Her coffee forgotten, Miss Morris was staring at Ivo in fascination. "And they didn't try to conceal their identities at all? But they must have known that the entire wizarding world was looking for them."
"The British wizarding world, perhaps. But to most people at Vanda, they were just another couple, wanderers, like all of us. They may have used glamours occasionally; I can't say, since I didn't often see them in public. They kept to themselves a great deal."
"But surely someone would have recognised them at some point. In fact, now that I think about it, I know I've seen at least one other report of Snape being spotted at a refugee camp. But I don't remember the details; I didn't read it carefully, since it didn't seem very likely. I mean, over the years, people have reported seeing Snape or McGonagall in practically every country on the planet."
"There have been many rumours," Ivo agreed.
"Oh, hundreds, probably thousands." Miss Morris was animated; clearly, here was a subject she enjoyed. "If you want to know my own theory, I've always believed that Harry Potter knows more about what happened to his professors than he's ever said. He may have been the one who finally killed Voldemort, but he must have had a great deal of help over the years. I've always wondered if he wasn't in touch with McGonagall somehow, and some of the others who went missing. And now that I know she was with Snape, too. . ."
She broke off and looked at Ivo with something like suspicion, as if she could tell he was feeling amused at the idea that someone of her age had "always" thought anything about the Dark Wars. Or perhaps she realised that she had been talking to Ivo almost as a colleague rather than an interview subject.
In any case, she retreated to her professional demeanour and said rather sternly, "You do know that we will check out your story very carefully."
Ivo was not surprised. "Please, check anything you like; it will not change what I saw. You can talk with Blake Walford, if you can find him. He saw them, too."
The professors had been at the camp nearly a week, and Ivo was heading to the shower rooms after his breakfast shift in the mess hall, when he saw Blake Walford hurrying towards him.
"You'll never guess who I just saw," Walford said excitedly, grabbing Ivo's arm and dragging him toward his family's tent. "Go on, Divo-man, try. I'll give you a hint: Hogwarts. But you'll never guess, not if you live as long as Dumbledore."
"You saw Professors Snape and McGonagall."
The expression on Walford's face gave Ivo one of the best laughs he'd had in some time.
"How did you. . .?" Walford demanded. "Shit! Are you a legilimens or something?"
"No, I'm not a legilimens. I've seen the professors, too, that's all. They have the bed next to mine."
Walford laughed. "'The' bed, singular? What's happened to your English? You're making it sound like the two of them have just one bed."
"Yes, in English, I believe that's what 'they have the bed next to mine' means. 'They' plural. 'Bed' singular."
"Whoa, whoa, whoa." Walford stopped dead in the middle of the compound. "Wait a minute. I thought everybody in the Shed had their own bed."
"Well, they do. But not everyone stays in it. You know how it is, Walford. People sleep together. No one cares, as long as nobody's being forced. And trust me, your Hogwarts professors are not being forced."
Walford's face was a study. "So are you saying. . .? Oh, god, you are. You are. You're saying that Snape and McGonagall are, like, together? You know, like…lovers and shit? That's what you mean, isn't it? God. That is just massively disgusting."
"Why?" Ivo asked, though he had not been unsurprised himself on that first night, when he realised that McGonagall had no intention of retiring to the bed assigned her in the women's wing.
"Why?" Walford echoed. "Come on, do you know how old she must be? Gag me. Plus, everyone knows they hate each other. And hell, man, I mean - she's a Gryffindor!"
The Hogwarts House system being yet another British custom that baffled Ivo, he merely shrugged and began walking again towards Walford's tent. A few months ago, before the world had fallen apart, such an age difference might have made him snicker. Now. . .well, who could care about such things now?
Walford, it appeared, had quickly reconciled himself to the situation, too.
"So," he said, flopping down outside his family's tent and making room for Ivo to sit next to him. "Snape and McGonagall are lovers, huh? Have you ever seen them fuck?"
Ivo did not tell this last part to Miss Morris, but nevertheless, her mind appeared to be running along the same lines.
"This is amazing, Mr Dobrev," she said. "I think Minerva is one of the last people anyone would have guessed as a romantic partner for Severus. Their long-standing rivalry, their ages. . . All those stories about how hostile they were during that last Hogwarts year. . ."
She shook her head. "And now you're telling me that they actually shared the same bed? When there was no need? No over-crowding, or anything like that?"
"No. It was their choice solely. In fact, in all their stay at Vanda, I never saw them spend a night apart."
"Did you ever witness them, you know, uh. . .be intimate with each other?"
