4. Greenhouse

The crunch his boots made as they trudged through the freshly-laid snow would have been rather desolate, he knew; it was often so when he endeavored to take these winter strolls. On any given morning in the winter months, the only sound in the courtyard would be the sound of snow and his breathing, both amplified in the quiet dawn. The sharp, steady rhythm gave him a strange kind of peace unachievable by any other means.

And on any other day, this would have been the scene exactly; but, tried and tired from his late supper with the Malfoys, Severus had slept late that morning and the courtyard was not quite as barren and unpopulated as he would have liked, or as it would have been a few hours prior. Of the percentage of the student body that got up before eleven on Saturdays, about an eighth were present and milling around the yard, groups finding their own corners and niches, couples and trios taking strolls much as he was doing. And though seen by most as being a rather formidable figure, the morning had a strange effect upon their opinion of him, and he was not so feared or abhorred that passing students (albeit, all Slytherins) wouldn't acknowledge or greet him in a polite manner:

"Good morning, Professor Snape."

And he, always careful not to sound too jovial (as if he was in any danger of it), returned the greeting in its contracted form: "'Morning, Minter, Miss Bulstrode."

This contact with the students was not, on the whole, overly annoying and was probably doing wonders for his reputation; but, in order to accomplish the peace he required to think, he would have to seek more solitude. Thus, when he had walked the length of the courtyard, he stepped beyond it, continuing his stroll across the still-immaculate, white-blanketed grounds towards the greenhouses by the lake. And he knew that, now alone, he should admire his surroundings: the sound of his boots in the wet, slushy snow, the microscopic flecks of sunlight rebounding off of each unique snowflake.

But, as they did often lately when he found himself alone, his thoughts turned to her.

Softly, he sighed. The fact that Lucius had concluded nothing he himself had not failed to surprise him, though it had dampened his mood a bit, as did his Lucius' failure to make any comments concerning her voice. As the blonde aristocrat had all but professed, he knew a considerable amount about Pansy Parkinson's quality; somehow, he had overlooked that pleasurable weapon of hers.

It was unfair, though, to expect Lucius to understand the significance; Severus also knew that this fascination was uniquely his. Lucius Malfoy, whatever relationship he had with the girl, did not make a study of her; he couldn't know the eerie pleasure of hearing her in the halls, spreading that fake simper like butter, and then appearing in his classroom, receiving him with a voice whose every syllable was coated with decadence.

And again followed the tormenting question: Why? It taunted him assiduously because, unconsciously or otherwise, this alternate sensuous reproduction of ordinary sounds was reserved for the select and secretly favoured. It was her way of insinuating herself to them welcoming them into some dark, tempting web. In the beginning he had only watched, only been a relentless but unseen witness as she subtly seduced the rich, the handsome, the nuptially inclined. He had watched, observed, noted.

Then, lo' and behold, his enchanting specimen had turned on him.

And he still couldn't understand why.

The sound of snow under his boots faded in and out and he almost thought he heard another pair falling in step behind him, but he was too absorbed to lend it serious thought, for once again that question was teasing at him. Why? He was a far cry from her usual prey— actually, he fit none of the criteria. He was not especially handsome, his features strict, dark, and pensive; he had a small inheritance, but otherwise lived off a teacher's salary; he had been married once, but no one here knew about that. He was in a category all of his own.

It was this more than anything else that left him completely flabbergasted.

The sound of his own boots faded back in at full volume, and looking up he saw the school's greehouses looming before him, their windows perspiring, snow melting on the window ledges, the plants no more than shadowy shapes against the fogged glass.

He did not head for the main greenhouse directly, but to a clump of trees to the right of it, from where he could overlook the lake. During his walk, the hand in the coat pocket had instinctively curled around the half-finished pack of cigarettes he had started last night; to him, this marked an unconscious wish to smoke, which he was obliged to fulfill. His gaze skated across the lake, golden-orange in the sunlight, whilst he took a cigarette, slipped it to his mouth, and brought both his cupped hand and his lighter to it. He had just taken his first inhale when he heard the unmistakable and familiar crunch of boots behind him; strange, how even before she spoke, there was no doubt in his mind that it was her.

