Disclaimer: Whatever you can recognize belongs to J.K.Rowling.
A/N: English is neither my first, nor my second language. If you aren't willing to overlook the obvious implications, please, don't bother reading any farther. Otherwise, please, read and let me know what you think. Hope, you will enjoy this story.
IT TAKES A MIRACLE
Chapter 1 - All roads lead to Hogwarts
Snape was not sure how he had managed to reach the castle's entrance doors. Two young Death Eaters, charged with transporting the more disabled participants of the Dark Revel, dumped him in front of Hogwarts' gates. Laughing, they stripped him of his Death Eater's cloak and mask, shoved him through the gates and Disapparated. Two idiots! They did not care who they were dealing with. They would not know the Revitalisation Potion from the Dreamless Sleep Potion if their worthless lives depended on it. What would they care, even if they knew, that this blooded, severely hexed and cursed Death Eater they dropped like a garbage bag, was one of the most distinguished Potions Masters of his time, the author of countless innovations in Potions preparation, the creator of three original Potions in "Full Encyclopedia of Potions and Poisons"? They knew he was a teacher at Hogwarts, they knew he had been punished for failing to come to the Revel on time, and they were happy it was not one of them laying on the ground, gasping for breath. The rest was no matter. Those two would not care if he were bloody Merlin, for Merlin's sake.
Snape ground his teeth and looked up. Getting to the castle's doors turned out to be a worthless endeavor. Curled into an agonized ball on the ground in front of the entrance to Hogwarts Castle, he knew he could not get into the building. Even if he would force himself to get up, with both of his wrists broken how he was supposed to pull the heavy doors or use a wand? But the worst part of the whole situation was the fact that it took Snape more and more effort to stay conscious. He was feeling exceedingly powerless in the face of the darkness that was gathering around him, pulling him in, insistently inviting him into oblivion. Even the bright summer moonlight was no match for this hopeless, cold emptiness.
All of a sudden it dawned on Snape - he might die. Right here. At the door of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Yet, the revelation did not scare Snape. In fact, it did not bother him much. He had always known that the risk he had to take leading his double life was too great. No matter how clever, or lucky, or skillful he was, the better men had failed confronted by His Majesty Chance. Whether he finally would be uncovered as a spy by the Dark Lord, hunted down by an overzealous Auror, or punished beyond repair in the Inner Circle's "games," he would die, and it would be one gruesome death. To get blown up by one of his inept students, who put a wrong ingredient in a wrong potion, would be an easy escape. This awareness had long ago become a permanent feature of Snape's life. And now it was quickly materializing.
Strangely, Snape felt…relieved. Almost happy. No more pain and fear, no more lies and humiliation, no more loneliness and longing. He could be despised, hated, pitied, shunned, and he would not feel it. Gone would be the tortures of the flesh and the agony of the soul. How wonderful it was going to be – an eternal rest and calm.
For those who are condemned to life, death becomes a path to freedom. Something almost like a smile crept onto Snape's face, and he passed out.
He infuriated her. Gerry was stomping back and force in a poorly lit corridor somewhere in the belly of Hogwarts Castle. The heat of her anger deftly resisted the chill of the night, scorching her insides and burning her face. How was it possible for a man who claimed to love her to be completely unable to understand her? Every time they had a fight like that, Gerry was ready to end their relationship and to declare a now three-yearlong thing to be a mistake. But then, yet again, he would smile one of his irresistible smiles, pull her into his strong, gentle arms, and all her anger and frustration would evaporate like a tiny drop of water on a sizzling pan. Just like that - puff, and it was gone. Afterwards, she would feel almost guilty, incredulous that the thought of leaving him ever crossed her mind. But first she needed some time to think.
Yes, she should not have screamed at him. But did the man ever listen to what she was saying? Did he hear her at all? Why did she keep getting this nagging feeling that he secretly pitied her? Pitied and patiently waited for her, a poor irrational child, to stop playing her childish games and follow him into the Big World of Adults? Self-important bastard! How could he suggest… Wait, what was it this time? She could not recall. All she remembered was how she walked out of his rooms, slamming the door behind her, and went pacing the hallways. Gods, the day was going so well…
Gerry took the Hogwarts Express that arrived at Hogsmeade station late Saturday afternoon. Having grown up in the States, and attended a school there, she always wondered how it felt to be a student of the most prestigious school in the wizarding world. Of course, she was too old for Hogwarts now, but at least she could take the school's train. Valerius thought that it was silly, but obediently agreed to meet her at Hogsmeade station.
