I had simply had to get away from that party – the noisy, heady, exuberant atmosphere had, as always, been too much for me. I had felt closed-in, almost claustrophobic; trapped like a wild animal, panicking, in need of release. But, quite why I had headed for the dungeons of all places, I really couldn’t say.
It seemed as if, on instinct, I had automatically found my way there. Perhaps the need was simply born out of a sub-conscious craving for peace and quiet and – above all else –isolation.
It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy celebration; ever since I had been a student at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, it had always seemed right to have the annual Yule Ball/Party. But, what had then seemed natural and expected, now – as a newly-fledged member of staff and returning former pupil – felt more like duty and obligation.
Taking several long, deep, heavy breaths, I steadied myself, with a hand balanced against the icy stone wall for support. I began to regret drinking so much wine - actually, I realised, it had only been one glass in fact - but it had clearly gone straight to my head, and no doubt added to my disoriented state.
Just then, I thought I heard something up ahead. It made me nervous to think that I might not be alone in the depths of the castle. Surely everyone was at the party? Even caretaker Filch and the castle ghosts seemed to be in attendance there, by my recollection.
I anxiously turned the corner, and walked deliberately slowly into a more brightly lit corridor, my heart racing and my breathing rapid and somewhat shallow. I could have sworn then that a shadowy figure flicked out of my line of vision, up ahead. But I couldn’t be sure and wondered if it was simply my over-exerted mind playing tricks with me. Then again, I had felt that I was being watched all evening, although a lot of that had probably just been wishful thinking on my part.
You see, ever since sixth form at Hogwarts, I’d had a terrible crush on Potions master, Professor Severus Snape. I admit that those feelings had mostly gone away since leaving school, but now, returning nearly six years later to a teaching post, and finding him still here, had brought it all back.
He really hadn’t changed at all, it seemed. He still exhibited the same dark, scathing wit and low tolerance to his pupils, and polite indifference to his colleagues – not that he had spoken more than a few words to me since my return. But he had stared. I had caught him several times in fact; mainly at mealtimes when he clearly thought that I wouldn’t notice, and occasionally at staff meetings and the like. Of course I had observed him though. He was quick to look away most of the time, but, on a few occasions, our eyes had met, and the sudden intensity of his deep, dark, penetrating gaze always turned my legs to jelly and my stomach into somersaulting knots of excitement.
My discovery that he could still have that effect on me after all this time had been a shock – made more so because now he actually seemed to be noticing me. When I was his student, he paid me little more attention than anyone else, although he was never cruel or spiteful to me. Equally, I was never a victim of his wrath, as I prided myself on being quite good at Potions, and actually succeeded in securing good grades on leaving school.
I rounded another corner, and started to head back in the direction I’d come in, intending to locate the second flight of steps to return to the upper level, my nerves having got the better of me.
Suddenly, a strong, firm arm shot out, from seemingly nowhere, and grabbed me round the waist, whilst a second hand was equally speedily clamped across my mouth. I was pulled backwards against a firm, hard, decidedly masculine body, and into an alcove to one side. Something deep inside me forced me to stifle the scream that wanted to escape my lungs, leaving me wide-eyed and helpless, with shock seeping through every part of my trembling body.
‘You really shouldn’t be wandering the dungeon corridors alone,’ came a familiar deep, resounding voice.
‘Who knows what might have been lurking down here! I thought you were a student,’ he continued, simultaneously dropping his hand from my mouth, whilst the rich baritone timbre of his words vibrated from deep in his chest and rebounded along my back, still flush up against him. It momentarily had the effect of enveloping my every sense, as it washed over me in a deliciously sensual way.
I turned in his arms then, as his grip loosened, and I looked up into his fathomless eyes, surprised to see them crinkle at the corners in open amusement, and in an echo of the half-smile playing around his lips.
From the depths of my now tingling body, I located my voice – weak as it was – and managed to stutter out that he had scared me senseless. However, I wisely omitted to inform him that, on discovering the identity of my “attacker”, I had secretly relished that it was him.
I went on to explain that I had only come down to escape the noise and heat of the party, which I had found over-bearing.
