The Right—or is that “Only”?—Woman for the Job~*~
Prologue: Pork Chops
Looking at the masked figures closing in around them, Luna frowned.
“We’re not going to make it, are we, sir?”
“I’m afraid not, Miss Lovegood.”
The uncharacteristically gentle voice of her former professor emboldened her. “If we do somehow escape, promise me something.”
Snape raised his wand to make his last stand and snapped, “What?”
Raising her own wand, Luna answered seriously, “Have dinner with me.”
Suppressing his wonder, the thrice-turned traitor sneered, “What are you serving?”
Suddenly feeling the wards fall, Snape grabbed her. His voice dripped disdain as they Apparated away. “I prefer lamb.”
Part I: Beware the Venomous Tentacula
Why Luna Lovegood should be standing on his doorstep quite escaped Severus Snape. He’d had the “pleasure” of her company through some four years of Potions classes and another year of Defense Against the Dark Arts. And, yes, there’d been that brief reunion last month during their battle with a group of Death Eaters. But surely that didn’t give her the right to linger on his patio, gazing at him with those ridiculous, cornflower-blue eyes of hers.
Nonetheless, here she stood, insisting that he’d agreed to have dinner with her.
“Miss Lovegood, I think I’d recall if I’d taken such drastic leave of my senses.”
“You’d remember being senseless?” she asked in that annoying, breathless voice.
“Do not mock me, Miss Lovegood. You know perfectly well that I never agreed to this…this date,” he spat.
“But, sir, we even agreed on the entrée!”
“I beg your pardon?”
“I offered you pork chops, but you said you’d rather have lamb.”
He’d brought this on himself.
Feeling slightly foolish now, he replied, “You didn’t really believe….” He trailed off as she smiled in agreement. “Ah, I see. Well, I know that we made no specific appointment, so if you’ll excuse me—”
“Oh, of course. How long do you need to get ready? I’ll wait out here if you need some privacy. Your garden’s lovely, by the way. I thought we could spend some time together before dinner—maybe take a walk?”
Snape’s mind floundered for an excuse to rid himself of this annoyance, but she’d caught him flat-footed. It wasn’t every day he received an invitation from a pretty young woman. Okay, maybe the “pretty” was a stretch, but what could it hurt? She seemed harmless enough, and he really didn’t have anything else planned for the day. Since surviving the war, aside from the occasional run-in with renegade Death Eaters (like the ones the month before), he’d kept a fairly low profile, tending his garden and enjoying the little cottage Dumbledore had left him. However, his seclusion wouldn’t last much longer. Once his shop opened later in the month, he’d have to interact with others on a daily basis…or die of starvation when his tiny nest egg finally gave out. He needed to get used to being around other people again; therefore, the company—even her company—might do him good.
Damn. Was he actually considering this?
Oh, hell. Why not?
“Very well, Miss Lovegood. Since you seem to have taken me at my word, however mistakenly, I can hardly refuse. Nonetheless, do not assume that I’m committing myself to any future engagements. Once my promise to you is fulfilled, we will go our separate ways. I have no interest in cultivating a relationship of any sort.”
Luna simply smiled.
Taking that as the only agreement he’d get, he waved her into the garden with a warning to stay away from his Venomous Tentacula and then went to find appropriate clothing for their outing.
Thirty minutes later, Snape discovered himself strolling through the countryside with one of his former students. It actually wasn’t as terrible as he’d expected. The woman was mad—there could be little doubt of that—but Snape found her strange theories and random pronouncements rather fascinating. How in the world did she survive in polite company? She seemed almost completely out of touch with reality.
No wonder she was interested in him.
Of course, he had no similar excuse for his own behavior. He himself was quite sound of mind, thank you very much, yet here he was….
Suddenly noticing their increasingly intimate proximity, Snape glanced down to find Luna’s arm carelessly linked with his own. He quickly extricated himself and stepped away.
Startled from her most recent mental wanderings, Luna blinked up at him. “Oh! I almost forgot….” Reaching into her shoulder bag, she pulled out a sheaf of papers and offered it to him. “I hear you’re searching for an assistant.”
