Severus buttoned up his trousers over his shirt, breathing in as he did so and trying to ignore his wife, who was moaning in the background.
“…and I still don’t understand why you can’t tell me where you’re going, Severus.” She walked into the bedroom, shaking her head as she saw him admiring himself in the mirror.
“Anyone would think you were going out on the pull instead of to an old boys’ reunion,” she said sarcastically. “Look at you, preening like a peacock!” She walked over and kissed him briefly on the cheek.
“Sorry, love, I don’t think you’ll be attracting anyone tonight.” She patted his somewhat pronounced stomach.
Severus scowled, wishing his wife would just shut up and leave him alone. More and more these days she really pissed him off. Now he understood why Lucius had spent so little time with Narcissa over the years. It seemed it wasn’t long after getting married that the sexy, attractive woman he’d lusted after so much had turned into a harridan.
He looked at his wife in the mirror. Being serious, she still was an attractive woman, although she’d put on a bit of weight since he’d married her. Of course, children did that to you, he supposed, but it seemed to him that recently she’d let herself go, no longer even making the effort to dress nicely or do her makeup. And she did nothing but moan. It seemed he could never do anything right, whether it was around the house or in the bedroom. In fact, he couldn’t remember the last time they’d had more than a quick fuck in the dark—such a change from the early days of their marriage, when they hadn’t even got out of bed at weekends because they were too busy making love.
He checked himself in the mirror once more and headed for the door, not even bothering to kiss his wife goodbye.
“Don’t bother waiting up, Helen. I don’t know what time I’ll be back. Probably late.” His voice was dismissive.
“Have fun,” his wife replied, trying not to sound bitter as she found herself facing yet another evening of babysitting alone.
She sat on the bed and looked at herself in the mirror as she heard Severus walk downstairs. She wasn’t bad looking for her age. Sure, she’d gained a few pounds here and there—mainly on her tummy after the birth of their three kids—didn’t everyone as they got older? But Severus treated her like she was a big, fat freak and it had made her self esteem plummet. She’d stopped dressing up and now didn’t even bother with her hair and makeup. What was the point? Her husband clearly wasn’t interested in her any more; he’d made that more than plain enough.
They didn’t even make love now. Oh, a couple of times Severus had initiated a quick shag under the covers late at night, but the long drawn out foreplay they had so enjoyed before the children had come along was gone. Now he didn’t even care if she came, as long as he did. She couldn’t remember the last time Severus had given her an orgasm, but even so she knew he’d be annoyed if he found she’d bought a vibrator to give her the pleasure she wasn’t getting from him.
And now he’d started going out a lot. At first it was the occasional drink with Lucius, but now he and his buddies were going out at least once a week and he would never tell her where he was going, saying only that it was an old boys’ reunion. He’d dress himself up and head out the door, returning at gods knew what time in the morning, stinking of booze.
The truth was that Severus had gained weight, too, and was really beginning to show his age. It wasn’t that she didn’t find him attractive any more, there was still that spark about him that had drawn her to him in the first place; but whilst he made her feel bad for not being the young sex kitten she’d once been, he seemed to forget—or maybe didn’t even realise—that he wasn’t exactly an Adonis either.
Of course he’d never really been an Adonis. He’d always been a snarky, sarcastic bastard who looked like he could do with a good meal and a dose of sunlight, but she’d loved him anyway, and still did. She just wished he’d love her back.
A cry came from a room down the corridor. Helen sighed. She just wished that once in a while he’d take over the babysitting duties and let her go out, although Merlin knows who she’d go out with; she’d lost contact with all her friends once she’d married Severus.
Sighing again, she stood and made her way to her youngest son’s bedroom, knowing that it was he who was crying. It always was. He was a nervous child, seemingly scared of everything, and he suffered a lot from nightmares. It was going to be another tough evening and she didn’t even have her husband there to share it with her.
Severus followed Lucius back from the bar, carefully carrying three pints of beer. He placed them on the table and took one as he sat down. He wasn’t completely sure where they were going tonight; Arthur had mentioned something about a club. He just hoped it wasn’t going to be another of those dance clubs that Lucius favoured.
