Title: Through the Longest Watches of the Night
Summary: An interesting Winternight for the Potions Master and a student.
Author: Chaos Rose. firstname.lastname@example.org
Rating: Way up high on the R scale for adult themes and behavior.
Category: Angst/Humor/Sensuality. Severus/Other.Takes place a few years before Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Contains very bad language and lots of it. Contains much reference to (Goodness mercy me!) sex – in many varieties, positions and practices, though not any explicit smut. Includes Menacing!Snape, Student!Lusting!Snape, Angsting!Snape, references to F/F slash and SS/LM slash.
Disclaimer: It's J.K. Rowling's sandbox, I'm just playing in it. All characters other than my OCs belong to her.
Please do not archive without permission.
Through the Longest Watches of the Night.
The halls were dark and quiet. Dinner was over. Midnight was not far past.
The majority of those who had remained for the holidays were now asleep in their beds, stuffed with food and sweets until near to bursting.
Albus Dumbledore dozed in front of his fire.
Minerva McGonagall read, hair undone as she sprawled across her tartan-covered bed.
Severus Snape prowled the halls like an ebony-haired wraith at an hour when even the occupants of the portraits on the walls dozed in their frames.
The young, he knew, were lured by the dark, seeing only the chance to hide their mischief in night's cloak, never understanding what might be in there with them. They did not know what it could do.
Night could be seductive. The silken winds of summer on one's skin or the harsh cold of winter that drove one under the covers seeking only warmth, both could pull with the sweet torment of a lover's touch. Night could play the senses, making black from red - sharpening hearing while dulling the wits until there was only reaction without thought. Night cultivated a garden of fair flowers and succulent fruit, pretty and scented to please, but laced with poison. Some quick, others slow, but in time, all who tarried would taste.
Night, as Severus knew from searing experience, could whisper and the lost would hear and obey. So, he was wakeful in the night, knowing it so well, on guard against it and the tricks that those who knew its ways could use.
He stood the longest watches of the night because he understood the night like no other person here.
The wind rattled the leaded glass in the windows as he walked the gallery, as if the darkness outside sought him in his refuge. A draught tugged fitfully at his heavy robes, as if trying to pull him back into the dark and cold that had marked his life. The dark was his balm and bane; the cold his refuge and prison.
The call was less than it had been, though. There had been a time not so long ago when he was not sure that he could live with the things he had done. The temptation to go back into the arms of the dark, to let its delights and horrors obliterate him was like a veela's song. Sometimes, Snape even hated Dumbledore for keeping him sane, thinking that Azkaban would be preferable to being sentenced to live inside his own head.
Mounting the stairs to the fourth level, he could hear Peeves - that illiterate and vulgar discarnate – wrecking havoc on the mostly unused upper floor, throwing debris, and singing rude songs.
"Well he buggered the cook in the kitchen
Well he buggered the maid in the hall
Then he buggered the butler, the dirtiest trick of all…"
Well, if nothing else presented itself, perhaps Severus could lighten his mood by trying out some spells on the wretched thing. There was a particular petrificus spell that was claimed to make the geists solid enough to be of use as bell clappers.
The thought of Peeves' head being used to toll the hours in the carillon until Hogwart's stones fell to sand made him smile, just a little.
"When Lord Clancy became a nancy
It did not suit the family fancy.
Thus in order to protect 'um
They tattooed upon his rectum:
" 'Commoners must now ride steerage
This seat is reserved for peerage!' "
Long and dim, the third floor was seldom used any more. The small, sloped-ceiling classrooms were mostly used for storage or tutoring - or by students looking for a deserted place to engage in mischief. Gaining the landing, he peered into the moonlit dimness. Which way? A soft, skittering sound pulled his attention to the left and Severus followed.
In a small alcove with benches on three sides, he found the remains of a little party – empty cake box, expended crackers, wrapping paper, and cups drained of mulled cider. Lifting the lid of the cake box, Severus swiped a bit of leftover icing with his finger.
Chocolate-orange with ginger. Tasty.
Also, unusual enough that Messrs. Cream and Pye – the bakers in Hogsmeade – should remember baking it. If it turned out to be a student that made him particularly irritable, he might…
Peeves came flying down the hall, propelled by ectoplasmic flatulence, singing gleefully at the top of his non-existent lungs.
If you think Snape's nose is long then you should see his dingus!
Then again it's not a patch on what he does with his fingers!
"PEEVES!" Severus roared in full rage and gave chase, fully intending to try out every curse he had ever learned on the profane spirit.
Down the hall Peeves sailed, Severus in pursuit as the spirit sang merrily -
"Lucius had a cock and balls
He took them for a spin!
He whipped it out
And then he stuck it in…
Severus had a notion
That he fancied a wank
He whipped it out
And got stuck by Lucius' crank!"
If Severus could have remembered how to blush, he would have lit the hall. Peeves' second – and more permanent – death was assured. Severus would not rest until the poltergeist was roasting on a spit and screaming for non-existent mercy.
Rounding the corner into the next wing, some slight movement in a niche deserted by its armor caught his eye. Slowing, patently looking for Peeves, he crept along the hallway, wand at ready. If one of his old 'friends' thought to be looking him up…
"Peeves… here Peeves… Peevsy, you rotten ghost of a long-flushed turd, come and sing me another song… you misbegotten bastard mishmash of a drunken ditchdigger and a blind sow…"
The darkness within the niche was utterly still; not even the sound of breathing stirred the air.
With the speed of the serpent, he whipped around, grasping the person in the niche and yanked them out.
This was no Death-Eater - that much was certain. Instead of a silvery mask, wide, startled hazel eyes stared at up him from a slightly triangular face topped with dark brown curls. The fabric in his fist was soft silk velvet, not the rustling shroud of black, and she was carrying her ever-present book bag. To the best of his recollection, Death-Eaters did not wear little oval wire-rimmed spectacles, either.