Snape kept his hands firmly at his sides. “Miss Lovegood, you do realize that my advertisement called specifically for a serious-minded, steady individual skilled at brewing a wide range of potions. As I recall, though your brewing wasn’t entirely unacceptable, you spent the majority of your time in my classes daydreaming. What makes you think you would have any aptitude for work as a Potions master’s assistant?”
“Oh, but you haven’t worked with me since I was a fifth year, and not in Potions since a year before that. I’ve been working for my father for several years now, and I assure you I’m much steadier than I was at sixteen. I even received an Exceeds Expectations on my Potions O.W.L. and continued on for an extra year beyond that. And I’ve been reporting for my father’s paper since Hogwarts closed for reconstruction after the battle at the end of my sixth year. I’ve included several of my stories for your reference. There’s an excellent picture of you with my coverage of your trial, by the way: you look quite menacing.” Once more she held out the packet of papers.
Unconvinced by her assurances and not a little offended by that last, Snape nonetheless accepted her offering. After all, she was the first and only applicant he’d had since he’d begun advertising over a month ago. Apparently no one but Luna Lovegood wanted to work for the murderer of Albus Dumbledore, regardless of the Wizengamot’s reluctant pardon.
Still, it wouldn’t do to settle. If worse came to worst, he could probably get by without an assistant altogether. Customers were likely to be nearly as scarce as assistants until he had a chance to build up a clientele. Thankfully, he’d discovered that the American potions distributors were far less discriminating about their suppliers than their British counterparts were, but it would take time to establish himself as a respectable presence in the Wizarding Business World.
Then again, he would need someone to look after the shop whilst he continued negotiating with perspective clients.
“Very well, I’ll look over your application. Return next Monday for an interview.” Looking down his nose at her, he added, “I assume this concludes our business for today?”
“Well, yes, I suppose. Are you ready for dinner?”
“Miss Lovegood, I’ve already agreed to the interview. You needn’t bother to wine and dine me. It won’t influence my decision of whether or not to hire you.”
“Of course not, Professor,” she replied as she nestled her arm back into the crook of his own. “But that doesn’t change the fact that you agreed to have dinner with me tonight.”
Part II: No Blibbering Humdingers Allowed
Although—to Snape’s surprise—their dinner had passed pleasantly enough (with minimal talk of Blibbering Humdingers, thank God!), Snape wasn’t exactly thrilled when Monday morning arrived and he’d still received no other inquiries about the assistant’s position. The prospect of enduring Luna Lovegood’s bizarre companionship on a regular basis loomed over him like lifelong sentence in Azkaban.
No, she hadn’t pried into his personal life the week before or asked much from him in the way of conversation, and she did seem to have a fairly quick mind when she removed it from the clouds.
Nevertheless, the woman irritated him.
And not so much with her silly conspiracy theories—after all, who was he to complain of such things? His own background told him that conspiracies actually did flourish in this world.
No, what truly grated on him was that she didn’t have the good sense to fear and dislike him as about everyone else in Great Britain—and, these days, probably the greater Western Hemisphere—did. If there was one thing Snape enjoyed, it was his power to intimidate others, but she had refused to be intimidated the week before.
And she’d taken entirely too much liberty with his person. Whereas others cringed away when he entered a room or cowered when he loomed over them, she’d constantly insinuated herself into his personal space, hanging on his arm as they walked, touching his knee to capture his attention when the maitre d' came to seat them, and brushing back his hair as she’d leaned up to kiss—yes, kiss!—him on the cheek after their date. It was enough to aggravate any self-declared misanthrope!
With all these thoughts floating through his head, he felt understandably disgruntled as he stood to answer Luna’s knock.
Strangely, the feeling fled when she greeted him with a cheery hello.
“Good morning, Miss Lovegood. I’m relieved to see that you’ve become more punctual since leaving Hogwarts.”
“Yes, sir. Daddy frowns on tardiness in his reporters. He says that’s a sure way to miss a good story.”
“Well, come in then. Have a seat.” Gesturing to a pair of straight-backed wooden chairs in front of his desk, he settled himself in the far more comfortable chair across from her and glanced down at her application materials.
“I’ve verified your test scores and talked to Professor Slughorn regarding your N.E.W.T. work, and everything appears to be in order. Tell me, though: why do you wish to work as a Potions master’s assistant? When I spoke to your father, he seemed disappointed that you’ve decided to leave The Quibbler. Surely the kind of work you do for him appeals more to your…um, creative impulses than standing over a steaming cauldron or running errands and taking Potion orders would.
