Warnings: EWE, lots of extremely graphic sex with various minor kinks, autoerotica, genderswap, bondage, ménage e trois, and charming!Lucius. Read at your own risk.
Author's Notes: Written for the sshg_exchange on Livejournal for shiv5468, who prompted me thus:
Hermione, Severus, The Big Book of Sex Magic. Be as silly as you want, or as sexy as you want. Lucius is, as always welcome.
Disclaimer: © 2010 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
what breaks me, young friend, is tasteless desire, dead iambics, boring dinners
A wizard's fiftieth year was widely believed to be the first of his prime, and for this reason Lucius Malfoy was determined to celebrate it as many times as his immodesty allowed. Given the quality of the food and drink at these birthday celebrations, the lavish favours bestowed upon his guests, and the impeccable hospitality with which they were received, nobody found it necessary to remember exactly how many of Lucius's fiftieth birthday parties they had attended.
Lucius was rapidly approaching his tenth fiftieth birthday, and as pleased as he was to find the pile of acceptances growing by the day, he felt that there something not quite right. This was puzzling, given that he'd already finalised the menu, chosen appropriate wines for every course, decided on a theme ("Malecrit's Delight"), incorporated it into tasteful floral arrangements and decorations, bespoke Couplet Chocolates, which produced rude rhymes in the French style, from Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes, arranged the entertainment, and hired a tastefully avant garde string ensemble to play while the guests mingled. What else was there?
It wasn't until his pre-birthday review of the décor in his numerous guest bedrooms that it struck him. Over the past decade, his sole splurge had been throwing the party of the year. He had not once treated himself to a birthday celebration that wasn't conceived solely to make an impression on others.
His second fiftieth had been a deliberately gay affair (the theme had been "Bubbles"), with champagne-coloured everything and an excellent bottle for each guest. It had been as close to a two-fingered salute to his ex-wife, who claimed that champagne gave her a headache, as he could tastefully give. His third, fourth, fifth, and sixth fiftieths had been designed with intrigue in mind, starting with a thoroughly unsubtle "Seraglio" theme and ending with an "Enchanted Encounters" masquerade that could have proved disastrous without the extremely powerful Confundus Charm that he'd cast on the Daily Prophet society reporter. Seven ("Mermaid's Grotto"), eight (the slightly ironic "Phoenix Arisen"), and nine ("Sonnets of a Sorcerer") had been enjoyable, but nothing to compare to his very first fiftieth, for which he and Narcissa had devised a tidy piece of Charm-work that allowed the guests to disguise themselves as they chose.
Of course, that had been the evening that Narcissa had fallen in love with the man for whom she had forsaken her marriage vows and eventually abandoned them altogether - an experience that Lucius was not keen to repeat. Of course, this time around, he was neither married nor seriously attached, and his ex-wife and Potter were decidedly Not Invited. And while his fiftieth birthday parties could hardly be said to be suffering from diminishing returns, he felt instinctively that the tenth should include something special, apart from being the party of the year. He stroked his chin with the tip of his quill and considered the question of what to give the man who has everything.
i admire, i gaze at you; hermione herself, as like her
The next day found him rapping his knuckles on an extremely dingy door outside an even dingier-looking antiquarian bookshop that had once been the rectory for some long-gone place of worship. After his fourth course of rapping, the tarnished brass spyhole slid open with a loud squeal. After the eye on the far side of the glass had taken in his fourth-most-impressive day robe, the hole squeaked shut once more and myriad locking mechanisms clicked open in unison.
The door opened to reveal an extraordinarily handsome young man with copious chestnut curls and hazel eyes. He ushered Lucius into a comfortably furnished room that looked more like a private reading room than a place of business. Then again, given that the proprietress was notorious for taking only what jobs her fancy favoured, perhaps that's exactly what it was.
"My apologies for keeping you waiting," the lovely lad was saying with sincerity that would have put Lucius's to shame, if he had any shame, that is, were he to have any). "Ms Granger required my assistance with a particularly delicate Byzantine text."
"I hope that my manuscript will seem simple by comparison," said Lucius, wondering where on earth the woman had found the lad and if she paid him well enough to make stealing him problematic.
To Lucius's delight, the young Apollo dimpled prettily at him; if he had not appreciated the wordplay, he at least acknowledged that something witty had been said. "She won't be long," he said conspiratorially. "She's in the middle of a page, that's all."
Lucius allowed an indolent smirk to unfurl across his face as he ran a finger between the raised eyes of his cane's snake head. "What ever shall we do with ourselves in the meantime?"
Apollo blinked, the moment of hesitation Lucius had been waiting for.
He seated himself gracefully in an armchair by the window, having noticed the sun pouring in at the perfect angle for turning his pale golden hair to platinum.
The young man swallowed hard, and Lucius sighed inwardly. Despite his natural talent, he was still an amateur.
"Tea," he stammered. "We have tea. Very fine tea, if you're interested?"
"Thank you," said Lucius in patrician tones that firmly re-established the aristocrat/domestic relationship. "Unless you have something a little stronger?"
"Well, Ms Granger has some sherry, and the place next door has some fantastic ale-"
"My dear young man," said Lucius condescendingly, "the Trappist monks of Westvleteren brew a quadruple that can be described as 'fantastic.' I am sceptical of your claim that the place next door does the same. As such, I shall have tea."
The young man fled gratefully from the room and Lucius took the moment to appreciate his posterior attributes. With a few months of proper instruction to rein in his puppy-like enthusiasm, the young man could go far. He was considering making the lad an offer when his employer opened the door to her office and stood before him, backlit by a happily placed stained glass window.
She might have stepped out of a piece by Alphonse Mucha for the way her diaphanous robes billowed about her, gathered softly against her ribcage by a coral-coloured cord. Her infamous bushy hair was in fine form, barely contained by a pair of flower-bedecked Alice bands, which might have been tasked with holding back the tide for all the success they were having. Yet despite the outlandish costume and her curves, which were a trifle too lush for current fashion, Lucius had to shift subtly to prevent her from noticing his body's natural reaction to the stunning portrait of femininity she presented. Even her wild hair practically begged to be tamed by gentle fingers.
He raised an eyebrow quizzically. "My apologies, Ms Granger," he said. "If I'd known this meeting was to be fancy dress, I'd have worn a more appropriate costume."
