by The Velvet Ghost
This is something of a mini-story to a mini-story, which means it's so mini, I'm amazed it's visible to the human eye. A lot of people have expressed interest in the character of Nixie Plinkett, who featured briefly in chapter four of Crimson Emeralds - she was the curly-haired witch on Snape's arm, and the bonder for Snape's Unbreakable Vow to protect Harry. This story is set several weeks before Harry's parents die, in Snape's quarters at Hogwarts.
For anybody who hasn't read Crimson Emeralds (and this story can stand alone) Nixie Plinkett is a member of the Order of the Phoenix, and according to what we know from Crimson Emeralds, was involved with Snape for a while. Nothing else is known about her. Trust me, you've not missed a whole lot.
Feedback is all completely welcome, and thanks to everybody who asked for more Nixie, particularly GonnaBeFamous who was interested in reading a Snape romance from me. And here it is. If anybody's curious as to why it's been given a T rating, it's because of 'minor suggestive adult themes'. Nothing terribly adult actually happens, but I thought I'd be better safe than sorry.
Enjoy, and remember to send me a review. Oh, and there are bonus points for anybody who spots the Alan Rickman line embedded in this shameless pit of fluff.
The way to love anything
is to realise that it might be lost.
- G. K. Chesterton -
For one of the first times in his life, Severus Snape woke to the smell of frying bacon.
His nostrils were instantly wide awake, even if the rest of him craved a few more precious minutes of sleep. Groaning, he buried his face into the pillow and reached out, his fingers searching restlessly over the mattress. Something was missing. What was it? He tried to think, blocking out that enticing scent for a moment, before he remembered. His fingers curled on the sheets.
"Nixie?" he tried. Through in the kitchen, there was a hot sizzling noise and a new wave of mouth-watering aroma hit his nose. Merlin, she could cook as well. Since when did they start making them with looks and talent? If he'd known about the wonders of women when he was sixteen-years-old, it would have been far easier to put up with the daily taunts about his hair.
Still, it was very pleasant knowing about them now, eight years later. Twenty-four years gone, and Severus Snape had done what nobody ever thought he would, what James Potter said had zero percent chance of happening. He had ensured, free from any and all doubt, that he would not die a virgin.
Stretching slightly and dragging the covers back to his side of the bed, he reached up to rub his forehead. "Nixie?" he called again, and this time, there was a rattle of pans as she abandoned the cooker for him. The kitchen door creaked open.
She was wearing one of his dress-shirts, open at the chest, and for a moment, he entirely forgot what he was going to say. He eyed the way each tight auburn ringlet laid across the black cotton of his shirt, as easy and natural as if she wore it everyday.
"Where did you get that?" he said.
"The floor," she said.
That twinge of an American accent was, and always had been, delightful to hear. Severus had spent his entire life confined to the British Isles, and the most exotic accent he'd heard was Liverpudlian. Nixie was a foreign flower growing in the wet gloop that disguised itself as English soil.
"Ah." He sat up slightly, reaching up to rake a hand through his hair. "Is that breakfast I smell?"
She gestured with a pair of tongs. "Yes it is, and no you don't. Not that bad anyway."
His lips quirked before he could stop them, and by the time he forced them back into indifference, she was grinning. He put on his best haughty expression. "How long will it be?"
"Depends how hungry you are."
"Twenty minutes then," she said. There was a sudden hiss, and she turned away from the door. "The eggs want my attention, Severus."
"I might shower," he mused. He groped for his dressing robe and draped it around his shoulders, tidying the bed through habit. He proceeded through to the bathroom.
The moment he stepped through the door, he knew something was wrong. There was a strange scent on the air, and a close inspection of his usual toiletries revealed that they had been browsed through, and were now joined by some new arrivals. Sneeing, he picked up a lilac bottle (a muggle product, judging by the look of it) and unscrewed the cap. A hesitant sniff revealed the source of the peculiar aroma. As he turned on the shower one-handed, he skimmed through the instructions written on the back of the bottle (since when have instructions for bathing oneself been necessary? he thought scathingly). The lotion promised to make his hair not only silky and soft, but manageable as well, should he wish to style it. Perhaps another time.
He replaced his new lilac friend back where it had come from. He grasped his normal shampoo instead and adjusted the water temperature, taking a warm towel from the radiator, before discovering that his mint-scented shower gel had apparently migrated.
"Nixie? Nixie, where is my shower gel?"
