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A More Merciful Man by Berkana [Reviews - 6]

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Snape spent the rest of Christmas Day holed up in the library, resuming his research on Ancient Chinese, where, of course, he was not disturbed. He could almost feel the castle buzzing around him, all the excitement building towards the Yule Ball. But there, alone among the books, he felt insulated from it. Safe, in fact, because he knew that no one in his right mind would putter about in the library on Christmas Day. No one but Severus Snape, poring over a book filled with chicken scratches that formed the characters of a long-forgotten dialect of Chinese.

Darkness had settled itself upon the castle for long hours before Snape finally raised his head and rubbed his eyes. It was getting on to nine o’clock. The ball had been set to begin at eight, and if he did not make an appearance no doubt Dumbledore would come looking for him.

“Bugger Christmas,” Snape muttered as he replaced the books and shook the cramps from his legs. Resentfully, he made his way back to his quarters and put on his dress robes. His students were hormonally feckless nitwits under the most austere of circumstances, and thus he was most irritated at the thought of having to chaperone at the ball, especially when he was getting a fair amount of work done. Faculty attendance, Dumbledore announced, was all but compulsory. The only solace was the thought that any student deviating in the slightest from proper behavior would be suitably punished.

Detentions, definitely. Torture, if it could be arranged. With one last growl of frustration and displeasure, he headed to the Great Hall, only to be met by the ghost of Albus Dumbledore himself, who floated silently toward him as Snape ascended the dungeon stairs.

“Happy Christmas, Severus.”

Snape nodded stiffly, and continued climbing.

“Did you enjoy your breakfast?”

Snape made a disgruntled noise. “Why don’t you ask Lupin? He took most of it.”

“And what about the song? Did he take that as well?”

“I am not so lucky as that. Knortle cannot sing, and the song was very silly indeed.”

There was a long pause then, after which Snape murmured, “But thank you…”

The ghost nodded. “I am finding it a bit more difficult to shop these days, so I must deal in intangibles whenever I can.”

“Being dead would tend to limit one’s purchasing opportunities,” Snape said dryly.

“Well, I must look on the bright side. My arthritis is much improved. Not to mention my irritable bowel.”

Dumbledore smiled merrily at that, and Snape took a deep and obvious breath. “Yes, I find your irritable bowel much improved as well.”

“The only thing I really regret is that I cannot enjoy the latest inventions from Honeydukes…”

“Would you be referring to ‘Spittle Riddles?’” deadpanned Snape.

“No, no, no…” the old ghost sighed wistfully. “Horehound Horcruxes!”

“Well, send Knortle by with some and I will be sure to suck on them and report right back to you.”

At this the ghost frowned. “That spell you put on Knortle, Severus…most disagreeable.”

“Hrm. Tell him the goiter should disappear in another day or so.”

Just then the headmaster and the Potions professor rounded into the Great Hall, where the festivities were overwhelmingly in progress. Snape positioned himself as near to the doorway as possible, thinking of a quick exit, as Albus Dumbledore floated upward to join the Bloody Baron near the ceiling.

Most everyone was there, Snape noted. There was Trelawney at the other end of the hall, staring raptly into a glass of Christmas punch, no doubt discerning something strange and terrible in there, upon which she would proceed to pontificate just when it was most inconvenient. Then Snape felt something brush by his robes, and looked up to see Professor Hooch circling the hall on a broom, dropping Honeydukes Air-light Unbreakable Candy Canes into the crowd. He looked for Minerva, and saw she was dancing with Lupin. She loved to dance, and had even persuaded Snape to dance once (very early in his career at Hogwarts), which he might have enjoyed had Minerva not insisted that she lead. Snape had not appreciated being tugged around the dance floor; nor had he enjoyed the stares of the befuddled students, a few of whom had been his peers several years before.

