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A More Merciful Man by Berkana [Reviews - 13]

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Snape had entirely forgotten about Potter’s detention until Potter actually showed up in his office on Monday at four o’clock precisely. But then, Snape was not his usual self when Potter arrived. For the entire afternoon he had been angry enough to spit nails, as a result of a rather upsetting conversation he had had with Albus in the faculty lounge, after Albus insisted that he attend some infernal soiree hosted by the Ministry that Saturday evening. Snape’s invitation had arrived that morning, and had elicited nothing more than a sneer of contempt.

And why should he go? Malfoy would no doubt be there, holding court, pontificating to some irretrievably useless group of sycophants. Snape had better things to do. Unfortunately, Albus had other ideas, and they had quite a row about it in the staff room after lunch. It ended with Snape telling the Headmaster that it would do no good to natter on because there was nothing in the world that a ghost could do to force him to attend.

Snape had immediately regretted the remark, which seemed in retrospect something of a dare, rather than the taunt that it was meant to be. Even dead, Albus was no one to challenge. The Headmaster had no taste for revenge, but he most definitely did have a taste for getting his own way. And Albus’ “own way” had the tendency to turn out unpleasantly. At least for Severus Snape.

His regret bore its annoying fruit not more than an hour after their argument, when Snape received a missive from the dead Headmaster. Apparently Dumbledore did not trust to owls for this letter, because the insufferably annoying house-elf Knortle brought the scroll. He had popped directly into Snape’s classroom, interrupting his fourth-year Potions class. Snape tossed the scroll diffidently on his desk, but as soon as the class was over and he had a moment before the next passel of brats came stumbling in, he unrolled it carefully, worry creasing his brow before he could even discern the first word.

Severus:

My apologies, dear boy, for “nattering.” But I am, of course (as you so often remind me), a dead old man, and thus nattering is my prime means of communication.

But lo! It is not my only means of communication! Are you surprised to find me writing to you, and in my own hand as well? No house-elves need take dictation, as before! This is quite a relief, as they are very poor at inserting the proper punctuation. I don’t think there’s a house-elf alive that understands the use of the semi-colon, and ellipses are outside of their capacities entirely.

How lovely to discover, then, that I am still capable of wielding a pen! It takes a bit of concentration, but I have gotten rather good at it. Peeves has been of some assistance in that regard, believe it or not. He babbles a lot, and can of course be rather rude, but there is no one like a poltergeist to teach one how to manipulate solid objects. If one happens to be a ghost, that is.

And further apologies are due to you as well, I’m afraid. Though I know you are most vociferously opposed to attending, I feel that your presence at Cordial Spirits this Saturday evening is of paramount importance. I find that I still have concerns for your welfare within the Wizarding world, and it would do you good to be seen, Severus, whether you realize it or not.

To that end, though your penmanship is frustratingly meticulous, I find that (with Peeve’s help) I am still also quite capable of impersonating your hand. I confess to you now that I retrieved your invitation from the faculty wastebasket, and I have already owled the news that you will indeed attend the holiday festivities at Cordial Spirits.

Don’t argue with me any further on this matter, Severus. I am afraid I am quite set on it.

Yours Sincerely,

A. Dumbledore, Headmaster (deceased)


Of all the intolerable nerve! Snape thought briefly of attempting to further rail against Albus’ decree, but he realized the futility of any further protest. Beneath that seemingly harmless grey-bearded charm lay a core of iron so impenetrable that even Snape could not bend it. (Lord knows, he had tried.) It was plain that the Headmaster intended him to go. Thus, he would go. Dumbledore would brook no dissent, and if Snape dared to ignore the injunction, doubtless the old man would plan something even more unbearable for him, which he would spring upon him with no warning. It galled Snape no end, but even in death the old man had the power to impress his will upon him. After this episode Snape had been very distracted for the rest of the afternoon, and in fact had not taught his last two courses at all, assigning them reading to do instead as he pretended to read himself.

Actually, he had been thinking. First, about how he would manage to get through the evening at Cordial Spirits, and, alternately, about Jane. For he realized of course that he would have to bow out of their rendezvous, as by his own edict he had restricted them to seeing each other for one night only. He had no doubt Jane would accommodate a change, but as he had been the one who had proposed such a draconian schedule, attempting to alter it before it took effect would be a tacit admission that he had been wrong. And Severus Snape never admitted he was wrong. Most especially when he was wrong.

