Author's Notes: After I wrote Sweet Anger, I was inspired to write a follow-up story from Severus' point of view. Was that greedy? I suppose if the prompt fits, (greed, green) write it! The description of Spinner's End was taken from the HP Lexicon, the phlox from a site about night flowering plants, and the quotes about courtly love were taken from the twelfth century scholar Andreas Capellanus' treatise De Amore. I also took literary licence to create a non-adulterous slant in order to apply courtly love to our pair of lovers.
Too Much is Never Enough
She was late.
On another occasion, Severus would not be overly concerned. After all, since that blessed day when the Hogwarts Express carted off his reasons for stashing Firewhisky in an office drawer, time was his to spend as he pleased.
He had chosen to spend time with Nymphadora.
Their relationship had an unorthodox beginning. She had pretended to be woman using an Appearance Charm in order to entice a colleague. In reality, she was a seventh year student plotting revenge on the teacher who had revoked her Hogsmeade privileges.
Her plan fell to pieces when she fell into his arms, but she managed escape without revealing her identity. It did not take long for him to discover the truth, however. Although the girl was an extremely clever Hufflepuff, her subsequent behaviour, so different from the wrath she had exhibited, illustrated why the Sorting Hat did not make her Slytherin. She was too emotional to be truly cunning.
Not that he minded. After the first rush of indignation passed, Severus had been flattered. When he realised that she was making a study of him—not only in covert observation, but also in using library records to find out his reading preferences—he was intrigued. He began watching her in return.
In June, after seventh years sat their exams and then took their teenaged, know-it-all attitudes off to annoy family members and prospective employers, Severus had known one former student would return.
He had surprised her by having champagne waiting at their meeting place. She then surprised him by boldly asking if he was willing to have a romantic relationship. Severus liked to think they stunned each other with the passion that flared whenever they kissed.
Nymphadora did not seem to mind that he insisted their relationship remain private. With the optimism of youth, she felt sure that once her training was complete, both her position as Auror and his, as professor would be secure enough to make clandestine meetings no longer necessary. He was not so certain. Her superiors were bound to take a dim view of her association with a former Death Eater, and those who supported the Dark Lord would do likewise, with his consorting with an Auror.
His lips twisted wryly as he checked the time. At least she knew that he was not like her former partner. Rosier had been unwilling to expose himself to ridicule for openly choosing someone pure-bloods considered of lesser rank. Although Severus did not proclaim his own half-blood status to the world, he did not conceal it or believe it made him less of a wizard.
What he had been tempted to conceal was his home. Spinner's End was not the type of residence that would impress a date. It was cramped and rundown, in an area of England tourists avoided, for there was nothing scenic about it.
"You've got to let me come see you," Nymphadora had said, when they began to make plans to spend time together. "I live with my parents, not on my own."
He had reluctantly agreed. Immediately afterwards, he performed a Fidelius Charm to ensure she was unable to reveal the location.
She had shown up on his doorstep the day after the end of term in a bright pink sundress, with hair and sunglasses to match. "D'you know a spell to clean shoes?" she said when he opened the door. "You're not on the Floo Network, so I had to leg it from the riverbank." She made a face. "I Apparated onto fish-and-chip paper, which didn't please the cats trying to find a nibble."
Since her full skirt did not reach her knees, the scratches on shapely calves were readily apparent, as were the bits of paper sticking to her high-heeled sandals. He said, "I hope you hexed the wretched creatures."
"I cast an Aversion Charm."
His lips twitched. "Acceptable, I suppose."
The cheeky miss batted her eyelashes. "Oh, Professor, whatever can I do to raise my mark?"
He was tempted to tell her, just to see her cheeks turn the same colour as her dress. Instead, he lifted a brow. "Learn a Cleaning Charm." He pointed his wand. "Se in pedes conicere."
"What was that?"
"The literal translation is 'show a clean pair of heels,' but the spell cleanses the entire shoe."
Severus inclined his head and gestured for her to precede him into the house. "I have an ointment for the scratches in the kitchen."
