Severus Snape was nowhere to be found when the festivities at Cordial Spirits began that Saturday evening. In fact he was on the other side of London, at a pub called The Ragged Stump, sitting at the darkest corner of the bar and nursing his second Bloody Mary. Snape had occasion to visit this pub frequently, or at least he had when the Order had still existed. The Ragged Stump was not far from Grimmauld Place, and to Snape’s great satisfaction and relief it was in every way the antithesis of Cordial Spirits. Cordial Spirits was where wizards and witches went to see and be seen. But those at the Ragged Stump made a point of not knowing who he was, or caring. It was a place where a severe-looking man dressed in black robes and black boots could walk in and attract almost no attention whatsoever.
“Prolly some sorta devil worshipper,” Snape had overheard a patron say under his breath, the first time he slid behind the bar.
“Naw, worse,” his companion had said, wiping off his mouth with the back of his hand. “A barrister.”
The first man had shuddered then. As for Snape, he had smiled to himself. And the nickname had stuck.
“’nother one, Barrister?” asked the man behind the bar as Snape downed the last of the red liquid.
Snape nodded. “The same, but with a dash more Worcestershire this time,” he said. It was the only thing he drank here, and he liked it cold, with lots of Worcestershire but no ice, so that the glass did actually look like it was full of blood.
“Always the Bloody Mary, innit? Sommat of a vampire, you are, eh?” said the bartender (who was called Redbeard but was actually named Ned).
A vampire indeed. Snape smiled at him, slowly, baring his teeth. At this Redbeard (no stranger to rogues and vandals) took an involuntary step back. Snape watched him as he carefully prepared the drink, adding extra of Tabasco and black pepper, and spooning in two full tablespoons of Worcestershire. He brought it to Snape and presently made himself busy at the other side of the bar.
Snape drank. The Bloody Mary was perfect and he said so. But though Redbeard visibly relaxed, he made no further attempt at communication. This did not bother Snape, as he had thinking to do, and he was attempting to enjoy a bit of quiet before he braved the riff-raff at Cordial Spirits.
Mostly, he was busy trying to assimilate the fact that he now belonged more in Cordial Spirits than he did at the Ragged Stump. He was finally forced to admit this to himself because he knew logically that the Gashes, indescribably wealthy and with an enormous amount of influence as well, would never consider pledging their daughter to anyone less.
As for what the girl herself thought of all this, in fact it did not much matter. Her meticulous signature had appeared on the contract, and this meant she had accepted him, formally at least. Her family would provide him with land and a grand house, all in his name. It seemed, to Snape, almost too good to be true. He could even continue his dalliance with Jane if it suited him, until the engagement was made public of course. That would happen on July 1st, after Princilla formally graduated. Should Snape decide to accept the Gashes' offer, until then the entire matter would be kept under wraps, and even Lupin need not know, let alone Jane.
Snape knew better than to think she would accept a position as his mistress. In fact, he had no doubt that she would attempt to bounce something heavy off of his skull even if he deigned to suggest it. No. Jane wouldn’t do that. She would merely arch one eyebrow and show him politely to the door. This fact filled him with a peculiar sort of anxiety, but he tried to console himself with the knowledge that there would be many others that would eagerly accept that status, if Princilla did not quite please. He could take seven mistresses if he liked, so long as he was discreet and kept up appearances.
But would you want them as much as you want her?
Snape doubted that he would. He had never wanted any woman as much as he wanted her. This fact made him feel both helpless and livid with rage. Not to mention humiliated. And aroused. And utterly and completely vulnerable. It was very disconcerting, in part because Snape had always smugly considered himself above the battle of the sexes. This was not just because (at least until recently) he did not often have sex. It was because he knew the prime weapons in the arsenal of the female would prove useless against him. And about this he was correct. Severus Snape could not be swayed by tears, by silence, or the stoic withholding of sex. And what else could one expect of women, really?
But Jane had not behaved the way he had expected a woman to behave, and he was now at the point where he did not know what he was supposed to do about her. He had originally possessed the most reasonable of intentions, but what he intended for their relationship seemed completely irrelevant to her. Of her own accord, and without considering his wishes at all, Jane had apparently decided that she wanted to fuck the living daylights out of him, not just on Saturdays but whenever and wherever she liked, and she had made it plain that she would reduce him to an utter basket case whenever he attempted to resist.
