The Sugar Quill
Author: V. Equinox (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Romance in C Minor  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

Musical interludes by Yoko Kanno, "You Make Me Cool," appearing in the show "Cowboy Bebop."

What can I tell you, this guy you see
Can't help feeling, so cool, hip and so free
I don't believe in getting hooked on love, no not me.

You can't persuade me, to play your game
You turn your nose up, whenever I'm acting the same
The way I move is oh so smooth, I'm cool
I know you want to hold me, cool cat.

It had been two months since she arrived. A half-blood, she had exploded onto Hogwarts in a flurry of rumors and welcomes. As it was, Headmaster Dumbledore himself had asked her to join, teaching a new class series called 'Geomancy.' Apparently, this was her first teaching position, though she had received accolades as a student and, according to rumor, even had a Masters degree, though in what remained a mystery. Most mysterious of all is that she had never attended Hogwarts - instead, she was a British student who attended India's School of Magic.

This, however, was not what upset Severus Snape the most. No, neither the mysterious school background nor the fact her mother was a Muggle. What irritated him, what bothered him, what drove him to the brink of a great exploding storm was the fact that she took it upon herself to visit him whenever she could, and this meant at least three times a week.

To start with, she insisted upon wearing her black robe quite open, revealing a skirt far shorter than was considered decent by his fellow teachers. Her skirt was, in fact, an inch above the knee. A whole inch! He'd measured it himself one day, staring at it with a ruler in his mind. That alone would have been enough to be scandalous, but the fact that she was cheery to him - even friendly - was downright unnerving.

Oh, she was attractive, to be sure, the softly curling mass of hair, a deep dark brown that was normally pulled back into a ponytail lest it threaten to take over her entire face. Her pointed chin was a bit peculiar to new eyes, but was not offensive. Her eyes matched the shade of her hair (had she somehow managed to do that with magic?) and held a cleverness rarely seen in the downtrodden faces of teachers. Snape couldn't be certain of her exact age, but guessed her to be in her mid- to late twenties by the look of it. Her blouses were always neat and buttoned up, thankfully (that would have added even MORE scandal). From what he could see, she was the type of woman who had far too much interest in scholarly pursuits and would no doubt become a quirky female Flitwick (albeit taller) when she was much older.

Even now, as he stared at her from across the teacher's lounge, he could feel the incessant sparkle of her personality. She was smiling, politely laughing at one of Professor Flitwick's jokes. Her gaze wandered over to Snape, who promptly looked away, lowering his brows in a sullen glower.

No, don't come over here. Don't- he thought, nearly out loud, but it was too late. She was striding purposefully towards him and pulled up a chair. She obviously wasn't aware that he wished to sit alone and had avoided the plump couch for just such a reason.

He sighed inwardly as she smiled at him.

"Good to see you again, Professor. How are you today?" He had to admit, her voice was...alluring, if nothing else.

"Fine."

"Ohh, talkative, today, I see. Hmm, is that a new cloak clasp? I don't think I've seen that one before." She leaned forward, peering at it.

He glanced down, then briefly to her. "Actually, it's an ancient relic."

She examined it some more, without touching it, for which he was grateful. "It's lovely. What does it do?"

"It holds cloaks to one's shoulders," he replied, briskly.

Her lips quirked into a smirk as her eyes raised to his. "As sharp and cool as ever, I see. Has anyone ever told you how handsome you are when you brood?"

He blinked, then, momentarily stunned. Just as he was about to spear her with a scathing reply, however, she cut him off.

"You know," she began, grinning, her eyes twinkling mischievously. "I DO so enjoy watching you squirm. If I didn't know better, I'd say you were put on this earth just so I could poke at you."

He arched a brow and raised his head a bit, letting out a soft snort of derision. "Kindly do us both a favor and find some other hobby, Ms. Liddenmurk."

"You can call me Gwendolyn."

"I can call you a GREAT many things, and all of them would be true, but I do not wish to upset Professor Flitwick. He has a sensitive nature." He grinned slightly then, almost a sneer.

However, much to his disappointment, she didn't seem put off in the least. In fact, now she had the audacity to put her hand on his arm. He couldn't feel her skin through his sleeve, of course, but the very back of his brain noticed the gentle touch.

Her smile grew warmer now, oddly, and she leaned forward. "Oh, come now, Professor. I know you aren't cold as all that. In fact, you've been downright kind to me once or twice. And don't think I didn't catch you looking at me in the staff meeting the other day-" Her words were abruptly stopped short as Snape stood, snatching his mug of tea.

"That will be quite enough, Ms. Liddenmurk. I suggest you find another poor sap to ensnare." Much to his glee, she seemed quiet taken aback. He spun on his heel and stepped out, cape and robes swishing behind him.

He nearly thunked his head on the wall, however, when she hollered after him, "See you later, then!"

* * *

What is her game? What does she want from me? Surely someone put her up to this nonsense - a girl like that is not about to traipse after a man such as myself without some ulterior motive. No, I'll find out what that motive is and then I will throw it back in her face for all the world to see. Make a fool of me, will she....not while I draw breath.

Snape drummed his fingers on an ornate oak desk. He was glaring into the low fire beneath a cauldron when all of sudden there was a light knock at the door.

"Who is it?" He feared the worst.

"It's me, Gwendolyn."

His fears were realized.

"I am quite busy. No time for chit-chat, Ms. Liddenmurk."

Despite his curt answer, she opened the door anyway. Clutching something behind herself, she stepped forward, smiling a little.

"A bit chilly in here, isn't it?"

"I prefer it that way. The potions keep well with the chill air and low humidity."

She peeked around, much to his dismay, showing no signs of leaving right away despite the cold. "Well, I brought you something. I thought perhaps this dungeon could use a little bit of cheer."

"Cheer, Ms. Liddenmurk? Surely you realize I have no use for cheer." He arched a brow and wrinkled his nose slightly, emphasizing his dislike for all things cheery - including her.

Nevertheless, she stepped up to his desk and pulled the object from behind her back (he flinched from old habit, despite knowing that she wouldn't try to hurt him). A little vial with a small, red flower. It seemed to be a perfectly ordinary flower, though of a species that wasn't common. The flower's five petals curled out and over themselves, creating quite a lovely display for a single flower.