She raised her sunglasses to wink. "Don't want to give the neighbours something to talk about, eh?"
A huff of amusement escaped. "I'm sure you attracted no attention whatsoever, roaming the cobbled streets looking like the goddess of spring."
Nymphadora gave him a peck on the lips before entering the house. "Thanks for the compliment, Hades."
He trailed her into the modest sitting room that was located directly off the street. Instead of a foyer to buffer the noise, he had bookcases that ringed the walls and hung on the back of doors.
Her gaze slid over the tatty sofa and armchair to focus on the books. "Brilliant idea, using the doors! How do they open without—you know—binding?"
She laughed. "Of course."
He pointed to the door at the back. "The kitchen is through there."
"Where's the other door lead?"
"A staircase to the bedrooms."
Her face became rosy as she ducked through the connecting door. A smile chased across his face as he followed.
In the room that was even smaller than his lounge, he said, "Sit on the table. It will be easier for me to treat your wounds."
Nymphadora hopped up onto the worn, pine surface. "You keep a very tidy house."
He watched her swing a leg back and forth, thinking the action would seem childish if she were not wearing heels and her skirt had not ridden up to reveal an expanse of thigh. Severus turned away to reach into a cupboard for his first-aid box. "You sound perturbed."
She laughed a little. "I didn't mean to sound nervous, it's just, while I'm not a slob, I'm not exactly tidy. D'you mind?"
Severus opened the box and removed a jar of healing unguent. "Did I ever reprimand you for the disarray of the student cupboard?"
Her dark eyes grew round. "No." She smiled hopefully. "Does that mean you liked me, just a little, before I snogged you under the willow?"
He sat in a chair and held her ankle in one hand while his other applied the unguent. "A little."
She leaned forward to watch his fingers smooth over the scratches. "Did you think I was pretty?"
His gaze flickered to her bodice. "Possibly."
She laughed in a way that revealed her lack of conventional brassiere. "Did you want to kiss me?"
"Before our encounter? Never. After?" He waited until she leaned forward a little more to say, "I will spare your blushes."
"Oh, you!" She reached out to push his shoulder.
He set the unguent on the floor and stood to lean over her. "This reminds me of a dream I had. You were on a worktable in my dungeon. Care to hear the details?"
Pink was definitely her colour. "One day."
Severus bent to press a gentle kiss to her lips. "Very well. Would you care to see my basement laboratory?"
Her eyes sparkled with mischief. "Does it have a worktable?"
He gave a short laugh. "Yes. It's covered with cauldrons and beakers and has no room for anything else." His gaze travelled over her. "Regretfully."
She clambered off the table to give him a hug. "I'd love to see where genius works."
He fought a smile. "Flattery will get you everywhere...one day."
Six weeks after Nymphadora began spending her time at his home, that day had still not arrived. She took walks and brought back flowers, fruit from Muggle shops, and fish and chips or other take-away on the days she said it was 'her turn to cook.'
While he brewed potions, she read books. She would read aloud parts she found amusing. Frequently, he smiled briefly in response, but one excerpt was anything but funny.
His mother, for some peculiar reason, had purchased a medieval treatise on the art of courtly love. One passage, which his partner found giggle inspiring, had the opposite effect on Severus. He had scowled while Nymphadora read.
It is the pure love which binds together the hearts of two lovers with every feeling of delight. This kind consists in the contemplation of the mind and the affection of the heart; it goes as far as the kiss and the embrace and the modest contact with the nude lover, omitting the final solace, for that is not permitted for those who wish to love purely...
The phrase 'omitting the final solace' roused Severus from the depth of slumber to search the library until he found the treatise. What other insane notions had the medieval maniac put into Nymphadora's head?
What he found made him want to throw the text into the fireplace and toss an Incendio after it. It was not enough that a courtly lover suffer months of silence before he could declare his love. Oh no, before he could hope to consummate his desire, he had to prove his devotion by performing some noble deed or grand gesture.
If she expected him to 'prove' his devotion, what could he do? Dragons were a protected species. He would face life in Azkaban for slaying one. An epic quest was not practical either. There were only a couple of more weeks before the new term started. He simply did not have the time.