‘Me too,’ he said, quite seriously, in a soft, almost whispered tone.
And suddenly the stern Potions master of my childhood seemed to have gone, to be replaced by someone who looked at me, not only as an equal, but I hoped also, as an attractive young woman. Not for the first time, I saw a hint of softness and possible vulnerability in my former professor. And perhaps something more? I couldn’t be sure. In fact I didn’t dare to think, and yet, at the same time, it was what I had been waiting for.
‘I hate parties,’ he continued, ‘especially the ones where everyone – and by that I mean the staff – drinks way too much and gets ridiculously silly.’
I couldn’t tell him that I could not imagine ever getting “ridiculously silly” (or, more especially, seeing him in such a state), and instead proceeded to tell him that I thought the wine had affected me adversely and made me feel unwell. It seemed to fit as the perfect excuse to explain my whereabouts.
Yet he smiled at that, as if he didn’t quite believe me. It was a beautiful smile, however, and it lit his face up and changed the hard contours of his features instantly. I decided I really liked the rarity of it, especially as it was aimed at me.
‘Now,’ he went on, ‘if you’re talking wine – and not that cheap yuletide plonk that Albus insists on offering the staff every year – I know where to get hold of some proper elf-made stuff that’s the real thing!’
‘Oh,’ I said, suddenly feeling more confident and at-ease. Could he really be offering what I thought he was?
‘Is that an invitation?’
‘It most certainly is,’ he said seductively, and, taking my hand in his, he started to lead us back along the corridor. I began to wonder if I was dreaming, but then decided not to question it. So what if it was just a dream! This was too good an opportunity to miss, real or fake!
His fingers entwined in mine were realistic enough though; firm and warm and enticing, and I relished the feel of them – I had fantasised along these very lines for years!
When we reached the door to his Potions classroom, he paused and hesitated a little. He looked down at me with a quizzical expression on his not-quite-handsome-but-interesting face. For a moment I wondered if he was half-remembering that I was a former student of his, and he felt that he shouldn’t be offering me an intimate drink ... but, if so, it was clearly quickly dismissed by him, as he continued to lead me to, what was obviously, his private quarters.
Opening the door with a series of seemingly quite complicated non-verbal spells, that I was not privy to, we entered his rooms.
It was no surprise to me to find the walls shelved in books, but the light, classy decor was a bit of a revelation. Such good taste and comfort seemed in complete contrast to the austere, regimented air that this fascinating, deeply mysterious and private man usually exhibited.
I couldn’t suppress a shiver, as my mind whirred in anticipation as to what exactly that might mean.
Several minutes later, I found myself sitting comfortably on a surprisingly soft, and almost sumptuous, leather sofa, a glass of the most exquisite elf-made wine in hand.
The hand that had offered me said glass had been as steady as mine had been shaky on taking it. And the gaze that now held mine was of equal confidence and power. What this man didn’t say in words, he clearly made up for in looks, gestures and body language, I decided.
I hoped that he didn’t just see me as some silly, infatuated female. (I hadn’t thought I had ever let my feelings be transparent but, then again, I knew he was a master of legilimency. Was he able to read my mind and know I desired him?) More worrying still, I didn’t want to be seen by him as willing prey – a convenient and easy ‘lay’ to while away the countdown to Christmas. But, I reasoned, I knew enough about him to realise that he was a man of integrity and honour, who was almost certainly not fickle enough to toy with someone else’s feelings for his own amusement.
‘To party absconders!’ he said with mirth, as he raised the luxurious liquid, of the deepest claret I had ever seen, to his lips.
I mirrored his actions but found my throat too dry to copy his words, or indeed find any appropriate ones.
As the evening progressed, and the party upstairs no doubt grew noisier as more and more inhibitions were shed, the Potions master and his former student in the dungeons below made equal progress, aided by the inherent qualities of a good wine.
It turned out that Severus (how could I think of him as anything but that now?) was not only knowledgeable about potions, but wine also. Most especially elf-made wine. He took great delight in explaining the lengths that the elves went to in order to secure and harvest the best grapes, and also the elaborate processes involved in repeatedly producing and ensuring such high standards and quality.