Be intimate. Well, that was one way of putting it, Ivo thought. But on the whole, he preferred Walford's way.
"No!" he wanted to say to Miss Morris. "Not 'intimate.' Say 'fuck.'"
Because that's what people did in a refugee camp. They fucked. They weren't "intimate," except in the sense that the whole damned camp was "intimate," everyone living cheek by jowl, no solitude, precious little dignity.
Life there was too elemental for euphemisms. You took your food and your sleep and your shits and your pleasures when and where you could, often in full view of anyone not too dazed or depressed to watch. Privacy wasn't a luxury - most of the time, it wasn't even a possibility.
Of course people fucked. It was their solace and their Obliviator and their desperation and their time-filler and sometimes their only buffer against annihilation. Snape and McGonagall were no exception.
Miss Morris was looking at him expectantly, and Ivo knew he was going to have to tell her something, even if he didn't think she was being very professional in asking.
To Walford, he'd simply lied and said, "No." But what should he say to this naïve, clueless woman? . . .this girl, sitting there so confident that she could touch "history," that she could make sense of the refugee camps, of the war, of anything from that dark time - when the very comfort and safety in which she dwelt meant that she'd never understand the slightest thing about them.
Then again, what did it matter? Ivo had come to bear witness, and bear witness he would. He would tell Miss Morris what he knew, and after that, well, the world could do as it pleased. The way it always did.
So he began.
"When people first got to the camp," he said, "they were so relieved just to feel safe again. Yes, it was crowded, and there was so little magic, but most people didn't care at first. You see, they never thought they were going to stay. A week or two, to catch their breath and get back on their feet, and then they were going to relocate, they were going to go to some stable wizarding place where no one had never heard of Death Eaters. . .Australia or India or Argentina. . . And then a week turned into a month, and then two, and then six, and there you still were, cooped up, going nowhere."
He leant forward a bit, trying, in spite of himself, to make her see. "But you still keep on living; what else can you do? So 'being intimate,' as you put it. . .yes, people needed that. Some were very open about it. They didn't care who heard or saw, because if you were going to wait until you were alone, you were going to wait forever. Other people. . .they tried to be as private as they could; they'd spend part of their magic allotment for silencing charms. Or the privacy wards."
He was silent himself, remembering, until Miss Morris cleared her throat.
"And Severus and Minerva?" she prompted.
Ivo rolled his eyes, but only in his mind. To him, they would never be "Severus" and "Minerva," no matter what he had seen them do. "Professors Snape and McGonagall," he said.
He would give them their proper respect. In his mind, they had earned it. Of course they had seemed an unlikely couple to him at first: McGonagall old enough to be Snape's mother, Snape himself a damaged, unpleasant man.
But Ivo had changed his mind over the two months he had watched them. He had seen how much they shared: their quick minds, their wit, their love of debate. He'd seen their moments of tenderness and how carefully they looked out for one another.
They'd survived the Battle, they'd lived and loved and yes - they had taken physical pleasure in each other, and there was no shame in it. Nothing to be hidden.
"They didn't have sex often," he said finally, refusing the silliness of Miss Morris's "intimate," yet not ready to share with her the power of "fuck." "And they were very discreet. They used what magic they could, and they kept their clothing on. But I knew."
Of course he knew. It was only inference at first - he'd seen them use their privacy wards once or twice, and sex was virtually the only reason anyone bothered with the foggy things. But like most people, Snape and McGonagall had abandoned the wards eventually, and then Ivo had been sure.
There was no mistaking the nature of that rhythmic rise and fall of Professor Snape's black-robed body, his form a slightly darker, denser shadow against the black of the night. But so restrained were the professors' movements that Ivo could easily choose not to know what they were doing, and mostly that's what he did choose, in the spirit of polite obliviousness that usually prevailed at the camp.
Until the night there had been no way not to know. The night of the Solstice Celebration.
Almost everyone in the settlement attended it, enjoying the special events: enchanted firework dragons that chased the children harmlessly about, live music provided by some of the residents, extra food, and perhaps most appealing to the adults, extra magic rations.
To the extent that he planned anything, Ivo had intended to go to the party, but somehow the laughing crowds had unsettled him, and he went back to the Cattle Shed instead, suddenly desperate for solitude, for the rare chance to be completely alone.
There was no one in the dormitory when he entered. No candles had been lit, no wards erected; there was only the moonlight shining through the skylights, and he relished the darkness, the quiet, the semblance of peace. Lying on his bed, he closed his eyes and listened to the unwonted silence.