She set it down on the edge of his desk, offering a small smile. "It's an unscented breed because I thought that might interfere with your potions. After all, one cannot be too careful when it comes to that sort of thing."

"Indeed."

There was a long silence, then she cleared her throat. "I'll save you the trouble of looking it up. It's called a Stromworn and it doesn't have any true magical properties."

"Then what good is it?"

"Ahh, well, it sits there and looks pretty."

"I see. Is there anything else? I am quite busy."

For a moment, her eyes glanced to the floor in a slight bit of visible disappointment. "Well, then, I'll leave you to your...piles of work." She turned, but just as she was about to exit the room, Snape's voice called out.

"Ms. Liddenmurk?"

"Yes?" She sounded hopeful.

"Kindly do not open the door next time until I say it is all right to enter. I might have been nude, you see." He smirked, imagining her horror at the thought.

"Well, then I would have had quite a thrill, wouldn't I?" She grinned, quickly shutting the door before she could be subjected to his wit.

Snape gritted his teeth, then, glaring at the door.

* * *

After a couple weeks of sly maneuverings and subtle word-plays, Severus Snape had finally been able to extract that information which he so desperately sought.

It had surprised him, really, when Dumbledore finally let slip the other of Gwendolyn's scholarly pursuits.

"The what?" Snape had asked, certain he hadn't heard correctly.

Dumbledore was amusing himself with a bit of string that wiggled and curled 'round his finger as he spoke. "Tantric Arts. They're really quite fascinating. Alas, I have never had the time, inclination, or wife to seek such pursuits."

A peculiar sensation fitted itself to the pit of Snape's stomach, then slowly dissolved. "I assume she will not be teaching such....studies in our fine establishment."

"Oh, heaven's no! Can you imagine what the homework would be like?" Dumbledore chuckled. "Really, Severus, don't be so alarmed. She's harmless. There is quite a misconception about such magic; I imagine it's all book learning, as it is." Here, he lowered his head, looking at Snape over his glasses, fixing him with a stare. "You could, perhaps, talk to her about these things if you find them uncomfortable. That's the best way to be rid of it, I always say."

Snape stiffened, eyebrows furrowing. "I have no desire to speak with her on such matters, or any other matter."

Dumbledore gave a little shrug and looked back to the string, which was now poking him on the finger for attention. "Oh, well, that's too bad. She's really quite nice, very polite. You should sit in on her Geomancy class some time. I think this week she's giving an overview on Feng Shui!"

Snape sunk a little lower into his seat as he pondered this new information.

Gwendolyn, in the mean time, had peeked into the dungeon and saw, much to her delight, that the flower was still there, though moved to a sparse shelf, next to a glowing mushroom.

* * *

Snape had resigned himself to finding out what her game was. He would do this by observation (check), speaking with others (check) and prodding Gwendolyn's psyche. All that was left to do was think of some subversive, revealing questions.

As it happened, he passed by her office, the door wide open. Her robe was off and she was bent over, tending to something, her back to the doorway.

Snape clenched his jaw a moment, staring at her backside, thankful for the many loose robes that hid bodily 'emotions.' In a moment, his forceful will had overcome his physical response and he stepped forward, vaguely curious as to what would cause her to be so immersed that she didn't notice his presence.

To his surprise, blood dripped from her hand when she stood and turned, a quickly-staining bandage wrapped halfway around her hand.

"An accident, Ms. Liddenmurk?"

She nodded, a pained look in her features. She was trying - but failing miserably - to bandage her hand. "Yes. I was trying to carve a stone and sliced it. Hurts like mad."

Snape shook his head disapprovingly and stepped into the office, swiftly taking up her hand and looking it over with a keen eye. "Why didn't you make a trip to Madam Pomfrey's medical area?"

Gwendolyn glanced away, embarrassment flashing over her. "Well, I didn't want to drip blood on the nice carpet in the hallway."

Snape arched a brow, then began to bandage her hand. "An admirable thought, but also foolish, for surely you know we have self-cleaning carpets."

Gwendolyn blinked, then shook her head. "I didn't know."

"Yes. Students bleed quite profusely when bludgeoned on the head with broomsticks." He smirked vaguely, at last finishing the bandage. It was an expert job.

It was Gwendolyn's turn to arch a brow. "Dare I ask? I hope YOU weren't bludgeoning them."

Snape let out a small sigh of feigned regret and shook his head. "Alas, such punishments are outlawed. Were they not, however, I would gladly beat some sense into their small, puerile melon heads."

Gwendolyn smiled. "Now I know you're kidding. Thank you, Severus, for the bandage. I think I can get to Pomfrey's without leaking now."

Without realizing it, Snape smiled just a little. "Please do try to be more careful with knives from now on, Ms. Liddenmurk. I may not always be walking by your office to save you from your own ineptitude." He spun on his heel, the back of his robes smacking her lightly on the legs as he did so.

Gwendolyn smirked a bit fondly, watching him go. "Jerk."

* * *

"Oh no! Oh no, oh no, oh no!" A whimpering student stared, open-mouthed, hands at his face in utter and complete horror.

Before him stood a frozen Severus Snape, his own Potions teacher whom he had just accidentally petrified.

The boy danced around in a frenzy, tugging at his hair as he tried to figure out what to do. Snape had caught him in an empty classroom, practicing some spells. In a nervous flurry, thinking it was one of the school bullies, the student had pointed his wand at the door and fired off a simple enough spell, one intended only to make the recipient hiccup uncontrollably. However, one wrong word and...

"I'm so sorry, professor! I'm so sorry, so sorry! I'll go get help. You wait here....you HAVE to wait here, so wait here! Oh, I'm going to be in SUCH trouble for this-"

"Such trouble for what, Andrew?" Gwendolyn smiled as she peeked around the doorway, then paused. Her eyes widened as she saw the frozen Snape, one hand apparently reaching into his sleeve for his wand. The effects of this accidental spell apparently differed a bit from the usual spell for Petrification.

"Goodness, what happened?"