The clean rosiness of her complexion was somewhat marred by an impatient scowl. "My escort will be here in twenty minutes." She glanced at the clock on the mantelpiece. "Nineteen minutes," she corrected herself. "State your case in as few words as needed. I'll let you know via owl tomorrow if you interest me sufficiently."
Lucius had a moment of cognitive dissonance attempting to put Hermione Granger and "escort" in the same sentence before realising that he'd requested a meeting with her on the day of the annual Weasley-Brown anniversary party, which had become something of a society event because the Weasley-Browns usually ended up in a screaming match before its end. Even some members of his own set were reported to have attended ironically several years running.
He allowed her to wave him into her office and sat in the heavy oak chair opposite her desk, which was strewn with parchment, quills, numerous tools, jewel-toned inks, an old-fashioned blotter, and a large, ancient-looking tome under a stasis spell. To his disappointment, the book's pages were obscured by a privacy charm.
"Your charming assistant mentioned you were working on a Byzantine project," he said, giving her a smile he hoped was not too obviously ingratiating.
"Yes," she said shortly, crossing her arms.
Lucius turned up the charm. "Really, Ms Granger, Hermione. May I call you Hermione?"
There was nothing for it. Lucius liked to conserve his most devastating smile for moments of intimacy, but it had to be done. "Ms Granger," he said warmly, just short of smarmy, "I know we've had our differences in the past-"
"Differences?" she said, her eyes veritably crackling with fire. "I can't think of a single meeting with you that hasn't involved you or your cohorts attempting to torture, kill, blackmail, or insult me."
"You make it sound so personal."
"Not at all. I'm sure you'd do the same for anyone of Muggle descent who had the temerity to forget her place."
This was not going well. "Really, Ms Granger," he said, with an attempt at levity, "one wonders why you agreed to see me at all."
"I agreed to see you for two reasons," she said coldly. "One, I plan to donate the exorbitant amount of money I will be extracting from you to non-profit groups that support Muggle-born and Squib education. Two, yours is one of the few private libraries in Britain that might possibly hold objects of interest to me. Now, state your business and then leave my establishment."
Lucius could see that charm was having no effect and shifted seamlessly to business mode. "Very well," he said, withdrawing a Shrunk folio from his pocket. "I am in possession of a fragmentary work," he said. "I wish you to verify its authenticity and provide me with a new translation."
The narrowing of Hermione's eyes could not dim the spark of interest he saw there. "That'll cost you, especially if the piece is old."
"The original work dates from the seventh century BC, though of course these fragments are far more contemporary, no earlier than first century BC. The work was quite popular in antiquity, but it seems that Aeolian Greek fell out of fashion during the Roman era, and the work was lost, until it was recovered by an enterprising friend of mine."
Lucius was gratified to see her pupils dilate slightly, though she demonstrated considerable control of her breathing and maintained her scornful expression. "If I had a Galleon for every Roman era translation of a lost work in ancient Greek I've had to examine- ah, but wait, I have. Do you have any documentation of its provenance?"
"I know only the dear friend who gave it to me," he said. "It was a birthday present from him some nine years ago."
"Your sixtieth?" she asked acidly.
Lucius started. The woman was attempting to provoke him. She would have to be much more irritating to bring about that eventuality. "Really, Hermione," he returned, using the most suggestive voice he possessed, "Sixty-nine?"
The innuendo, as blunt as her insult, had the intended effect, and the mulish set of her jaw relaxed slightly. Her pretty assistant chose this moment to enter with the tea things, which he set down on the corner of the desk furthest from her current project. Hermione nodded her thanks, and Lucius wondered whether the blooming roses in her cheeks were due to the young man's presence or his unsubtle flirtation.
"Thank you, Jason," she said in a brisk voice that disappointed Lucius considerably. It would have been far easier to secure her cooperation if she'd had some interest in the lad beyond mentoring him. He would have also had a good angle to persuade the boy to work for him as well, but alas, it was not to be. Lucius took some solace in the fact that the lad was not completely immune to his masculine wiles, in spite of his employer's hostility.
When Jason - what an ugly, common sort of name for such an elegant specimen! - had closed the door behind him, Hermione returned to business as if no diversion had occurred.
"I'm afraid friendship doesn't count for much in antiquarian circles," she said with ill grace. "Can you tell me anything about the manuscript that might be of use? I'm going to have to run enough tests as it is."
"It may come as a surprise to you that as the owner of more first edition titles than the Hogwarts Library, I know a thing or two about books," he said, with a touch of superiority - it wouldn't do to forget who was hiring whom, at least for the present. "I know the obvious forgers' tricks, and several of the subtle ones as well."
Hermione sighed and spread her arms to clear the centre of her desk of the bookbinder's paraphernalia. "All right, Malfoy," she said disapprovingly. "Show me."
Lucius laid the book on the newly-cleared space and wordlessly enlarged it to its natural size. He motioned for her to begin her examination- a gesture of trust, given the volume's obvious age.
He was gratified to see her stroke the cover of the book respectfully before slowly opening it. Her touch was so gentle that the ancient leather binding gave only the slightest groan of protest when she opened it.
She glanced at the flyleaf for long enough to determine that it was far more contemporary than the text and turned the page with exquisite care, revealing fragments of papyrus painstakingly mounted on the pages with intricate Charm work.
Her eyes widened, and Lucius just managed to suppress a smile of satisfaction in favour of an expression of polite interest.
Hermione opened a drawer of her desk and pulled out a large brass magnifying glass mounted on a hinged arm. She pushed the glass an inch or three over the text and stared into it, tossing a fallen curl irritably over her shoulder. After a moment, she pushed away the glass and leaned forward over the book. At first Lucius thought she was trying to examine it with her bare eyes, when her lids fluttered shut and she inhaled deeply.
She turned a few more pages and inhaled again, lips pursed in concentration.
Lucius stared at her for a moment before speaking. "If you have mislaid your wand, I should be pleased to perform the authenticity spells for you."
Hermione didn't open her eyes. "Spells can only determine chemical composition, which is something that I'm sure you know can be faked by unscrupulous dealers with potions. Fortunately, all of them leave traces that can be identified by nonmagical means."