Oh, my…and there, away from everyone by an abandoned bank of chairs, was Luna Lovegood, all by herself. She was wearing a gown of teal blue that seemed to float about her, and her hair was pulled up in a loose chignon, save for the many tendrils that had already worked themselves free. Snape scanned the crowd for Potter, whom he spotted looking slightly lost, right in the middle of the dance floor. No doubt she had wandered away from him, as she would continue to do for the rest of their sodding lives. There she was, eyes closed, undulating gently in time with the music, and entirely alone. Finally, Potter caught sight of her and rushed over, practically pushing Vincent Crabbe down in the process (no easy feat). Then, seemingly loath to interrupt her, Potter just stared at her, completely nonplussed, until finally he began undulating right beside her.

Lupin, who had finished his dance with Minerva, appeared at Snape’s elbow. “I hear you had a hand in that…”

“That is utterly ludicrous,” Snape answered. “And look at him, will you? That boy will go to his grave without a clue.”

At that point, Luna’s eyes opened, and taking notice of Potter, she slid her arms around his neck and slowly kissed him, during which she continued undulating…this time against Potter instead of by herself.

“Seems like whatever he’s doing is working,” Lupin murmured. “He’s gone all melty!”

Indeed, Potter’s body seemed to flow into hers now, as Luna Lovegood continued to kiss, and now the both of them were undulating together in time with the music.

Snape snorted. “You’d best put a stop to that, Lupin. I don’t think Flitwick is emotionally capable of it. And Minerva is otherwise engaged.” Indeed she was. She was dancing with Colin Creevy, now, who was a full head shorter but was smiling happily up at her nonetheless.

But Remus Lupin only sighed. “Young love! Why should I put a stop to it?”

Snape continued to observe Lovegood and Potter. Their hips were locked now, and Potter was punctuating their undulations with gentle thrusts. “You should put a stop to it, Lupin, because it appears they are about to conceive their first child.”

At this Lupin looked at him smugly. “It’s called foreplay, Severus…or aren’t you acquainted with that concept?”

Snape chuckled under his breath. “Our mutual friend seems to find it superfluous.”

Lupin raised an eyebrow. “Lucky you.”

“I rather think not,” Snape huffed. “It only makes it more difficult to keep the proper distance.”

Remus Lupin shook his head. “You’d win the Irish Sweepstakes and have something to complain about, wouldn’t you?”

But Snape didn’t answer that. He was observing Harry and Luna. Harry was kissing her more hungrily now, his mouth open and searching against hers, and Luna’s ankle had begun to ride up Harry’s calf. Several other couples had noticed them and were either staring at them or beginning to mimic their actions.

“Do something, Lupin, unless you wish to chaperone an orgy,” Snape said. “If you leave it to me I will cast them to Filch, giving him explicit instructions to see to it that the two of them end up too chafed and sore to even look at each other for at least a fortnight.”

Remus Lupin collected himself, rolled his eyes, and then flicked his wand in Harry’s direction. Harry jumped slightly and the two students separated themselves, at which point Lupin caught his eye and smiled apologetically. Harry nodded, embarrassed, whereupon Luna merely buried her face in his neck, and took her hands in his.

“Good god, that’s lovely!” Lupin murmured. Snape bit the inside of his lip. The sight of Luna Lovegood kissing Harry Potter had actually aroused him, and he was horrified. Suddenly all he could think about was Jane.

“Quite the good match, don’t you think?” Lupin was saying. “Nothing like a deeply passionate woman to make a make a man happy all over.” Then he paused and thought for a moment. “At least if that man isn’t gay,” he added, “or an utter dolt.” And at this he gave Snape a frank, appraising look.

Snape raised an eyebrow. “It has also been my observation, Lupin, that there is nothing like a deeply passionate woman to make a man entirely miserable. Or haven’t you read any literature in the past, oh, two millennia?” And at this he began ticking off names. “Pandora, Briseis, Cressida, Clytemnestra, Medea, The Wife of Bath…”

“Point taken, Severus, point taken!” Lupin replied, laughing. Then, all of a sudden his mouth closed with a snap.

For there, moving through the crowd towards them, was Princilla Gash.