Andrew was nearly in tears now, "Oh, Ms. Liddenmurk, I'm so SORRY! I didn't know it was him an' then he was froze an' I don't know what to do! I don't know what to do!"

Gwendolyn walked slowly around the professor, tapping her chin as she surveyed. "All right, I'll see what I can do. He's not dead, just petrified, it's all right. Calm down...there's a good boy. Now, go see if you can find Madam Pomfrey, all right? If I can't unstick him, she'll be able to."

The boy nodded and took off like a shot down the hallway, stifled sobs echoing against the walls.

Gwendolyn quickly glanced around and, finding that they were alone, stepped up to Severus' frozen form. She smirked very slightly. "Well, got into a bit of a mess, I see. Hmm...some sort of petrification...skin's still warm, that's good."

She put a hand to his cheek, caressing down to his jaw. Her smirk melted away into a fond smile as she gave a little tweak to his nose.

"You can't hear or see me at all, can you? It's just as well. Then you won't be angry at me when I do this..."

Cheeks burning, she leaned forward and pressed her soft lips to his still ones. It wasn't really a kiss, but was the nearest facsimile one could attain with a man frozen in place. After a few moments, she leaned back again, face still flushed.

"I wish you'd let me get near you, Severus," she whispered, eyes flickering to his lips, then back to his startled eyes, frozen in a widened expression of surprise. After another tender caress down his cheek, she took a deep breath.

"Well, that was self-serving, I admit," she muttered, snapping out of blissful reverie and pulling her wand out of the sleeve of her robe.

Just as she raised her wand, Madam Pomfrey scurried into the room.

"Merlin's beard! What an abuse of...who in the world let that child know such.....here, here, I'll take care of it," Pomfrey copied Gwendolyn's earlier move, circling Severus like a shark, examining.

"I wasn't sure if I should use Rejuvinacio or Glacialis Release," Gwendolyn said, scratching her chin with the point of her wand.

Pomfrey whipped out her wand. "Well, he's not an icicle, at least no more than usual, so I think the first would be preferable to the latter. Rejuvinacio!" She gave her wand a dramatic swing and silver sparkles flew from it, sinking into Severus' petrified form.

Gwendolyn edged to the door, watching as he suddenly lunged forward, sputtering, released from the spell.

"Child with the brains of a rock! One hundred-fifty points from Hufflepuff! No, three hundred! Where is that pathetic, simpering excuse for an offspring of a wizard? ANDREW RODRICK! COME OUT HERE THIS INSTANT!" Severus looked positively enraged, clutching his wand as though it were a sword which wanted to do some beheading. His lips were pulled into a ferocious snarl.

Gwendolyn laughed nervously, "I'll...ehh...heh...go warn him you're coming." With that, she sped out of the doorway, and Snape would have given chase, had Madam Pomfrey not planted a firm hand on his chest.

"You'll sit right down there, Severus, so I can have a look at you! Don't argue, just sit."

After a little while, Pomfrey declared that he was well and fit, then scurried off to return to her own domain and any wounded students that may have lined up during the time she was away.

Snape remained where he was in the empty classroom, sourly lounging in a hard chair. His eyebrows were lowered and his jaw set as he drummed his long fingertips on the chair's armrests.

Students, the lot of them useless. How in the world did Andrew manage to mistake 'Aural' for 'Petrifinite'? And Gwendolyn...

He touched his fingertips to his lips, eyebrows lowering even more. I could have her sacked for that little trick. At the very least, I could easily have her reputation damaged in such a way that she wouldn't dare show her face at this school or any other for years. What in the world possessed her to do such a thing? Surely it was some calculated move, some trick or mischief.

He glanced around the room once, snatching his hand away from his lips, slightly surprised it was there.

Yes, that must indeed be it. She feigned sincerity just in case I might be aware of her actions. Well, I shall have to think up some suitable revenge for such shenanigans. He glowered darkly at the doorway as students, just let out from class, shuffled past, laughing and talking.

Something suitable...

* * *

Just leave me drinkin', in this bar tonight
I know you want me, to make you, make you feel right
But all you do is hang your head so low
I know you really want me...to go.

A situation for such suitable somethings presented itself to him a week after the petrification incident. Snape slid silently into the teacher's lounge where only Gwendolyn was lounging, reading a magazine entitled, "Wizardry and Technology - The Future, Hand in Hand."

She must be quite engulfed in that rubbish. Why hasn't she noticed me yet?

He cleared his throat and Gwendolyn looked up, lowering the magazine and rewarding him with a warm smile.

"Severus, you're looking hale and hearty this morning."

He stiffly sat down on the plump couch next to her chair. "Indeed. So tell me, Ms. Liddenmurk..." His voice changed to something like a low purr and he noticed a touch of pink forming in her cheeks.

"What house were you in when you attended the school in India?"

She set the magazine aside, taking off the tiny pair of spectacles that perched magically on her nose. "Well, unlike here, there are three houses. Not brave, loyal, smart and ambitious, instead there are Houses for Mind, Body and Spirit. Their real names have to do with individual Hindi deities, rather than the school's founders such as Gryffindor or Slytherin."

He arched a brow curiously.

"And," she continued, holding up a finger, "They can also be called Scholar, Warrior and Prophet. Three different sets of names for three houses. Three times three is nine...quite a magical number, see."

He continued to stare at her with an arched brow, waiting to hear the answer to his question.

"I was in the House of Mind," she said, smiling. "Most tend to go on to be scholars of some sort: professors or permanent students and the like."

He nodded. Well, that would probably translate to Ravenclaw, were she a student here.

"And the others?"

"Oh, well, the House of Spirit is rather self explanatory...many become gurus or prophets, yogis, sometimes, or monks. House of Body on the other hand, either become warriors against those who practice the Dark Arts, or tend to pursue, shall we say, magic of a more sensual nature."

The corners of his lips quirked. "Tantric Arts?"

She nodded. "Yes, of course. They delve into them on a much deeper level than those books you see in the safe sex aisle in the bookstores." She glanced around, then lowered her voice, "There are special secrets not listed in the Kama Sutra."