For a brief moment he thought about taking her to London—he could find them a room nearby, in some serviceable hotel. Nothing fancy. All they needed was clean sheets, a soft bed, and a private bath. Why, her presence might even make the party bearable. She would certainly make the night after more than bearable. He thought of her body nestled naked and warm under the covers and imagined her straddling him, her breasts cupped in his hands, her eyes closing in pleasure as she rocked slowly on the pin of his cock.

But no, that was impossible. He did not want Lucius Malfoy, or anyone else, to discover his affair with the Runes professor. In truth he found it embarrassing on several different levels. One, he liked to give the appearance of being invulnerable to the temptations of the flesh. Squiring about a woman with such breasts was no way to foster that opinion.

But bringing her to Cordial Spirits presented another problem. She was a Squib. The death of Voldemort had not squashed the Slytherin emphasis on the importance of the purity of Wizarding blood; it had merely rendered the public expression of those opinions unfashionable. Slytherins kept it to themselves, even amongst themselves. But, even now, a Slytherin of any means or influence would no more marry a Squib or a Muggle than the King of England would marry a shop girl, and a Slytherin of mixed blood that married a Squib or a Muggle could expect to be discreetly shunned. Squibs and Muggles were suitable as mistresses or whores, of course, but not as companions amongst polite Slytherin company.

At the admission of all these truths Snape found himself ashamed. Ashamed of his weakness for her, ashamed of her heritage. Underlying that he knew lay the shame of his own, and he did not bother trying to tell himself his ancestry (and hers) did not matter, when he knew that it did. He realized that he still had certain aspirations, if not for the approbation of the Ministry, then for a place in Wizarding society, and wealth, and the comfort and influence that went with them, and he thought it inopportune to squash those possibilities before they even had a chance to flower. He need not marry someone Lucius had recommended. In fact, he need not marry at all. But perhaps Albus was right. It would do him good to be seen.

When Potter appeared, Snape was deep in gloomy contemplation, and it took him a moment to recall the detention. To add to his temporary confusion, trailing behind Potter was, of all people, Luna Lovegood, looking (as usual) as if she wasn’t supposed to be exactly where she was supposed to be. Snape was about to tell the girl to go away and bother him during school hours, or ask her sarcastically whether or not she was lost (which no doubt she often was), when he remembered that he had given her a detention as well. She had been staring off into space during his lecture on Re’em’s blood earlier in the day, and when he fixed her with a glare and asked her precisely what she had been thinking of that was more important than the blood of a Re’em, she actually blushed and looked down.

Snape had walked over to her then, and stood over her rather menacingly. “Perhaps you would like a detention this afternoon. That might sharpen what’s left of your wits.”

At this she looked up at him innocently with her large silvery eyes. “No, Professor Snape. I don’t think I would like that at all!”

Of course, the entire class laughed at that, a fact of which Miss Lovegood had seemed oblivious.

“I am sure you would not. Nevertheless, you will arrive in my office at precisely four p.m.”

“I will?”

“Yesss…” Snape hissed, as the class began to laugh even harder. “You will.”

Thus, the detention. Detentions were rare for Lovegood, that was sure. She was a dotty girl, prone to offering all sorts of odd bits of information at inopportune times, but she was not willfully stupid or recalcitrant, so for the most part Snape put up with her. He even, to his own horror, occasionally found her genuinely amusing. Maddening, but amusing. But then the students in Ravenclaw always had been his favorites. His allegiance was, first and always, to Slytherin, but he appreciated the cerebral leanings of Rowena Ravenclaw’s philosophical descendents, especially since cerebral leanings were sorely lacking in many of the rich, inbred students in his own house. All appearances to the contrary, Snape knew and understood and even occasionally appreciated his students. And he found it far easier, in general, for him to value students for whom he felt less responsibility.

That is, unless his own past and prejudices got in the way.

“Professor Snape?” Potter inquired. Snape had yet to lift his eyes up from his desk, other than to glance at them briefly to let them know he was aware of them. Lately he had taken to keeping his students waiting. It asserted his authority and made them nervous.

“Professor Snape?”

