Chapter 21

It had somewhat slipped her mind about Hogsmeade. He'd asked her to go with him (told her to, really) and she'd said she would. She never told him any different.

Well, it was Saturday. It was early on Saturday. Lucinda had woken just before 5am. Her sleep was ripped violently away from her in a horrifying dream. Sitting up with a breathy gasp, she'd nearly cried out, but it was almost impossible to make much of a sound with her voice anyway. Her nightmare had taken her words completely. The more she thought of it, however, the less and less she could remember. The darkness in the room pressed in around her; she could hear the other three girls breathing in their beds and her dream was pulling back and back into her pillow. The edges of it lingered there; fuzzy and crawling a bit, but it was nothing more than a prickling at the back of her neck now and a vision of wooly arms wrapping around her head, suffocating her.

Lucinda shivered and wiped the sweat from under her chin.

There was no one in the common room. She wasn't surprised, but it still disappointed her slightly when she'd walked down there a few minutes later. She wanted someone to talk to. She needed to be pulled all of the way out of her horrible nightmare. She couldn't remember it, but it was sitting there on her shoulders, heavy and sinking its claws deeper into her flesh. She passed the fireplace, glancing at it as she went. The coals were nearly out. Maybe that's why it was so cold in there… Lucinda wrapped her arms around herself and felt with her fingers the sweater she'd put on. Should she put a coat on? No, that would be ridiculous. A jumper was enough. She just needed something hot to eat. She continued her journey out of the common room and through the portrait hole.

She hadn't been thinking clearly, that was evident. If she had, she would have remembered that she never took her sucrosulin. It wouldn't have been that big of a deal just yet, but the day before she had skipped lunch and supper. She was, in a word, starving. Not just physically, but mentally, as well. The lack of glucose in her blood was already starting to eat away at her brain cells. That was probably why it was so difficult to remember her nightmare or remember to do regular things. At least she was smart enough to head to the Great Hall for breakfast. Would it be ready yet? Was she going to have to wait? She thought she might collapse already and she was only one corridor away from Gryffindor Tower.

The halls were dark and felt colder the longer she trudged on. Some of the portraits were waking and said good morning to her, but all she could do was nod at them.

She got all of the way down to the last turn before the main staircase and was stopped in her tracks. She heard a sudden explosion to her right. She turned and looked but saw nothing except a boy's lavatory door; seconds later, water began to stream out from under it. Lucinda stumbled to the puddle, not even bothering to keep from stepping in it. She splashed ahead and then straight through the door, intent on finding out what just happened. She wasn't in her right mind; otherwise, she might've hesitated at least a little.

Upon entering the flooded bathroom, Lucinda heard a wondrous cackling. Seeing no one in there, her eyes shifted skywards. There she saw what was unmistakably the school's poltergeist she'd heard so much about: Peeves. He was swooping around the room on his back with his hands behind his head, laughing gleefully like a child. Lucinda stumbled further into the room, dragging her feet and sloshing through the water. She leaned her back against the porcelain and felt her eyes flutter closed. Peeves let out another cackle and then a fresh burst of water came flooding towards her. He'd blown up another toilet and seemed so happy about it that Lucinda also felt happy for him (crazily happy for him). She let out a soft, amused laugh and looked up at him.

Peeves spun around in the air and laid eyes upon the girl. He looked startled and then he looked evilly delighted.

"What is this?" He crooned wickedly. "Little girly want a swirly? Shouldn't be in the gents' potty room, naughty girly with hair so curly!"

Lucinda laughed again. What had happened to her mind? That's right, it was being eaten away by fatigue.

"Is this amusing to you, as well, little girly?" he questioned, doing a somersault in the air and then "landing" a few inches in front of her.

"Yes," she nodded with her head against the wall. Her eyes stared at him, half-lidded, blurring in and out. "You are very funny, Sir Peeves."

The little man grinned as wide as his stretched face allowed. "Oh-h-h I like that name!" he cried in delight. "No one's called me 'SIR' before! Call me that from now on. Everyone call me that! Bwaha!"

