A/N: I'm off on holiday to Atlanta, Georgia for the next few weeks, so do not expect another chapter before the end of June. I just wanted to post this as a thank you for those who have stuck around during my long absence.
Chapter 10- The Snake Charmer
Severus glanced up from his work the following morning, finding the source of the soft shuffling standing in the doorway looking at him. Her hair and clothes were tousled, her eyes still heavy from sleep. Thea had not woken since he had fully regained consciousness, for which he had been both worried and delighted.
He had been glad not to face the small likeness of himself yet, until this moment. He did not know if he could face her and the problems they had been arguing about and what had resulted in a rather strong flash of uncontrolled magic.
Thea had come home Thursday afternoon, looking unwell. She had gone to bed early and awakened in the morning to a stomach ache. Severus, unaccustomed to ever taking a day from his duties for something so inconsequential as a belly ache, gave her a potion and sent her on her way to school. At school, she had, according to her teacher's owl, gotten worse through the morning and could he please come fetch her before she had to Floo Thea to St. Mungo's.
Angered and annoyed that Thea had not been able to make it through the day, he had Flooed to the school, retrieved her and brought her back to Hogwarts. Once back in their chambers, after a few minutes of moping around, Thea had pulled out some of her toys and begun to play. Severus had watched in disbelief that she would so quickly start to play when she had just been complaining of a malady.
He had asked as evenly as possible whether she would not rather lie down. She was ill, after all. Thea had looked up at him silently, her large eyes almost pleading to be left alone and not questioned. There was something there, though, something she was not willing to say openly, that she was trying to convey with only her eyes. He was intrigued, more than incensed, that she was defying him and not answering the question. Nor was he particularly angry she had lied to get home.
He'd tried to control his urge to cast the spell. Really, he had. But the incantation was out of his mouth before he could stop it. The memories had flooded him as though he had cracked a dam wall. The only child's mind he had ever entered before was Potter's, but Potter had been a pimply-faced teen by then. Potter's mind had been more controlled than the mind of the six-year-old in front of him. But he found what he needed at the forefront of her memories.
There was a sandy-haired boy. Thea and the sandy-haired boy, named Julian, had become good friends. However, there was a gang of girls who did not like this one bit. They made certain to let her and Julian know what they thought of them.
A shiver had run up his spine, and he tried desperately not to think of his own similar situations from a time not quite forgotten.
It was then that he had felt her pushing at him. He wanted to know more, let it play, and wonder how he had not only been cursed once with such a problem in his life, but had it foisted upon his own daughter. For someone to anger Thea was to enrage him.
He had severed the magical connection, only to find her sobbing and livid. Obviously, she had not quite understood why she had felt so violated, but she knew she had been, and she was beside herself. He had, quite effectually, abused her in the most heinous way. In his sudden remorse, he had reached out for her, to touch her shoulder and try to comfort her. She had pulled back harshly and then all he could remember was black, until waking up to Granger's presence in his rooms.
"I'm not angry with you, Thea," he said finally, watching her tense body relax.
"What happened, Father?" She looked sheepishly down at the ground. "What did I do?"
Severus motioned for her to come sit with him. She was reluctant to crawl in his lap, but she did so eventually and settled down against his chest. "What you did was uncontrolled magic. Sometimes, when young witches and wizards let their emotions get the better of them, their magic wells up and bursts out at the person they direct it at."
He had not had "the talk" with her yet. But that brought up other unpleasant thoughts about conversations he would just as soon leave until she was thirty.
"But I thought you needed a wand to do that?" she questioned.
"When you start school here at Hogwarts, and you have a wand, you will learn to control your magic through the use of your wand and hands. Until then, you can cause magic to happen unexpectedly." He sighed and looked down at her. "When your magic hit me yesterday, I fell and struck my head. That is why I was unconscious… er, asleep."
"Oh," she said, as though it made all the sense in the world to her. "I'm sorry, Father."
Severus pursed his lips together. "You should not be sorry. It is, as I said, not something you can control. Your temper, in the future, however, you can control. In this situation, you had every right to let your temper out. I should not have done what I did."
She looked at him imploringly.
"I cast a spell so I could look into your memories. It is not a nice spell, and I do not know why I cast it…." He knew why, but she did not need to know that he was a completely sadistic bastard.
"I-I was scared, Father. I didn't know what was happening," she said, her bottom lip quivering.
He nodded. "I promise never to do it again."
He said this despite the fact he knew he would be tempted a million times more as she got older and would probably slip a few of those times.
"I'll go back to school if you want me to."
Severus could not help but chuckle at the girl. "It is Saturday morning, Thea. You slept through the afternoon and night."
"Oh! Is it because of the potion Miss Hermione gave me?"
"It can have that effect on some people, but it usually doesn't," he said. "I am going to see Miss Hermione in just a few moments to discuss it with her."
"May I come?"
"Not this morning, Thea," he said.
