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A More Merciful Man by Berkana [Reviews - 8]

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Lupin was long gone by the time the Potions Master set out to find him. A two-minute head start was all he really needed. That was all the time it took to Accio his broom and fly to Hogsmeade, where he would stay for the entire weekend, as he usually did. Snape would not follow, as both of them knew. To do so would show that he viewed Lupin’s playful allusion to playing cupid as an actual threat. It would suggest as well that Snape could not handle whatever—or whoever—came his way as a result.

Snape of course would never allow Lupin that sort of satisfaction, although deep down the both of them also knew that Snape in his current state absolutely could not handle Jane Flintrammel. At least, that is, if by “handle” one meant “hold in abeyance” rather than “fondle in a leisurely fashion”. Lupin, for his part, was going to do anything in his power to encourage Snape to embrace the second interpretation. Just as Snape was going to do everything in his power to keep to the first.

To that end Snape decided that he was going to have to be cruel. He would have to rebuff Flintrammel outright. If Lupin made good on his threat, and encouraged Jane to approach him, he would declare to her that he knew she wanted him and then mock her for it. Dangerous, yes, were she the vengeful type. But Snape sensed she was not. She would be crushed, but it would be for the best. And it would serve Lupin right, for interfering. The silly bint would no doubt run to him first, and blame him for everything. And she would be right. Almost right, anyway. Snape had the entire exchange planned out in his head, down to the last curt, dismissive nod. It was all going to work perfectly. His problem would be solved.

And then, not twenty-four hours after Lupin had fled to Hogsmeade, Jane Flintrammel knocked at his door. Snape had been ankle-deep in Ancient Chinese characters, attempting to translate them himself (for which he considered himself foolish, not that this discouraged him). So preoccupied was he with the translation—he had just discerned the character used for what he was nearly sure was Graphorn hide—that it did not even occur to him to prepare himself or review his plan to reject her. The only reason he answered the door at all (which he decided to do after muttering a couple of well-chosen curse words), was that he was actually hoping there was a student on the other side of it. Potter, preferably. It would give him an excuse to vent his frustration with Ancient Chinese.

But it was Jane standing there after all, holding a stoppered blue bottle. A liquor bottle, from the look of it.

The abuse died on his lips and Snape said nothing, forcing himself to stare at her impassively as he attempted to reconfigure his strategy.

“I’ve brought you some mint cordial,” she said. She was nervous, he could see, and she barely met his eyes before looking down again.

Snape still said nothing.

“Remus seems to like it,” she continued. “He told me last night he thought you might appreciate it as well.”

Did he?” Snape said coolly. What Lupin definitely would not appreciate was being throttled, which was exactly what Snape planned to do as soon as he rid himself of the Runes professor.

“I said you didn’t quite look like the mint cordial type, but, Remus, well he said you would and I did have some extra and…” at this her voice trailed off, and she thrust the cordial out to him, suddenly more nervous than ever.

She met his eyes only for a fraction of a second, but before she looked away Snape saw the depth of her sudden embarrassment, and her confusion, and he realized as well that Jane was as much a pawn as he was in Lupin’s attempt to throw them together. The expression of utter guilelessness and naivte on her face proved that.

But Snape knew as well that Lupin did not bear all of the blame. Snape had kissed her, willfully, trusting in Obliviation. Because of this Jane could not even tease him anymore, but could only stammer and blush, her body rebelling against her, drawing her to him for a reason she could not even remember, let alone understand.

And, despite himself, Snape found he did not have the strength to deliberately hurt her, utterly innocent as she was, bewildered and perhaps even troubled by the newfound intensity of her feelings. Yes, she had wanted him before, but now… Even considering Lupin’s urging, Snape saw that it had taken great courage for her to approach him. She had even taken the initiative to clothe herself in something more flattering than her usual attire. The dress was nothing at all fancy, a long-sleeved woolen wrap dress that fell just below the knee, in a deep burgundy. It seemed simple enough, and was not provocative or particularly revealing, but it tugged and skimmed her body quite flatteringly, and exposed a small, teasing line of cleavage.