"I see," he said icily. A sex fiend, that's what she is. I'm just her latest hopeful conquest. A mortal succubus. How-

"Though that's only what I heard." She smiled cheerily at him.

His other brow arched this time. "How is it then, Ms. Liddenmurk, that you studied the Tantric Arts but do not know first hand?"

She blinked a bit at him. "Well, because the classes I took were about spiritual development through love, both physical and emotional. I didn't have naughty homework, if that's what you're implying."

He just couldn't help himself. "Oh, so I suppose you are QUITE the fragile innocent," he sneered.

To his utter frustration, she smiled warmly at him. "Actually, yes. Surprising, isn't it? You know, if you're curious, I have some books I'd be happy to lend you on-"

Snape stood with such speed that for a moment the room lurched. "No, thank you, Ms. Liddenmurk, I am quite happy without such knowledge." He turned sharply, stepping from the room before she could say another word.

That very hour he set about writing to an old acquaintance, a friar in an ancient monastery that had come to his aid during a dark period in both their lives.

Dear Brother Eric,

I hope this letter sees you fit and well. I myself am plodding along without much of interest to share, but I was wondering if I might tug at your ear for a moment.

I recall some time ago you explained to me the properties of the Crystal of Purity and I was wondering if I might borrow the Crystal for an experiment. I would, of course, donate a hefty amount to the charity of your choice, or perhaps the monastery you administer.

Naturally, I would take great care of this most precious relic and would see it returned to you swiftly and without harm.

Thank you for your assistance and I look forward to hearing your answer.

Sincerely,

Severus Snape

He rolled up the parchment, then pressed the Slytherin seal to the center. At his call, an owl came to take the letter, clutching it delicately in long claws.

"There," he mused to himself aloud, "this should make matters much more ...interesting."

* * *

He heard from Brother Eric two days later, detailing that he would have to remove the Crystal from it's special, magical encasing but that he would send it to him at week's end.

This gave Severus plenty of time to chat with Gwendolyn, thereby earning a little bit more of her trust, hopefully enough to lure her into the trap he had set into motion. Though quite talkative, she managed to turn the tables a few times and he found himself surprised to be telling her about his years at Hogwarts, and the mischief he'd perpetrated.

As it turned out, her favorite color was red, not surprisingly, and the huge Dark Arts-thwarting Mandala hanging at the back of her office was given to her as a graduation present by the headmaster of the school. Snape found most of these details interesting, especially the tales she recounted of the mythology and fact surrounding India's magical culture. There were quite a few British students at the school, but of course the majority were Indian and they all got along quite well, for the most part. Not only that, but they flew on carpets rather than broomsticks, and Quiddich was only recently introduced. Snape also found out that she sorely disliked Indian food, despite having lived in India for 8 years ("Curry gives me serious indigestion."). Despite his better judgment, he found himself enjoying their little chats, however contrived they were on his part.

At last, the week was up and the special package arrived. A twinge of guilt poked at him while he set up the Crystal. It wasn't anything extraordinary to look at, in fact one might mistake it for a long, ordinary quartz crystal of rough shape. Yet this particular Crystal did one special thing, and one thing only...

A knock at the door startled him from his thoughts. "Come in."

Gwendolyn slipped into the dungeon, closing the door behind her. She was smiling warmly, despite the chill air and Snape felt another stab of guilt. "There was something you wanted to show me?"

He nodded, guiding her towards the pedestal which held the Crystal. His hand was upon her arm as he led her, and he glanced at her face, noticing a blush surfacing.

"I've borrowed a most interesting artifact, Ms. Liddenmurk, and I would like your opinion of it."

She nodded, placing tiny spectacles upon the brow of her nose and leaning in to peer at it. "What's it called?"

"The Crystal of Purity."

Her nose wrinkled a moment. "Awful dramatic name, isn't it? What's it do?"

He glanced at her then and enunciated,"Corpus Purus!" The Crystal flashed suddenly, producing an aura-like light blue flame which danced merrily around it.

Her eyes widened and her lips formed into an O of awe and appreciation. "Well, isn't that something! How lovely..."

Snape's lips quirked a moment and he hesitated. Then, "It is rather like a unicorn, in one sense. Only those of a...virginal body may lay a hand upon it without being burned." There, he'd warned her at least. If she chose to touch it, well, he couldn't be held responsible for HER actions.

Gwendolyn's eyebrows raised and she glanced at him over her glasses in a disturbingly Dumbledore-like manner.

"May I pick it up? I'd like to examine it more closely."

For a moment, Snape stared at her, aghast. "What? Well, yes, but-"

She carefully wrapped her fingers around it, bringing the Crystal closer to her face. "Hmm, lovely. Is it my imagination or does it give off a fragrance? How exactly does it determine one's biological virginity? I suppose perhaps there could be a slight variation in the..."

Snape's heart thudded in his ears so loudly he couldn't concentrate on her words. HOW was this possible? This woman, this student of Indian magicks, this female who had admitted to taking courses in Tantric Arts, this beautiful creature was completely untouched by men? There must be some mistake...

He snatched the Crystal from her hands, peering closely at it, scrutinizing the form and the very feeling of the cold Crystal beneath his fingers. "There has to be an error. Surely there is...Eric sent me the wrong one!"

He blinked, hearing Gwendolyn giggle. "WHAT exactly is so amusing, Ms. Liddenmurk?"

Her eyes were twinkling merrily and she put a hand to her lips. "Why, Severus, you're a...virgin?"

Snape's eyebrow twitched and he quickly set the Crystal back onto a velvet pillow that rested atop the pedestal. "I BEG your pardon."

She raised an eyebrow in a rather coy expression and placed a hand on his arm. "You don't need to beg, Severus. There's nothing to be ashamed of - as you can see, I have saved myself as well. You should be proud you've not succumbed to the temptations of society."

It wasn't a WANT to save myself, but no offer otherwise, he thought bitterly. That, and the fact that I wouldn't lower myself to lay a hand on someone who could barely count to 10, which seems to be the norm.

He pulled his arm away from her touch, raising his head in nothing short of a haughty manner. "My social progress is none of your concern, Ms. Liddenmurk. I suggest you leave now so that I might finally get some papers graded. Ungrateful wretches."

