Hell-oh :-) Well, here I am. After more than year. I apologize, that's about all I can do. I really DID mean to update at the end of March 2007. Well, May 2008 will have to do.
Have fun if you are reading this.
Unbetaed, characters (except one) and original idea not mine. Still not native English speaker, so there may be (and most likely are) mistakes.
"Headmaster, you can't be serious!"
"I'm not. That's your husband." Dumbledore's eyes twinkled merrily; he was visibly pleased with his oh-so-clever little joke.
Severus was sitting in Headmaster's office. They both were drinking lemon tea from small china cups. Severus sneered at the amount of sugar that disappeared in his superior's cup. The wizard was lucky diabetes was a disease only contracted by Muggles.
"No need to scowl so much, Severus. It's just one night," Dumbledore tried to reassure his younger colleague.
"Hmpf! One night? Have you been to the dungeon lately, Sir? It will be at least a WEEK before we get that … that THING eliminated."
"Then you'll have to stay in the chambers provided to your husband for the duration of the entire week."
"Not to mention the time it will take to replace all the ingredients and broke- … What?!
The ancient Headmaster of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was still smiling but there was obviously no place for arguments.
Severus tried anyway.
"May I at least ask why I am not provided with a suite of rooms as it is stated that I should be should the need arise, which is stated in my contract AND in the School Rules, Headmaster?"
"May I ask you to go through said School Rules of this establishment once more and look at this little clause – number twenty-six of that particular section I think – which clearly states that should a teacher be in need of temporary sleeping arrangements, it will be provided unless the spouse of said teacher also resides under the roof of this castle in different set of rooms, in which case the teacher is to move in with him or her?"
"What if I choose not to oblige?"
"Then feel free to make your bed in any corridor of your liking."
Severus straightened in his chair, slowly set the saucer and the cup he was holding on the table, stood, and was about leaving in a huff, when Dumbledore called after him:
"And Severus, do not think on going to Mr. Bridges' rooms either. I have spoken to him and he agrees that whatever relationship you had going it would do more harm than good to you both."
During his speech Severus had turned stare back at him. Lesser man would jump out of the window before facing such a fierce glare.
But Dumbledore was no lesser man.
"It's for the best, Severus. You know it."
Severus snorted and headed for the door, muttering something about blooming black baskets and their inconceivable timing. Or so it seemed to the almighty Headmaster.
Dumbledore turned his gaze towards ceiling serenely. "It's such a joy to see young people getting on so well."
He ignored the smirking faces of the former headmasters and headmistresses on the paintings lining the walls of his office.
Severus strode to the school library, determined to spend the rest of his day holed up in there, in one of the many corners that were oh-so-convenient for all lone bookworms and an occasional pair of snogging adolescents.
He spent a few minutes at the desk of the librarian, Irma Pince, recounting the events that had lead to his unplanned free afternoon.
On his way to aforementioned quiet corner he encountered a group of his sixth-years and scared them out off the library with a single glare, when one of them, a Slytherin who had been standing with his back to him, uttered the name Pendleton. Never before had he seen any of the students disappear so quickly.
He borrowed several books and laid them out on the table, then he took out a piece of parchment lent to him by Madam Pince, and immersed himself in his newest pet project.
Exhausted from all the time he spent pouring over various books and scrolls in the library Severus finally made his way to the den of one annoying lion.
"Did you ask Albus to do this?" was the first thing he said once the door to Sirius´ temporary chambers opened.
Sirius lifted his eyebrows, clearly perplexed. "You mean did I ask him to magic that goo into your dungeon? Then no, husband dear, I did not."
"It's not goo, it's an animated glutinous orange substance with blue dots that changes into a huge orange rat in regular intervals. Did you ask the Headmaster to have me moved in your rooms instead of somewhere else?"
Seeing that Severus had no intention of going inside, Sirius leaned against the doorframe and narrowed his eyes as if in thought. "That's the technical term?"
"Black," Severus growled warningly, suddenly feeling a slight ache developing in the area behind the temples.
"Again, Severus, I did not. He came here this morning to ask if I was willing to accommodate you for a night or two. As it happens, I have enough room for two. So I said I was."
