.”
“When you start calling me Harry, I will consider it.” Harry smirked.
“Anyway, let me show you to your bedroom Luna. Then we can see the rest of the house.” Harry bent and picked up her shoulder bag from the floor as he pulled his wand from his back pocket. As he levitated Luna’s school trunk, they moved out of the sitting room and into the hallway.
With a hiss, Severus turned and picked up the envelope. He unsealed the wax seal with the Hogwarts’ crest stamped into it and pulled open the letter.
Your fears have been confirmed. Rodolphus Lestrange was found with a wand in his possession at Azkaban. The last spell cast was Apparition. It is unknown how he managed to use this to get free from the securities of Azkaban nor how he obtained it to begin with, but the wand has been confiscated and additional guards have been placed. Hopefully, this can provide some added confidence in yours and Luna’s safety.
He crumpled the parchment and suppressed an angry howl. Rodolphus would regret his actions, Severus would ensure it. Unfortunately, knowing Rodolphus had managed to escape at least once already, no amount of added security was going to give him reassurance that it would not happen again, at least not until it was understood just how he had managed it.
Luna walked back into the room, her bright face sunk when she saw him. “What is it, Severus?”
He shook his head. “It is nothing to worry about at this moment, Luna, I promise.”
She gave him a skeptical glare. “If you say so. Anyway, Harry’s left. It’s just us. Mrs Weasley left dinner in the dining room, and the pantry is stocked well enough for the whole Order.”
When they had finished their dinner, compliments of Molly, Luna caught his eye from across the table. “Will you tell me now what has you so tense?”
He sighed. “It was Rodolphus as you suspected. A wand was taken from him, but they do not yet know how he managed to leave and return to Azkaban undetected.”
Luna nodded. “Thank you for telling me. We are here now. It seems unlikely that anyone looking for either of us, will find us easily now.”
He nodded. “For now, I think that is correct. But we really must understand how he found you in the first place.”
“Well, I suppose it was a process of elimination really, don’t you think? I mean, I’m not at Hogwarts. My home is destroyed. He learned you survived and might have assumed you still held some claim on me?” She shrugged.
How she could be so insouciant about this, he could not understand.
“Or perhaps he was looking for you.”
“A possibility.” He considered that Lestrange had no idea Luna had been at Spinner’s End. His home was not exactly a secret, especially among former Death Eaters.
He raised a brow. “What is?”
“You. Did you not feel that tension leave you?” She tilted her head. “I could see it from here.”
He huffed. “You apparently have that effect on me.”
She smiled. “Oh good.”
Chapter 21: Powerful emotions revealed
Sorry for the long delay. Here is a bit of an update. As always, leave me your thoughts.
That night, Luna met him as he left the bathroom, her bright eyes looking up at him expectantly, donned in an oversized maroon jumper which barely covered her upper thighs from his gaze.
“Severus, please don’t make me sleep alone tonight in this strange place,” she whispered.
“Shhh. Just give in.” She reached up to touch his chest.
“Luna, I do not wish to do anything either of us might regret.”
“I promise not to. But you look so tired.” Her hand moved from his chest to his cheek before she turned to head back toward her bedroom.
He massaged his temple as he watched her long blonde locks bounce down her frame. Did she have any idea what she was doing to his sanity? Probably. She seemed to know everything else. He groaned as followed her down the hall.
When she arrived at the threshold of her bedroom, she turned. “There you are.” She reached for his hand, and he did not recoil from her soft touch. She led them to the large, four-poster bed in the center of the room. “You look wonderful in green, by the way.”
He glanced down at himself. He’d forgotten about the dark green pajamas he’d donned earlier. His lip twitched momentarily into a half smile.
As before, her silver eyes pulled at him as she moved the linens back to beckon him next to her.
He moved beside her, all his words of protest stuck in his throat as she smiled at him.
“Thank you,” she whispered as she lay on the pillow beside him. She closed her eyes. “Good night, Severus. Sweet dreams.”
“Good night, Luna.” He lay his head down and watched as her features softened and her breathing slowed. Gods, he really did have feelings for this woman. He brushed the hair from her face and sighed before closing his eyes.
He awoke the next morning to find himself alone in the large, but comfortable bed. He glanced at the bedside table to see Luna’s wand gone and listened for a long moment. No sense of alarm came to him so he stretched his arms overhead and looked around the dark room. Pulling his wand from the inner pocket of his pajamas, he flicked open the large velvet shades and immediately regretted his actions as the bright sun filled the ostentatiously decorated room.