Lucius studiously ignored the edge of a rosy nipple that was nearly spilling out of her bodice's deep vee. If Hermione hadn't been a Gryffindor, he might have suspected her of doing it on purpose. At last, she sat back in her seat, her eyes focused on the text. Her face was still as marble until she blinked and returned to herself.
"If this is genuine, this will set the antiquarian world on fire."
Lucius allowed himself a smirk. "I had gathered as much. That's why I brought this project to you."
"Obviously," she said, brushing off the implied compliment to her professionalism and discretion. "My initial assessment is that if it's a forgery, it's the best I've ever seen. The brush strokes, at least in this part, are not only consistent with the Roman era, they're also virtually indistinguishable from those of a particular scribe whose work has been found in Oxyrhyncus, whose ancient rubbish dumps have given us more lost works than what remains of the Library of Alexandria."
"You're unable to determine its authenticity?"
"Oh, no," she said. "I still have a battery of magichemical analyses to perform, which will take some time."
"But it passed the smell test?" asked Lucius, with a sardonic twist to his lip.
"It gave off neither the telltale eucalyptus scent of the potion most frequently used to yellow papyrus nor the sulphur smell of contemporary ink made using ancient methods," she said testily.
"I'm delighted to hear it," he said, with just a touch of obsequiousness.
Before she could answer, there was a knock at the door. "Excuse me, Hermione," said Jason, "Minister Shacklebolt is here."
"Thank you, Jason. I won't be a moment. Would you be a darling and fetch my cloak? I think it's in the cloak room.
Lucius was surprised to find her regarding him with a critical eye instead of throwing him out. Time to find out what her game was.
"Don't let me keep you, Ms Granger," he said.
"No chance of that," she said, matching the flippancy of his tone, "even if my presence wasn't mandatory."
"Given your costume, which, if I may be so bold, looks positively ravishing, I can't imagine anyone thinking you were less than delighted to be there."
"I don't know what you mean," she said, her tone implying just the opposite. "Ginny and I are old friends and on excellent terms."
"The Brown woman, then," said Lucius knowingly. "I ought to have guessed. I never knew a woman named for a flower who wasn't a shrew."
"Lavender isn't a shrew," said Hermione hotly. "She's a leech. But a hybrid leech with springy legs for jumping into bed with whatever famous person is lonely enough to succumb to her dubious charms. Ever since Harry left Ginny for that old-" Suddenly, she seemed to remember to whom she was speaking. "But this is neither here nor there, Mr. Malfoy," she continued, with admirable poise. "What concerns me is this project."
"I have worked on some fairly high-profile projects, but nothing like this. And I am not oblivious to the fact that I have made the occasional error pinpointing the date of some texts."
"You do yourself an injustice, Ms Granger."
"Oh, no," she said. "My own injustice to myself is the least of my worries."
"I haven't the pleasure of understanding you."
"Let's say I accept your project. If the whole thing turns out to be a fraud, then I will end up looking ridiculous. You admit that you know many of the forgers' tricks. You could have made a fake manuscript and depended on my alleged greed and desire for fame to prevent me from looking too closely."
"Why would I do such a thing?"
"Why do Death Eaters bait Muggles? I wasn't aware any particular reason was needed."
It took all of Lucius's resolve to tamp down the bolt of white-hot anger that shot through him. "I would expect that sort of comment from Mr. Potter's ilk," he said coldly.
She had the good grace to look abashed, but she didn't back down. "Given your past associations, you can hardly blame me for questioning your motives."
"Ms Granger, I won't insult your intelligence by attempting to reassure you of my motives, because even if I opened my mind to you, you would find some reason to doubt me. What I can offer you by way of reassurance is a contract explicitly stating that the work is intended solely for my private use and that your name will not be attached to it unless you see fit to claim it."
Hermione considered this for a moment before producing a business card from a drawer in her desk. "Send the contract to my solicitor. I will keep the manuscript until I've determined its authenticity to the best of my ability."
"How much time will you need?"
"A week," she said. "Maybe two." She gave him a wry smile that suited her features. "If it's authentic, I'll send you an exorbitant estimate for producing a new translation for you."
"And if it's not authentic?"
A dimple appeared in her cheek. "Then a slightly less exorbitant invoice will arrive."
The shortness of her tone was so at odds with the sweetness of her expression and demeanour that Lucius couldn't help smiling. "Very well," he said, rising. "Thank you for your time, Ms Granger."
She appeared to be contemplating a sharp retort, but thought better of it. "Mister Malfoy?" The slight quaver in her voice revealed how badly she wanted an answer. "Where on earth did your friend acquire this manuscript?"
"I couldn't say," he said, "but he works at a tiny private library in West Flanders that nobody's ever heard of," he said dismissively. "Good evening, Ms Granger."
He saw her start to raise her hand to forestall him, but she returned it to her side. Lucius smiled as he strode from her office, especially because it was certain to unnerve Kingsley Shacklebolt, who was chatting amiably with Jason in the receiving room. Hermione may have retained her dignity, but she was clearly left wanting. Lucius felt it was a state that would do her some good.
truth is born as lightning strikes
The Abbey of St. Sixtus was bottling the Extra 8 the day that Severus Snape received the invitation to Lucius's tenth fiftieth birthday party in the post. He allowed himself a moment of wry humour before destroying it. Fortunately, between their brotherhood's discouragement of idle chatter and the day's heavy work, no one was likely to comment on anything other than bottling.
Severus's job was to inspect the freshly sealed and labelled bottles from the line and, if they passed muster, place them in a crate. When the crate was filled, he handed it to Brother Herbert, who stacked the crates on a wooden pallet, and then called Brothers Eustace and Pieter, who wrapped the pallet in cling film and carted it into warm storage, where the ale would age and undergo secondary fermentation.
Bottles with ruined labels, dented caps, and other imperfections were put off to the side and shared among those working the bottling line when they had matured, which is why Severus, whose eyes were very keen, had been put in charge of spotting irregularities. Cistercian monks were known for their poverty and charity, but they loved good ale as much as the next man. Thus, when they were bottling anything other than the blond ale, which they drank with most meals, more brothers vied for a post on Severus's bottling shift than volunteered to sing at Vespers, which was saying something.