“Oh, I have enjoyed working for my father, but I find that I don’t really want to make a career of it. I’ve missed working with Potions. I know you think that I didn’t show much aptitude for the subject in school, but, honestly, sir, I’ve been interested in Potions since I was tiny, when I used to work with my mum in her lab at home.”
Luna paused here, obviously dwelling on the memory of her mother, before adding, “Also, now that I’m getting a bit older, I think I’d like something a bit more settled—something with more regular hours and less travel than what I’ve been doing for the past few years. Quite frankly, sir, I’ve had enough excitement for one lifetime. Now I’m ready to settle down and perhaps start a family.” Noticing the blush in her cheeks and her uncharacteristically shy glance as she said this, Snape quickly looked back to the papers on the desk before him and pretended to straighten them.
“I see. And once you start your family, what am I to do for an assistant?”
“Well, I expect that won’t be a concern for at least a year or two. Besides, I’m not the sort to stay home all the time. Even with a child, I could easily handle the hours you’ve set forth. And if it’d ease your mind, I’d be happy to take responsibility for hiring and training my replacement should the need ever arise.”
Snape felt mildly surprised at the sensible, coherent answers of his interviewee. He certainly hadn’t expected this level of professionalism from Luna Lovegood. Perhaps this would work out after all….
That pleasant thought had no sooner entered his mind than the absent-minded dreaminess people generally associated with Luna suddenly retook possession of her face and voice.
“And I imagine you’ll want to take your turn occasionally.”
“With the children.”
Snape was now honestly puzzled. “Why would I need to take a turn?”
“A father should spend as much time with his children as possible.”
I should have known it was too good to last, Snape thought wearily. The gods themselves are against me!
Suppressing a sigh, he summoned what little patience he owned before sneering, “As flattering as you may think your attentions are to me, Miss Lovegood, I remind you that I’m in the market for a Potions master’s assistant, NOT a wife. I also believe that I made it quite clear last week that I have no interest in any kind of relationship with you beyond that of employer and employee. If you cannot maintain a reasonable level of professionalism, then I suggest you seek employment elsewhere!”
Luna didn’t even blink at the venom in his voice as he nearly shouted this last, but merely waited for him to wipe the spittle from his chin and compose himself again. When he looked more himself, she soothed, “Well, everything in good time.” Then, straightening, she said in the earnest, clear, and reassuring voice of earlier, “Not to worry, Professor, I’m just the woman you need…as an assistant, of course. When do I start?”
Off-balanced once again by the abrupt shift in the young woman’s demeanor, Snape closed his eyes and counted to ten, willing her to disappear. When he opened them, he found her still seated across from him, gazing at him with interest; she seemed entirely oblivious to his irritation.
At that moment, Snape knew he should send her away and hope to never lay eyes on her again, and yet….
And yet, if he were completely honest with himself, she appealed to him. Sure, she annoyed the hell out of him and, given the intensity of that annoyance, he should probably do without an assistant altogether rather than hire her. But she also intrigued him. How had she made it through five years of his tutelage without acquiring the healthy aversion to his presence that every other student outside of Slytherin enjoyed?
Quite frankly, he wanted to see how long she would last before she realized what he was and ran crying back home to Daddy. And if she didn’t….
Well, as she’d said, everything in good time. Obviously the suggestion of settling down and having children with him was ludicrous, but why not find out where else this might lead?
“Very well, Miss Lovegood, I’ll expect you next Monday morning at eight o’clock so that you may have time to give notice to your father. Do be sure to restrain your hair and to dress appropriately.”
“Of course, Professor.” She held out her hand and her new employer clasped it ever so briefly. “I look forward to working with you.”
Snape grunted noncommittally and sat back to watch her leave. Turning to close the door, she graced him with one last, enigmatic smile, and then she was gone.
Damn! thought Snape as he rose to return to his lab. I meant to tell her no talk of Blibbering Humdingers allowed.
Author's Notes: The prologue is a drabble I did for a challenge over on LJ’s Romancing the Wizard awhile back. As far as the story itself…I apologize to the writer of the prompt for not getting further than the interview—perhaps later on I’ll have time to explore the results of Snape’s decision to hire Luna.