But Severus Snape did not immediately sign the contract, despite the fact that he had threatened to. He did, however, take it out and examine it every single day. He looked at it, read it over yet again for the umpteenth time, then put it back in its warded drawer.
If nothing else, Snape did not sign it because he could not bear the thought of doing anything to ease the life of Lucius Malfoy. Snape almost hoped that Princilla and Draco would elope. There was nothing he would have liked to see more than Lucius Malfoy in the throes of paralyzing in-law problems. Gash would be permanently furious with him on two fronts: Malfoy would fail as facilitator of the contract with Snape, and he would fail as a father, having proven himself to have no control over his son. Gash would not let him forget this easily. Snape fully realized what he would be giving up in order to ensure Malfoy’s unhappiness, but it did not hurt to make him squirm, and imagining Malfoy’s unease was Snape’s only source of comfort, these days.
Well, not his only source. Lupin, in some mad impulse born of his preposterously bleeding heart, had taken to stopping by every damned day.
Perhaps not every day, but often enough. He never mentioned Jane (and Snape did not either), though doubtless Lupin was doing double-duty, trying to be a reassuring presence for both Jane and Snape at once. Snape found himself comforted to know that Jane had Lupin to lean on. Women needed that sort of thing. He could never admit to himself that he was thankful for Lupin’s presence as well.
Monday through Thursday the man brought tea and biscuits during his office hours, and chattered away endlessly about everyone and everything. Half of the time Snape felt like slapping him, telling him to leave him alone, or at least to be quiet for two damn minutes and to not continuously pepper the air with his prattle. The other half of the time Snape was chuckling, or sipping the excellent tea, while he pretended not to listen to Lupin’s babblings, which were very entertaining, really, after all.
And for those moments, at least, Lupin kept Snape’s mind off Jane.
Nothing Lupin could do could make the woman disappear entirely, of course. Snape could not quite decide whether her continued presence was a bad or a good thing. While she remained in his orbit, he was incapable of even attempting to forget her. But he found he did not want to. There was some solace to be had simply in the sight of her, and the smell of her, and the sound of her voice. All these remote senses were heightened for him, now that he could no longer touch her, no longer taste her. She was careful to position herself at least two professors away from him at the Head Table, and her eyes never did meet his, but he could still contemplate the gentle curve of her neck, the plummy sound of her voice as she spoke in low tones to Flitwick, or Sprout, the scent of ginger and vanilla as she passed him in the faculty lounge.
At first he deeply resented the fact that she seemed in control of herself. That she was making an effort to appear as if nothing had ever happened. Was she trying to punish him? Or had her desire for him ended on that Easter Day? Could she have willed it away that easily?
He had a brief fantasy of going to her, forcing her to look at him. Asking her if he really was that easy to forget. This fantasy as well involved pressing his mouth to hers and kissing her senseless, proving to himself and to her that despite her current indifference, the four months he had spent in her arms were not some figment of his imagination. He would force her to feel that again.
But after a short time of nurturing his pique against her, he realized that she was not trying to display how easy things were for her. That in fact her refusal to meet his eyes was her way of completely shielding what she was feeling. Had things truly been easy for her she could have shown him that in one pointed look. She was no Occlumens. She could not have hid her apathy, her disregard. Snape realized at last that she was trying to make things easier on him. She did not want him to see what she was feeling. She did not want him to feel guilty about what he’d done. And maybe because looking into his eyes would weaken her resolve. For she had made her decision, as well, and she too had to live with it.
This new understanding made seeing her even more painful, worse than what he had experienced before they had come together in the first place. Before, he had been furious with himself, and furious with her, because of his desire for her. Now, that desire made him immeasurably sad. His body still craved her, still betrayed him, and in the end during his worst moments he resorted to liquor and calming drafts to ease it. He actually wished for oblivion.
They spoke only once, in the middle of May. She came to his office hours one Friday, bearing a file.
“Blaise Zabini is going to fail my class this semester if he does not receive a grade of higher than ninety-four percent on the final,” she said, not looking at him. “You might wish to look at his tests and consult with him.”
She might not have been there at all, but Hogwarts rules required that any teacher who thought a student about to fail their course consult with that student’s Head of House. She placed the file on a bookcase and turned to leave, then, but he stopped her.
