The Sugar Quill
Author: V. Equinox (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Romance in C Minor II or How To Lose a Death Eater in 15 Days  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Romance in C Minor II

Romance in C Minor II: Your Worst Fears or....How to Lose a Death Eater in 10 Days

 

Noon was fastly approaching, the glistening sunlight poked through the windows of the Pompous Porcupine Teahouse and trickled onto their table.

Snape watched her as she took a sip from a delicate tea cup. She was not the most beautiful woman he had ever seen - indeed, some witches used charms to enhance their appearance, a thing which Gwendolyn did not endorse. She was not the most intelligent person he'd ever met, though she certainly was able to keep conversation with him on the same level, something many others could - or would not attempt. Dumbledore was the only one to receive that high accolade,though Gwendolyn was, in Snape's opinion, only a half a notch below.

What was it, then, that attracted him so? Normally he wouldn't even get close enough to a woman to search out her personality (they were so interchangeable at any rate). Yet this witch had ensnared him with just a few clever interactions. She was lovely to look upon, though, and more than once Snape had found himself daydreaming of her in a less than innocent manner. He always quickly pushed those thoughts away, however. How could he bring himself to sully such a lovely creature, such a fine example of humanity? Her kisses were often insistent - as though she longed for a more intimate encounter with him, but he could not allow himself to touch her in any unseemly way. It would be...wrong. His slender, pale fingers looked so spindly and ugly on her fair skin. One time he allowed himself to caress that delicate skin just below her neck along her collarbone, well above the inviting opening of her blouse. She'd seemed to enjoy it, though he couldn't be certain she asn't just being polite...At any rate, Snape harbored various questions about being able to live up to whatever expectations she might have concerning any intimacy between them.

"Severus..." Her voice snapped him from his reverie.

"Mm?"

"Do you...hate Muggles? I've always wanted to ask."

Snape set down his tea cup, smirking. "Of course. Just as much as I do most wizards, though Muggles are far less useful."

"Oh, come now, Severus, you can't possibly hate EVERYone. You don't hate ME for starters, or Dumbledore. And I think you at least respect Minerva."

Snape snorted softly. "Respect does not entail enjoyment of presence, my dear. I respect her years of experience and her tempered wisdom - though she is quick to anger. I do not, however, seek her out for social calls."

Gwendolyn reached over, placing a hand over his. He startled a moment, looking at her. "Ah, Gwendolyn, kindly do not regard me with so much pity. I can assure you I much prefer my solitude over the constant whine and prattle of my peers. Present company exempt, of course."

"Duly noted. Well, I'm all finished here. Shall we head on over to the school? I need to start preparing for the new year now that I will be teaching second and third years along with first years. I suppose you are all finished with YOUR preparations."

Snape finished the last drop from his cup. "Of course. Ah, though there is one thing I neglected. I seem to recall leaving a single sheet of paper in disarray in my haste to meet you here. I must tend to that immediately."

He was rewarded with Gwendolyn's beaming smile. "I'll just bet. Well, then! Off we go..."

* * *

The new school year was indeed swiftly approaching and with it came all the annoyances and irritations which, though predictable, Snape found increasingly intolerable. Gwendolyn's presence in his life had done little to enhance his temperament outside their interactions, especially considering his increasing responsibilities. Dumbledore had politely suggested that Severus and Gwendolyn downplay their budding relationship and though this was yet another annoyance, Snape could see the wisdom in it. Should their underground war on the Dark Lord grow in intensity, the last thing Severus wanted was to have their enemies know what strike would hit him hardest.

"She is clever indeed, Severus, but let me put your mind at rest. I have no intention of recruiting Gwendolyn Liddenmurk unless the situation is dire indeed," Dumbledore had said, watching Snape closely over his glasses. "She has never witnessed the tragedies the rest of us have known, and I would rather preserve as much of her innocence as possible. As well...you know that she would gladly assist, but I fear she would try too hard and become a hindrance in her exuberance to protect. I hope this sits all right with you."

Snape had nodded slightly then, relieved to know Gwendolyn would not become a part of that war they all knew approached. He took a deep breath, nodding again as though to a second question and leaned back slightly in the poofy chair. "Yes. Yes, it does. Though I suspect she is...aware...of some of the proceedings."

Dumbledore's eyes twinkled briefly. "I would be disappointed were she not, Severus."

The pedantic potions professor had mulled over that conversation for quite some time. Was she in danger by her relationship with him as Albus had subtly implied? Or was there an implication at all?

Severus leaned forward, rubbing his forehead, contemplating the complete and utter complexity of it all. Not to mention another aspect that continuously prodded his mind: intimacy. Oh, Gwendolyn would never come right out and ask for it, to be sure, but certainly she must feel stifled - frustrated, even.

Snape grimaced as a resounding knock echoed through the dungeon. "What is it NOW? I'm BUSY. It's only the second day, locate the answer yourself." He added with a mutter, "foolish children."

A smoothly chilling, familiar voice came from the other side of the door. "Ah, you will be glad to know it is not a loathsome child, Severus."

Arching a brow, Severus sat up and waved the door open, the malice leaving his tone. "Lucius. Please do come in."

Lucius Malfoy glided swiftly into the dungeon, the hint of a smirk playing about his lips while he gazed around the dark quarters. His thick, enviable blonde hair was pulled back into a ponytail, held in place by a surprisingly dainty black ribbon. He stepped up to the desk, long black cape swirling about him momentarily as his momentum ceased. He lifted one gloved hand and delicately adjusted the fingers. "Professor Snape, I hope the beginning of the new year sees you fit and well."

Severus arched his other brow this time, then leaned back, smirking. "It is as dire and unpleasant as all the others, Lucius. There are, of course, a few...bright spots."

The elder Malfoy expressed his delight in a wane smile. "Yes, indeed, it is one of those bright spots I came to discuss. Draco, of course, is an exceptional student and needs no assistance. However, I would certainly appreciate it if you might be predisposed to show him a few...tricks."

"Tricks?"

Lucius nodded, now adjusting the other glove. "Yes. I realize school regulations forbid the teaching of certain...advanced potions to younger students, but perhaps you might look into the rules and see if his studies might do with a bit of acceleration."