The train was half-empty, and Gerry had a compartment all to herself. In comparison to the University's noisy, overcrowded dormitory, it felt like a first class hotel. She stretched across two seats and leisurely watched the landscape floating behind the window, and, when the snack cart passed by, she treated herself to a couple of Chocolate Frogs. Merlin, it was good to have holidays. And she needed one. Last month, filled with feverish studying for the term exams and writing final papers, had rendered her completely exhausted. She hadn't even had time to see Valerius. Now sitting in an empty compartment, after a good night's sleep, relaxed and unoccupied, Gerry suddenly realized just how much she missed him. She missed his eyes and his hands. She missed his voice, and the way he used to nod when listening to her. She missed the touch of his lips, and the caress of his fingers. She missed his hot strong naked body tightly pressed against hers. She missed… Damn! She shook her head and grinned. She should have Apparated.
Valerius was working in Hogwarts' castle on an urgent project ordered by the Ministry of Magic. Since he couldn't take time off for another week or so, they had decided she would come and stay with him. Well, the truth was she had jumped at a chance to spend a week at Hogwarts. With the students away for the summer, she would be free to explore the castle and its grounds. And if she were lucky, she would have a chance to meet some of the school's famous professors. Just thinking about the names – Professor Dumbledore, the school's legendary Headmaster, Professor McGonagall, Professor Sprout, Madam Hootch (as a little girl, Gerry saw her play at the Quidditch International Championship, and was mesmerized) – made her all giddy inside.
And of course, spending time with Valerius… They did have a lot of catching up to do. Gerry's body immediately responded to that thought. To calm herself down she picked up a book from her trunk and read its title - "Hogwarts, A History".
When Snape came to, shivering from the icy dew that glazed the grass, he could not understand what it was that felt so good. His body was still in agony. His hands were still useless. The sharp pain in his slashed abdomen still seemed to cut short each of his breaths. It also seemed he had completely lost any feeling in his right leg (the last blow on the back had probably hit a nerve or two in the spine). The nauseating aftershocks of the Cruciatus were still shuddering through his body, sending the pain to new heights and hindering his concentration on fighting this pain. And still, there was something good. There was…death.
Oh, no. No, not those thoughts again. No-o-o! Snape felt the hot wave of anger slowly rising. How could he have allowed himself to think about welcoming the deliverance in death? Bloody Merlin! He was falling apart. He was getting weak and unreliable. He was becoming useless.
Snape's trembling body broke out in a cold sweat. He had to pull himself together! He had to - he had made a deal. Many years ago, young and naïve, he had borrowed life to pay for his crimes, hoping for redemption. He did live, although there was no redemption for what he had done. None.
He winced, gulping down the rising bile. Yes, at the times like this, he really abhorred the unwavering allure of survival his utmost inner core had been poisoned with since his birth. Yes, at the times like this it was very hard to convince himself that all those years ago he did get a bargain. But, bloody Merlin, he gave his word! He gave his word, he got his life, and this life was not to be wasted on his whims. He had a job to do. He had people who relied on him to do his job. Dumbledore was waiting for him, for Merlin's sake. Waiting for his information. Snape took a raspy breath. And here he was, lying around, wallowing in self-pity. Revolting.
Snape scowled and took several more raspy breaths. No, self-loathing was not going to help either. Later he would have a chance to beat himself up for this pathetic lost of control. Now he had other issues at hand.
Trying not to think about the lost time and lapses of judgment, by sheer force of will Snape silenced the pain that rode his body and concentrated on collecting the remnants of his mental and physical strength to deal with the current situation.
He had to get to Dumbledore. But how? He couldn't expect the Headmaster to come out, looking for him. There were only two alternatives - someone would find him and alert Dumbledore or Snape would get into the building by himself. Wait, scratch the first option. Who could possibly find him? Hagrid, the only person at the school who lived outside the main building and sometimes wandered the grounds late at night, was in Romania on one of his "dragon-watching" trips. Everybody else still at Hogwarts for the summer was probably in bed at this time of the night. All right, it was even easier than Snape thought: GET INTO THE BLOODY FUCKING BUILDING!