With a sigh, he climbed out of the bed and headed to the kitchen.
“Good morning,” Luna smiled up at him from her spot on the kitchen floor, a sour looking, aged house elf next to her. “I was planning to make us breakfast, but Kreacher here beat me to it.” She waved her hand at the plates piled high with traditional English breakfast. “It smells delicious.”
He had to admit, the overflowing plates of food did look and smell delicious, but he kept those thoughts to himself.
Kreacher stared up at him with a look of unease on his small, tight features. “Mr Potter said he was having house guests. He did not specify whom. Had Kreacher known, he would have prepared maggots instead.”
“I assure you, the two of us can manage without you.” He frowned at the house elf. “Please tell Mr Potter as much. “
“Kreacher is a free elf. He chooses for whom and when to work. But Mr Potter pays me well, so Kreacher does as he asks,” he replied mostly under his breath.
“Thank you, Kreacher. I appreciate your efforts.” Luna smiled as she refilled hers and the elf’s teacups and stood from the floor. “Tea, Severus?”
Kreacher eyed him before looking over to Luna as though trying to understand the situation.
“Thank you.” He picked up the empty cup from the long kitchen table. “How did you sleep?”
Luna filled his cup and brushed her hand along his forearm. “Very well, thank you.”
Kreacher’s eyes widened briefly before he frowned. “Kreacher will be off now. Good day, Miss Luna.” He bowed briefly before disapparating from the kitchen.
“Foul thing.” Snape scowled. “You should not trust him. Especially now that he has no forced loyalties.”
“Stop that,” Luna frowned. “He is wonderful, and he prepared this generous meal for us. Let’s eat and be grateful.”
They sat and tucked into their breakfast. Luna hummed to herself as she worked at her plate, and he glanced over at her.
“You are in a good mood this morning.”
“Why shouldn’t I be?” Her brows knit together in legitimate question.
“Because you are stuck here with me for the foreseeable future? Anyone else would be put out by that prospect, I believe.” He shrugged.
“Don’t be silly, Severus. I enjoy your company. If I didn’t, I would not have invited you to join me.”
“I suppose even I am better than no one.”
“Is that what you really think?” Her face fell. “That I would have you only to avoid being alone?”
He swallowed his bite of egg and took a sip of tea, contemplating his next words. How much did he dare reveal about his concerns that Luna was creating some fantasy to hide from her reality, that their relationship was no more real than Nargles and crumple-horned what-have-yous? “Not precisely.”
“Then tell me.” She put down her silverware and folded her hands into her lap.
He sighed, regretting voicing his insecurities, but also relieved to have the opportunity to question the witch’s motives further. “It is more that I worry that your optimism may be clouding your judgement regarding me...regarding us.”
She chewed her bottom lip for a moment. “Perhaps your pessimism is clouding yours.”
He nodded. “Likely so.”
“I could have chosen others you know. Neville would join me in heartbeat. Ginny too. I could have returned to Shell Cottage. Bill and Fleur are excellent protectors and would be pleasant company.” She paused. “I still could if you prefer it,” she nearly whispered.
Pinching the bridge of his nose, he shook his head. “I would not prefer that.”
She tilted her head. “Neither would I.” She picked up her silverware again and took a large bite of mushrooms.
How badly he longed to be in her head, and how easy it would be. He almost couldn’t hold back as he watched her eat in silence. She was not one to be dishonest, but he found it unbelievable that she would prefer his presence to her friends.
When Luna smiled over at him and sipped her tea, he felt his mind reaching out to hers. It was too easy as her lovely eyes met his, her thoughts opened before him in a flurry of colors, emotions, and swirling visions. He sifted through her head blindly, not sure what he was hoping to find within as he picked at the food before him.
Somehow the witch managed to keep so much in the front of her thoughts; her appreciation of the food before her with simultaneous memories of Hogwarts feasts and dinners with her father, and her recent conversation with Kreacher mixed her with intense feelings of appreciation and satisfaction as well as a strange gratitude and regret for those creatures whose lives were given to create the meal she now enjoyed.
He felt it in her thoughts, the babe within her stirring. Her hand reached for her belly as her face softened, and her eyes became distant. The food stuck in his throat as a fierce wave of fulfillment washed through her thoughts into him.