Severus took a deep breath. To refuse Lucius would be an insult and he could not afford such a thing now or in the foreseeable future. Additionally, despite the fact Draco was somewhat bright, he did not have the outright talent of his father. An attempt to "accelerate" Draco's learning, even legitimately, would probably put him a bit behind in other areas of his studies, though of course Potions was the most important. All that was needed now was a delicate way to phrase it - not one of Snape's specialties.

Sensing Snape's hesitancy, Lucius lifted his head a bit. "You have reservations about this, perhaps?"

Severus pushed away from the desk. "Yes. I suppose that I do, Lucius. I am concerned Draco may fall behind in his other studies if I give him more advanced potions. He is exceptionally talented but I must say that I have his best interests at heart when I recommend against it. Of course, if you are quite certain..."

Lucius shook his head, not one hair moving out of place. "I will accept your recommendation, Severus. And I thank you for watching over my boy. He is, after all, a perfect example of what we are striving for." With a slight bow, he turned, stepping out of the dungeon and holding up one gloved hand in farewell. "I will see you later, Severus."

Snape moved back to his desk again, then glanced at the open door, annoyed Lucius had not closed it. Just as he was about to do so, however, he heard a familiar voice from down the hall.

"Oh! Excuse me, I'm so sorry, didn't see you there."

Lucius' voice took on the note of a curving purr. "It's quite all right, miss...?"

Severus' stomach tightened and his eyebrows creased. He'd heard that tone before.

"Gwendolyn Liddenmurk."

There was a momentary pause as Snape leaned forward over his desk, towards the open door, straining to hear. A very soft sound issued forth, almost like a kiss. "It is.....a pleasure....Miss Liddenmurk."

"Oh, please, Professor Liddenmurk is fine. And you are...?" Gwendolyn's tone was quite polite but did not contain its usual warm tones.

"Lucius Malfoy, at your service. I recall hearing of your arrival. Though he did not take your class, my son relayed to me your beauty. However...his words could not convey the fullness of your exquisite grace."

Severus' eye twitched and had Lucius been speaking to anyone but Gwendolyn, he might have laughed.

"Eeeehhhh, right. Thanks. Well, have to go take care of some business! Nice to meet you, Mr. Malfoy." The clack-clack of her shoes signaling her approach; Severus could only imagine she had left a stunned Lucius in her wake.

"Hello, Severus," she said, closing the door behind her. "You're looking a bit pe peaked. Are you feeling all right?"

"What, eh? Yes, I'm fine," he answered dismissively. "Gwendolyn, do you have ANY idea who that was?"

She blinked at him, then glanced back and gestured towards the door. "Who? That guy? Yes...he said his name was Lushisious Malfoy."

Severus grimaced. "Lucius. Lucius Malfoy. He is...a significant contributor to a variety of important wizarding organizations as well as..." Should he tell her? If she didn't already know, perhaps it was better that she did not.

Gwendolyn raised her eyebrows, waiting for him to continue. "As well as...?"

"An old...compatriot." Severus looked directly into her eyes as he said this. If she had any understanding of his implications, she gave no indication.

She smiled, then, leaning over his desk, accidentally (or perhaps not...) giving him a slight peek down her blouse, from which he quickly averted his eyes. "Well, any friend of yours..."

I never said he was my friend, Severus thought but did not voice.

Gwendolyn set down some scrollwork she'd been carrying, straightening it upon his desk. "Anyway, I brought my syllabus for you to take a look at. Now that Dumbledore has granted permission that I teach third years as well, I...what? What is it?"

"Didhekissyou?" Severus muttered in one jumble as he looked away, eyebrows creasing and giving him the distinct expression that a constipated troll might have.

For a moment, Gwendolyn stared at him, eyes wide. "Kiss me? He kissed my hand, Severus," she said, smirking a bit as she straightened up. "Would you like to check it for bogies? He looked like he had a few."

Snape blinked at her, uncomprehending. "Cooties?"

"You know...icky things. Oh, never mind. Yes...he kissed my hand. No, I did not get a thrill from it, if that's what you were worried about. He's not my type."

Severus' jaw tightened and his thin lips grew taut. "I did not imply such a ridiculous thing, Gwendolyn Liddenmurk. I am not the least bit concerned how you get your thrills." He knew immediately that was the exact opposite of the right thing to say.

Soft fingers curled under his chin and lifted his head - and gaze - to meet her own. He had expected anger, but instead he found...mirth? "Severus...you silly bat. Do you really think I would be interested in him, or someone like him? I know his type all too well. They're, they're a knut a dozen. Come now, Severus. Give me SOME credit." She winked, releasing his jaw and then moved away. "I have to get to class, but please take a look at that if you have the time. I'd really appreciate it."

He watched as she stepped away, though somewhere in the back of his mind, he had a growing sense of dread.

* * *

It did not take long for that dread to be fully realized: it was exactly as Severus suspected. Lucius lurked around the school a little more often, feigning casual curiosity about the usual comings and goings. Practiced in the art of moving without notice (at least among Death Eaters), Severus watched Malfoy's movements with trepidation. Twice had Gwendolyn swiftly passed Lucius, giving him nothing more than a polite "Hello!" and those same two times had Lucius watched her walk by with nothing short of a barely-concealed leer. Lucius was not intrigued by Gwendolyn because he truly thought she was the most beautiful thing on the earth - he was intrigued by Gwendolyn because she showed him absolutely no interest whatsoever. It was the hunt he craved, that same primal force which first drove him to become a Death Eater. It was no one's business that Lucius occasionally pursued lovers outside his marriage. Indeed, Lucius was one of the few Death Eaters who did not have an actively adulterous nature. However, there were those rare times when a challenge was presented him, a challenge that did far more than peak his curiosity. It rattled him to his core. That was, at least, how Snape interpreted it. Lucius was confident, powerful, and strikingly handsome and when he wasn't pouring it on too thick, disturbingly alluring to the opposite sex. How could a woman refuse such a man?

Severus continued to skulk about the halls as usual, though with an eye for Lucius. He was beginning to relax - Gwendolyn continued to treat Lucius as if he were a mote to be disregarded. Yet...upon the third time Severus observed them passing in the hall (twice in four days, no less!), he detected a strange glimmer in Gwendolyn's eye...fear? Anxiety? Or...something much, much more alarming?

Snape clenched his eyes shut. I am imagining things. She is quite pure in nature and has already reassured me of her intentions. I must trust her. I must trust...