He felt so old in there with all those young girls in their skimpy outfits. Of course, that was why Lucius went there. He didn’t seem to realise he was almost old enough to be their grandfather, let alone father. Of course, it helped that Lucius had loads of money.
He only had to flash the cash and he’d soon have a harem of beautiful young girls to keep him company. Severus didn’t have that, nor did he have Lucius’ good looks, although once or twice he’d been approached too. Of course, when he’d realised they were ex-students he’d given them the cold shoulder. There were some places you didn’t go, especially when you were married. He was sure his other friends felt the same way. No, he really hoped it wasn’t going to be a dance club.
“So what’s this place?” Dave Goyle asked, taking a sip of his beer. His friend Gordon Crabbe looked interested too.
“Well, it’s sort of an erotic dancing club,” Arthur Weasley said. “But they have a very special act. She’s supposed to be quite something. Apparently she can make your deepest, darkest desires come true.”
Lucius laughed. “I’d like to see her grant my deepest, darkest desires,” he said lecherously.
Arthur shuddered. “I hate to think what your deepest, darkest desires would consist of, Lucius.”
Severus grimaced. “Let’s face it, you’re not exactly vanilla anyway, are you, Lucius?” He paused for a moment. “Or perhaps your deepest, darkest desires are something nice and fluffy, not all that bondage stuff you’re always getting involved in.”
Lucius gave a lewd grin and laughed. “I hardly think my darkest desires are going to be fluffy, unless the girl’s wearing a jumper.” He winked.
The men all laughed, then continued talking excitedly. A lap-dancing club was definitely more like it. They knew where they were with strippers.
Downing their pints, they made their way out of the bar and followed Arthur.
The club, which was down a dark and dingy alleyway, was called the Blue Moon. The light of the sign shone eerily in the darkness. There was a Goblin on the door. He looked over each of the men intently as they made their way into the smoky club.
Within seconds they were approached by a number of scantily clad young women. They all knew the drill. You didn’t pay to enter a place like this, but you bought your companion drinks at highly inflated prices for the duration of your visit.
Snape felt a small shiver go through him as a brunette wearing only bra and knickers stroked his arm seductively, smiling at him as she did so. For a second in the gloom she reminded him of his wife, as she’d been when they’d first met, so vibrant and alive. He looked around at his friends and noted that each of them had a companion now too. Crabbe and Goyle were already trying to grope theirs, much to the disgust of the girls.
“Are you going to buy me a drink?” the brunette asked seductively. Severus nodded and motioned for the barman, ordering a beer for himself and whatever the lady was drinking. He turned to look at the stage.
A buxom blonde was gyrating athletically around a pole, her breasts defying gravity when she moved. They were obviously fake—a shame. He liked big breasts but wasn’t keen on falsies; they always seemed plastic and too perfect. He loved the unevenness of naturally large breasts. He looked at his companion. Her breasts were natural and right now her nipples were very erect. He saw her smile as he looked at her. He was under no illusions. She didn’t think him gorgeous, she just saw him as another mark who’d give her money.
He looked around at his friends. Crabbe and Goyle had given up trying to grope the girls they were with and were now watching the pneumatic blonde intently. Arthur looked a little uncomfortable with his companion, probably worrying about what Molly would say, Severus thought wryly. For a moment an image of Helen popped into his brain, but he pushed it away. She probably wouldn’t even care that he was here. Lucius, of course, had attracted a petite blonde whose cute pigtails made her look even younger than she actually was. She was already sitting on his lap as he poured her drink into her mouth—champagne, naturally. Every so often he would whisper in her ear and she would giggle, planting a kiss on his cheek or running her hand up his leg.
The brunette moved closer to Severus and ran her hands through his hair. He pulled away, not wanting the contact. The brunette looked surprised but then sat down on the stool next to him and talked to the barman.
Severus sighed. He just hoped this special act was going to be worth it.
“And now, gentlemen, the Blue Moon is very pleased to present, all the way from Paris, France…Claudette!”
The room fell silent as the music for the next act started. It wasn’t the usual pulsing disco beat that accompanied the pole dancers but a torch song, heartbreaking and sweet. Dry ice billowed from the stage, curling into interesting patterns, as the lights slowly rose.