Though he was invulnerable to tears, Snape could not guard against Jane’s unremitting good humor, and her relentless desire. Snape realized now that from the beginning it had been her physical need that caused him to quail, that overmastered him, not his own. The fact that she seemed powerless over her desire for him left him powerless. Her weakness for him left him weak as well. Snape was unprepared for that, and for her.
He knew what lust felt like of course, and had since he was thirteen years old. With Jane his lust was particularly fierce, but it was not irresistibly so. Even now there was no physical need that Snape had not, or could not master. But whenever his eyes met hers and he saw the desire for him, saw her need for him, he forgot where he was. He forgot who he was. His knees went liquid and his mind went blank and all he wanted was to grant her every wish.
Why? Well, Snape finally knew why, not that it did him any good. It was that her shameless lust for him made him feel utterly and completely male in a way he had never felt before. She saw something primal and masculine in him that no woman had ever seen, that he had never expected a woman to see, that he had not even really known was there to begin with. She saw that secret unknown part of him and wanted to impale herself upon it, figuratively and literally. Had his cock been a knife she would by now have stabbed herself to death with it. He was humbled by the violence of her need for him, and her need spurred his own.
Snape took a deep breath and stared into his glass, willing himself to stop thinking of her. The past few days had not been easy. Snape found himself reliving the encounter in her bathroom again and again, each time remembering anew some aspect that he had overlooked in the midst of his arousal. Each night since then he had dreamed of her. And each morning he had woken up glued to his own sheets. Her own need was no less pressing. He saw it in her eyes at breakfast, along with more than a trace of anger at him for his blasted stubbornness. He could see she thought he was being an enormous imbecile, but he could also see how deeply she longed for him.
But all of that could not be a consideration in the matter of the marriage contract. The marriage contract was about his future. And whatever there was between him and Jane would end anyway, was bound to, marriage contract or not. At best the passion would fade. At worst, there would be that common sort of ugliness that always predominates when an affair ends. The Gashes were offering something lasting. They were offering the kind of wealth and position that Snape could never hope to exhaust, even in a lifetime. And as for Princilla, a cool, aloof witch would be quite a relief after Jane, wouldn’t she?
So why was the contract sitting in the warded bottom drawer of his desk? Why was Snape so hesitant to sign it? He could not quite put his finger on the answer to that question.
“Perhaps I merely do not like to be rushed,” Snape said aloud, to no one in particular.
This observation was quite true, but not specific enough to do him much good. The question would need to wait, however, as he was overdue for his appearance at Cordial Spirits. With a weary sigh, Snape stood, draining the last of the red in his glass, and then he moved smoothly toward the back of the bar, heading towards the dank steps that led downstairs.
Out of the corner of his eye, Redbeard watched him go, wondering if the dark man was brave or drunk enough to venture into the filthy loo, which was the only thing down there that could conceivably have been of interest to him. (Most of the patrons, Redbeard knew, would rather piss in the street.)
But Snape was not going into the bathroom. At the bottom of the stairwell he made the required left, and walked a few more paces. Then, stopping just short of the bathroom door, he stood for a moment and held his breath (which helped in more ways than one), closed his eyes and began to concentrate.
Though there was no exit down there, not even a window, the dark man did not come up those stairs again. Only Redbeard noticed, but he said nothing. Nor did the dark man ever return to The Ragged Stump, to the very end of his days. And Redbeard somehow knew instinctively that he would never ever come back.
The very next day, for some reason he could not quite place, Redbeard changed the name of the bar. Pulled down the old sign and put up a new one. Business, such as it was, actually improved.
And if, dear reader, you ever venture into that part of London, you just might come across a pub with an odd sign hanging over the door, a sign with a visage of a sallow, dark-eyed man clothed in black robes, his arms crossed, his face set in a scowl. He’s a frightening looking fellow, indeed, but don’t be afraid. Go on in.
There is always room for strangers at the Black Barrister.