In her mind, Lucinda put her hand up to her mouth to stifle another laugh, but in reality she simply stared at the floating man with a lazy smile. He stared back at her peculiarly.

"Has little girly been nipping on some crème sherry?" He whispered with wide eyes and his wider smile.

Lucinda's own smile faded and she shook her head. "Jus' tired," she replied and turned to head back out of the flooded bathroom. That's right, she was trying to go and get some food. "Jus' wan'ned say hi—" she called over her shoulder (slurred over her shoulder).

"HMMM!" Peeves hummed and swooped back in front of her again. "I think you are lying." He cackled and spun around her in circles. "You have naughty, little, lying eyes."

Lucinda giggled and continued sloshing through the water. "I do not…" she mumbled, bracing herself with a hand against the cold, tiled wall.

"Lying—you're lying!" he cried in merriment and then glided backwards while he faced her. "Should I go and get Snapey? He'll be delighted to know that his little pet is behaving badly while he isn't around—" Peeves wagged his translucent eyebrows at her and stuck his tongue between his teeth for a moment. "—I heard him muttering in his classroom yesterday, while he thought he was alone, you know."

Lucinda's ears perked up and she stopped wading through the rushing water. "What?" was all she could manage, though her eyes stayed slightly more focused on his now.

"Oh-h-h—Not telling! Not telling!" he teased and plugged up his ears comically. "I'm not telling. I am not telling and that's final—oh, alright, I'll tell! He said you skipped his class, so, you are a naughty Gryffindor after all—" He then grabbed her jaw with one hand and squeezed, so that her lips puckered out and she resembled a chipmunk. That made him laugh harder than ever. He stopped soon, though, because Lucinda's eyes closed again and this time they did not open. They were directly in the middle of the doorway, about to pass through it, when her face drooped into his hand, pressing her cheeks up in a bizarre way.

Peeves looked at the hand he still had clasped on her face and shook it from side to side ("Hey, curly girly, wake up!"), but Lucinda continued to slump sideways into the door frame. "Helloooo!" he yelled into her face, the humor slowly starting to ebb away from his gleeful voice. "Did the crème sherry send you to another dimension—hellooooo!" Peeves suddenly let go of her with a huff, tired of the non-responses he was getting. She crumpled on the ground like a lifeless doll and water started soaking into her sweater instantly. Peeves looked down at her, thinking, thinking, thinking… and then he thought possibly something might be wrong; maybe just a little bit. So, of course, he panicked.

"DEAD STUDENT! DEAD STUDENT IN THE BOYS POTTY ROOM!" He bellowed, flying through the air and heading for the Great Hall. "MURDERED MURDERED MURDERED! I DIDN'T DO IT! THE GIRL HAS BEEN MURDERED! COME QUICK, COME QUICK!"


It was 5 in the morning. Severus didn't sleep. Not even a little bit. He didn't expect her to speak to him or even look at him, but skip his class; on purpose? That would have been the logical thing to be upset over. The more he thought about it, however, the more he knew what was bothering him more than anything. She hadn't shown up in the Great Hall for lunch after she left him; still not that surprising, but a little upsetting. When she didn't arrive for dinner, he was going to send Miss Borealis with food for her, but he couldn't get up the nerve for it. Her friend would be suspicious. She'd ask questions. Or maybe she wouldn't… It was too late, anyway, because he never approached the girl. Now he was regretting it. He should have done it, anyway; at least for her safety. Her sugar would be extremely low by now. He hoped she at least had something in her room for her to eat; some emergency items, extra strength doses of sucrosulin, etc… He also hoped she remembered to take it…

His hopeful mind continued down to the Great Hall through the still-dark corridors. He would get there early and wait, to make sure he didn't miss her sneaking in. He would wait right at the entrance doors until she showed up. If breakfast ticked by for any longer than fifteen minutes and she still wasn't down there, he would go look for her. All of her stupid little friends had no idea of her condition and they wouldn't even question her behavior. They wouldn't worry too much if she said she wasn't hungry or just wanted to lie in bed a little longer. They'd leave her. They would leave her! She should have told at least one of them about her illness. All of this secrecy was idiotic.