This was Miss Emily Mayborne, seventh-year Ravenclaw and generalized pain-in-his-arse, drawing her brows into a frown at his smile.
"My, my. What are you doing out of your warm nest, little Ravenclaw chick? No, don't tell me… let me guess…" he purred as he tapped his temple with the tip of his wand. "You were having a get-together with Misses Malfoy and Merrymead, during which you consumed a great deal of cake, spiced cider and broke a few rules. Hmm?"
The one word was all he allowed her. Getting into a battle of wits with Emily Mayborne was a lengthy proposition – she had a fast retort for every insult and an argument for everything. He had been dealing with the girl since she was a second year, resulting in some truly memorable incidents of foolery for both of them.
Well, tonight, he would keep the upper hand. She was a student; he was faculty. She was breaking the rules; he would enforce them. She had no fear of the dark; he would make her think twice.
"You are an insolent child who believes rules do not apply to seventh years, perhaps?" He used his grip on her robe to give her a good shake. " Ah, but no, Miss Artemisia Malfoy has protected you from a great deal – including the notion that there is a price to be paid for breaking rules." He switched his grip to her upper arm; gratified to feel the muscles tense and shift as he tightened his hand. There was steel in this girl, in time he thought that she would be formidable, but there was yet some tempering to be done. "I'm not talking about detention, nor about losing points, Miss Mayborne. You are playing in the dark, and the dark can be so hungry."
With each growled word, he pulled her closer, leaning down until his lips brushed the curls covering her ears. To bite or not to bite? Make her squeal or just scare the knickers off her? She had a few paybacks coming, and he would gleefully give her as much interest on the debts as he could manage.
Not long ago, Severus would not have hesitated to do what he was so obliquely threatening her with right now. Desire tickled the edges of his mind, but he pushed it firmly away – that was not him, had never been him, and yet he had…
He felt her shift again and issued a preemptive warning. "Kick me in the shins again, Miss Mayborne, and you'll be on your knees begging for detention. That is, after I take your wand away and spank you with it until you can't sit down."
She turned her head to regard him eye to eye, gauging his sincerity. Letting his smile widen farther, he was gratified to see a little uncertainty in her expression.
"Now, we can go see Professor Pollitt and settle this with points and detention, or…" Severus let his voice trail off and allowed her imagination to fill in the silence. He would never screw a student – he would rather cast an incendio on himself than disrespect Albus Dumbledore – but giving the bright girl's imagination a push in the appropriate dark direction was allowable.
Swallowing softly, eyes wide, she opened her mouth to speak, "P…profes…p…"
Pollitt, then. A part of him breathed a sigh of relief even as its darker twin heaved one in disappointment.
"Come along." Severus hauled her after him down the hall and she stumbled a few steps until she regained her footing. The east stairs came out right near Pollitt's rooms, he'd make this a quick trip – ask for a weeks detention and fifty points, settle for four days and twenty-five - and then return to wreak his vengeance upon Peeves. Still, the thought of having her over his knee was an engaging one…
One that was smacked right out of his head when he ran nose-first into a wall that wasn't there.
Mayborne's yelp let him know that she had encountered the same problem.
Severus growled and turned them back the other way; they would take the west staircase instead - if it hadn't moved again. "It's a simple barrier spell. Probably some thud-fingered fourth-year missed the target and it anchored here." Even though simple, barrier spells could be a bitch to remove, especially once they had time to set. "I will see to it in the morning. This way, Miss Mayb… oof!"
"What the bleeding blue hell?" His captive pressed a hand against solidified air.
The invisible wall went up as high as either could reach or throw small stones, blocked the windows, and confined them to an area five paces long and the width of the hall. Well, five of his paces and seven of Mayborne's – she was rather short.
Countering spells and dispersals bounced off or were absorbed by the invisible barriers.
"Professor, this kind of spell can be anchored on an object." Mayborne sat on the cold floor, her dark velvet robe and skirts pooling around her like liquid night. Dumping her bag into a basin of skirt, she pulled out her wand. "Maybe it's on a present…"
Her voice faltered as she realized she had just pled guilty in fact.
A treasure pile glimmered in the light from his wand. Trinkets, fripperies, sweets, and a set of books filled the space between her knees. "Couldn't wait until Christmas, Miss Mayborne?"
Drawing her wand, she blinked up at him. "These aren't for Christmas, they're for Winternight – I turned eighteen at midnight."
Dear lord. He was thirteen years older than the child and he felt ancient. As he did not do 'happy birthday,' he simply inclined his head in acknowledgement. With that, he bent and plucked a pair of silver and moonstone earrings from the skirt, and touched his wand to them.
Eventually the entire haul was back in the bag, none of it the anchor point for the spell holding them. None of her clothing held enchantments, nor had the book bag itself. The books were enchanted, but were simply Journey Journals – three Travelers and one Home Book – acquired mostly so Susan Merrymead's mother would not worry when her daughter and her friends were away on business. Gadget, Widget, and MacGuffin had recruited the three to begin work as apprentice Acquisitors immediately following graduation.
Acquisitors for that particular firm brought in artifacts, esoterica, and rarities that high-rank wizards could not do without. Dragon's blood, sea serpent's scales, yeti hair, ancient books and scrolls – all of it had to come from somewhere, and that meant that it had to be acquired by someone. It was hard and sometimes incredibly dangerous work, but it explained the major course revisions all three had made this year. Combative Magics, Advanced Potions, Advanced Curse Discovery, and Offensive Flying were not the kind of courses he had expected any of the three to take.
"I can't imagine the Malfoys being too pleased that Artemisia took the job." Merrymead's mother was house witch – a sect of witches who worked only elemental magic with mundane materials - and who knew what they thought of anything. Severus prowled the limits of their prison as Emily carefully rewrapped the books.
The young woman snorted. "They're not. As a matter of fact, her father still refuses to speak to her. However, the LeStranges are backing her and even Lucius isn't fool enough to cross them."
