Severus Snape was not a man given to gazing at his reflection in every mirror or other reflective surface that came to hand, but, for once, he could not help but indulge his incredulity and do just that. His reflection, unfortunately, stared right back, as those in magic mirrors were wont to do – and raised one eyebrow in ironic salute, which was a peculiarity that could be attributed to the fact that it was his magic mirror. It had been making other similarly insolent gestures and mouthing what could only be cuttingly sarcastic remarks ever since he had taken the night’s costume out of his wardrobe and begun removing his comfortingly concealing day robes in order to change into the leggings and tunic designated for him; he was reminded at this juncture of just what a good idea silencioing it had been, for it had mouthed something just a moment before that clearly ended in the word ‘poof’. Which he was, but that was neither the point nor his fault; the point was that the costume was clearly designed to make him appear as foolish as possible: the leggings clung to every hollow and flat of his scrawny legs; the tunic hung limp and loose, exposing just how narrow and underdeveloped his chest was; the garland pinned to the crown of his head with a touch of magic made his nose look no more regal or roman than it ever did. All in all, it seemed to him that the figure he cut in this getup made a mockery of the very idea of a fairy king - a thought that caused him to grimace, and the mirror, in a departure from its rotation of smirks and raised eyebrows and other such tricks, to blow him a mocking kiss. Just then, a knock sounded at his chamber doors, saving the accursed piece of furniture from potential destruction and making Snape scowl as he straightened his costume one last time before going to find out who had come knocking him up. When the door opened to reveal a half-naked Professor Bilius Weasley, it took most of his considerable self-control to keep his reaction to the younger man’s appearance from becoming more obvious than would be appropriate.
Fortunately, Weasley didn’t seem to notice anything amiss, for he did nothing but say in his usual calmly cheerful way, “Didn’t think I’d actually turn up, did you?”
“I’d rather hoped you wouldn’t, actually. However, I’ve long since stopped expecting to get what I want, so why should I have expected it to be any different today?” This admission was laced with Snape's trademark sarcasm, but beneath the protective camouflage of self-deprecating humour Bill thought he heard a hint of truth; a truth that declared that somewhere inside this man, whose glower could petrify seventh years and whose command of insult and implication could turn fellow staff members to puddles of nervous goo, was a small boy who, despite all the evidence, still hoped that someday things would work out in his favour. It was these hints of deeply-buried humanity that intrigued Bill and kept him intent on breaking through the other man’s defenses and finding out what he was like when he wasn’t trying to take your head off. His time spent working with goblins, as well as growing up with six siblings, and everything he had seen in the war, on top of that, had left him with a decided respect for a person’s desire for privacy, so he did nothing but say, easily, “Well, someone had to come and do your wings for you.”
And, so saying, he put out a hand and took hold of Snape’s arm and tugged him out into the corridor. This normally would’ve been a rather dangerous thing to do, but Snape seemed enough demoralised by his state of dress to allow the assault upon his person and stand unresisting while Bill pointed his wand at a spot midway between Snape’s shoulder-blades and recited the necessary charm. At his pennae blattarum emergo, a pair of large, feathery moth wings began to unfurl through the slits provided for that purpose in the back of the tunic. They were mottled in an odd mix of grey and green and brown and cream that seemed to glow and once they had achieved their full span were more than six feet from tip to tip – in short, their very presence changed the entire aspect of the costume, transforming Snape from odd and half-finished looking to wild and mysterious and truly fey. It was all Bill could do to keep his mouth from dropping open on the spot; instead, he took the unresisting Potions Master by the arm and dragged him up the corridor towards the stairs that would take them up out of the dungeons and deliver them unto the brightly lit safety of the Great Hall – a place where the mere presence of other people would hopefully help restrain his desire to push Severus Snape up against the nearest stone wall and find out what that unusually clever tongue was good at besides tearing its fellow witches and wizards to proverbial shreds. As it happened, he was so distracted by this train of thought and its increasingly uncomfortable side-effects that he completely failed to notice that Snape had straightened his shoulders and thrown back his head and gone striding up the corridor ahead of him, with his wings swirling in his wake – looking for all the world as though they were merely his everyday robes gone feathery and fanciful. So, not knowing what else to do, Bill followed, his mind full of new conundrums to ponder.
