Disclaimer: The ones you recognize belong to JKR and the ones you don't belong to me. I'm grateful to be allowed to play in the Potterverse and I do not, nor ever intend to, take money for the fruits of my writing labors within it.

Contract Binding: Chapter Seven
By RowanRhys

Bells were sonorously ringing one o'clock in the morning as Marian and Severus hurried along Diagon Alley toward the Leaky Cauldron.  The dark maw of Knockturn Alley loomed ahead to their left, and the memories of the attack earlier that evening froze her muscles, slowing her steps as they got closer to the dark side street. 

"We'll never get where we're going if you don't move your feet."  The snap in his voice was enough to break through the fear haze and get her past into the next stretch of lamplit pavement.

Shivering, both from cold and fear, she pulled the borrowed robe more tightly about herself and glared up at him.  "I don't know about you, but I'm going to go back home to the Reserve.   Alyce will be frantic that I'm not back already."

He hooked his hand through her elbow and urged her forward.  "You're going to the Leaky Cauldron and to bed.  Markham-Peters is expecting to see both of us at nine to conclude the business of the Will."

Marian dug in her heels and snapped, "I'm not staying here overnight and I'm NOT going to marry some stranger just because my Grandfather had antiquated ideas about a witch's role."

"I don't think that I qualify as a stranger, cousin."  He started walking with a long stride, pulling her along with him, forcing her to nearly run to keep up.

"You may as well be," she muttered.  "Will you please slow down? I'm in borrowed shoes that don't quite fit."  Marian scowled as he moderated his pace.  "Why are you so blasted intent on this anyway?  You shouldn't need the money, not with your job at Hogwarts."

"This is not an appropriate place to have this conversation.  I'll answer your questions while we eat."

"I told you that I'm going home."   She fumed as he just kept walking, not deigning to answer her, his grip on her elbow firm enough to keep her from pulling away from him.  Bloody stubborn . . .  She looked up at his battered face as they passed under another street light and flinched at the dried blood across his cheek and the swollen, misshapen hook of his nose.  "Nimue's Hair!  Why didn't you get some first aid before we left the station?"

"I need nothing from them but to be left alone," he snarled at her, and she shook her head in exasperation.  They'd reached the brick wall that led out of the Alley into the back yard of the Leaky Cauldron and Snape turned to look down at her.  "I propose a bargain. You stay and talk with Markham-Peters about the Will with me, and I'll submit to having this dealt with." 

She glared up at him.  "That's not fair."  Marian knew that even with her dislike of him, she'd worry about the injuries he'd received on her behalf. 

"You know what they say about love and war."

"This certainly isn't love," she muttered before nodding her head.  "Agreed." She reached out and tapped the bricks with her wand.  "But don't expect me to change my mind."

* * * * *

"Hold still," Marian scolded as she wiped the dried blood from his cheek with a potion soaked cloth.  "I'm almost done this part.  Then we'll take care of your nose. I'm glad that Tom had this stuff, otherwise you'd be stuck with Muggle methods and they're no fun."

"And how would you know?"  Snape was seated in an armchair before her, facing the fire, and a trio of candlesticks on the round table next to the chair illuminated his scowling face.

She pulled her stool a bit closer to his knees and dabbed at his face again. "Got caught in a storm on the edge of the Forest when I was checking the barriers a few years back.  A tree came down at the wrong moment, knocking me down, and I was found by a Muggle.  Nothing serious, but she insisted on driving me to her home down the road and daubing me with iodine and plasters.  The iodine hurt more than the scrapes did!"  She looked critically at his cheek.  "Well, that's a bit better. Do you want to eat before I work on your nose or after?"

"Considering that I won't be able to taste a thing until the swelling is gone, you might as well do it now.  I'm half afraid to ask where you got your expertise."

Marian recapped the healing potion and set it on the table.  "Part of my training.  Unicorns are usually docile around us, but sometimes the younger ones get too excited and it's pretty easy to get one's nose mashed by a tossing head, or a broken foot from a misplaced hoof."  She rummaged through the vials Severus had carried in his pockets, sorting out a pair of bottles filled with liquid of a similar golden shade.  "Why didn't you label these?  Which is the Boneset?"  A vial of an almost electric blue liquid was also selected and set aside.

"Can't remember your Potions classes, Miss Carlyle-Tintagel?" he sneered.