The hallways quickly emptied as students shuffled to their respective classes. Severus took a deep breath and proceeded down a now-empty hall, but came screeching to a halt as two familiar voices approached. Instantly alert, he dived into a broom closet and pulled it nearly shut, leaving the tiniest of cracks from which to observe.

"Yes, I quite enjoy teaching, thank you," Gwendolyn said in a mildly brisk manner, her footsteps a bit more quick than her usual gait. The thick bootsteps of Lucius moved along beside her.

"Mmm, I imagine so. My dear...Gwendolyn...." his voice purred.

She abruptly stopped, turning to face him. Snape could see them both now, since they had chosen their chatting spot just outside the broom closet door.

"I am not your dear. And you will kindly address me as Professor Liddenmurk, Mr. Malfoy." Polite but curt, her tone resonated as though uttered from a much more wizened witch.

His white-blonde eyebrows raising, Lucius leaned in a little. "You may call me Lucius. I insist." His eyes drifted over her face, her neck and a bit lower, then came to rest again upon her eyes. Snape had not seen such an intensity in Lucius' expression for many years.

Gwendolyn's eyebrows creased. "You are, I have heard, a married man, Mr. Malfoy. Do you think this behavior is appropriate?"

His lips pulled into the daintiest of smiles - quite unbefitting a man of his nature. "Ah...well...some pleasures are too enticing not to pursue, wouldn't you say?"

"I would not." She turned swiftly on her heel and just began to step away when he planted a hand on her arm. His other hand was curled 'round his snake-head silver-capped walking stick.

Severus fought the urge to burst forth from the broom closet and furiously attack Lucius. A feeling so poisonous, so consuming rose from his stomach. However...a voice in the back of his mind chided, If she wasn't meant to be yours, Severus, then now is the time to know. If you can't trust her...

They were both still within view, their expressions turned but visible as Lucius stood behind her, one hand still on her shoulder. He raised his walking stick now and Severus tensed, ready to spring out....but instead of any violent movements, Lucius touched it to her jaw.

He traced the cold metal of the snake's head along her skin there, back and forth, very slowly, even as he leaned to her ear, lowering his voice to a whisper that was nevertheless still audible to Severus. "I know what you desire."

Gwendolyn's eyes closed and her eyebrows creased slightly. Snape's jaw tightened. Was she enjoying this disgusting display?

Lucius' lips moved very close to her earlobe, his eyes closing halfway as his whisper continued. No doubt his breath could be felt upon her skin. "I can feel it emanating from you. Your wants...your needs..."

"You do not know what I want and need." Her voice was clear, resolute.

The knob of the walking stick tilted her chin up just a little. Lucius' hand slid down her shoulder onto her arm. "You need to be brought to heights you have only dared dream of, Gwendolyn. Those secret desires....I know of them. You cannot deny this. It is...fated."

Severus squinted - Gwendolyn's lips seemed to be moving slightly and one of her hands was tucked into the pocket of her robes. She reached up with her free hand, slowly curling her fingers 'round the top of the walking stick, pulling it from her face just a little. This movement seemed to delight Lucius, whose eyebrows raised. He could scarcely hide that delight from his voice.

"Yes... Let us proceed to a more...fitting area, shall we? My carriage awaits just outside the grounds. I have brought some fine wines...."

"No, I think not." Steam was now rising from the metal snake head and tiny rivulets of liquid metal ran down the wooden sides. These connected with the leather gloves Lucius wore, which began to smoke. His eyes widened but he did not let go - neither did Gwendolyn. Instead, she turned to face him, a tight smirk on her lips, wearing an expression Severus had never before seen. She stared up into his eyes as though daring him to let go, even as the molten metal burned it's way through the gloves. Her own hand seemed unaffected.

Her smirk tightened, looking a bit fierce as she watched Lucius, who now was fighting the urge to scream or let go...probably both. A bead of sweat trickled down his temple. "What...what is this game you play at?" His voice held a slight quaver - the pain must be intense.

Gwendolyn's voice took on a most peculiar note. "I do not play games, Mr. Malfoy. Now, if you will excuse me, I have matters I must attend." She released the walking stick with a slight shove and stepped quickly down the hall. Almost immediately, Lucius dropped the stick, clutching his hand. His normally handsome facial features contorted into an expression of ghastly pain as he struggled to pull out his wand.

It was not without a note of pleasure that Severus observed that particular exchange's end.

* * *

Gwendolyn made no mention of her encounter with Lucius to Severus. Unsure of what this might portend, he didn't bring it up, either. Instead, he stared intently at her from across her desk, watching as the mandala on the wall behind her shifted it's colors slightly. Every time Snape observed it, the tapestry seemed to be slightly different. Gwendolyn had explained that this was to represent man's ever-hanging nature, and that nothing was permanent.

"So," Snape started, but stopped since he was unsure of what to say.

"The syllabus?" Gwendolyn smiled at him. It was then that he noticed the wrapping around her hand - the hand that melted the silver.

He scowled, darting out his hand to catch her wrist. "What is this?"

"Oh, ehhh..." she glanced away, looking embarrassed. "A spell gone a bit awry. You know...I'm just not very good at healing charms so I had to wrap it."

Severus' scowl deepened. "I have several potions which would do the trick. Madam Pomfrey is, as you know, on staff to tend such matters."

Gwendolyn nodded, looking a bit sheepish. "I went in there, but she was tending to three students whose ears had suddenly grown floppy and woolly. Some kind of sheep transformation or something, I don't know." She gave a little shrug.

"This will not do. I insist that you come with me to my domain this instant."

"But-"

He fixed her with a menacing glare and affected his most convincing tone - the kind usually reserved for unruly students. "You will do as I ask or you will be severely punished. Is that clear?" 

She wilted a moment, then straightened up and winked. "You never know...I might misbehave just to see what you'd do. I might like it." 

Severus' pale skin turned a deep scarlet and he looked away, releasing her wrist swiftly. This, much to his chagrin, elicited a delighted laugh from the errant professor.

"You should see the look on your face, Severus! It's priceless! Ohhhh, let me get a mirror! I can't believe how seriously you take me...oh, this is rich. RICH I tell you!" As she rummaged around to find a mirror, he couldn't help but smile, just a little.

