The Doe in the walls

Chapter 6

Ritual

Potions thrummed through his mind, a heartbeat to the hiss of synapses cloaked by white of bone and dark of the internal. Ingredients and clause chased cause and compatibility, the subtle dance was bound by the delicate web of motion. Half dreaming, half sleeping, Severus set his chin on the bent arms, the text before him, his own journal besides that, open wide. Yellowing pages, black text, the possible "artistic and meaningful" comparison's Dumbledore would have quipped at him about him, those open texts, and his half shut eyes was redundant beyond extreme.

It also would have been rounded out with a well meant attempt to coax the Potion Master to slumber.

So, in the name of spite, and petty little things, he didn't indulge.

Merely listened with eyes half open to the thumb of cause and clause, letting the familiar soft sounds of pages turning and arms ticking as they went on with their doldrums rotations lull him to sleeps edge.

But never over, the boundary of Morpheus' domain was taboo. Even as the clock's hands clicked from "past bedtime" to "you should be thinking about breakfast". Once upon a time the clock would have said those words aloud, Flitwick had given him a clock that had done so, the voice had been prim, proper, and possible Poppy's with a touch of Voice Distorter Charm to protect the medi-Witch from Severus' inevitable wraith.

Suffice to say, the voice was muted. One moment of spite, an accidental unforgivable, and an impact with the wall and the clock was mercifully muffled. Still, he couldn't help but glower at the device. Irritation at the snarky appliance made him lift his gaze from the pages, and not even hunger had caused him to do so.

As if fearing his wraith the scolding words, those that took the place of numbers on the route of the Muggle clock's gyration, squished down into fonts so small the teacher could not decipher them. In its attempt to brace for another blast of malicious magic this thing had become perfectly illegible.

Considering he was a teacher doomed to read and mark essays for most of the year every year… that was impressive.

He set his pen aside, sliding it into the ink well and lifted his wand in wet, sweat slicked fingers, Severus glowered at the cringing face of the clock. Not breaking contact with the round, glassy, façade he growled.

"The time. By the numbers if you will."

With a rather contrite "tick" the words became numerals, he scowled at the miniscule numbers, and they swelled to full readability before "tick" became "tock".

Leaning forward, squinting, he threw his wand on his desk with a growl.

Five in the morning! Bloody hell!

He checked the words with monumental effort, stiffened at the soft sound that heralded his every morning. Bone against earth, against familiar stone, dainty in timing, delicate in form. The click of hooves scrapping across of stone caused his scowl to twist into a blank expression. The soft sound emanated form a room most often left unused, a moment, a huff, then above and behind, spilled familiar silver light.

"I'm an adult you know, not a child." Snape whispered, more than aware that the light was near, so close its source's breathe stirred a few lank locks about his neck. "I hardly need a wakeup call, unless you and that," a glower towards the clock, with only a ghost of old venom in attendance graced his face. "are conspiring against me."

With a soft tick the numbers squished into illegibility again, the face blanked, as if prepared for a bout of Crucio or worse.

Behind, above, she laughed. Not in her voice, merely in the voice circumstance had given her, but the sound was sweet enough, too deep to be perfect, but he would… overlook that for now. She bent, lips pressed against the nape of his neck, an idle nuzzle that caused his lips to quirk just so.

He sighed, surrendering for now.

"Good morning to you too. But be warned, I'm without coffee."

Unspoken, but understood between the two of them, was the silent and without sleep.

She snorted, as what was unsaid and said. As he was, she too was bound by the... familiarity of it all. In the name of ritual she set her chin upon his shoulder, muzzle brushing against his cheek just so. With a gesture born of familiarity, enforced by nearly daily repetition, he reached up.

And unlike most of the world, she did not flinch from his touch.

Twining silver illumination, spiritual mist, and soft short fur between his fingers, he teased the span between the doe's ears. She sighed, lost in the bliss of the moment.

"You've been gone all night again." No guilty whicker met his accusation, but then she was rarely bothered by such paltry things as guilt. "Been in the sugar again, have we?"

A sweet snort caused half his face to twitch, could she she surely would have been smiling.

So, because she couldn't he did or her.

"When I find your… Saint Frances… do know he.. or she… and I will be speaking most firmly about quantity control."

With a whine of protest, a click of hooves, she whirled about, slipping out of his study and back to the familiar folds of canvas and paint. Without looking, for this was part of the Monday morning ritual, he spelled ink dry, closed books, rolled scrolls, and every hint of his nightlong labors was neatly tucked about in the bookshelves and those accommodating nooks and crannies he'd built into the desk and about the room. Pulling a pile of unmarked papers from their proper cubby, he further hid his trail, scattering the first and second years efforts attempts about literature about with the care they'd made towards his classes.

Which was, in truth, none at all.

A noise, a whine from behind, caused him to turn about in his chair. Thus breaking off their ritual. That part where she'd watch him a little then pad off to do whatever it was doe did whilst lost amongst the lines of paint and foreshadow.

She was staring, not at him, but the pages. At the one paper that hung over the table's edge, precarious, nearly falling. Certainly failed though, his hand, a garish "T" scarred its fore, a scathing comment about legibility.

The only part of the text that he'd been able to decipher was the name, a Mr. Harry Potter, he sneered at the reminder, reached, but was too slow. Sliding through the air, it ghosted across stone, with a skip and tumble it fumbled towards the fireplace, only, just barely, stopped by the grate.

"Stupid brat, even when he's not here he's…" Stumbling to his feet, assaulted by the prick and tingle of poor circulation, Severus staggered to the gate, cursing all the while. "...causing me trouble, always…"

Another whine, a huff really, and the click of hooves across canvas and she was gone. Pulling the page, slightly singed as were his hands from coming too close to the grate, Snape snarled, whipped about at where the last accusatory sound had formed, scathing words for her teasing the tip of his tongue. He blinked black eyes wide, their depths laid bare for one moment's shock.

She was gone, had left him. His hands clenched, as did his jaw. The paper crumpled in the onslaught, then fell smolder, smoking, ashes dusted the floor. Then were kicked away under the force of a black book, before they truly had time to truly gather.