The fateful announcement had been made at supper, just as so many other announcements – both benign and insidious – had over the years. However, at first, Severus had merely considered his Headmistress’s sudden fancy for mandatory Hallowe’en costumes an inconvenience. He didn’t truly begin to worry until he chanced to look the way of the insufferable Black and see his least-favourite coworker’s face transformed by the unholy glee that long experience had taught him heralded a plan about to be set in motion. When Black rose from his chair and began to make his way toward Severus’ end of the table, he briefly considered making a hasty and undignified exit, but in the end held his ground, as he had come to the conclusion, quite soon after meeting him, that Sirius Black was best dealt with as soon as possible, for, left to wait, whatever plan he had in mind would fester so that one wished in the end that one had taken a page from the Gryffindors’ book and charged foolishly in. So he sat, Professor Weasley to one side and Headmistress McGonagall to the other and continued to give his attention to the remainder of the peas and mash potatoes and sausages that had filled his plate completely at the beginning of the meal. He was in the midst of enjoying a particularly well-balanced mouthful of this combination when the expected greeting came, but refused to be hurried, instead deliberately finishing chewing and swallowing, then taking a sip of tea, and finally turning to greet his would-be-accoster with his best look of utterly bored disdain.
“I’ve decided what I want you to do to settle up for losing the bet.” The words were businesslike, but Black’s eyes shone with anticipated mischief and Lupin’s face was a study in worry – a combination that had not once boded anything but ill for Severus. He was reminded of what it had been like as an odd-looking, undersized first-year, whose reputation preceded him wherever he went.
Nothing of this came through in his next words, “And what might that be? Do something about your recurrent flea problem? I’ve a particularly potent mixture for sprinkling in the bath – leaves the patient smelling like erumpent horn oil for a week, but, really- ”
But instead of becoming belligerent, as was his wont, Sirius Black actually laughed, as though Severus had just made the best joke he’d heard in quite some time, and said, “No, nothing like that. It’s this costume whatsit. I get to decide what you’ll be dressed as, but you’ll still have to make or buy whatever you end up wearing,.”
By this point, the conversation had caught the attention of Severus’ neighbours at table, and Professors Weasley and McGonagall were looking on with interest, as curious as Severus, himself, to find out just what Black had in mind. Severus, however, refrained from doing anything more than raising an eyebrow in an unmistakable invitation that Black continue.
“At first, I thought you’d make a good vampire, but, really, that wouldn’t be much fun at all – you’d just scare the students even more than usual and get to wear as much black as you ever do. Godric Gryffindor would’ve been amusing in a symbolic sort of way, and you’d’ve had to charm your hair blond and go around wearing red and gold - you likely would’ve been stuck with that, but Longbottom and Cope were having a conversation about - well, never mind what it was. The point is, you’re to go dressed as a fairy.” Black had been smiling broadly throughout this speech, but his smile got even wider, if such a thing were possible, when he delivered this last bit of news. Then he just stood there, waiting for Snape to explode.
Severus refused to give him the satisfaction. Instead, he abandoned the remainder of his supper to the ravages of the house-elves, rose from the table, turned and, pushing past Lupin and Black, strode from the hall by way of the staff exit at the side of the dais. The only other clues to his reaction were the twin spots of colour that graced his otherwise sallow cheeks and the rigid set to his lips.
The group of professors he left behind him found they could do nothing but stare at each other in shock – not at the fact that Snape had reacted badly, but that it hadn’t been worse than that. Finally, Bill broke the silence, “Well. I suppose that could’ve been worse.” And then he rose, too, and followed Snape’s route from the Great Hall, already planning to check on him later and see if there was anything he could do to help.
In his wake, Lupin could be heard chiding Black, under the steely gaze of McGonagall. When they, too, had taken their conversation and themselves off, for the evening, that iron-willed old witch unbent enough to let the corner of her mouth twitch. She remained at the table, staring off into space and letting her cup of tea grow slowly colder, for quite some time longer.