"Professor."

He let the sound flow into his ears, closed his eyes, and savoured it. Keeping aloof, he exhaled leisurely and addressed her without turning.

"Miss Parkinson."

Encouraged by his acknowledgment, however slight, of her presence, she walked up to him, unaware that his keen hearing was tracking carefully every move she made, that he had drawn and held his breath in anticipation of her next words.

He watched her with seeming unconcern as she made her careless footprints in the snow with black leather boots that certainly weren't part of her school uniform. Actually, nothing she was wearing coincided with dress-code. She was clad in her weekend clothes: jeans, a long coat, and a light-blue scarf around her neck to help frame her round face and accent the blue in her eyes. Wintery in herself, she looked perfectly at ease amidst the snow, and stood herself upon a small hill of the stuff three feet or so from him. He could feel her eyes upon him but kept his own on the lake, knowing that his silence would urge her to speak eventually; above all things, it was mystery that humanity found most intriguing and Severus knew how to play his part all too well.

Unable to hold it int any longer, Severus let out a slow breath that shook inaudibly and took his cigarette into his mouth again. Over the ember he saw her delicate nostrils flare slightly, reaching for the scent.

"Those are new."

Nothing quite so exquisite as simplicity, the three vowels rolling beautifully, stark in the crystalline stillness of the winter morning.

"A gift," he explained, "from our mutual friend, Lucius Malfoy."

"Oh."

He regretted the silence that followed; that unimpressive, single-syllable sentiment she left hanging in the glossy morning air didn't help ease him any either. In fact, it made him all the more agitated, building up subliminally as a wave of directionless burgundy rancor that slid around his lungs, killing him in a more casual manner than the cigarette's tar and toxins. And all of this occurred in freeze-frame seconds, under the plain of a smooth face, manifested only in his blood as he felt its pressure rise.

The gilded lake glittered sunrise-yellow and reflected in the cold glossy surface of his eyes. With his vision blinded by the dancing ripples, he could focus more clearly on his hearing: the rummaging of stiff hands going through pockets, cold-numbed fingers fumbling with a silver lighter and:—

"Actually, I don't think you'd consider Luc— Mr. Malfoy and I 'friends'."

He refused to miss a beat. "Oh? And why not, Miss Parkinson?"

A well-timed glanced sliding up to her face revealed a tiny tremor in her cheek— but not even a tremor, really. It was conscious, spurred not by an involuntary muscle spasm, but by thought or emotion or perhaps the way he said, "Miss Parkinson" that triggered what he was hesitant to call a wince.

"Well, Draco and I haven't been on the best of term lately. . . ."

"So your relationship with Lucius depends entirely on your relationship with his son?"

She blanched, and her voice followed suit with her face in becoming blank and curious. "Shouldn't it?"

"Probably."

The next few minutes passed in silence.

It was funny how, with his remarkably keen peripheral vision, he could observe without looking the hesitant manner in which she kept glancing past him where the phantasmal loomed, and back to him every thirty seconds or so. Finally, she gave a tiny, nearly invisible growl; she stubbed out her cigarette on the bark of a nearby tree, and stated the obvious:

"It's cold."

And he wasn't thick enough to miss the suggestion there either.

"You're perfectly right."

He copied her, taking a final drag before flicking the spent toxic bud into the snow.

She didn't wait to make sure he was following her, b ut turned heel all the same, letting her boots plow a distinct path in the sun-kissed water-crystals, leaving a trail for him to follow. She walked up to the greenhouse doors, grabbed the metal handle in her gloved hand and pulled it open; she held it until Severus' hand appeared beside hers to hand before removing her own and stepping inside.

Dutifully, he followed.


Later, lying naked in bed, he found that most of what happened after that was a blur of sensations. He remembered the sudden change in climate, from dry, cold air to the warm, humid atmosphere of the greenhouse, how he instantly began to sweat inside his long coat. He remembered the smell of plants, soil and chlorophyll leaves, pollen and petals, and the stinging musky scent of a female very close to him. More pearls of banter— and then, like an explosion, his lips being assaulted in such a way that made him ache through his firm apathy; and in turn, this ache made him take her wrists and hold t hem captive, claiming his dominance and pushing her down.