She was fashionably late, because otherwise Snape would certainly have noticed her before. She wore a gown of silver with an empire waist, sashed in green, and a spray of diamonds glittered in her upswept hair like frosty stars. She did not even look at Snape, did not even give him so much as a glance. But before Remus John Lupin she offered a little curtsy.

“Would you like to dance, Professor Lupin?” she asked.

Lupin was utterly taken aback. Of course, he was expecting Princilla to ask Severus Snape. But Snape knew better. Princilla would not attempt to make such an overt spectacle of them, would not do anything to encourage talk of something between the seventh-year girl and the Potions professor. No whisper of gossip must exist. Instead, she would dance with the homosexual, who was no doubt a better dancer and would show her off better anyway. She was indeed a clever girl.

“Well, Princilla…I, er…well…well of course!” Lupin blurted at last. He offered her his arm and led her to the floor.

Snape remained motionless, but turned his eyes at least to Harry and Luna. Luna had begun to kiss him again, and Snape found himself furious with them both. It wasn’t just the rampant snogging that annoyed him. It was the fact that Potter would be the recipient of such ethereally endless desire that Snape found especially galling. He certainly didn’t deserve it. Potter’s utter lack of discipline with regard to Lovegood angered him as well. Or perhaps he was envious. In truth, he did not know.

He looked back at Princilla, now dancing flawlessly with Lupin. She looked far away and queenly, and very, very beautiful. No, he was not viscerally attracted to her as he was to Jane, but that sort of thing faded with time anyway, didn’t it? Lord, he hoped it did, or how would he ever be able to disengage himself from Jane when the time finally came? Snape thought of his possible future life…the grand house in the Lake Country, the beautiful, young, pureblooded Slytherin wife, and the father-in-law with enough power and money to share. Snape could have the most elaborate and well-stocked potions laboratory in all of Cumbria. He could have two, even.

As he stood there, watching Lupin dance with the graceful, beautiful girl who might soon be his wife, Snape realized that if he were thinking at all reasonably he would have signed the contract immediately. He would never find a wife of such breeding and wealth, and Princilla was clever as well. And if Snape had no particular desire to sleep with her any more than necessary, well there would be many other things to divert his attention. He knew logic dictated that he should sign the contract as soon as possible, send it to Gash without another thought.

But he did not. And he knew he would not, at least not yet. For his hesitancy he could not keep himself from resenting Jane. It was illogical, he knew, to resent her for something over which she had no control, but he also knew that were it not for her, the marriage contract would right now be sitting on Roland Gash’s desk, and his future would be assured.

And then, as if summoned by his thoughts, Jane was there, and Dumbledore as well, who had floated down to the floor to greet her. Out of the corner of his eye Snape saw her. All of a sudden his mouth was dry.

“Ah, Professor Flintrammel…how was your trip to Edinburgh?” Dumbledore asked.

She must have just returned from her sojourn, because her cheeks were still rosy from the cold, and her hair, tucked up with a black comb, was slightly mussed, and sheened with fine droplets of water, no doubt from melted snow.

“Wonderful. Edinburgh on Christmas…it’s just…”

“You look lovely, my dear. Is that a new dress?”

The compliment seemed to make Jane extremely nervous. “Mum gave it to me and insisted I wear it…cashmere I’m afraid. It was very expensive, which means I’m sure to wreck it before long. Mum is also of the unfortunate opinion that I’m a size smaller than I actually am.”

Jane blushed then, deeply, tugging up the front of her dress, which revealed an ample cleavage. At the sight of her breasts heaving up slightly and then again gently bouncing to rest, Snape’s cock gave a little jolt. The idea that he might soon be in possession of a full-blown erection was terrifying.

Sprout sucking off Flitwick Sprout sucking off Flitwick Sprout sucking off Flitwick…

Snape said nothing, trying to will the arousal away, but he realized suddenly that her chest was sprinkled with freckles, a fine light dotting of them that faded at her collarbone. How had he missed that?