Snape looked at two high stone steps that led to the wide porch and at the huge oak double entrance doors. From his point of view, down on the ground, it all seemed almost gigantic. "Just bloody great," he thought irritably, "the Potions Master against the Door. How heroic."
Gloomily he glanced at the silvery moon and stars in the clear summer sky. For some reason he wondered if any of the spirits of his ancestors, powerful and noble wizards and witches of the House of Prince, were watching him now. They, the descendants of Brodstort Prince, the faithful disciple of Salazar Slytherin, would probably be appalled, seeing him like this, a magicless, powerless piece of pained flesh, inhabited by their dishonored sole heir. Snape just hoped that if they ever did watch him, they had stopped a very, very, very long time ago…
Gerry saw him right away, when the Express had slowed down and was creeping along the Hogsmeade platform, ready to stop. There he was, waiting, her tall, broad-shouldered, unbelievably handsome Valerius. Her heartbeat got just a bit faster, and her face stretched into one huge grin. Oh, he looked good. His soft brown eyes, which now were searching for her, lit up the face that seemed to be put together according to a flawless design -- a perfectly straight nose, perfectly outlined lips, a perfectly sculptured, masculine jaw. The face was framed by curly strands of light brown, shoulder-length hair, which was held by a blue leather strip wrapped around Valerius' head in a manner of the ancient Greeks. Valerius' blue, bulky weekend robes emphasized an impressive set of muscles covering his upper body.
Gerry snorted when she saw two young witches walk past Valerius, giving him very appreciative looks. "Get a hold of your hormones, girls," she thought merrily, "he is spoken for." He was her Greek hero, her knight in blue armor. He was her love. Her life. Her everything.
Finally the train stopped, and the next thing Gerry knew, she was in Valerius' strong arms. Merciful gods, it felt so good. Warm and confident, it felt like home.
"Baby!" they cried out almost simultaneously. Valerius easily picked her up and covered her face with quick kisses. She was matching a kiss for a kiss claiming every inch of his dear face with her lips.
A couple of minutes later they finally stopped to catch a breath. He put her down, but did not let go. Instead he crashed her into him, whispering in her hair, "I missed you so much… I missed you so much…"
Gerry, with her arms around him and her face in his shoulder, just kept grinning. "Baby," she squeaked a while later, "I need some air."
He took her hands and pulled her away from him, holding her at arms' length. With their stares locked, they kept smiling at each other, without saying a word, oblivious to everything else in the world -- the puffing and hooting Hogwarts Express leaving the station, screaming kids running along, luggage floating by, a giggling group of girls seeing their friend off.
Gerry broke their connection first, bursting into wild laughter. "Baby, it is still me."
"Silly goose, of course it is you, but at least five kilos lighter. Did you eat at all lately?" He was looking her over.
"Val, I was a little busy. You know, finals and I do not mix well together."
"You just can not take care of yourself, admit it. Next time I will not let you avoid me for so long."
"Val, baby," her hand traced his jaw line, touched the lower lip, "I was not avoiding you. You know that. I had to study really hard this time."
"Promises, promises… You always study really hard, Gerry." He hugged her and then took her hand. "Let's go. You'll tell me all about it."
The day was warm and sunny, and they decided to walk to Hogwarts. Hand in hand they strolled down the main street of Hogsmeade. On this summer Saturday afternoon, it was rather busy in its own quiet kind of way. The open shops invited leisurely gliding, relaxed men and women in bright light robes. Kids were zooming about couples, stopping to press their little noses to the window of the sweet shop. The doors of "The Three Broomsticks," a local pub, were wide open, letting the noise and the smell of food and alcohol drift out to the street. Gerry stopped for a couple of minutes at the broom shop's window before allowing Valerius to pull her away. Several shops down the street she caught a glimpse of two of them in a mirror on display. "We do look good together," she decided and smiled to the reflection.