Gwendolyn's smile did not abate as she stepped a little closer, causing Severus' whole body to stiffen up like a board. "I won't tell anyone, Severus, I promise. To tell you the truth, I'm quite pleased to find that you're...a bit on the shy side. Who would've known? Fascinating."

You won't disarm me so easily, Gwendolyn!

"I regret that the TIME is getting so LATE and I must shoo you from my domain."

"YOU invited me here, Severus. Was it, perhaps, an indirect way of telling me that you're shy? That you would like to get to know me better, but don't know where to start? Quite convenient that you snatched the Crystal out of my hands, wasn't it?" She leaned in, eyeing him.

His eyes widened in outrage and he sucked in his breath sharply. "I think NOT, MS. Liddenmurk. That was not my intention at all, but you will leave my dungeon this instant!"

"Why, Severus.."

"OUT!"

The force of his voice actually caused a few of Gwendolyn's hairs to move, so she quickly made her way to the door, ducking under his pointing arm.

At the doorway, she grinned languidly, eyes half closed. "Ah, Severus, you're adorable when you fume." She shut the door just in time to hear something hit it with a thud.

* * *

The very next day was Saturday, so he didn't need to fear seeing her in the halls. Nevertheless, he had other things on his mind. He had sent back the Crystal with a short note of thanks and now lounged in a chair at his desk, pondering the next move. No "virginal Snape" jokes were circulating, so she hadn't mentioned it to anyone, for which he was grateful.

He closed his eyes, taking a deep breath and putting a weary hand to his forehead. What he needed to do now was determine exactly what he was going to do about her. She wasn't going away and he didn't want to report her since her harassment of him was quite harmless. He pushed away the thoughts of their numerous chats that week before the Crystal arrived, and how pleasant she had been. Indeed, her mind was sharp, despite the fact she hid it behind bold antics and exotic magicks. Very sharp. She must be quite something for Dumbledore to alter the curriculum to accommodate those subjects she excels in teaching. The students seem to enjoy her classes, the older boys, especially.

He smirked, thinking of a few months previous when he'd walked into a conversation two boys were having about the attractive new teacher at Hogwarts. The fact of the matter was that they didn't have anything to compare her to, given the much older nature of the rest of the female faculty.

"She's a BABE! I can't BELIEVE I was lucky enough to have her for Beginning Geomancy. I thought only first years got to take that."

"You're lucky. I have a class right across the hall, and I can just barely make out the top of her head if I stretch while sitting."

"Yeah, I'd love to go on a date with her, I bet she kisses like a- Professor Snape!"

"Good evening, boys. I trust you are discussing the homework assignment I gave you today?"

"Uh, no sir, actually we weren't."

"Then I suggest you apply yourselves to the assignment at once, for if I find you being idle, I may think I have given too little work and remedy that particular ailment."

"Yes sir!"

Snape chuckled to himself, recalling the look of stunned horror on their faces.

Gwendolyn...

She'd been quite close to him yesterday, standing so close that he could smell the faint, exotic scent of her hair. It wasn't patchouli, which he detested, but something much more subtle, like a soft dark amber, a lingering fragrance which allured and satisfied. He'd found himself inching closer to her as she spoke to him, despite his common sense. He thought back to the day he was frozen and how she'd caressed his cheek, wondering idly if she'd do so again, with him unpetrified. And then, with a wave of distress, he'd realized the actual incredible horror, the terrible thing he feared, yet could no longer deny: he wanted to kiss her.

Now, of course, he had to figure out a way to drive that thought out of his mind, or to (and this was the crazy part) satisfy that particular urge. Since the former was unlikely, given how often she attracted his attention, both positively and negatively, the latter was, despite its inconceivableness, probably the most likely.

He rubbed his chin thoughtfully, one leg slung leisurely over the plush chair's armrest. I cannot just...DO it. No, I'll need some ruse. Then, of course, once I've achieved this, the urge will be sated and I can forget all about it.

He smiled then, sitting up a bit. Of course! Revenge. I'll blame it all on a desire to get revenge for...hmm. Ah, yes! For the forced kiss she bequeathed me while I was petrified. This will no doubt make her livid and she'll at last leave me alone! Yes...."

He slapped a hand onto the desk, making a little vial of putrid yellow potion jump. "Finally!"

* * *

Why can't you please understand
What kind of man I've got to be
You're saying, I'm such a fool hiding my thoughts away from you
Girl I know it's driving you wild
I'm sorry I'm a cool cat baby.

 

"Gwendolyn, there you are."

She turned from the candy-dispensing gargoyle that had held her attention there in the teacher's lounge. He always seemed to find her here - didn't she ever grade assignments?

Her face lit up and she gave him a little curtsey with her robes.

Striding towards her purposefully, he locked his eyes onto hers. She blinked a bit, expression faltering as though she feared he might trample her.

He did not hesitate, not even a moment, before placing his hands on either side of her face and leaning in, pressing his lips to hers.

He kissed her hard, fiercely, hands clutching at the sides of her face, fingertips a little in her hair even as she stood there, too stunned to react. He resisted the urge to allow his hands free reign over her neck - this was, after all, merely a necessary thing to clear her from his mind. After a few moments in which he thought she might slap him, she returned the kiss, eyebrows creasing.

Head dizzy, he pulled away, dropping his hands even as she had begun to move forward, perhaps to embrace him. He forced a crude smirk and watched as she put her fingertips to her lips, eyes wide.

"S....Severus..."

He wrenched his gaze from her and turned, stepping back to the door. He paused, looking at her over his shoulder.

"Why...what did you...you kissed me...Why did you do that?" Her voice betrayed her shock, her surprise, and even a bit of glee.

He nodded. "Yes. It wasn't for any reason other than revenge, my dear, so try not to think anything of it." He smirked tightly, lips thin.

"....Revenge?"

He nodded again, turning slightly to face her. "Oh yes, Gwendolyn. I hope you realize I was QUITE aware when I was petrified."

Her eyes widened and her cheeks turned an even brighter shade of red than they were already. "You knew?" she squeaked. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"I just did." He swished out of the room, feigning a confident swagger while she stared after him.

