I cannot believe I am about to post the last chapter to this story. I'm going to miss Andi SO much. As I can't reply to your reviews for this chapter, I will say now, thank you all SO much for reading this story. I have really enjoyed writing it, and some of you have been with me right from the start. Every single review has been very much appreciated, and I hope this final chapter meets with your approval.
Lots of love, as always,
She just ran.
Without thinking, she ran.
Upstairs...turn right...turn left...green door...silver handle....
Without any map, Andi found her way to the music room as though by instinct. She threw herself on the piano stool, lifted the lid of the piano and began pounding on the keys:
Beethoven...Wagner...anything to vent her anger, heartache, frustration. Her fingers hurt from the force with which she was driving them; sweat trickling down her temples, her ears throbbing with the noise.
Then she stopped playing, dropped her forehead onto the top of the piano and let the tears fall.
She cried for her mother, whom she now suspected had been judged too harshly; she cried for herself, because although she hadn't looked further than the events of last night, she realised now that last night was all there would be. The invitation to stay at Hogwarts had felt like coming home. She now had more family, more people to care about on this side of the archway, but she knew she couldn't stay. Not now. And she cried for Cornelius and Gran, for being apart for so long when they had clearly loved each other.
Her fingers fell to the keyboard again and began picking out a tune. A beautiful tune. It was an old standard that had been her Gran's favourite and of course, it now made sense. She had played and sung it often for her Gran, and Andi sang it now:
"I'm wild again,
A whimpering, simpering
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered
...Lost my heart,
But what of it?
He is cold, I agree
He can laugh, but I love it
Although the laugh's on me..."
She was aware of him standing in the doorway. She stopped singing, but continued to play.
"If you have come to further your argument, Professor, I have to remind you of the kind of person I am - I have my heart well and truly on my sleeve and I am very emotional right now."
He walked slowly into the room towards the piano, his hands behind his back.
"The Headmaster and Minister have left," he said. "Neither was very impressed by my speech. Your grandfather in particular called me 'a cad of the highest order' and expressed a desire to see me boiled in oil. The Headmaster was a little more discrete - he wishes you to know that, should you decide to take the teaching post offered, you will find the other members of staff far nicer than his 'short-sighted, idiotic and self-destructive Potions Master'...
"They will return tonight to hear your decision about staying here. There seems a consensus of opinion that your dormant wizard genes may have been activated, since you have retained the clarity given to you."
She skipped a verse and sang:
"Wise at last
My eyes at last
Are cutting you down
To your size at last..."
He smirked at her words.
"You seem to manage that quite well without clarity. In particular our first dinner, when you so eloquently called me 'a wanker'; and then again this morning when I sat on your damn penguin."
Andi couldn't help a splutter of laughter at the thought, but then determinedly concentrated on the keyboard.
"That you were able to let yourself into my quarters yesterday evening, when the door bares one of my own locking charms, also points to the fact...that..."
"I am able to break through your barriers, magical as well as emotional - and that's scared the hell out of you, hasn't it Professor. No wonder you all but physically threw me from the castle."
Without replying, he brought his hands from behind his back and placed something on top of the piano. She looked up. It was a glass bottle with some lavender coloured liquid inside.
She looked at him.
"A peace-offering," he said. "It is a potion for your hair. I believe it helps with...'split ends'."
"Thank you," she replied, surprised he would even register her trivial babblings.
"I shall not bother you with the ingredients - I don't believe you would use it if you knew."
"I'll try and remember to pack it in my bag before I leave."
She played with unnecessary vigour.
"It's not that I expected you to want me to stay; of course I didn't," she said, ignoring him. "One night of sex - however fantastic..." she glanced up at him. "...does not a relationship make. But did you have to make your objections so hurtful; say them with such conviction , so soon after we'd...?"
"I guess I've just never been dumped so forcefully or so quickly, that's all - I mean, the bed was still warm..."
"Andrea..." he said, sternly. "...will you walk with me?"
Her fingers ground to a halt.
"I beg your pardon?"
"Will you walk with me? And bring your music." He indicated the manuscript she'd left lying on top of the piano. He turned and began walking out of the room. She stared after him.
"Well...are you coming, or not?"
Curious, she gathered up her music quickly, grabbed the potion, a handful of gown and followed him out of the room.
He swept along the corridors and up staircases, so that Andi had almost to trot to keep up with him.
"Where are we going?"
"Don't talk. You will need all your breath, it is another five floors..."
Andi calculated they had reached the seventh floor when they came to a stop in a corridor which, along one side, was completely bare of ornaments and paintings of any kind. On the opposite wall was a huge tapestry of some unlikely beings ballet dancing.
He turned to her and held out his hand for the manuscript. Bewildered she handed it to him and watched as he flicked through the pages.
"Sit there." He indicated a stone bench next to the tapestry.
She was out of breath after climbing six flights of stairs and so sat, gratefully. He, on the other hand, seemed unaffected.
She watched with growing concern as he paced up and down the corridor at a measured distance, his eyes closed in concentration, holding the score to his chest, until on the third return he stopped and faced the bare wall.
Andi's heart skipped a beat, her eyes widened and she stood up in surprise as, in the middle of the wall appeared a shiny blue door with brass handle.
A door that really, really hadn't been there before. She looked at him.
"You're really good at doors, aren't you? Have you ever considered cabaret?"
He came up to her.
"Behind this door is the Room of Requirements. In it you will find everything you need to play this piece of music," he said. "Do you think you are up to performing?"
What was all this?
"Y-es." she answered.
He handed back the manuscript.
"My behaviour this morning was..."