Severus huffed and pushed his way through the door despite Sirius still hanging in the doorframe. He was let in without protests. The moron even had the gall to wear such a self-confident smirk as if he was just elected the President of the Universe or something.
Severus looked around, as if he was here for the first time. Truth to be told, he had been too vexed the day before to bother with an inspection of furniture. Well, he was vexed now as well. And who wouldn't be, after such a day. And the furniture was the same as in any other room in the castle, anyway – ancient and on the fancy side, but sturdy and purpose-built.
A quiet 'click' of the door just shut brought him out of his reverie.
"Our venerable Headmaster told me that since I was here, I should make myself useful. That means I'm joining the team for elimination of that huge orange what-not. I'm looking forward to it," Sirius said, grinning like an idiot with those little sparks in his eyes.
Severus looked at him, shrugging off the heavy black outer robe he wore when teaching and hanging it across the back of the couch. "You don't have to. All we are going to do is to spray it with a substance I'm going to prepare once Minerva and Aventine return from Diagon Alley with some things I need." He then paused for a moment, strange glint in his eye. "But since you seem so intent on not doing nothing while here, you can help with the cleaning the day after. And the day after. And the day after."
The mention of the pre-spring cleaning could not scare the great former Gryffindor in the least. Sirius just kept grinning. "Okay," he said softly. And then: "I think your night attire has arrived," he nodded to the right, towards a closed door.
Severus headed there without a second thought and almost fell right back when he realized that the chamber he was peering into was in fact a bedroom. It wasn't exactly a feeling of dread he felt as he gazed on the bed on whose surface laid neatly folded his light-grey nightshirt. But it came damn close. He, Sirius and one bed; these ingredients had never mixed well.
Thinking it easier to face those curious grey-blue eyes than that particular piece of furniture, he returned to the living area.
Sirius was just closing the outside door. He held a piece of parchment for Severus, who took it and read it. According to the note, Minerva and Aventine finally arrived with all the ingredients needed for brewing the Cleansing Potion.
And so, not a minute later, he was on his way to an unused classroom on the second floor.
He was a bit put out by the fact that none of his colleagues had stayed behind to chat. All the ingredients and tools he needed were laid out neatly on two desks though, and on the third there was a middle sized copper cauldron. The two most likely used Minerva's Time Turner to have gotten it ready this quickly. Well, he was eager to start working on the remedy as soon as possible, and everyone in the castle knew he was not to be disturbed at times like this, but some company before work would have been welcome. By now both professors probably paced in their own classrooms, teaching some brainless twats of third-year Gryffindors or Hufflepuffs.
The potion was a fairly easy one. Just throwing in the ingredients. First-years should have been able to do it correctly. Somehow Severus doubted they were though. He wondered what it was saying about his competency as a teacher.
Forty minutes later Severus put out the flame under the cauldron, poured the lilac colored concoction into another cauldron, this one filled with water, and stirred a few times. The substance smelled strongly of camphor oil; not a pleasant smell in Severus' opinion, but the right one nonetheless. He quickly cleaned his workspace, washed the tools, and threw away the bits of ingredients that couldn't be used anymore. Then he took the cauldron with the cleaning mixture and started on a journey to the dungeon.
He ignored a red flashing "DO NOT ENTER" sign that floated near the entrance to the dungeon in the Entrance Hall, and slipped in the narrow dimly lit corridor.
It turned out he was far from being a sole trespasser. Three figures stood on the half landing, just above the level where thick neon orange liquid with an occasional blue spot on the surface washed the floor.
Minerva was the first to take notice of his presence. "It appears to be receding," she said in greeting.
"Great," Severus replied. "In that case I'm going on vacation and we can just wait until it disappears on its own."
Minerva chuckled. The other two stayed silent.
"So," Severus spoke up again, determined to ignore the stifling atmosphere. "No sightings of the rat?"
Minerva, Aventine and Sirius shook their head.
"A pity though," Sirius said in the end, the familiar small smirk firmly in place. "I wanted to have a look at it."
Minerva laughed quietly and Severus suddenly recollected how fond she had been of Sirius and James Potter when all of them had still been students at Hogwarts. His look slid to Aventine, who stared blankly at the small orange waves rolling lazily just three steps beneath them. Severus willed himself not to feel resentful, and succeeded.