At exactly fifteen minutes to eleven, the bottling line ground to a halt, presumably to give the workers time to clean the bottling line and themselves before Sext, and more importantly, lunch. Severus and the others gathered the slightly irregular bottles and put them in a crate marked with their names and the date. All were glowing with perspiration and left gratefully when Severus and Pieter motioned for them to go and wash before chapel.
Pieter and Severus were wheeling the last pallet into the aging room when they spotted the abbot, Brother Bernard, approaching, brandishing a clipboard which he handed to Severus. The paper, still warm from being printed out, showed the café's inventory, and Severus noticed that they were running perilously low on the gift boxes containing three types of beer and a souvenir glass. He nodded at Bernard and gestured curtly with his head at Pieter, who followed him to the storehouse to replenish the café's supply.
Severus's nimble fingers assembled the shiny white cardboard boxes and handed them to Pieter, whose callused hands were as gentle with the glass vessels of ale as they were with the vegetables he grew in the gardens. When they had loaded sixty or so boxes, they stacked them on an empty pallet. Pieter glanced in the direction of the chapel, which reminded Severus that Pieter's strong voice was needed to lead the chanting, and he dismissed him with a wave of his hand. He was perfectly capable of delivering the pallet to the side gate, where one of the café volunteers would be waiting for him.
He re-rolled the sleeves of his habit, deftly manoeuvred the pallet lifter into place and wheeled the pallet down the covered path next to the brewery. Severus was profoundly grateful for the shady breeze, as he and Pieter had been given special dispensation to work through the morning's reading and meditation starting after breakfast, and taking a break only for Tierce. The brewery had grown progressively stuffy as the sun grew higher. He passed the dairy as the cheese makers were exiting en masse, eyes down and hands folded demurely beneath their black scapulars; they appeared every inch the devout monks, except that Severus knew it was their attempt to snub him without looking petty. Severus wheeled his load onwards, mildly amused that even among holy men cloistered far from the madding crowds, there were still cliques; the dairymen resented the fact that the café's beer supply had to be replenished daily, while the cheese was only brought over on a weekly basis.
Severus was nearing the side gate when he overheard what sounded like an argument.
"I tell you, it is not possible," said a voice he recognised as belonging to Gert, a sanctimonious pensioner who volunteered at the café three days a week. He was surprised to hear Gert speaking English, though with a very heavy accent.
"I thought that with God, all things were possible," said a brisk woman's voice. English, by the sound of it. "I simply want to spend five minutes in the library. They can send you to keep an eye on me if the sight of a woman will be too much of a temptation."
"No women who have not taken orders are allowed inside," said Gert stoutly. "If God had had the sense to keep Eve out of Eden, man never would have fallen."
"If God had kept Eve out of Eden, humanity would have died out with Adam," she retorted. "If you won't let me in, then please let me speak to the abbot."
"He will not speak with you," said Gert. "He has holier things on his mind."
"I don't suppose all the monks attend Mass do they?" she asked in an innocent voice that made Severus suspicious.
"It's not Mass," exclaimed Gert, scandalised. "The holy brothers celebrated the Eucharist while you were probably still asleep! The monks' day is structured around the seven holy offices, during which they gather to chant and praise-"
"I see," said the woman, sounding smug.
Severus sighed. In his naiveté, Gert had as well as told the woman that she was free to break into the library as soon as Tierce started. He veered his pallet lifter in a way that he knew would make the wheels squeal to announce his presence.
"Leave this place," said Gert. "We have God's work to do."
Severus nearly smiled, wondering if the English woman would consider wheeling around pallets of beer to be God's work. Fortunately, she was nowhere to be seen when Gert opened the gate to receive Severus's load.
"Thank the Lord you've come," said Gert in his native Flemish. "Another stinking tour bus showed up expecting to buy up all our crates of the Twelve. We've told them we're out, but then they started buying up all the gift boxes."
Severus, once again relieved that his order eschewed idle chatter, nodded and locked the gate firmly behind him.
The courtyard was deserted and he could hear Pieter's clear baritone ringing out to call the brothers together. On any other day he would have run to the chapel, but the English woman sounded like one used to having her way. He made a show of walking briskly toward the chapel but hid himself behind a column that she would need to pass if she intended to visit the library.
A few minutes later, he heard the telltale squeal of the side gate being opened, which was simultaneously irritating and impressive. The locks on the gates were ancient and far from invulnerable, but they required a fair amount of strength to force. His quarry's steps were light but he could still make them out, and she was headed straight for him. He felt a bit of the old thrill, one he'd not felt in over a decade, at catching someone well aware that she was breaking the rules. He arranged his features into his most forbidding scowl, an expression he'd had scant opportunity to use recently, and stepped out of his hiding place.
The woman jumped, just as hundreds of students had done before her, and gazed up into the face of the man who'd caught her. The mutual recognition was instantaneous, and Severus Snape spoke the first nonessential word he'd uttered in years.
our very meeting with each other is an omen
It had been a good many years since Hermione Granger had been rendered speechless, but finding the late Severus Snape alive, well, and catching her red-handed sneaking into a Trappist monastery was exactly the sort of thing to do it. However, the obscenity he uttered was so incongruous with his monastic habit that she had to suppress a hysterical giggle. In response, he seized her arm and all but dragged her into the nearest building.
Not keen to be discovered by any others who might be lurking about, she refrained from demanding that he release her arm, but she dug in her feet and yanked her arm out of his grip. He spun to look at her, his expression thunderstruck, but she made no move to escape him. He gave a shrug that clearly said, "Have it your way," and took off down the sunlit passage. She followed in his wake, her mind in a whirl.
Before she had the opportunity to put into words any of the numerous questions that occurred to her, he opened a wooden door and ushered her into a tiny room, sparsely furnished, with a plain wooden cross on the wall opposite the window over two narrow beds. It took her a moment to realise that this must be his cell. He pulled his wand from one of the folds in his habit and waved it wordlessly around the room. Hermione's skin prickled as a powerful set of wards, presumably against spies and eavesdroppers sprang into place. He slid the wand into its invisible pocket and stood in the shadow next to the window, looking at her.
She was relieved to find that his gaze no longer had the ability to completely unnerve her, for all that her mind was still reeling from the shock of seeing him again. She took his moment of perusal to do some perusing herself.
