You look, you look like trouble.
You look like, beautiful trash.
You look, look so, holy through the smoke and the ash.
Oh, beautiful trash.
She's never known what to make of him. Never known how to read him. It's a small comfort that there's no one left alive who does. Perhaps McGonagall, but she has never forgiven him for what he'd done and no longer counts in that regard.
There was a time when she thought she wouldn't, either. There was a time when she thought she could have stood before him, wand raised, and cast the one curse that would removed him as a problem.
Luckily, she'd never had the opportunity.
Secrets exposed meant that he'd never been the traitor they'd all assumed, meant that they'd been taken in exactly the way they were supposed to, meant that they'd never had any faith in him to begin with.
When he survived, she was pleased.
When he returned to teaching, Potions at that, she was shocked.
When she replaced Flitwick, his nerves irreparably shot after the war, she was disappointed.
Somehow, after everything that she learned about him between the press and the trial and Harry's late night, alcohol induced confessions, she had expected more from him.
He decided long ago that he would die here. It was fitting, seeing as he'd lived in the castle for the majority of his life.
He'd almost accomplished it.
A miracle, they called it.
When the dust settled and the trials ended, when he was lauded a hero of the Wizarding world, when Potter's declarations of his bravery should have tasted like victory, he was left with only the 'miracle' of his survival and nothing more.
Words. They're so easy to throw out into the world and impossible to take back, but the kicker is that they're only truly effective when they're aimed to hurt.
He'd said it once. Only once. And it had ruined his life.
They showered him with words, upon words, upon words. Hell, they even gave him a shiny medal that came with more fucking words.
But those words never translated into action.
No one wants to hire the infamous ex-Death Eater spy who killed Dumbledore. No one wants to fund his research ideas. No one wants to even acknowledge he exists.
He's only a hero if he's a distant figure, not one they have to deal with on a daily basis and remember that, in reality, he's a bit of a prick.
So he went back to Hogwarts, ready to wait it out.
One day, he'd die here.
Four years after the end of the war, two after she'd joined the staff, and the accumulation of the words he'd said to her outside of "Professor Granger" and "Good evening" could be counted on one hand.
He towers over her, his rage palatable as it shivers over her skin and settles at the base of her spine. She arches backwards, trying to keep him fully in sight. His face is twisted into an expression that goes beyond mere anger—it's almost animalistic.
"What do you think you're doing?" he hisses, his voice deadly and quiet. "You think that you can waltz into my domain and use whatever you see fit because you're a fucking hero Miss Granger? You think you can steal from me again?"
"Now, just wait a second—"
"I will not wait anymore!" He screams it, bellows it, really. His voice at the top of his lungs cracks a bit and spit flies from his mouth. His eyes are wild and furious and...staring straight into them for the first time in years she realises something.
She's hurt him, somehow, but she doesn't understand. He had agreed to her using the lab for her experiment earlier in the week, Minerva had said...
The light clicks on and her eyes fall shut as regret and a not inconsiderable amount of anger washes over her.
"Severus." She murmurs his name. She'd never said his name before. Opening her eyes, she reaches up and places her hands flat on his chest, one right over his furiously thudding heart. "Severus," she says it again, watching his eyes dart wildly between hers. He doesn't take her to task for her familiarity and part of her is shocked.
"There's been a misunderstanding. I thought you knew. I thought you had approved."
He blinks. Once, twice. Like a charm has zapped him out of it, his expression morphs.
Straightening, his face loses all hint of emotion. He turns away from her and stalks back towards his office, out of his private lab.
His voice returns to that deadly softness and she knows what it means.
He nearly confronts her. Nearly. He marched halfway up to her office, his heavy boots thundering on the flagstones, his robes practically snapping behind him.
But he doesn't.
He's more of a coward than he'd like to admit, even to himself, but he's never been very good at lying to himself. Everyone else, yes, but never to himself.
He just doesn't have the energy to do it anymore. And he doesn't want to see the hatred in her eyes.
Instead, he invites the little interloper back just to spite the bitch who sent her in the first place.
He suspects that she's playing a game, but he doesn't care.
The expression in her eyes throws him. Gratitude. She understands what happened, what was done to her, and for reasons unknown she doesn't seem to want to take it out on him. The invitation is extended over a Thursday evening dinner at the Head Table and by the next night she's there. In his space.
It's surreal for him. He's never shared this place before, not even with Slughorn when he took over the post that dreadful year.
He doesn't know what to do with her.
She wears brightly coloured robes and he wonders if she's defying his own.
She sings softly under her breath. It irritates him and he tells her to shut up a dozen times a night.
She also dances from place to place, especially when things are going her way. It distracts him.
She sheds like a goddamn cat. He finds her curly hairs everywhere.
He takes her to task for leaving behind the perfect opportunity to Polyjuice her. She ought to know better. Hadn't she had enough experience with that particular potion over the years? He watches her grin, the smile spreading over her face as easily as she draws breath. He watches her get smart with him and dare him to do it, to become her. He glares at her and spits out something scathing about her stupidity but she doesn't react.
It frustrates him that she never fucking reacts.
It's just before the New Year when he does it.
In retrospect, she realises that it had been building for quite some time, and the fact that she'd spent the majority of the Christmas Hols in his lab poking and prodding at her experiments probably didn't help.
He snaps at her and for the first time since she was fourteen, he succeeds at making her cry.
It was a careless comment that, had he been aware of her circumstances she was sure he wouldn't have made. He had attacked her about her friends, the two blundering idiots as he often called them, and it had garnered no reaction. They were like her family, bonded through trials and terror rather than blood. Logically, if those comments had rolled off of her like water on oil slicked canvas, so should have this one.
But he hadn't known.
He asks her, quite snidely, why she insisted on forcing her presence on him throughout the break. Was he to have no respite from her? Or did her own parents not want her around? Had she driven them off with her incessant chatter and her terrible singing voice?
She drops the stirring rod she's using.
She watches the potion in her cauldron bubble and knows that it is burning at the bottom. It's ruined. Several hundred galleons worth of ingredients and four weeks of planning gone in an instant.
Without care for how hot the metal is, she picks up the cauldron, strides the two steps it takes to reach the sink and throws the whole thing in.
She spins around. "Fuck you. Fuck you! Fuck you!" Her entire body shakes. Pain races up her arms from her hands. "You think you can just say anything you want? Why? Because everyone expects you to be a fucking bastard!?" She's shrieking, her voice echoing harshly off the walls.
He just stands there, his face expressionless.
"How about rising above their fucking expectations for once in your goddamn life?" She blinks and hot tears spills down her cheeks. "How about you grow the fuck up and deal with your own pain without inflicting it on others?"
She waits. A heartbeat. Two. Three. A handful.
He doesn't say a word. Just stands there, staring at her as if she is a wild creature.
She leaves him there.
*** This is a different style for me, so I'd appreciate feedback.
*** Title and quote are taken directly from the song 'Beautiful Trash' by Lanu. No copyright infringement intended.