She shouted something he couldn't hear, and started the hunt himself. He found it eventually, hooked over the end of the radiator. He was unable to help noticing that it had been used. For reasons he didn't have time to analyse at the moment, he felt a strange kind of pride that she had used his shower gel - she would smell of him.
As he stepped into the shower, he found yet more traces of her intrusion into his life. In a blob of foam laid some kind of bath mitten, which he transferred to the sink at arm's length, and there were a few tightly curled strands of auburn coiled in the plug hole. There was evidence of her everywhere - and though he didn't know why, it wasn't entirely unpleasant.
He showered the same way he always did, except for the glances he gave to the new little bottles nestled upon his shelves, watching him curiously, as if wondering what they were doing in this strange new bathroom. Once he was clean, his hair matted in tousled wet locks around his shoulders, he stepped out of the shower and dried himself. There was enough time for a shave. It didn't take a long time for him to figure out why his personal appearance was suddenly quite so important.
As he moved back into the bedroom, wrapped in a dressing gown, he found Nixie loitering in bed with a bacon sandwich. She was never a shy eater. Sirius Black often complained loudly that women in restaurants ordered a leaf and a glass of water, and proceeded to eat half of his meal. Then again, Nixie was not an ordinary woman. Severus had taken her out to dinner before, and she ate like a friend would, rather than a lover. She was very easy-going.
Perhaps it was the reason he appreciated her company so much, he wondered, as he sat down beside her and licked a smudge of brown sauce from her chin. She relaxed him. James Potter had been overheard to remark that Nixie had Severus tamed, but it wasn't so. They were equally in control.
"Hope you're hungry," she said, not even complaining when Severus helped himself to a bite from her sandwich. "I made loads."
"You never told me you could cook."
"I've got four little brothers, Severus. All of them constantly hungry. I had to learn how to cook, or get eaten myself."
With a small smile, he began to load up his plate. Somewhere outside the protective embrace of the dungeon walls, the students would be traipsing down to breakfast, and Severus knew it would be nothing compared to his own private feast here. He dropped a fried mushroom in his mouth, closing his eyes. "Remind me never to let you leave."
"Alright." She poured them coffee, licking the shiny patches of bacon fat off her fingers. "Any plans for today?"
Severus finished chewing, and swallowed his mouthful before speaking. Good manners cost nothing. "Marking," he sighed. "I usually take a walk late on a Sunday afternoon. You're welcome to join me."
"Sure," she said, crafting another sandwich with generous amounts of everything in. It was a wonder she didn't balloon, from the amount of food she ate, but she wasn't exactly skinny either. Severus found himself pondering her figure as he sipped at his coffee. She was... well, Nixie. He knew very well that her fleshy curves hid powerful muscle - he'd seen her run faster than many of the Order wizards, and fight better than them too.
Glancing into her eyes, he wondered if there was anything he didn't admire her for. Surely there was a flaw somewhere, something about her that would niggle at his brain until it drove him crazy, just one catch...
She looked up at him, another sandwich halfway to her mouth, and she hesitated. "What?" she asked. She smiled, a little anxiously, and offered him the sandwich. "Want some?"
He reached out. Worried she would break and shatter like glass, disappear from his world, he stroked gentle fingers through her twizzled hair. She lapsed into silence, still holding the sandwich. In the films, romantic moments always looked so posed and arranged and un-natural... was that real romance though? Couldn't romance be as simple as early-morning bacon sandwiches, and seeing her wear his shirt?
"What's wrong?" she asked softly. He brushed a thumb over her temple.
"Nothing." Realising that statement was entirely true, he repeated it, more softly. "Nothing at all."
"Sure you don't want a bite?" she offered again, smiling now.
He leant forwards to take a bite, as he subtly ran a hand up her leg, letting his palm rest upon her knee. She was effortlessly smooth-skinned. How could she be so easy-going, so comfortable to talk to, so like a male companion, yet ooze femininity? She was... she was Nixie.
"What's on your mind?" she asked, watching him with a smile. He couldn't help but appreciate how she phrased it - never the intrusive 'what are you thinking', but so easy, so casual.
"You," he said, honestly, and relished the blush he brought to her cheeks. "I shall have to try very, very hard to stop myself gloating to Potter at the next Order meeting."
She grinned. "I don't want sordid tales about me circling through the Order. I've got an admirable reputation."
"Which," he murmured, "I intend to stay very much intact." He took another bite from her sandwich. Why did her food taste even better than his?
"Want to know a secret?" she asked.
"Do I ever not?"
"It's a big secret. Never tell a soul. Cross your heart and hope to die."
"As if I would break your trust."
