1. Magic of the Mind
2. Birthday Bouquet
3. An Angel's Touch
4. The Granger Solution
6. The Most Extraordinary Society of Potioneers
7. Thorns Amongst the Blooms
9. In a Glass, Darkly
10. To Catch a Thief
Red Herring titles:
Tidings of Comfort and Joy
1. Severus perused his appearance in the mirror inside his wardrobe door as he hung his coat back up on its hanger. His hair was streaked with grey at his temples and was just as lank as ever. In the Muggle world he would probably pass for between forty-five and fifty, he supposed, but he would never be described as handsome.
Hermione didn't look a day over thirty, and yet...
"No emergencies while I was out, Silvie?" he asked.
A bespectacled house-elf looked up from the book he'd been sitting cross-legged on Severus's desk to read. "Did I fetch you?" he asked.
"Then there weren't any emergencies." He turned back to his book, and Severus almost didn't hear his next few words. "Just that mad Arithmancy teacher yelling and screaming."
"Sil-vie!" Severus crooned in a threatening tone which worried the elf not one jot. "What do you mean, 'Just that mad Arithmancy teacher yelling and screaming.'?"
"You're the one that said I was only to get you if one of your pupils needed you. You didn't say anything about howling harridans."
Magic of the Mind
2. "Many happy returns," Neville wished Hermione, leaning around the headmaster to pass her a gift-wrapped box.
Snape gave a derisive snort. "One would think that getting older would have lost its novelty value by the time you reached thirty-five."
"Does that mean you didn't get me a card, Severus?"
"Of course I didn't."
Hermione tore the gift wrap from her present, revealing a box of Honeyduke's most decadent chocolates. "Well, in that case you don't get the dark chocolate espressos. I'll save them for Harry when he comes to visit."
Severus feigned indifference as he sipped his tarry black coffee. "And you can buy your own wine for our next DVD evening."
Hermione grimaced and narrowed her eyes. Spinners End wasn't the most salubrious of venues, but a plasma television and a DVD player could make up for a lot, and Severus's well-stocked wine cellar generally made up for even more. As far as she knew, she was the only person he allowed to visit when he wasn't there, though he claimed that was only in self-defence, since he refused to watch her 'overly sentimental confections'. She was about to tell him where he could stick his sinfully delicious elf-made wine, when something crashed into her bacon and eggs.
3. Severus emerged from the archway, immediately taking in the back of the winged statue just feet away as well as the trail of bloody droplets that led up the marble stairway to the upper floors.
He scanned the centre of the stairwell, unable to see the precocious Miss Granger but quickly spotting the youngest Weasley boy.
The boy looked down into the space below, his wand trained on some opponent only he could see. The right side of his face was a mask of blood, but more startling still was the boy's look of wide-eyed unblinking horror.
Rushing footsteps from above were followed by Minerva's brogue. "Mr Weasley, what is the meaning of this commotion?"
Both boy and man turned instinctively to the source of the voice.
Minerva peered over the banister, dressed in a red tartan dressing gown with her black hair a loose curtain to the middle of her back.
Severus felt a touch on his sleeve, no heavier than a strong breeze. The world around him blurred into swiftly moving, abstract shapes. His stomach swooped as if he had cartwheeled off a cliff. His inner ear told him up was a concept as meaningless as north at the magnetic pole, and vertigo sent him tumbling forward onto his knees, his hands clutching at the damp grass on which he rested, as if his grip alone could stop him drifting off into space.
An Angel's Touch
4. "If you come through to the kitchen, I'll make some coffee before I have a look at your notes."
She turned away, her hair swishing against the small of her back, her jeans-clad hips swaying as she threaded her way along the hallway between stacks of boxes.
Severus found himself watching. "I really don't see the need for that," he protested, reminding his brain that it was there for various reasons, none of which involved wondering if Granger's sweater would feel as soft to the touch as it appeared.
"Then you haven't seen me before my morning coffee," Hermione answered with saccharine sweetness. "I could make you tea, if you prefer."
"I mean that there is no reason for you to go through my notes," Severus responded a little more acerbically. "Whilst I may not have specialised in Arithmancy, I have been using it to derive new Potions since before you were born. I assure you that there are no errors in my calculations."
"And I thought I had been assigned to collaborate with you because your Potion doesn't work?" There was an acid edge to her words this time, though she filled the cordless kettle and settled it on its base before she turned to face her guest.
Severus's eyes narrowed and met hers glare for glare, but they didn't fail to take in the noticeable rise and fall of her breasts. There were definite benefits to getting the woman annoyed. "There is a difference between something that is incomplete and something which is a failure, Miss Granger."
"Yes, Mr Snape, there is. And you would be well advised to remember that in this case, the difference is me and I am no longer a schoolgirl." She turned away again, lifting down a large cafetière from a cupboard and then taking a storage tin and a plastic carton of milk from the fridge. "Tea or coffee?"
The Granger Solution
5. "Look, Sevvie! Auntie Poppy has some nice pink bandages so you can have a pretty cast. She'll straighten everything out, and then she'll wrap it up so that it heals up just right."
"Now, Miss Snape," Poppy said, setting down her tray of equipment. "Do you know how often I've patched your daddy up and put him back together?"
"No," the little girl shook her head, momentarily distracted.
"Well, neither do I," Poppy answered. "Far too many times to count. And he never ever cried."
Severina sucked in a deep breath through her blocked nose and blinked a couple of times. "Never?"
"Never. Except on the day that you were born, and that's a different sort of crying."
The doors of the hospital wing were thrown aside as if by a hurricane, and Severus Snape billowed his way to his daughter's bedside.
6. "If you hadn't left me dying in that cesspit, I might have trusted you enough to skip the Obliviate."
