The blind woman in the music shop flipped the "Closed" placard to "Open" just as Snape approached, and she smiled warmly at him, recognizing his voice. "I just knew you'd be back," she confided as she led him to the counter. She patted the shelves behind it for mere seconds before bringing up a manila folder stuffed with sheet music. "My clerk pulled all the scores I have for the left hand and put them in here. They were filed under their composer and that's rather silly; they belong in their own category." Her cluck of disapproval amused Snape; here was a kindred spirit in compulsive organization. He bought the sheets she recommended, then asked to be let out the back door. She led him to a windowless alley perfect for Apparating. The entire outing took less than an hour--quite a difference from the day trips for Potions ingredients. Snape would never have guessed that shopping could actually be enjoyable.
Upon reaching the landing outside Pendragon's chambers, his good mood immediately evaporated. It took a moment to gather up the resolution to knock.
She answered the door herself, another first. "Snape," she said, neither a welcome nor a reproach. She spun on her heel and stomped over to an armchair, holding her hand out expectantly after she sat. It took him a moment to realize she was waiting for her potion.
This is quite a change! He diligently concealed his surprise until the tumbler was empty. "It appears I need no longer hold you down to make you take your medicine," he drawled as the sharpness returned to her expression.
She held up her hand and closed her eyes a moment, collecting herself, then grinned impishly. "Then perhaps I'll keep putting up a fight." Her eyes sparkled. "Come here, Severus."
Snape had no idea how she would react, and he braced for the worst. Were he superstitious, he might have crossed his fingers at that moment, but Snape believed only in magic, not luck.
Pendragon blinked, then squeezed her eyes shut tight. Snape began counting silently, as he had done since he was a very small boy, during times when calm and patience were the only way to evade grim punishment.
When her eyes finally opened, they were still focused. She cocked her head. "Excuse me? Problem?"
For a few seconds, Snape let himself smile, let the tension run off like molten stone from his shoulders. She was indignant, not hysterical. The potion was not just working, it was working well.
"No problem, Pendragon. I've brought you a gift." He handed her the small sheaf of music. She shook her head, puzzled, but accepted it and studied the first page.
"What is this?" she mumbled. "Some sort of error in the printing? There's no treble, just the..." She frowned, peering at the document more closely, then raised her eyes in a suspicious glare. "What do you want me to do with this?"
"It's just what it looks like. I want you to play it."
Her expression could have turned the sun into a black hole. "You're joking."
"Do I appear amused?" It was actually a trick question; he found her chilly reaction rather droll, but he knew not a mote of it showed on his face.
She folded her arm, crimping the sheet music in the process. "Forget it. If I'm going to play, it'll be real music, not this--"
"This what, Pen?" Snape barked sharply. "I'm told this is fine stuff, technical and elegant. It also happens to accomodate your physical limitations."
For a moment, he thought he'd gone a little too far. Every muscle in her face and neck tightened into cords and he was not close enough to envelop her in a suffocating hug. Snape instinctively glanced around the woman for any heavy or sharp items within her reach. To his amazement, however, she stayed rooted to the spot, lashing out only with words.
"It's for freaks! Not music! No! I won't--" She gasped for air, stamping her feet and crushing the paper in one hand. It was all right, though; the outburst gave him time to get around the armchair and yank her to his chest. Although she shook with anger, she made no attempt to withdraw from him, even mashing her face into his robes. She was trying to calm down, trying to let him help her. He found it quite touching, and had to remind himself not to speak or stroke her hair.
"You enraged me on purpose, didn't you?" she finally said, in a wry, muffled voice.
He scoffed, cautiously loosening his grip and resting his chin against her head. "Because I so love being assaulted with the nearest blunt instrument." He moved his hands to a more comfortable position. "Pendragon, try very hard to think once more about the sheet music. I'll hold you this time. Stay calm and speak to me when you can. Why do you resist playing it?"
Her body tensed anew and the loose pages clattered to the floor. When that wave of hysteria passed, she spoke without looking up; he could feel her words vibrating in his lungs. "Those pieces... They're an insult. Mockery." She quieted again for a few moments, then picked up again as though only a breath had elapsed. "My music is the only whole thing I have left. Don't you get it? If I give up the treble, that's it. It's over. The curse wins. I lose. I'm broken everywhere."
Had Pen been free to look him in the face, she would have seen a scowl that had historically been reserved for her Uncle Harry. "What a pile of centaur shite," he finally said aloud, noting rather proudly that she merely stiffened with everyday affront. "That may have seemed true in the past, young lady," he went on, "but I won't hear any of it now. Look at yourself, Pen! Look how far you've come these past weeks. You can't tell me you're irreparably broken."
She remained quiet for so long that Snape began to wonder offhandedly if she'd fallen asleep, but he didn't mind. Holding her was a chore he quite enjoyed, but for the fact that he couldn't let his hands roam. At last she raised her head, sliding her arm over his hip. "Severus."
That brought a warm smile to his face. "I'm here, Pen. Play your piano for me now."
The recital had to be postponed, however, until she could clear the tears from her eyes and read the music.