The years had been kind to him. The creases on his face were deeper than they had been fifteen years ago and his black hair was shot through with silver, but his face no longer had the sickly, emaciated look that she remembered, and his hair had been cut short, which made his dark eyes the focus of his face, rather than his hooked nose. A narrow beard ran along his jaw line and encircled his mouth, softening the harsh line of his lips. He was still slender but no longer painfully thin, and the white robe he wore beneath his dark scapular set off the warm olive tones of his skin- the skin of a man who did honest labour in the sun.
As dramatic as the improvement of his appearance was, what struck her most was the lack of inarticulate fury that she would have expected of him. Instead, he observed her calmly, and as the infinitesimal quirk of his lips suggested, with increasing amusement.
Belatedly, she recalled that some members of his order took a vow of silence. She opened her mouth but found that she had very little to say that wasn't a question about how he survived the snake bite or what in Merlin's name he was doing living in a monastery, so she settled for very little.
"It's good to see you looking so well," she blurted out.
This caused the quirk in his lip to twitch so violently that Hermione feared he had an itch. However, the twitch blossomed into a small smile, but one so devoid of malice that it was a strange expression to her, though hardly an unpleasant one.
"Right, so you're probably wondering why I'm here," she said. "I don't suppose it will surprise you to know I'm looking for a book."
A spark of humour danced in his eyes, and even she had to laugh at how little she appeared to have changed since their last meeting.
"Before you get the wrong idea, I'm here primarily because my assistant specifically requested that I pick up some of your beer while I was in Flanders. I didn't have any luck finding the book in Bruges or Ghent and decided that, since I had to come here anyway, I should look in your library. I don't suppose you happen to have any fragments of Roman-era papyrus from Oxyrhyncus or reasonable facsimiles thereof, do you?"
Severus looked at her with an unreadable expression, and to her surprise, he spoke. "The books in this monastery's collection are for the sole use of the monks. Lectio divina, or spiritual reading, is one of the core tenets of the Cistercian order."
His voice was mild, but his non-answer still set aquiver the unerring instinct that made Hermione a successful antiquarian and very difficult to beat at cards. The more she thought about it, the more it made sense for Severus to be the source to whom Lucius had alluded. "How very interesting," she said, "but the book I'm looking for is decidedly less than spiritual."
Rather than the look of guilty acknowledgement she expected to find, Severus Snape's eyes were twinkling. "One wonders for what purpose you desire such a text. Is your interest purely academic?"
"Nothing so lofty, I'm afraid."
"Indeed?" If Hermione didn't know better, she'd say she was being flirted with by a monk. The idea was oddly intriguing.
"I'm on a job," she clarified obviously.
"I had concluded as much," he said, "and for our old friend Lucius. Again I ask, is your interest purely academic?"
If Hermione were less self-possessed, she would have shivered from the way his voice could wrap itself around words and give them entirely new meanings. "How did you know I was working for the elder Malfoy?"
"Lucius is the only collector in Britain who owns any of the Oxyrhyncus hoard."
Ha! Hermione, who had been feeling slightly off-balance having to deal with an alive, fit, and possibly flirtatious Severus Snape who smiled, had finally landed on her conversational feet, now that he had admitted to such specialised knowledge about Lucius's collection and the British collection of ancient texts. "Not so," she said. "He only thinks he is."
Snape's eyebrows rose in surprise. "Really?"
Snape was the source. And if Snape was the source, then it only followed that- "The manuscript is a Duplicate."
She expected Snape's eyes to narrow at the accusation, but he looked merely curious. "How did you reach that conclusion?"
"Well, my battery of tests showed that it wasn't a standard counterfeit- most of those can be identified because the processes to make something new appear old are imperfect and leave traces. That's what led me to suspect that it was a magical Duplicate. Duplicates as I'm sure you know are virtually indistinguishable from original manuscripts, though only the most audacious will attempt to pass a Duplicate off as an original if the original has known provenance. Given that there were no Duplication spells in antiquity, when one encounters two identical ancient manuscripts, one can conclude that the one with provenance is the original and the other is a Duplicate. Given that Lucius's gift is unknown to the world, one can only conclude that it is a new discovery, in which case the person who discovered it would be an idiot to give it away, even to a friend."
Snape nodded, as if in agreement. "It's a sound, if cynical argument," he said. "Given your past with Lucius, one wonders why you haven't simply told him his manuscript is a fake and delighted in charging him a thousand Galleons to tell him so."
"And risk him destroying the only copy of Sappho's tenth book that's been seen by any British academic?" exclaimed Hermione. "Never!" She felt a smirk coming on. "At least not until I'd got a glimpse of the original, of course."
"You're assuming there is an original," said Snape.
"I'd hoped there was an original, at least until I realised that the manuscript had come from you," she said. "Given that Catholics, even those who have taken vows of poverty, never eschew cultural or intellectual riches, I am all but certain there's an original. I will be happy to swear not to inform Lucius of its existence if you would be so good as to let me see it."
"No good, Miss Granger," he said, smiling in a predatory way that was infinitely more familiar, if not reassuring. "Revealing to Lucius that I'd given him a nearly unique gift worth hundreds of thousands of Galleons instead of a priceless one will have little to no effect on our friendship. If you wish to blackmail me, you're going to have to come up with something far worse."
Hermione tutted in exasperation. "I'm not trying to blackmail you," she said. "If I wanted to do that, I'd threaten to reveal your presence to the Wizarding world, and given that I'd probably end up Obliviated in the middle of a hop field, I'd be a fool to try. I was trying to provide an incentive."
He turned toward the window, and Hermione was shocked to see the sheen of unshed tears in his eyes. "Forgive me, Miss Granger," he said, delicately wiping the rims of his eyes with his fingers.
Hermione was suddenly struck by the fact that Snape had chosen this place, the site of some of the twentieth century's most horrific bloodbaths, to make his home. She had known from looking at him that he was no longer the bitter, angry man he had once been, and she cursed her flat-footed references to that which he had moved beyond. She gave him a moment to compose himself. "Are you all right?"
"I daresay I've never been better," he said, "but I haven't had a conversation with someone-" he paused, "-from before, in so long. I live a simple life here, Miss Granger, and the tools I needed for outside survival have grown rather rusty from disuse."