Only a grand romantic gesture was viable, although it pained him to contemplate doing such a thing. He knew his limitations. Any poem he tried to write would likely earn him a slap in the face. His artistic talent was non-existent, and since he had conjured many candlelit dinners without 'amore' for afters, the way to a woman's heart was not through her stomach.
In frustration, he turned to Ogden's Best Firewhisky. After he had drained his fourth tumbler, he found inspiration. Flowers—women were daft about them. He would give Nymphadora flowers unlike any she had ever seen, in a gesture so grand, it would sweep her off her feet.
Determined to set out immediately, he wrote a letter asking his partner to meet him there before dusk in two days' time, and then carefully made his way up to his room to find a Sobering Solution.
Now, as Severus glanced impatiently at his timepiece for the tenth time in as many minutes, he considered sending his Patronus to demand she hurry. He blinked when an enormous, silvery dog of some kind bounded through the front door, into the room. I was reading stories to children in the Die Llewellyn ward and lost track of time. I'll be there in a minute, I promise!
Precisely fifty-eight seconds passed before she knocked on the door. He flung it open and grasped her wrist, pulling her through the house as fast as possible.
"Severus!" she cried laughingly, "What's the big—" Her voice trailed away as he dragged her into the centre of the back garden just as the last ray of sun was extinguished.
Except for a narrow path and a circular patch of grass, the formerly barren space was now filled with an abundance of plants bearing umbrella-like clusters. The small, delicate flowers had satiny, maroon outer petals, tightly closed against the sun.
At dusk, they opened like a display of fireworks, with the pure-white inner petals glowing like tiny stars.
Nymphadora sighed. "They smell delicious, like vanilla."
"Supposedly, faeries named them 'Midnight Candy.' They are night phlox."
He could see her smile in the twilight. "The perfect name for the perfect flower. Thank you for doing this for me."
When she continued to admire the plants, he said, "I dodged giant spiders and centaurs to retrieve these from the Forbidden Forest. I think that should count as a quest as well as a grand gesture."
She put a hand on his arm. "What are you talking about?"
Aware that the low light diminished the effect, he sneered. "Isn't this what you've been waiting for? A grand gesture to demonstrate my love in courtly fashion?"
Her lips felt soft and warm against his. "No," she said. "I was waiting for you to say that you loved me, so I could feel free to tell you that I love you." Her voice dropped. "So I could show you how much I love you."
At once, he felt like a selfish boor, greedy to take everything she offered. "No," he said, "You don't have to—"
Nymphadora's kiss cut off his protest. Her lips were not hesitant. They were sure and persuasive. "You didn't read about the four stages of love," she said throatily.
The arms that had encircled her tightened. "Tell me."
Night had fallen, yet he could hear the smile in her voice. "How do you know I memorised them?"
"You're a Hufflepuff."
He could feel her chest shake as she laughed silently. "The first stage," she said, "consists of arousing hope. The second is offering kisses. The third stage is the enjoyment of intimate embraces, and the fourth is the abandonment of the entire person." She laid her head on his shoulder and whispered, "I want to enjoy your intimate embrace and abandon myself to you...with you...because I love you."
She offered a kind of intimacy he had never thought to experience—physical and emotional, intensely passionate and tender, unconditional and all consuming. For a moment, his Slytherin nature recoiled at accepting such a gift, but then he realised that she expected him to abandon himself in return, and found the idea profoundly satisfying on an emotional level.
Severus cradled her face with his hands, tilting her head for a kiss that began in the garden and ended in a bedroom, where unhurried pleasure became joy that burst through his veins and his soul like a cascade of night-blooming flowers.
In the moments before he drifted off to sleep, he murmured, "What was the fate of those courtly lovers?"
She lifted her head from his chest. "They pledged themselves to love in secret, remaining steadfast despite all obstacles."
He smiled at the certainty in Nymphadora's voice and the renewed passion in the kiss she pressed to his lips, thinking he was not so sleepy, after all.