Eventually he was able to lead her to the dungeon where he tended her burnt palm. "I guess I tried too hard," she'd said but did not elaborate further. He had halfway expected to run into Lucius on their way but was relieved when they did not. After all...it would put them both in a slightly dangerous position. Her hand healed and good as new, she left to teach a class and he was left to ponder.

And ponder he did. Though Snape tried to concentrate on a tricky pickling agent, he found his thoughts drifting time and again to the current set of circumstances. Though her attempts to thwart Lucius' advances were admirable, even clever, Snape knew one thing Gwendolyn did not: Neither pain nor a simple "no, thank you" would do much to dissuade the elder Malfoy from his amorous intentions. If it were only that easy...but while Lucius liked to manipulate the weak, he preferred to share his bed with feisty women. Gwendolyn's trick may have caught his attention even more.

I cannot assume her physical desires will not overpower her good sense. I surely cannot beat Lucius at his own game...or can I? Severus tapped his chin, staring thoughtfully off into space. Yes. That is what I must do. I must overcome my own misgivings and seduce Gwendolyn. Though she has hinted she would....share my bed, I have been too concerned with my own fears to tend to her needs. This could easily push her away into the waiting arms of one even less worthy of her than I...

Severus leaned down, pressing the palms of his hands to his eyes, jaw clenched. He knew the art of seduction was certainly a thing with which he had little knowledge, women being such confounding and mysterious creatures. But vile as it sounded, he did have a model to emulate....

* * *

A knock at the door roused Gwendolyn from her reading. She pushed aside the two books which occupied her lap and quickly opened the door, beaming. "Severus!"

He smiled slightly, with a cool air, as he slowly took in her form, hidden as it was behind a deep purple robe. He strode forward, closing the door quietly as she stepped aside to let him.

"This is a wonderful surprise, what brings you here? I thought you had the next few Potions lessons to plan..."

Severus put his heels together and regarded her with a slight bow, then reached into his robe and produced a single dark red rose. "For you, my love." He was pleased to see the delight on her features; she stepped to him, gently cupping the rose in her hands, eyes closing as she moved forward to relish in its fragrance.

"Mmm, thank you, Severus...thank you very much." Her eyes opened and twinkled at him.

I do not do enough for her. I do not show her my appreciation...at all...let alone enough. Sighing inwardly, Severus glanced around the dim room, eyes coming to rest upon the pile of books on the couch. "Speed reading again, my dear?"

She nodded, starting to turn "Yes....let me go get a vase-"

Interrupting her train of thought as well as motion, Snape gently grasped her wrist, pulling her back around to face him. He raised the rose then, tracing it's soft petals down her cheek, her lips parting and eyes widening in slight surprise. "Your beauty astounds me daily, Gwendolyn. Have I ever told you how dear you are to me?"

She lowered her eyes in uncharacteristic shyness, cheeks reddening right where the rose touched. "Yes...."

"Your mind is delicate and sharp....a fine weapon and truly a delight to behold."

Gwendolyn blinked a moment, contemplating this peculiar compliment, then smiled warmly. "Thank you, Severus."

He was relieved to find that she wasn't going to question him on this sudden barrage of compliments. That, of course, might not last forever. He'd planned this meeting out for half a day, yet now that the plan was in execution, bits and pieces of it kept falling out.

What now? Perhaps a subtle innuendo....no, too forward. A kiss? Too benign. Her eyes are so very bright, has she begun to cry? I musn't panic. This is merely a taste of things yet to occur....yes, a taste. A tease. I must remain calm at all times and...eh....

He stared down at her, lost for a moment, even as she returned his gaze, her own eyes misty. She was beautiful to him. Her heart was pure, untainted by the frightening and disturbing situations that Voldemort brought to the wizarding world. Something about the way her dark hair curled 'round her jaw, the warmth of her nearness, the flicker of the dying firelight, the subtle invitation of her lips, parted ever-so-slightly, the bare skin of her collarbone revealed by the robe, that little indentation just below her neck that he longed to kiss...

All at once, Severus' arms were around her, his lips seeking hers with a hunger he had continuously fought while in her presence. Without knowing how they got there, Snape's brain registered fleetingly that he was pressing her to the wall. Her own passion was assured.....until she suddenly struggled against him.

Have I gone too far? He quickly pulled away, holding her at arm's length, his voice filled with a remorse that touched on profound grief. "Gwendolyn...I'm so sorry...I..."

His apologies went unheard, however, as Gwendolyn launched into a sneezing fit. Her hand flew to her mouth as she sneezed once...again...another time...still another sneeze. Her eyes which seemed to be misty before were now watering and her cheeks reddened not with suffused passion, but with the effort of her allergies. 

Blast it! The rose! Snape's upper lip curled in disgust as he snatched it from her hand and grabbed the door, yanking it open and hurrying outside.

"Severus! W......ACHOO! Wait!"

He stood outside her door, fists clenched, jaw set with a burning frustration.

Gwendolyn called to him "It's okay, Severus! You didn't know...it's okay...I'll be f....I'll be f.........fine....ACHOO!"

Sighing, his shoulders sagging, Snape closed his eyes, putting a hand to his forehead. "I'm so sorry, Gwendolyn. I shall return to my domicile and brew you some anti-allergy tea."

"Honest, Severus, I'll be fine. Really." She laughed softly on the other side of the door. How in the world could this possibly be a laughing matter? "It's kind of funny you know..."

Mood utterly ruined, Snape could do nothing but admit the defeat of his plan - for now. "I will send some tea to you, Gwendolyn. In the mean time...I....should plan this week's Potions studies." Prickling with anger at himself and his luck, he slunk off in a manner that Gwendolyn would surely categorize as "grumpy bat."

* * *

It was the very next day Severus overheard that Lucius' carriage had arrived. The elder Malfoy certainly preferred that particular slightly-haughty style of arrival. It did not take long for Snape to locate Lucius, who wore his hair down this time, the long blonde tresses flowing outward like his dramatic black cape. He strode confidently towards the direction of Gwendolyn's office, head raised a bit, pointedly ignoring the gaping students who happened by.

Severus glided down the quickly-clearing hallway, several paces behind Lucius. Snape racked his brain for a spell with which to cause a diversion. But did it really matter? Lucius would meet up with Gwendolyn again, regardless of the petty annoyances tossed in his way. With a soft sigh, Severus resigned himself to that fate as the office loomed.