"They seem appropriately sharp to me," said Hermione, with a wry smile. "Perhaps it's not so much that the tools are rusted as your hands are out of practice in wielding them."
This earned her the tiny, almost shy smile that she was beginning to find most endearing. "Perhaps," he agreed.
The sound of men's voices lifted in song drifted through the open window.
"We shall have to continue this conversation another time," he said. "Tierce is nearly over, and you must to leave before you're discovered."
"But the manuscript-" began Hermione.
"-will not be going anywhere," he finished for her.
Hermione's heart began to pound. "You still have it?"
"Of course I still have it," he said. "I have two more volumes I was saving for Lucius's tenth fiftieth birthday."
Her knees turned to water and she sat down hard on the bed. "Severus Snape, do you mean to tell me that you are in possession of fragments spanning Sappho's entire tenth book? But how-" she trailed off as she saw how uncomfortable her use of his given name had made him.
"I didn't always live in a monastery," he said, "but as long as I live in one, please refer to me as Brother James."
Hermione blinked in surprise. "James?"
Something like regret passed over his face before he relaxed once more. "Meaningful penance requires letting go of a great deal, Hermione," he said.
Hermione was tempted to ask more, but she held her tongue, considering the possibility of examining not one but two volumes of new fragments, not to mention the possibility of finding out how on earth Snape had cheated death and what he'd been doing for the past fifteen years. "When may I return?"
He considered for a moment. "Come to the café tomorrow for lunch," he said. "I'll have something waiting for you there that will help you gain access to the monastery."
"But how-" she began.
Snape placed his finger against her lips, which surprised her too much to protest further.
"Hush. You'll see." He pulled his wand from his robes and dispelled the wards, then tapped her gently on top of the head. She felt a Disillusionment charm ripple across her skin.
He stepped into the hallway and glanced back at her before walking briskly towards the courtyard.
She followed as quietly as possible, and when they were halfway to the side gate, the chapel door opened and the monks began to process from the chapel in a line. Hermione did her best to walk in time with Snape so that her footsteps wouldn't be audible. He turned to give her a surreptitious wink when he realised what she was doing.
Snape picked up his pace and whispered out of the corner of his mouth, "I can't risk opening the gate, since that stupid sod Aloysius has his eye on me. I'll leave you, and once the courtyard has cleared, Apparate to the other side of the gate and wait until you're sure you're alone to remove the spell."
Hermione glanced over towards the chapel and noticed that a large bald monk was staring at Severus in a decidedly unfriendly way.
"I'll see you tomorrow?" she asked.
"If you choose," he replied, with a dangerous smile. He turned and left her standing by the gate, grinning invisibly after him.
nothing can take its place in my mind, this beauty of girls
Hermione spent the night at a mediocre bed and breakfast two towns away. She suspected her lack of sleep had less to do with the lumps in the bed than it did with the thoughts that were rushing in a torrent through her mind. Severus Snape was alive; the man to whom the Magical population of Britain owed its life's breath, the man whose heroic deeds had earned him an Order of Merlin, First Class, the man whose obsessive love had inspired a whole generation of silly teenaged witches to write poems in halting meter.
What's more, Severus Snape had at least one confederate in Lucius Malfoy. The choice seemed odd to Hermione, unless Snape was in the monastery because Malfoy had blackmailed him out of house and home. But that didn't fit the extremely lavish birthday gifts or the warmth in his voice as he spoke of Lucius. Perhaps the Wizengamot had had good reason to punish Malfoy with only a fine for his crimes, if he remained friends with Snape even after it became evident that Snape had been working for Dumbledore all along.
Flinging off the covers in frustration, Hermione turned on the bedside lamp and pulled out Lucius's manuscript and her notes. Sappho's works were popular even now, particularly with the young, who heard whispers that they were dirty. However, the Sappho that Hermione had surreptitiously borrowed from her parents' library was nothing like the Sappho magical children knew. Muggles knew that Sappho liked girls as well as boys, but Wizards knew her as the definitive creator and collector of sex spells in verse. However, not a single one of Sappho's spells had survived in its entirety. One apocryphal story held that a book had existed as far as the dark ages, when it had been translated by Muggle monks as "The Compleat Resource For Blackest Magick, The Sort Of Which, If It Would Not Damn One To The Fiery Pit, Would Be For Use Only Within A Wedded Union That Might Result In Procreation So As Not To Be Fornication," only to have been destroyed in a fire caused by a candle being knocked over during an orgy.
Hermione couldn't help but wonder what Severus Snape was doing with the manuscripts, especially considering his distinctly celibate choice of vocation. Perhaps he was homosexual. Or perhaps he was just well-versed in the joys of autoerotica. Perhaps he wasn't even really a monk. A part of her that she didn't wish to think about too hard hoped very much it was the last option.
She opened the book and began flipping through the poem-spells, all of which seemed to have something to do with male anatomy, except for one partial fragment at the top edge of a larger fragment. She recognised the last lines at the top of the page from an extant fragment translated by Muggles as "trench for watering the garden." However, in full form, it read:
cheerful venus, let the trench for watering
the garden be filled, nourishing the deep roots
Beneath it was a diagram showing a hand moving in a figure-eight over what was unmistakably a woman's abdomen. There was a large hole in the manuscript just below the bottom of the diagram, and Hermione found herself wondering what the missing instructions were, and wondering what the spell did. The friendly invocation of Venus- the Roman translator's work, as the original was undoubtedly Aphrodite- indicated that it did something sensual, and "trench" was often slang for female genitals, and watering suggested lubrication or ejaculate, but as arousing as the line of inquiry was, it was ultimately futile without all the words.
Hermione sighed and closed the book, cast several protective spells on it, then turned out the light on the bedside table. As she settled into bed, she began to think about translation. Sappho's original had been in an obscure dialect of Ancient Greek that had gone out of fashion centuries before it was translated into Latin by an unknown scribe and dumped into the rubbish dumps on the outskirts of an ancient Egyptian regional capital. It was rather depressing to think how little her own English translation from the Latin would resemble Sappho's original. However, only these Latin fragments remained, and there was no use crying over spilt milk.
