Christmas. Severus Snape loathed Christmas. He considered it an enormously silly holiday, what with the associated carol-blaring suits of armor and the plague of fairies fizzing about the Great Hall. He might have been in a better mood to appreciate it had he returned to Hogwarts from Cordial Spirits to find Jane. He had not. He had Flooed to her room, fully intent on surprising her and then wordlessly fucking her into a stupor, but she had not been there. Napoleon had, however. And he had not been pleased. In the dark, the bird had an advantage, even more so since Snape had foolishly determined not to hurt it, and Snape had to heal two rather deep beak wounds over his right eye when he finally made it back to his quarters.
To make things worse, Dumbledore, in an ambitiously stupid decision, announced on that Monday during the last faculty meeting of the year that Hogwarts would once again host a Yule Ball. A celebratory Yule Ball, mostly on account of the demise of He-Who-Formerly-Would-Not-Be-Named. And, if the truth be known, in honor of his own demise as well. Snape groaned, but most of the faces around the table fairly beamed at the prospect.
Except for Jane’s. She had bitten her lip apprehensively, which piqued Snape’s curiosity (as well as the desire to bite her lip as well). But he said nothing to her. They were, it seemed, at an impasse; with nearly two weeks left before he could possibly touch her again, Snape was attempting once again to pretend she did not exist.
Yes, he had been thinking about her. But if the truth be told, not only with her. Snape had also been thinking about that house in Cumbria, with the two house-elves and the seven bedrooms. And about Roland Gash’s seemingly effortless ability to swat Malfoy away like the annoying little insect that he was. But contemplating pleasurable alternatives was not something Snape was used to, so he finally vowed to put everything out of his mind and get some work done.
As part of his ambitious agenda, Snape took to doing all the little errands he had been putting off. Late into the evening on that same Monday, five days before Christmas Eve, Snape found himself in the parchment room, methodically choosing parchments for the next round of tests. The tests weren’t until January, but by then the best parchments might be gone. He thought it best to get an early start on acquiring them.
The room was off a tiny hall that connected to the faculty lounge, which was an entirely appropriate place for it, though Snape did not like to visit it during school hours. He preferred to get his provisions when few other professors would likely be sharing the space. Along with the parchments, which were curled in sheaves of different sizes in large cubbyholes against the walls, there were quills in there as well, and inkwells, and many large, woefully out-of-date maps of the Wizarding world. Snape for some reason felt quite at home in that tiny, stuffy room, especially when there was no one else about in the lounge to trouble him. The room smelled like books, and Snape loved the smell of books almost as much as he loved the smell of…well…Jane. He loved touching the parchments, discerning by feel which was of the highest quality. The sight of them pleased him as well. They seemed to him almost innocent, as if waiting for their very world itself to unroll.
That is, until dimwitted teenagers began to scratch inanities upon them.
In order to facilitate his perusal, Snape had locked the door to the faculty lounge behind him and turned off the lights to even further discourage anyone that might see a purpose to enter, and the door to the parchment room itself was only open a shard. By his own design, since the door to the parchment room itself was concealed by the hallway, there was no reason anyone might have to suspect he was in there.
Perhaps it’s understandable then, what happened next. Two teachers let themselves in and assumed no one was there. And they began talking.
“What do you need in here at this hour? It’s two past nine! Minerva will start without us.” A male voice. Remus Lupin’s voice, to be precise.
“Oh, let her. I’ve never beaten her at Exploding Snap anyway. She and Flitwick can have a go.” A female voice. Jane’s. Extinguishing his wand, Snape put an eye to the crack in the parchment room door. He could see nothing but the hallway, but the torches suddenly flared in the faculty lounge.
For a moment he thought of revealing himself, but that moment came and went very quickly. Snape too had no desire to be drawn into a game of Exploding Snap, nor any desire to share pleasantries with Jane. Sex was impossible, so any time in her company would only further frustrate him. Besides, likely as not, Jane and Lupin would leave as soon as they came, and if they did not, well…if certain individuals chose to enter apparently deserted public places and have very private conversations, it was their fault if certain other people overheard them, wasn’t it?
“Blaise said he left me his extra credit assignment in my box late this afternoon,” Jane said. “Nowhere to be found, of course…”
“Work, work, work. Is that all you think of? There’s a ball coming up. A ball!” Lupin sounded absurdly pleased.