Lucius knocked, waited a moment, and was then rewarded when a female voice chimed, "Enter!" Even as the door opened, Gwendolyn's voice fell flat. "Oh."

Regarding her with his icy blue eyes, the Death Eater smiled faintly. "Gwendolyn. You are exquisite as ever."

"Thank you, Mr. Malfoy. Is there something I can help you with?" Her voice was polite, controlled. Quite a difference from the laughter and warmth she showed Severus the night before.

The door of the office quickly shut after Lucius gave it a nudge with one black-clad hand. Cursing under his breath, Severus hunkered down and snuck forward, easing himself just below the half-drawn blinds that covered the office window. He could hear their voices inside, though not as loudly as he would have liked. Peeking up, he could just see the top of the desk where Gwendolyn sat and Lucius from the waist down.

"Yes...Professor. I did so enjoy our...little chat the other day. I hoped I might persuade you to take a walk with me upon Hogwart's fine grounds." His movements suggested he was extending his hand.

"No thank you, Mr. Malfoy. Now if you will excuse me..." Her hands gestured to the pile of scrolls sitting on her desk.

"Mmyes. Perhaps I can assist you." Lucius reached over, taking up one scroll and unrolling it. "Ah. A history of Geothermal Events as they Pertain to Magic By Neville Longbottom"

Severus squinted, supposing that, during the silence, Lucius was scanning over (or pretending to scan) the scroll's contents. Gwendolyn's hands were clenched, tense.

"This is an utterly futile attempt at writing, wouldn't you say, Professor?" The slight sneer was evident in his tone.

"Mr. Longbottom has a great amount of potential, Mr. Malfoy, and I would suggest you let ME decide what is futile and what is not."

"Oh?" Lucius set the scroll back onto the pile and slowly stepped around behind the desk. "You must be quite tense, my dear, from reading all these....delightful...essays."

Raising up a bit for a better view, Severus felt his stomach turn as black leather gloves eased slowly onto Gwendolyn's shoulders. Her own hands immediately shot up, grabbing at the ones that so boldly came to rest upon her. "This is NOT appropriate, Mr. Malfoy." Raising just a little more, Severus could see her lips, set into a thin line. Then, much to Snape's horror, Lucius bent down, his head now level with hers. His lips were curled into a slight sneer.

"Your hands are touching me, Gwendolyn. You know...I could have you canned for inappropriately touching one of Hogwarts' finest."

"IF you were its finest, then perhaps so!" Gwendolyn stood up quickly and Severus heard Lucius laugh.

"Oh very good, very good. You have a lot of spirit, Professor." He slowly stood, hands now off her shoulders, but hovering near her hips. "Quite feisty indeed. I suppose it serves you well in some ....situations."

"My situations are none of your concern, MISTER Malfoy. Now will you please LEAVE my office! I have work that needs be done!" She pointed to the door but Lucius made no effort to exit.

I have to get him out of there before she angers or kills him. Or worse...enjoys his attentions. Severus wracked his brains for ideas.

Lucius laughed a little again, a hollow, humorless sound. "My dear, do you realize how desirable you must be? I should point out that which you probably already know: I always get what I want. You only postpone the inevitable. Even now, I can smell it all over you....the yearning...the desires. You are just an animal like the rest of us..." As he spoke, he inched ever closer, like a hideous beast stalking its prey. Gwendolyn quickly moved backward, painfully hitting her thigh on the corner of her desk, but nonetheless stepping towards the door. Lucius' voice lowered to a whisper and Snape's chest tightened. "You will beg for me."

Severus knew he had to act now, plan or no, so he leapt to his feet and rapped his pale knuckles loudly on the door, voice affecting a rather irritated tone. "Professor Liddenmurk, I have come to discuss several grievous errors in your proposed syllabus for the latter half of this term."

The door immediately opened and a startled-looking Gwendolyn stepped out. Lucius stood right behind her, eyes narrowed, casting a look of malicious irritation towards Snape.

"Ah...ah, excellent, Professor Snape. I've been expecting you, would you please come in? Or better yet, we can discuss this in your office. I'm afraid I must tend to this matter immediately, Mr. Malfoy."

Lucius raised his head, arching a single golden brow, then straightened his cloak's clasp. "Of course. Good day to you, Gwendolyn. Severus." He stepped past them both, catching Snape's eye for a moment. Snape nodded slightly. 

Both of the professors stood silently until Lucius' form disappeared 'round a corner of the long hallway. Gwendolyn stepped back into her office and slumped into her chair, taking a deep breath. "Severus..."

"Yes. Your syllabus. I have some comments to make upon it, but you are clearly exhausted, so I shall tend to the matter later."

She blinked at him. "Exhausted? Not really, no. I just....eh...."

She isn't going to mention it, is she? Perhaps she is embarrassed. Or...perhaps she feels I would be angry and think there is more she could do to ward off Lucius' repulsive advances...

Snape cleared his throat. "Well. I do have some matters to tend, but perhaps..."

Gwendolyn stared up at him. "Yes?"

Forcing a smile, he continued, "Perhaps tomorrow night you would care to dine with me? I am not the world's most elegant chef, but I may be able to brew something to tantalize your palate."

She nodded, smiling, and pushed a strand of hair from her face. "Yes, that would be lovely, Severus, thank you." She looked worn, tired.

"Yes. Well then, good day to you, Gwendolyn." He turned swiftly, robes twirling, but stopped abruptly in the office's entryway.

"Severus?"

"Yes?" He regarded her over his shoulder.

"I.....nothing. See you later..."

* * *

Unfortunately, an unusually long faculty meeting intruded on the next day's planned dinner, leaving Snape to brood late into the night. His sleep of late had been restless, fitful. Strange shapes and forms beset themselves upon him in his dreams and Lucius' malevolent ice-blue eyes glared at him from shadow. Looming...transforming...illusion and form, confusion and pain.

All at once, Severus sat bolt upright, wide awake as though he had not been sleeping. He clutched his arm, teeth clenched, as a burning sensation faded from his Dark Mark. A bead of sweat trickled its way down his brow. It had been a dream...the memory of pain, not the real thing. He slowly layed back down, staring at the ceiling.