Even after Dumbledore’s death, Professor Flitwick had continued to enchant the Hallowe’en and Christmas decorations for the Great Hall just as he had when the beloved headmaster was alive; the castle had been decorated in some manner or other for centuries of Samhain and Yule celebrations, so it was not surprising that one more death, no matter how great the esteem the wizard or witch had been held in, had not kept the castle from continuing to follow the paths laid out by tradition. As a result, there were just as many floating Jack-O’-Lanterns and candles as there had ever been and the Headless Hunt made its ritual ride through the feast when the house-elves were in the midst of clearing away the dishes from the course before pudding. When Severus and Bill entered the Great Hall later that evening, to do their duties in chaperoning the ball, the long dining tables and benches had been cleared away and been replaced by a scattering of small, round tables and delicate, worked metal chairs, set along the walls in clusters. The number of candles floating overhead had also been reduced, effectively lowering the level of light in the room, and a grouping of traditional musicians had set up on the dais, presumably to aid in the dancing, though the piece of music they were currently working their way through seemed to be intended to unobtrusively provide a background to the conversations taking place all over the room. There was even a table laded with large bowls of pumpkin punch and trays of pumpkin pasties and candied apples and other sweetings. Everywhere one looked, there were students bubbling over with general goodwill and the excitement of attending a ball, many of them for the first time.
Bill had eyes for none of this; he was still struck by the transformation Snape had undergone as they made their way up from the dungeons. Gone was any sign of unease or self-doubt; in their place was the usual façade of unerring self-assurance that Snape projected as a matter of course. That, combined with the masterful way Snape handled his newly-acquired wings, was enough to not only keep Bill at his heels, but also cause the crowd to part before him in a wave of open mouths and gasps of shocked recognition. In fact, the crowd was so transfixed by Snape’s progress across the room that the fact that Bill was garbed in nothing but a pair of leggings and some strategically placed garlanding failed to attract any significant notice at all. Beneath the haze of constant arousal that had enshrouded him since he’d first seen Snape garbed in the full glory of the costume, Bill tingled with justified pride: all the work he’d put into getting it right had been well worth it. Snape, who they’d called a greasy old bat or compared to various birds of prey when he’d been at school, looked utterly and completely right with a pair of gossamer moth wings sprouting from between his shoulder-blades.
Bill had taken charge of the costume-making. His explanation that Mrs. Weasley had set him to work with mending and patching and letting out and taking in the assortment of castoff clothing the Weasley brood worked its way through, as soon as he could be trusted with a needle if not a wand, was enough to gain Severus’ cooperation. When he produced sketches of Severus, reclining on a mossy throne amidst swirling, concealing mist, dressed as a winged Oberon, Severus had become, if not precisely anticipatory, at least slightly less apprehensive; there were to be no pastel tulle skirts or silken bodices involved, nor garlands of flowers in his hair or glittery wands. There would likely be humiliation, but of a sort he was used to: the simple kind, born of being himself in public while doing something likely to get him notice.
The leggings and tunic hadn’t been terribly difficult to put together. The chamois for the tunic was simply lovely to work with - incredibly soft and possessed of a felted nap. The moleskin for the leggings, on the other hand, had taken some careful handling to make sure it would all stretch in the right direction, but he’d taken apart and put back together enough pairs of trousers to not be much fussed by it. By the time he’d made Snape’s pair, he’d even taken such a fancy to it, that he made a pair for himself – secretly planning to be Puck to Snape’s Oberon. It was the wings that were the real problem, however. At first, Bill had tried to produce them by hand: bending wire into frames and stretching cheesecloth across them, then painting the results to look like the moth wings shown in the books he had borrowed from the library. The problem was they didn’t. Even when charmed to flutter and flap in a realistic imitation of beating wings, they were still quite obviously wire and cloth and paint, and, to Bill’s mind, that simply wasn’t good enough.
Determined to do better, he experimented with different combinations of materials, different kinds of paint, and even different techniques for applying it to the bases. Nothing seemed to improve the end result. With a week left before the Hallowe’en Masque, he was running short of ideas, so he turned once again to library. It was there that he found his answer: he would do it the wizarding way and create wings out of magic and will alone.
Severus had long been a wholehearted supporter of the stiff upper lip school of dealing with unfortunate situations. Therefore, it had been no challenge whatsoever to reign in the appalling bout of self-pity he’d been indulging in all evening, square his shoulders and prepare to enter the Great Hall with his head held high. The arousal that the sight of Weasley in his entirely unexpected costume had engendered was somewhat less easily dealt with, but for the moment he had decided to take the well-tested route of simply ignoring it; any physical evidence to the contrary could be left for the concealing folds of his tunic to deal with.