As the kicks within her womb continued, her thoughts cleared and her emotions sharpened. An extreme desire to protect the growing being followed by something more complex but even more potent pushed through. He lacked the words to describe the nearly all-consuming energy that overtook her consciousness but her mind suddenly exploded with so many images that he could only catch a few; a squirming, helpless infant with eyes squeezed tight, crying out; a raven-haired beautiful toddler with bright silver eyes playing in a garden, a smile on his face; a thin young boy with a sharp nose dressed in a green jumper on what appeared to be a train platform, a Hogwarts trunk at his feet. And then he saw his own face and realized that Luna watched him, her thoughts coming to rest on his own dark-eyes and sharp nose. The all-consuming energy focused, calmed, and came to rest on the face before her and outwardly she smiled at him, but inwardly she seemed to relax and sigh a sigh of relief as the images faded.
He pulled free from her head, almost choking as he did so. “My apologies, Luna. I have crossed the line.” He pushed himself from the table and hurried out of the kitchen.
Chapter 22: Apology and Obligation
A short update. More to come as soon as I can. I have something important to work through causing delay, but it will happen. As always, I look forward to any and all feedback. Happy Holidays.
The overwhelming emotions of Luna Lovegood’s consciousness still clung to him like wet robes as he stormed out the front door of 12 Grimmauld Place. Once free of the protection wards, he apparated into the sitting room of Spinner’s End and flopped into his armchair, the swirling visions still playing in his thoughts. He grappled with his own intense response to what he’d seen and felt and his inability to name them; joy, contentment, satisfaction, tenderness, adoration? It was all of those things and somehow different and somehow more. There was such certainty, so unlike the feelings pulsing in his chest now. How could someone so young, so naive be so sure of the world?
No. Luna may be young, but she was no longer naive of the cruelties of life. And yet, despite it all, she still found so much to joy in life, so much hope, so much...life. She was so child-like in that way. He could not remember a time where he had felt the same. Perhaps he never had.
He stood and moved into the kitchen. He reached for the bottle of firewhiskey in his cabinet. Just before pouring it, he sighed and put the bottle back in the cabinet. He would not fall into that trap again. He needed to do better than just numbing the emotions away. That never got him anywhere but drunk.
He had felt that way once. Those days still stood brightly in his memory even while so many others tried to drown them out. He stared out the kitchen window in the direction of the park down the street. He’d felt hope and optimism for the future back then, as most children, even those with experiences such as his own. He too had possessed a child-like innocence once-upon-time. And even though his innocence quickly faded, he still maintained that he could have a future that contained happiness and even love. But he ruined that all in a moment of loss of control.
He clenched his jaw as he turned from the window, and walked back into the sitting room. He hissed as he saw the black wax sealed letter laying in the empty fireplace. In all his conflict, he’d nearly forgotten the reason for this all. Luna still needed his protection. He set the letter aflame and sat back down in the chair, his head in his hands. He could not leave her now. Not until this Lestrange business was settled. He’s promised her that.
The twisting, quarreling sensations in his chest were more terrifying to him than any fear he’d previously encountered, but as with all the other challenges he had forced himself to face, this was no different. He swallowed, cleared his throat, and sat up. One by one, with deep cleansing breaths, he replaced his mental shields and focused on his mission; keep Luna Lovegood safe.
He stood, went upstairs to his bedroom, and stripped himself from his night clothes. As the heat of the shower water pelted his shoulders, he felt the tension wash away as his energy centered. Emerging refreshed and energized, he pulled out his usual black garb. Straightening his shoulders, he ran his fingers through his damp locks, and apparated back to the stoop of 12 Grimmauld Place.
Luna sat on the sitting room davenport, a textbook on her lap, Hermione’s revision schedule beside her, and her blonde locks twisted in a mess atop her head held in place by her wand. She looked up as he entered the room. “Feeling better?”
He nodded once as he sat down beside her.
Closing her book, she turned to him. “Will you tell me what happened?”
“A moment of impulsivity which I deeply regret.”
She nodded. “I see.”
“I invaded your privacy and broke your trust even if you did not realize it.”
Her eyes widened. “Oh. Legilimency then?”
“Yes. I am sorry. It will not happen again.”
“What did you see?”
“I am not entirely sure.”
He shook his head. “No. Your mind is unlike anything I have ever experienced.”
“That’s nice. Someday you will understand, I think.” She smiled as she touched his hand.
He huffed as he glanced over at her. “Always so confident.”
She laughed. “If that is what you would like to call it.” She moved closer and took his hand in hers. “I forgive you, Severus. Do not fret on it further, okay?”
He sighed. “It is not that simple.”
“It can be if you want it to be.” She locked eyes with him.
He looked away. For Luna, the world might be that simple. He sighed. “I will try. Thank you, Luna.”