Suddenly his longing for her was almost painful. The kiss had been a terrible mistake, and the Obliviation had only made things worse. He had trusted in it to expunge what really could not be erased. Not just her lust, as it turned out. But his own.

Jane was still talking, still holding the cordial out to him. “Yes, well… it’s not enchanted of course,” she continued, “but it is good. I made it myself, with the chocolate mint that grows in my garden at home. It steeps for a year, and I change the mint every month. The bottle is a nice blue, anyway. An old bottle of Harvey’s Bristol Cream. Do take it, please.”

She was babbling now, and Snape found his hands going to the blue bottle, careful not to touch her as he took it.

He could feel her relief at his acceptance. “It’s not going to bite you, you know,” she said, and then she smiled. Just a wisp of a smile. “Unlike one of my Christmas presents unfortunately…”

Snape’s reverie broke then, and he noticed that there was some sort of a bandage on her right index finger.

“Your present…bit you?” Snape put the cordial down on one of his overstuffed shelves, between a bottle of Scarab beetles and one of Doxycide.

“Yes, well, my fault entirely, really,” she was saying. “I received a rare variety of plant, quite beautiful, but carnivorous as it turns out. Some rather more potent sort of Venus Flytrap. I’m afraid I underestimated it. Took a bit of my finger when I tried to feed it. I was supposed to use tongs, but…” she trailed off.

Suddenly, the desire bled out of him, replaced by curiosity. For the first time since the day he realized he wanted her, Snape began to have hope. Lust was a fickle mistress. But curiosity…well curiosity was forever.

“Did Pomona give it to you?” Snape asked dubiously.

Flintrammel did not answer to this, but only said “Bollocks that smarts!” and shook her hand uselessly.

“Where is this…plant?” Snape asked.

“My classroom, on my desk. After holiday I’m going to put it up out of reach. It likes little bits of beef.”

“And human flesh, apparently,” Snape said dryly. “May I examine it?” He already had a bad feeling about the plant, and he hadn’t even seen it yet.

Jane was suddenly nervous again, but not for the same reason. “Oh, you don’t have to do that…I shouldn’t have even mentioned it.”

She did not want him to see the plant, which of course made him even more curious than before.

“I insist,” Snape said, in a tone that would not countenance refusal.

“Perhaps later, after I feed it, you could…”

Now.”

Jane pursed her lips. “Well, if you are so set on it…” she said, and turning around she went back the way she came. Snape followed her, barely noticing the way her hips moved as she walked. Barely.

As he entered the room after her, Snape realized that he had never been in her classroom before, at least when it was her classroom. It had been ten years since he had stepped foot in there, at least three Runes Studies professors ago. The last time he had been in her classroom, it had been presided over by a tiny, pinched-looking Slytherin fellow named Atimorus Dodger. Horrid little man. Dead now, thank goodness. Snape noticed that Jane kept the room spare of accoutrements, save for some runic illustrations set high on the wall above the chalkboard, and a large wooden box filled with blank parchments lying to the right of her desk.

Then Snape saw the plant. It did indeed look like a Venus Flytrap of sorts, a large one, being about a foot high, except that as soon as the two of them entered, the plant itself seemed to quiver a bit, as if in expectation, and each mouth-like trap at the end of each green frond opened. Snape stopped breathing as he took a slow step towards it.

“Dionaea Muscipula Iniuria,” he said in a hushed tone.

Jane furrowed her brow. “What?” She was still staring at the plant as well, a vague, slightly baffled look on her face.

“A Siren plant,” Snape said. “Very rare and very dangerous.”

They were so very rare that Snape had in fact to this point only read about them. And so very dangerous that the sight of even a small one sitting in a room usually inhabited by students made him slightly queasy.

Jane began moving towards the plant herself. “Well maybe a little,” she said, whereupon Snape put an implacable hand on her shoulder and turned her towards him.

“Who gave you this?” he asked directly, staring into her eyes, which Jane quickly lowered. She didn’t want to answer, but no matter. He already knew.

Hagrid,” Snape said flatly. “That utter imbecile Hagrid.”

