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The Tiger and the Tigress by zafania [Reviews - 8]

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Severus watched the clock; it ticked with a thoroughly irritating slowness that had been pushing him gradually and inexorably toward dementia all afternoon. Five fifteen; exactly three minutes later than it had been the last time that he had checked it. He gathered every shred of his considerable self-discipline and forced himself to go back to contemplating the balderdash that was the third years’ Potions essays.

What he really wanted to do more than anything else in the world, and certainly more than he wanted to mark this drivel, was to run down to Hogsmeade as fast as his long legs would carry him, and find out what was taking his wife so long. It was a truth that he would admit to no one, but he hated it when Mahaut went any further than her little garden on the grounds without him. It was not, however, his undeniable possessiveness that made Severus resent her going so far without him. He knew that she must have her independence; it was sheer anxiety that made him so tense. He worried that she and their children would not be safe alone, that they should come to some harm, but he forced himself to listen with all of his might to the rational, practical, inner daemon who repeatedly assured him that his wife and children would be safe amongst the bustle of the busy little town. And then there was the inner daemon that fretted that she might overhear the busybodies that he knew gossiped about her, those that still discussed her loss of magic. Even after all these years, there were those who would comment upon her supposedly disgraceful new status as a Squib. Severus was almost as afraid that she would be hurt by petty words as he was anxious that some mad, nameless follower of the Dark Lord might rear up from obscurity and snatch her away from him once more.

Plus, there was the way his soul felt stretched and thin when she was so far from him; it reminded him of the years that he had spent alone…

A loud clatter of metal against metal jarred him back to the sombre reality of his dungeon classroom. Severus tore his eyes from the parchment to which he had not been paying any attention in order to growl at the two seventh-year boys who were supposed to be scrubbing cauldrons in the scullery that led off to one side of the classroom.

“Silence!” he barked, releasing some of the tension he felt for the whereabouts of his wife upon the unsuspecting boys. “Dent those cauldrons and I’ll have you both back here every night until you’ve hammered out the dents with your bare hands!”

“Yes, sir!” muttered Smith.

“Sorry, sir,” mumbled Jones.

Severus snarled at them one more time, just for good measure, and turned back to the essays, irritably scratching a large, red ‘T’ on the tripe that he had barely read. He found the fact that he had been forced to give Smith and Jones detentions today doubly wearisome because they were NEWT students and should therefore know better than to misbehave in his classroom. The two boys, both Ravenclaws, were certainly bright enough to be in his class and had begun the year tolerably well. But then they had both started to compete for the attentions of a Hufflepuff girl by the name of Angela Morden and had been making complete prats of themselves ever since Christmas. The girl, an able but wholly unremarkable student whom Severus had largely ignored until now, had gone up a few notches in the opinion of her Potions master by calmly ignoring both Smith and Jones. Today, the boys had gone too far, having ignored their assignment in favour of clowning about for the unappreciative benefit of Miss Morden, and they had melted a perfectly good cauldron in the process. Severus was known to dislike many things, and somewhere on the very long list of things that he was well known to dislike were clowning about and the melting of cauldrons. So, here Smith and Jones were, wasting Severus’ time again, in detention this time.

Unable to ignore the cold knot in the pit of his soul that persistently told him that Mahaut was further away than was comfortable any longer, Severus gave in to temptation and allowed himself another quick glance at the clock. Five twenty six.

Damn it! Where was she? She should be here by now, or the very least close enough to ease the ghastly sensation of emptiness elicited by the pull of her soul when she was so far away. Severus unconsciously rubbed at his chest, as though seeking to ease the pain caused by stretching their connection.

He sighed heavily and hopelessly, and compelled himself back to his work with even less enthusiasm than usual. Severus had awarded two lacklustre essays an ‘A,’ and a ‘T’ to yet another before he felt it. He sighed again, with relief this time; she was on her way home. Severus felt the unseen bonds that bound his soul to Mahaut’s slacken, no longer agonisingly tight, and easing with every step that she took back toward him, and he smiled at the solace of her renewed presence. Severus felt the golden warmth of her soul brush against his own and savoured her proximity for a few seconds before turning contentedly back to his task. He knew that she would go straight back to their rooms to spend time with Drusilla and Etienne before dinner, and he would not see her until then. But she was nearby now; she was where she should be and it was enough for his peace of mind.

Therefore Severus was somewhat startled when, ten minutes later, his newly regained peace of mind was shattered by a small, but nevertheless extremely fearsome tiger, which burst into his classroom, roaring loudly.

Severus put down his red-tipped quill and stared in consternation at the terrifying wee beastie that was currently rampaging across the classroom floor in his general direction. It was quite an amusing sight as it danced comically between the table legs with its orange and black stripes contrasting with the soft glow of its grubby white paws and belly.