“The dress suits you,” said Albus, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you look quite so alluring. I wish I were fifty years younger…”

He was flirting with her, and though Dumbledore was old and dead, for some reason Snape was infuriated.

“Which would still make you a hundred years old,” Snape said.

“Ninety-eight, to be precise,” Dumbledore countered.

“And every inch of you irresistible even then,” Jane said, smiling at the ghost.

She was flirting back. This just made Snape angrier. He felt the sudden urge to take Jane by the wrist to a private corner and give her a stern talking to. After which he would fuck her in that private corner, just to prove his point.

Thankfully, before Snape could get too lost in this reverie, lo and behold, Princilla and Lupin returned.

“Professors, Headmaster,” Princilla curtsied again. Then, to Lupin, “Thank you so much, Professor Lupin. You’re a wonderful dancer.”

Lupin himself seemed to go a bit red at that, and only mumbled, “Yes, oh well, you were such a lovely partner of course…”

Princilla curtsied to him again, and then turned to Dumbledore.

“May I have the honor?” she asked.

“Of course, my dear, of course!” Dumbledore nodded, and the two of them flowed back into the crowd.

Jane looked at Princilla as she retreated, and in her eyes there was more than a trace of envy.

“My but she…her dress is so…and her hair…do you think she’s wearing high heels?”

But Lupin, Princilla’s spell broken, was now stroking Jane’s arm gently. He ignored her question. “Mmmm, soft! And that fragrance… what is it?” At this he leaned in and took a bit of a whiff. “Very appealing. Smells a bit…ah…gingery.” Snape ignored him as Lupin attempted to catch his eye, and Jane put a nervous hand to her neck.

“It’s damp clothes and church, I would guess. And winter in Edinburgh.”

“You ought to bottle it,” Lupin said. “‘Winter in Edinburgh’. It would sell like hotcakes.”

“Stop it, Remus,” Jane was saying, but her face was flushed with pleasure. Princilla was forgotten.

“And how is Eva?” Lupin asked.

“Oh, same old mum. She still wants to sleep with you.”

“I’m quite the thing with older women, you know…Minerva thinks I’m scrummy…” And at this Lupin waved happily at Professor McGonagall, who was navigating the dance floor with Dean Thomas now. She gave him a prim nod and a smile, and Lupin and Jane began giggling again.

“I don’t know about Minerva,” Jane said, leaning in conspiratorially, “but my mum’s a bit of a stalker. I wouldn’t be surprised if she showed up in your office wearing naughty knickers.”

“Doesn’t she know I’m…” Lupin trailed off, his meaning obvious.

“Of course! But she thinks one night with you and you’ll be cured!”

At this the both of them laughed again. “She might well could, the brassy minx!”

Jane began laughing harder.

“Did I tell you that once she squeezed my bum on the way out of her flat?” Lupin asked, with feigned shock.

Jane’s eyes were beginning to water, now. “Y-yes you did, but frankly I can’t hear it often enough!”

“Gave me quite a bruise. Had a hell of a time explaining it to Winslow.”

Snape laughed softly, and the two of them quieted to look at him. “He had to speak slowly and use very small words,” said Snape at last.

Lupin frowned. “Christmas puts his knickers in a twist. Ignore him.”

At this Jane eyed Snape somewhat nervously, and Snape found himself idly wondering if those freckles on her chest had a slightly different scent than her hair. He realized at that moment he had still barely tasted her.

“Oh, I forgot!” Jane said suddenly, and reaching into her bag she produced a parcel, wrapped in red silver paper and crowned with a green ribbon. “I do have a present from mum for you Remus…she wouldn’t tell me what it is…but she asked me several questions about your various likes and dislikes, so doubtless she’s bought you something you’ll enjoy.”

Lupin leaned in and whispered something in Jane’s ear, and she laughed so hard she began to cough.

“Oh god, no, not that, though I wouldn’t put it past her!”