She knew she was such a lucky witch to be with Valerius. Sometimes she wondered how he had ever noticed her. She wasn't especially pretty. The fact that she felt more comfortable in the library than in the clothing store and was atrocious with make-up charms didn't help any. Her hair, which Gerry recently grew longer for a more mature look, was much too often pulled into a haphazard ponytail rather than properly styled. Her intensely blue eyes often sparkled with mischief, and her lips were commonly chewed for better concentration or stretched into wide grins, instead of small girly smiles. And yet Valerius had chosen her out of all the young witches around.
Gerry glanced at her companion, and he offered her his gorgeous smile. Her heart beat a happy drum. Yes, he had chosen her despite his intense dislike of her habitual attics on the broom, and the amount of time she spent with her nose in the books, and her tendency to become 'one of the boys' while playing with her little brothers. He had chosen her and, for some unexplainable miracle of a reason, loved her.
She returned Valerius' smile as best as she could.
Another aftershock of the Cruciatus swept through Snape's body. He retched, but nothing came out. Whatever he had in his stomach was certainly gone, when he thoroughly vomited at the gates, and then later, somewhere on the way to the building. However, all the twisting and shaking his body had to perform, painful as they were, refreshed the bruises and scrapes as well. They also broke the barely formed crust on the deep cut on his abdomen. Now, Snape could almost feel the blood seeping through his clothes. The blood was warm (despite all of his colleagues' and students' suspicions), but gathering in a little puddle underneath him, it was quickly turning icy-cold, acquiring the temperature of the ground and night dew on the grass. Snape realized that the potency of the blood-stopping potion he drank before leaving to answer the Dark Lord's call was greatly impaired by the Cruciatus that kept sending it all over his body searching for non-existent wounds. For a while Snape contemplated how he ought to rethink the order in which the ingredients were added, so that the potion would not be tricked so easily. Then he thought about how he could step up his research on the anti-Cruciatus potion. Perhaps, Dumbledore was right in insisting that he should take an assistant. "On the other hand, you may never need to work on a potion again," nonchalantly offered Snape's mind, barely flickering by now, ready once more to take a plunge and plummet into a bottomless abyss of unconsciousness.
Snape knew he was running out of time. He had to stop stalling and start moving. And so, he clenched his teeth and pushed himself up on his hands, but the angry pain of broken bones threw his weakened body back on the grass. He didn't wait for the pain to recede, but continued with his attempts. Somehow, he finally managed to pull himself to the stone stairs, and crawl up and to the door. His every move sent a wave of agony to his brain, threatening to shut it down with a pain-shock. His breath, short and raspy, was not bringing enough oxygen to his begging lungs. His clothes, glued to his body with a mixture of sweat and blood, obstructed his efforts. When Snape finally got to the door, he was completely exhausted.
The door to the main building of Hogwarts school was a double-hung heavy oak creation with impressive solid brass fixtures. Snape considered the handles for a moment and decided that he might be able to get his arms through one of them, and then it was just the matter of gathering his strength and pulling.
"Things are looking up," he thought grimly, trying to figure out how to get up and smirking at the unintentional double meaning. Snape looked around in search of any kind of support, but there was none – no stick, no railing – just him, the door, the stone porch and steps, the open grassy field, the castle looming forebodingly over him, and, above it all, a clear summer night sky with a bright, round moon.
Snape took a decisive breath, pushed himself up from the ground, and got on all fours. Well, it was not exactly "all fours" - his right leg unresponsively hung on a side, instead of hands he used elbows – but it was a start. Biting his lips to hold back the screams of excruciating pain, Snape dragged his upper body up along the door, standing on his left knee and using his shoulders, head and elbows as props. When he reached the handles, he put his left arm through one of them and, with some degree of relief, hung on it for a moment. He needed to catch his breath and let the cries of protest in his left wrist, which he had rudely disregarded while pushing the hand through the handle, to calm down. Unfortunately, hanging like that stretched Snape's torso. The wound in his abdomen seemed to rip further, so much so that he almost instinctively clenched his right hand to the stomach as if trying to keep the insides from falling out. There also was some painful movement in his rib cage. "At least a couple of ribs are broken," Snape registered casually.
After a pause, he tried to pull the door. It did not move at all, for the lever was too short and Snape was too weak. Slowly, he rolled his weight from the knee to the ball of his left foot and, pushing himself up with his elbow in the door handle now, Snape struggled to straighten his left leg. A couple of agonizing minutes later he was standing on his left leg, both hands in the door handle, sweating forehead pressed to the door. His vision blurred but this time he did not want to waste a second resting.