It was only two minutes later that he clenched his fists, furious at himself and her. This hadn't made the attraction fade in the least. This had caused it to explode, to surge, to intensify to something almost too stressful to manage. Now that he'd had a taste, now that the memory of her lips on his was fresh, it was far worse than before. She'd actually enjoyed the kiss, and that was something he wasn't prepared for. Not only that, but she didn't appear angry in the least. He gritted his teeth. Now he'd have to think of another plan.

* * *

Sighing inwardly, Snape walked along, Professor Flitwick beside him, practically running to keep up.

"So then I said to him, 'YOU there, you stop RIGHT there or I..." Flitwick prattled on.

Snape nodded his head absently, mind focused elsewhere. As they neared a certain office, he disengaged himself from the good Professor. "Excuse me, I need to have a meeting in here."

Flitwick smiled jovially and gave a little wave. "Of course! See you later, Severus!"

Snape smiled wanly and knocked on the door.

Gwendolyn's voice chimed out, "Come in!"

She looked surprised to see him when he opened the door, gliding into the office. Her cheeks immediately started to redden.

He gave a low bow. "Ms. Liddenmurk."

Suddenly, he panicked, though outwardly he remained as cool and collected as ever. What was he doing here? He could have withstood Flitwick's ramblings for a few more minutes, but now he'd set himself up in a corner to be devoured - not that this was an entirely unpleasant thought.

She smiled at him and gestured to a chair opposite her desk. "Please, have a seat. I thought you were a student."

He smirked, "I was, once." He glanced at the chair. "I prefer to remain standing. I came by your office to..." Why? Why WAS he here?

She stood, however, and carefully stepped towards him. "I know why you're here, Severus...Perhaps you'd like to go out for tea later this evening?" Her smile was inviting, her eyes half-closed and alluring.

Even as she stepped towards him, however, her foot hooked onto an upturned corner of rug, sending her lurching forward. She fell against him and the impact knocked them both back against the door. Severus tried to regain his balance, but they bounced back and tumbled to the floor of the cramped office.

He stared down, his arms to either side of her own and his robes spilling out around her. She was blushing now and didn't seem harmed in any way. In fact, it was almost as though she liked the compromising position she was in now (was it his imagination or had she pushed off from the wall, causing them to crash to the floor in the first place?).

"How....very transparent, Ms. Liddenmurk," he managed to say at last, though it was without the characteristic smugness. In fact, his voice had faltered just a little.

Silence. For a few moments, she said nothing. Then in a voice barely above a whisper, she spoke, "Kiss me, Severus."

Without thinking, without even meaning to, he pressed his lips to hers. A hot wave of fire surged over him and he wondered dimly if his hands had really just found her own, their fingers interlocking.

He wanted her. Here, in the dungeon, on a bed, in the hallway - anywhere! He wanted to know what secrets she hid beneath those tantalizing clothes, what whispered words might slip unbidden from her soft lips at the height of pleasure.

Her arms were around him now and he was keenly aware of her lovely scent, of the incredible sensation of her hands at his back, clutching him to her. Her lips had found his jaw, now, and he clenched his eyes shut, unable to pull away just yet. A few more moments...

His breathing grew ragged quickly and he took a sharp breath as he felt her thigh inch along his own.

I'm making out with her on the floor like some crazed hormonal teenager!

He kissed her fiercely again, relishing the feel of her beneath him. Though clothed, he couldn't help but notice each curve of her form, though his hands remained chastely to her sides. Though clothed....something I would rather not be..... This has got to stop!

He sprung up and off her with nearly magical speed. She lay there, a bit sprawled out, blinking, her chest raising and lowering quickly. "Severus?"

He straightened his robes and smoothed his hair, clearing his throat.

He swallowed hard, then forced a baleful glower. "Do not speak to me again, Ms. Liddenmurk. This has gone on far enough. We are professors and shall behave suitably. I hope you will find SOME modicum of maturity within you and start acting like the adult you presumably are."

He opened the door and left without another word, leaving her stunned, sitting on the floor.

 

Unfortunately, it didn't take long for her to find him. He'd been hiding out in the dungeon in between classes ("Not hiding, MEDITATING...") so as to avoid speaking with her. At last, the knock he knew he would hear, came.

He took a deep breath. "Enter."

Not again... She was looking extraordinary, even by torchlight. He pushed aside thoughts of her warm smile and gentle tone.

"Hello, Severus."

"Kindly address me by my proper title, Professor Snape."

A smirk tugged at the corner of her lips as she slowly walked towards him. "All right, Severus. I think, perhaps, we need to talk."

He glared at her then. "There is nothing to talk about, Ms. Liddenmurk. I have no desire to pursue a relationship with you or anyone else. Wednesday's indiscretions were just that and will not happen again."

She planted a hand on his desk and peered down at him. "Oh? Somehow, I suspect that they may."

"They will NOT happen again, you can be assured." He glared in what he hoped was an intimidating manner.

She reached for his hand which he snatched away. "Severus, I want you to know how I feel..."

"How you FEEL, Ms. Liddenmurk?" he sneered. Now he stood, drawing himself up to his full height, which was about a head taller than her. "Why do you think I care how you FEEL? Do you think I RELISH the idea of hearing you prattle on endlessly about FEELINGS and NEEDS? I tire of your constant, unending allusions, your silly female worries..."

She was backing away now, eyes growing wider with each word he spat.

"You're just afraid you'll fall in love with me!" She had clenched her fists a little now, as she said it.

His eye twitched once. It was the truth and he knew it. And SHE knew it. The very kernel of the matter - that she had the power to break his heart, however cold it may be. He had fallen for her, the very thing he most feared, but at least he could be the one to push HER away before it went too far. If it hadn't already. She had interfered with his work, and his thoughts and precious willpower were now focused on HER, rather than more important matters, which was intolerable.

His voice grew dangerously low as he called upon a familiar, bitter rage, and the words welled up unbidden. "You are SORELY mistaken, MS. Liddenmurk. It was merely a test to see how you would react, as surely you must have guessed." He paused, lips curling into a disgusted sneer. "To think that I would love you is not only insulting, it is outrageous. No man could possibly love you, MS. Liddenmurk, for you are a repulsive little hag with no mind for logic, let alone magic and I suggest you slink back to whatever rock you lurched out from, you idle-minded, vile, untrustworthy Mudblood!"