He gave her a wry smile.
"I was going to say 'less than chivalrous' - considering the situation in which I found myself was very far from 'typical'." He looked away slightly. "Words of contrition are not my forte. I believe I would only make thing worse by muttering inadequate or misplaced sentiments so..." his eyes looked back at her. "I hope you might accept this as my apology..."
He took her hand, opened the door and led her into the room.
Andi stopped dead.
The room was not a room.
It was a concert hall.
A huge circular hall with a very high ceiling. At the back was a raised floor with...
Andi gave a disbelieving splutter.
...an orchestra waiting patiently, instruments in hand, and a conductor at a pedestal.
In front of them was a large black shiny piano, open and ready to play.
Andi turned to Snape, her mouth open.
"Very professional." He put his hand on her chin and closed her mouth. "You mentioned you had not played the piece with an orchestra before - here is your chance."
Feeling completely dazed, she handed him the potion bottle and then, clutching the manuscript, walked over to the conductor, shook his hand and said,
"Erm...Rachmaninov; Piano Concerto Number Two in C minor?"
The conductor nodded, silently.
She returned to the piano and settled herself.
"I don't have a page turner," she said, turning to Snape.
"They will turn when needed."
He seated himself somewhere over her left shoulder, out of her eye line.
She put her fingers to the keys, and glanced over to the conductor. He nodded and raised his baton.
Oh, Wow! This was it then...
Andi bit her lip and began, gasping when the orchestra came in, and thrilled to hear herself playing this piece accompanied for the first time by a real orchestra, rather than the one in her head.
Now she was on the roller coaster ride, unable to stop, her fingers working, almost without her brain telling her what to do. It seemed as though a curtain had been raised; never before had she seen the music so clearly. Even before she'd reached the end of the first movement she was no longer reading the score, but working from memory. She was at one with the orchestra; they played together as though they had rehearsed a dozen or more times. Her emotions, all ready brought to the surface by the events of the morning, rose and fell dramatically with the music, her hands more expressive than she could ever have hoped.
The second movement - calmer than the first but no less demanding - brought tears to her eyes as she played.
On to the third and final movement, probably her favourite, the music forcing her fingers to leap and dance over the keyboard until the end came in to view; the dramatic finale to one of the world's most romantic pieces of music.
When, after thirty-five minutes of high concentration, the end finally came, she just sat, trembling, unable to move, unable to open her eyes for the emotion of the moment. Tears leaked from under her closed lids. The echoes of the music ringing in her ears.
She felt a hand take the side of her face and turn it, then lips on hers, pressing firmly, passionately, and she gave into them, accepting all that he offered, feeling her heart beating hard against his body as their arms slid around each other.
She couldn't believe the tidal wave of emotions that swelled from deep within her as the remaining effects of the music melded with the sheer longing for him; every piece of him - good and bad - until she knew...she knew...that in spite of everything - she had fallen in love.
She broke off with a sob, kissing his cheek, her hands around his back, holding him tight, her mouth close to his ear.
"Thank you for this," she whispered, choked. Then bringing her face round to look up at him, she smiled. "Apology very much accepted."
"I realise I may have made a mistake, dismissing music from my life," he said quietly, taking her hands from his back and holding them.
"None of us is infallible, Professor," she smiled, using his own words from the night before and feeling a delight that she might have awakened his appreciation for something she loved so much.
"Indeed," he agreed, a glimmer of amusement in his eyes. He lifted his finger to wipe a tear from her cheek. "And you seem to have an ability to unearth my weaknesses and bring them to my attention."
He took both her hands again and looked down at them as he ran his thumbs over her knuckles.
"I...very much enjoyed hearing you play. I would like to hear more."
"Oh no, I couldn't possible - I'm completely played-out..."
He brought her hands to his mouth and kissed the soft underside of her fingers before looking into her eyes.
"I didn't mean today."
He stood, drawing her away from the stool and into the curve of the piano. It was then she noticed they were quite alone. The conductor, the orchestra had all disappeared.
He reached to her waist and began untying the cord that fastened the black gown of his she was wearing.
"A word of advice - a teacher's gown is supposed to hang freely. It will give you an air of authority." He released the gown and it swung open, revealing her naked body. He took a step back and surveyed her. "See? And this..." He took the cord and came up close so that her face was in his shoulder. "...is much better employed thus..." He took her hands behind her back and tied them together with the cord.
He looked at her, his face close, and once again she saw the wonderful soft velvety blackness of his eyes. He took her face in both his hands and kissed her. Automatically, she went to put her hands around his neck, forgetting they were trapped behind her back.
His lips moved to her ear and then down her neck, his hands inside the gown, running over her body until she was breathless, her body responding to each kiss, each touch.
His mouth reached her breast and she gasped at the feel of his tongue flicking over her nipple. She would have lost her balance had he not been holding her by the hips, the tips of his fingers stroking over the patch of skin where her dolphin was tattooed.
The fact she couldn't touch him in any way was torturously erotic. Curiously it gave her a feeling of power, even though she was the one bound - a feeling that was accentuated as he sank to his knees, burying his face in her stomach as he kissed his way down.
She caught her breath and leaned back against the piano as his hands grasped her buttocks and tilted her hips upwards, his mouth immediately dipping between her legs, sending sizzling pleasure up, round and through her body.
This was the first time...no one had ever...
Andi looked down at him, on his knees in front of her.
"Am I..." she gasped through her rising passion, her whole body now trembling with the sensations his tongue was producing. "...am I cutting you down to your size again?"
He stopped to look up at her.
"Bewitchingly so...Professor Carver."