"Oh, you will." She smirked. "I know what you're like. You won't be able to resist gloating. But I think you deserve to know anyway, so..." She refilled his coffee, and said, "You know when you first joined the Order, and we met?"
"A year ago now, wasn't it?"
"Yeah, something like that. And you remember around the same time, when James and Lily Potter split up for a while?"
"Just after the birth of their son. How could I forget? The man's misery knew no bounds." Taking a knife, he absent-mindedly buttered himself a slice of toast. "Probably the most short break-up in the history of romance. He was gone for, what, a week."
She nodded. "I think so."
The picture of innocence, she casually helped herself to a spoonful of scrambled egg. "He cornered me after an Order meeting," she said. "He told me my hair looked nice, and wondered if I'd be interested in going for drinks one night."
Severus very nearly choked on his toast. Once he'd recovered himself, he stared at her and said, "Potter propositioned you?"
"Well, he asked me out for drinks. I don't know if it would count as being propositioned."
"Merlin, and their son was only a few weeks old then… Potter, you rat." He looked up at her, watching as she sipped at her coffee. "And what did you say? Did you go for drinks with Potter? Did he make love to you?"
At that, she threw her head back and laughed, loud and unashamed. "No!" she said. "No, of course he didn't. We didn't enough go for drinks. I turned him down."
Severus's eyes flared, as if somebody had suddenly lit a candle behind the liquid black iris. "Ha!" He cleared his throat. "Excellent. Most excellent."
"You mustn't rub it in his face," she warned with a grin, and shifted across the bed to him.
"Well, I can't promise anything…"
He found himself with a very warm, fleshy lapful of soft skin and wild curly hair, which he wrapped his arms around, cradling proudly his prize. Nixie had eagerly accepted his offer of dinner. And here she was now – still his, still utterly desirable as she ever was, curled in his lap, enrobed in his shirt, washed in his shower gel. He would have to gloat to Potter. Smirking at the thought, he tucked her head under his chin and let a hand wander secretly to her thigh. Mine, he thought.
And nobody would take her away.
His insides glowing with pride, he dipped a finger into the marmalade pot and fed it to her lips. She relaxed back against his chest. Uninterrupted, gentle minutes of peace passed between them, in which breakfast was hand-fed and Nixie lost her shirt. They regressed into kissing. The aroma of mint shower gel and lavender shampoo made his head swim, as he wondered what he'd done, what he could have possibly done, to deserve luck like this. She was faultless. All the other women came with a catch – a jealous brother, bad breath, too clingy, not clingy enough, too demanding, too vain… but not Nixie.
As they kissed, he examined her gently with his hands, as if he'd find some catch tattooed onto her back or the tender inner flesh of her arms. There had to be a problem. Wasn't that the whole idea of love? Standing up, and staying by somebody's side despite their flaws?
She wasn't exactly a chess grand-master, and her logical intelligence was… well, it was average. It was fine. It was what Albus Dumbledore needed in Order members. Her mind was sharp and deep enough to entertain Severus with long conversations over wine, and though she would never be a genius, she was just right. In fact, if she was a genius, wouldn't she have been ruined? He knew he couldn't cope with a woman far smarter than him. His pride would never survive.
As their lips parted, and he found himself looking into her gentle eyes, he was lost in thought.
Maybe she did have a catch – she was too beautiful.
Severus knew from Order gossip that many of the single wizards had expressed surprise when she chose the greasy-haired Snape, and no doubt there were ten men waiting in the wings to snatch her away from him. The thought made his insides burn with jealousy. If someday, some other man stole her away from him… or if she stood back one day, took a long hard look at Severus and his trailing list of flaws…
"What's wrong?" she soothed, cradling his face. As she traced the hooked outline of his nose, he momentarily flinched, recalling every taunt from Black and Potter. Concern filled her eyes, and she stroked her thumb over the bridge of his nose. "Hey, shhh… you're not going to get all freaky on me now, are you?"
He didn't know how to answer that. He hugged her a little closer, unable to explain the terrible feeling now lodged in his chest. Fear was no stranger to Severus, but this fear was… it was different. This was nothing like the fear that the Dark Lord's eyes brought to him.
As he gazed at Nixie, her shining perfection, he thought again what it would be like to lose her to another man. Somebody like Potter.
"Don't go," came from his mouth before he could stop it.
Her eyes glowed. She cradled his face in gentle fingertips, fingertips that had probably loved him more than any other soul on this Earth, and gathered him close. Her neck smelt of his mint shower gel, and he buried his face into the aroma, wishing the scent would linger on her until she died.