At least it was amusing until it tried to savage the Potion Master’s leg.

“Octavius!” Severus yelled, more from annoyance than from pain, as he tore the toddler from his leg.

“RWOAWRRR!” squealed his youngest son, “I’m a tiger, Daddy!”

“Yes, thank you, Octavius. I had noticed,” Severus stated with remarkable patience as he picked the little boy up and headed for the door with him, hoping to give him back to Mahaut as soon as possible, as he was no good with over-excited toddlers, even when they were his own.

Severus was vaguely aware of his wife’s pale presence in the dark doorway, so he set Octavius back on his own two feet and nudged him in the direction of his Maman. Had Severus been paying his usual close attention to his wife, he would have realised at once that something must be amiss: Mahaut’s always perfect hair had loose, bedraggled strands escaping willy-nilly from her coiffure, her face was flushed with annoyance, and her normally impeccable white dress had grubby handprints all over it in spite of the strong dirt-repelling charms that Severus set on her clothes when she dressed each morning. Unfortunately, Severus was preoccupied with listening to Octavius babbling about how much fun his friend Sarah’s birthday party had been, and he failed to notice his wife’s dishevelled state until after he had asked, So, did you have fun at the party too, beloved?

Severus visibly and mentally winced as soon as he straightened back up and looked properly at Mahaut; he knew instantly that the pleasantry had been a mistake. A very big mistake. He reflected that small talk was never a good idea; that was why he normally never indulged in it.

Mahaut’s eyes narrowed. Her inner voice, normally as rich and soft as one of Dumbledore’s dreaded toffees, sliced his mind like cold steel. It was never a good sign if she spoke aloud without being aware that she did so; it was beacon of her fury. Today, a low, serpentine hiss escaped her lips, the like of which Severus had rarely heard from her; it reverberated dangerously around the room.

“Did I have fun?” she hissed, licking her lips as if to taste the venom of her words, “did I ...have...fun? Are you INSANE, Severus? I have just spent the afternoon at ‘Uncle Merlin’s Happy House’ which should be otherwise known as ‘Mommy Hell,’ with thirty screaming toddlers! How the hell was I supposed to have...fun? I had more fun with Bellatrix Lestrange!”

Severus swallowed, hard. He knew that there was no point in protesting, so he tried to think calming thoughts in the hope that they might soothe Mahaut. Fat chance. Despite the fact that the ersatz tiger cub formerly known as Octavius Snape had resumed savaging his leg, Severus decided that it might be wise to back away, just a little bit, just to be on the safe side.

“Thirty of them, Severus! Thirty screaming, over-excited three year olds!” The barely perceptible French accent in Mahaut’s voice always became more pronounced when she was angry, and it was a fair gauge of her level of annoyance. Right now her accent was so thick that she sounded like something from a comic farce. The way she was growling his name was doing funny things to a certain part of Severus’ anatomy; it was a good job that his fear was putting a check on his libido right about now. He decided that it would be prudent to take another step back. Unfortunately, Mahaut stepped forward with the predatory grace of an enraged tigress as he retreated away from her. “Every single one of them was on a sugar-rush of almost biblical proportions, Severus. In addition to which they were all dressed up like the little animals that they truly are! Three of them threw up! One! One little brat came this close,” she pinched her fingers together and held them up in front of her husband’s nose, “came this close to being sick on my dress! And,” she spat with renewed vehemence, “it is all your fault!”

Ignoring the painful nip of teeth of teeth at his ankle as Octavius took method acting a little bit too far, Severus spluttered out the age-old cry of husbands the world over, “What did I do?”

Mahaut’s eyes narrowed even further than he would have believed possible as she hissed with malice worthy of Salazar Slytherin himself. “You! You...you...MAN, you! You got me knocked up!!!”

“Oh, that.” Severus tried to sound innocent, but he didn’t manage to pull it off any more effectively than he normally did.

“Yes, that!”

Without much hope that it would actually do any good, Severus backed away again. Mahaut was unaware of the two now silent boys in the adjoining room, and Severus had also temporarily forgotten about them; he had other things on his mind at the moment. Every survival instinct that had been hammered into him during his years as a double agent was focusing upon how he could get out of his current situation with all of his limbs, not to mention other bits that he was undeniably fond of, still attached. Fortunately, just as his backside painfully collided against his desk and he could therefore retreat no further, Mahaut opened a tiny window of opportunity. Severus knew well that once his wife got herself into this agitated state there was only one sure way to diffuse her ire; but it took nerve and careful timing. He watched, trying to judge the moment when she had let off just enough steam, attempting to choose his moment with precision.