“Silence!”

Another five minutes passed in absolute quiet. Then Snape stood, menacingly. “You will spend the next hour scouring cauldrons, both of you,” he said, angling his quill at a corner, where an exceptionally filthy set of them lay stacked. These particular cauldrons were not cleanable by any means, magical or mundane. In fact, Snape had charmed them both years before, with a spell of his own creation, to deliberately produce just such an effect. He kept these cauldrons as a fallback task for students when he was too tired or preoccupied to make the punishment fit the crime. He knew that useless drudgery was as good a way as any to deter unsuitable behavior. Besides, these cauldrons offered another opportunity for him. Any student that asked (as Potter had, twice) why they had to clean what seemed to be the same impervious cauldrons over and over again would be assigned another detention for impertinence, or lose house points, depending on Snape’s mood and Slytherin’s position at the time.

Snape Accioed the proper supplies (some coarse salt, olive oil, and heavy cotton cloth), and the students went to work. They knew better than to talk to each other, but Snape thought it odd that they did not even attempt hand gestures, or eye contact, especially since Potter and Lovegood had always appeared to be on friendly terms. No matter. Snape had more thinking do and policing their whispers would only distract him. At least a quarter of an hour passed in total silence, during which Snape managed to convince himself that he need not invest such concern in Jane, or in Malfoy, or in anything else, because everything would surely go tits up anyway, so why bother? This actually cheered him in a grim sort of way.

But just then, his reverie was broken by the annoyed squawk of a tiny owl, as it flew in through Snape’s half-opened door. It was bearing a scroll, which it looked scarcely big enough to carry. Potter and Lovegood looked up curiously, but quickly turned their eyes back to their work when they met Snape’s baleful glare.

The owl circled, and swooping low, dropped its cargo very precisely in the middle of Snape’s desk. But then, instead of flying off, it did something odd. It perched rather authoritatively on Snape’s inkwell. The bird, brown with a white chest and very large gold eyes, then proceeded to stare at him with something approaching a human intelligence. Snape had never seen a bird quite like it.

“A pygmy owl,” Snape murmured, with a touch of wonder, “why he’s no bigger than a starling…” Then he realized with some pique that both Potter and the girl had stopped attending to their cauldrons and were now staring at him, and the owl.

Almost as if in response to his comment, the little owl made an angry gah sound and fluffed out his feathers. Then it fluttered down to the desk and began stalking back and forth, furling and unfurling its wings, leaving tiny ink scratch claw prints on Snape’s blotter. The effect was rather comic, and both Harry and Luna began to laugh.

This did not please Snape at all. “Well, Miss Lovegood, Mr. Potter. The two of you seem to be having trouble attending to your duties. Ten points from Gryffindor. And ten from Ravenclaw, as well.”

Potter looked down, muttering angrily, his face set in an angry scowl. He obviously felt both he and his little friend were being dealt with unfairly.

“Have you something to say, Potter?” Snape asked at last, his voice low and liquid. He sincerely hoped that Potter did, because lord knows he could always charm more indelibly filthy cauldrons to scour.

Harry looked up, defiant. “I said that’s Professor Flintrammel’s owl,” he huffed, “so why don’t you give her a detention?”

If he hadn’t been Severus Snape, Potions Master of Hogwarts, Ex-spy Extraordinaire, he might have actually flinched at that, and looked away. For that moment he felt a tumble of emotions, every one of them disconcerting. The thought of giving Jane a detention was, for some reason he had yet to identify, terribly arousing. Yet at the same time he was furious with her for writing him at all, and furious as well with Potter for his insolence. And through all of this, Jane’s tiny owl continued to saunter back and forth across Snape’s desk as if he owned it, which Snape found amusing in the extreme. Snape had not thought it possible to be angry and amused and aroused at once. But it was.

He willed himself to continue staring at Potter. “Twenty points from Gryffindor,” he said, “for your impudence.”

The rampant deduction of house points didn’t seem to deter Lovegood’s interest at all, however. “Why, that must be Napoleon!” she exclaimed, “Professor Flintrammel told me that she got a new owl last month…a present from her mum. A feisty one, too. I hear he even attacked Crookshanks! Can you believe that? You’d best pick up the scroll, Professor Snape, because I also heard that he’s been taught to…”
“Ten points from Ravenclaw, Miss Lovegood,” Snape interrupted, “For babbling. And yet another ten points for assuming that you have even the vaguest idea of what I had best do.”

