Title: Indifference
Author: Sare Liz
Rating: PG; HG/SS
Warnings: None.
Disclaimer: The characters do not belong to me.
Distribution: By appointment only.
Author's Note: Inspired by Sting's melancholy song Ghost Story, off the album, Brand New Day, lyrics in the end notes, and the Marriage Law challenge from the WIKTT list, of which the rules were taken as guidelines. Also, I have read too much Jane Austin. It's official.

***

It was all very neat. The whole endeavor took hardly any time out of anyone's schedule and changed the normal course of lives for all parties involved at the bare minimum. It meant she had tea with Order members more often as she now was one, and in class she was now Madam instead of Miss. Her friends had come out with mixed reviews at first, but had rallied nicely and with little fuss. It was the latest buzz in school, but that lasted only a day and a half, as she was not the only one to be getting married, though perhaps the only one so apparently young – the beginning of her sixth year. The only ones who were truly vocal in any sense were her parents, who came around in the end.

Her new husband was dispassionate and otherwise preoccupied, which suited her quite well. He had placed very little strictures on her behavior, and only with compromise on his own part. She, for instance, was no longer to use the Time Turner, as forty hour days are good for no one under any circumstances. He, in return promised to be civil to her at all times and in all but the most extreme circumstances which might actually merit his behavior to be otherwise. He signed the Ministry waiver that released her from enforced maternity, though they both kept the fidelity clause as a part of the contract. He agreed without recompense to support her fully through whatever course of education she would choose to pursue. There was a mutual agreement both to live separately, have a celibate marriage, and to have tea together on Tuesdays, all until her graduation, at which point the entire matter would be reconsidered by both parties.

Tea, as it happens, revolved around certain subjects and was always precisely one hour and five minutes long. Academia was fair game to be spoken of, as was research and non-fiction. After a great deal of persuasion, muggle fiction was added to the informal list. Politics and religion were always interesting subjects, though the war, the dark lord, and the weather were to be avoided at all costs. Personal history was something both parties skittered away from whenever possible, though strangely enough it did come up occasionally.

It was generally taken that the marriage did both parties well. Both were individually kinder and gentler people for the endeavor, for her part because she was back to eight hours of sleep in a twenty-four hour day, and for his part because it was specifically required of him. Though the observable behavior of the couple induced one to believe that they were not, in fact, a couple, it was held amongst student and teacher alike that the indifference was a very thin veil over a very passionate and tumultuous relationship that may or may not have involved all manner of bedroom toy. That each party had a noteworthy academic year of their own was attributed to the inspiration of love, and in no part to the increased effort and time actually allotted.

By mutual agreement their anniversary was not to be celebrated, though the pair did exchange small birthday and Christmas presents within the allotted time given for tea every Tuesday. For her graduation, he gave her a small piece of luggage with enough space inside to pack a small house, and it seemed symbolic of their new agreement terms.

As her university would be so far away, tea once a week was unfeasible. Owls were out of the question over such a distance and her vacations would be undoubtedly filled with family and friends, leaving no foreseeable time for them to spend together, to the detriment of neither. They agreed he should attend her next graduation and at such time a reconsideration of the state of their marriage could be undertaken.

She had returned to her parent's house, and to the Burrow that first Christmas, feeling a pang for the old castle and vaguely wondering how her husband was doing. Usually she thought of him rarely if at all, but there was something about the way the wind stole through the window panes of her childhood bedroom to chill the bones that reminded her of him. He hadn't gotten her a birthday present so she hadn't gotten him a Christmas present, but in that moment with the biting wind she briefly reconsidered her actions.

The second Christmas she returned again to the house of her parents, and the Burrow. For a brief and silly moment she had entertained the idea of popping up to Hogsmeade and surprising him. She did in fact have a short-lived fantasy about having tea with him and coaxing a smile from him in the process, but quickly squelched the idea as inane, unfounded, and bound to be badly received.

It was in this mindset that she returned after winter holidays to a package clearly marked from him. Simple wand waves eased her fear that the box was misleading or maliciously sent, and so she opened it in the kitchen, as she set the water to boil.

Methodically wrapped, and methodically unwrapped, the package opened to reveal a small wooden chest. Beautifully inlaid with various shades of wood, there was no accompanying note to explain its appearance. It was clearly hers, however, as her initials were carved into the top. She sat for a moment just looking at it before the water started to boil. Leaving her package to tend to the tea, she idly wondered if it were a jewelry box, absurd as the idea was. It was the only sort of function she could think of for just such a thing, other than something to hold cigars, which was equally as absurd. Unless of course it was just a box.

Returning, fully equipped with jasmine tea and an ingenious American cookie called a Thin Mint, she opened the box to find a letter within.