"What's brought this on, hmm?" she said. Her fingers were running through the wet, matted tangle of his hair. "Is this about James? It was a year ago, Sevvy…"
Sevvy. Nobody had called him that before.
"I don't know," he said quietly. He tried to think, trying to search out why he suddenly felt so afraid that she would someday be gone. He didn't think it was Potter. It was something else. He wasn't a jealous man, from a childhood where he'd quickly learnt that what he wanted would never come to him. So why was this happening now?
Her fingers stroked down the back of his neck, tangling in the fine hair, caressing. He remembered it from last night. As she gave a soft laugh, her arms tightening around him, she murmured, "I know some men cry after sex, but this is a bit of a delayed reaction…"
"What are we?" he asked quietly. The word 'girlfriend' had never been mentioned, nor had 'lovers', nothing more than friends who dated. And now slept together. "Will I… will I come into an Order meeting one day, and find you with a boyfriend that could have been me, if only I'd asked?"
"Oh, Sevvy…" She nuzzled at his forehead. "You are…"
"You are, Sevvy," she murmured. "You are, and it's you… we are. This is." She kissed the beaky bridge of his nose. "We're together… I'm not going to go gallivanting off with somebody new. I wouldn't do that to you."
"I feel… unworthy."
He felt her smile into his temple, and his arms tightened instinctively around her. "You're not…" she soothed. After a moment, she whispered in his ear. "Do you want to know why I said yes to you, and no to James?"
Something inside his chest took an extra, hopeful beat. "Yes."
Gently, she stroked a fingertip behind his ear and petted him there. He wondered how she knew he was sensitive there, but within a few moments he realised he didn't care. He melted against her, kittenish and pliant. She cradled him.
"I love how you're such a gentleman… you're noble and brave, in a way that James Potter can never be. He might be a hero, yes... Albus might sent him first into every battle, so he can clear the way and have everybody bask in his glory… but then there's you, covering the back, and nobody ever notices how brave you are. But you don't complain. You never try to be as arrogant and heroic as he is. Sometimes, I get the feeling he's only brave for the glory… you're brave because you need to be."
He bathed in those words, feeling his soul squirming and writhing as it was pampered. There was more.
"I like how we can have a conversation about anything, and you're not afraid to disagree with me. I really admire how your own opinions and views are more important to you than pleasing me. With you, I feel like a real person, not just some judge that everybody's trying to impress… but you impress me as well, with dinner and candles and all those beautiful things."
As she caressed the pad of her thumb behind his ear, stroking in little circles, he dipped his head to nestle into her chest. He glanced up at her. She was smiling, petting his face.
"And I like how you're so considerate… I mean, we've been dating for weeks now, and last night was the first time. There's not another man in the world that would wait that long for me."
Severus closed his eyes, and chose not to confess that it was nerves more than anything that stopped him making a move until last night. Nerves, and total inexperience. Still, he thought that even if he had known how one goes about manoeuvring a woman into bed, he would have waited. Nixie didn't feel like the kind of whirlwind woman that came hand-in-hand with wild bedroom antics. She was steady and slow, a long process and a journey, rather than a hit-and-run.
"I love how we can go to an elegant meal or dancing, but wander into a muggle pub and be just as happy there. And I like that you'll take me to the pub as well. How you don't treat me like I'm something precious and delicate that needs to be shielded from evils like alcohol and coarse language."
He hadn't really noticed he did this. It just seemed insulting to treat every woman as a lady, particularly a woman like Nixie, who was always so much happier with a beer at a muggle pub. Severus knew that the Potters had gone through minor arguments over James's attempts to control Lily, to ease out some of that famous Evans independence. Stupid man.
He looked up at her, a small smirk of triumph playing at his lips, and she grinned. "And… since last night, I also like…" She beckoned him up, and he nuzzled into her as she whispered something into his ear.
He shivered. "Bad girl."
Her laughter played over his ear like water rippling over pebbles, and she pushed him gently in the chest. He laid down. She crawled to sit astride his chest, looking down at him, her hair long and loose around her bare shoulders. "So," she said. "Your turn."
"My turn?" he inquired casually, as she pinned his wrists.
"Your turn to tell me what's wonderful about me. And I don't just want a list of body parts."
Severus chuckled. "Hmm… what's wonderful about you… how long do you have?"
"All day," she said. Her eyes danced. "We can always give the walk a miss."
