Snape did not make it through his papers before dinner, and in fact he did not make an appearance at dinner at all. Instead he spent an inordinate amount of time brooding and pacing. Brooding and pacing were his natural state, but brooding and pacing over what he had seen in the eyes of a woman was virtually unknown to him.
For what he had seen in her eyes was, of all things, desire. Very sexual desire. For him. It was completely illogical. Unnervingly so. First she felt sympathy for him. Then lust. What was next? Murderous Rage? Women were the most peculiar creatures. If he had slavered over her like a schoolboy, doubtless she would have loathed him.
Not for one minute did Snape consider the possibility of outwardly requiting her interest, but in the wake of his discovery of her feelings for him, he did find himself considering her as a woman instead of merely an annoyance. Most tempting was the fact that (though she took obvious pains to hide it) she was, well, plush in that way he particularly appreciated. Rail-thin himself, on the rare occasions when he did allow himself to contemplate women, he found himself drawn to full swellings of flesh, which Professor Flintrammel, upon examination, seemed to have in abundance. And she was intelligent enough, not flighty or silly or fawning or genuinely odd as women so often seemed to be. She was annoying, yes, but that seemed to be a constant where women were concerned.
Still, the very idea…it was impossible. Unthinkable. For Christ’s sake she was a talentless Squib. A Squib and a colleague. If Severus Snape had wanted the complications of taking a colleague as a lover, long ago he would have attempted to fuck Madame Hooch.
Obviously the Squib’s emotions had unsettled him, in part, he realized, because it had been awhile since he had been the recipient of such feelings, at least to his knowledge. There was the odd student of course, who harbored some sort of rudimentary crush, but even those instances were few and far between. In truth he did not have much experience, either with courtship or with sex. Yes, he had spent time as a younger man in the Restricted Section—purely for research purposes of course—perusing a few dusty tomes involving human sexuality (that Muggle Kinsey especially had been most informative), but he had little practice in putting his knowledge to use. He was no virgin, but Snape had never been one to take the initiative when it came to women. The rare woman who did appreciate him found a way to make her desires known. Legilimency helped in this regard, once he learned it. However he seldom used it unless he already suspected some interest. Otherwise, he simply didn’t want to know how women felt about him. And, truth be told, he did not much care.
How long had it been? Snape clenched his teeth, counting the years in his head. Sex, and the fairer sex, had never been prime motivators for him, in part out of necessity, in part because he had never allowed them to be.
After a suitable amount of thought, in the end he did the only thing that he felt he could do. He forced the entire situation out of his mind. And for a couple of weeks, it seemed to work. The pure, mind-numbing drudgery of attempting to educate the half-wits that populated his classroom served as distraction enough.
But then one fateful Saturday morning Jane was late to breakfast. Snape made the mistake of looking up as she came rushing in, and as he saw her advancing, taking little panting breaths and smiling at nothing in particular (she was embarrassed, he could see that), he actually felt his muscles contract slightly in anticipation. The feeling was not unpleasant, and that above all things worried him.
“Only just made it,” she breathed, sliding into the chair next to him (the only one left empty) just as Dumbledore was floating upward to delivery his customary pre-Saturday breakfast homily on diligence or creativity or humor or intelligence or somesuch annoying nonsense the dead headmaster was known to pepper them with before he actually allowed them to eat.
Snape said nothing, but he could feel Lupin staring at him from across the table, where he had taken a seat beside Minerva.
“I fell asleep in the bath, believe it or not,” Jane whispered in Snape’s direction. “A bath’s the only way to get warm around here, it seems…”
Yes, it was obvious she had just had a bath. Her face was rosy, and he could feel the heat radiating from her. Then there was her scent. Ginger and vanilla and under that, something…something he had not allowed himself to notice before. Something that no doubt was just her.
Then Dumbledore began talking, and Snape, willing himself not to sniff Jane openly, attempted to concentrate on the headmaster’s speech, which seemed to be about showing proper respect for the aged.
Better he talk about showing respect for the dead, Snape thought. But at least, in that moment, he was not thinking about sniffing Jane.
Precisely five minutes later Dumbledore floated back down to his seat, and the food began materializing on the table in front of them. Sausages. Eggs. Wheat toast and rye and white. Crumpets. Porridge. There were heaps of mashed potatoes as well, and pots of juice and Scottish Breakfast. Snape pulled the two darkest slices of rye toast onto his plate, and Jane poked a sausage.
“I don’t understand at all how you ever keep warm in that dungeon of yours…” she said.
Snape chewed his toast. Perhaps if he ignored her she would be quiet.
No such luck. “Cold and damp are not the natural state for human beings,” she continued.
Snape chewed some more. “Then I suggest you move to Guam,” he intoned.
Jane smiled wryly then, reaching for a crumpet, and looked into his eyes. “But then I would be deprived of the warmth of your company.”
To this Snape said nothing. For the love of Christ, the woman not only wanted him, she liked him. She was teasing him, flirting with him. All of a sudden he felt an overwhelming urge to run away from the High Table and never return.
Blast! What are you, thirteen?
“I think it will turn out to be a good day for a walk, don’t you think?” Jane asked, digging a knife into the butter.
Snape said nothing, but thought that yes, yes it would. And later, after her exercise, no doubt there would be a slight sheen of perspiration at her collarbone, and perhaps instead of ginger and vanilla, she would smell of earth and evening and fallen leaves, and underneath it that same warmed skin…
An unfamiliar ache of longing bloomed in his chest, and then, to his horror, bled lower. He bit the inside of his lip, and made yet another nondescript, disapproving noise. But then, from under his brows, despite himself he could not keep from watching her butter the crumpet, watching as she carefully spread to and fro, to and fro. There was a deftness in her long fingers, a certain precision he could sense even just watching her eat breakfast. He seemed unable to stop himself from continuing to steal glances at her, watching her as she put the crumpet to her soft lips, bit, chewed, swallowed.
As she popped the last piece of it into her mouth, Severus Snape realized that for the first time in his life he was jealous of a crumpet. He also realized (with some degree of alarm) that he was in possession of a rather enviable erection.
Then Jane stood suddenly. “Oh my…I promised to meet Seamus in the library this morning, to help him with his research. No rest for the wicked,” she said. Then with a wave, she was gone.
Snape watched her go, watched her hurry down the edge of the Great Hall, brushing the crumbs off her clothing. “No,” he murmured, gritting his teeth, “no there is not…”
Then he closed his eyes and waited, telling himself that he only wanted her because he was bored, and because she was there, and because he knew that with comparatively little effort he could probably have her. However that knowledge was little help to him, especially now with nothing but the hypothetical social machinations of former Death Eaters to distract him.
Lupin sidled over to him a couple of minutes later. “Sickle for your thoughts, Severus…” he said softly.
“My thoughts are far beyond the budget of a penniless werewolf,” Snape said, his eyes still closed, “and are also none of your damned business.”
Snape could actually feel Lupin’s indulgent smile. Lupin deserved to be punched for smiling at him like that. Snape thought he would punch him, if only it wouldn’t mean standing up and tenting his robes. Lupin would surely notice that, and he would only be forced to punch him again. Too much trouble, really.
Lupin finally made off, to no doubt proffer indulgent smiles on the entire population of Hogwarts, the bastard, but as for Severus Snape, he remained seated. And when the house- elf Knortle came to clear the breakfast dishes some ten minutes later, Snape was still there, his eyes closed, an immovable scowl on his face as he remained frozen in his chair.