It's JKR's world, I just play in it.

This is a prequel to Unfinished Games, and is about how Hana Hooch and Severus Snape first got together in the years before Allosia's arrival at Hogwarts.  I was feeling testy about Beltane and wrote it.  Enjoy.

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Severus was drumming his fingers vigorously against the head table, agitated as ever.  Dumbledore couldn't help but sigh with amusement as he saw the man smile slightly and pick up the pace when Minerva glared at him for the fourth time that morning.  So good to know everything was in order.  It wouldn't be Beltane at Hogwarts without half his staff wishing it wasn't.

Severus pushed his chair back from the table with as much noise as possible, noting his general displeasure with the calendar in the only way that was currently acceptable.

"You will be joining us for the festivities later, I trust," Dumbeldore commented as the man brushed past him.

"I can't imagine," he purred, stopping and turning, "what would give you such an idea."

"It would be good for you, Severus."

"Your optimism never ceases to humiliate, headmaster," he sneered before striding out of the Great Hall.

"I don't know why you bother, Albus," Minerva said absently, pushing her eggs around her plate.

~

I am not a religious man.  It doesn't offend, so much as it is so clearly both dangerous and wasteful an activity and excuse.  Will, intellect and desire are all more than powerful enough to transform the world and using unseen forces as an excuse for mass debauchery is exactly the type of abandonment of personal responsibility I know all too much about.  No thank you, Albus.  I will most certainly not be joining the festivities tonight.  It would benefit no one, least of all me.

It is quite enough to live metaphorically outside the world, as I do because of my past, as I do because I teach here in this supposed idyll, as I do because I can count on one hand the number of people on the planet I would willingly converse with for more than five minutes, and as I do because of my mismatched and mostly useless heritage.  It is another thing entirely, to be reminded that I have no place.  You would think, a man like me would at least welcome the notion of passing between the worlds, but my world is not one bridged by such a phrase or its accompanying magic; nor are my worlds such than any should find the need to bridge. 

There are some circles even I cannot bear standing outside of, and I could no more bring myself to inflict my flesh upon this joyous and tawdry celebration, than I could find it in myself to rejoin Voldemort.

Albus will no doubt torture me all day.

~

"What do you want, Albus?"

"Hello Hana, it's a lovely morning, isn't it?" he asked gazing around the quidditch pitch and taking in the crisp spring air.  It was simply a perfect day on which to have a perfect day.

"At the moment," she said, eyeing him suspiciously.

"I didn't see you at breakfast."

"I was enjoying the lovely morning."

"Good, good," he said before becoming distracted again by the day.

"What do you want, Albus?"

"Oh, I'm sorry, just enjoying the air.  You'll be joining us tonight, yes?"

"Why?" she asked suspiciously.

"Why not?" the headmaster replied with a twinkle in his eye.

"Surely, you don't want my list."

"No, I've already gotten Severus'."

Hana snorted by way of reply.

"Actually, I believe I've convinced him to attend.  You certainly don't want to replace him as the most surly member of the faculty?"

"Oh, I don't know, he seems to enjoy it."

"You have a certain wisdom about Severus."

"Merely an appreciation.  A distant appreciation, I assure you."

As Albus bid her good day, Hana Hooch wondered precisely which unpleasant corner she had just been manipulated into.

~

"No, Albus, you're not going to persuade me to change my mind.  I was rather enjoying an intimate evening with a book, some wine and a fire, until your head appeared in it."

Damn the man.  He's going to torture me into going.  Perhaps if I performed Cruciatus on him for a few hours he might begin to understand why I find it preferable to his constant badgering.

"Minerva will be very disappointed."

I shudder.  I can't help myself.  We both know Minerva isn't trying to partner with me this evening, after all, she's despised me since I was eleven.  Unfortunately, we both also know that I have quite the visual imagination and if Albus keeps this up, I'll have to attend just to scour the horror of this discussion from my mind.

"Minerva will be perfectly grateful she won't have to hear my fingers drumming on a tree."

Albus laughs.  He actually has the audacity to laugh.  He enjoys this.  I'd cast aspersions on his parentage, but I'm the last person who should be doing that to anyone, let alone him.  My saviour.  My completely horrible, nagging, frustrating saviour, who despite all my best instincts I am grateful towards.  Horribly, debilitatingly grateful towards.

The banter continues; I'm hardly listening to either of us.  He's saying something about Flitwick.  Alright, that's it, he's damned me to another evening of nightmares.  Fine, Albus, you win.  Again.

"Fine, I'll go.  Just. Stop. Talking. About. Flitwick."

Albus grins.

"I'm so glad my boy.  We're all leaving from the main hall in thirty minutes.  Does that give you enough time?"

I gesture absently to my face and hair.  "Do you think there's any amount of time that would make a difference?"

Albus has the good graces to look abashed, but I know he's actually annoyed by my self deprication.  Even I will admit, it is rather boring.

~

When I arrive in the front hall, everyone is chattering madly, except for Hooch who is desperately trying to hang back when Albus takes her arm as we walk out into the crisp night air.  We cast each other sympathetic looks, although I suspect her evening will be better than mine.

The walk to the field takes about thirty minutes and I feel a mix of dread and relief when I feel the warmth of the fire, but notice the absolute hoard of people from Hogsmeade it is illuminating.  At least in my colleagues I know my enemy.

People are starting to congregate around the bonfire, and the circle is huge.  I decide not to waste a brain cell on estimating its numbers.  I draw closer to the fire, more for the warmth than anything else, but am rather pointedly not in the circle that is starting to form.  Twenty feet away, Minerva shoots me a look.

