Disclaimer: The characters here and the world they inhabit are the creation and property of JK Rowling and her assigns
They brought Severus to the women's floor of St. Mungo's. He didn't want to be there. He didn't think there was any reason for him to be there. Poppy insisted. "She's been asking for you," she said as she tugged his sleeve to make him walk faster.
"I can't imagine why."
"You know why."
He stopped and shut his eyes. "It's too incredible to be true. It's more incredible than the Dark Lord being destroyed, more incredible than Potter coming to my defense before the Wizengamot. It's even more incredible than my standing here alive in front of you. It's just not possible, Poppy."
Late March 1998
The witch was brought to him one spring night. She was bedraggled. Her hair was a half-braided mess and her face was smudged. Her robe was torn and one of her shoes was missing. She looked more like a Hogwarts student who had gotten into a pile-up at a Quidditch match than the elegant pure-blood soon-to-be-grandmother she was. Worst of all, there was a look in her eyes that would break the heart of anyone except the three people who brought her to him: Her sisters and the Dark Lord.
He couldn't face her because of that look. He'd seen it in a mirror one night himself. It was the look of absolute loss, of a person who couldn't go on because the one who they loved more than anything was gone. He almost lost his composure looking at her. He forced a mask of indifference on his face and listened to his master.
"The girls, here, managed to exterminate one of the blights on their family tree."
He thought for a moment, absorbing the news without a sign of emotion. "I suppose that means I should congratulate them?"
"Instead of congratulations, they would prefer you to take on a service."
The eldest sister snorted while the youngest sighed and looked at him hopefully.
"It would seem that this witch has need of re-education. She's been out of the family fold for a very long time."
"I don't see my role in all of this."
"Really, Severus, isn't this a school?" The dark-haired witch turned and said, "Truly, my lord, I don't think this is the best—"
"Relax, my dear. He's the best option."
"She could stay—she should stay—with the family."
The other sister spoke. "It's impossible, with everything going on. We can't trust her not to do something..."
"She's quite right, my dear. She would need to be watched every minute and we simply don't have the people to do that at the family home, not with the other things that must be done."
"And my role?" Entertaining as these family spats were to watch, Severus preferred to get back to the topic of conversation. The sooner these interlopers were gone, the sooner he could get back to his paperwork and the new bottle of firewhisky that would follow it.
Red eyes gleamed as the Dark Lord returned his gaze to the servant he had come to appreciate above the others.
"We brought her to you, Severus." It was said with a caressing hiss. "Consider her a gift."
"You're giving her to me? You can't do that. She's a witch, a pure-blood witch. She's not someone's owl or cat."
"Exactly the point, Severus. We cannot treat her as a prisoner because she is just the sort we wish to have in the future. Her Mudblood-loving ways, however, make her a liability at the moment."
"Then you wish me to guard her parole?"
"Call it what you wish. Use her as a slave or coddle her as one of your precious students, but keep her with you. Don't let her get into the hands of the other side."
"I'm not sure..."
"I am sure you will do as you think best, Severus, and that it will suit my needs."
Three of his guests finally left him and the middle sister standing in the Headmaster's office. The youngest sister gave her hand a clasp and stopped to kiss him on the cheek as she followed the others. He watched a clock tick a full minute before returning to sit down at his desk. With a flick of his wand, there was a chair for her as well. She gave no indication that she noticed.
"What am I do do with you?" he asked. She didn't move and it wasn't even clear that she had heard him.
His bottle of Ogden's Old was farther away than ever as he summoned a house-elf. "Bluebell, I want you to take this witch to my bathroom and help her get a bath. Can you get her clothing as well?"
"Yes, Master Headmaster."
He left and went to the school's infirmary. At this time of night, the hallways should have some small buzz of activity, but there was just a grim silence. He knew the students thought he expected total silence and frightened scurrying, but he actually preferred to see them wander through the halls with some sign of cheerful industry. He sighed. He would have loved to become Headmaster of the school and implement small changes, but this was never what he would have taken on unless it was life or death.