Severus noted almost subconsciously that the brunette had moved closer to him and was running her hand seductively up and down his leg. She’d just ordered another drink at the bar, no doubt on his tab. He froze for a second as she moved almost to his crotch, forcing himself to stay calm. It was no good; her touch was creating a stir in his pants. Maybe he would have to consider paying the money to have her…after the show finished, of course. After all, it was already costing him enough to see it.
The torch song had come to an end now and a woman had appeared on stage. She was extraordinary. Tall and graceful with long blonde hair, and dressed in sequins, feathers and lace, she filled the stage with her presence, sexuality oozing from every pore. As she twirled around the stage she changed, now becoming a lithe redhead dressed in satins and silks, next a tall warrior princess with skin the colour of ebony, and then a maiden as pale as the moon.
Severus was entranced. He’d heard about shapeshifters but had never seen one in action. Oh, he’d seen that wife of Lupin’s—Tonks—changing her hair, but never anything on the scale on which this woman was performing. Faster and faster she twirled, the changes coming more quickly, before she finally settled back into the original blonde body that she obviously favoured. He wondered for a second what she really looked like, then realised it didn’t matter. She was a gorgeous woman whatever body she was in.
Claudette looked around at the customers in the club, trying to decide who was a likely subject for her special attention. There were several possibilities tonight. But the most interesting, without a doubt, was the tall, dark-haired man sitting with a group of friends over by the bar. His desires were very strong and actually very clear, but not to him. And if she didn’t sort him out he was going to make a terrible mistake tonight, one that would ruin his life forever. Not as much fun as some of the other prospects, but for once she really could use her gift for good rather than just for entertainment.
She moved towards the front of the stage.
“Good evening, gentlemen,” Claudette began, her heavily accented voice a sultry purr. All eyes were on her. “I am sure you will have realised that I am a shapeshifter, but I have a further gift. I am able to sense your deepest desires and become that person for you. Are you ready to face your deepest, darkest desires?”
All around the room men were looking excited.
“Be aware that this can be a double-edged sword,” Claudette warned. “You may think you know your heart’s desire, but this may not necessarily be so. You may be disappointed or even revolted by what you see; conversely it may be the best experience you will ever have.”
She looked around the room; there was some trepidation from the men now.
“So who is willing to come and open his heart?” she asked seductively. “If your desire is strong enough, I can guarantee you the night of your life.”
Severus turned away from the act, calling the barmen to buy him and the brunette another round of drinks. He wasn’t interested in learning about his deepest desires, nor was he interested in seeing others reveal theirs. He felt a little disgruntled at Arthur for dragging them there for such rubbish, but then remembered that it could have been worse—and at least he did have the company of the very attractive girl at his side. Another drink to make it look like he was at least interested in the show, and then he would negotiate with the girl for her favours and leave the others to it. At least if he had a good fuck before he had to go home he’d feel better about what was turning out to be a wasted evening.
He smiled at the brunette as he passed her drink to her, his fingers brushing hers for just a moment longer than necessary, and she favoured him with a smile in return and another touch to his thighs. He could feel his cock throbbing. He turned back to the stage, desperately trying to ignore his erection. He needed to wait a little longer.
A young man had joined Claudette on stage. She gazed deeply into his eyes and soon turned into a much older lady with huge breasts, tummy, and bottom. The man looked embarrassed, especially when his friends laughed at him, but Claudette was unchanging. Obviously this boy lusted after an older woman. Severus turned away, not really interested in what the boy’s desire was.
Severus looked at his friends. Crabbe and Goyle looked as if they’d like to get up there on the stage; Arthur was still looking worried. Lucius was watching interestedly, but the bulk of his attention was on the blonde. Severus wondered for a moment what Claudette would show him if he asked, but then decided he really didn’t want to know. He already knew what his desires were, at least for the immediate future, and shortly the brunette would be taking care of them. Once again his mind wandered to Helen, but as ever he pushed her out of his mind. She’d never find out what he was going to do tonight, and what she didn’t know wouldn’t hurt her. Not that he’d be all that bothered if she did find out; after all, she didn’t give him what he needed, so who could blame him for going elsewhere?