Lucius...you will not have her. You cannot even appreciate her. I alone understand the intricacies of her mind, the delicate quirks...

Anger burned its way through him, fueling every muscle, every cell. His thoughts raced, thinking of a thousand wicked ways in which to torment Lucius, to trick him into his own demise.

I have this one good thing and you will not take it from me! I do not care the cost or what Dumbledore would say. You will not take her from me!

He leapt from the bed and yanked off the sleeping gown, then swiftly pulled on his daytime attire. Though acrid rage bubbled within him, many years of torment had allowed him a certain measure of steely control. Even as he shot from the dungeon, his thoughts flickered towards the inevitable:

She will not forgive me for killing him. But she shall not know. If I have slid back to my old ways, so be it. If I have returned to that monster I was...then that is what I am. I'm doing this for her own good...

Yet the tiniest voice in the back of his mind chided him for such a thing. This was never for Gwendolyn's own good...

Just as Severus was about to shove that voice of reason out of his thoughts, he rounded the corner of a darkened hallway and stopped short.

"Gwendolyn?"

She turned to the sound of her name and smiled, quickly padding on bare feet towards him. She was in her sleeping gown, a semi-translucent robe covering her as well. "Severus! I couldn't sleep, so Dumbledore suggested I go for a walk."

Snape stared at her, dumbfounded. He continued to stare even as she wrapped her arms around him in a gentle hug. His eyes widened to comical proportions as she grasped the front of his robes and urged him down a little, her lips finding his.

I don't have time for this nonsense...I have work that....I need to....eh....

Gwendolyn pulled away slightly and regarded him. "What is it? What's wrong? Couldn't you sleep, either?"

He shook his head, carefully disengaging himself from her grasp. "No, I could not. It is not safe for you to be walking around alone like this. There are...occasional unsavory elements which prowl these halls."

A tight smirk formed upon her lips. "I think I can take care of myself, Severus. I'm a big girl, you know."

"Yes, I know," he said irritably, "but some of the students-"

"I can handle students, Severus. I can even handle adults."

Did she know he knew?

"There was this one time a few years ago with these two witches..."

Apparently not.

Severus touched a finger to her lips. "My time is short, Gwendolyn, I must go..." But that rage which had filled him was now almost completely extinguished.

"Go?" She looked up at him, eyes wide and inquisitive. "Where are you going at such a strange hour? Oh...I suppose it's a mission, isn't it?" She lowered her voice, glancing around conspiratorily, eyes narrowed. "Fighting off vagabonds and such, are you? How very brave..."

He couldn't help but smile. "No, no mission. I suppose it can....wait. It's not important. Perhaps I may escort you back to your quarters?" He held out his arm.

Gwendolyn took his arm and smiled. "Yes, please. Of course, if you...." Her eyes, which had been twinkling mischeviously, now took on a different glimmer. "....wanted to stay...I wouldn't mind." She waggled her brows suggestively.

Now would have been a perfect time for an interruption. None came.

Snape glanced around nervously. He certainly hadn't planned for THIS.

All at once, Gwendolyn laughed. "You should see the look on your face, Severus! It's priceless! Come on, you poor thing, and don't look so afraid..."

Glowering, Snape was led back towards the professor quarters. "That was a rather nasty joke to play, don't you think, Professor Liddenmurk?"

"Actually, I thought it quite entertaining, Professor Snape." She grinned at him. "You're much too serious for your own good."

"Well," he smirked as the approached the door "How would YOU like it if I were to do the same to you?"

She arched a brow, tapping her wand on the door's lock and stepping inside. "What do you mean exactly?"

Severus quickly stepped in after her, closing the door behind them both. He slipped a finger under the collar of her robe and lifted it slightly. "To torment you, my dear. You appear to take a devilish delight in doing so, therefore I think it's high time the tables were turned...don't you?"

She blinked at him, surprise visibly evident and apparently unable to think of anything useful to say.

He leaned his face down, dangerously close to her neck. Should I? Yes. Just for a bit of....shock value. He could only imagine the stunned look on her features as he began to plant delicate kisses there, something he had never dared in their several months of dating. His slender, pale fingers boldly caressed over that inviting bit of skin on her collarbone...and his lips soon followed. This time, unlike their last heated kiss, he did not lose his head to passion. No...this time it was a more controlled measure and he took special delight in watching her melt right before his eyes.

She made no protest as her robe fell silently to the floor. His hands alighted upon her waist, grasping at the fabric of her sleeping gown.

No. Not like this. Not for this reason. I won't make love to Gwendolyn to spite Lucius...My selfishness has reached new lows, even if this rivalry has emboldened me beyond measure...

Severus reluctantly pulled himself away, holding her at arm's length. "I should go."

Gwendolyn regarded him silently for a long moment. Then: "You don't have to. You could stay. I'm not kidding this time." Her voice was quiet as she reached up a hand, delicately tracing her fingertips along his cheek.

Feeling his resolve weakening, Severus quickly redoubled his efforts and pulled away, stepping to the door without looking back. "No. I should go. Good night, Gwendolyn."

"Severus...I love you."

He closed his eyes, hand on the door. The words hung in the air, lingering there between them. Though they had referred to each other as "my love" and she had mentioned love at first sight, those three words had not yet been uttered by either of them. Taking a deep breath, Snape turned to look at her, opening his mouth to speak.

"It's all right, Severus. You don't have to say anything. I know your words are scrutinized...far more than most." She smiled a little at him, then glance down momentarily.

Unable to do anything but nod dumbly, Snape stepped out of her quarters, softly closing the door behind him. Words have power and even being a master of hidden lies, he knew some things needed to be held secret - if he didn't say it, he wouldn't have to lie about it. No one must ever know he loved the Geomancy professor.

* * *

He did not rest well for the remainder of that night, either, and morning came all too swiftly. A hurried knock at his door jarred his already frazzled nerves.

"What is it?" he barked.

The door opened and Gwendolyn stepped in, glancing about furtively. She quickly closed it behind herself and moved to his desk.

Severus' features softened a bit. "Well, this is a pleasant surprise..."

"I brought you a muffin from upstairs. I know you don't eat breakfast. You should." She deposited the chocolaty whole-grain delicacy upon his desk.

He arched a brow, looking from the muffin to her. "Surely you did not come all this way to lecture me on the importance of adequate daybreak nutrition?"