The Matron watched him walk in and set her lips in a firm line. She started in on the topic of conversation they had most recently argued about. "You can't expect me to work miracles. One of these days a student is going to end up like the Longbottoms, and then there'll be hell to pay. You can't let them do as they please and expect me to just fix it."
"I know you don't believe me, but I don't like it any more than you do. I'll speak to them again, Poppy, but tonight I have a different concern. Would you come to my quarters?"
She looked through the Hospital wing. It was empty that night because the students would all be returning home for their Easter Holiday in the morning. "Severus, why do I need to come to your quarters?"
Did he need to remind her he was the Headmaster? He growled, "Just come."
The elf had Severus's guest bathed and in a dressing gown by the time they got back. She was working a comb through the tangled hair and although some of the snarls were complicated and required the elf to tug fairly hard, the witch hardly flinched.
Poppy immediately walked over to see to her. "Severus, what happened?"
"From what I was told, her husband was killed today."
Poppy cleared her throat. "Not him, too. It's been so long that I thought he had a chance."
"I think she was involved in the fight."
Poppy held her hands and quickly saw they were chapped and the nails were damaged. "She must have been on the run with him. She hasn't eaten as well as she might."
"Is she hurt or ill?"
"I'll look her over, if you'll give us some privacy."
"If she escapes, I can't speak for what would happen here at the school..."
"They'll send us more thugs, you mean to say. I understand, Severus. I'll come down to your office when I'm done, all right?"
"I'll be there."
He stared unseeingly as he went over his paperwork. The last time he had seen her, he was teaching her a tricky potion. She was a gentle soul, milder than either sister. She was queen of her small domain and rarely left it. She was practically in hiding during the first war and rarely came into public after it ended. When her older sister had escaped Azkaban, she returned to her smaller world. His two weeks at her cottage, teaching her to make Wolfsbane, had been a respite in an oasis.
He had been envious of her husband. It wasn't that he was jealous over her, although most men who met her came away a little smitten. His feeling lay in the fact that such women existed who presided over their families and contentedly made their own corner of the world a paradise. He was envious because he would never enjoy such a home as his own while at the same time he knew that he fought partially to keep such homes in existence. It was a feeling similar to the one he had in the presence of Molly Weasley.
Her husband had been on the run, but she hadn't needed to run. He would have to find out how she had been captured. He wondered about her daughter and son-in-law. If those two had been captured or killed, the Dark Lord or his harpy would have said something, Severus was sure. He looked at his papers. They were in disarray. He sighed and started assembling them back into the proper order.
Poppy had come into the room. He stood. "Yes?"
"She's uninjured except for some minor scrapes and bruises. Someone Stupified her and another person seems to have put her in a Body Bind, but neither will create lasting damage. She's suffering from the shock of whatever she has seen, not to mention her husband's death."
"They were quite attached to each other."
"Yes, they were. I would prefer to bring her to my Hospital Wing and keep an eye on her."
"I'm afraid that's quite impossible. Could we do what needs to be done in my quarters?"
She snorted. "You're the ringleader of the torture and killing at Hogwarts, and you stretch my skills to the limit. You're preventing me from doing what needs to be done, but you use proper manners when you're speaking. I'll give you that, Severus."
He couldn't answer her so he turned to the matter at hand. "What needs to be done for her?"
She sighed. "Someone should be by her side all the time to watch her. I'm not sure she won't try to harm herself."
"Is it as bad as that?"
"Some people respond that way to such a loss. I can't say until she comes back to herself. Can you keep an eye on her? I got her to take some sips of tea with milk and honey, and I think she'll sleep. She needs someone who will get her to eat and encourage her to describe what happened."
"I'll stay with her."
"What about your Headmaster duties?"
"For tonight, at least, they lie in all of this paperwork. I can do that here in my room. I'll take care of tomorrow when it arrives."