Claudette was speaking again and had invited another man, this time far older, to the stage. He had walked over with a smirk, but his smug smile disappeared when, quick as a flash, Claudette transformed into one of his male work colleagues. The man grew angry, his fists flying as he tried to declare that it was a lie, she was a charlatan! Severus gave a cold bark of laughter. It was clear the man protested too much. Claudette managed to avoid the man’s blows and returned to her blonde state, not seeming particularly bothered by the man’s outburst. She was obviously used to that sort of thing happening. Security Goblins came and removed the man from the stage, and Claudette returned to scanning the audience.
Severus was just coming to the end of his beer, having watched several more idiots take to the stage, and debated whether to have one more. He decided not. He’d already spent enough on drink this evening and he still had to negotiate a price with the girl. He was about to motion to the barman to pay his tab when Claudette called him to the stage.
“My final friend for this section of the show will be a special one,” she said, her voice almost too low to hear. “This special man will truly get his heart’s deepest desire from me tonight.” She smiled wickedly.
Most of the remaining men in the room looked at the woman avidly but her gaze had turned upon the party by the bar. Severus felt her gaze sweep over him and then stop.
Claudette knew that now was the time to get the dark-haired man up on stage, but she also knew that getting him there was going to be a problem. He wasn’t going to come easily. She would have to rely on his friends to persuade him.
“You, sir,” she said loudly, pointing directly at Severus.
A beam of light travelled around the room and came to rest on him, making him squint to see. The brunette murmured in disappointment. She’d been sure this one would want her services beyond that of companion at the bar and had expected some good money for the night. But now that was ruined by Claudette. After he’d been with the shapeshifter there was no way he’d want anything to do with her; they never did.
Strange, though—of all the men in the room the woman could have chosen to take as her partner, she’d picked the one least likely to want to go with her. After all, he’d shown little interest in the show so far, seeming rather disappointed with it. Well, he wouldn’t be disappointed now. Claudette was about to grant his deepest fantasies and, unlike for the other schmucks, this would be done in private—no public show for him. The girl wondered why he’d been chosen. After all, he wasn’t anything special. Just another fed-up middle-aged man looking for a bit of comfort.
“Yes. You, sir. Come up here, please.”
Severus just looked at the woman, not moving. There was no way he was going up on stage to make a fool of himself. He could feel the whole room staring at him and he didn’t like it. He felt the urge to leave but he hadn’t yet paid his tab, and of course there was still the business to be conducted with the brunette; so he stayed seated and scowled.
“Well, go on,” Goyle whispered.
“Yeah, what are you waiting for?” Crabbe added. “Worried she’s gonna show us you fancy Lucius or something?” They all laughed.
Severus scowled harder.
“Of course not,” he hissed. “However, I have no time for this chicanery.”
Goyle snorted. “You’re just scared. I can’t believe Severus Snape is scared. Can you, Crabbe? What do you think, Lucius? Arthur?”
“I am not scared,” Severus snapped. “I’m just not interested.”
Lucius looked at his friend, a small smile playing on his lips. “It doesn’t look like she’s going to choose anyone else, Severus, so you may have no choice. Anyway, do you really understand what you’re turning down?” His voice was a lush drawl. “I’d be more than happy to go in your place—wouldn’t you, Arthur?”
Arthur nodded but Severus thought he looked as if he’d rather run a mile than go up there with that woman.
“I don’t bite, you know,” she said, smiling. “Unless you want me to.”
The room laughed.
“Just go,” Lucius hissed. “From what I understand you’ve been granted a great honour. You don’t get to be humiliated on stage. She’s chosen you as her…escort for the evening. If you go, you’ll get to do all those things the rest of us can only dream about.”
Once more Claudette was calling him, her soulful eyes locked on his, drawing him to her, hypnotising him with her beauty.
With a sigh he stood up, knowing he wouldn’t get a minute’s peace from the others until he’d done what she asked. He made his way to the stage, amid whispered murmurings, obviously from people who had seen Claudette before and were wondering why she had chosen this particular man.
“Give her one from me,” Lucius said with a wink as he went past and clapped Severus on the back.
Claudette ushered the reluctant man off the stage after an extravagant promise to give him the best night of his life and to return to her audience later for more fun and games, and led him to her dressing room, a frothy concoction of lace and feathers, lit by twinkling fairy lights. She pushed aside a number of voile hangings and motioned for Snape to sit on a squashy-looking bed covered in a pink and black velvet comforter.