"Lucius Malfoy is never a fool, girl," he said dryly. "Never even let the notion cross your mind, or feel the serpent's kiss." He stopped his pacing and stared down at her. "I can't imagine yours was best pleased either."
The Maybornes were as ancient a family as the Malfoys, the LeStranges or the Snapes. Daughters were the lifeblood of the ancient clans, and in a few families, arranged marriages were still contracted while the bride and groom were yet in the nursery.
"Mum and Dad were furious that I didn't want to go into the Ministry. They disowned me." There was hurt under the soft monotone. They gave the girl a taste for the wide world and then expected her to sit behind a desk. "Aunt Meridy backs me, though, and so does uncle Alceister's family, just because they like to stir things up."
Severus was estranged from the rest of the Snapes, and had fought duels with quite a few of them. Great-grandmother Eleanora still contacted him from time to time, or ordered substantial deposits made to his vault at Gringott's – she had been an outlaw in her day, with enough scandal attached to her name that she was still called Eleanora the Red by those few who remembered.
It was what she had done that Severus had never been able to ascertain - people simply paled and changed the subject.
Family politics. No matter where you ran, you never really got shut of them.
All the same, it was not getting them out of here. That spell had an anchor somewhere in their prison and to get out, it had to be found. A detecto only worked on an object, not a place… unless.
"It may not be a simple spell." Snape paced the width of the hall. "It might be done in layers, a warding spell with a curse as the trigger."
Mayborne's eyes unfocussed and she began to twiddle her wand between the index and middle finger of her left hand. She'd gone of into the Ravenclaw trance, sorting through her mental inventory to see if there was something that might pertain. Severus began to prowl again, looking for anything – even a bit of crumbling mortar - that might have been used for an anchor.
Peeves sailed by, far up the hallway, dressed as a vicar and booming in a plummy voice:
"Allelujah mine the penis!
Mine the scrotum, mine the balls!
Allelujah, mine the ramrod!
Mine the mighty reaming tool!"
The little Ravenclaw looked irritated. "He never does this during the day. What's got into him?"
Severus paused in his pacing. "Like all disgusting things - cockroaches, dungbats, what have you - Peeves has a remarkable sense of self-preservation. If Dumbledore heard this near the students, Peeves would be exorcised and he knows it."
For some reason, the girl found that amusing but kept her reasons why to herself, saying only, "What if Peeves had something to do with this?" Flipping a hand at the barrier, she hypothesized, "He's got no magic of his own, but he can fetch stuff from place to place, and he likes mischief. What if he found the anchor and brought it here?"
"That would be within his limited abilities," Severus agreed. "However, that brings us back to the original problem of not being able to find the anchor."
"Limited abilities? Limited abilities? You great beak-nosed, slimy git!" Peeves came shrieking right up to the barrier and bounced off. "You greasy sod! I'll limit your ability to reproduce! No… wait… your narsty face has quite done that well enough!"
Severus gave the poltergeist a bored look and instead addressed himself to young Mayborne. "No, it was a good hypothesis, but you give Peeves too much credit for intelligence that he does not possess."
The young woman was still looking astonished. Peeves seldom lit into teachers, however much he might torment the students. "I see, so, instead of being the magpie taking a bauble, he is probably just enjoying a chance occurrence that gives him a captive audience."
Peeves spluttered in outrage at the cool tones, screwing up his face in a fashion that suggested it might flip over to the back of his head from sheer outrage. "A lot you know, Little-Miss-Not-So-Prissy! Chattering like magpies with your bosom friends earlier this evening, weren't you? Or mebbe it was cooing?"
It had been a very long time since Severus had seen anyone blush so spectacularly. Not even the most blatant student lies about why homework was undone ever did this.
All trace of coolness was gone from her voice, she growled. "Peeves, you rotter…"
"Yeah, that Malfoy bint got herself a nice pair of sweet little tea cakes to nosh on. Got the family appetites, that one." Peeves mimed licking his fingers clean, leering at an increasingly furious Mayborne. "And you're such a tender bit, squealing "Ooh! OOH! Now, Missy, now!" when she's got her fingers up your snatch in the library!"
Mayborne no longer looked angry, but mortified and near tears - she bowed her head, shoulders shaking. Severus was surprised, though he knew that the Malfoy-Mayborne-Merrymead friendship could be intense. He had simply pigeonholed the girl as a cerebral Ravenclaw – she had the classic Mayborne temper, but other than that, she seemed to live in a world of books and scrolls.
All the same, she couldn't hit Peeves back on this one, so…
"Too bad you haven't got a prick to enjoy it all with, Peeves!" Severus sneered. "Spying on little girls playing in each other's knickers is about your speed isn't it? No wonder you're such an unspeakable shite, you can't even have a good wank!"
From the expression on Peeves' face, Severus was surprised that the geist's head did not blow apart in fury like a Muggle's bah-loon.
"While we're talking about sluts, now, we got a legendary one right here. Don't we, Severus? Got one that knows aaaaall the ins and outs of being a Malfoy-toy." Peeves did a music hall bump and grind. "This crook-nosed old buzzard was once the sweetest golden-skinned nugget you ever did see, and lord what a taste for buggery! Lucius always liked to tend his garden of pretty flowers personally and he gave this git loads of extra attention! Boys, girls, men, women, snakes, sheep, gerbils - Lucius would bugger a knothole greased with lard if there was nothing else around, and our own DEAR Snapey here was his protégé!"
Well, it seemed he did remember how to blush after all and Mayborne was looking at him was as much fascination as if he had just grown another head.
The sins of youth…
"Ooh, yes, Lucius the Lecherous turned dear little Snapey into a bed-hopping wonderboy at such a tender age that he's been stretched across more beds than a set of dormitory sheets!"