"No," I mouth at her and Albus smiles that confounding and completely unnecessary smile of his again.  I have no idea where Hana's gone off to, and I find myself angry.  We could have at least been partners in ill-temper were she not attractive enough for this evening to have some use to her.  Not that she doesn't get around anyway, if the gossip is to be believed.  Truthfully, I don't much care, I'm just grateful she has such a low opinion of so many people and is poorly bred enough to not refrain from sharing.  When she bothers with breakfast it makes the meal slightly more endurable.

Albus is going on about something, raising his arms, invoking deities, I presume.  Everyone is silent.  I'm still getting a few dirty looks for hovering on the edge of the ritual.  I spy a Hufflepuff prefect across the way, with his fiancé.  I think I'll be ill and briefly contemplate going over there to give them detention.  Students are not supposed to be here.  That said, I don't want students to know I'm here either.  Luckily for me and unfortunately for them, diligence and loyalty will not be enough to keep those twits from fouling up in my class tomorrow.

I cross my arms over my chest and sigh audibly, producing more glares.  I don't see what the problem is, we're not that much of an agrarian society anymore anyway.

~

"You look positively thrilled to be here," Hana says, wandering up to me from who knows where after the ritual.

"Albus tortured me until I relented.  You, I presume, just felt the sudden need of a larger hunting ground."  I arch an eyebrow, it generally discourages disagreement.

Hana laughs, she actually laughs.

"Actually, I find this a bit too easy," she says conspirationally leaning closer to me.

She must have been upwind, as I can smell the incense in her hair.  It's one of those horrible defining smells it's near impossible to forget or put aside.  Cloying, woodsy, definitely not sexy, and yet perceived as such from too many years of attending rituals such as this.  I take a deep breath to clear my head, but of course, it has exactly the opposite effect.

"Indeed," I say, my voice vaguely strangled with a mix of desire and desire to curse Albus.

It's Hana's turn to raise an eyebrow at me.

"What?" I snap, realizing it's a weak response but knowing I have to say something.

Hana laughs in earnest, literally doubles over with it.  I want to grab her shoulders and shake her 'til she stops.  So I do.

Her shoulders are strong, strangely strong for a woman, and it interests me enough that some voice in the back of my mind whispers that she'd be a pleasure to fight in anything but an honorable wizards duel.

She quiets quickly, but her eyes are still laughing when she looks at me.  This time, I have just enough sense, though I continue to half suffocate on the smell of her hair and the warmth of the fire and the sounds of gods knows what in the woods behind us, not to say anything.  She refuses to break our eye contact, and I'm absolutely relieved that she's not a student.

Her mouth slowly curves into a smile.  Hunting grounds indeed.  It occurs to me, that if I let go of her, she'll kiss me.  But it also occurs that she'll probably walk away, still laughing soon afterwards, and I won't ever live that down.  I curse Albus again, before grinding my lips against hers with an unexpected rage, even for me.

It is violent, and there is biting, and I am unsure of whose blood we are tasting as we sink to the ground.  I'm ripping, literally ripping at her robes and she's fighting against me, telling me to stop, and I do, just for a second, but without loosening my grip on her.  I just want to hear how horrified she is before I continue.

"Why?" I ask her and then she smiles that damnably creepy smile again.  I am not thinking clearly.  I am not, in fact, thinking at all.

"Severus," she says, my name too soft in her mouth, "if anyone's getting raped tonight, it's definitely you."

I'm dumbfounded, and rock hard as she knocks me back on the ground and straddles me.  Being ugly and alone seems infinitely preferable to this madness, as I feel her hands work their way under my robes and into my pants.  I grab her hair sharply and she hisses and grins.  I am relieved she wants a good fight and I taste smoke as I run my tongue along her jaw.

For a moment, I think the bitch has somehow managed to stop time.  Then, it occurs that perhaps it is my heart or lungs that she has frozen.  Another second and I understand she's slipped a finger up inside me, and is grinning at the paralysis and discomfort on my face.  No wonder she sleeps around, no one would be insane enough to do this twice.  Another finger and her hips grinding against me and coherent thought simply flees.

~

It's five am cold, and we're walking back to the castle.  I am too old for this, and I thank my days as a death eater for being able to mask my exhaustion and aches.  Hana is quiet beside me, seeming more ashamed than myself, which interests.  She's probably contemplating whatever I'll do by way of revenge.  Good.

"Severus," she says, in a sharp tone, presumably to snap me out of the thoughts she supposes I must be lost in.

"Mmmm?" I reply, not yet trusting myself to full speech.

"I had no idea," she says coyly, and it could mean any one of a number of things about the last several hours.

My reflexes get the better of me, and I grab her hair, viciously, again.  After this evening, it's a wonder she has any of it left.

"Yes?" I hiss.

"We really should do this again.  Somewhere more comfortable," she says casually, with a vague hint of amusement as if I'm not about to lift her off the ground by her scalp.

"Surely, you jest." I say tersely.  It is, after all, a matter of time.

"Surely, you're not refusing," she replies, as I drop my grip and we continue walking.

"Presumptions of my desperation are most, unwelcome, Hooch."

"I was presuming, Severus," she began, my name sounding like an insult, which I suppose was something of the natural order of things, "That I'm the only person you know who can give as good as she gets with you." 

Dear gods, she's proud.

"Well, other than Voldemort," I say in an offhand way, as I make a dismissive gesture with my hand.

She laughs.  Severus Snape has made a joke, and someone actually laughs.  It's been a hell of a long time.