The last insult wasn't exactly accurate - her father was a wizard, after all. But it had the intended result - she now stepped back, jaw dropped, eyes wide, aghast.

"Is...is that what you really think of me?" Her voice was quiet, on the edge of quavering.

He had never seen that look in her eyes before, and a sudden bolt of nausea surged through his stomach. The pain in her eyes brutalized him as the full weight of his words finally sifted through his brain. He had meant to anger her, to push her away but not to hurt her, not like this. Never like this.

"Gwendolyn...I..."

But she turned in one smooth movement, fleeing the dungeon. He gave chase to the edge of the door.

"Gwendolyn!"

His fingers curled around the cold stone of the doorway as his jaw set, his lips twisting grimly.

Gwendolyn, what have I done?

* * *

You can't persuade me, to play your game
You turn your nose up, whenever I'm acting the same
The way I move is oh so smooth, I'm cool
I know you want to hold me, cool cat.

 

The next week was unbearable, both for Severus and his students. They suffered the worst of his wrath during Potions so much that some students took to calling it "The hundred-year storm."

"Forty points from Ravenclaw for your cheek, Gertrude!"

"But I didn't say-"

"SILENCE! Twenty more points from Ravenclaw!"

Alone, Snape brooded, sulking about his dungeon and bedroom like a moping bat.

I am a loathsome, insufferable creature. I have done her a great service by making her heart available to more worthy men. She doesn't even know of my days as a Death Eater...

In the back of his brain, however, he knew she probably wouldn't be offset by that particularly dark fact about him. Even more beguiling, she most likely would have said the experience gave him character.

Alone, at least, he did not have to face her. The hallways were a different matter - she ignored him completely. Her warm eyes did not meet his nor did she bequeath him that little smile he had secretly come to favor. In fact, she almost seemed to look through him as though we were nothing more than a bit of dust, a mote to think nothing of.

The quiet, cold dungeon no longer received surprise visits from that shining creature. The lilting voice which had previously echoed against the dry stone no longer graced him with it's laughter. That mind which had jostled with his, albeit in a friendly manner, on sticky points of magic, no longer needled him.

"Enough!" He slammed a fist onto his ornate desk and stood, then swept out of the dungeon. Ignore me, will she...I think not. The least she can do is be civil. I did her a favor. He paused in the hallway. ...Now if I could only convince myself of that fact. MUST I apologize? He gritted his teeth in frustration, glaring at a curious student who passed. Then, quickly, before he could talk some sense into himself, he glided to her office.

He knocked. No answer. These were her office hours, where in the world was she?

He turned, face brightening as he heard her laughter from down the hall - had she forgiven him already? His shoulders slumped a little and his demeanor darkened as he saw her laughing with a student while they walked towards her office. She glanced in his direction, then quickly away, her expression never changing.

"Off with you then, Beatrice," and she gently shooed the second year down the hall. She stepped in front of Severus as though he weren't even there (the audacity!) and unlocked the office door.

"Gwendolyn." He forced his voice to be smooth, commanding.

She turned and fixed him with a stare rather like he was something nasty she'd just cleaned out of her fingernails.

Without another word, she turned, entering her office. Before she could close the door, he stepped in, then shut it behind himself.

"Gwendolyn, I would like a word with you."

She gracefully sat, smoothing her dark red skirt, and regarded him. "You've already had nine so far today. Isn't that plenty?"

A smirk tugged at the corner of his lips. "Gwendolyn, I wanted to....."

She raised a brow as he hesitated. "Yes?"

"Apologize."

She waved a hand dismissively, reaching into her bag to retrieve some papers. "Accepted. Out with you, then, I have work to do."

He leveled his gaze at her, stepping near the desk. "Do you have any idea how difficult it is for me to apologize at ALL?"

Both her brows raised this time. "Ohh, well, I feel QUITE sorry for you indeed. I said your apology was accepted. In case you missed it, I am only giving you what you so adamantly desired."

"Which is?"

"To pretend you never existed. I am giving you your peace and quiet, Professor Snape." She went to work grading papers.

He winced inwardly. Oh, so 'Professor Snape' is it now...

"You may call me Severus."

Her voice took on a tone he had never before heard from her - short, curt anger. "I may call you a GREAT many THINGS, PROFESSOR Snape, and they would all be QUITE true. Now if you have nothing better to do, may I suggest you go pester Madam Pomfrey. She has medicines for people like you."

He leaned over her desk, slapping a hand down on the papers. "Gwendolyn, you are making this QUITE difficult." His face was now level with hers, his black eyes locked on to her brown ones, which had turned a slightly darker shade.

"Difficult? Well, perhaps I should be the one to apologize then, Professor, for I surely wouldn't want to make your life more difficult than it already is." She stood, then, turning her back to him, examining the huge ornate Mandala tapestry on the wall. "Do you know what it means to be hit with the Thunderbolt, Professor?" Her voice held no anger this time, just a short curiosity.

He arched a brow, standing straight, arms folding. "No, I do not. I trust you will reveal its significance to me."

She nodded slightly, then looked at him over her shoulder. "I have only heard its name from an Italian friend, but it means to be hit with something so powerful that it fairly knocks you off your feet. It is love at first sight, Professor, and it is normally a thing which cannot be denied."

He blinked a bit. "And?"

She smirked tightly, looking back to the Mandala. "And...I was under the impression that it was an undeniable two-way street, that if one person felt the Thunderbolt, than the other person did as well, no matter the situation of either person. Apparently I was wrong."

The implications of her words were overwhelming and he asked thickly, "Which means what to you?"

"Which MEANS, Severus Snape, that no matter what you may think of yourself, when I first laid eyes upon you, I was hit by a Thunderbolt so strong I could barely stand. But I see now that it was a child's fancy, a myth told to young women so they don't grow sad and lonely." She shook her head with a soft "Tsk."