Evil impulse bubbled up in Severus' veins - Peeves was going to get his in such a way that the memory would keep him warm all winter long, but first…
Tossing his head, mouth lifting in a sneer that had invited many to attempt its removal with a flying fist, Severus fired back. "Well, Peeves, you left out the bell towers, the Great Hall, the infirmary, the greenhouses, the bestiary, the broom loft, the showers and the middle of the Quidditch pitch, but that should do for a start. As they say, practice makes perfect - and I have had lots of practice." He cocked his head to one side and the sneer showed teeth. "Moreover, I can not only spell, but also define and – even better! - perform cunnilingus. Can you?"
Peeves went completely crackers and soared down the hall, flinging debris in a rage, screaming curses that would have brought down the wrath of Dumbledore.
Turning to the young woman, who now seemed torn between giggles and abject embarrassment, Severus raised an eyebrow at her. "Miss Mayborne, you will serve three days detention for improper use of the library. You may come to my office and arrange it this afternoon."
Debate ensued. Miss Mayborne pointed out that insofar as misuse of school facilities went that he should still be serving detention for his transgressions. Severus countered that his sins had been undiscovered, and therefore had no official existence.
"This should encourage you to be more alert and much more circumspect in the future, Miss Mayborne."
He gave her another detention for her response, which though not verbalized, was rude.
She stamped off to the farthest point available to her in their prison and simply glared at him, knowing from five years experience that he would hand out detention until she gave in.
Another added detention for her disrespectful manner caused her to roll her eyes. She bucked off the wall and stamped up to him, opening her mouth for what was sure to be another Detention Offense; her hand instead shot out and fisted itself in his cloak as her mouth turned up in a grin. "Ha! If that's not it I'll scrub the bloody floors for a month!"
She was staring the ornamental stonework on the wall, and hidden in the deep relief carvings, high above where any human could reach, was something trailing red and green ribbons, wedged in a trefoil leaf detail.
They soon found that spells would not summon it, or affect it at all. Severus' spell for a small fireball to incinerate it kept them face down on the dusty floor for several minutes while the fireball ricocheted insanely over their heads.
"Someone thought this out." He said, helping Mayborne to her feet as she brushed the dust from her dress.
"Unlike the last spell you cast, you mean? I'd say that's a Yes." She snorted, "You should give yourself detention for that one."
"Another detention for insolence. Going for a personal best, Miss Mayborne? You have a ways to go to match the six consecutive weeks from your fifth year." And the floors in the laboratory had never been cleaner.
Mayborne had an interesting catalogue of noises, but the growls his favorites simply because she did not look the type to growl. Whether the growl was for him or for her frustration with the entire situation was open to question.
Giving him an appraising look, she raised her eyes once more to the object. "Can you lift me up? Give me enough of a boost to get onto your shoulders? I can reach it then."
In the end, Severus wound up with his back to the wall, wand in pocket, and his hands cupped into a stirrup for her foot. Shedding her outer robe with a wince and a curse for the dust, she began to hike her heavy velvet skirt, then paused and gave him an uncertain look.
"Close your eyes." Emily's voice wavered - something that simply did not happen.
This was a girl who had at various times been provoked to kick him in the shins, mouth off, spit in his eye, call him a variety of scandalous or nasty names, question his intelligence, ancestry and personal habits, as well as compare him unfavorably with a dyspeptic buzzard. He issued an edict – the Warming Potion Incident came to mind – and she went around him without so much as a thought. Whatever she did, it was done with the aplomb that came both from Ravenclaw sang froid and thousands of years of breeding.
All of which had earned her cumulative months of detention.
Had he really unnerved her that much?
About bloody time.
With a mocking smile, he acquiesced.
A few seconds passed where he could almost feel her working up her nerve, then a sock-covered foot slipped into his braced fingers and her hands rested lightly on his shoulders.
"When ready, Miss Mayborne."
"On three?" Was her voice a little higher that her usual cool alto? Had the words been spoken more quickly than usual?
"One." He felt her balance shift, her hands pressing harder on his shoulders.
"Two." He braced his legs, tightened the muscles in his shoulders, arms and chest.
She climbed him like a tree, pushing off from his shoulders and the floor simultaneously. Severus got a face full of velvet-clad, female softness as she hit his nose with her left breast and her belly dragged upwards against his face. The smell of sandalwood and patchouli overlaid the warm scent of woman, and for a moment, he let himself wonder what her skin might feel like against his cheek.
Severus banished the thought even as he became caught by it - soft, hot, silk-fine girlskin trembling under his lips. It had been literally years since he had permitted himself to take a bed partner, instead confining his sexual expression to his hand, in the privacy of his rooms and head.
Assuredly, he had enough skill in the sensual and sexual arts to overwhelm her limited experience – he could be certain that she would enjoy it. It was his delight to reduce his partners to a state of raw heat, to strip them of the emotional garments that covered the beast and the spirit – and to take them in body, mind and soul.
Then he imagined himself horsewhipped, flayed alive, rolled in salt, dunked in lemon juice and set on fire for good measure. Et viola - Bastard Flambé.
He was a worthless, pathetic parasite! A hyena! An ingrate!
He refused to take advantage. He would not allow himself to be the depraved thing he had nearly become – the thing that Albus Dumbledore had saved him from becoming.
Mayborne – not Emily, he could not permit himself so much as think of her as anything other than a student – now had a foot on his shoulder and fingerholds on the stone above. With a last wriggle, a scramble, she was tottering on his shoulders as he steadied himself and took a firm grip on her ankles. She weighed more than he had imagined, for her size she was quite solid.
"All right?" She called down.
Severus answered that he was fine and noted that she had muscles like a beater.
"Books are heavy, sir."
He could feel her shifting and he moved to counter-balance as she tried to get at the blasted beribboned thing. They wobbled as she stretched, and he could hear her wand skittering on stone. Severus resisted the impulse to look up – all the only view he would have would be directly up young Mayborne's skirt.
"I think…" Raising onto her toes, the girl gave a small jump. "Gah! Almost! Come here you bleeding…"
"Easy…" He locked his knees and tightened his grip on her ankles as they swayed.
Mayborne was making the same noises as a cat trying to paw out a mouse and paying Severus' cautioning as much heed as the cat might.