It took Snape several tries to get the door ajar. Now he had to take a breather. He was very tired and extremely frustrated with the minuscule results of his efforts. He did not allow himself to dwell on it, though. Instead, he mentally lashed out at the two Death Eaters who transported him tonight.
"Why did those imbeciles have to drop me at the gates?" he thought angrily. "Wanted to feel bold, daring…" They could have been seen. But, more importantly, there was this BLOODY UNMOVABLE DOOR!
If he were Apparated to the Forbidden Forest, Snape would have gone to the secret passage that led from a huge old ash tree at a little clearing in the Forest to the one of the abandoned corridors in the depths of the Castle's dungeons. Dumbledore and he had created this passage for his comings and goings on the business of the Order, so that unnoticed he could slip in and out of the Castle. The passage was equipped with a special charm that instantaneously let Dumbledore know when he was back, so if need be the Headmaster could come and collect him. Yes, it was a very convenient passage. The only problem with it was that Snape COULD NOT GET TO IT TONIGHT. He would have never made it from the gates to that spot in the Forest - too far.
"Brainless worms!" he spat mentally, vowing to personally strangle those two idiots the next time they met. "Imbeciles!"
Suddenly, Snape realized the ridiculousness of his anger - he was not furious because he was hexed and cursed to half-dead, but because he was Apparated to the wrong spot! He felt as the burst of laughter painfully bounced in his ribcage, struggled up through the ripped by violent retching esophagus and throat, to the mouth that tasted like a fine blend of blood and vomit.
The laughter never made it out. A new, fierce Cruciatus aftershock threw Snape's body against the door, which slammed shut. Snape lost his flimsy balance. What kept him standing for a moment longer were his hands caught up in the handle. With the next violent shake, however, he went backward headfirst. The sudden movement of the body jerked the hands free almost disjointing the broken wrists. With a scream he did not have time to suppress, Snape smashed into the stone stairs with his back. His head hit the edge of the lower step. By the time his body rolled to the grass in front of the porch, Snape could not feel a thing.
There was a wide road leading from Hogsmeade to Hogwarts Castle. The road wiggled in flowery meadows, up and down little hills, through shady islands of trees appearing here and there. The road was completely deserted now save for Valerius and Gerry. No students to go to the village, no deliveries to be made to Hogwarts, no visitors or guests to either place. But the couple didn't take any notice. Still hand in hand, they made their way, enjoying the warm day and each other's company. Gerry talked almost non-stop, exited to be out of school and with Valerius. She talked about the latest uni's gossip, her struggles with Overly-Advanced Latin exam, their mutual friends failed attempt at living together. He smiled, listening to her chatter, and occasionally offered "no way" or "right" as his side of the conversation.
By the time they reached the Hogwarts gates, it was close to dinnertime, and the sun, hovering at the horizon, was bathing the landscape in soft orange glow. Gerry stopped to admire the view.
Above, there was a still blue sky with a couple of white-orangey clouds and a yellow-orangey ball of setting sun. Below, there was a wide emerald-green open space with a dark green highlight of the forest and a dark blue accent of the lake. And between the above and below soared a magnificent medieval castle, high stone towers and unyielding walls, proud battlements and massive turrets, tall narrow windows and colorful banners. Gerry held her breath - beautiful.
Valerius was plainly amused at Gerry's reaction to the castle. "Oh, come on, Gerry." He elbowed her playfully. "Don't tell me that you are into sightseeing now, and you'll be dragging me all over the country gaping at every hovel as a proper Muggle tourist."
"Shut up, Val." Gerry snorted at the mental picture of that. But then she added thoughtfully, "It is Hogwarts."
"Yeah, yeah, I know." Valerius shrugged, surprised by her admiration. He waited for several moments, but then he put his arm around Gerry's shoulders and said, "Let's go, baby, I do not want to miss dinner. Even for Hogwarts' sake."
Inside, the Castle proved to be as fascinating as from outside. Gerry had heard about its endless hallways and corridors, moving stairs and enchanted Great Hall from her friends at University, who had graduated from the school. She read "Hogwarts, A History." But, as Muggles say, "A picture is worth a thousand words." Valerius promised to take her for a grand tour of the castle the very next day, and they went straight to his rooms.