That the crowd in the great hall parted before him as he crossed it was no surprise to him; they were students and meant to get out of his way. That he wasn’t followed by a wave of snickers and obnoxious comments was somewhat more surprising, but could easily be laid at the feet of his justifiably fearsome reputation and the all-too-well-known consequences of getting his anger directed at oneself. That the costume might have turned out to be effective was something he didn’t deign to consider until he came face-to-face with the source of his current predicament: Sirius Black.
That erstwhile gentleman had been standing near to the dais, engaged in conversation with his ever-present companion, Remus Lupin. Neither of them had spotted Severus when he first entered the room, nor had they taken notice when the first students started making incoherent noises that owed a little to shock, a little to fear, and a very little to an entirely unexpected and unacknowledged niggle of desire. By the time Severus had made his way across part of the room, however, the reaction of the crowd has swelled to such proportions that it was no longer possible for them to ignore the source of the reaction. When they turned to find out what was going on and caught sight of the crowd parting before Severus like strands of gillyweed before a work-knife, it was only the hand that Remus placed at the small of Sirius’ back that kept him entirely upright. He had been expecting the very yards of tulle and silk and flowery garlands that Severus had gone into this dreading; that Severus had fulfilled the letter of Sirius’ demand while managing to turn the spirit of it on its head left him incoherent with frustration. Remus, on the other hand, was more than a little glad that Severus had managed to turn the situation to his benefit, and had joined the rest of the crowd in incoherent appreciation of Severus’ ability to pull off what should have been an utterly ridiculous costume.
Thus, when Severus finally reached the spot where they stood near the dais, he was greeted by a slack-jawed werewolf, dressed as an auror, and his fuming friend. And when he realised that Black was wearing a vampire costume complete with fake fangs dripping equally fake blood, tight dragonhide trousers and a white silk dress shirt that had a front completely obscured by a froth of lacy frills, well, he chuckled, slightly nastily, and said, in his silkiest smooth tone, “Give away all your good costume ideas, Black?” Then, he turned on his heel and walked away. The evening had suddenly started looking rather better.
Remus, who had managed to regain more of his composure than Sirius, mused at Severus’ rapidly moving back, “Oberon and his gentle Puck – that’s really quite clever.” Sirius merely grumbled in reply. Bill, who had still been within earshot, grinned when he heard this remark, for he had not known whether to expect anyone to actually know who they were supposed to be; Remus Lupin, it seemed, however, could be counted on to pick up on literary references. It was this moment, in which he stopped to find out whether Lupin would say any more, that ended up sending his evening temporarily astray, for, in that moment of hesitation, he found himself accosted by the new divinations teacher – a Beauxbatons girl who had known the Delacours at school – and discovered that, for the moment, there was no polite way for him to decline her invitation to dance. It would be some time before he could get away, for a dance with Giselle had led to a dance with a seventh year Gryffindor girl named Katy, which led to Rolanda Hooch, who was as good on her feet as she was on a broomstick, and so on through a wide variety of upper-year girls and most of the female teaching staff, none of whom he would have sought out to spend time with(though his turns about the dance floor with Rolanda and Poppy Pomfrey were at least enlivened by conversations that actually pretended to something close to wit) and none of whose requests he could decline. By the time he could break free, claiming a very real need to take a breather, he had worked himself into a right state, for the glimpses that were all he seen of Snape, over the period of the hour or so that had passed, had done nothing to decrease his arousal; if anything, the paucity of even that small contact had ensnared his senses and sent him a bit mad with lust. Driven by instinct, he left the Great Hall to take refuge in the lavatory known in his student days as the place to go for a bit of privacy.
The Wizarding World was not, as some muggleborns might claim, completely uninterested in everything muggles managed to invent or create; they merely tended to wait to adopt such things for their use until they had been around long enough to guarantee their worthiness. In this manner, they had taken to trains, photography, wireless sets, the printing press and rubber-soled shoes. They had also, somewhat grudgingly, allowed certain authors and musicians to influence their worldview. One such was the great William Shakespeare, whose Hamlet and Macbeth every pureblooded child was expected to have read; more rarely, pureblooded children would venture further afield, into the comedies or histories. Severus had found his way there by way of the writing, for the insults the Bard invented were as good as or better than anything he’d ever heard any of his rapier-tongued relatives use; Bill went for the stories, which gave him glimpses of far-off lands and the muggles who lived there. They stayed because, once introduced to the intoxicating combination of masterfully-used language, well-told stories and engaging characters, they could no more easily stop reading than they could easily stop using magic. They had each had a leather-bound Complete Works of Shakespeare from quite a young age and each treasured his more than might be expected as each lad had had to earn the money that brought the book to him.