Jane, however, sounded worried, “Yes, I know. A ball with…with dancing.”
Snape, curious as to the source of her pique, suddenly felt the need to hear this conversation. He cast Silencio on the door to the parchment room, and the floor of the hall as well. Then, after he had cast a Disillusionment charm on himself, he slowly stepped out into the hallway, which was in deep shadow, and as well at the far side of the room. Jane and Lupin would not look over in his direction, most likely, and if they did, they would not perceive Snape, shrouded in shadows and silence and Disillusioned as well.
“Well, what else could he mean by ball?” Lupin was saying as he plopped unceremoniously on the faculty lounge’s overstuffed couch. “Of course Albus could be using the word as a verb, you know, ‘to ball’, but that’s too idiomatic and vulgar, and besides, Albus can’t justifiably demand that we ‘ball’ at his behest. It’s not within the limits of my contract, I can tell you. And could actually turn out to be quite disgusting, especially in some cases. Thus, I’m assuming that…ouch!”
Jane, who had seated herself beside him, had pinched him. “Cheeky!” she said.
Lupin blinked at her. “Did you ever suspect otherwise?”
“Let’s not talk about the ball,” Jane insisted. “Let’s talk about you and Winslow. Things going well?”
Lupin’s tone was suddenly lascivious. “Heh heh…well, if we’re talking about balls that’s hardly changing the…ouch!”
Jane had pinched him again.
Pinching! Why have I not thought of that?!
“Be serious for once in your life, Remus Lupin!”
Remus sighed. “I like to think things are going well. I try not to think about it.”
“How can you not think about it? You live together!”
“Well, yes, in a manner of speaking. My things are there as well as here. We have…solidified things, I suppose. But he doesn’t say an awful lot about how he feels. Still, he’s perpetually aroused so that can’t be bad.”
“No,” Jane said, sighing longingly, “it most certainly can’t.”
And though she didn’t know he was there, and he had definitely not met her eyes, Snape knew exactly what she was thinking.
“He tells me stories about growing up in Oklahoma,” Remus continued, “about the places he’s worked, the people he’s met. Quite interesting. I tell him similar stories about my tortured existence. And in between stories, we fuck. We’re both quite good at that so it works out well.”
Jane laughed out loud. “I’m glad for you, Remus,” she said. “He’s very lucky to have you.”
Lupin smiled, then took Jane’s hand, quite gallantly, and kissed it, and Snape understood at last that what had happened to Nymphadora Tonks was hardly her own fault, especially since Lupin had been wedged firmly in the closet until after the death of Voldemort.
“And I am glad for you as well,” Remus added softly.
There was a long pause. “What are you talking about?” Jane asked at last, retrieving her hand.
Another long pause. Lupin leaned towards her, and sniffed. “Can’t hide it from a werewolf,” he said.
Jane blinked. Then, her eyes widened in horrified recognition, just before she covered them with her hands. “God,” she moaned. “Don’t tell anyone, please! It would just kill him if anyone thought he…”
But Lupin had crossed his arms in front of his chest, slightly impatient. “If anyone thought he what?” he interrupted. “Actually has a libido?”
Then Lupin waved his arms in the air in mock horror. “Oh, my lord! Severus Snape, Potions master of Hogwarts has a…a...a penis? A penis that occasionally gets erect? That he actually puts in a woman’s vagina? The way people have been doing since the dawn of time? My god! No! Nooooooo!” Then he buried his face in his arms.
Jane laughed despite herself. “Stop it, really…” she said, slapping at him. “He’s a deeply private person.”
“The thing is,” Lupin began, his face suddenly earnest, “I don’t think he wants anyone to see him as a person at all.” Snape pondered this for a second, long enough to know that Lupin was right.
“I mean, I was in the closet for good reason,” Lupin continued. “Being a werewolf was enough to make me a persona non grata with the Ministry. With the whole Wizarding world in fact. But I was also …”
“A great big nancy?” Jane finished for him affectionately.
“Yes, indeed, a great big nancy,” Lupin said primly. “And that being the case I hid what I felt I had to hide, until the very moment I didn’t have to hide it anymore. But Severus…Severus is in the closet about being… human.”
Jane looked down. She seemed to be considering this. At last, she said softly, almost too softly for Snape to hear, “And if he is, isn’t that for him to decide?”