They came in quietly as well - Snape and McGonagall. They had almost reached their bed before Ivo heard them, or rather, heard Snape, speaking in a voice soft and brutal.
". . .then you're an even greater idiot than I took you for, Minerva, and believe me, sometimes that's great enough. It's difficult, I grant you, to overestimate the credulity of a Gryffindor, but I stupidly thought you might be different. More fool I."
McGonagall in reply was equally low, equally scathing. "You are a fool, if you think you can succeed at this any better than you succeed at anything else that involves actually dealing with human beings. Do you honestly think a few pathetic insults will drive me away? If that tactic was going to work, it would have worked years ago. It's not exactly a new aspect of your personality, Severus. So go ahead, be as vicious as you will. I'm not leaving you."
"Have you not been paying attention? Haven't you seen the Daily Prophet? I'm a marked man."
"And you weren't a marked man before the Prophet said so? Don't be absurd. One way or another, you've been marked since you were fifteen. That's not news to me. But it hasn't stopped you fighting the Dark Lord, and we will still do that, just in different ways."
"You damned foolish woman, you have no idea what it will be like. . ."
"Of course I do! I've been in three wars, Severus. I understand the risks perfectly. And I know you for what you are, too - I see your darkness, I'm not deceived. I know it all, and it doesn't matter. I have darkness of my own."
They hadn't noticed Ivo, and he lay as still as he could, barely breathing, wishing he was skilled enough to perform a non-verbal concealment charm. But if wishes were thestrals. . . He didn't have anywhere near the skill to hide himself, and so there was nothing for it but to lie quiet and hope they wouldn't see him.
The sound of a thump caused him to open his eyes, and he saw Snape hitting his chest.
"There's nothing here," Snape snarled, thumping himself again. "You'll risk yourself for nothing. Because I have nothing to give you, can't you see that? You should never have come with me."
"I wanted to. Although it was you suggested it, don't forget."
"It was a moment's weakness, that's all. Nothing more."
"Severus." McGonagall was suddenly calm, matter-of-fact. "We've both had time now to think things over, and if you've realised you don't want a life with me after all, then just say so."
Snape was silent.
"What is it, then?" McGonagall flung out a frustrated hand. "You can't think. . ."
She stopped and took a breath before going on quietly, "When we were at Hogwarts, we could pretend we weren't really together; we could tell ourselves that it was just a convenience, just an affair. But when the castle was lost, well, you said it yourself - we had to make a choice. And so I did. I chose you. Not out of pity or desperation or whatever twisted explanation you've devised to torture yourself with. Don't you understand? I chose you because I want you."
Snape laughed, a harsh sound with no humour in it. "You want this," he sneered, gesturing towards himself. "And you don't think yourself an idiot?"
In answer, McGonagall moved to him and kissed him hard. "A very great idiot indeed," she whispered. "And so are you."
There was a tiny pause before Snape reached out for her; then he was kissing her just as hard, pushing her onto their bed, rucking up her skirts while her hands roved his body, clutching his back, his arse.
They looked almost as if they were fighting, but then a sudden shaft of moonlight bathed the scene, and Ivo saw McGonagall's face, avid and yearning, her eyes locked on Snape, her desire for him as clear as if she had spoken it . . .
. . .and Snape, his touch infinitely gentle, was loosening her hair, combing his long fingers through it, murmuring words that only she could hear.
The moment was far more "intimate" than any sex act, and Ivo felt like an intruder in a way that he never had when he'd witnessed mere physical coupling.
Then the atmosphere shifted, and their heat became almost palpable as Snape, no longer gentle, pressed McGonagall onto her back and drew his wand to Banish her robes. When she laughed and half-raised herself to remove his clothing with just a flick of her hand, Ivo couldn't help but stare.
He had not seen them naked before. They looked ghostly, ethereal, like something of another world: Snape with his narrow torso and stiff, pale cock; McGonagall with her black hair in a wild cloud about her shoulders, her breasts gleaming silver-white in the moonlight.
Hers wasn't a young woman's body, but it flooded Ivo's mind with images of Valkyries, Amazons, all the valiant, bare-breasted warrior women of the centuries. He gazed and felt his own cock rise, and he wanted to groan aloud, as Snape did, at the sight of her.
It was too much; Ivo was aroused and ashamed at once, and he turned his head, unable to continue watching, yet knowing that he would not be able to stop for long.
But when he looked back, they had raised their privacy wards, and he could see nothing but that pearly whiteness.