It was this well-loved volume that Severus turned to when it came to consulting something on the matter of fairies. And when he found that Weasley had been of the same mind as he when it came to where to base one’s concept of a fairy, he felt not only relief, but a certain amount of respect, for wizards who would look to Shakespeare rather than Scamander on that front were few and far between. Particularly when they were also well-versed in Defence Against the Dark Arts. His body had been reacting favourably to Weasley’s presence ever since that young man had returned to the school; over the course of the war, he had become well-acquainted with just how competent, courageous and capable a person its owner was; now, with the advent of the bloody fairy mess, he had been given a chance to discover that Bill Weasley was also fully in possession of finely honed senses of humour and honour and a mind that could appreciate the subtleties of the art of literature just as much as the subtleties of the art of spellcasting. This aggregation of favourable facts had left him entirely unsure of what to do with the one unpleasant one that remained. The one that threatened to spoil all of his calculations: that this was a Weasley and Weasleys had ever hated one Prof. Severus Snape.
The hours Severus spent at the masque while Bill was passed around the dance floor from one partner to the next, were ones that he would not have counted as particularly different from any other Hogwarts event he had ever attended if it hadn’t been for the fact that every time Weasley came into sight, Severus found his brain filled with thoughts that couldn’t be categorised as anything but lustful and which centred around just how much he’d like to run his hands over that naked chest or how firm that arse must be or what those legs would be like if one got a chance to have them wrapped around one’s waist. By the third round of this intensely frustrating dance, he had become more grateful for the overly loose cut of his tunic than he ever would’ve guessed. By the fifth round, the only things keeping him from making an immediate escape were his pride, the endless supply of pumpkin punch someone had provided him with and the slightly inane conversation about the current crop of first years which he was somehow managing to carry on with Minerva McGonagall. When McGonagall departed, several dances later, to chastise some Gryffindor 3rd years for trying to play conkers with the floating jack-o’-lanterns, he found himself longing to take to the halls under the pretense of hunting down wayward students, but held himself back, for Longbottom and Vector and Flitwick had that duty at the moment, and even though he was Deputy Headmaster, there wasn’t any call for him to add his presence to theirs; even Longbottom had become more than capable of dealing effectively with students found out of bounds.
Therefore, he found himself gathering up the remnants of his self-control, taking possession of a chair tucked off to one side of the dais, transfiguring the small table that accompanied it into a footstool, and settling in with a slightly modified supply of pumpkin punch to drown his discomfort in alcohol and attempt to ignore the great temptation afforded by the sight of Weasley taking turn after athletic turn with people who weren’t him – were, in fact, women. Which, his brain suddenly realized, could be a problem; he had spent so much time considering the horror of finding anything attractive in a Weasley that it hadn’t even occurred to him to worry about whether the Weasley in question even liked men. After all, he’d been practically engaged to that French witch during the war and Severus had seen no sign of him being involved in a relationship since. Not that he’d been watching, particularly, or that there necessarily would’ve been any signs to see if it had been an affair with another wizard – he knew perfectly well just how secret one had to keep one’s relationships if one were a wizard of that persuasion. Still. That did nothing to alleviate his current discomfort.
Brought suddenly back to the present by this reminder, he found himself quite overwhelmed by the feeling of his erection rubbing against the wrong side of the moleskin as it strained for the freedom brought by disrobing. Then he realized that, sometime during his maunderings, Bill Weasley had vanished as thoroughly as Cinderella on the stroke of midnight, which it wasn’t, though more than half-an-hour had passed since he’d first sat down. He didn’t think Weasley had been scheduled for a tour of the halls now and, while he might’ve slipped away to do something as innocuous as seek out a lavatory, it seemed to Severus that this was a perfect opportunity to both make sure that nothing untoward had happened to the younger man and to relieve his own discomfort. With that thought in mind, he rose from his seat, made his way around the dancers by a highly circuitous route and exited the Great Hall at as leisurely a pace as he could manage under the circumstances. Once free of the curious eyes of the students and his fellow faculty members, he set off towards the most private of the public lavatories with all due speed, there to either roust students engaged in illicit trysting or gain some privacy of his own.