We talked a lot in fact. I was staggered at how easily we conversed and how different Severus Snape was when away from the students and other staff; it was the first time we had been truly alone together.
My attraction to him grew stronger (not that it needed that much fuelling), and I constantly hoped that he was starting to feel the same way about me – and not just because of the alcoholic intervention!
Not only was Severus intelligent and knowledgeable, he was also attentive and amusing, I discovered; with a dry wit and humour not always obvious to the world at large. He also had a subtle sexiness, simmering just below the surface of his confident, sophisticated, and, perhaps at times, slightly arrogant and superior persona. Deep down though, he lacked that outer confidence, I realised. There clearly lay beneath a refined, gentle, compasionate human being. But possibly one who had been hurt or let down badly, I guessed. He carried around the weight of duty and responsibility as a heavy burden.
Somewhere, during the course of the evening, he had come to sit at my side on the sofa and, at some point, his arm had slipped across my shoulders, my head coming to rest on it in a kind of wearily submissive, yet natural, gesture.
I confess to losing all track of time until, suddenly, we were made aware that it was midnight by the insistent chiming of a beautiful antique clock the professor had on the mantle shelf above the glowing, crackling fire which filled the hearth and lit the room cosily. Up until that moment I hadn’t even been aware of the clock’s existence.
‘It’s Christmas Eve!’ I announced, somewhat unnecessarily, walking across the room to check out the clock face, as if I wanted to be sure it wasn’t lying.
‘Indeed it is,’ came Severus’ rather droll reply as he stood up and walked across to me. Then, much to my complete shock, he suddenly leant forwards and enveloped me in his arms, heatedly placing his lips against mine, before I had chance to recover from the sudden onslaught.
My body reacted instantaneously – instinctively responding to the passionate kiss he had just instigated. It was everything a kiss should be; deep and sensuous and all-consuming. And, when he finally plunged his tongue unceremoniously and masterfully into the depths of my mouth, hard and possessive and searching, I thought I would come undone.
If he had not been holding me up, flushed up hard against him, in a kind of duplicated reverse of our encounter in the alcove hours before, I would surely have collapsed. I would have no doubt become a liquid mass of puddle on the floor beneath us, giving every swooning Jane Austen heroine ever written a run for her money!
The kiss seemed to last forever (I certainly wished it would at that moment), and, when we finally both came up for air, Severus rested his forehead against mine, eyes closed. Our mutual breathing continued to be heavy and ragged for some while after.
‘How about making it a Christmas to remember?’ he finally said, a mischievous glint in his eyes. And, before I could respond, he was kissing me again and simultaneously lifting me up into his strong arms, whilst the evidence of his obvious arousal pressed itself firmly and invitingly into my hip.
As he carried me from the room, still somehow managing to pepper soft, gentle butterfly kisses along the side of my elongated neck, I caught sight of our two glasses still standing on the mantle shelf where we’d placed them earlier, now half-empty of wine.
I smiled knowingly to myself, thinking that I should have thought the glasses half-full really, or, more fittingly, overflowing at that moment in time. I wondered if the cheap stuff that they were drinking upstairs had evoked any similar passions.
But, then again, I didn’t really care at that point, especially as we had evidently reached Severus’ bedroom, and I was then laid down, with exquisite tenderness, on the soft expanse of a warm, comfortable bed. My body tingled with supreme joy as it became assaulted by heated, inquisitive, questing hands and continual, equally searing, kisses.
Even the magical spell that this amazing wizard had performed, in order to remove our clothes with the minimum of intrusion, could not compete with the magic his mere presence created for me.
‘Just when did you become so beautiful?’ he whispered, in a voice so seductively sinful that it must surely have been solely designed for the bedroom.
My fears that Severus was just ‘using’ me, or that his ardour was purely down to the effects of the wine which we’d consumed earlier, soon evaporated. They proved to be totally unfounded. And, as the night wore on, he proved himself to be a thoughtful, caring and sensuously skilled lover, who was both gentle and passionate in turn.