Lupin pursed his lips. “He’s just so…so…” And then, lost for words, he emitted a gurgle of frustration.
There was a long silence. Then Jane said, gently, “He can only be what he knows to be, Remus.”
And though Severus Snape was hidden in a caul of darkness, and though the Disillusionment charm was still very much in place, Jane’s observation, uttered surely and quietly, made him feel utterly exposed and naked, as if he were a moth that had been pierced with a pin and placed under glass.
Snape closed his eyes, willing this feeling away, and thought of the house in Cumbria.
“Just promise you won’t tell anyone, please…” Jane was saying.
Lupin made a disgusted noise. “Making excuses for him, then. I did the same thing with…” And at this he trailed off, lost for a second in his own past.
“Just…just please!” Jane was imploring now, not merely asking. “If you care at all for our friendship, if you care at all about him, you won’t…”
“Shhhh….” Remus soothed. “You know how much I adore you both. I won’t say a word.”
There was a long silence, then, and Snape thought he could hear Jane breathing hard. Not out of arousal, this time, and Snape suddenly experienced the entirely disconcerting instinct to rush from the shadows, shove Lupin away (no matter how well meaning he might seem to be), rescue Jane and Floo her to her quarters. He would bring a Calming Draught for her, then, perhaps a bit of tea…
But he knew where that would end. And what would she say to him now, if she caught him spying? Snape’s feet stayed firmly in place.
Seven bedrooms. Two house-elves. Two!
Lupin was babbling again now. “But really, Jane, don’t you think everyone will know after the ball?”
Snape opened his eyes, and saw Lupin had pulled himself up from the couch, and was dancing now with a mock partner.
Jane’s expression, however, was still one of gloomy contemplation. She remained silent.
“I mean, all that heavy breathing and twirling around the dance floor…”
“As if he would ever…” Jane murmured. “Oh, no, Remus, not possible. He wouldn’t dance if his robes were on fire.”
Lupin laughed. “He may not dance, but the very second you get invited to dance, wearing your beautiful, sparkly, very low-cut gown as no doubt you will be because you know, those breasts, I mean really, Jane, even I want to…”
And at this Lupin’s tongue began to loll out of his mouth, and he made exaggerated squeezing motions with his hands as he moved back toward the couch.
Jane squealed. “Stop it, you goose!” she laughed, the gloom suddenly banished. At the sound of her laughter, something in Snape’s chest seemed to relax.
“Just so big and full and fleshy and…oooooooo!” And with this Lupin fell back on the couch, grabbing at her.
Jane yelped again, scrambling away from him. But Remus Lupin, his goal of cheering her attained, merely leaned back, satisfied.
“Well he won’t be able to take his eyes off you. He might make a pulp of the first man that even looks at you.”
“Then no doubt he’ll be making a pulp of you!” she said. But then she sighed, a tired, long-suffering sigh.
“No. No ball. No gown.”
“Do you want me to round up some friendly mice and enchant them into making one for you? No reason you should deny yourself because of Prince Grumpy.”
“Are you my fairy godmother now as well?” she asked.
Lupin pondered. “Well, I don’t know about the godmother part, but as to the fairy…ouch! Stop pinching! Are you trying to tenderize me or something? You’re worse than your mother!”
Jane frowned then, obviously displeased, and leaned back against the couch. She did not pinch him again.
“I can’t dance either, Remus,” she said plainly, at last, “so there’s no point in a ball and a gown for me.”
There was a brief silence, during which Snape rightly assessed that Lupin was gauging his response. Come to think of it, Jane was a bit clumsy. Not Nymphadora Tonks clumsy, but her movements were often a bit too broad.
“You? Clumsy? I thought you’d be a natural! I mean, what with you…ah…”
“Tripping over my own feet?”
“No, no, no…I mean you’re quite…ah…”
“Absolutely awkward in every way? Why do you think I wear these awful shoes?”
She stuck one of her legs up in the air. At the end of it her foot, as usual, was encased in a very flat, very unflattering Muggle shoe.
“To hide the fact that you have such lovely legs, of course,” Lupin said, as she lowered her leg. “We can’t have the entire student population staring at your calves. I mean what with that and staring at your breasts we’d never get any work out of them at all.”
Jane sighed again. “Stop being so charming, Remus, or I will have to marry you.”