It was quite warm and muggy in her room, even with the window open, and Hermione kicked the askew bedspread off the foot of the bed and wriggled onto her side to pull her nightdress up so that the thin sheet was all that separated her warm skin from the night air. This cooled her but also made her far more aware of the lumps in the sagging mattress. She punched her pillow savagely, trying to get comfortable, and settled onto her back, absently rubbing her bare stomach. This seemed to help, and her eyes fell shut. As she began to settle into sleep, half-consciously, her hand settled into a figure-eight movement, and Sappho's words appeared in her mind's eye, in her own handwriting, no less. And then she heard the words, whispered.
cheerful venus, let the trench for watering
the garden be filled, nourishing the deep roots
A refreshing breath of breeze came from the open window, and Hermione's sigh of contentment felt like it was part of a dream, a soft, liquid dream where the tension in her mind and shoulders melted and flowed down the conduit of her spine, pooling in the most intimate of places in her lower pelvis, beneath her gently moving hand. Within the freedom of the dream, Hermione slid her hands between her legs, and finding an abundance of moisture there, explored with curious fingers.
She dreamed she was on a mountain, lying naked on a sunny rock at the edge of a green meadow. Strange music was emanating from across the meadow from somewhere out of sight. The sunlight felt as if it were made of a million tongues of flame, licking her skin gently, caressing and warming it. She was not alarmed in the least when a tall man, as naked as she but for a crown of leaves on his dark, shining hair, approached her rock. His penis was enormous and erect, and no words needed to be exchanged. She spread her thighs, feeling a delicious wave of pleasure as the air gently cooled the moist flesh between her legs.
The man towered over her, and she raised her knees to allow him immediate access to what both their bodies demanded. He lowered himself over her, setting his knees between her legs and eased himself into her. Her eyes rolled back in her head until all she could see was blackness, and all she could feel was the fullness of their engagement as they rocked against one another's bodies in the age-old rhythm. Her breath came in ragged gasps as she climaxed, and her eyes flew open to reveal the small room, grey in the predawn light.
Sill half asleep, Hermione rolled over onto her stomach, separating her wet thighs and allowing the night air to flow between them, cooling her overheated flesh. She curled her arm up beneath the lumpy pillow and fell into a deeper sleep, not waking until many hours later.
a hummock of a bulge at the crotch, that diner on eyeless eels
Hermione had a thoroughly refreshing lie-in the next morning, though it meant missing breakfast. Given the quality of the room, Hermione would have been surprised to find anything palatable served. She managed to locate a coffee shop that sold tea and enjoyed a pain au chocolate, some runny local cheese, and fresh berries. She couldn't remember the last time she'd slept so well. She didn't recall much of her dreams from the night before, but from the tangled mess of nightdress and sheets she'd found herself in that morning, she suspected they had been extremely pleasant.
After checking out of the bed and breakfast and Shrinking her overnight bag, she took her time returning to Westvleteren. Rather than Apparate, she cast a Disillusionment charm on herself and her ancient-but-serviceable broomstick and flew across the countryside at a leisurely pace, admiring the verdant fields below and towering trellises and wondering at how the today's farmers had caught the torch from the soldiers' failing hands and brought life from a region that had seen so much death. Hermione's heart swelled when she thought of Severus doing the same with his brothers in the monastery, making ale with the fruits of the land, harvesting the fields that were so vividly green that it made her retinas ache as she flew over.
By the time she reached the monastery, however, the blue skies had darkened to grey, and a dark line of storm clouds cut across the horizon. Having been aloft for nearly an hour, Hermione was more than ready for a croque monsieur and a pint of world-famous ale.
To her annoyance, she received nowhere near a pint of the "twelve" beer Jason had requested, served in a poncy little glass with a silver rim. However, the small size was soon forgotten when the first sip passed her lips. She enjoyed beer as much as her compatriots, but the flavours that spread across her tongue were so far removed from her definition of beer as to be something completely different.
She tasted black currant, plum, something floral, cardamom, and a chewy sweetness with only the least suggestion of alcohol as the liquid slid down her throat, leaving a trail of warmth in its wake. Hermione stared at the glass in front of her, unsure of whether to sigh happily or cry because this made all other beers she'd drunk seem like lightly flavoured water.
Fortunately, the lady who had taken her order re-appeared with a grilled ham and cheese sandwich that smelled like heaven, accompanied by a small glass dish filled with cornichons and silverskin onions. She also handed Hermione a bundle that was tied with twine and had her name written on it. Hermione glanced around the café to see if anybody had noticed, but everyone was too busy enjoying their beer and food and watching the rain outside to pay any attention to her. She slid the package under the table and finished her food and drink, wishing wistfully for another glass of beer to fortify her for whatever had made Severus Snape grin at her so wickedly when she had left him the previous day.
The ladies' toilet was empty, and Hermione wasted no time locking herself in and reinforcing the lock with a Forgetfulness spell that she hoped wouldn't cause any accidents before she had the opportunity to remove it.
She untied the twine and unwrapped the brown paper parcel to reveal a pile of brown and white cloth, a small phial, a packet of papers, and a letter.
You will find enclosed a beverage of our poetess's design that, with the other contents of this package, will remove all impediments to future visits. However, once consumed, you will need to find me in order to have the impediments reinstated.
PS Since I cannot trust you to hold your questions for much longer and I do not wish to discuss them at length, the answers are:
1. An enormous dose of Blood Replenisher, a Bezoar, and a friend who knew how Arthur Weasley survived.
3. In Oxyrhincus, of course.
Hermione stared at the parchment, bemusedly ticking off the answers to her questions. The first was so obvious she couldn't believe she hadn't considered it before. Of course a snake like Nagini would have made only the tiniest puncture wounds in his neck to inject her venom, certainly not wounds large enough to cause the excessive bleeding she had seen. And that would also explain how Lucius knew that Severus had survived- he had been Severus's confederate. The second seemed like an obvious reason for living like a monk for nearly a decade. The third made her smile. It didn't really answer her question about how he'd found the manuscript, but it would do for the time being. The most pressing question she had now concerned the mystery potion.