Snape leaned his back against the wall and listened to the soft moaning of the front doors as a sharp wind gusted against them on the other side. He felt the draft slightly and caught the scent of pines on it. That made him feel calmer, yet saddened at the same time. Winter was coming. It would be there before he knew it. The potions professor closed his eyes and continued to wait.

A few minutes went by and then the sound of slow, tiny footsteps on the marble stairs roused him from his pre-meditation. He blinked and looked to the sound, expecting to see Lucinda descending down toward him, but it was just a Slytherin Prefect (thankfully not Samael). The girl looked exhausted. She stumbled down the stairs and then headed straight for the door to the dungeons. When she saw him, she stopped with her fingertips on the handle.

"Oh, professor," she said sleepily. "I just finished my shift, but I heard Peeves just around the corner up there—" she pointed a thumb behind her, up the stairs where she'd just come. "—and it sounded like he was tearing apart the boy's bathroom… Is it okay if someone else takes care of this one? He doesn't listen to us students, anyway…"

Snape rolled his eyes at her. "I'm busy right now, Miss Terry. Go find The Bloody Baron and ask him to do it."

The girl frowned. "But I don't know where he is… and I'm so tired— Can't I just go to bed? It's 5 in the morning, professor, I'm gonna die from lack of slee—"

"Shut up already and go then!" Snape spat and the girl didn't waste any more time and left. The irritated man headed past the door she'd just went through and then started jumping up the steps two at a time, hands in his robe pockets. Then he continued down the hall at a brisk pace, heavily intent on tearing Peeves a new one. Just as luck would have it, The Bloody Baron came around the corner at the same exact moment, drifting hauntingly along the corridor. Snape waved a hand at him.

"Glad I caught you," he said and motioned for him to follow. "Peeves is having a fit again. Please come and rein him in."

The Bloody Baron followed silently, hollow eyes staring out ahead of him. They saw the water spreading across the stone floor of the corridor before they saw the bathroom itself. A few seconds later and they heard the unmistakable crooning of Peeves.

"—send you to another dimension— hellooooo!"

Well, this was strange. Peeves was talking to someone. What was more, he seemed to be shaking that someone's face. Before he even saw her, Snape felt that it was her. He didn't know why, but it was something deep in his gut and it clenched in a sickening way when he suddenly saw the girl fall to the ground with a SPLASH!

Snape sprinted forward.

"DEAD STUDENT! DEAD STUDENT IN THE BOYS POTTY ROOM! MURDERED MURDERED MURDERED!"

The professor's mind did a complete 360 spin around the hall and then landed back on the girl's limp form. She couldn't really be dead. No way. There was no way. He ran and The Baron stayed right there with him, gliding toward the poltergeist that was now flying towards them in a hysterical panic.

"I DIDN'T DO IT! THE GIRL HAS BEEN MURDERED! COME QUICK, COME QUICK!"

"Shut him up!" Snape growled.

The Baron suddenly shot at Peeves with breakneck speed and clamped a blood-soiled hand over his mouth. The little, floating man froze and stared with terrified eyes at the hollow hues inches from his own. He let out a muffled whimper and then The Bloody Baron slowly pulled him down the hall and out of sight, his hand still in place over the poltergeist's quivering mouth.

Snape was by Lucinda's side less than a second later. He had to check first. Was she alive? He touched her shoulder and shook her a little harder than he really needed to in his own slight panic.

"Mm…" she barely choked out and then fell silent again.

That was enough for him. He gathered her up in his arms and hurried into the flooded bathroom, locking the door behind him. Then he simply sunk to his knees with her. Water spewed up high and showered down on them. Thankfully the water was clear, because this could have been much worse than it already was…

He worked very quickly and with fluidity. He'd worry about the bathroom later; right now he just needed to get some medicine in her… He first shed his outer robes, because they were weighing him down and getting in the way of everything he tried to do. Then he pulled Lucinda up against him, between his legs and let her back lay against his chest; he leaned his own back against the porcelain wall.

