Touch the Air Softly

by Jessa L'Rynn

Disclaimer: I do not own these characters. J.K. Rowling created them and writes them with a genius that has never been equaled. Warner Bros. owns the right to do dumb things with them and doubtlessly will once Jo's finished with them, unless she kills them all. I try to fight the urge to put words into other people's visions. But every once in awhile, something yummy like this comes along and I find myself committing what I have been told is both crime and honor. With all due respect to Jo Rowling and her marvelous world, here is my attempt to "steal from the best".

Chapter 1: However is ever

Albus Dumbledore looked morosely around the room. "My hand is bleeding," he muttered to the Hogwarts instructors seated around him.

"It's your own fault, you old fool," Severus Snape muttered darkly, and twisted in his chair, trying to get a look without anyone actually catching on.

Minerva McGonagall sighed. "I'm never sure what to do with all these little inscriptions, anyway," she said gloomily.

Filius Flitwick's little voice chirped, "It's simple enough, Minerva - you just need to concentrate and everything will fall into place."

Snape snorted, McGonagall sighed again.

Professor Sprout inserted, "They're not inscriptions, they're old symbols. Muggles have been using them for centuries."

Madam Hooch said, "Gin."

Sybill Trelawney's mystical voice floated majestically across the table. "I knew that would happen," she said. When they all looked at her with their customary expressions, ranging from skepticism to downright disgust, she continued, "This is going to be an interesting evening for all of us."

"I'll pass," growled Snape as he collected the cards. "Interesting evenings can wait for some other time when I've not imbibed so much alcohol. Who's deal is it?"

"I dealt last, of course," said Dumbledore calmly, "as you so politely reminded me when I complained of what had been given. I believe that makes it your turn."

"The evening will be most interesting for you, Severus," said Trelawney warningly.

Snape looked at McGonagall and they both rolled their eyes. Dealing carefully from the bottom of the deck, Snape passed himself a perfect hand. He suspected Flitwick had caught him, but also knew that the tiny Charms professor was too kind to suggest anything, even though it was exactly what any Slytherin would do.

A small crystaline talisman hanging on the wall behind Dumbledore slowly began to brighten, then sparkle, and finally started to turn until it was flashing prismatic rays over the table and the cards.

McGonagall picked up her mug and drained it. "Well, it happens every year," she said with a sigh.

Dumbledore was the one to roll his eyes this time. Madam Hooch glared viciously at the pretty little thing, as Trelawney smiled with triumph next too her. Dumbledore reached over his shoulder to see whose it was while Snape frowned at his cards and tried to ignore the little crystal. He knew what it was, everyone in the room knew what it was. He rather thought they ought to get on with the game and leave the idiot crystal until later. He poured himself another drink and sipped at it while Dumbledore stared at talisman and read it carefully for the information that it could impart to him alone.

"It seems," the ancient Headmaster said with a twinkle in his eye, "that it may not manifest for several months. We should have plenty of warning." He turned grimly back to the wall.

"Oh, who is it, Albus?" McGonagall demanded.

Dumbledore nodded, the gesture he always made to admit that he had forgotten something - which of course he hadn't, but he'd wanted really to spare whomever the public revelation.

"I hope it's not me," said Madame Hooch.

"It was last year," said Sprout teasingly.

Madam Hooch glared at her.

Dumbledore held the crystal tightly in his hand, concealing it completely from sight for the moment. "It hasn't been me since 1974," said McGonagall, "so I hope I can be spared another year."

"It's never been me," Snape commented leisurely, shuffling the cards in his hand back and forth.

Dumbledore looked at him with sympathetic eyes. "Then you'll be happy to know that it is you, this time," he said merrily.

Snape drained his drink. "Delightful," he deadpanned, and laid his cards on the table. It didn't matter, since they weren't the ones he dealt himself. While he was pouring his drink and not paying attention, a certain someone had arranged for him to get the ones he was supposed to have. He glared at Dumbledore. "If you'll excuse me, Head Master," he said, "I've left a potion brewing."

"Of course, Severus," he said, though it was plain that he would be down to talk later. Snape immediately resolved to be elsewhere.

McGonagall looked up from her cards. "If you need me to talk to anyone, Severus, let me know, please," she said.

Snape nodded, genuinely appreciating this offer but utterly unwilling to express it. He closed the door behind him but could not shield out the last few words of the conversation.

"It usually comes to nothing, of course," said Sprout, stirring her drink slowly with a tiny, badger-topped stir stick.

"It's just as well, though, that you have the thing," said Minerva. "Even if it did go off every fifteen minutes when Lockhart was here."

"I thought it best to allow the professors a foreknowledge of the scenario," said Dumbledore. "It seemed safest rather than have someone as astonished as poor Professor Quickney was that first year I taught here."

"They're just children, true, and it can surprise you when one of them starts admiring you a little too much," said McGonagall.

"I think poor, dear Severus will be quite pleased with the revelation," said Trelawney.

Hooch drained her drink. "I can't quite believe it myself. What girl would be..."she stopped at the look on Dumbledore's face. "Redeal?" she asked.

That had been four years ago, several hours following the maddening events of the Arrival Feast, and no one had since given indication to be the girl who tripped Dumbledore's "Juvenile Crush" alarm. Snape always assumed that, whoever she was, she'd turned her attentions to a more healthy candidate and finished her schooling and moved on. The next year, however, the crystal had stayed lit for him, but it had also started up for Madame Hooch, again, whom he felt deserved it for the snide comment he'd later heard her making to Sprout in the corridor.

Even if she was right. Even if he was a cold and cynical, calculating bastard who might just hurt the child if she did ever turn up.

Assuming it was a girl, he amended.

He was only thinking about it tonight because, for the first time in four years, the crystal had gone out in his presence. It would have made sense if it had stopped glowing at the end of last year, assuming maybe that the girl had left the school. It was the middle of September, though, and that struck him as strange.

Though he was sure that she'd finally found someone her own age to bestow her infatuation upon.

Though it seemed odd that four years of fidelity had suddenly stopped.

He'd become accustomed to the knowledge that the unknown female was attracted to him. It didn't effect his actions, or his words, but there was something a little compelling about the idea. In a world where everything he did and said was dangerous, where he was unsure of seeing the next sunset on most occasions, where trouble and nightmares lay around every corner, it was almost comforting to know that one girl, even if she was a child by wizarding standards, cared whether he lived or died.