There was only a second's warning before the disaster, but time obligingly slowed to let him appreciate every second thereafter.
Her feet left his shoulders by a scant centimeter and he heard a yell of triumph, her weight came down again, unbalanced as she let go of the wall. Overcorrecting as she tried to regain her balance sent Severus staggering forward one step, which in turn toppled her backwards and off his shoulders. Releasing his grip on her ankles, he threw his arms wide and snapped them shut again, closing around her just as a thready scream left her throat.
Time sped up again, giving him a grand look at the stars and letting him listen to the majestic ringing that had been spawned by the contact of the girl's knee with his head. Her ankles were crossed between his shoulder blades as he held her round the waist – upside down, her bum on his chest with her skirt thrown over her head.
Severus had the superfluous and inappropriate thought that her grey wool shorties with dainty blue flowers were quite practical. Did she wear knickers under them or go without? The soft skin of the insides of her knees warmed his ears. She smelled good. He became aware of a muted buzzing, and freed one arm to move a knee away from his left ear.
"Repeat that, please? Your knee was interfering with my hearing." And having the blood vacate his brain for parts more southerly was interfering with his thinking.
There was a moan of utter despair followed by the plea of, "Please, Professor, tell me that your eyes are closed?"
"I could hardly have caught you with my eyes shut, now could I?" Evil impulse struck again and this time he could not resist. Turning his head to one side, he licked the tender bend of Emily's knee, drawing his tongue slowly back into his mouth and smacking his lips lasciviously at the salt-sweet taste of her skin.
He was hungry, and it had been so very long! He ached for, needed…
A low, soft cry – sweet toned and … pleading? Her bum did a swirling dance on his chest and he nearly let her drop on her head from shock. She what…?
The stars and ringing made another entrance as both of her knees slammed into his skull and her heels drummed his back. Then she was flipping over and all he could do was control it so that she didn't fall on her head. When her heels hit the stone and her hair washed back in a wave of curls, she turned and dove for her robes, wrapping them around her like walls.
Her blush was a credible imitation of a tropical sunset, but he was pleased to note that she had not dropped her wand.
"Got it… I got it…" She babbled, looking anywhere but at him as she put her shoes on, her eyes rolling like Auror Moody's magic eye. "It's a rough bit of spellwork, but it feels like Old magic to me…"
The skittering cadence of words, so different from her usual smoothly paced speech chopped off as he took her clenched fist and pried her fingers open.
Mistletoe? He picked it out of her wilting grip. A spray of mistletoe, bound in red, green and silver ribbons, looking like the decorations hanging from the lintel of every doorway in Hogwarts. The tingle in his fingers told him that it was much more than that and that Mayborne was right – this was Old magic.
Old magic still protected Glastonbury, Stonehenge, and other places where even Muggles could feel something other in the air. Old magic was in the first kiss every Witch gave her newborn, sealing protections into their blood and bones. Old magic was the hardest to break.
Drawing his wand, he tapped the bit of greenery "Patesco."
It spat sparks at him, then unfurled a banner of glowing red letters.
Ask thee not
The letters faded into the darkness, leaving Severus blinking at the shimmering afterimage on his retinas.
He could hear his fellow inmate taking deep breaths, and spoke to reassure her. "Someone wants to play a game, Miss Mayborne. They know only Old magic can break Old magic and are counting on their victim's ignorance."
"I have… something… that might work." The girl had her hands stuffed in the sleeves of her robe and looked – if possible – even more ill at ease.
"A… gift of your Line?" If she was going to cast a spell that was an arcanum of her family, it might be a problem. Certain families – including his own - guarded private lore and caches of objects diligently, it was no surprise that the Maybornes were one of them. Severus had a few possibilities of his own, but they were altus arcanum and he was leery about using them, especially in front of a very bright young woman who might use them herself. Crossing his wand over his heart, he gave the ancient vow, "Silentium majores."
The girl relaxed marginally, drawing her wand. "Give me a moment." Pacing, she crossed the chamber a few times, her steps and breathing becoming more measured, her countenance calm. A few more times and he could see the cool calm flooding her eyes, driving the remnants of the epic blush from her face. When she stopped in front of him, she might have been one of the ancients stepped out of a bas-relief carving.
Passing the wretched charm to her, he drew his wand and stood ready. Old magic could sometimes do very unpredictable things when questioned.
Holding the mistletoe in the palm of her hand, Mayborne held her wand over it, going utterly still.
"Luibh Taissfenim!"The strength of her incantation startled him – not to mention the form – but that was all lost as banners of red, green, and silver began to unfurl from the charm in her hand. Twisting and dancing, they spun through the air, silver snowflakes falling all around them. With a sudden whirl, they formed into modern script, blazing their message into the murk of the hall.
Older than old and stronger than oak,
Made for jest though not a joke
With sacred greens and the spell cast true
Just one thing will see this through
Witch and Wizard, the twain enchanted
Know you this task and creed:
When lips and hearts in truest passion join
Then wilt thou be freed
The banners blew apart in a flare of color far too cheerful for Severus' thoughts. Mayborne simply looked dumbfounded.
"I am going to do something horrible to Peeves." Emily spoke at last, ire in every word. "I've got a ligatio that will keep him in place for five minutes and then I'll… ooh!" She kicked the barrier, punched it, and slammed into it with her body.
The gears were turning in Severus' mind, ticking off points, calculating, even as young Mayborne's invective was all but heating the air.
"Five minutes, you said? You're sure that the ligatio will hold him for that long?" That was long enough to hold Peeves for the spells that Severus wanted to try out on him.
Stopping the flow of curses short, Mayborne looked at him as if just remembering he was there. "Yes. I got it from Folley's Remedies for Pestiferous Spirits. The Grey Lady let me try it out on her and it held for a full five minutes."
"Four-and-twenty virgins came down from Inverness!
When the Ball was over there were four-and-twenty less!
It started out so simple like, each lad an' lassie mated.