She took a deep breath, shaking her head and sliding into a rather uncomfortable student chair. "Severus, there's something I need to tell you."

"If it's about last night..."

Shaking her head, she fidgeted nervously. "No, no, not last night. You see, there's...this man....you know him...anyway, this man who has been making...unwanted advances towards me."

"Lucius Malfoy."

She blinked at him, suddenly still. "How did you know?"

Severus' smirk tightened. "Oh, quite easily. His methods hold no mystery for me."

Gwendolyn chewed her lip, staring at the muffin. "Well...he isn't taking the hint. I didn't want to bring you into this because I know things are....are complicated and that he's a friend of yours-"

"He is NOT my friend, Gwendolyn. He has never been my friend and he shall never be my friend. While I worked for the Dark Lord and have now turned away from that path, he has not. Nor shall he, I suspect." Severus interlaced his fingers, regarding her.

"All right. Well, I don't really know what to do."

"Why didn't you tell me sooner?"

Her eyebrows knitted with consternation. "Because I was afraid you would do something rash, Severus. I know you're quite logical and such, but...sometimes you can be a bit dangerously temperamental."

If only you knew...

He took a deep breath, unaccustomed to giving explanations for his actions. "Gwendolyn, you should know that I have...been aware of this dilemma of yours for some time now. I have been keeping an eye on Lucius-"

"And myself? You don't trust me, perhaps?" The hint of anger flashed in her dark eyes.

Severus continued as though uninterrupted. "- and trying to formulate a plan. Yes, I suppose the thought that you might give into his propositions did cross my mind but I was under the impression that a bit of jealousy was both natural and timely given this particular situation."

Gwendolyn's lips curled into a smirk quite similar to his own. "I see. And how long did this not-trusting go on?"

"It ceased when you melted his cane. Though, to be honest, I think he rather enjoyed it."

The hint of anger left her tone. "Well, yes, I suspect you are correct. Regardless..." she took a deep breath, slumping down into the chair slightly "...I don't know what to do. I don't want to make him too angry, since he obviously is the type to rain his wrath down upon unsuspecting villagers. I'm not powerful enough to fight off a Death Eater."

Inwardly, Severus flinched at the brazen way in which she tossed out that phrase. Outwardly, however, he gave no indication. "Gwendolyn, do not underestimate your abilities. However, in this instance, yes, you are correct. Do not think this an insult when I say it, because I do not mean it as such, but you have no idea the atrocities of which Lucius is capable and would have no way to plan for them. That does leave us with a dilemma. But perhaps I have an idea which may help to deter his amorous intentions..."

* * *

A soft breeze wafted over the lush meadows of Hogwarts, stirring the long-stemmed wild flowers. An old, ornate carriage led by two midnight black stallions pulled up onto the grounds and a black-clad figure oozed confidently out. Severus squinted, watching Lucius' arrival from a dirty window. His fingers lingered over a small orb in the palm of his hand - an Occulatron - the twin of which now resided on the corner of Gwendolyn's desk. Glaring with supreme annoyance at a student who dared to gawk, Snape turned and glided towards the unused classroom opposite Gwendolyn's office.

It was not long before Lucius' gloved knuckles rapped upon her door. His hair was pulled back into a ponytail yet again, not a single hair out of place. The hint of a smile played about his lips as a charming female voice rang out, "Come in!" Peeking from the classroom, Severus could see the proceedings clearly. Once Lucius entered the office, however, the potions professor would have to rely on the images shown by the Occulatron.

"Hello, Lucius..." Gwendolyn glanced down shyly, toying with a scroll on her desk. She bit her lip, cheeks tinting a bit pink.

He raised his head slightly to regard her, reveling in the somewhat altered attitude. "Good afternoon, Gwendolyn my dear. I hope this fine day sees you well."

She glanced quickly at him, then away once more. "Y...yes. It does. Oh, I...I'm sorry, I should call you Mr. Malfoy."

Lucius stalked predatorily up to the desk. "No, please. I would be honored if you would refer to me as Lucius. It is, I think, a more intimate reference." He reached over the desk, taking up her hand and touching the tips of his lips to her delicate skin, eyes locked onto her facial features.

Severus, holed away in the empty classroom, grimaced. His eyes narrowed as he watched the Occulatron, its images skewed into a fishbowl shape, yet still quite clear. Their voices sounded tinny, emanating as they were from the bottom of the magical spying orb.

Gwendolyn slowly pulled her hand from his grasp and stood, turning her back to him as she gazed at the slowly ever-changing mandala that graced the wall behind her desk. "I...I've been thinking, Lucius. About you. About what you want from me, and what I want from you."

Lucius' eyebrows rose. "Oh have you? And what, perhaps, do you desire from me? What wants...beckon?" He slowly, carefully moved 'round the desk now, trailing a finger over its oak trim.

"I've realized just how wonderful a man you are...and...that I'm ready for a relationship. A true, give-take relationship."

Lucius blinked, surprised, and paused in his subtle swagger. "Relationship?"

Gwendolyn nodded, staring intently at the mandala. Now, she tapped it briefly with her finger. The threads quickly rearranged themselves to form an impressive image of Lucius Malfoy himself.

Lucius' eyebrows raised, then a slight smile touched his lips. "Quite a likeness. Did you charm this yourself?"

She nodded again, turning towards him now, ignoring his question. "I find you so fascinating, Lucius. Truly, you are a wonderful man of many talents, a man whom I cannot get off my mind. An educated man who impresses all who meet him. A man I could surely grow old with." Her shy smile turned into a cheerful beam.

Momentarily taken aback, the smile faded from Lucius' features. It reappeared again, though less genuine than before. "Ah, well, you see, that was not quite my reason for arriving here today, Gwendolyn..."

Her eyes slowly grew more wide, her smile toothier.  "But that's why I want you here, Lucius. Every good woman needs a man in her life, a man to marry, who will bring her glory and tend her every need, be that cooking, cleaning or changing the baby. I-I can't stop thinking about our new life together, it will be so wonderful now that you've decided you want to be my boyfriend. As you can see..." she gestured to the mandala "...I have decorated my office with your handsome face. But, of course, that image is at my back, so I need another picture of you when I'm facing forward. That's why I created this!" Her hand darted down to the desk, curling around a frame whose image, from his current vantage point, Lucius could not discern. Turning the ornate golden frame towards him, its picture could now be seen: A throbbing heart pulsated, and in the very middle the words "I love Lucius" melted into yet another, smaller picture of that particular Malfoy.