She turned, and her eyes did meet his then, for the first time since Easter, and in them he saw…what was it?. Hope? Expectation? Snape could not quite tell. He could not concentrate enough, could not discipline himself enough to see what was there.
Jane paused, waited.
“I miss you…” he said softly, at last. He had not meant to say that but there it was. And all of a sudden he was ashamed. Of his acknowledgement of weakness, of longing. He could not bear being in her presence, so close, so far away. But the thought of being away from her entirely terrified him even more.
Jane’s hand went to the doorknob, and he saw her body give an almost involuntary shudder. It was the first time he had indicated to her he had any feelings for her at all, other than lust. And before she looked down he could tell she was wrestling with the impulse to hurl herself across the room into his arms. She fought it. Her hand cluched at the knob. And for that moment it took all of Snape’s strength not to cross the room and pull her to him as well.
The moment passed. Jane collected herself. She took a deep breath and her shoulders lifted, and then she looked him straight in the eye.
“And I miss you, Severus,” she replied, an odd note of formality in her voice. “Quite terribly, in fact. Is there anything else?”
It was Snape, this time, who averted his eyes. “I don’t know what else to say…” he told her. This was, of course, a lie. He knew what else to say. He knew what she needed to hear. That he would give up body and soul for her, everything he was, everything he could have, for her and no one else but her.
This, he could not bring himself to tell her.
“Then don’t say anything, Severus,” Jane said. “Besides, I think you’ve already not said everything you’re not going to say, don’t you?”
And then she was gone.
And so, the weeks passed. Snape kept body and soul together, nursing his grudge against Malfoy. Drinking too much. Listening to Lupin chatter endlessly. And several times just a hair short of Flooing to Jane’s quarters and begging for just one more night in her arms. The misery was supposed to ease over time, wasn’t it? He had heard some such thing. But the ache remained.
Dumbledore figured things out, of course, and seemed to fret a bit. He sent Snape a message once, a message that turned out to consist of an elaborate drawing of the Ministry of Magic, spouting an enormous, veined erection.
Snape did chuckle at this, and promptly owled him back.
I see that even in death, Albus,
you remain a lascivious old sodomite.
Some things obviously never change.
I have never held this against you, of
course, as I have always believed that
where you wish to place your hoary
genitals is your business and your
But I must ask: isn’t Scrimgeour a bit
young for you?
After this, Dumbledore contented himself with ghostly accusatory glares.
Minerva actually approached Dumbledore in the faculty lounge about the rift, in Snape’s presence.
“What on earth has come between you now?” she asked them, pursing her lips. She was used to being their go-between, and Snape knew that she secretly relished it.
At that, Dumbledore scowled at Snape for a bit. Then, all of a sudden, he threw his hands up in the air and angrily blurted out something about double-pointed needles.
The look on Minerva’s face was priceless, and Snape laughed for the first time in weeks, a laugh that was tempered with an immediate memory of that night he had cast the Drivel spell. How Jane had gently touched his arm, pleading for his forgiveness for that wretched Weasley boy and his disgraceful intrusion.
And so he found himself in his rooms again, drinking, and again staring into a fire.
The misery was at least familiar to him. He was so used to being utterly miserable that it had become habit. It was Jane’s warm presence that had entirely unsettled him, made him feel things that made him profoundly uneasy.
It was so much easier to be wretched, wasn’t it? He retreated into himself, as had always been his way.
Then, just as exams were ending, he received an Owl from Roland Gash.
It has been a long time. Might I have
the pleasure of your company this
Saturday? Please owl your regrets only.
But I hope you will be able to abide my
presence. I have a reservation at a
certain Muggle restaurant in London.
It’s called the Fig and Marrow. A map
is enclosed. I will be there at six p.m.
Snape felt his heart lighten a bit at the missive. Certainly this was the sign that he was meant to press on. He might be miserable, but about one thing Malfoy had been right. It was better to be miserable and rich, among people of status.
He had had enough of poring over the unsigned contract. He would bring the contract with him to London, and there, with Roland Gash at his arm, he would sign it.
And his new life could begin.