They made love once there in the greenhouse, sweating madly, and then twice more once they returned to the castle to hole up in his private quarters. Her verve was astounding and her hunger engulfed and very nearly eclipsed his own; and all the while, her breathless voice was in his ear calling his name so sweetly, so deliciously. When she climaxed, her scream was pure and euphonic, ambrosia to his ears.

Three bloody times.

Naughtily, he felt his lip curl as his mind surfaced with brief, torrid flashes of intimacy; theirs had left a sultry smell in the room, one that (sadly) he had almost forgotten, one that he hoped couldn't be aired out any time soon.

Beside him there was a soft groan, and Pansy shifted in her sleep, turning in the bed so that her back was facing him, face turned upwards. He marveled at the expression on her features, the utter tranquility, and wondered how long it had been since he was presented with the opportunity to watch someone sleep. She was a peculiar Beauty, a severe Briar Rose; her brow was raised slightly with her superior slumber, lips set in a cruel pout; a lock of short, black, page-boy hair curled upwards into the corner of her mouth and he reached over delicately to brush it away. His hand trailed downwards to her jaw, her neck, her shoulder. His fingers touched upon a protruding milky white shoulder blade, and, as he pushed the green coverlet away, to trace unfathomable figures in the small of her back. She shivered under his touch, but did not wake.

He paused, black eyes fixated on her downy flesh. What was to be accomplished by such caressing? Was it worship? Possibly so, though he was loathe to admit it. He had never had the sense to worship his women before; considering the unstable and technically illegal state of their affair (god, how he hated that word), there seemed to be no sense in starting now.

But he continued, despite these thoughts.

A long finger stroked the curve of bone. It was odd; in his vainest thoughts, he presumed that his fascinations would cease in sync with the coming of her silence, as in sleep. But now, having seen for himself everything, he could no longer pretend that her voice was her only endearing quality; he had found many during his impassioned explorations of her body, some of which had the potential to measure up to that first intrigue— that is, if she was willing to let him further explore. . . .

Abruptly, a scowl lit his face, causing him to withdraw his hand, fingers recoiling back into the cavern of his palm. And yes, he had to think, to admit how presumptuous it was of him to think that she would, to even venture towards her considering it.

Even still, as he carefully pulled her short hair from her throat, revealing the warm crook of her neck, his scowl smoothed itself out. His features took on a reflective tone as he deftly reached over her sleeping form and plucked the package of cigarettes from the nightstand, thoughts turning from the caustic to the stark reality of the situation.

He had, he realized, as he fingered the box, plenty of reason to suspect she'd be back. More than that— he could easily place great confidence in the fact that this would happen again and again and again.

Because he had figured it out.

He had figured out what made Pansy Parkinson tick.

And these were the facts:

He was thirty-six. He had none of the charm and ease that most of her older conquests did. He was wealthy by no means and, while strikingly enigmatic, hardly a textbook definition of handsome. He did not have a tittering wife or a faux-fanciful life he wished to escape from. He was nothing like Rudolphus or Lucius. No. But he was still everything the now-sleeping girl desired.

It wasn't wealth that she found interesting. Lucius had been closer when he'd mentioned marriage— though extramarital liaisons themselves weren't the appeal. However, the held a certain charm, one that also belonged to older men. Because, beyond the money, beyond the handsome looks, beyond the sly personalities that women so often looked for lay her primary interest: illegality.

More specifically: unattainability.

Pansy Parkinson most favored those who were unavailable to her.

And he . . . he was a perfect candidate.

He was jaded. He was alone but not lonely. He lived a harsh, repetitive existence, anticipating an early death with a twisted kind of hope. He went out of his way to make himself disliked and hated and feared. He was a cynic and closet sensualist. He was a spy and a pessimist, an antagonist and a teacher— her teacher. He was her Head of House, her guardian. And he was cold and humanly evil, tainted and emotionally closed off. He was the absolute essence of unavailability.

And for all these reasons, he knew his bed would be kept warm.


A/N: Yay. There you have it. Please R&R. I really like this piece (i dunno why; it's almost pedophilic)