Obviously, they were late for dinner. At the table Gerry was introduced to Madam Pince, a rather scary looking school librarian, and a couple of junior professors (who asked to be called just Jay and Derek) that were staying at Hogwarts for the summer to keep things in order. The moment Gerry and Valerius took their places at the table, the food appeared on their plates, and Gerry, who had not had a decent meal in what it seemed ages, dug in, oblivious to everything else.
By the time Gerry and Valerius had finished with their dinner, Madam Pince (to the great relief of the rest of the company) had excused herself, calling it a night. Now the four of them were unhurriedly drinking coffee and discussing the pros and cons of Apparition. Jay, who was an Apparition Instructor at Hogwarts and, apparently, although unofficially, the "Practical Jokes Master" (the title granted him Gerry's respect immediately), validated every turn of the conversation with a story involving his students' Apparating misadventures. Evidently there were an unlimited number of situations and conditions that his students were required to endure when practicing their Apparition skills. One of the stories was about "Apparating with an Object" class. The students were asked to Apparate to a certain point and back with a bucket full of water. Animatedly, Jay described the completion of the assignment when half of his class returned soaking wet, some without a bucket, and some in it or wearing it. The story had brought on of those "the coffee went through my nose" kinds of moments for Gerry. She had not fully recovered when the door to the dining room opened.
In walked a witch and a wizard. The wizard, who Gerry immediately recognized as the Headmaster Dumbledore, although old even by wizarding standards, had straight posture and a light, sure walk that gave him an air of a "young" old man. The wizard's tall figure was draped in dark-blue robes embroidered with golden stars and crescent moons. His head of long silvery-white hair and even longer silvery-white beard, which together covered almost half of his body, was topped with a wizarding hat to match the robes. He would look rather imposing if not for the warmth of his light blue eyes behind the half-moon glasses. Under his gaze, Gerry blushed, trying quite unsuccessfully to suppress the urge to clear her nose from an unfortunate result of Jay's story.
The witch was younger than her companion, but looked no less intimidating. Almost as tall as the wizard, she stared at the young people at the table through her big square glasses, as if she did not approve of whatever they were doing down below. She wore emerald-green dress robes. Instead of a hat, her head was decorated with a complicated intertwining of numerous braids and wide, light-green ribbons. "That is one impressive spell work," Gerry had to admit automatically pushing behind her ear a couple of loose strings of hair that refused to stay in her own untidy ponytail. The witch's stern look softened at Gerry's gesture, but her thin lips, pressed tightly together, were giving a very serious, almost hostile impression. Gerry immediately stopped coughing and snorting.
The wizard walked up to the table, nodded to the young men, "Gentlemen," and extended his hand to Gerry, "Good evening. You must be Ms. Ardant."
Gerry sprang up from the chair, offering her own hand and nodding.
"Professor Albus Dumbledore, the Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry," said the wizard, giving Gerry a firm handshake. "It is a pleasure to meet you. Welcome to Hogwarts."
"The pleasure is all mine," said Gerry, frantically rummaging through her head for any other polite phrases that she might need in this conversation. She really did not want to come across as some rude American in a civilized world.
"Let me introduce you to Professor McGonagall." The Headmaster turned to his companion.
Before he had a chance to continue Gerry rushed in, "Oh Professor, it is such an honor! I've just read your article in "Transfigurations Today." It was brilliant! What a concept, what logic."
Professor McGonagall, who was obviously taken aback by Gerry's utter absence of manners, managed to produce a polite smile and a little nod.
"Minerva." Dumbledore was smiling too. "Ms. Ardant is right. I keep telling you the same thing - you are brilliant. You should spend more time doing research. And smiling."
"Albus." Professor McGonagall was working on getting her stern look back.
Dumbledore turned to Gerry again. "Do you take a professional interest in Transfigurations?"
"Well…" Gerry hesitated.
"She might if she finally decides what she wants to be, sir." Valerius smiled but did not sound very pleased. Gerry threw him a mock glare.
"Oh." Dumbledore looked at the young woman thoughtfully. Then, changing the subject, he asked, "How do you like Hogwarts so far?"