"All right then, Severus."
After a disapproving and warning glare, the mediwitch left and Severus went back up to his bedroom. He slid an easy chair near the bed and watched her sleep for a few minutes. She looked more like herself. She had the family coloring and features. They were a bit strong for a woman, but all three sisters had somehow managed to look attractive. Her eyes were striking, but right now all he could see were her cheekbones and eyelashes. Even her lips were colorless.
There were lines around her eyes, showing the strain she had been under. Her hair was clean and framed her face with some of its beauty, but it was a lackluster dull brown instead of the brilliant array of browns, reds, and blonds that he had seen once, when it wasn't in its usual braid or upsweep.
She seemed more relaxed than she had been when she was awake. She was fortunate to be asleep, where she could forget her troubles. He stared at her a few more minutes and then started completing his paperwork.
His own night of anguish came back to him. He had gone to Lily's house to see what had happened. He had arrived before the Ministry had taken care of their bodies. She was as beautiful as ever on that bedroom floor, but she wasn't ever going to smile at him again. Lily was forever gone and he would never know her rapt attention or her laugh again.
As he dozed, he saw her smile at him in his dreams. Lily, he thought as a yearning he had ignored for years suddenly surged within him.
He startled awake. He couldn't tell what time it was. Some of the candles had burned down to their bases and guttered out. She was moving restlessly on the bed, searching for someone who would never be there.
"No!" It was a moan and tears were starting to run down her face. Her eyes were open but she wasn't awake. He sat in indecision, wondering what he should do.
"Please come back!"
Now it was a cry of anguish and somehow he couldn't ignore it. He sat beside her on the bed and pushed her hair from her face. In an instant she was in his arms, crying, burrowing into him, seeking a comfort he didn't know how to give. He patted her back awkwardly, and when she started to sigh, he adjusted to more of a stroke through her hair and down her back. Her sighs became more contented, and he started to feel more at ease with his attempts to comfort her.
When he felt her lips on his bare chest he realized that she had found the opening in his collar and worked his shirt open. He immediately put some space between them, but she whimpered. "Please... we need this. Show me you're alive."
He was groggy from having dozed off, and his dreams had made him receptive. "Slow down. You don't really want this," he said quietly, hoping to somehow stop what was happening. Her kisses became frenzied, and he found himself responding. He made shushing noises and tried to soothe her down, but they were both becoming more and more eager for what started to seem inevitable.
She was stronger than he expected. She finished unfastening his shirt and ran her fingers and lips all the way down his chest. His attempts to stop her became token responses and by the time she had gently pushed him to his back, he wasn't sure whether he was pushing her away or exploring the curves of her body.
She worked his trousers open and moved on top of him. Her nightgown was already hiked up and her hair formed a curtain that surrounded him with feminine essence. He had reached a point where he couldn't do anything but hope for release.
She didn't shy away from taking what would fulfill her raw need, and given the state he was in, he couldn't for the life of him do anything but provide what she needed. After a while she sighed contentedly, as his own groans surprised him.
She started breathing deeply and regularly again. He slid to the side, sure that she would wake soon and the recriminations would begin. Relaxed as this event had just made him, he wasn't sure if he could bring himself to care.
After a few minutes, he took his trousers and shirt the rest of the way off. He adjusted his shorts and slid between the sheets. There was no point in pretending it had not happened. He might as well be comfortable and, in any case, it was his bed. He was asleep before he finished pulling the covers over himself.
A/N: This pairing is a bit of an odd duck, yet the more I think about what intersects in the lives of these two, the more I think there's something to it. I thought some of my regular readers would like to see what I've been doing when I supposedly was working on Wand Waver. As usual, beta reader Mark Darcy has been through this with her virtual red pencil. Please feel free to drop a line and comment.
As usual, beta reader Mark Darcy has been through this with her virtual red pencil. Please feel free to drop a line and comment.