She laughed shortly.  "If you show that expression to your students, I'm amazed they stop shaking long enough to put the potions together.  I just don't want to take any chances of making a mistake." 

"Nice to hear an honest answer.  Most would find an excuse to hide the fact that they don't know."  His long pale finger pointed to one of the bottles.  "The other one is a sleeping draught."

"Hmmm. I thought they were generally purple."  She uncapped the electric blue bottle and measured out five drops into a horn cup that the landlord had provided along with the hot water and the food that weighed down the other side of the table.  She reached for the pitcher of juice he'd sent up and filled the cup, and swirled it gently to mix the contents.  "Drink up.  This is going to hurt and I don't need your yells waking up the people down the hall."

"You're thinking of the Draught of the Living Death.  And no, it wouldn't do your reputation any good being caught in a bedroom alone with me."  He tossed back the cup's contents and set it down on the tabletop.

She found herself surprised at the bitterness in his voice.  "My reputation has nothing to do with it!  I just don't want anyone to have to suffer more pain than necessary." 

She reached into her belt for her wand and hesitated as her fingertips grazed the handle of her old one.  It's the one I've always used for my healing work, but it's been acting up lately.  She bit the inside of her lip as she watched Snape's eyes dilate, half hidden beneath his bruised eyelids, as the pain relieving potion took effect.  She shifted her hand to the new wand, curling her fingers around it.  Better go as I mean to go on.  And after that display in Ollivander's shop, it had better work well.

"Skeletus visibilus," she said softly, waving the wand in a slow sweep in front of his face.  A ghostly image immediately overlay his features, a representation of the skull that underlay his features.  The nasal opening glowed in varying shades of red, the deeper colours clearly showing fractures in the bone where the septum should anchor.  "Cartiliginus visibilus."

She frowned as the cartilage appeared in blue.  The nasal divider was completely separated from its bony anchor.  Left as it was, the aquiline beak would heal into a particularly disfiguring lump.  Let's see the best way to do this.  "Tumoris reducio."  Marian reached up and gently touched Snape's nose, feeling the puffiness decreasing under her fingers as the spell took effect.  "Severus, this might still hurt.  I'm sorry." Watching the red and blue images closely, she pressed her fingers on each side of his nose, firmly directing the misplaced cartilage back to the correct position.  She winced as she felt the muscles in his jaw tense, and glanced down to see his hands clenched tightly on the arms of the chair.  "Almost done."  She sighed with relief as she felt and saw things settle into place.  Snatching up her wand, she cast one more healing charm, to prevent further swelling, and reached for the little bottle of Boneset.  Her hands were shaking as she pried the lid free and held the bottle to his lips.  "Come on.   Drink up."

As he swallowed the stuff, she sat back on her stool, maintaining the visibilus spells until she saw the angry red lines of the fractures start to fade.  When she was sure that the septum would stay in place, she dropped the charms and rubbed her hands over her face, exhausted.

"Thank you."  Snape's voice was still slightly nasal but that would be gone by morning, she knew.  What surprised her was the lack of grudging that she'd half-expected to hear in the tone.

"I was worried you were going to come right out of the chair," she admitted.  "I'd hoped that the potion would have deadened the pain some."

"Believe me, I have felt far worse than that."  He rose from the chair and moved around the table to the covered dishes, exploring the fare the innkeeper had sent up.

She chose not to pursue that line of conversation as the clock on the mantelpiece chimed twice, singing out softly, "It's very late!  It's very late!"  She got to her feet and stood, wobbling briefly as her legs complained of the cramped position she'd held over the past hour while working on Severus' injuries."

"Sit down before you fall down," he snapped as he filled a plate.

"Don't order me around."

"You might have the wherewithal to mend me but I don't have the ability to fix you up if you crack your head on the hearthstone.  Sit down and eat something before going to bed."

She glared at him as she sank down into the armchair he had vacated, pulling the tweed robe more tightly about herself after putting her wand back in her belt.  "Just where am I sleeping, anyway?"

"In here."  He handed her the filled plate and jerked his head toward the wide bed in the corner of the room.

She whipped her head around to stare at the four-poster in shock.  "No!"

To be continued

Author's Note: Thank you for your patience.  My muse was extremely insistent that I work on "What Will Come, Will Come…," barely allowing me to get my notes written for this chapter, but she finally relented and let me tell a bit more of Severus and Marian's tale.  I hope you liked this quieter interlude, because thing are going to get exciting again fairly soon!