Bill had done much the same upon his arrival at the lavatory he sought – there had been a girl who might’ve been meant to be a dementor, though the robe she wore was cut so high in the leg and low in the chest it was hard to tell, pressed up against one of the tiled walls by a boy whose outfit might’ve been meant to represent any number of things, but whose chief aim was obviously to impress upon his girlfriend just how well he looked in a shirt unbuttoned to his navel, fitted trousers and dragonhide boots. Personally, Bill thought he didn’t yet have the self-confidence to pull off the boots, but, for the moment, that was neither here nor there. His duty just then was to separate them, give them a warning and send them back to the ball to do the things they were actually supposed to be doing. Which he did, with a minimum of fuss, for he still rated as a ‘cool’ professor - a fact which sometimes gained him more cooperation than his youth might have otherwise warranted in the eyes of his charges.
Then, having checked to make sure there were no more students to evict, he settled in to do what he had come to do. In but a moment, he had managed to push the leggings down his hips to free his erection, braced himself against the tiled wall with one forearm and taken his straining cock in hand. After that, it was the work of a thought to let himself be overcome by all the images of Severus as the Fairie King he’d spent the evening storing up and to let them, along with the remembered pulse of the music, drive the rhythm his hand took. In no time at all, he was lost to everything but the slide of his hand over his engorged flesh and the fantasies that drove him ever higher and sent his hips bucking in a rhythm that owed nothing to control. He’d felt the last bit of it snap somewhere in the midst of the endless montage of translucent wings and prominent noses and pieces of clothing that alternately veiled and revealed the various bits of Severus’ body, but before he’d properly realised it, he’d thrust one last time and was coming over his own hand with Severus’ name on his lips.
Severus had, in fact, brought his quarry to ground with surprising ease, for the lavatory he had sought was the same one Bill had taken refuge in; however, the sight that greeted his eyes upon entering was entirely unexpected. There was Weasley, fisting his cock with a desperation that spoke of a need for release as great as his own. A desperation that suggested he’d spent as much of the evening in a torment of desire, as Severus had, himself. He worked his cock with a singlemindedness that left no room for any other action, neither fondling his bollocks nor stroking his perineum nor engaging in any other behaviour that might have given Severus more of a key to understanding the true nature of the situation.
Severus was once again transfixed. He had spent the evening hard with desire for this very man and here he was, presenting him with a bare-arsed study in the glory of a man driven to provide himself with release. A suggestion that had his own hand slipping beneath his tunic and into the constraints of his leggings to simultaneously soothe and inflame himself further with strokes as quick and as rough as those his eyes feasted upon. The torment was exquisite; he dared not make a single noise nor do anything else that might attract Weasley’s attention, yet somehow he had to find a way to obey the imperative to get off, himself, that was all his body had attention for. It should not have been particularly difficult, for he had been close to losing control for several hours now, and yet release refused to come. He worked himself in counterpoint to Weasley and then in unison, made his strokes longer and then shorter again, turned his touch gentle before circling back round to rough, added in the filigrees Weasley ignored: lavishing attention on his glans, cupping his bollocks, running a finger along the prominent vein. Nothing quite did it, though every touch seemed to bring him a step closer to madness and, perhaps, oblivion.
In the end, it was a word rather than a touch, that cut through the roil of frustrated lust and triggered his release. For a moment, he thought that he must not have heard properly, but then the effects of that word hit him fully and tipped the balance to send him into the freefall of orgasm. He had not hoped nor even thought to hear his name torn from the lips of the object of his lust, as that man came. Yet that very thing had happened, and he was left, now, to slump against the wall by the door, completely undone, unable to summon the motivation to clean himself up and tuck himself back in, nor even move enough to avoid incriminating himself when Weasley came enough back to himself to do the same. And then he found that he welcomed that, welcomed having Weasley see what effect he had, had. So he remained where he was, reeking of debauchery from the tips of his spread wings to the soles of his feet and waited for Weasley to turn around. He had been gifted with one thing he had not dared to want, already, this night; who was to say that he might not get more?