His face frozen, Lucius stared at the peculiar frame, then slowly arched a brow, his voice far less warm than before. "How...charming."

Gwendolyn beamed, clapping her hands together like a giddy schoolgirl. "Oh Lucius! How I've longed for a boyfriend! And now...now I can have my very own! I will love you and squeeze you and call you Luchie!" Her eyes were very wide now, bordering on alarming. Anyone watching this display, who did not know Gwendolyn, would instantly think her a screaming nutter.

Back in the classroom, Severus bit down hard on his bottom lip to keep from howling with laughter at Lucius' expression, one of abject horror. His eyes bulged to near comic proportions.

Lucius cleared his throat, tossing a quick glance around the office. "Actually, Gwendolyn, it is not a relationship I am after. I desire nothing more or less than...." He stopped there, aghast at the adoring, gaping expression with which Gwendolyn now regarded him. Her hands clasped together, eyes wide and brimmed with tears (Severus knew they must be tears of repressed laughter), she looked very much like a gleeful fan on the brink of squealing.

"As you have already noted, I have a wife, one that I will not be leaving any time in the foreseeable future. I do not need a...girlfriend...as you so quaintly put it." His words were short, snippy. "I had hoped to...satiate certain desires."

"Oh, Luchie, I couldn't do THAT unless we were married. But that's for later, since right now we need to get to know each other better. Certainly you are pleasing to gaze upon, but I simply MUST know what thoughts lurk about in that handsome head of yours! Please, sit down, I'll make us a pot of tea and we can talk all afternoon. I have no other pressing matters...at least none which I would allow to take me from your generous company." She smiled at him, reaching for a grumpy looking teapot situated on a shelf full of peculiar odds and ends.

Lifting his head, Lucius adjusted his black leather gloves as he smiled wanly. His voice lapsed into its formal, cold tone. "Alas, it is a great pity that I DO have other pressing matters, Ms. Liddenmurk. Good day to you." One swift turn of his heel led Lucius back to the office's door.

Gwendolyn gasped loudly, eyes wide. "You're...you're leaving? I thought you wanted to be my boyfriend!"

Speaking through a clenched jaw, Lucius did not dare cast a glance back at his newest fan. "No. That was not my intent. Though it is rare indeed, I have clearly made an error in judgment. Good day." He yanked open the door and stepped out into the hallway, long stride carrying him swiftly along.

"But Luuuuchiiiieeeeee!" Gwendolyn's squeal trailed after him, though she did not give chase. He moved quickly, pointedly ignoring the handful of passing students who gaped openly at him. When at last his form had disappeared 'round a long corridor, the laughter of Severus could be heard echoing in the hall.

* * *

"Here's to Lucius Malfoy. May he forever be chased by marriage-minded women." Gwendolyn held up her teacup.

"Mmyes. To Lucius Malfoy. May he fall into a pit of squirming tentacles containing pus-filled...oh, all right. Here's to well-thought-out plans." Snape touched his teacup to hers with a soft tink.

The dying firelight of Gwendolyn's small room cast warm, dancing accents onto the walls. Snape was lounging on the curved, poofy couch in front of that fire, his love curled next to him. She scooted just a little closer, taking a sip of the steaming cup's contents.

"Severus..."

He glanced at her, cheeks reddening slightly.

"You're shy. It's cute."

Snape coughed once, nearly sending tea streaming through his nose. Fortunately, he had his wits about him and only suffered mild burns to the back of his throat.

Gwendolyn grinned as though sensing he'd nearly lost it. "You are, I mean it. It's quite charming." She took a sip from her teacup again, eyes twinkling merrily in the waning firelight.

Millions of arguments sprang to mind but Severus opted for a simple "Thank you," then lapsed into silence.

"Severus....Your Dark Mark won't rub off on me. I won't suddenly become a follower of You-Know-Who just because you were."

He blinked, glancing sidelong at her. Somehow, she'd hit the core of it. He desperately feared tainting her, somehow, with his own lingering darkness. "I know."

"Do you...want me, Severus?" The question was asked without any sensuality or pretense. Nevertheless, yet again Severus nearly shot tea through his nose.

"Do I.....want you? Gwendolyn..." He careful placed his teacup upon a little table. "I have never known such unfathomable, yearning desire as when you entered my life. I had hoped it might dwindle so that I could better control it. But no. No, it has grown with such aggression, so exponentially, I fear you might see its ravenous, gaping maw whenever you look into my eyes."

This time, it was Gwendolyn's turn to gape. "I...I wasn't sure. I mean, well, you know, I just wasn't...er.."

Severus smiled slightly, taking great pride in his momentary ability to confound her. Such delicate matters were better left undiscussed, but knowing her curious nature, he was not surprised she'd asked. She was, however, surprised he answered.

"I didn't know."

"Of course not," he smirked, taking up his teacup again, "I would never allow such knowledge to be so easily attained." He glanced at her sidelong again, amused at her wide eyes.

She cleared her throat, then took a quick gulp of tea. "Well then," she said with a tone one might take when discussing the weather, "I think you truly need to get used to being around women who aren't trying to kill you. Clearly, you have issues."

"My having issues was never an issue. I can assure you that I am quite dysfunctional. Women frighten me. They are mysterious, catty, confounding and coy. There is one, however, who does hold my attention quite readily and, for reasons I cannot fathom, seems to have taken a liking to me." He glanced at her again and, suddenly overcome with boldness, darted towards her and flicked his tongue over her jaw. Abruptly, he sat straight again, sipping the tea as though nothing out of the ordinary had occurred.

"Severus..."

"Mmyes?"

Gwendolyn's voice was crisp and matter-of-fact. "The next time you do that, I shall ravish you most completely. Are we clear?"

The black tea they had both been drinking was of an exquisite variety. Culled by hand, the old-fashioned way, it's delicate aroma and vintage flavor were revered the world over by both Muggle and Wizard alike. Now, after so many near misses, this fine example of perfect tea sprayed most amusingly straight from Severus' nose.

"Good. Just so you know."

   

The End

//
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