The Sugar Quill
Author: Christina Teresa (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: The Soul of a Hufflepuff  Chapter: Chapter One: Philosophy in the Bedroom
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The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

A/N: This sequel to "For the Love of Hufflepuff" was supposed to be a prequel, but story ideas being what they are, it metamorphosed into the strange little tale now before you. "The Soul of a Hufflepuff" is not intended to infringe upon any copyright owned by J. K. Rowling, Scholastic Press or Warner Brothers Pictures. Original story and characters © Christina Teresa, 2002. Many thanks to Yolanda and Zsenya, beta-readers extraordinaire. This story is rated R for adult themes, language and violence and is not appropriate for younger readers.

~*~

Chapter One: Philosophy in the Bedroom

"How many times have I told you to tell me if I was hurting you or if you felt uncomfortable?" Severus called from the bathroom. "I would've stopped immediately, you know that."

"I said I was sorry," Veronica replied, irritation replacing a bit of the guilt she felt at hurting the person she loved most in the whole world. She grabbed her dressing gown from the squashy chair near his bed and wrapped it around her. She hesitated, then decided to sit in the chair rather than help Severus in the bathroom.

As she waited, Veronica anxiously twisted her engagement ring on her finger. Modern witch brides-to-be usually received a diamond or emerald engagement ring, but Severus had chosen a much more ancient style. The ring was a thin gold band inscribed with the bottom half of a runic inscription. At the wedding ceremony, Severus would place the top half onto her finger, then both halves would be magically melded together to read, 'Here is my heart, guard it well.' She was beginning to wonder if she'd ever see the other half.

She turned away from him when he emerged, but caught a glimpse of the salve on the three deep scratches on his left cheek. She wrapped her arms around herself and tucked her feet underneath her. "Perhaps you should see Madam Pomfrey," she murmured.

"And what shall I tell Madam Pomfrey when she asks how it happened?" Severus snapped. "I think I'd prefer to keep our private business private." He sighed, then went to her, kneeling down in front of her. "What happened, Veronica? Did I hurt you?"

"No," she said honestly. "I-I don't know why I did it." Tears started to well in her eyes. "I'm so sorry."

Their first time making love had been so perfect. Severus had proved to be as gentle and considerate a lover as Veronica had always known he would be. Their subsequent problems in the bedroom just a month before their wedding were her fault, stemming from the abuse she had suffered at the age of fifteen at the hands of Professor Balin. To say that these after-effects were becoming extremely exasperating for both of them would be a vast understatement.

"Come back to bed," Severus said gently. "We both need some sleep. We can talk about this in the morning."

Still wearing her dressing gown, Veronica cuddled next to Severus, and placed her head on his chest. She swallowed her tears, but her guilt overwhelmed her. The irony of their reversed roles in the bedroom was not lost on her. To most everyone at Hogwarts, Severus was unkind and unreasonable. Conversely, Veronica was one of the most popular teachers in the school because of her sweet disposition and sense of fair play. No one knew how patient and understanding Severus had been with her and how capricious, erratic and difficult she had been. She remembered something she had said to him months ago, You deserve someone who can love you properly, and could hardly bear to be near him.

Then, in one of those increasing familiar flashes, Veronica suddenly felt claustrophobic and angry. It was all she could do to not strike out at him again. Instead she withdrew from him, curled up into a fetal position and pretended to go to sleep. She heard Severus sigh in building frustration, turn away from her and go to sleep himself.

~*~

As Severus dressed the next morning, he stood in front of the mirror and gazed at the lightening bolt-shaped scar above his heart. It was the mark left by the rebounded Killing Curse Balin had throw at him just a few months ago. Its striking similarity to Harry Potter's scar had at first been a source of great consternation, but Severus had since looked upon it as a permanent reminder of Veronica's love; for it had been her love that had saved him—in more ways than one. He turned his head slightly and examined the scratches on his left cheek which were already beginning to heal. Severus sincerely wished he could heal Veronica just as easily.

He emerged from the bathroom and found an anxious Veronica trying to distract herself by studying the jars filled with strange and mostly hideous creatures lining the shelves in his dungeon room. As it was Sunday, there was no rush to get to the Great Hall for breakfast.

"Severus," she began, "about last night…I'm so sorry."

"It's not just last night, Veronica."

She lowered her head and sunk down onto the sofa. "I know."

"I don't understand. The first time we made love you were fine, but ever since then…" he trailed off and paused. "I thought you were over—it." Severus had almost said 'him', but managed to stop himself. "I love you with all my heart, but I'll be honest, I don't think I can stand much more of this."

Veronica sighed. Severus thought he detected a slight note of annoyance. "You have to remember that my way of dealing with it has been to suppress the memories of abuse and avoid romantic relationships altogether. This is the first one I've ever had. It's almost like I don't even have control over my own thoughts or actions."

He folded his arms across his chest. "So when do you expect to get over it?"

She shrugged sadly. "I don't know. Some people never get over it. I remember reading about this famous Muggle, a man by the name of Lawrence of Arabia. During one of the Muggle world wars, he was taken prisoner. He was raped and tortured by his jailers. After he escaped and up until the day he died, he could hardly bear to be touched by anyone. His only outlet, if you will, was being whipped by some man he paid."