Luna pursed her lips and said nothing for a moment, and Potter did look at her then, with an expression that somehow managed to communicate both his defiance and anger as well as a warning that Luna stay as quiet as possible from then on. Snape could tell that Luna understood this, but she was apparently not likely to obey. For that Snape actually felt a tinge of admiration for her. He saw from under his brows that she was now looking at him carefully.

“Professor Snape, may I tell you something important about the owl?”

Snape looked up then, and raised an eyebrow, and Luna cleared her throat and continued.

“From what I understand he’s been taught not to fly off until the recipient has actually begun reading the parchment he’s carrying. At least that’s what Professor Flintrammel says.”

“Really…” Snape answered, as if that were the least interesting thing he had ever heard. Actually he was very interested, because such a talent in an owl was quite rare.

“It’s true,” Luna said. “Sort of a delivery confirmation function, I guess. Professor Flintrammel told me her mother spent ten times the actual value of the owl to have him taught to do that, and that for some reason only a pygmy owl will take to the training. Professor Flintrammel said it was a pointless extravagance, but I think it has its uses, don’t you?”

Indeed it did. It kept students from telling her that the owl had dropped her note into their porridge before they could retrieve it, or to the floor where it was kicked about and lost.

But Snape did not say this. He only narrowed his eyes. “Ah, so he makes a pest of himself, does he? That’s a very dangerous quality for an owl.”

Luna merely blinked at him. “Oh, he’s not dangerous, not really! How could he be? I mean, Crookshanks wasn’t really hurt.”

“I don’t think that’s what Professor Snape meant, Luna,” Potter said softly.

Luna blinked again, and glanced sidelong at Potter before she looked at Snape again. Suddenly she understood.

“Oh but you wouldn’t, Professor Snape!”

“There’s no telling what I might do to such an infernally annoying creature….” Snape said, as he began tapping his wand threateningly against his palm. He was actually thinking about Jane more than about the bird.

“You wouldn’t really!”

“Luna…” Potter murmured. But Lovegood ignored him.

“Why my father told me that if a person kills an owl, then revenge is going to be visited upon his family!”

Snape smiled icily. “Alas, Miss Lovegood…I have no family.”

This did bring Luna up short, at least for a bit. “Ah, well, I’m sorry about that Professor Snape, I truly am,” she began, “but, but…well there’s all sorts of legends and lore having to do with owls, some of them very auspicious. You mustn’t hurt it, really!”

“Luna…” Potter again. Again she ignored him.

“My father says that in Greenland and Siberia the owl is considered a good omen…”

Snape chuckled softly. “As I have never been to either of those places, Miss Lovegood, I don’t see how that can possibly apply to me.” Snape’s wand kept up its tapping as his eyes followed the owl’s every movement.

“Please don’t hurt it Professor, please!” Lovegood pleaded at last. “At the very least Professor Flintrammel would be terribly upset, you know…don’t hurt it!”

Harry was now obviously torn between the desire to tear into Snape and to reassure his friend. Finally, and quite wisely, he decided on the latter. “Luna…” he began softly, reaching out to touch her shoulder, “Professor Snape is not going to hurt the owl. Really. He’s teasing you, can’t you see?”

Perhaps Potter is growing up after all, Snape thought.

Luna looked at Harry, then looked at Snape, then at Harry again. Then she blushed, and looked down.

“You must think I’m awfully daft…” she murmured, but whether she was talking to him, or to Potter, or to herself, Snape didn’t know.

“No, no, you’re not at all, Luna, not at all…” Harry’s voice was almost imperceptible now, and Snape felt himself grasping at a new knowledge which was for some reason eluding him. There was a long silence then, broken only by an impatient squawk from Napoleon. Snape had yet to open the scroll.

Potter’s hand still remained at Luna’s shoulder, but for one brief moment he met Snape’s eyes. It was for a fraction of a second, only, but it was enough. In them was that same infernal defiance. That same desire to comfort his friend. But there was something else as well, and one did not have to be a Legilimens to see it.