Snape, who was totally lost as to what on God’s green earth they were talking about, and truthfully didn’t want to know, stared balefully across the Great Hall, searching for any sign of student mischief. Lovegood and Potter seemed to have disappeared entirely, probably under one of the tables. No doubt Potter was fucking her right at this moment, fucking her like the oversexed little imp that he was. Snape thought he should find them and expose them, find them and…

And god, Jane was standing entirely too close to him, now, as she watched Lupin working the ends of the paper with his fingertips. The scent of her…her own warmth mingled with the the dampness of her hair, was almost too much for him. Suddenly he wanted nothing more than to press his face to the hollow of her neck, to live between her breasts and her clothes, caught forever between soft fabric and softer skin.

And of course the very worst part of it was that he could have her. All he had to do was whisper to her. All he had to do was lean in a bit, tell her he wanted her, and she would have made an excuse and gone to her quarters, where he could have met her and taken her, against the wall of her classroom, even. Quickly and furtively, as she breathed encouragements. He could have been inside her within three minutes, he knew.

It was torturous, really.

Lupin was taking his good time with the wrapping, and Jane turned towards Snape, staring at him as if she almost knew what he had been thinking. She blushed suddenly, and looked away. The desire was still there, as fresh as it had been the last time she touched him. Snape almost groaned with frustration and lust.

Then he deduced that sarcasm was the best way to deal with mutual arousal. “Ah, so you went to church.” Snape said at last, in a voice laced with amused contempt. “How perfectly quaint.”

Something caught in her eyes then, and Jane mustered a rather superior smile, which he was sorely tempted him to kiss right off her annoying face. “Well, it is Christmas,” she said.

Then, as if matters could not get any worse, Potter of all people appeared. Apparently he had not been fucking Luna Lovegood after all.

Potter stepped up to them and bowed, and then, with more than a trace of formality, said, “Professor Flintrammel, would you like to dance?”

Jane seemed completely taken aback. Then she shook her head. “Oh, Harry, thank you muchly, but I’m afraid I…I only came to chaperone.”

Potter frowned. “I’ve already danced with every other female professor here.”

“What about the males?” Lupin asked merrily, and Potter had the decency to actually look embarrassed at that.

“Well, I…er…”

“Teasing, Harry, teasing…” Lupin said, smiling.

“Why not just sit down for a bit?” Jane asked. “If you’ve been dancing for awhile you must be terribly tired.”

Snape was sure now he could sense Jane ever so slightly beginning to back away.

“I’m seventeen. I don’t get tired,” said Potter, moving toward her and extending a hand.

Jane pursed her lips nervously. “I—I can’t dance, Harry,” Jane said. “I’m fairly clumsy when it comes to dancing in fact. Unless it’s that flailing type of dancing that puts one in mind of epileptic seizures. Why don’t you ask Princilla? She seems an excellent dancer, and I’m sure that she’d be…”

“Of course you can dance,” Potter contradicted earnestly. “If I can, you can, and I’ve got three left feet myself.”

Jane demurred again. “No, Harry, really…I’ve got four left feet and twenty left toes. I’m serious…”

Potter leaned in, lowering his voice. “You can’t be any worse than Professor Trelawney.”

Jane shook her head ruefully. “Oh, I could be ever so much worse than that, Harry. You have no idea. Someone could get hurt.”

She seemed so very earnest about it, as if a simple waltz around the room with The Boy Who Lived would result in the entire castle crashing down.

As for Potter, Snape noted he was being his usual stubborn self, and was not to be deterred. He had Jane by the wrist now, and Snape almost found himself moving to defend her. He felt the urge to bat Potter’s hand away, to tell the horrid boy to leave off as she most certainly did not want to dance with him, that if she was going to dance with anyone it would be…

But then he stopped himself.

Potter leaned in conspiratorially. “Come now, you’ll have me dancing with Professor Snape next if you refuse.”

Snape clenched his teeth. “Twenty points from Gryffindor for your cheek…” he said.

“What a perfectly awful grump you are, Severus. It’s Christmas.” Lupin was, astonishingly, still working the paper free from his present. Snape raised an eyebrow, then snatched the package from him and unceremoniously ripped it open.