"Stay with me, Lucinda…" he mumbled in her ear, as he fumbled in his pocket for the needle and sucrosulin dose he kept there. He found it quickly and wasted no time in sticking her with it. Thank Merlin the door was locked. No one would understand why he needed to pull her wet pants partway down to inject her in the hip rather than the arm. They would think the worst. He already suspected that Albus was suspicious of him in some way. What a thing then to see him with the girl between his legs and him trying to pull her pants down? It would be the end of his life at Hogwarts. He couldn't use her arm, though. It was too dangerous. She was too thin, too fragile… Once the needle had emptied into her bloodstream completely, he placed it back into his pocket.

A moment passed and the color came back to Lucinda's face. Her lips were becoming less blue. She sighed and breathed deeply and evenly. Snape, unable to resist, wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her tightly against him. He leaned his head down and rested his forehead against the back of her neck where her hair clung to her skin and blew out a long, slow, shaky breath. Another moment passed and he felt fingertips graze his clenched knuckles.

"Professor..?" she whispered.

Snape released her and made to scoot back, but he was already against the wall and as far as he could go. "I'm sorry," he said gently. "I cannot move back any further. I'll have to move you if you want to be seated in a different manner."

The girl didn't say anything for a few long minutes. Her back was rigid and she shivered slightly, but she did not move. "I forgot to take my sucrosulin," she finally said and then turned her body some so that her back was now against his outstretched leg. She glanced sideways at him. "You had to save me again…"

"Yes," he said, teeth gritting down slightly. "You're making me very doubtful of whether or not you are still just a child who cannot take care of herself."

Lucinda smiled meekly and shrugged her slumped shoulders. "Guess so…"

Snape sighed agitatedly. "What, you agree? Come on, you need to eat some food." He braced his hands behind him on the wall and pushed up, but Lucinda slowly grabbed the front of his shirt and he stayed still.

"Professor, I…" she started and looked up at him.

He was already halfway raised up the wall. At the look on her face, he lowered back down with a soft plish in the water. "We can talk later," he said, softening his voice as he looked at her saddened expression. "I don't want to lose you now. You're not clear of danger yet. I'm sure you haven't eaten for nearly 24 hours… Besides, we're both going to get sick sitting here in this freezing water. I need to dry us off—"

"I understand," she cut in, nodding encouragingly. "Really, I do, but I just have to tell you, professor Snape…"

Snape felt the familiar jolt in his stomach and had to look away from her.

"I'm sorry… about yesterday," but it was he who said it, not her, "And about now, as well. I can't seem to stay a dignified man in your presence. I find myself childishly needing some type of physical contact with you, as much for my benefit, as yours."

"Severus…" She said quietly and he turned his gaze back to her again, unable to resist when she spoke his name. "I am the childish one. I overreacted and I am sorry. Please forgive me and please be my friend again."

The man tutted and leaned his head back, staring at her through half-closed eyes. "You're crazy if you think I would go through the embarrassment of pleading with you to then deny you as my companion."

Lucinda visibly blushed and then grimaced. "I guess I'm just so used to being the pursuer in this… friendship."

Snape paused and then put a hand to his forehead to wipe away the droplets of water there. "It only seems that way," he replied quietly. "Come on, let's go. I need to clean this place up before it draws any attention."


Snape was able to dry the two of them with a heating charm in combination with a wind charm in a matter of seconds. The bathroom took a little more effort, but with Lucinda's help (even though he'd told her to save her strength), they had the room back to normal in only a few minutes. It didn't even seem to take much effort on the girl's part. He'd noticed her strange ability with water before… He pondered on asking her about it soon, while they walked down the steps to the Great Hall.

She had to keep her hand hooked through one of his arms for support, but she knew once she sat down and ate something she wouldn't need any more help. She just needed to make it to her seat…

Snape looked down at her. He didn't even bother to steal a glance out of the corner of his eye. He stared at her, head turned fully to the side as they walked.

"What is it?" Lucinda mumbled sheepishly.

He looked at her for a beat longer and then turned his head away again. "It angers me…" he began and unconsciously clenched the arm he was holding out for her to lean on for support (Lucinda felt the muscle under her palm flex and she had to swallow very hard to ignore it). "It angers me that you would jeopardize your very health… just to avoid seeing me."