Jane’s eyes were pleading, now. “Oh please, don’t get him in trouble. He meant well.”

“Hagrid always means well,” Snape said, raising an eyebrow, “then someone gets clawed or bitten or outright eaten alive.”

“He forgets I’m a Squib, I think,” Jane said. “Doesn’t even think twice about it, because he’s not like that. But of course he also forgets that I’ve not had advanced Herbology and Introduction to Flesh-eating Flora and all that. You were right, I guess, at least in part, about Squibs teaching at Hogwarts.”

Flintrammel was now trying to protect Hagrid and blame herself for Hagrid’s incompetence. Typical.

“What I was right about is that Hagrid is a menace,” Snape said.

“It’s beautiful, though, isn’t it?” She took a step towards it again, slowly this time. “It…well, when it’s hungry, it…”

Snape rolled his eyes. “It sings. Yes. I know. Perfectly idiotic.”

“And this one is a lovely alto. I told Hagrid once that I missed music. Having a proper radio and all. The plant and I had just finished a lovely harmony of ‘The Wexford Carol’ when…”

Jane had moved even nearer to the plant, now, and was staring at it, fascinated. She leaned in a bit too close for comfort and almost imperceptibly the fronds began bending towards her.

Snape pulled her back sharply. “It is called a Siren plant for a reason,” he warned.

At just that moment the plant shivered, and began to sing again, syllables blooming from each of its tiny open mouths in turn, as if each were a key on a piano.

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan. Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone…

Snape merely stared. Even he had to admit to himself the song was lovely. He remembered hearing it in church, long ago, as a child. Yes, it was lovely indeed…

“Rosetti,” Jane said in an awed whisper, putting a hand to her chest, “my very favorite.”

Snow had fallen snow on snow, snow on snow...In the bleak midwinter long ago…

“Where did she learn that?” While the plant sang, Jane had somehow disengaged herself from his hold, and she was moving towards it again.

“Jane!” Snape nearly shouted. Then he quickly Levitated the plant onto a high shelf, after which he cast both Invisibility and Silencing charms upon it as well.

During this process the plant, thwarted, made some high-pitched trilly noises, and Jane made a protesting sound herself.

“It would have taken your eye, next…” Snape said softly.

A slow horror took root in Jane’s eyes. Then she shook her hand again. “Ow!

“You need to see Pomfrey,” Snape stated flatly.

Jane shook her head. “I would, but...I’d have to tell her what happened, and...”

“And you do not want to inconvenience Hagrid,” Snape finished for her.

“Well…”

Snape smiled at her thinly. The reticence of the entire population of Hogwarts to bring any trouble down upon Hagrid never failed to annoy him.

“Professor Flintrammel,” he began, “allow me to give you a brief lesson as to the nature of your injury...”

“It’s nothing…Barely hurts, now, really,” she lied.

Snape ignored this. “The trap of the Siren plant not only pulls flesh from its victim, but exudes an acid that continues to eat away at the wound unless it is treated properly. The larger Siren plants, those ten times the size of yours, for example, kill their prey by plucking off and eating what bits they can, after which the acid eats into the remaining flesh of the dead body and dissolves it, even the bones. The resulting ooze seeps into the earth and the Siren plant is fed that way as well. You can see then that your finger will not be able to heal without treatment. In fact, by Twelfth Night, you won’t have a finger anymore at all, but rather a weeping stump.”

Jane blinked at him disbelievingly for a moment, but then shook her head. “I can take care of it. Mum gave me a first aid kit—I’ve got wound cleaning potion, and some Murtlap essence, and even some dittany if I’m not mistaken. I’ll be good as new by tomorrow.”

Snape shook his head. “Getting bitten by a Siren plant is not like getting a skinned knee, or an accidental cut from while slicing bread. Yours is not a typical wound. The Murtlap essence will help a little with the pain for a while, but the wound cleaning potion will be completely ineffective on the acid, and the dittany will be useless if the injury is not properly closed.”

“I’m sure it will be fine…ow!” Jane shook her hand again.