Snape scowled but didn’t move. His mind was still on the brunette waiting for him back at the bar; this farce with the shapeshifter was just wasting time. He started to tell her so but she put her hand over his mouth, shutting him up, and pushed him onto the bed.
“I know you’re wondering why I picked you.” Claudette’s voice was as alluringly accented as it had been onstage, and she was once again in the blonde persona she favoured. “Your desire cries out to me so clearly, I couldn’t help but respond.”
Snape gave a snort of disbelieving laughter. His only desire was to get physical with the brunette—not exactly a deep fantasy.
“Do you know what your deepest, darkest desire is?” the woman asked with interest, looking appraisingly at the scowling man. He was definitely going to be a tough nut to crack, but she was sure it would be worth it when she’d revealed to him what his real desires were and he realised that she was right. If nothing else, she’d removed him from the temptation that was threatening to overwhelm him, at least for the time being. But Claudette was confident in her abilities and was sure by the time she’d finished with him he’d no longer be interested in the tawdry transaction he’d been considering.
Snape looked at the shapeshifter, willing her to get a move on. He felt uncomfortable under her close scrutiny. To be honest, he had no idea what his deepest desire was. Because of the life he’d led, he’d spent so many years trying to dismiss all desire; and his time as a Death Eater had opened him up to every dark possibility so that he was sure there wasn’t anything he hadn’t tried. Of course, there were a couple of lingering regrets rather than desires, but these days he was an uncomplicated man. He couldn’t imagine what she was going to show him.
Claudette moved back a little and smiled at him. “This isn’t going to be painful. Or at least it shouldn’t be. Just remember this is what you want more than anything in the world.” Her voice was low and seductive, seeming now to lose the accent, sounding more like….
Snape watched as the shapeshifter changed—no longer the blonde but now a redhead, with emerald green eyes. The vision settled and she smiled as he reached out to touch her.
“Lily!” he whispered, and the woman nodded.
“You have strong feelings for this one,” Claudette confirmed as she moved towards the man once more, “but more of regret and remorse than of desire. Once the flame was there but now she just holds you back from the thing you truly desire.”
She darted out of his reach, noting his look of disappointment at not being able to hold her; but this one was not his deepest desire, although he had often convinced himself that she was, and most of his life had been lived around this misconception.
“Not her,” she repeated gently, shaking her head, and she changed once more.
Snape gave a low moan at the woman who now faced him. Brunette like the girl in the bar, she was curvier than the tart, her naturally large breasts supported in a plunging bra that showed them off to their best advantage; the small matching knickers revealed the slight swell of her stomach but covered that most desirable of places. Her skin was creamy and her hair shone as it cascaded in unruly waves over her shoulders and down her back. She looked exactly as she had the first time they’d made love. He closed his eyes.
He could still remember the first time they’d met, as if it were yesterday rather than the dozen or so years that it had really been. She had been the breath of fresh air in his life that gave it meaning, made it worth living. After the war had finished, when he hadn’t been able to see a future, she had appeared and given him hope.
He opened his eyes once more. The woman was still looking at him, her smile warm and inviting. He rose from the bed and she stepped into his arms. He held her tightly, savouring the smell of her, the soft feel of her skin; her curves fit perfectly into his embrace. He moaned again and buried his face in her hair, breathing in her familiar scent as his heart beat faster; his erection was more painful now than it had been all evening. Desire flared and he had to summon up every ounce of his legendary self-control to stop himself from pushing her down beneath him on the bed.
“Everything you ever wanted is linked to this woman,” Claudette whispered. She could feel the depth of the man’s emotion as he held tightly to her. She could feel his confusion and fear and something else: disbelief. Seeming not to hear her, his hands began an exploration of her body, his mouth finding hers in a deeply sensual kiss.
Claudette responded to the kiss but not to his touch. Whilst she had no qualms about intimate behaviour with her audience—indeed, the nature of her act generally demanded physicality—in this case she knew that this man already had access to his heart’s desire, he just needed to be made to see the truth of it. She knew too that if she allowed him to continue, it would undo all the good she was trying to achieve. His guilt would be overwhelming. As the kiss finished she pulled away from him, moving just out of reach. The man looked at her miserably.