“Bugger Christmas,” said Snape as he tore, and was horrified to notice Potter stifling a laugh. Then despite her resistance Potter begin to pull Jane towards the dance floor.

Jane didn’t seem to want to budge. She kept murmuring “No, really, I must insist, no…”

Potter turned to him. “Professor Snape, tell her she must dance.”

But Jane bristled at that. “Professor Snape doesn’t have the power to force me to do what he wants just because he commands it. Unless he wants to Imperio me.”

Snape narrowed his eyes. “I doubt I’d have to use Imperio to get you to do what I want,” he said, before he could stop himself. Jane looked away, and Lupin gave a little gasp. The remark had a startlingly bold double meaning.

Potter blinked, and before he began to grasp the subtle and very adult undercurrents of the conversation, Snape caught himself.

“Especially since Potter’s witless determination is, as usual, stronger than any Unforgivable,” he added.

Potter frowned again, but Snape smiled thinly. “Do go, Flintrammel,” he added smoothly. “If Potter survived a killing curse from the Dark Lord I am sure he will endure your self-proclaimed clumsiness. Or at least emerge with a less visible scar.”

Jane glared at him, about to say something she thought scathing no doubt, but Harry Potter took that moment to give a very firm tug on her wrist and she was swept out onto the floor.

Snape looked on with the blandest expression he could muster, then feeling a nudge at his elbow, he looked down to see Lupin proffering a bottle of smoky glass. The contents of the package, no doubt.

“Some brandy, Severus?”

“We’re supposed to be chaperoning.”

Lupin gently eased the stopper out of the bottle. “You’re not chaperoning, Severus, you’re brooding.”

Snape eyed the flask. “Well if you expect me to lead a rousing chorus of ‘Deck the Halls,’ I will have to disappoint you.”

“Come now, you won’t share a Christmas drink with me?” Lupin gave the flask an inviting shake. “Just tip it back. Easy peasy!”

Snape’s lip curled. “If you say that again I am afraid I shall have to strike you.”

But then, with a soft wave of his wand Snape murmured a concealment charm, and finally took the proffered flask. He tipped the liquid into his mouth, smooth and dense and fiery all at the same time, and closed his eyes.

Lupin retrieved it and took a swig himself, before handing it back to him again.

“Do you approve?”

He did indeed. It was wonderful. “If they served this instead of that disastrous communion wine I would consider going to church myself.”

Remus took the flask again and sipped. Then, giving another nudge with his elbow, said, “Jane looks lovely in that dress, doesn’t she? Usually she’s in something very bland.”

To this Snape said nothing. He was watching Potter mouthing, “One two three one two three” at her as she tried to follow. At least once Potter tried to stifle a wince when she no doubt stepped on his foot. Then, after he had quite sanely negotiated her to the calmer outer rim of the great circle of waltzing students, Snape watched as Jane swung herself right into Neville Longbottom, who had been standing innocently on the sidelines, trying to eat piece of cake. He watched as well as Longbottom accidentally tipped the cake icing-first onto the oversized breasts of Millicent Bulstrode. Much to Neville’s red-faced horror Millicent did not seem to mind at all.

“Oh, dear, oh dear…” Lupin mumbled, unable to hide the amusement in his voice, as he nudged Snape with the flask again. Snape took it.

If it were possible to be disgusted and amused at once, Snape was. Most especially as he watched a mortified Longbottom pull out his wand and begin uttering cleaning charms directly at Millicent’s bust. Millicent laughed indulgently, that is until at least a dozen large silver moths emerged from her cleavage and began flapping around her head.

And while all this was going on around came the maladroit catastrophe that was Jane Flintrammel attempting to navigate a waltz. She certainly had not underestimated her own ineptitude. If she didn’t get off the dance floor soon every single person out there was going to end up toppled over and bloodied, or covered with cake, or both. Potter, no doubt sensing this somehow and trying not to limp openly, finally brought her back to her point of departure.