Of course! Why had he not seen it before! For a moment Snape just sat marveling, stunned. Lovegood! Potter is in love with Luna Lovegood!

Snape knew that there was nothing new under the sun, but this was a surprise he could not have predicted. Certainly he had seen nothing of this last year at Slughorn’s party. Snape leaned back in his chair slowly, trying to assimilate this new knowledge. Lovegood was nothing like Ginevra Weasley. And she was the pure antithesis of Hermione Granger. In fact, until this moment Snape would have assumed that Potter only humored Luna to be kind. But what he had seen in Potter’s eyes was unmistakable. He had the urge not just to comfort her, but to defend her and protect her. Potter also longed as well to take the girl in his arms, to stroke her hair, to perhaps hold her and kiss her gently until she quieted. Had Potter met his gaze for longer Snape had no doubt that he would have seen a desire to find some private place where he could kiss her with a bit more urgency.

Snape was baffled, yet in some odd way he saw that it made sense, especially in light of the fact that Luna had…well…changed in the previous year. Perhaps “blossomed” was a better term. The baby fat in her cheeks and her neck had migrated to her breasts, for one. And her blonde hair and her grey-silvery eyes, which had previously only served to make her appear vague and rather washed-out, now made her look almost nymph-like. She seemed somehow indelibly more female, and as such her perpetual confusion had now obviously become something of an aphrodisiac. Luna would never want for men tripping after her, attempting to save her from herself. And considering what had happened to the poor girl’s mother, no doubt one day she might need such saving.

“Collect yourself, Miss Lovegood,” Snape intoned, carefully taking the rolled parchment in his hand as the owl eyed him unblinkingly. He read as far as Jane’s Dear Severus and then glared at the tiny owl, who squawked again, as if to say “It’s about time!” and flew out the door.

Luna quieted immediately, pulling away from Potter, who looked back toward his cauldron.

“I apologize, Professor Snape,” she said. Lovegood, whom he thought did not have the ability to experience embarrassment, was suddenly blushing furiously.

Snape rolled his eyes. Well of course. She wanted Potter too. Probably always had, the silly bint. It was sickening, really. All of a sudden, with ghastly clarity, he saw the next few months with Potter unfolding as a never ending series of detentions, where the horrid boy would do nothing but stare off into space, burning with inchoate longing. Potter would be foggy and sodden and vulnerable and as such would actually be far more insufferable than usual. Likely as not he would be prone to tears, and a Potter prone to tears did not make very good sport. And Lovegood! She would become so distracted that she would be of no use to herself whatsoever.

The whole thing made Snape want to vomit. And right then and there he decided that he would not put up with it. Not for one single minute. He knew what he had to do.

Suddenly, he stood. “Miss Lovegood, you will find Mr. Filch and tell him that I have sent you for more salt to scour the cauldrons.”

Luna looked up, again confused. “But there’s plenty here, Professor Snape…”

Snape leaned forward, bracing himself on his desk and staring at her threateningly from under his brows. “Five points from Ravenclaw, Miss Lovegood, and five points more if you speak to me again before you find Mr. Filch.”

Luna nodded, and left on her errand, after which another long silence fell, only punctuated by the soft scrubbing sound of salt on cast iron. Snape did not move, but began to stare obtrusively at Harry Potter as he worked, until finally Potter finally looked up, agitated.

“Have you something to say to me Professor Snape? Because otherwise I would appreciate it if you would stop staring at me.”

Snape said nothing for a full minute. But finally he spoke, his voice low and threatening. “You’re a pathetic coward, Potter. Admit it.”

The words seemed to echo throughout the room.

“What?”

Snape was smiling now, but only slightly. “You. A pathetic coward.” Then he waved his hand dismissively in the air. “Shall I say it again? Perhaps you would like me to procure a couple of flags and signal you in semaphore.”

Potter merely goggled, truly confused. “What are you talking about?”

Snape’s smile grew. It was a knowing smile, a supercilious smile. And it held more than a tinge of malevolence as well. “Your feelings for Miss Lovegood, of course. And she hasn’t the vaguest clue.” Finally, Snape seated himself again, allowing himself a deep, appreciative chuckle.

Potter’s mouth worked, and he stared angrily, but Snape saw the truth in his eyes. He did love her. And he was furious with his Potions professor.