"The castle is magnificent," Gerry hurried with an answer, and added, "and the locals are friendly."
"Good, good." The Headmaster chuckled. "I hope you'll enjoy your stay here." He looked at Jay and Derek. "Gentlemen, I rely on your sense of hospitality."
Jay answered for both of them, "You do not have to worry, sir."
"Good." The old wizard nodded and, beckoning Professor McGonagall to the door, told Gerry, "Unfortunately, Professor and I are unable to keep your company tonight for we are expected at the Benefit Dinner for Magic Education. However, I would like it very much if we continued our discussion about the talents of Professor McGonagall and your professional interests tomorrow morning at breakfast."
He was smiling at Gerry and she quickly said, "Of course, of course."
Despite Dumbledore's good humor and ease, she was not feeling comfortable under McGonagall's reserved gaze and started fidgeting. Gerry breathed a sigh of relief when the pair left, bidding everybody good night.
"That witch gives me the creeps," she said truthfully to her companions, falling back into her chair.
"McGonagall!" Jay let out a loud burst of laughter. "She is fine. A bit of a problem with her sense of humor, but otherwise she is harmless. You should see her with her Gryffindors. Like a mother hen with her chicks. You'll have no problem getting along with her. But who you should be worried about, is," Jay gave Derek a hooded wink, "an overgrown bat that lurks in the dungeons."
"A bat?" Gerry was skeptical. She looked at Valerius, who shrugged his wide shoulders as if saying, "I don't know," at Derek, who kept a completely trustworthy expression on his face, and then at Jay again. "A bat?"
"Yep, a big black bat with a huge hooked nose and greasy hair."
"Sounds disgusting. What does it…do?"
"Oh, come on, you are kidding me." Gerry was on track now. "I know about all your unusual teachers - a werewolf, a half-goblin, a ghost. But I have never heard about a bat."
"You are extremely well informed, but there is a bat. Its name is Snape. Well, call him Professor Snape or he will scowl you to death or bite your head off."
Jay and Derek were thoroughly enjoying the chain of expressions that flushed across Gerry's face. Even Valerius chuckled, "Come on, baby, really…"
"I've heard of him," said Gerry, slightly embarrassed. "Nasty piece of work. The Head of Slytherin and a Potions Master. Hates anybody who does not belong to his House."
"Yep, that's him. Make it anybody, period, though," sneered Jay. "Never could understand why Dumbledore keeps him. With his reputations, I believe, there will be a standing ovation when he is thrown out of the school."
By the time the four of them decided to part, it was well after midnight. When Valerius and Gerry were in his rooms, the first thing he said was, "I thought you came to visit me, not the whole Hogwarts."
"I did, baby, I did. I thought we'd have some fun. The guys seemed nice." She came to hug him before he had a chance to reply. He sighed and put his arms around her. They started kissing slowly undressing each other, but before long Valerius stopped. "And what was it about that Transfigurations thing?"
"Oh, Val, I just read an article. That's it." Gerry did not feel that she should defend herself, but it sounded like a defense. She made a move to resume their foreplay.
"Why?" Valerius put her at the arms' length and looked in her eyes, his handsome face weary. "What does Transfigurations have to do with you? Are you reconsidering you major again?"
"Val, I want to know things." Gerry knew that the conversation was going in a wrong direction. She did not want to discuss any difficult topics now. "Has nothing to do with my major."
"I do not believe you," Valerius said tersely, and continued with a sigh, "Gerry, why do you need this? You are not going to be any scholar or anything like that. Who cares what degree you get? It does not matter!"
And that was that. Gerry felt the anger start boiling inside of her. All he wanted was a brainless cutie for a wife? The one to raise his kids, cook his meals, and share his bed, all the while smiling and looking adoringly at her perfect husband. Did he care if she ever wanted to be anything more than that? Bloody chauvinist! Shortsighted pig! A fucking indifferent bastard!
She kept throwing the accusations at him. At first, Valerius tried to respond quietly, but after a while, he went to the bedroom and softly closed the door behind him. Gerry hastily pulled her robes back on and ran out, slamming the door behind her. Sprinting through the hallways, up and down the moving stairs, she continued muttering something about pigs and bastards.
A/N A huge thanks to my beta Odddoll.