“You must promise never to do that again,” she said firmly. “I told you I cannot dance!”

Potter smiled uneasily. “You were just a bit goosey, that’s all.”

“You are a true gentleman to say that, especially since by my count I tread on your instep no less than five times.”

“Would you like to try again?” Potter asked very politely, but not very forcefully.

“Absolutely not.”

Snape looked at Jane pointedly with a whisper of a smile on his face, then turned to his student. “Do you require a healing charm, Potter?”

For a brief second Snape almost thought Potter would say yes, but then he shook his head. “Professor Flintrammel did very well.”

The four of them looked over towards Neville, who was red-faced and now surrounded by silver moths, which were still continuing to emerge from Millicent’s décolletage. A crowd had gathered, and Millicent was staring down at her own breasts in horror.

“Oh, my…did I….?” Jane asked, her voice very small.

Suddenly Snape was caught between the desire to kiss her and the desire to laugh out loud. The utter clash of those two emotions made him slightly queasy. He scowled again.

“Never fear, Jane…” Lupin offered, touching her arm, “Hermione will fix things…”

Hermione had indeed appeared, Ron in tow. She leaned in towards Neville, and twitching his wand, Neville murmured something. Suddenly the front of Millicent’s dress contained only her breasts. The moths, however, were still flitting about her head. But then Neville looked up, and without any guidance from Hermione at all, his wand twitched again, and all the silver moths flew in unison to the enormous Christmas tree. Alighting on the tree itself, they suddenly began to glow, wings opening and closing gently.

Well, it was beautiful. The crowd that had gathered around Millicent and Neville now burst into spontaneous applause, and Neville took an embarrassed bow. Then, in a gesture that even Hermione could not have predicted, Neville offered his arm to Millicent, who, blushing, allowed herself to be led to the dance floor.

“Whoooo, Neville…” Harry said softly, giving a low whistle.

Jane sighed. “That’s just lovely. I don’t feel so bad now after all. But now if you’ll excuse me, I am going to gather up the pieces of my shattered dignity and head to my rooms.” And if someone had been looking, as Snape was, they would have seen her look at him out of the corner of her eye.

The queasy feeling seemed to double, only now he was caught between the desire to kiss her and the desire to take her over his knee and give her a spanking. What did she think she was up to, telling him she was going back to her rooms, giving him that inviting hint of a stare?

Lupin shook the flask. “But you’ve only just gotten here! Don’t you want some of your mother’s brandy?”

“I’ve had my share of my mother’s brandy, gentlemen,” Jane answered, looking at Snape even more boldly this time. “Besides, it would not do to be tipsy if I’m going to get any reading done. I plan to stay up quite late tonight.”

“You’re not going to work are you? That doesn’t sound like any fun at all,” Potter said.

“I beg to differ, Harry. I’ve been aching to get to my library for the past three days. Mother’s is full of Arithmancy books. Besides, what could be more fun than exploring the relationship between Italic and the Elder Futhark?”

Harry Potter looked as if he could think of a lot of things that would be more fun, and there Snape agreed with him.

“Happy Christmas,” said Lupin and Potter at once to her departing form.

“And to all a good night…” she waved, disappearing into the gloom of the corridor.

Just then Luna appeared, and put her chin on Harry’s shoulder.

“It’s slow one this time, Harry,” she said softly, “so we could go out on the floor and no one would even laugh.”

Harry turned and put his arm around Luna. He brushed a stray lock of hair away from her face, and took her chin in his hand.

“If they laugh, I will Crucio them,” he said firmly. And he looked like he meant it. Then he led her to the dance floor.

Remus Lupin watched their departing forms fondly before he turned to Snape. “Well, are you just going to stand there, glowering at the entire world when you could be…”

“No, I am not going to stand here. And I am most certainly not going to talk to you. I’m exhausted. I’m going to bed.”

And as he strode away, Snape heard Lupin mutter under his breath, “I’m sure you are, Severus…I’m sure you are…”

A More Merciful Man by Berkana [Reviews - 6]

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