“Harry Bloody Potter,” Snape said softly, leaning back in his chair, “the Boy Who Lived, willing to take on the Dark Lord himself, but afraid to admit his feelings for a mere girl. Even to himself.”

“Mind your own bloody business, Snape!” Potter snapped. He was completely enraged now. And it was absolutely wonderful. So wonderful that Snape did not even deduct house points for Potter’s rudeness. He thought it would not have been quite fair, considering how much Snape was enjoying himself.

"Ah, but it is my business, you see,” Snape answered. “If a seventh-year student, even one as overrated as yourself, mistakes mugwort for rupturewort because he is preoccupied by his unspoken emotions, it is very much indeed my business. I have no desire to see you any more than absolutely necessary, Potter.”

Potter threw down the steel wool. “Then don’t assign me detentions!”

At this Snape raised an eyebrow in mock offense. “It is my job to assign detentions to hopelessly inept students such as yourself. Are you suggesting, Potter, that I stop doing my job?”

“I’m suggesting, Snape, that you mind your own business!”

Snape rose slowly to his feet, and walked carefully over to where Harry Potter sat, and circled him twice. “I don't care what you do with the rest of your sorry life, Mr. Potter, but until you leave Hogwarts, you are my business."

Harry Potter could not think of a retort to that, but the one short glance the two of them shared provided Snape with a very vivid image of the boy with his hands upon his Potions professor’s throat. Still, Potter remained silent. Tense as a bowstring, but silent.

Time to up the stakes. Still staring at his student, Snape spoke again. “When she returns, Potter, you will tell her, or I will.”

“What?” Potter was horrified.

“You heard me.”

“Why? Since when do you get involved in my personal life?”

“Since your personal life started interfering with my professional one. You will tell her. In this room. When she returns. I need to be sure you have accomplished your task. She will either reciprocate, in which case you will both vent your teenaged hormones in the expected way, or she will not, in which case no doubt you will assuage your aggrieved feelings by pretending you never cared to begin with. Either way, you will stop mistaking mugwort for rupturewort. And I will not be forced to endure your company quite as often.”

It was at that very moment that Luna Lovegood returned, bearing the requested salt.

Snape stopped her before she returned to her perpetually filthy cauldron. “You will stand precisely where you are, Miss Lovegood. Potter has something to say to you.”

The response to that was total silence.

“Potter, either you will tell her or I will.”

“You can’t! You wouldn’t!”

“I can. I would.”

Luna was nonplussed, even more so than usual. "Tell me what? Harry?”

“I am not going to tell her in front of you!”

“Do it. Do it or I will, Potter.”

Just as Potter opened his mouth to speak, Snape cut him off.

“He’s in love, Miss Lovegood.”

Luna then looked from Snape’s face, inscrutable and serious, to Harry’s, which burned with shame. She blinked a few times, and put her hand to her mouth. Snape noticed that she was wearing a bracelet made of paper clips.

“Oh. I understand now,” she said. “You’ve been so distant lately and…well of course you didn’t want to…but you…you didn’t have to worry about telling me, you know. We’ve gone past all that. I’m glad for you.” Then she put out her hand (the one with the paper clips) to Harry, offering it to him to shake.

Snape merely stared. Surely no one could be so generous of spirit, so reticent to take offense. Snape would have been disgusted had he not suddenly understood that in some fundamental way Luna Lovegood was far above them all.

As for Potter, his mouth fell open, and he shook his head slowly, vaguely horrified by this new turn.

Suddenly, finding the whole thing just unbearably ridiculous, Snape started to laugh. She thought he was in love with someone else. She didn’t believe in a million years that Harry Potter could be in love with her. She was worth ten of him and he would be lucky to have her, but she would never believe that.

But Potter misunderstood Snape’s amusement. He stood, his hands curled into fists. “Stop laughing at her! Stop it!”

Luna just blinked and stared. Somehow she knew better. She knew that her Potions professor wasn’t laughing at her, though she had yet to understand why he was laughing at all, especially since she had never seen him laugh before.

Snape laughed and laughed, but finally he caught his breath enough to talk. A good thing too, because Harry Potter was just about to throw himself against his teacher, and pummel him to the ground.