“It hurts, Flintrammel, because the acid is eating into your finger,” Snape said sternly. “And the treatment you are suggesting is akin to a Muggle putting tea tree oil on severe radiation burns. In fact I am not entirely sure Pomfrey is even capable of treating you, as the injury is so rare. You may need to be transported to St. Mungo’s.”

“I am not going to St. Mungo’s!”

“You may have to.”

Jane seemed entirely displeased by this thought, but then, despite her discomfort, her eyes were suddenly hopeful. “Can’t you treat it?”

Snape glared at her. He could. Of course he could. But that was not his job. He would have to use Sanaviscus, which would no doubt evoke questions, and he was not about to Obliviate her again. Snape was very protective of his own spells, as protective as an old grandmother with a coveted recipe. He considered Sanaviscus for emergency use only.

“Madame Pomfrey is our Mediwitch,” he said stiffly.

“Yes, but…well Madame Pomfrey or anyone at St. Mungo’s would want to know what happened, and…”

Snape made a disgusted sound. “You want to protect Hagrid. Well, you must choose. Hagrid, or your right index finger.”

Jane frowned at him. “I’ll find Remus. I’m sure he’ll help me…”

“I believe he is currently in Hogsmeade.” Snape angled his head towards the window. It was cold and the sun was already setting, and currently it was also raining rather hard.

“I won’t melt,” Jane said. “It will be a good excuse to use my new raincoat.” To Snape’s distress, she was already heading for her quarters, to look for the coat, no doubt.

“Lupin’s specialty is Defense Against the Dark Arts, not Mediwizardry!” he called after her. She didn’t answer.

“Blast!” he muttered, following her into her rooms, where she was gingerly sliding her wounded hand through the arm of her coat.

Snape bit his lip in frustration. “Do you make a habit of being this bloody stubborn?”

“No. Do you?”

Snape clenched his teeth. “Never mind. I’ll take you to Poppy myself. And I will be sure to inform her about the origins of your little ‘gift’.”

He grabbed her by the arm then, the injured arm, unfortunately, and she cried out, a gulping sort of gasping cry this time, and yanked her arm away. He could see she was near tears, and not just from the pain. And he knew then that she would indeed watch her finger be devoured by the acid before she would betray Hagrid. She would probably lie to protect him, in fact.

Snape put a hand to his brow. “Is your fireplace connected to the Floo Network?” he asked softly. It had taken him nearly forty years, but he was now a wise enough man to know when he was beaten.

“Yes,” she answered, her voice only a whisper.

Snape Flooed to his rooms to fetch his own Murtlap essence and dittany (the potency and effectiveness of which could not be duplicated in any common first aid kit), and was back within two minutes.

When he returned, Jane was on her couch, her arm resting tentatively on her lap. Taking a deep breath he positioned himself beside her, and wordlessly he motioned for her to give him her hand.

Gently he began to pull at the bandage, but she cried out again. So Snape dripped some of the Murtlap essence onto the gauze, letting it sink in, and pulled gently again. This time the bandage came away.

“Oh, god…” Jane said, horrified.

What they saw was an ugly wound about the size of a Knut, with an angry red border surrounding a shallow circular crater of brownish green. He could see that the acid was eating both inwards and outwards; the bite had taken its share, and then the acid had penetrated even further into the flesh.

As for Snape, he said nothing as he healed her save for the words of the spell, but he could feel the intensity of her gaze as she watched him. The wound foamed slightly as he chanted the incantation, and the tension in Jane’s body eased in response. Then Snape daubed gently at the foam with a clean cloth doused in still more Murtlap essense, and she tensed again.

“The acid is beginning to leech,” he murmured. “but the process has only begun. It would do you well to relax.”

He had to say the incantation four times before it all the acid was drawn out, and the wound (though still pink and a bit angry looking) was healed.

“Gosh, that’s…that’s much better, isn’t it?” Jane breathed at last.

“Are you still in pain?” he asked.

“Not at all.”

Snape then pulled a small vial from his robes. “This is a tincture of dittany. Take two drops in your tea every morning for the next fortnight, as well as two drops on the wound itself before you go to sleep. You will have a scar, but perhaps this will minimize it.”