In the meantime, Minerva transfigured the cauldron with the Cleansing Potion into four bottle spray guns and her long emerald green teaching robe into dark grey knee length coat.
"Chic," said Aventine and Minerva smirked at him and replied "you bet".
The four of them spent the next three hours spraying the potion on the floor and on the walls of the dungeon. The slimy thing hissed at them as if it wanted to fight back; fortunately it didn't. There were no large incidents. The liquid appeared not to be acidic, which meant Aventine's shoe and Severus' trouser-leg just needed a proper scrubbing and plenty of washing soap. The main corridor, two adjacent corridors, two classrooms, Severus' office and one large empty unused room later, they were mostly finished. The rest would be dealt with the day after. Minerva, who had played the role of a peacemaker for the whole time, left first, fanning herself with her hand and sighing for a cup of Earl Grey. Aventine left only moments after her, his longish blond hair plastered to his forehead and neck, his grey-green eyes dull with exhaustion. Only Sirius looked cheery, if bit disheveled, a bit like a dog, which had just dug out a huge hole only to find a small bone as its reward.
They went up to their room together. The Headmaster had a diner prepared for them in their rooms. They ate and talked a bit; Sirius was the more talkative one, tough. He laughed and joked about the unfortunate Balthazar Pendelton, the creator of the mess in the dungeon, who apparently had a curious problem with colors when doing magic.
"It's not as if he was totally stupid," Severus grumbled into his plate. "He is competent enough to follow the instructions, but when under pressure, his creations turn the most interesting colors. Minerva and Filius have the same problem with him. But who cares if a teapot is let's say canary yellow instead of white with a golden trim. But in Potions the color is often important for the final outcome as well as the ingredients. You can't charm Amortentia Potion blue just because you like the color better. It not only loses all the original properties but can be dangerous as well."
Sirius seemed totally amused. "And what are you going to do about it?" he asked curiously.
"Talk with his Head of House and recommend a talk with Poppy Pomfrey. He is worse year by year."
"Hey, wouldn't it be better to just leave him be? It's the teenagers' hormones, I bet. He's probably in love or something. And besides, wouldn't it be cool? You in particular could do with learning how to appreciate all the beautiful colors of life. As it is, you are a Black all through," Sirius snickered.
Severus glared. "If you didn't hear, I said it could be dangerous. Hogwarts was not established just to teach magic, but also find and prevent exactly these occurrences. Your feeble imagination would most likely have a difficult time to picture it, but if these things weren't solved while there's still time, the magic would be a serious hazard."
Sirius, who had his mouth full of treacle tart at the moment, couldn't answer, so he just did a "mmm" sound. Whether it was in agreement or not, Severus couldn't say, but he really didn't care. He was quite tired, but it was too early to go to bed, so he settled himself on the couch with a book and the parchment with his hypothesis on the Pendelton problem, which he had begun that afternoon in the library.
Immersed in his reading, he didn't notice his husband settling right across him in a chair and gazing at him thoughtfully, until said husband nudged him in the calf with his foot.
Startled, Severus turned to glare at Sirius, but his expression turned into a confused scowl, when he spied the look on his husband's face.
"What!" he snapped defensively and unconsciously pulled his legs closer to the couch and farther from Sirius own legs.
Sirius cocked head to the side and surveyed him with narrowed eyes, as if he tried to read his thoughts. Severus looked away, just in case Sirius really could do that.
"Hey," said Sirius and the tone used in that one not-even-word made Severus freeze. He heard this tone only about twice or thrice in his life and never has it been aimed anywhere near him. It was the tone that caused shivers run down your spine and made you want to arch your back in desire to get closer and away at the same time.
He gazed stubbornly into the book and waited if Sirius would talk or … or … what. He blinked, trying to clear out the fog that seemed to descend on his brain.
"How many men did you sleep with when I was away?"
Severus' eyes flew wide open, but he didn't raise his head. S-sleep with?
That bastard. That hypocritical bastard! What did he think …
Severus leaned into the arm rest of the couch and didn't look up anymore. After a few moments, Sirius got up from the chair and went to the bedroom. Severus ignored him. And would continue to ignore him until the end of his life.
Till next time?