Last night, when Thea still had not woken up, he had gone to Hermione's chambers to ask her what exactly she had given Thea. Any good potioneer knew that a Calming Draught did not cause a person to fall asleep. It merely evened out their emotions and allowed them to continue on with daily activities in a normal manner.
Of course, he trusted Hermione implicitly with Thea's health and well-being; she had, at least, proved herself in that area. Hermione would not do anything to endanger the girl, but he was interested in what exactly Thea had taken.
However, he had forgotten completely why he had sought her out when she had opened the door to her chambers. She had stood there, a glow surrounding her tousled hair, her skin flushed and her lips quite puffy. He had realized then that it was probably Kingsley who had made her look this way and why she was clutching a robe to her quite obviously nude body.
It had made him irrationally jealous. After all, there was no basis whatsoever for his own bodily reactions at the sight of the sex-rumpled Hermione. Miss Granger, he corrected. There was absolutely no reason he could have been befuddled enough to forget his own voice. Why had he stood there dumbly, staring at her? She was not his. He was quite certain he did not want the insufferable woman to be his. He could barely tolerate her! How could he even think of her in this way?
There was no explanation for it.
And then Kingsley had come to the door, unclothed except for his trousers. He had wrapped an arm around her, looking at him questioningly. Severus had felt his hands ball into fists. Without another word, Severus had turned on his heel and walked away. He was certain he left completely confused, but he did not care. He had needed a strong drink.
But he had resolved to go back this morning, even knowing that Kingsley was most likely still there. He had to show her the sight had not affected him as much as it appeared last night. If she looked unconvinced, he could use the knock to the head earlier in the day to explain it away.
He was pretty convinced of that himself. Perhaps the bump had altered his mental state.
The roaring front door startled them.
Severus lifted his wand to unlock the door, calling a quiet, "Come in."
The door opened, and Granger appeared, looking confused. "Did the door just roar like a lion?"
"You are the Gryffindor Head of House, are you not?"
"It's never done that before," she replied.
"It's spelled to only do it when it is locked. One of the previous Headmasters thought it would be humorous to put an irremovable spell on it, so that when the Heads of House from are near it, the door makes a corresponding sound."
Hermione frowned as she glanced askance at the aged wood again. "That would get very annoying."
"I'd like to know which Head found enough time in their schedule to spell such a thing," he said.
Severus shifted slightly, the increasingly heavy child and boney arse on his lap growing uncomfortable. Rather than remove herself from his lap, though, Thea stayed firmly in place. It was odd behavior for the child who was shy to show any emotion at all to others, especially if her father were around. Perhaps it was a Snape trait—the unwillingness to show emotion. His father has used alcohol to stuff down his problems. Severus himself had used his sadistic personality. Thea just put on an indifferent mask, even though she did not seem to know that she did it.
But then again, she always acted differently when Hermione was around.
"That's simple, sir; the Heads merely pawned off all the work onto their Deputies."
She met his eyes with a smirk worthy of his own doing. At least she was jesting. While it had been extremely tempting to leave hordes of work for her to do rather than complete it himself, he had been very conscious of dividing the work evenly between them. He knew how difficult it was teach, after all.
Deciding that there had been enough pleasantries for the morning, Hermione moved her eyes to meet Thea's. "I came to see if Thea would like to run some errands with me today."
Thea turned quickly and looked at him questioningly.
He nodded slightly and before he could help her down, Thea had jumped from his lap and was running toward her bedroom to change.
"Winky!" he called.
The elderly house elf appeared with a soft pop. "Please help Thea get ready to go to Diagon Alley."
Winky bowed lowly and disappeared, squeaking about something as she went. It sounded suspiciously like she was angry about being interrupted while serving breakfast.
Severus turned to watch Granger gaze after the elf. She chuckled and glanced back at him, her face straightening. He sighed and sat up in his chair, grabbing for the wand on the desk in front of him. "Would you care for some tea, Miss Granger?"
"I—sure," she said ambivalently, taking the seat across from him when he motioned to it.
Severus conjured the tea and waited until they were settled in uncomfortable silence to say anything more. He cleared his throat. "You didn't give Thea a Calming Draught."
"Yes, I did," she replied, sipping her tea and looking at him from over the rim of the porcelain cup. "However, a drop of Dreamless Sleep never hurt anyone, especially when they're as distressed as she was yesterday."
"A drop doesn't cause someone to sleep for twenty hours," he remarked.
Hermione placed her cup on the saucer and set it carefully on the table in front of her. She folded her hands in her denim-clad lap and fixed him with an amused smile. "It does in a body that small and with a more potent efficacy of Dreamless Sleep. Besides, I'm sure the amount of magic she used yesterday tired her a great deal on top of everything else."
He looked her over carefully and knew that she knew he was quizzing her as he might have back in the days as her teacher.
"You still answer by the book," he replied.
"Your book," she said.