He stared at her hair, since he couldn't see her face. He thought back to when he had first met her, he'd secretly enjoyed the warmth of her hand in his as they shook hands and went along with formalities. He had noticed the curve of her jaw, the quick (but friendly) wit issuing from her soft lips. Startled, he had a sudden, sharp realization that she was not beautiful like a mermaid or succubus was beautiful - to the normal man, she would look quite average. Instead, the first time they met, he had noticed a genuine warmth flowing out from her and into him, something that radiated around her like an aura and made those around her feel welcome, thereby easing any scandal of her penchant for dress or scholarly pursuits. But any thoughts of pursuing a relationship had been quickly pushed aside. It not only laughable, it was unthinkable.

He was startled out of his musings by her sudden turn. She stepped forward and opened the door, pointedly holding it despite the fact that it would have stayed open on it's own. "I have work that needs doing, Professor." Her voice no longer held any trace of anger, just a resolute formality that grated on Snape's already fractured nerves.

He stepped to the doorway and she swiftly turned, returning to her desk and taking up the tiny spectacles.

Closing his eyes, he paused, lips pressed tight. No, I cannot allow this injustice. The Heavens have given me a single gift, and it is to be cherished, not cast aside because of my own misgivings.

Clenching his fists, he took a deep breath and turned, outwardly retaining his calm demeanor. "Gwendolyn, you were not wrong."

"Hmm?" She had apparently barely heard him, engrossed in a student's paper as she was.

"Gwendolyn."

The urgency of his voice caused her to look up, blinking, the spectacles slipping a fraction of an inch down her nose.

"You were not wrong." He stared down at her and couldn't help smiling, just a little, at the expression of disbelief on her features.

"What?" She blinked at him, mouth a bit agape.

"Tsk, Gwendolyn, you ought pay more attention than that." He slowly stepped closer to her desk, like a predator that had now cornered it's prey.

He reached down, placing his hand to her cheek, gently tilting her head up, a mysterious smile playing about his lips. She took a breath, then looked away, pain flickering across her face.

"Severus, you don't have to do this. I'll be just fine...I'll get over it, I don't want you to-"

"Shhh." He placed a finger over her lips and squatted, resting his other hand on her chair's armrest.

He started to speak, then hesitated and moved forward, face next to hers so that his words tickled over her ear. He wasn't quite certain he wanted to look into her eyes, embarassing as his next words might be.

"Gwendolyn," he said, voice low, "I have been the most grievous of fools. I...have no explanation for my actions, except to say that I am a weak man who does not deserve to breathe the same sweet air as yourself."

"Well, now, I think that's going a bit far. No need to be so harsh on yourself."

He smiled a little, taking a huge liberty by pressing his cheek to hers. He felt her flinch ever so slightly.

"It is true, Gwendolyn. I fear........I fear your feelings, and my own. They are alien to me and I think perhaps you have heard enough rumors about my previous life to know that I have, shall we say, some scars which have not yet healed, and I have done some things which cannot be forgiven."

"Well, you see, that's just an excuse, Severus." She placed a hand over his. "I think you are quite well-balanced and that nonsense with the Dark Arts and all is quite over. Those things are in the past, why must you continue to punish yourself for your actions?"

He pulled away, smirking, and turned her face towards his. "Don't try to change the subject, my dear."

"OH but it was YOU who.....eh..."

He had leaned in now, very close, so close he could feel her breath over his lips. "You are full of spunk and fire, Gwendolyn, and it causes a great upheaval within me."

"That doesn't sound very pleasant."

He almost laughed but instead closed the distance even more, though their lips did not yet meet (what a test of willpower THAT proved to be). "Gwendolyn, my feelings for you are....quite strong, and I fear a great many things surrounding that situation. I might smother you, or worse, drive you into the arms of another with my moods."

To his amazement, she smiled, just a little. "Your grouchy moods haven't spoiled my enjoyment of your company yet, Severus," she pointed out. "In fact, I find them quite endearing. The way you grouse around like a grumpy dragon. Watching you glide from room to room, bringing mischief to the students."

I wouldn't call it mischief...

"But especially, Severus, the way you are not afraid to speak your mind. When you wish to be left alone, you say so, rather than beat around the bush. Of course, I never DID leave you alone...I'm sorry, I shouldn't have pushed you as I did."

Snape took a deep breath and let it out. "You don't understand what I'm saying, my dear Gwendolyn."

She smirked, glancing down, then back up into his eyes. "Then say it more simply, Severus."

He leaned forward, lips nearing her ear as before, cheek pressed to hers. "What I'm saying, my love..."

He felt her tense, sensed more than saw her eyes widen. He smiled.

"...is that I would be ever so grateful if we might restart this whole...affair...for lack of a better term, from the beginning. Would you care for some tea this eve? I know of a most quaint cafe on a particular street in the village."

She pulled back, staring at him. "Really?"

He nodded, fingertips idly caressing over her cheek.

She threw her arms around his neck, nearly causing him to topple over. "Severus!"

He chuckled, patting her back. "I take it, then, that I am truly forgiven?"

She pulled back, hands sliding to the front of his chest. She glanced aside, "Well...yes. But perhaps we ought to start over completely."

She slowly stood and he followed suit. "Hello, I am Gwendolyn Mae Liddenmurk," she said with a curtsey.

Severus put an arm in front of himself and one behind, bowing low. "I am Severus Snape and it is a pleasure..." he took up her hand, delicately touching his lips to the back of it, "...to meet you." He smiled, pleased to see that the familiar blush had returned to her cheeks.

She smiled "Indeed, quite."

"Would you care for some tea, madam?" He held out his arm, which she slipped her hand onto.

"I would indeed, thank you, good sir. Say, have I ever told you about my favorite class in India?"

He shook his head, leading her to the door. "No, you have not. Let's see, hmm." He tapped his chin thoughtfully, glancing skyward. "Perhaps it was Potions?"

She shook her head, locking the door behind them.

"Care for Magical Creatures?"

"Nope."

"I give up, then. Please do enlighten me, Ms......Gwendolyn."

It's just as well they had not yet reached the cafe, for surely Severus Snape would have spat out his tea at her next reply.

"Snake charming," she grinned.

 

The End



 

 

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