They seemed to have forgotten a silencing charm, however, and Ivo let himself listen to them: he could hear McGonagall's moans, soft gasping cries halfway between pleasure and need, interspersed with occasional words, and he thought he'd rarely heard anything more exciting. Snape was quieter, a few low grunts and once, her name.
Then there were no more words, just an escalation of sound, McGonagall's soft cries becoming a sustained low keening; Snape's grunts deepening, until Ivo knew he must be close to coming.
It was at that point that the wards began to break apart, the whiteness swirling and eddying like smoke to reveal Snape at the moment of his climax, his head thrown back, his mouth stretched wide in a silent roar that would have been heard by the gods in the heavens had he chosen to give himself voice.
And had there been any gods to listen.
Slowly, Ivo brought himself back to the present, to the din of the café and to Miss Morris's ardent face. He told her of the professors' argument, but he said nothing about their passion. When he had come to the interview, he had been vague in his mind about exactly how much he would say, and now he knew that he would keep this memory to himself: it was not his to share.
He was relieved that Miss Morris didn't press further; instead, she asked, "But what finally happened to them? Do you know when they left the camp?"
"I know that compared to other people in Vanda, they were not there long at all - two months, perhaps a bit more. It was May, I think, when they arrived, and before August they were gone."
"Where did they go? Do you know?"
"No. We did not exchange confidences, of course. They never knew that I was aware of who they were. We would nod, say good evening, good morning, maybe 'pleasant weather, isn't it?' But that was all. We had to live so close, physically speaking. We needed to not be close in other ways, if that makes sense to you.
"So I know only that they were finally able to make arrangements to leave, and they did so. I wish there was more I could tell you, Miss Morris. But they were in and out of my life very quickly, and I had troubles of my own. "
Miss Morris nodded. "Yes, I'm sure you did, Mr Dobrev, and I'd like to meet again to discuss your camp experiences further. And of course anything more you remember about Severus and Minerva. Did you actually see them leave the camp?"
"Yes," Ivo nodded and felt a little dizzy; he'd drunk too much coffee. "In fact, I believe I was the only one who did so."
The sky burned white with heat and sun on the day the two Hogwarts professors left the Vanda refugee camp.
Ivo knew that they were soon to depart, because the day before, he'd seen Professor McGonagall, a parchment in her hand, stride purposefully though the warren of housing tents, heading for the work sheds where Professor Snape sometimes assisted in brewing potions for the hospital ward.
Snape had just been coming out of a shed as she approached, and she'd handed him the parchment without a word. He read it, frowning, and then he had startled Ivo by doing something unprecedented: he'd thrown back his head and laughed aloud, lifting his face to the sky.
Then he scowled.
"Something will happen to prevent it, of course. We won't get out of this hell-hole that easily."
"Thank Merlin for that remark," McGonagall had said. "Otherwise I'd have had to suspect polyjuice. Or the beginnings of spattergroit. Isn't uncharacteristic laughter the first symptom of it?"
"Even your sarcasm reveals you as a Gryffindor, Minerva. Always that lamentable lack of subtlety. . ."
Yet as he spoke, he'd brushed her cheek with the backs of his fingers, and she'd turned her head to touch her lips to his hand. It was the briefest of gestures, over so quickly that Ivo might have wondered if he'd even seen it, had he not felt a sudden lump in his throat.
The professors moved beyond Ivo's hearing, and he learnt nothing more. But he was not unprepared the next noon to see them leave the Cattle Shed together, each bearing a small shrunken parcel, and walk towards the camp's western boundary.
They were alone, and no one but Ivo noticed them. Peering around the tents, he watched them approach the edge of the camp and stop at the gnarled tree that marked one of the heavily-warded gates.
Most people in Vanda dreamed of the day that they'd be given the secret leaving incantation that Snape now spoke as he raised his wand. Ivo was too far away to hear, but he saw the air near the tree split, as if a giant knife had slashed it, and the skin of the day peeled back to reveal a short, dark passage.
At the end of it, bright in the sunlight, he could see another tree, another road, another reality beyond the enchantments that kept the camp hidden.
The world had re-opened for Severus Snape and Minerva McGonagall.
Ivo felt, obscurely, as if something should happen to note their passage: thunder should sound or lightning should flash or at the very least, magic should shimmer round them, perhaps leave a scorch on the grass to show where they'd been.
But of course nothing of the sort occurred.
Snape and McGonagall simply stood quietly for a moment, unremarkable and unremarked. Then hand-in-hand they stepped forward, and through the gate took their solitary way.