But pretty soon the doin's got so bloody complicated!
The village constable was there, and what d'ye think o' that?
Amusin' hisself by abusin' hisself and catching it in his hat!"
The bawdy verses of 'The Ball at Kinnemuir' echoed down the hall. Peeves had overcome his fit and was returning. Severus whirled, grabbed the girl by the shoulder, and hissed, "Cast your arcanum again and follow my lead."
As he let go of her shoulder, the incantation rang out again and the banners of light unfurled once more. Out of the corner of his eye, Severus could see Peeves homing in on the display - a grin of delight swaging his spectral face as he heard the girl speak the last line.
"The meaning is clear enough, Miss Mayborne." Severus spoke in his classroom voice, the one he used when a student was being especially dense – which was to say, all the time.
Emily's back was poker straight, her voice stiff, and hostile. "They are, sir."
If anything, Peeves' grin got wider at her tone. "Oooh! Gonna have a bit of a snoggy? If you're gonna poke a spark out of her, Snapey, you better zap yourself into being a girlie!"
The old saying went, "The Maybornes tend secret fires." Severus was now certain, after a great deal of time to study one of the family, that the saying referred to the temper that seemed to go from zero to flashburn in the blink of an eye. In actuality, the famous temper would stew inconspicuously for a very long time until a critical buildup was attained; then the explosion would occur.
"Peeves, you stinking vapor of leftover cabbage! I have kissed boys, you peeping, perverted, prickless…" She charged the barrier, wand forgotten, one fist rising in a promise of mayhem.
Catching her around the waist, Severus spun her against the wall, blocking her regroup and attack with his body. "Miss Mayborne, as much as the spell specifies passion as the key, I do not believe that the passion which you are about to indulge will do anything other than hurt your hand."
"Passion," he continued, "you seem to have in abundance. It is now time for you to control and channel it appropriately. Passion, like all other magic, requires the utmost discipline in order to attain the desired goal."
A ghost of the blush returned, and with it the guarded expression of uncertainty.
"I can, if you wish, transform into a more… comfortable form for you. Would you prefer Miss Malfoy? Perhaps Miss Merrymead?" To his delight, her blush gained strength. A surge of lust washed through him. He wanted to see the three of them together, all pale skin, delicate fingers and soft cries.
"Not necessary. I've kissed boys before, you know." Emily mumbled in the general direction of his chest. "It was… nice." A shrug and a scant shake of the head punctuated the last word.
"Hmmm." Slipping his fingers under her chin, Severus tilted her face up and studied her. It was easy to not see her against the icy beauty of Malfoy or the sunnily blonde and boisterous Merrymead, but she was quite striking. "I expect, Miss Mayborne, that boys might just be the problem." His thumb traced the curve of her lower lip.
"If it was nice," Severus sniffed disdainfully, "then it was not done right. You see, boys are not men. They have no real experience, no refinement of the senses, no patience." Pocketing his wand, he lifted his other hand and traced her cheekbone zephyr-lightly with his fingertips, following it to the temple and resting there for a moment. "They are crude, hurried."
The patterns he traced skirted the orbit of her eye, crossed her forehead in loops, drawing an invisible knotwork upon her skin. Emily's eyes were wide and dark as he began to work some of the oldest of Old magic, slowly releasing her body's own secret potions into her bloodstream with every beat of her heart. Her eyes fluttered closed, skin warm under his touch as he fascinated her.
"True passion, dear child, demands what they have not the years or experience to give." He pressed his lips in slow succession to her cheek, her forehead, her temple, the corner of her mouth, savoring her soft gasp and the quick feathery breaths. Now he pulled back, his hand cupping her face, his thumb still following the curve of her lower lip. "But again, if the form is not pleasing, then some other accommodation can be made."
Her method of answer was unexpected. Now it was his turn to gasp as her lips pressed against his thumb in a kiss so voluptuous and sensual that lightening flashes of heat raced up his arm and detonated simultaneously in his groin and brain.
Thought was so difficult when one had no blood in one's head. If not for his robes, Severus would have had trouble concealing the most obvious signal of his desire. Ache bordered on pain and hunger threatened to turn to ravenousness as her lips softened and opened to take the tip of his thumb. The wet, velvety heat of her tongue lapped the pad as she suckled, her pleased moan vibrating through him.
Peeves was staring open mouthed and pop-eyed, silent for possibly the first time in his afterlife. Severus had urgent matters to occupy him, and anyway, Peeves did not look to be in a great hurry to leave.
Sliding his thumb out of Emily's mouth was lovely torture. It left her lips with a warm, wet sound and her pink tongue gave chase. Mesmerized, he watched as she licked her lips, her expression open, expectant.
"What game are you at, little Ravenclaw?" Severus murmured, brushing her cheek, sliding his fingers back into the tumble of silken curls and cradling the back of her skull with his long fingers. "You play in night's garden, heedless of any danger. You want the fire, but can you bear the flames?"
Her fingers crept to the buttons of his coat collar and she teased the topmost one open, then the next.
"Professor, you told me that passion is the key." Her voice was soft and slightly husky, with a hint of hidden fire. "If I do not proceed properly, then you must instruct me."
The minx had him unbuttoned halfway to the chest and slipped her fingers under his linen shirt, her small hand hot against his skin. The curves of her body molded to him as he crushed her between the unyielding tension of his flesh and the unyielding stone of the wall.
Severus wooed her with his mouth, his lips, his tongue – going everywhere but where her lips were parted in invitation. The heat in his blood, the heat of her was consuming his sense and he wanted nothing more than Emily Mayborne to be naked under him, flesh to flesh, he inside her, to hear her ascension cry and feel her climax around him…
The pulse in her neck was beating under his mouth, her blood a sweet hot wine, and he could feel her heart hammering hard enough to shake her in his arms. Pulling away, he gazed upon her flushed, lust-dazed face, and he felt triumph – this was power! Her eyes were all pupil, her lips moved, forming the words 'please' and 'yes.'
