Warnings: Student-teacher, sort of, but not really.
Author's Notes: Written for the first ever snuna_exchange at LiveJournal for venturous1, who prompted, "Luna sees thru Severus' duplicity while he is headmaster, and he has to convince her he is truly Voldemort's minion. She persists, and he plans to Obliviate her, but something goes awry with the spell."
Disclaimer: © 2009 Mundungus42. All rights reserved. This work may not be archived, reproduced, or distributed in any format without prior written permission from the author. This is an amateur non-profit work, and is not intended to infringe on copyrights held by JKR or any other lawful holder. Permission may be obtained by e-mailing the author at mundungus42 at yahoo dot com
Since the chair was too tall for her feet to touch the floor of the headmaster's office, Luna Lovegood passed the time by swinging her feet to and fro and noting the changes to the room since her last visit. The manacles were new, as was the rack, whose leather restraints gleamed with fresh oil. Well, they weren't new, exactly. Luna herself had caused one of the burn marks on the rack while playing Exploding Snap with Argus Filch in more carefree times, and she suspected that close examination of the manacles would reveal the former caretaker's monogram.
Obviously, Headmaster Snape was doing everything he could to make his office more intimidating. It really was a shame that his efforts included putting dark velvet curtains over the windows. They certainly gave the room an air of gloom and oppression, but they were also perfect nesting sites for Banded Bingles, whose dander made most witches and wizards break out in green spots, and green spots would ruin the whole effect he was striving for.
However, it looked as if spots were the least of the Headmaster's worries. He didn't look at all well. He was still frowning at the parchment she'd been instructed to give him, which afforded her the opportunity to note the dark circles beneath his eyes and the deepening creases between his eyebrows. He made a quiet noise in the back of his throat, closed his eyes, and pinched the bridge of his nose in his fingers. His headache must have been a particularly bad one if he didn't bother to hide it from her.
Luna's eyes instinctively sought the porcelain dish of sherbet lemons that Dumbledore always kept for sharing with students and visitors, and she had to remind herself that it was no longer there. That was the most unfortunate change Headmaster Snape had made to the office, but she supposed he had other ways of getting students to talk. She took a deep breath through her nose — to delay the effect of any aerosol potions that might be present in the office — and waited for the headmaster to speak.
Presently, he modified his grimace of pain into a scowl appropriate to lecturing a wayward student. "I believe you know why you are here, Miss Lovegood."
"Of course I do, headmaster," she said softly, in an attempt to keep his headache from getting worse. "Do you?"
"Professor Carrow says you were insolent in her class."
"Oh, yes," said Luna. "I told her that if she believed those awful things about Muggles, then she had fewer brains than a Cave-dwelling Carpanthula. But that's not really important."
"On the contrary, Miss Lovegood. Clearly, you fail to grasp the severity of your situation," he said sharply. "This is the third time you have been sent to my office in less than a month, and your behavior has grown increasingly reckless. This cannot continue, Lovegood."
"It won't, sir," she assured him. "I only made a scene in class today because I needed to talk with you."
"You might have simply made an appointment," he said, exasperated.
"You wouldn't have seen me. I don't mind, really. I know how important it is for it to look like you're treating us harshly, sir. But this really was the least suspicious way for me to help you."
The fingers that had been massaging the skin over his sinuses stilled. "I'm afraid I don't take your meaning, Miss Lovegood."
"Oh, is the headache affecting your hearing, too? Then you really must try the gurdyroot juice I recommended last time, I don't think they'd be nearly as severe."
"Lovegood," he said, leaning over his desk to look her squarely in the eye, "I believe you are laboring under a delusion. Several, in fact."
"I don't think so, sir. I considered all possibilities, and this is the only one I couldn't eliminate."
The corners of his mouth turned downward in disapproval. "What are you blithering about?"
"It's as plain as the nose on your face," she replied. "You've been on Dumbledore's side all along, and I can help you."
Snape leapt from his seat as if stung. "How dare you!" he snarled. "How dare you question my loyalty to the Dark Lord!"
"I'm not questioning it at all. I'm saying it's as mythical as the Ironbelly Dragon. And you don't need to shout. It's going to make your headache worse."
"The Ironbelly isn't—" he began angrily, but he stopped himself and took a deep breath. "This is not a game, Miss Lovegood. Professor Carrow is insisting that you be stripped naked in front of the entire school and whipped as an example to all. What do you say to that?"