"Oh, Severus, I didn't mean to—"

A warm hand covered her mouth firmly. "Please…" Snape said and spoke quietly into her ear. "Do not use that name now. Anyone could hear you."

Lucinda nodded and he let go of her. They continued around the corner and then entered the Great Hall. Dawn was not yet there. A quick look at the ceiling showed a darkened violet sky with little flecks of stars still glimmering. Snape waved a hand over their heads and the gigantic room was illuminated by a sudden rush of lit torches. Lucinda felt another surge course through her stomach at being witness to his strength. She didn't really get to see him in action when it came to his magic. She had a feeling he was a lot stronger than he looked…

The hall was empty. Not even Dumbledore was up yet. Lucinda looked around as they walked. It was just them and the ghosts. Not another soul was around. It was actually a bit eerie.

So it is still too early for breakfast… She thought to herself.

They were already halfway across the room when Lucinda noticed that they'd passed her table.

"Professor—" she whispered, twisting around to look behind her. "You passed up Gryffindor. I really need to sit d—"

"There's no point in you sitting down there alone," he replied lazily. "You may join me at the staff table until the other staff members begin to arrive."

"I really don't like this—" she said quickly, turning around once again. Her legs gave out the moment she let go of her professor and he caught her before she hit the ground.

"Stop being stubborn!" he snapped and then scooped her up cradle-style, carrying her the rest of the way. If she'd had all of her strength, she might have fought him on it.. Or maybe she still would have let him. She wasn't positive. Though, she did whisper a quick, "This is embarrassing…" into his ear before he set her feet back down on the floor at the end of the staff table. She sat in the chair that was closest to her and Snape took the one next to her. They were quiet at first. Several silent moments slipped by and, although they were laced with tension, they were pleasant. Lucinda was just about to ask if there was some way to get something to eat before breakfast officially started when her plate suddenly filled with two pancakes, a mound of eggs, thick slices of sausages and two goblets in front of her filled with orange juice. She didn't even question it. She started eating immediately, aware that the man at her side didn't take his eyes off of her the entire time.

After one whole pancake was gone, half the eggs and bacon eaten and one large drink of orange juice later, Lucinda breathed a few calming breaths, wiped her mouth with her napkin and finally turned to meet her professor's gaze. He did not falter.

"Why are you staring at me?"

"You're not going to do this again," he said in a low voice.

Lucinda shuddered involuntarily. "It isn't that I meant to—"

"I don't just mean about the sucrosulin," he continued, voice descending still into a state of caution. "I'm talking about the eating habits… among other things."

"What is that supposed to mean—"

Snape put a finger to his lips. "Shut up," he whispered. "I don't care if I hurt your feelings if I know you'll be safe… even if it means making you hate me every day."

She was going to speak again, but he would have told her to shut up, regardless. She continued to eat and he continued to stare.

"I'm only watching you to make sure you eat," he said after a while and settled back into his chair, finally taking his eyes off of her face. "You've been frightening me lately… and that is incredibly significant coming from me."

Lucinda swallowed her last bite of pancake and said even more quietly, "I know."

"To which part?"

The girl took a long gulp from her juice and wiped her mouth again. "The 'coming from you' part," she replied with a long side-glance. "You haven't really been one to open up since I've met you… and you also don't strike me as someone who would be afraid of anything."

Severus leaned forward and rested his elbows on the table. The fake sky above them was beginning to lighten. It was changing to smoky lavender now. "You're right," he spoke to the near empty room, eyes still gazing skyward. "I am not afraid of much of anything…"

Lucinda didn't pick her fork up again. She watched her professor's profile in the fuzzy glow of early morning and felt herself smiling. "What are you afraid of?" she asked, the amusement not completely hidden from her voice.

The man said nothing. He turned a hardened stare on her and she cringed on the inside. "I'm afraid of walking into a room that I expect you to be in… and you're not in it."

It sounded almost childish, but Lucinda heard the words for what they were. He was pissed about her skipping his class; hurt even. Was it possible for Professor Snape to be hurt by such a thing? He was holding her gaze too intensely and eventually she had to look away. "Why would you be afraid of that?" she asked, uncomfortably.