“I don’t blame you,” Lupin said. “I’m so charming that I want to marry myself, sometimes.”
There was a long pause. “That wouldn’t stop you from wanting him, you know,” Lupin added.
“I suppose not,” she replied. Then the two of them sighed in unison, and Remus Lupin put his head on her shoulder, whereupon Jane began to pat him, as if he were an affectionate dog.
Which, in some ways, he was.
At last, Jane extricated herself from the couch and stood. “I’m going back to my rooms, Remus. I want to get some reading done.”
Lupin cocked his head at that. “Why don’t you go find him, Jane? Maybe he’ll want to play ‘Exploding Snap’.” At this he leered at her, apparently amused by his own double-entendre.
But Jane only sniffed, and her nose rose into the air. “I have my pride,” she said.
That she did, Snape thought, and somehow this fact made her even more unfathomably appealing than she had been the very second before. Because he knew that he had the power to shatter that pride into a thousand sparkling pieces. All he needed to do was go to her and take her in his arms, and she would abandon her pride along with her clothes, to rest by the side of her rocking bed.
“Oh yes, you have your pride, Jane,” Lupin retorted, “but I’m quite sure he’s laid claim to all the other parts of you!”
Jane flounced toward the door. “It will have to do,” she said.
And then she was gone. Lupin sat for a moment, staring blankly at the door, and then he stood.
And when he did, he found that Severus Snape was right behind him.
“Good evening,” Snape said, his voice deep and menacing.
Remus Lupin cried out, and clutched at his chest, utterly surprised. “How long have you been here?”
Snape frowned. “How long do you think, you idiot? The only exit out of this room is the door.”
“So you heard…”
“Every bit,” Snape said through his teeth.
For a second Lupin glanced around, unsure of how to react to this latest development. When it seemed that Snape was not about to curse him into oblivion for discussing his love life, he seemed to think he should press his advantage.
“She’s gone to her rooms, you know.”
Snape merely stared. His parchments hung suspended in the air behind him.
“You should go after her!” Lupin insisted.
Snape ignored him, and sat at the faculty meeting table. He began to resort the parchments by size, counting them aloud as he did so.
Lupin started at him for a moment. Then, he said “You are the most stubborn man I have ever known.”
“Four, five, six, seven…” Snape intoned. Then, coolly, “I prefer to think of myself as disciplined.”
“She’s in her rooms! Right now! You could make up for the other night. You could…”
Snape continued to ignore him. “Twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen…”
Finally, Lupin ran his long fingers through his thinning hair and sat across the table from him.
“Look, Severus, cutting off your…your nose to spite your face isn’t going to help you.”
“Twenty-one, twenty-two…when I require romantic advice from a hypersexual werewolf, you will be the first one to know.”
Finally, Lupin threw his hands up in the air. “I give up. I give up!”
“Thirty-seven, thirty eight…well, then perhaps you will finally mind your own sodding business and leave me be to count my parchments.”
Lupin pursed his lips. “If you want to be alone with your parchments, then go to your rooms and lock the door. I’m perfectly entitled to be here.”
At this, Snape stopped counting, and glared balefully at the Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor. “And you are perfectly entitled as well to the parchments I am going to stuff up your overworked rectum unless you leave me the hell alone!”
But Lupin would not be put off. “Well, what about last night? Are you at least going to tell me about what happened at…”
“Ask Miss Tonks if you’re so interested. I’m sure she’ll provide you with a full report.”
Lupin shook his head. “Not from across the room, not after Umbridge shooed her away. What are you going to do about…”
“I haven’t decided.”
“Are you going to tell…”
“At this point I don’t see how it’s any of her business.”
Lupin stood. “Of course it’s her business!” And at this he pounded the table. “Even you must see that she cares about you…even you must see that she….”
Suddenly Snape rose to his full height, no longer able to contain his fury. He was shaking as he pointed at Lupin accusingly. “What she cares about, Lupin, is the ache between her pretty legs, and believe me, I sympathize. I’m quite happy to relieve it for her but it will be on my terms. Mine. Not hers. And most definitely not yours.
Snape’s anger had silenced Lupin at last. Not that it mattered, because Severus Snape was suddenly gone as well, his robes billowing behind him, his parchments, so carefully chosen, still lying on the table where he had abandoned them.