"That sounds about right," said Luna, nodding. "When I dumped my inkwell on Crabbe, the other Professor Carrow wanted to brand me with a hot iron. You gave me detention with Filch. That was when I first wondered."
His expression darkened. "I will not have my students mutilated."
"Exactly!" she exclaimed. "We are your students!"
Snape looked at her as if he'd swallowed a pint of stinksap. "If you cannot make sense, then do not speak at all."
"Sorry, sir. What I meant is that we're not insects to you, or dogs to kick. We're people to you in a way that we couldn't be to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. You never stopped being responsible for us."
"Lovegood, you are a blithering idiot, and a dangerous one. I owe you no explanation for the way I see fit to run the school. A week's worth of detention with Mr. Filch will serve as your punishment, and I suggest that you forget this conversation ever took place. In fact," he said, drawing his wand, "I shall insist upon it."
"Oh, you don't want to do that yet," she said, blinking at the wand that was pointed between her eyes. "I still need to show you the charm. That's why I wanted to see you. Once we're done, then you can do whatever you like." She raised her wand and began making loops in the air in front of her, humming softly to herself.
He snapped the tip of his wand sharply at her. "Obliviate!"
There was a flash of white light, and suddenly, all went dark.
When Severus Snape came to, he found himself staring into a pair of large, blue-grey eyes. The eyes, he noted, were set into a delicate face with high cheekbones that belonged to a woman of about thirty-five. It was not wholly beautiful, but it was an arresting face, with lips the delicate color of peonies. However, the dim, slightly vacant expression on the face was all too familiar.
"Lovegood?" he asked, wincing automatically, as if he expected his head to hurt. He was vaguely surprised to find that it didn't.
"How do you feel?" she asked, rubbing the back of his hand absently.
He was about to pull away from her familiar contact, but froze when he caught sight of his hand. He pulled it out of Lovegood's grasp and stared at the back of it. He knew the back of his hand like, well, the back of his hand, and this was not the back of his hand. His own veins didn't stand out so starkly, and the livid burn that he'd received from helping Dumbledore contain the curse on the Peverell Ring was nowhere to be seen.
He shook off Lovegood's fussing and went to the dusty mirror that sat on his shelf and was shocked by the face that appeared in the glass. It was as if he'd aged decades. The deep lines around his eyes and mouth were deeper and more numerous than on his own. His hair was almost entirely silver and had been tied back in a neat queue. It felt coarse between his fingers.
For all that the face in the mirror was clearly much older than the one he was used to seeing, in many ways it was more pleasant to look at. The color in his cheeks suggested time spent in the sunshine, and his cheeks had filled out enough to erase the wolfish, emaciated aspect that he'd grown used to seeing. However, the edge of a horrific scar on his neck gave him pause, and he pulled aside the collar of his robe to see it in its entirety. He rubbed his fingertips across the raised, silvery tissue, finding it smooth to the touch.
He scowled when he spied her watching him in the mirror. A soft smile curled the edges of her lips, and there was a ghost of a dimple in her cheek.
"What are you looking so pleased about?" he asked, annoyed.
"She jests at scars that never felt a wound," she replied in a singsong sort of voice.
"Lovegood, we are under the effects of an aging spell that is unknown to me. Given that we could both end up as a pile of powdered bones before we're able to figure out what's been done to us, I would be indebted to you if you could dispense with the Sibyl impressions and answer my questions."
"Do you really think we're under an aging spell?" she asked doubtfully. "I don't remember casting one."
"Of course you don't," he said impatiently. "You're under the influence of a very specific Memory Charm. You don't remember anything of the past half-hour."
She screwed up her face in concentration for a moment. "That's true," she said thoughtfully. "What happened?"
"If I wanted you to know that, I wouldn't have cast the spell," he snapped. "Now, the spell shouldn't have interfered with your knowledge. You will list for me every time- and age-related spell you know."
She swept gracefully to her feet and settled herself comfortably in the chair opposite his desk. "It would help if you could tell me what sort of incantation or wand movements I did."
"If I knew, then I would have cast the countercharm, stupid girl!" he exclaimed, feeling an unfamiliar twinge of remorse at the invective.
Her enormous eyes widened, giving her the aspect of a shocked goldfish. "The charm rebounded on you?"
"Obviously," he said, crossing to his desk and rummaging around in one of its drawers. He withdrew a white porcelain dish and popped a sherbet lemon into his mouth. The familiar, comforting flavor spread across his tongue, and he felt his shoulders relax.