January 6, 1999

H,

It has occurred to me that our arrangement lacks somewhat, and to that end I have attempted to provide a solution. I fear that no communication at all will not serve us in the long-term maintenance of our marriage. As an alternative, I propose written communication on a monthly basis. Please inform me of your opinion of this matter.

To this end I have procured a set of boxes, one of which you have in your possession now. Each are keyed only to the other, and once the lid is secure, the contents of one transfer to the other. Certain basic security measures have been taken in regards to our privacy on this matter, but nothing that would impinge on the restrictions set by the Muggle Safety Act, or would be deemed in any way, Dark.

I look forward to your opinion returned in similar upon your receipt of this package. I hope you have had a safe and fulfilling holiday, that your studies are going well, and that in every other fashion your life is proceeding as you would have it do.

Yours, etc.,

S

With nary a backward glance, she went to the desk in her library and dug out a particular pot of ink and one of her nicer quills and began to write.

January 8, 1999

S,

Though I have no true objection to monthly written communication with you, I wonder if perhaps we couldn't do as we have done before – weekly communication. I would understand if your other commitments prohibit it, but it would allow me to more quickly use this green ink that I received from one Mr. D. Malfoy upon the occasion of our marriage. (The inherent subtleties of its use would be lost on any other recipient I could think to write of here.)

Thank you for the box. It is both beautiful and useful. I do wonder what charms you had put on it, however.

I hope you are well, as I am, and I look forward to the commencement of our communication, however frequent we decide it shall be.

Sincerely,

H

January 9, 1999

H,

We are agreed then, to correspond by letter at least weekly.

I understand from the balance of the Gringotts accounts that you have taken my advice and settled in a flat of your own. Though the companionship of peers is of course always welcome, a space to retreat to that is irrevocably your own is in every respect to be preferred. I myself have recently begun the habit of occasional retreat. One weekend a month, which is all my current duties allow, I disapparate to the cottage in Kent. As you will remember, it has adequate laboratory facilities, besides a library, a greenhouse and gardens, the latter of which are handled capably in my absence by the family elves. I find myself quite refreshed for an entire week following such a weekend. If your studies permit it, I do recommend you find your own version thereof – mutatis mutandis.

I do wonder how you are. You say you are well, and I hope that is true. I know that in previous conversations there were certain things not to be discussed, and of course you may follow what line of inquiry you wish, but I would have you consider this a tabula rasa of sorts. I would even speak of the weather with you. (Scotland is brisk and barren, by the way. How is California in the winter? Disgustingly sunny and cheerful, I presume.) I wish you well.

Yours, etc.,

S

Thus began the veritable flurry of letters sent back and forth between an enchanted box in Scotland and its mate in California.

October 17, 1999

S,

I can hardly believe the stories you tell about Lucius Malfoy, except to say that I can see no possible reason for you to have spoken anything but the truth. That he has redeeming qualities does not completely shock me, as he can hardly be entirely evil, but that fashion design, an eye for colors and a flair for fabrics should be among them is hardly conceivable. And yet it seems the truth shall have its way.

I wonder what strange-but-true oddity lies behind your façade, as you can hardly be the all-frightening potions master 24 hours out of the day. Indeed, there are at least the times when you write to me, and as I am now not currently frightened of you, there must be another side. Do you arrange flowers, perhaps?

I am light and airy, but truly today was grueling and I very nearly didn't put quill to parchment at all. For the most part I do love my life here, temporary as my stay is in America, but there are days when I feel as if life is just bound and determined to drag me down. It's not even anything major that would seem a justifiable thing to whine about. It's the little things, the insidious things. The computer that crashed and ate my paper. The idiot wizard who won't take no for an answer. (Thankfully, he took a hex for an answer just fine.) The friends who are just a bit too nosy about our relationship. The professor who is quite honestly a condescending, patronizing wanker without a clue.

It just makes me so frustrated. There are days I just want to chuck it all and become a hermit.

Oh, and as an added bonus, I'm feeling particularly horrible and crampy. That explains quite a bit as well.

And I'll end my rant on that note. I hope I haven't turned you off your dinner completely.

Sincerely,

H

It was letters and only letters quite literally for years until one afternoon she opened her wooden chest to find what looked to be a doll house miniature on top of an envelope.

May 17, 2001

H,

Please accept this token of my esteem for you upon the occasion of your graduation. I recommend you place it on an unobstructed section of your floor before you enlarge it to its proper size. A simple Engorgio charm should suffice. Be warned that it has been put in stasis so that no damage may come to the integrity of the instrument, but that too should evaporate once enlarged. I have made the set of charms easily repeatable should you wish to travel with it in another instance, though undoubtedly this application of magic will have seeped into the grain of the thing in no time, and thus in this instance you will perhaps wish to keep this tidbit of information away from certain of your acquaintances.