She sighed. "The Prince's book."
"I thought that had been destroyed in the battle," he said gravely.
Hermione uncrossed her legs and repositioned herself in the chair. "I may have disliked the fact that Harry was cheating all sixth year, but I wasn't stupid enough to trust him with such a valuable resource. I made a copy of it. It's really quite simple once you've found the right spell. Good thing I did it when I did, too, or it would have been lost when Harry threw it into the Room of Requirement."
Severus leveled his eyes at hers, not quite knowing what to say.
She shrugged her shoulders and let out a light sigh. Looking around the room at nothing in particular, she let a small smile cross her lips. "Did you ever think about publishing your own revised edition?"
"It was not at the top of my priorities list," he said.
"Well, if you would like to visit that idea, you may have a copy of it back," she said. "Flourish and Blotts has publishing connections, after all."
His eyes narrowed, the warning bells in his mind suddenly triggering. She was up to something. There was absolutely no reason for her to be this nice to him, this pleasantness beyond professional courtesy, when he had certainly not inspired it in her to begin with.
"You are no Slytherin, Professor," he said with a sneer. "I find it quite droll that you think you can be."
"Excuse me, sir?"
"You want something."
Hermione's brows raised in question. "Sir? If I wanted something I would come right out and ask it of you. I know better than to provoke the snake when I'm not a snake charmer."
"Then why are you offering something like this to me?"
"Because I think it is a waste of scholarly genius to not have it published for others to learn from it. Certainly, it takes away the edge you might have had as a Potions master and knowing the tricks, but you, of all people, believe in educating the masses if they are willing to learn."
Severus steepled his fingers in front of his mouth, considering her statement. "However, Professor, the operative statement there is if they are willing to learn. As of yet, I have not encountered many students who understood the true beauty of the art."
"Of learning or of potions-brewing?"
"Both," he murmured, slipping into a contemplative trance.
It was true that he had never considered publishing a revised edition of the standard textbook for the NEWT-level Potions classes, but frivolous thinking had never been a luxury he had permitted himself. And truly, it had been frivolous. There were other much more important things to worry about in the world that did not involve publishing books and collecting the royalties.
But, as much as it pained him to admit it, Granger did have a point. There was absolutely no reason not to visit this possibility now, even if he still wasn't completely sure she was not doing this to get something. However, that had never been Miss Granger's style. She was quite irritatingly open about her intentions most of the time.
She shrugged. "It is only a suggestion, sir."
Silence passed between them again and Hermione took the opportunity to sip the rest of her tea, neither looking at him or anything in particular. She did not seem agitated that he continued to look over her, trying to read her without employing any magic to do so. Such a thing has already got him into trouble yesterday; the last thing he needed right now was for the witch in front of him to sense what he was doing and do something much more worse to his person than Stunning him for perpetrating it. Hermione merely sat there, head held high as though she were basically allowing him to look.
He could not believe he was being so utterly obvious about it.
Snapping out of his thoughts, he cleared his throat roughly, searching for something to say. But he really did not have anything to say to her.
She set her empty cup and saucer down, meeting his eyes again. "I will be meeting up with the Potters later this evening for dinner. Ginny wondered if you might like to come as well."
He hoped his horrified expression was obvious.
At her amused laugh, he frowned.
"I told her that would be your reaction," Hermione said. "It wouldn't be so horrible. All adults, no children, and I was promised Molly Weasley's constant henpecking would be nonexistent. Apparently she and Arthur are playing babysitter to the children for the evening."
The invitation sounded all the more delightful now.
"Why, Miss Granger, did Mrs Potter not invite me herself?"
"Because I suggested it," she replied. "I thought you might like some grownup time away from Thea."
"You will not be here to look after her, though, if I leave her here," he said.
Hermione pursed her lips. "I'm not her nanny, Snape, and don't be fooled into thinking that you can make me one."
"I had no such intention."
She took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. "She is more than welcome to stay with the other children. I think it might be good for her, just like grownup time might be good for you."
"The attendees of this little soiree… will they all be past students?"
"Many of them, but they aren't nearly as grating as they were as your students," she replied.
Despite the fact that he should be wholly opposed to such a proposition, he found that he was intrigued. He had never been able to observe previous students in their natural environments, or after they had a few years to mature. Perhaps it would be an interesting social experiment.
"And if it pleases you to look at it this way, they all know how taciturn you can be, so it won't be any surprise if you're quiet and moody the whole evening," Hermione added.
"Very well, Miss Granger," he said. "When am I to make an appearance?"
"Seven this evening, at—"
He raised a hand to stop her. "Unfortunately, I know where the Potters live."
Hermione raised a curious eyebrow, but said nothing of it. Even if she had wanted to, she could not as Thea ran into the room then, ready to go on her outing with Miss Hermione. Severus watched the two most important females in his life leave the room hand-in-hand.
That thought made him shudder, however.
Two most important females indeed.