He smirked, shifting beneath her to make himself comfortable. "There is no greater feeling than watching you race across the roof-tops faster than any wizard, in pursuit of five or six Death Eaters, while the rest of the witches huddle on the floor to try and construct a new plan."
"I like that one," she said, smiling, and trailed her little finger through the jam jar. Severus closed his eyes as the raspberry goo was transferred to his mouth, and he obediently cleaned her finger. It was taken away, and he made a faint noise of disappointment. She smiled. "What else do you like about me?"
"How easy it is to be with you," he said. He watched her spoon out another finger of jam. "Ever since we met, I don't think there has been an awkward moment between us."
"Not really," she said. She leant forwards, rubbed her thumb over his lower lip, and then removed the sticky trail of jam with the tip of his tongue. He closed his eyes. As she drew away, he leant up to try and catch her lips, but she laughed softly and was just out of reach. "More."
"How you tease me. How you dare to tease me, in fact… if you were eight years younger, I would have you in detention for the rest of your life."
"Is that a threat or a promise?"
He smirked. "Which reminds me. I also admire that sense of humour you've picked up, and how much influence your filthy mind has upon it."
"I don't have a filthy mind," she said, as she pushed a finger into her mouth to clean away the last sticky remnants of jam. He watched her with a raised eyebrow. She withdrew the finger with a faint pop. "I'm just cleaning my finger. You have the filthy mind."
"Whoever said I found something erotic about you cleaning your finger?"
A grin curled her lips, and her eyes glittered like jewels. "You should watch yourself, Snape. I do have you at my mercy, if you hadn't realised…"
"Oh?" he murmured, smirking as she leant down to brush her mouth over his own. He indulged himself in a brief kiss, before drawing his lips away. "Are you certain?"
"Positive," she said.
It took all the strength he had, but next moment, she squealed as he bucked up and rolled her off him. There was a mad scramble for a few minutes, in which Nixie seized a pillow and gave him a very admirable thrashing until feathers burst from nowhere. They collapsed into the pillows, panting, as feathers fell from the sky like snow. He crawled to kneel over her, pinned her wrists, and gave a triumphant sigh.
"There," he panted. "Never challenge me again."
"Just you wait," she said playfully, and tilted her head up, lapping at the end of his nose. "I'll take you out, when you least expect it."
"I'll do the only taking today," he said, and drew up the covers, muffling her laughter. About half an hour later, the breakfast tray tumbled off the bed with a clang, scattering fried mushrooms over the stone floor. Nobody noticed.
It wasn't everyday that James Potter joined the Hogwarts staff for their evening meal, but he had important news for Albus that was too dangerous to send in a letter. He arrived just as the students were filing into the hall. Outside, it was raining and he was soaked to the skin, his messy hair clinging in clumps to his forehead. Quite a few students giggled as he made his way up to the staff table, looking and smelling like a drowned rat.
"Ah, hello James," Albus said, bright and sunny as ever. "I do trust you're well. How are Lily and Harry?"
"Fine," said James. He tried to push a soaked chunk of hair out of his eyes. "I came here to tell you about that new wizard who was interested in joining the Order. Jacob Quail."
"Jacob? Why, what's wrong?"
"I was looking through some old reports," said James. "One of the Death Eaters captured in the raid last December gave Quail's name to the Wizengamot. They think he's in with Voldemort."
"Oh no," said Dumbledore sadly. "Well, I suppose we shall have to keep an eye on him… thank you, James. Would you care to stay for something to eat? We're having lasagne."
James looked tempted. He glanced around, and as luck would have it, the doors to the Great Hall opened at that moment. Snape came in, hook-nosed and greasy as ever, accompanied by Nixie Plinkett. She was wearing a very tight-sweater and a decorative belt, her hips swaying as she walked.
"Actually, I'd better get home," said James. He didn't want to sit with Snape. He knew, like everybody else, that Albus was a fool to trust him, but Dumbledore wouldn't listen. The best James could do was stay away from him. "Lily's family are coming round."
Dumbledore nodded. "Very well. Will you be at the meeting next week?"
James moved to walk away. As he passed Snape, he gave the other a sarcastic smile, and thought he'd been ignored until a moment later when a hand grabbed his arm.
"Potter?" said Snape.
James turned to look at him over one shoulder. "What is it?"
To his eternal surprise, Snape laughed. James stood, unsure whether he should be worried or not, as Snape simply laughed at him for at least ten seconds. Then, as if nothing had happened, Snape walked away.
"Lunatic," murmured James.
He left, as Snape pulled out a chair for Nixie and stroked her shoulder.