He was surprised to find her beaming at him. "You did keep them," she said, with a hint of reproach in her tone. "Let's have one, then."
Severus knew he should snap at her, but he laid one of the sweets in her outstretched palm. She popped it into her mouth and bit down hard. Severus could hear the crunch from where he sat.
"You have to eat them quickly," she explained, "just in case you got one that Professor Dumbledore laced with potion. It's better for the side effects to become obvious rather than be under their influence without knowing."
The sudden and unexpected contraction of his diaphragm as he began to laugh caused his sweet to lodge in his throat. He let out a choked sound, and the lemon popped back into his mouth, and he cleared his throat in an attempt to keep his dignity.
"There is also the risk of choking," she said through teeth that were obviously stuck together with the crushed sweet.
Again Severus felt the urge to laugh, which he squelched ruthlessly. He also moved the sherbet lemon to the side of his teeth, not caring that it made his cheek stick out.
"The spells, Miss Lovegood," he said without any real annoyance. "This must be undone, and soon. I have a staff meeting, and you have detention."
"Of course, Headmaster," she said, deliberately unsticking her jaws with a pop. "I know how to make an Ageing Potion, but neither of us has a beard, so I don't think that's what caused it. I know of a few time-altering devices, but I've never seen one and I don't know how to make them. And the only things I know that can cause memory loss are the standard charm and the bite of a Stentorian Blubber-Lips, which causes the victim to forget that it ever saw the Stentorian Blubber-Lips. But they've never been sighted north of Chipping Sodbury," she said sadly. "Or if they have, nobody can remember them."
"Lovegood, we already know we're both under the effect of a Memory Charm. Kindly stick to speculation about the spell we don't know."
"Well, then, what if it's an illusion? I know loads of those."
Severus sat back in his chair and flicked his wand lazily at her. "Finite Incantem," he said. As he had anticipated, the spell had no effect.
She shrugged. "Not an illusion, then. You're sure it's a charm and not a potion that I took sometime earlier?"
"In our conversation prior to my casting the Memory Charm, you said that you wished to show me a charm," he said carefully.
"Oh!" she exclaimed happily. "That would have been my Finest Hour Charm. Funny though, it's never manifested itself quite like this before."
"What in the name of all that's magical is a Finest Hour Charm?"
"My mother and I invented it not long before she died," she replied with a wistful smile. "When I was small, I was considered to be a bit odd, you know. Mum always told me that it would be easier when I was older, and I told her that I wished I was older so it would be better now. And the spell did make it better, though some things were rather confusing."
Severus pinched the bridge of his nose out of habit, his head wasn't paining him. "And why, precisely, did you not list it among the aging spells you knew?"
"Because I don't know that it is an aging spell," replied Luna. "The spell made me feel a certain way, but I don't know that it physically made me older. I suppose it might have done so without me knowing. It's not like I was looking in the mirror when I cast it."
"I suppose you were curled up in your bed, crying over the mean children," he sneered.
"Sometimes," said Luna evenly. "Most times I would be under daddy's printing press when he was working."
"Harrowing as I'm sure your childhood was," he said with heavy sarcasm, "I fail to understand why you thought that an aging charm, even a mental aging charm, would be of any use to me."
"That's just it, sir," she said, her silvery eyes alight. "It doesn't just age you, it can make you feel younger. The night before my O.W.L.s, I used the Finest Hour Charm, and it took me back to when I didn't have to worry about exams, and I had the most wonderful dream about a Square-Jawed Wrench Monkey—"
"Lovegood—" he began impatiently.
"I thought it might take you back, sir. I hoped it would take you sometime when you were happy. Perhaps right after You-Know-Who went away for the first time."
Severus felt his face freeze in an impassive look that gave nothing away. Surely the girl wasn't still questioning his loyalties. "What did you say?"
"Or not," she amended, looking at his face with an expression of concern. "It must have been horrible, whatever happened to make you switch sides."
Severus abruptly stood and began pacing. "Lovegood, if you do not cease your blathering and undo whatever it is you did immediately, I will whip you in front of the entire school myself."
"I'm sorry sir, but I can't do that. We have to wait for it to wear off."
Severus imagined the debilitating headache such a statement would have created in his former self and summoned his most scathing glare. "How long, Lovegood?"