I hope that you will accept my gift as both a free-will offering of fondness for you on my part, and a symbol of my support of your declaration of the necessity of self-care.

I will of course be in attendance at your graduation three days hence, and if you permit it, I will call upon you at your current residence in time for tea the day before.

Yours, etc.,

S

May 17, 2001

S,

It dawns on me that we have never used given names with each other. There has been many a Sir and Madam whilst keeping company, and much S & H in writing, but never anything else. I hope I will not be taking too much liberty to begin doing so from this point on, and I hope you will do the same.

Thank you, Severus. The cello is beautiful. I fully intend to play for you after Tea, so I hope it will not disrupt your plans too terribly to stay perhaps a little longer than usual.

I look forward to you escorting me at the reception following the ceremony. I can well understand that such a duty might not be specifically to your liking, but I will not allow that to deter me on this occasion. I have several friends – most of whom have been mentioned in the course of our conversation – that I am looking forward to introducing to you. Please do not deprive me of that joy, and I will endeavor to make it up to you somehow.

Sincerely,

Hermoine

It was with no small amount of comment that her friends greeted the apparently long-lost husband of their good and brilliant companion at their mutual graduation. If any of them thought the obvious difference in age noteworthy, it was perhaps off set in their minds by the clear similarity in disposition. Those friends closest to the young graduate may indeed have noticed a slight but significant alteration in her behavior – a certain nervousness and air of anticipation – when confronted with the husband they had privately understood to be happily in name only. That is, they may well have noticed these subtle clues had their heads not been filled with their own personal feelings of commencement, as the case happened to be.

In fact, all deviant behavior on the part of either wife or husband was altogether unseen until the moment his lips touched hers. The kiss might not have been nearly so noteworthy had it not been quite so long, taking place as it was in the middle of the reception, and it being their very first kiss.

In the exceedingly long tradition of Hogwarts School, very few members of faculty have been the participants of an active marriage, though there have been enough with a living spouse, few couples resided in the castle that were of a childbearing age, much less mindset. To these very few couples in the annals of history, were recently added Master and Madam Snape, Order of Merlin, First Class, each.

After nearly six years of marriage, an entirely different and altogether new agreement had finally been reached. This stemmed primarily from mutual declarations of love, the presence of an earnest desire of the couple to finally cohabitate, and if not the fond wish to bring children into the world together, then certainly the wish to do together that which would make such an event possible. The agreement was as follows, subject to periodic revision:

On his part: No attempt at post-bedroom morning communication will be forthcoming until he has had fully a cup and a half of coffee. Public displays of affection in the school will be limited.

On her part: In thirsting for knowledge and understanding, questions will in no way be deterred by him, though she respects that not all questions have succinct or even knowable answers. Private displays of affection in and out of the school will be profuse.

Mutually: He will cordially fraternize with any of her friends, so long as he retains the right to be indeterminately grumpy afterwards. Communication will remain of paramount importance as it is difficult to have a good relationship, or even good sex, without it. Therefore tea on Tuesdays will once again commence, and on at least three coinciding days out of seven both parties will return to quarters with enough energy and patience to undertake such communication as might be spontaneously in the offing.

And so they lived, to a greater or lesser degree, happily ever after.

End Note:

"Ghost Story" by Sting

I watched the western sky
The sun is sinking
The geese are flying south
It sets me thinking

I did not miss you much
I did not suffer
What did not kill me
Just made me tougher

I feel the winter come
His icy sinews
Now in the firelight
The case continues

Another night in court
The same old trial
The same old questions asked
The same denial

The shadows close me round
Like jury members
I look for answers in
The fire's embers

Why was I missing then
That whole December?
I gave my usual line,
"I don't remember."

Another winter comes
His icy fingers creak
Into these bones of mine
These memories never sleep

And all these differences
A cloak I borrowed
We kept our distances
Why should it follow that
I must have loved you?

What is the force that binds the stars?
I wore this mask to hide my scars
What is the power that pulls the tide?
Never could find a place to hide

What moves the earth around the sun?
What could I do but run and run and run?
Afraid to love, afraid to fail
A mast without a sail

The moon's a fingernail
And slowly sinking
Another day begins
And now I'm thinking

That this indifference
Was my invention
When everything I did
Sought your attention

You were my compass star
You were my measure
You were a pirate's map
Of buried treasure

If this was all correct
The last thing I'd expect
The prosecution rests
It's time that I confessed

I must have loved you.