Severus knew nothing about this Lawrence person, but thought it would naturally be more difficult for a man to deal with such abuse. He was wise enough to keep his opinion to himself though. It was interesting that she brought up this particular example. It raised a question that had occurred to him before and that he decided it was now time to voice. "Do you want me to hurt you? If that's what this is about, I won't do it."

Veronica shook her head. She met his eyes and he saw a momentary flash of darkness cross them. "What if I never get over it?"

"Perhaps you should try a little harder," he replied curtly, then immediately softened his tone. "There are potions you can take beforehand—the Amorous Elixir perhaps."

"Tell me, Severus, do you really want to be saddled with a wife who has to take potions before she can make love to you?"

Severus was silent for several moments, the pain in his heart becoming more and more excruciating by the second. "No."

"Let me guess," she said with an anguished expression, "the wedding's off."

"Postponed," he replied quickly. He sat down next to her and took her chin in his hand. "I'm not ready to give up on this—unless you are."

Tears were now streaming down her cheeks. She could only repeat, "I'm so sorry."

Severus gently took Veronica in his arms to comfort her, but after only a moment, he felt her body stiffen—a now familiar sign that she wanted desperately to withdraw from his touch. Without a word, he released her. With an apology in her eyes, she left his room.

As soon as she closed the door after her, Severus picked up a jar filled with the pickled remains of a garden gnome and threw it against the wall.

~*~

Veronica heard a crash come from Severus' room just after she shut the door, but she could hardly blame him for being angry. She glanced down the corridor leading to the Slytherin dormitory, but fortunately saw no one coming. She wished she had thought to take the fireplace back up to her room, but had no desire to face Severus again right now. She rushed up the steps and made her way to her room, next to Professor Sprout's near Hufflepuff Tower.

As soon as she closed her door, Veronica sank down to her knees and sobbed uncontrollably for what seemed like hours. Despite his assurance that the wedding was merely postponed, she knew Severus didn't want to marry her anymore and it was all her fault. She hated herself for being this way, but she was deadly serious when she had told him that she had no control over herself.

When Balin had been killed by her love, Veronica had actually grieved for the lecherous son of a bitch. Part of her had always loved him a little, even though he didn't deserve it. That's just what Hufflepuffs did. Others might find her ambivalent feelings toward him odd, but she mostly understood them. What she didn't understand was her increasingly violent thoughts and actions toward Severus. When Severus had asked her if she wanted him to hurt her, she hadn't dared tell him that it was she who wanted to hurt him. Veronica was afraid she was going mad.

She did her best to remain impassive the next day in front of her students and other staff members, but the obviously strained conversation between her and Severus at the teachers' table in the Great Hall got Hogwarts' tongues wagging. Naturally, everyone assumed their pre-marital troubles were his fault, making Veronica feel even worse. Mock O.W.L.s for her fifth-year students were a welcome distraction, but she could hardly eat for three days; and then for the third night in a row, she cried herself to sleep…

Oh gods, I'm late!! Veronica frantically searched her room for her wedding gown, but not only was her gown missing, all of her other robes were missing as well. With quickly rising panic, she was forced to leave for her nuptials in her ducky pajamas. She threw open the window, mounted her Nimbus Two Thousand Two and flew out over the grounds of Hogwarts. Instantly, Veronica found herself circling the packed chapel of St. Degrebel.

Veronica landed and tried to push her way through the crowd that overflowed out of small chapel, crying: "I'm the bride, I've got to get in!" but no one listened. In desperation, she got down on her hands and knees and crawled through the legs of the wedding guests.

Finally, she managed to reach the altar. Severus was there, but there was another woman standing in Veronica's place. She was everything Veronica wasn't: beautiful, blonde, graceful, not to mention tall and significantly younger than she. She was also dressed in Veronica's missing purple wedding gown, trimmed in green—the traditional colors for a bride in the wizarding world.

The wizard vicar, who happened to be Dumbledore, stopped the ceremony and looked over his half-moon glasses and down his crooked nose at her. "Veronica, you were late, so we had to start without you."

"Who's she?" Veronica demanded, pointing an irate finger at the blonde.

"This vision of female perfection is Cassandra," Severus told her, barely taking his eyes off the flaxen-haired goddess. "When you didn't arrive on time, I asked for volunteers. Cassandra is from an ancient and wealthy wizarding family. She has the requisite tragic past, but she has managed to maintain her dignity and virtue throughout." He paused and regarded Veronica derisively. "Unlike some people."

Veronica's heart sank. "You mean she's a virgin, too?"

"Of course, I am," said Cassandra. "You've always said that Severus deserved someone who would love him properly." Cassandra stroked Severus' cheek; he in turn gazed at her with smoldering dark eyes. "How could a woman who's been used and discarded by another man love him properly?"

"Professor Balin didn't discard me!" Veronica countered feebly. "He was thrown in prison."

Cassandra laughed elegantly and rolled her eyes.