"An hour," she said, her eyes fixed on a spot just over his right shoulder. He just managed to prevent himself from turning to look at whatever held her attention. "You were unconscious for nearly fifteen minutes, so it won't be so long. At least, I don't think it will. Charms are funny things. Perhaps the Memory Charm you cast to erase a half-hour of my memory got stuck to my Finest Hour Charm to make something new. Like a Forgetful and Finest Half-Hour Charm."
"In that case, I suggest we wait fifteen minutes. In silence," he added pointedly. Fortunately, the girl took the hint and seated herself by the fire, gazing upward with a look that was simultaneously beatific and mad.
Severus bent over the educational charter that the Dark Lord had asked him to amend, but his mind was elsewhere. Lovegood had said the state he was in reflected a time in his life when he was, or would be, happy. It must be a fiendishly complex charm in order for it to provide any version of the future, much less one as detailed as this.
He knew that his surviving the year was unlikely at best. For the charm to create evidence of an attempt on his life suggested a mechanism similar to Felix Felicis, which, according to one leading theory, drew all suggestions and courses of action from the drinker's conscious and subconscious mind. Given the time and effort required to brew Felix Felicis, he felt an unexpected glow of admiration for the Lovegood women's skill with Charms.
He shook his head, as if trying to remove the thought from his head by force, and bent over the parchment on his desk once more. It was no use; the letters swam before his eyes, and he scowled, realizing that his older self was rather farsighted. He began to fiddle ill-temperedly with the band on his left ring finger and squinted hard in order to bring the fuzzy letters into focus, willing them to sharpen with all of his might. He nearly jumped when a pale hand appeared in his peripheral vision, holding a pair of wire-rimmed spectacles.
"You'll want these," said Lovegood in an affectionate voice. "You left them in the index again."
Severus frowned, feeling as if there were something off about her statement, but he had been looking up an obscure use for henbane in the index earlier, and it was certainly possible that he'd left his glasses there. He slipped them on his nose, their pads falling into the well-worn grooves on either side of the bridge, and the words on the paper leapt out at him with perfect clarity. The girl gave him a luminous smile.
"Are you still reviewing Plimpton's paper for Tinctures Today?" she asked.
He felt an odd compulsion to say no, but there it was — a crude manuscript with several notes in the margins in his own hand. "So it would seem," he said.
"You take your peer review responsibilities too seriously," she said, rubbing his shoulder. "Everybody knows it's really the mailroom staff of the journals who determine whose comments get to the author and whose don't, and since all mailrooms these days are manned by sorting squirrels, you haven't a chance unless you tape a few walnuts to the manuscript."
He snorted softly and placed his hand over hers. "And you? Have you caught any Hypermelanistic Gernumblies yet?"
She sighed. "I don't understand it. I had dozens of reports of people spotting them when we had all that rain, but it's been one long dry spell since summer began. Perhaps they're hibernating in their burrows until autumn."
Severus knew all too well the futility of suggesting that perhaps the Hypermelanistic Gernumblies were not a subspecies but ordinary garden gnomes covered in mud. Instead, he brushed his lips against her knuckles. "I'm confident that you will see plenty of them next spring," he said.
"You're probably right," she said. "I suppose I'd better stop chasing Gernumblies and finish my grant."
"The one from the Center for the Reproduction of Magical Species?"
"Oh no, that one's due in two weeks. I'm not expecting to get it — Gernumblies are out of style, you know. This one's for the Department of Mysteries. I don't think I'd get any important work done in Magical Species Management if the Department of Mysteries didn't keep giving me funds to make boring old charms."
Severus also knew the futility of explaining to his wife that she was to charms what Mozart had been to music, and he contented himself with maneuvering her into his lap and lifting her long hair so that he could kiss her clavicle.
Her eyes fluttered shut. "Oh, that's wonderful. But you know that sorting squirrels can smell all sorts of things off parchment, so we really ought to take this elsewhere. You can have me over your desk while you're proofreading my grant."
He gave her neck a little nip, and she gave a laughing shriek.
"I'll take you at your word, my dear," he said. "How would the floor suit you?"
"The extra-thick carpeting I had installed to attract nesting Spindly Sporcines should serve," she said, pulling off her outer robe.
He raised an eyebrow at her. "I thought you said that Spindly Sporcines were mythical."
"Did I?" she asked breezily. "Well, if they are, then we'd better find another use for that extra-thick carpet."
Severus set to work on his buttons. "I would be delighted to oblige."