“I’m not laughing at her, you imbecile! I’m laughing at you! I’m laughing at the fact that you’re so incompetent, so hopeless that she thinks it’s someone else! You, Potter, are an utter disaster!”

Luna was more confused than ever. She moved to put a hand on her professor's arm, concerned for him, and despite himself Snape found that he was strangely touched. “Are you quite well, Professor Snape?”

Snape took a deep breath. “Fit as a fiddle, Miss Lovegood,” he said. “Ask Potter.”

Luna looked at her friend curiously. Potter’s fists had unclenched themselves, but he remained silent, staring at the floor.

“It’s you, Miss Lovegood,” Snape said.

Luna searched his face, and Snape was surprised to find that he could not abide her stare for long. “It’s me what, Professor Snape?”

At long last, Potter Spoke, his voice his voice a mere whisper, his eyes still cast down. “It’s you.”

Luna turned to him. “Me what?”

Finally Harry looked up and met her eyes. “It’s you…she’s you…it’s you that I…you that I…”

Suddenly, realization dawned. “Me?” Luna Lovegood breathed.

“You.”

Luna shook her head slowly. “Me?”

“You, Luna.”

“Me,” she said with wonder. “Me!”

They boy turned to Snape, who was eyeing this scene with increasing discomfort. Snape had expected giggling. Batted eyelashes. And that was just from Potter. This newfound awe and happiness was a bit much for him.

“May we be excused?” Potter asked at last, breathlessly.

“I think not,” Snape huffed. “Though now that that’s settled you can return to scouring your cauldrons."

“Me.” Luna repeated.

“Yes, you, Luna!” said Potter. “We can talk about it later.”

Then, in an instant, Luna’s face flooded with victory, and love, and joy, and she suddenly and without any warning at all launched herself at Potter, nearly knocking him over. Throwing her arms about his neck she began showering him with kisses—kisses of a ferocity Snape had previously thought her incapable.

Snape’s mouth fell open.

Potter’s shock rendered him somewhat unfit for this frantic bestowal, and he unsuccessfully attempted to unclench her hands from behind his neck as she kissed him again and again. She finally buried her face in his neck, hanging to him for dear life.

And Snape’s mouth was still open.

“Luna…” Harry murmured, “Professor Snape is watching. Luna…”

“Let him!” she nearly shouted. Then she kissed him again, just as hard, but this time full on the mouth. Snape gasped, but they didn’t hear him, for Potter at that point apparently decided to forego modesty and return her kiss. Actually it was not precisely a decision. The feel of her mouth on his seemed to slightly unhinge him. Every angle in him seemed to soften, and his hands went to rest gently on her waist.

The year before, Snape no doubt would have done something unrepentantly mischievous (aside from taking away house points), such as cast Petrificus Totalis on them both, and then Levitated them to the Great Hall. But he did not think of that, now. In fact, his mouth still hung open.

Five seconds passed. Ten. Twenty. Finally, Severus Snape found his voice.

“Ten points from Ravenclaw,” he said.

No effect. They were still kissing.

Twenty points from Ravenclaw.”

If anything, the kiss seemed to be deepening.

“Fifty points from Ravenclaw! And another fifty from Gryffindor!” Snape fairly shouted.

At that point, Harry finally sobered up, and broke the kiss.

“A thousand! A million!” Luna cried, “I don’t care! Harry you love me! You love me!”

Snape was beside himself. This was not the way it was supposed to go at all. “Oh for the love of Christ! Get out, the both of you! OUT!”

Luna and Harry did not need to be told twice. Snape followed them, intending to shut the door behind them, and lock it. And ward it. And never allow another student through it again.

Harry, however, turned to him at the last moment. His eyes were full of something…something like gratitude. Snape was horrified.

“Professor Snape…” Potter began.

“Shut it, Potter,” Snape growled. “And if you ever mistake mugwort for rupturewort again I will see to it you are expelled.”

“Yes, sir,” Potter nodded happily.

“And stop Miss Lovegood from running into a wall. If she injures herself there will be an enormous amount of paperwork.”

And as he closed the door, cursing under his breath, it did not escape his notice that though they were currently standing in the dankest hall at Hogwarts, Luna Lovegood was again pulling Harry Potter into a kiss.

A More Merciful Man by Berkana [Reviews - 13]

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