Veronica looked to the crowd for support, but even her own parents in the front row just shook their heads in disappointment. "I always knew that one'd stay on the shelf," she heard her father mutter.

The only sympathetic face in the crowd was that of famous, sexually-traumatized Muggle T.E. Lawrence, decked out in his full Arabian regalia. "Bad luck, old thing," said Lawrence. "Celibacy isn't what it's cracked up to be, I'm afraid."

Dumbledore cleared his throat. "May I continue?"

"No!" Veronica exclaimed in horror.

Dumbledore ignored her. "Will you, Cassandra, promise to love Severus properly, and discharge your wifely duties without complaint, keeping any childhood traumas to yourself?"

"I will!" Cassandra replied enthusiastically.

"I now pronounce you wizard and witch." He turned to Severus. "You may have sex with the bride."

Severus growled lasciviously, grabbed Cassandra and threw her down onto the chapel floor. Cassandra giggled, then began to make deep throaty noises as she wrapped herself around her new husband.

Veronica shut her eyes tightly and covered her ears. A few seconds later, she felt someone's warm lips on hers in a quick kiss. Hoping it was Severus, she opened her eyes. She screamed—it was Balin. It was bad enough that she was having her ultimate wedding nightmare, but now she had to deal with the old reprobate, as well. It was little consolation that Cassandra and the others were now gone.

As in all of her nightmares of Balin since his death, her former Defense Against the Dark Arts professor was no longer an old man, but looked to be about her own age. He was tall and fairly handsome with his familiar, piercing blue eyes.

"You're not real," she said as she always did when he appeared in her nightmares. "You're dead; you're just in my mind." In spite of this declaration, Veronica stepped closer to the altar in order to put a safe distance between her and the illusion.

Balin took a few casual steps towards her. "Well, then there's no harm in us having a little chat, is there?"

Veronica attempted an unpleasant sneer. "Go screw yourself."

"Oh, if only I could." He grinned wickedly. "I must say that I am surprised that an intelligent girl such as you hasn't figured out what all these silly dreams mean."

Veronica folded her arms across her chest. "And you have?"

Balin lounged on the front pew. "I think it's patently obvious—you've tired of Severus' pedestrian lovemaking and you don't want to get married."

"Shut up!" Veronica snapped. "I most certainly do want to get married. And if by pedestrian you mean that he doesn't bite me, gouge me or tie me to the bedpost, I rather like it that way."

Balin jumped up and reached out for her, but Veronica managed to duck underneath his arms. "I don't believe it for a minute, my angel. A beautiful young woman deserves so much more than that."

"Beautiful? Why is it that I'm beautiful when we're alone, but as soon as other people are around my beauty depreciates at an alarming rate?" She still bristled at the memory of his scathing comments to Severus about falling in love with a Hufflepuff—'an unattractive one at that.'

This time Balin was quick enough to encircle her waist with his arm and pull her close. He brushed his lips against hers and nuzzled her neck. "Can't you see it's because I want you all to myself?"

Almost involuntarily, Veronica put tentative arms around his neck as an infuriating shiver of pleasure shot through her. Then Balin started to bite her and dig his fingers into her sides. She kicked him and pushed him away from her, but he still had that perpetual, dissolute grin on his face.

"Admit it, Veronica," he said. "I've ruined you for other men."

Veronica had to confess—at least to herself—that Balin seemed to be right, though not in the way the old pervert meant it. She started to cry.

"Oh, my poor, broken-hearted angel. I can ease your pain. I can make it go away. All you have to do is say the word." He reached his hand around her from behind and put it over her heart. She grabbed his hand and sank her teeth into in, drawing blood. She was quite pleased with herself until he breathed one word in her ear, dripping with blissful depravity…

"Harder."

She pushed his hand and him away from her in disgust, then paced the chapel in agitation. "Severus doesn't want to marry me anymore and it's all your fault!" she screamed. "I hate you!"

"And you want to hurt me, don't you?" Balin said, once again creeping toward her. "You want to hurt me as much as I hurt you." A chain metal flail suddenly appeared in his hand. Veronica recognized it as one of the dozens of torture devices Balin had owned and had threatened to use on her on occasion. This time, he offered it to her. She reached out timidly and took it from him.

"I'm just an illusion," he said as he removed his over robe and shirt, presenting his bare back to her. "What harm could it do?"

Veronica hesitated, but just for a moment. All the rage and hate she held for her old professor traveled into the hand that held the flail.

Balin leaned over the altar and stretched out his arms in front of him. He turned his head around to look at her. "Do it."

Without a trace of awkwardness, Veronica swung the flail in the air above her head and struck. Blood spattered her ducky pajamas and dripped off Balin's back, onto the stone floor of the chapel; he begged her to strike him again, and again, and again.

"Don't despair, my angel," he said in between lashes. "Tomorrow we'll go hunting for a new playmate…"

Veronica awoke, trying to grasp onto the strange dream she just had, but it slipped away before she could remember even one detail. All she knew was that the pain in her heart was gone, replaced by something else she couldn't quite identify.

She grinned. Whatever it was, it didn't hurt.

~*~*~*~

To be continued…

//
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