He pulled off his outer robe, and in his enthusiasm one of his sleeves hit an object on the desk. It was a white porcelain dish, and the impact of his heavy robe caused several boiled sweets to spill over the pages of the manuscript.
Luna noticed them too, and her eyes lit up. "Oh, Severus!" she exclaimed with delight. "Are those sherbet lemons?"
He picked one up and rolled it between his fingers, enjoying the nubbly texture of its circular sides. "I seem to recall that you have something of a mania for these."
"It's not a mania," she protested, smiling. "Everyone knows that lemon wards off all sorts of unpleasant things."
"Is that so?" asked Severus, popping one into his mouth and sucking appreciatively.
"You know it is," she said. "The last time we had sherbet lemons, we weren't attacked by Erumpents."
He picked up another fallen sherbet lemon and held it a few tantalizing centimeters from her lips. "You forget, my dear, that there are no Erumpents in our hemisphere."
"Of course," she said, snatching the sweet out of his fingers with an impossibly dexterous dart of her tongue. "The lemons work extraordinarily well."
He made an exasperated sound in his throat and slid his arms around her waist. "You are utterly mad. You know that?"
"Of course," she said, sounding as if she were agreeing that it was a lovely day outside. "Fortunately, you seem to have a mania for mad people."
His kiss was part affection, part exasperation, and partly a reminder that the carpet was new and that they really ought to do something about that. Hers was soft and warm, with more than a hint of lemon.
Severus felt as if he were surrounded by hot, fragrant steam that fogged his thoughts and clouded his vision, but it didn't matter. All that he cared about was pressing her beloved, warm body against his.
Her wickedly sharp teeth were nibbling along his carotid artery. His eyes fell closed and he shuddered. Her hands touched his face, their sensitive fingertips ghosting along the soft skin of his cheeks and rubbing the slight stubble on his jawline.
His arms tightened around her, and he was about to claim her mouth once more, but he froze. Something wasn't right. He felt strange.
"What is it, Severus?" she asked.
His vision had clouded again. He removed his spectacles and scrubbed his eyeballs with his fists. "I feel odd," he said, not able to articulate exactly what it was that unsettled him. The world was full of strange light, and it felt as if the beams were twisted into a rope, and the rope was being tightened around the crown of his head.
He felt her arm, reassuringly solid, lead him back to his chair and seat him gently, her cool fingertips pressed to his temples.
"Close your eyes," she whispered. "I'll get you some water." The soothing hands disappeared, and the headache burst forth into blinding glory, banishing all coherent thought with it.
He opened his eyes to find a glass of water sitting on his desk and his wayward student looking at him with deep concern.
"Are you all right, Headmaster? Shall I get Madam Pomfrey?"
"Get out of my office," he snapped, acutely aware that he must have dozed off. "Report to Mr. Filch no later than six-thirty this evening. If you are even a second late, I will allow Professor Carrow to beat you into next week. Have I made myself clear?"
"Of course, sir," she said. "I'm sorry I disrupted class. As I said before, it won't happen again."
"See that it doesn't," he said, bending over his parchment in a gesture of obvious dismissal.
Miraculously, Lovegood took the hint, gathered her things, and padded silently to the door. When her hand was on the knob, she paused. Severus knew she was looking at him, and he refused to give her the satisfaction of acknowledging her presence. The moment stretched into minutes.
At length, he looked up to find her rather startling eyes fixed upon him. "If you wish to have another week's worth of detention, Miss Lovegood, by all means, keep staring at me."
"I was just thinking, sir, that if you should ever find yourself in need of friends, you know where to find them."
"As touching as your concern for my social calendar is, Lovegood, you have earned yourself two additional weeks of detention. Now, you may either continue to talk and earn more, or you may leave my office immediately and leave me in peace."
She considered his words for a moment before giving him a sunny smile, the likes of which he had never seen on her. It suited her; she looked far less insane when smiling pleasantly. However, she was still in his office. He was about to point out that fact when his thoughts were further disrupted by a loud crunching sound that came from Luna's vicinity.
"I nearly forgot," she said apologetically. "Thank you, for the sherbet lemon, sir," she said, crunching down on the broken candy. "It was delicious."
Author's Notes: Thanks to Jim Henson, whose banana (lemon, here) gag I have shamelessly stolen, and the incomparable Mr. 42, whose skill at turning sow's ears into silk purses is legend, and if it isn't, it ought to be. Oh, and the jesting at scars bit is from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. But you knew that already, you sneaky things.