The phial was filled with green sludge that looked like nothing so much as pesto. However, when she removed the stopper, the primary odour was something floral that she couldn't quite place, though the smell was comfortingly familiar. She set the open phial on the sink and examined the package's other contents. To her surprise, the cloth turned out to be a monk's habit identical to Snape's, although shorter, wrapped around a pair of plain leather sandals. The letters were artfully forged letters of reference and introduction for a Brother Herman, an apprentice bookbinder lately of Mount Saint Bernard's Abbey in Leicestershire. As a professional who earned more making a single bespoke volume than any abbey likely saw in a year, she was nettled by her demotion until she realised that all Cistercian master bookbinders probably knew one another by name, if not by sight.
That settled, Hermione considered the phial in front of her. It was part of her disguise, that much was certain. But what was it? It couldn't alter her appearance too drastically- a major change, like that brought on by Polyjuice Potion, wouldn't last long. Perhaps an Illusion? Well, there was only one way to find out. She raised the phial to her lips and drank.
Herbal bitterness exploded on her tongue and down her throat, and her stomach began to rebel. She leaned forward on the sink, willing herself not to vomit. But as suddenly as her nausea had manifested itself it went away, to be replaced by an extremely curious and not altogether unpleasant sensation. It was as if an army of ants was marching across her skin in calfskin slippers. Odd waves of tension rippled over her skin, tantalising her, tightening her nipples and giving her a heavy feeling in her lower abdomen. She began to pant as the tickling tightness took on a decidedly pleasurable edge. Her hands flew to her breasts, which felt as if they were kneading themselves from within; her nipples were hot centres of pleasure that grew tighter and more intense with each passing second.
But this was soon secondary to the growing sense of urgency she felt between her legs, where the low-grade vibrations were becoming stronger and stronger. She fumbled with the button on her trousers, pulled them down around her ankles and cupped her pudenda with both hands.
As soon as her hands touched the fabric of her knickers, she realised something was very wrong. The moist cleft she expected to find had swollen outward and was continuing to swell under her hands. Panic and something else far more electrifying shot through her, and she yanked off her knickers, half fascinated and half terrified of what she would find. The elastic edge of her underwear was stuck, but it was a moment before Hermione realised what it was stuck on.
She was now the proud owner of a penis. An erect, twitching penis with, her hand confirmed, two extremely sensitive bollocks hanging beneath, which tightened at her touch and sent a jolt of pleasure to her very centre, or where her centre had once been.
Her hands shot to her chest, and she was only half surprised to find that her breasts had disappeared, leaving behind flat nipples which despite their smallness were every bit as sensitive as hers had been. A glance in the mirror showed a vaguely familiar face, but with a squarer jaw than she possessed, slightly rough with nascent stubble. But her perusal was interrupted by the clamouring from between her legs.
Kingsley, into whose bed she had fallen the night of Ron and Lavender's party (for old time's sake), had encouraged her to be rough with his organ- something that she hadn't imagined as being arousing until now, as her feather-light exploratory touches woke a stronger need. She squeezed the testicles, tugging them away from her body, and groaned- a completely unfamiliar sound that momentarily drew her out of the haze she'd been in. Exploration was very well and good, but she could not afford to be discovered.
She cast a quick Muffliato around her, dropped her wand by the sink, and wrapped her wand hand around the cock that was straining outwards, looking rather neglected.
The first stroke of her fist made her grateful for the charm, as a guttural moan emerged from her throat. She squeezed the base of her shaft, delighting in the fierce pleasure that ran through her body, and stroked upward, running her thumb around the edge of the glans. A droplet of liquid appeared at the tip, and the sight of it made Hermione shudder against the sink and fall backwards against the cool tile wall.
She began to pump her hand rhythmically up and down her length, as her other fell between her legs to massage the balls. Blood roared in her ears as her hands moved faster and more frantically up and down the shaft. Several more viscous drops had leaked out the head of her penis, and she rubbed them over the head with her thumb, her whole body jerking in pleasure from the sensation.
"Oh, God," she announced to no-one in particular, as her hand sped up, seemingly of its own accord. Her eyes screwed shut as the enormous ball of tension in her groin pulled itself tighter and tighter inside. And then the pressure exploded out of her in blinding climax. She was keening helplessly, doubled over, her hands frantically squeezing the base of her penis. She managed to open her eyes, and the sight of seed spurting in uneven arcs was enough to bring on a second wave of climax. Delicious spasm followed delicious spasm, and slowly her need waned until she returned to herself, half-naked and slumped against the bathroom wall, breathing hard.
She groaned once more, as her penis twitched in the final throes of climax, and she gently stroked the shaft, slick from her own ejaculate. She let out a shaky breath and lowered herself to the floor. Her erection was fading, and she touched it uncertainly. It twitched, but made no effort to return to its previous state.
When she had sat for some minutes, she began to grasp the implications of the potion she had consumed. The potion didn't change one into another person, it merely changed one's own sex, something that, she had to admit, required considerably less magic than Polyjuice. But it was still an incredible accomplishment.
She eventually found the strength to rise, clean up the mess she'd made on the floor, and remove her shirt and now useless brassiere. She examined herself in the mirror and found that her chest wasn't nearly as defined as she'd hoped. To be honest, she wasn't much to look at as a man. Her waist was thicker than in her female form, and her newly narrow hips were crowned by the soft circle of fat that many middle-aged men sported. At least she was several inches taller than she had been, which was nice. Her still-small features seemed ridiculous next to the square chin, which she scratched, wondering if her looks would be improved by growing a thin beard like Snape's. To her chagrin, her bushy hair remained the same, no matter what her sex.
Belatedly, she realised she'd been occupying the loo for over ten minutes, and she hurriedly dressed herself in the habit Snape had given her. He'd even included a leather thong to tie back her hair. Her own clothes and Shrunk possessions she rolled into the cloth wrapping and tied tightly with string. For good measure, she Charmed the twine to be unbreakable and unknotted only when the counterspell was applied, which she hoped would prevent any nosy brothers from discovering the brassiere, panties, or Chudley Cannons t-shirt within.
Hermione dispelled her Forgetfulness spell and her hand was on the doorknob when she remembered that the door to the loo opened onto the café, and it wouldn't do for a monk to be seen exiting the ladies' room. Fortunately, the window opened behind the café and was just large enough for Brother Herman to climb through. Unfortunately, the muddy patch that had formed just below the window wasn't quite as solid as it appeared.