"What was that, Miss Mayborne?" He could scarcely speak; there was fire all through him. His skin felt too tight and he part of him that protested that this was a student and he had a sacred charge and blah blah blah blah was fading fast.
"Kiss me, oh, please, please kiss me I'll die if you don't…" she begged softly.
He did, not with the crude shove of tongue, but tenderly - teasing her with shallow dips of his tongue into her mouth, savoring the taste of chocolate and spice. A slow sensual dance of tongues ensued, and she writhed against him and the proof of his passion. The delicious friction forced a groan from him and his tongue plunged deeply into her mouth in mimicry of the other thrust he wanted to make.
His conscience was sucker-punched, stuffed in a trunk and the key flushed. She was willing – good lord was she ever willing! – and that was all that mattered. Wherever Miss Mayborne's conscience was, it did not seem to be giving her too much trouble – but Severus knew from experience that screwing or being screwed by a Malfoy tended to anesthetize it quite thoroughly. It was hard to remember that moral code when you were hollering, "Oh, yes! Oh Fucking God, YES!" just before your brains completely melted down in orgasm.
There was only one way to sate this hunger, both his and hers, and oh how he wanted to please her. Please her and bewitch her so that she would return to him with soft skin and kisses, with her warm hands and…
The kiss deepened; heated until they were both lost. Entwined in each other's arms, they moved against each other – dancing the movements of sex.
The barrier went with a pop and a flash of golden sparks, and the charm – long since fallen from Emily's hand - began to smoke. Severus only registered that the embrasure of the windows was now accessible and the perfect height. Breaking the kiss, smoothing her protest from her lips with his fingers, he reached down, grabbed Emily by her delightful ass, and hoisted her. She obligingly wrapped her legs around him with a happy purr as he walked her over to the deep window ledge, the heat of her sex pressed against his straining prick.
Settling her onto the ledge, he lifted her skirts and with an entirely proper, "Pardon me, Miss Mayborne," slipped his hands down the back of her knickers and let his hands celebrate against the skin of her bum. Warm flesh against his flesh for the first time in years! He ground into her, nearly carried to the edge when Emily squeaked.
It nearly undid him. A soft, happy noise - not a moan, nor a sigh, just a squeak much like that of a child's toy – an invitation to play.
"'When lips and hearts in truest passion join…' Emily…" Oh, Albus, he prayed, just come and strike me dead right now. "Emily, we can't…"
Severus could see reality flooding back into her face, but even her horrified realization that she had been about to willingly break Hogwart's greatest taboo did not erase her desire.
"ahhh for a wank just for a little wank good lord good lord lookit that that lucky bugger oh tear me off a bit of that..." Peeves was staring and muttering, spectral hands clenching and unclenching.
Passion's fire changed readily to fury at Peeves, the author of this travesty. In Emily's face, he could see his emotions mirrored. Their passions exposed and used to amuse! Their personae stripped away and their private selves made puppets for the pleasure of a lowly geist!
His right hand still on Miss Mayborne's bum, Severus dropped his left hand to his wand. "One," he whispered.
Emily let go of his pants, and drew her wand, her kiss-swollen lips forming 'two.'
"Three!" "Arx phasmatis!" "Consolido sempiterna!"
Peeves fell to the floor with a resolute clunk as the echoes of their shouts chased each other down the stone hallways.
Severus blinked, suddenly as drained as if a vampire had been at him. Emily stood, but her legs wobbled badly enough that he had to help her to the floor.
"What… was… that?" Her voice shook as much as her hands, it took her three tries to get her wand back in the pocket.
While Severus' voice did not shake, the rest of him felt about melted. "One of the oldest of the Old magics, my dear Miss Mayborne. We, in our passion, raised power between ourselves. Our fury at Peeves was the catalyst, and our spells were strengthened by the use of that power."
When he could stand, he helped Emily to her feet, wondering if he could ever truly think of her as 'Miss Mayborne' again. They bent over the poltergeist, fascinated.
"It's like hard smoke." Emily said wonderingly as she rapped her knuckles against Peeves' head, making a sound like someone knocking on an overturned pot with a spoon.
Severus took Peeves by the ankles and gave a good swing at the wall. The impact reminded him of whacking a bludger – a good, solid shock from hand to heels. The bell in the clock tower tolled twice, and Severus gave the stuck-open eyes of Peeves his meanest smile before he wrapped the geist in his cloak, then dropped him to the floor.
Now came the hard part, and Severus steeled himself for the pain that he knew was coming, and the pain that he must give her. "Emi… Miss Mayborne."
Her face was somber, her eyes glistening in the pale starlight reflected from the snow. "No one will know. No one would have to know…" her voice trailed off as Severus shook his head.
"No. We would know, and I would know that I had betrayed a trust placed in me by a man whom I honor above my own bloodline." How could he face Dumbledore with this? The man who had saved him, whom he had done so little to repay? "You know of me, of what I was, from Miss Malfoy. It would have been using you, no matter how willing you were – or still are – and I cannot, will not make that of you."
"It doesn't…" A tear slipped down one cheek. "I wouldn't…"
"If I said black, you'd say white, Miss Mayborne! It would matter to you, in time." He brushed the tear away with his thumb, then another. "Please, know that it is not a lack of desire, dear girl, but whatever remains of my honor that prevents me from fulfilling our mutual wish."
"Thank you, sir, but forgive me if I state my wish that you'd not be so bloody gallant!" A deep breath, another tear. "Please promise me, whatever it is you do to Peeves, that it… will… hurt!"
"I promise, he'll be wishing for hell by the time I'm done." Severus slipped his hand through the silk of her hair one more time, pressed his lips to her forehead. "Now, fly back to your nest, little Ravenclaw, before I remember how much detention I've given you."
Her spine was straight as she walked away, her pace measured, but as she reached the stairs, he heard a muffled sob and halfway down she started to run.
The night seemed darker and colder than it had been before.