He waited for her to look at him again. When she didn't, he turned to stare ahead at the rows of student tables below them. They would be filling up in the next hour. They would need to continue this conversation later, as well…

"Where did I find you this morning, Miss Morgan?" he asked sharply.

Lucinda looked at him in surprise. "Is there a reason you're calling me by my surname, professor?" She didn't mean to sound so bitter. It was one thing calling him by his first name, but he had almost always called her 'Lucinda'. She realized she didn't like it when he called her by her last name. That usually meant that he was angry with her…

Oh.

"You didn't answer the question, Miss Morgan," he said in the same sharp tone.

Lucinda pushed her plate away from her a little and then folded her arms across the top of the table. "I'm sorry," she replied with a shrug. "I was distracted last night. I didn't eat. I was on my way to do that this morning."

"This early?"

"Well, I hadn't meant to get up this early," she shrugged again. "I just woke up because… because…" Her mind drifted to that place it hadn't been able to find earlier; that locked away memory that stayed hidden while she was hungry and disoriented. Now it came back to her. She felt the fear and the sweat creep up her chair and tickle its way along her spine and around her throat, where it grasped her with a scratchy palm.

"Lucinda what's wrong?" Snape's voice cut through her memory like a wall of fire and she shook herself.

"I'm sorry—" she wiped her forehead (which had already begun to perspire) and took another sip of juice. "I just remembered why I was up so early. I'd had a nightmare. It… it was one of the worst ones I've had since I was a kid. I was somewhere really dark… cold… There was something else there with me and it was trying to hurt me. I remember smelling something awful… The most awful thing you could imagine."

Snape watched her cautiously. He didn't like the look on her face or the shudder in her breath.

"It wasn't like dirty garbage or anything rotting, like you would imagine a horrible smell to be…" she continued, suddenly unable to eat anything else (Snape was thankful she'd eaten nearly everything on her plate, though). "It was fouler—like in a more… inappropriate way. I don't know how else to describe it. It was bad. It was ugly and sickening. It was suffocating and smoldering and wrong…"

"Hey." Snape put a hand under her chin and made her look at him. "Calm down, Gryffindor Girl…" he said softly and drug a thumb across her bottom lip like he had done before. "It was a dream and nothing more. It can't hurt you now."

Lucinda closed her eyes in relief at his touch. She shouldn't allow herself to succumb to it, but it was nearly impossible when he did a complete 180 and turned into such a concerned, tender-hearted man.

"Thank you again for saving me," she replied, eyes still closed, soaking up every moment that his hand was on her face. Too soon he let go of her.

"Don't thank me again and I mean it," he said, sounding slightly irritated. "You can thank me by never putting me in that situation again."

"I know," she nodded and opened her eyes to look at him from under her lashes. "I'm glad it's you who does it, though… For some reason I'm not ashamed of my weakness in front of you. If it was anyone else… I'd probably die before I let them find out."

"That is exactly your problem!" he snapped. He had been swayed by the loving look she was giving him, but the words—the words! There were those foolish words again. How could someone so smart be so damn stupid?! "You're an idiot, you know that?" He really meant to keep that last part to himself. He was trying to stay on her good side, but what she said just… REALLY PISSED HIM OFF.

"Why are you being so mean?" she asked incredulously. "Are you bipolar or what? One minute you're stroking my god damn face in affection and the next you're calling me an idiot! And you wonder why I need reassurance that you still want to be my friend! No one—not even your best student, which is me, by the way—could ever figure you out!"

While he was still shocked to silence, Lucinda stood up from the table and walked around it before he had a chance to stop her. She was already halfway across the room (her strength obviously back) when Snape finally composed himself and bolted after her.

She heard his feet thundering behind her and she felt a flurry to take off running. It's kind of an instinct when you feel something running up behind you; you want to get away! So, out of reflex, Lucinda sprinted off to the side of the room and flew behind one of the tables, spinning around to face her attacker.

Snape slammed his palms down on the table top between them and caught his breath. "Why…" he gasped. "Why the hell are you running from me?!"