“Thank you,” she said, a note of awe in her voice, as she took the tiny bottle.

Her hand brushed his as she did, and Snape thought suddenly that if he stayed even one more moment, that would be one moment too long.

“I must go,” he told her.

Jane, however, was suddenly loathe to give up his company. “Please stay, just for a bit…” she said, almost before she realized what she was saying, it seemed. “I’m grateful for your help, really. I feel as if I should repay your kindness.”

“Kindness had little to do with it,” Snape intoned. “I was simply tired of arguing.”

But then Jane put her newly healed hand upon his. She trembled slightly as she did so, and the one moment too long stretched into two, and then three, and then four…

Don’t…oh no don’t do that don’t…

Then he looked into her eyes, impossibly large, it seemed to him now, large and liquid and full of far more than gratitude, and the desire for her, beautiful and terrible, flooded him again, with renewed strength. It was then that he knew at last with utter certainty that he should never have asked about the plant, and he most certainly should not have followed her into to her private rooms. In this most personal of her territory, where she dressed and undressed, bathed and slept and woke and slept again, his attraction became something beyond human. It was a force of nature, pulling him like gravity, consuming him like fire.

“Please stay,” Jane said again, her voice practically a whisper.

And Severus Snape, stubborn and willful and resistant as he was, suddenly felt impossibly weary. It was as if he had been holding on to the edge of a precipice for far too long, years it seemed, and that his fingers were finally giving way. He realized at last that it was futile to resist. Though he knew he was falling to certain doom, there did not seem to be much of a choice now. He had tried everything else. There was nothing else for it but to take her.

As he looked into her eyes he could see that Jane knew exactly what he was thinking. There was a sharp intake of breath, his or hers he could not have said, and then he simply took her breasts in his hands and put his mouth to her cleavage, kissing at last that soft, shadowy line of flesh.

She cried out at that, pleasure and surprise, and her fingers clutched at his hair. He found his own hands tugging at the stretchy fabric of her dress, then at the more reticent fabric of the brassiere beneath it, until Jane unfastened something and suddenly his hands were blessedly full of the very softest part of her, save for the buds of her nipples which Snape thought might cut holes in him, so hard were they against his eager palms. Jane arched her back, crying out in something like desperation, then pulled his mouth to hers and they kissed and kissed and still kissed.

Her arms twined around him and they fell back on the couch, until Snape broke the kiss, his mouth moving to nip hungrily at the column of her neck. This seemed to please her even more than the kiss, until his mouth moved downward to suck roughly at a nipple (Oh, sweet delicious wonderful!), at which Jane’s cry of pleasure veered from desperation and into near madness.

The rest, to be truthful, was rather a blur. He would later try to remember with precision the minutes that followed. He found he could not. There were pieces, here and there. The last thing he remembered with any real clarity was Jane pulling at his robes, not with the polite curiosity of one vaguely interested and open to persuasion, but with the eagerness of one poisoned and dying who is seeking an antidote. He dimly recalled her legs parting, and her urging him on, though it must have been plain to her he was all too willing.

When he slid into her at last, she sounded as if she were in pain, and he would indeed have thought he was hurting her, had she not been so very very wet, and had her entire body not seemed to clutch around him as if reluctant to even give him room to thrust.

Had he been hurting her he could not have stopped if he tried, for the descent into that tight, wet warmth seemed to blow out every dendrite in his brain. Everything after that was simply a whirl of motion and sensation. How long their coupling lasted he did not know. There was an excruciating ache of longing, a longing so keen he thought he would die of it, and then it seemed to him almost that he was dying. The release was electric—all frisson and shock—the force of it pulling the very breath out of him, daggers of bliss jolting through him, hard and sharp and deep, as if the climax were a thing with edges, made of talons, clawing its way out of him.

Destroyed or restored, he knew not which, only that in the wake of that brutal pleasure he was left utterly incapable of thought or movement. He fell at last against her, boneless and gasping, and for a long time, knew no more.

A More Merciful Man by Berkana [Reviews - 8]

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