Severus stood for some time, staring out of the windows at the snow on the roof slates or at the hard stars in the black sky. Buttoning his coat, he looked at the now-crisped charm on the grey stone floor. He bent, took a small sprig, and folded it into his pocket before turning with hooded eyes to the cloak-wrapped bundle on the floor.
"Come along, Peevsy old boy! You are about to provide me with hours of wholesome holiday entertainment."
A muffled wail issued from the cloak as Severus took it down to his rooms in the dungeons.
For the first time in days, Emily Mayborne made an appearance at breakfast. Flanked by her friends Artemisia Malfoy and Susan Merrymead, the girl looked pale and as if she had not slept well.
Severus had been favored the night before by a visit from Artemisia, who had – being a LeStrange-Malfoy – threatened a surpassingly nasty ending to his life if he ever went near 'her' Emmy again or told her of this visit. He would be on his guard – if she was like her patriline then she would favor assassination, if like the LeStranges then she would kill him herself.
This morning, he awoke with a plague of boils, noticeably concentrated on his genitals, and concluded that Miss Merrymead had discovered some innovative curses that would get past his wards. She wasn't going to get anything fatal through, but would instead attempt to annoy him to death. A quick potion was enough to set him right and he issued a countercurse to make her menses appear early.
The nine o'clock bells began to toll, and Severus leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. In the quiet of a nearly deserted school, he could hear every last, lovely tone. The carillon struck the ninth bell and then segued into the prelude to Charpentier's Te Deum.
"Severus, I've never known you to show such appreciation for music." Minerva McGonagall observed, spreading some lemon curd on a crumpet. "Usually you scowl at the bells whilst inhaling your breakfast."
He was about to reply when one of the bells made a sound as if it was deflating. The notes got flatter and flatter until it sounded like someone was trying to play every other note with a pancake. Minerva stood and moved for the stairs, Severus rose and followed with his coffee in hand, and the twenty-odd students staying at the school for the holidays followed them out.
Down the halls to the bell tower they went, through patches of winter sun lying in traced shapes on the floor. The less adventurous or more sedentary students declined to make the six-story climb to the belfry, so at the top there were only ten students behind the two Professors. Taking a skeleton key – and it was a three-inch long brass skeleton – the severe looking woman opened the locks and threw the door wide.
The mechanical troll that rang the bells with his clubs stood still, awaiting the next hour's performance. Only instead of two clubs in its massive fists, it held one club and one very flattened-looking Peeves.
"Oh, dear!" Minerva rushed up to the troll, tapping the Peeves-holding fist with her wand and easing the battered 'geist to the floor. "Severus? Let's get him down stairs, I can't imagine what could have happened…"
Severus shook his head. "Just looks as if he got on the wrong side of a powerful witch or wizard, Professor. I would wager that he's had a little lesson in manners is all."
They passed the trio of Malfoy, Mayborne, and Merrymead on the way down and by the time he and his fellow faculty member had reached the ground floor, Minerva was asking him why Emily Mayborne was laughing like a lunatic.
It had taken some time to get back to normal.
In February, he had hit Ravenclaw for twenty points – a punishment for Charles Clough and Alice Goodley who had been snogging when they should have been working.
Emily had remonstrated, protesting that is kiss over a cauldron wasn't a trip to the rose garden and that the offense in no way was worth twenty points. Severus agreed, reduced the penalty to fifteen, but docked another ten for her backtalk.
"You should never attempt to appeal to my better nature, Miss Mayborne."
"I was unaware that you had one, sir."
The class had ended with Ravenclaw thirty points down and Miss Mayborne renewing her acquaintance with a bucket and scrub brush for a week. He supervised, always on the lookout for a missed spot – which when pointed out caused Emily to invite him - under her breath - to perform unnatural acts with the scrub brush.
It was over now.
Summer was here, graduation over and the students leaving for the summer holiday, or whatever space in the world awaited them. There was no peace to be had, even in the dungeons, so Severus had taken his broom and gone on high.
The hills were waves of green, the Forbidden Forest a dark smudge. Summer thunderheads rolled to the east, the breeze heavy, wet, and scented with grass and ozone.
As he looped back to the school, considering lunch, he saw a small figure on the battlements of Ravenclaw tower. The grey school uniform was gone, replaced by a simple blue set of working robes and her hair was pulled back in a simple tail. He descended as she shaded her eyes to look at him.
"I saw the portkey for Gadget, Widget and MacGuffin being set up in the main courtyard, Dumbledore is going to see you three off."
Emily just nodded and returned her gaze to the green hills. "It's silly, but I… part of me wants to stay."
"What, after seven years of training your wings you're loath to leave the nest?" Propping his broom against the warm stone of the crenellations, he went to stand behind her. "You've done well here, Miss Mayborne – despite months of detention. You know, the selection process for Acquisitors is stringent. Master MacGuffin wrote to all of your instructors, as well as to Dumbledore, asking for references and evaluations of your character."
"You wrote back?"
"And yet they hired me anyway."
"How do you know I did not write a glowing report?
"Who are you and what have you done with Severus Snape?"
The go-to-hell-sir smile was back and for the first time since Winternight, he reached out and touched her face, cupping her chin. Turing her so that she faced the green hills, he pushed her chin a little higher so that she was gazing into the bright blue sky.
"Will you tell me if it looks the same from the other side of the world?" he asked. "Your apprenticeship is going to be arduous enough to make you think of my classes with longing, but I want to know what the sky is like for you as you try your wings. Will you make sure to tell me, from time to time?"
Emily nodded, eyes bright. "Would you really have spanked me with my own wand?"
Severus bent until his lips were brushing the lobe of her ear. "Mercilessly. Now find the sky, my pretty raven. It's time to fly. If you ever need to fold your wings, come and find me."
In the end, he watched her go. She, her friends and their new Mentor were there one minute and gone the next.
The sun was a little warmer, the day brighter.
Maybe he'd go down to the lake and torment the squid.