"I didn't mean to!" she snapped. "But I'm mad now, so please leave me alone!"

"Oh god damn it, little girl, come here!"

"No!" she shook her head like a real little girl. "Not until you learn to be consistent with how you treat me!"

"I am consistent!" he yelled. "I consistently tell you when you're being an idiot and I consistently show you affection when it's warranted!"

Lucinda stared at him, her jaw set and her eyes nearly bugging out with rage. "You know what?" she said with a shake in her voice. "You told me before that I shouldn't be friends with you because you're a teacher… But that was completely beside the point. I shouldn't be friends with you because you are an asshole!" She was screaming in her head to shut up even as her mouth was speaking, but nothing could have stopped her. Maybe it really just needed to be said, especially by her. Either way, it definitely had an impact on him, because he suddenly launched himself over the table to get to her.

Lucinda squealed and jumped back, but he already had his hands gripped around her upper arms. Before she could even do anything, he backed her into the stone wall. "Why would you say that to me?" he said through clenched teeth and shook her slightly.

"Why else?" she whispered, refusing to let him scare her. "It's true, isn't it? Does it upset you to hear me say it?" She let the last part come out with the anger that she felt.

Snape squeezed harder on her arms and stared into her face. "Yes," he finally said with obvious difficulty.

Lucinda's face softened. "And yet you won't change?" she whispered.

Snape held her gaze and eventually trailed his eyes down to her mouth and stared at her lips. He was certain she wasn't meaning to breathe so heavily, but she was. He tried to look back up to her eyes, but he couldn't. All he could think about was the flesh under his fingers and the breath that was spreading over his own lips. He felt his insides twisting uncontrollably and fought to keep his composure.

"Severus…?" she whispered.

The man groaned and shut his eyes. Then he leaned forward, closing the distance between them, and rested his forehead against hers. He heard her intake of breath, but tried to ignore it. Every little sound she made was just fueling his fire and he had to make it stop. He couldn't succumb to his feelings, as he knew now exactly how he really felt about her. The fighting also made it worse. He shamefully liked it when she yelled at him and he had to admit (at least to himself) that sometimes he pushed her into it; to get angry with him, call him names, try to strike him…

"Um…" she said, though she didn't try to struggle away from him. "Severus, are you okay—"

One of his hands instantly covered her mouth. Their noses were touching and at that moment he remembered the feeling of her lips on his. It was agony. He was going to do it. He was going to ruin everything. He already knew he was going to try to kiss her if he didn't get away from her in the next five seconds. And she wouldn't understand. She'd freak. She would run from him yet again and this time she wouldn't be back.

Then there were footsteps outside in the entrance hall and he was forced to break the spell he was being smothered by.

Snape tore away from her in a split second and not a moment later, he was already behind the staff table; Lucinda was left panting slightly, still on the wall. She'd heard the footsteps, too, but she didn't have a chance to readjust herself. She stared as the person came into the Great Hall.

"There you are," said Aurora.

Lucinda's heart skipped. She did not glance over at the staff table and hoped that her friend wouldn't either. It was inevitable, though. Aurora did look at the staff table, just as Snape was sitting at his place. The girl looked back at the other against the wall, her eyes closing to a skeptical sliver. "Lucy…" she said slowly. "What's going on here?"

x-x-x

A/N: UGH ISN'T THIS FUGGIN GREAT? I am a fan of suspense, cliff-hangers and unspoken, smoldering feelings of desire. Can't you tell? So sorry for the wait on this one! Life has been crazy. Don't I always say that? I probably should… Truth is life isn't that crazy. I just can't do two things at once and lately I've been trying to do several things at once. Alas, I am caught up in my own affairs and neglect my fanfiction because of it. Shame on me! And shame on you guys for reading this crap! Just kidding. Mostly… I hope you enjoyed this chapter and I honestly am sorry that it isn't any better than this. If I wrote it to perfection (the way I want to), I would only get a chapter up once every… five years?! Srsly tho. If you like this, I love you. If you hate this, I love you, but might poison you like a desperate housewife. Ta-ta for now~!