Although I had fantasised of this moment many times, I couldn’t believe how the reality of being with him far surpassed anything from my imagination. At just turned twenty-four years old, I could count the number of lovers I’d had on one finger, yet I knew that this encounter and this man were something else. Just to be this close to him was pure heaven. However, there were simply no words adequate to describe what it was to be driven towards such ecstasy by him.
It was evident that Severus himself was no stranger to the art of love making. I couldn’t help but wonder how such a sexually demonstrative man, with an obviously high libido, usually managed to restrain such feelings. But, I also knew he was a powerful wizard and a man of great self-control and self-discipline – it was no secret or shame that he was a former Death Eater-turned-spy. I could only guess at the things he had been forced to do, witness, and suffer in the role he was obliged to play. I did not want to dwell on it and was glad that, after a while, my increasingly desensitised brain stopped questioning such things altogether, as the intensity of our mutual passion took over and I could no longer control my thoughts. I simply gave into the wonderful sensations he was creating and the world at large ceased to exist. All I became aware of was his warm, soft skin on mine, his lean, firm body, the heady masculine smell that was his unique aroma, and the soft tickle of his long, dark hair and lashes as he moved along every inch of my naked body. He discovered and devoured every bit of my flesh with the wicked touch of hands, lips, teeth and tongue, as if he were a starving man who worshipped me and would never get enough of me.
I was only too willing to reciprocate the joy he enflamed in me. My reward being in hearing the erotic moans he freely responded with, as I discovered the delights of his own body.
From the moment he took one of my engorged nipples into his warm, wet, hungry mouth, culminating in his frantic thrusting into my eager, hot, welcoming core, I surrendered to his every whim. He went from treating me as if I were made of the most delicate Dresden china, through to exhibiting his baser needs on the likes of a back street whore. And I loved it all!
Severus also made sure, in no uncertain terms, that I knew how much he wanted me. He confessed that he had been instrumental in ensuring my employment at Hogwarts. I had certainly been aware that he had been on the panel of inspectors sitting in on my interview with Headmaster Dumbledore. A satisfied smile spread across my heated face at this news, echoed soon after with one of his, as my own secret crush was confided.
'I haven't been able to take my eyes off you since your return,' he murmured sexily, in dripping velvet tones, turning me to molten liquid in confirmation that it hadn't just been my imagination.
I was both amazed and elated at the intensity of passion our coupling evoked in both of us each time we made love. For me, at least, it was like never before – I had simply never been so aroused and satisfied. And I cherished the look of pure joy on his face as his passion reached its height – he was truly beautiful in the throes of ecstasy, as we screamed each other's names in blissful unison. It was almost as if he had opened up a whole new world; an exotic paradise that was ours, and ours alone, to visit. I was not only in awe of him, but humbled also that such a deeply private and dignified man was able and eager to so readily open up to me in order to show the unrestrained, spontaneous side that no one else ever got to see; one where he surrended all control.
Much later, as we lay in each other’s arms, warm and sated, my head against Severus’ firm chest, where I could feel and hear the gentle, rhythmic pounding of his heart, I thought again about elf-made wine. I silently offered up my thanks to the diligence of those little elves who worked so hard to bring such exquisite ingredients together so perfectly ...
‘What are you thinking?’ he asked tenderly, whilst stroking my hair with soft, sensuous caresses.
‘That I haven’t bought you a Christmas present,’ I replied. And, smiling, almost shyly at my admission, I turned and planted gentle kisses on his warm chest, with its sparse sprinkling of dark, downy hair.
‘I think you’ve already given me the most perfect gift ever,’ he said, with a knowing smirk.
I chuckled quietly in response, burying my face deeper in the welcoming warmth and softness of his chest, in order to hide the blush threatening to creep across it.
Whatever the future held for us now, we had shared one night of passion, and I could live forever with just this one memory if I had to. No matter what, I knew it would definitely be a Christmas to remember and I realised that there was a lot to be said about not being a party animal. Social gatherings for more than two were definitely over-rated by my reckoning.