“I’m not her,” she said gently as he reached for her once again. “All I’m doing is showing you your deepest desire.” She shimmered and once again returned to her blonde persona.
Snape looked unhappy. “You were her,” he said quietly. “You could give me what I want.”
The longing in his voice was terrible to hear.
Claudette took his hand and stroked it gently. “No. I just shifted into what you wanted to see, your deepest desire. I’m not her—just a vision of her. But now you know what your deepest desire is.”
Snape sighed. “She doesn’t exist.”
Claudette looked at him shrewdly. “Of course she does. You know she exists. She is your wife, isn’t she?”
Snape shook his head. “No. That’s not my wife. That woman’s gone. My wife is someone completely different.”
Claudette shook her head, smiling.
“She’s still the same person,” she told him smoothly. “She’s never changed. It’s you that sees her differently.”
“Not true,” Severus retorted. “She’s got fat and she’s not interested in me any more. She doesn’t want to have sex and she’s always moaning and unhappy.” He knew it sounded like a pathetic whine, but he didn’t care.
Claudette snorted. “Listen to yourself. You are the reason your wife is as she is. If she’s gained weight it’s from carrying your children, the most precious and loving thing she could ever do for you. And how do you repay her? By rejecting her and treating her as if she’s no longer attractive to you. And then you remember the other one, and of course she always remains perfect. Death does that to a person. That makes you even less sympathetic towards the one person you should cherish above all else.” She looked disgusted.
Severus started to insist that this wasn’t true, but a part of him suddenly realised that it was. It was he who had chased away his vixen of a wife and replaced her with the old frump that she’d become.
“You see?” breathed Claudette. “You can free her from the shackles you’ve placed on her, but you must want to do it. You must want your wife back.”
She leaned forward and slowly kissed his neck. “Do you want her?”
Severus pulled away from the woman. He didn’t want her touching him, not even if she could change herself back into looking like Helen. He wanted Helen.
“I love my wife,” he told Claudette, almost apologising. She smiled.
“I know. And you should go home to her now. Don’t wait. You still have time to undo the damage you’ve done to her, but you need to be patient and attentive. For too long you’ve ignored or ridiculed her, and it will take her a while to open up and trust you again. But it can be done…if you want it.”
He nodded and rose to his feet. He grasped the woman’s hands.
“Thank you,” he whispered, and she smiled at him.
Severus left the dressing room and returned to his friends.
“You weren’t long,” Crabbe said. Goyle laughed stupidly.
Lucius looked at his friend carefully. “Are you okay, Severus?”
Severus nodded, then laughed. “Never better,” he replied calmly. “I’m going home. See you guys later.”
He turned to the barman and requested his tab, paying it, then walked to the door. Lucius watched him intently. “He obviously got what he wanted,” he observed as his friend left, looking younger and happier than he’d seen him for ages.
Claudette was back on stage and looking around the audience for her next target. If only they were all as easy to read as the last one, she’d be laughing. She looked at the handsome man with the long blonde hair who had the young girl on his lap. Oh yes, he was an easy one to read, too. She knew exactly what he wanted and she was sure she would be able to provide it. She beckoned Lucius over to her, eager for the game to begin again.
Severus closed the door quietly. He was late. Not as late as normal, but Helen was probably asleep and he didn’t want to upset her by waking her. As he walked into the lounge he waved his wand, whispering, “Lumos!” and the candles in the room flared.
Helen was asleep on the sofa, a book still in her hand, not in bed as he’d expected. As he bent over her he realised Claudette was right. His Helen, the sexy vixen he’d fallen so in love with, was still there; he could see her now while she slept. He brushed a curling lock of greying hair from her face and she stirred, not waking but moving slightly. He gazed at his wife. She really was still very attractive, even without the makeup. He scooped her into his arms, kissing her forehead gently as he carried her upstairs to their bedroom.
Claudette was right. In freeing him from Lily and giving him back Helen she really had given him the best evening of his life.
A/N: This story is set sixteen years after the end of the war. Snape has been married for twelve years to Helen and they have three children—a girl (Valeria) aged 9, a boy (Albus) aged 7, and a boy (Theodore) aged 4.
Thank you to my wonderful beta Mamacita for sorting out my terrible punctuation and wonky grammar.