She continued, her voice a low, feral, alarmingly sexy growl, “I need champagne, Severus. I need chocolate. I need them intravenously, and I need them now! So, if you ever, ever, want to have sex again in your entire life, you will come home immediately, and you will do your finest impression of a wine-waiter for my benefit! Later, if I feel a little more mellow, and you are very, very good, I may allow you to rub my feet. Then, perhaps, we will discuss the remote possibility that you may not have to spend the rest of your life as a celibate. Oui?”

Severus grinned. It didn’t matter that he was an extremely powerful wizard and his wife was only a Squib. Nor did it matter that he was taller and far stronger than she was; the fact was that the spitting fury that now had him wedged against his desk was the one living creature who could inspire fear in the dreaded Potions Master of Hogwarts. Mahaut could do this only because Severus loved and adored her without reservation, and she alone held his happiness in the palm of her hand. So he seized his moment; and he seized his wife.

Without giving her any warning, or any chance to protest, he wrapped his arms around her slender, struggling body, and crushed her roughly to his chest, pressing his lips to hers and demanding entry. He kissed her savagely; hard, slow and deeply possessive, he invaded her mouth with his tongue. As her body ceased to fight against him and she melted into his kiss, he embraced her with his mind also, dousing the fire of her thoughts with the smouldering, dark yearnings of his own mind. Her heartbeat slowed until it beat as one with his own. Mahaut moaned softly as his hands unbound her dishevelled hair and his fingers knotted deep into her snow white tresses; she surrendered entirely to him. Mahaut’s fury evaporated into that kiss as he had known it would; her anger was ever as brief and sudden as a summer storm, over as quick as it began. Severus forgot completely that he was in his classroom, where anyone could walk in; he forgot that there was a tiger trying to tear off his leg; he forgot everything but Mahaut: how good she tasted, how sweet she smelled, how soft and yielding she was in his arms.

He forgot all of these things until the tiger forgot that it was a tiger and remembered that it was really a small boy who wanted his supper. Octavius tugged on his father’s robes and said petulantly, “I’m hungry, Daddy! Put my Maman down, I’m hungry!”

With great reluctance, Severus broke off the kiss and glanced down at the grumpy, orange Snape-cub that was wrapped around his leg. “One moment, Octavius,” he grizzled as he looked at his wife. He could feel her warm breath through his robes as he nestled into her tangled hair to nibble at her ear.

“Git!” she murmured contentedly. “You always do that!”

Severus laughed softly into the side of her neck, and despite the passion of his kiss, he thought that right now, he would like nothing more than to snuggle in beside her and go to sleep. Slytherin self-preservation tactics, he thought.

They never taught those in the Ravenclaw common room.

He stroked her back, still anxious to tame this vicious creature that he had so recently feared might disembowel him, and kissed the top of her head. I will be home in fifteen minutes, beloved. Why don’t you take Tigger here, hand him over to Frou-Frou, and run a nice hot bath. I’ll check on Drusilla and Etienne, and then I will join you with a bottle of champagne?

There was a contented tone to her grizzling as she snuggled into his shoulder. I still think that the next time one of your hell-spawn brats gets invited to a birthday party, you should be the one to escort them!

Severus carefully suppressed a smirk; it would be all too easy to rouse Mahaut’s anger again. It is indeed a great pity that my work forces me to miss all of the fun. By the way, did you know that you smell of jelly and ice cream?

I think I may well have some in my hair.
Mahaut shoved him playfully before she took hold of their son’s hand and began to lead him from the room.

The evil smirk sneaked up on Severus, and it brought its little friend, the evil thought, with it, prompting him to softly call out her name. She turned expectantly as she reached the door, and he told her, “Sometimes I forget how truly magnificent you are!”

Mahaut growled with petulant frustration, grabbed a copper ladle from one of the benches, and hurled it straight at his head before flouncing out of the door.

Severus deftly caught the missile before it smacked him in the face, and as he did so, he caught sight of the two seventh years whose presence he had momentarily forgotten. He groaned inwardly. Mahaut would have been furious if she had seen them; she hated public displays of affection almost as much as he himself did, even if they were sometimes necessary as a self-preservation tactic.

Smith and Jones grinned cheekily at him from the side door. Grinning would not be tolerated.

Severus pointed the ladle at them and growled, “Breathe one word of this to anyone, and both of you will be disembowelling frogs until you are thirty! Do you understand me?”

The grins evaporated. “Yes, Sir!”

“Marriage,” he told them as he retrieved the emergency bottle of pink champagne from his desk drawer and performed a Chilling Charm upon it, “is the fine art of reciting love poetry whilst ducking.”

The Tiger and the Tigress by zafania [Reviews - 8]

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