"I came back," Hermione sighed, dropping back to her heels as her heart sank.
"You never even checked for a pulse."
She actually looked as if she regretted her neglect. All semblance of defiance was instantly erased from her demeanour, her shoulders rounded and her windblown hair hiding her face. She quivered, and Severus swept off his outer robes and swirled them around her shoulders.
Her head jerked up in surprise, and he pretended not to notice the unnatural brightness of her eyes.
He slid a hand under her chin and tilted her head back. "Is it too much to ask that you let me keep the life I've built for myself?" he whispered.
"Asking was all you had to do."
Severus was tempted to justify himself by pointing out that she had never kept anything from her accomplices before, but he curbed his tongue. He let his hand drop from the softness of her skin, presenting her with a clean monogrammed handkerchief before he turned as if to appreciate the vista.
He waited until she stepped into his peripheral view to face her again. "Your friends have made it plain they disapproved of my sentence. I feared you might feel compelled to contact them immediately."
"I learned to think for myself after I left Hogwarts."
"I had noticed," he admitted.
The Most Extraordinary Society of Potioneers
7. Severus's body hung suspended in mid-air, pulled taut in a blasphemous imitation of the relics in the Riddle private chapel. White flesh and crimson blood were visible through rents in his once fastidiously perfect clothing. He gritted his teeth, resisting as the force of Voldemort's will tilted his head down until Severus was forced to meet his gaze.
Voldemort cackled with laughter as vision followed on vision.
"What is it, master?" squeaked the man at his side, his gaze flicking eagerly from Voldemort to Snape.
Voldemort flicked his wand and Severus crashed face-first to the floor. "He is broken."
A young woman with wild, brown hair cried out in delight over a squirrel stealing scraps from their picnic.
The couple walked precipitous cobbled streets, hand-in-hand, Hermione dragging him into a pine-panelled restaurant.
That same woman, dressed in white satin, bouquet in hand as she traversed the aisle of an empty church.
Voldemort's eyes narrowed. Strands of red light flew from the end of his wand like a magical cat-o-nine-tails, and came crashing down on Severus's back as he swayed on all fours. "Come now, Severus! Did you really think you could marry the Mudblood and hide it from me?"
Thorns Amongst the Blooms
8. "You say this first incident happened whilst you were sleeping. Do you happen to remember if you were dreaming? There may be a connection between that and the form the magic took."
Severus kept his eyes on Bowie, ignoring the tweed-suited Healer who was sitting behind his desk. Another benefit of living in a wizarding village was having the magical equivalent of a GP on hand without having to go to Saint Mungo's. Of course, unlike Saint Mungo's it wasn't free, but Severus had no intention of Apparating anywhere until he got to the bottom of this problem. He had no desire to find himself overshooting and ending up in the English Channel. "Of course there's a connection, you dunderhead," he snapped. He paused, remembering Lily, her head thrown back as her body spasmed over him, illuminated in a flash of lightning from the other side of the ivy curtain which hid them both from the world. "It was raining in my dream," he admitted.
"And this dream disturbed you?" the Healer asked.
"Not at the time. No."
"But it did when you woke up?"
Severus sighed. "The water everywhere disturbed me when I woke up. The dream was about an old girlfriend. It happens quite often. It's actually the most pleasant of my recurring dreams and the only disturbing thing is that it isn't real. The dream is not the cause."
9. The dust sheet turned out to be deceptively easy to deal with, no more than the reversal of a simple sticking charm.
"Good grief, man!" shrieked the mirror. "What on earth are you wearing? Those are witches' robes, and they're brown! Brown, I say. Have you been playing truth or dare with that Malfoy blighter or something?"
"They are not brown. They're russet, and they're witches' robes because I am a witch!"
"Yes, I can tell," Snape sneered, his voice suddenly softer and more threatening as if he regretted being shocked into the earlier outburst. "That's why your cleavage is shown off to such fine advantage and you have an Adam's apple. As a Potion Master you can be as picky as you like about the difference between cerulean and turquoise. However, as a man, when it comes to clothes, brown is brown and always will be. Ask any straight wizard, and, no, that doesn't include the albino fop. This is why old Toby kicked seven shades of shit out of you when you put that Hobgoblins poster up in your bedroom and bought green nail varnish."
The figure in the mirror tilted its head from side to side as if trying to get a better view. "You aren't wearing nail varnish, are you?" He tugged at the neckline of his robes, as if to conceal the small patch of fine black hairs that was visible where the neckline of the dress gaped due to Snape's lack of breasts. "I thought I had at least another twenty years before you had your mid-life crisis, and I was rather hoping it would take the form of a disposable redhead or three. You know, shag them in rapid succession, maybe marry one, realise they'll never compare to the Ice Maiden, betray them the way you did her or just scare them off by being you, and then they take all your money and the last vestiges of your dignity and leave you even more of a broken shell of a man than you were.
"It looks as if you skipped all the fun parts and just threw your pride to the giant squid."
In a Glass, Darkly
10. Hours later, the magpie watched from the deep shadows of the Forbidden Forest as Bouncy made her way back to the castle gates with Monster Man at her side this time. He shifted his weight from one leg to the other as he contemplated diving at the overgrown transgressor, but dusk was falling. He knew better than to show himself so near to the castle after dark. The hooting birds would tear him to pieces given half a chance unless he called on his human's help, and he had no intention of doing that.
No, he would content himself with watching for now and save an attack as a last resort if Monster Man were to attempt to preen the bouncy one, or, even worse, to sing to her.
His human's last mate had died many seasons earlier, and though magpies paired for life, the bird found it puzzling that his human had not chosen a new mate from the young adults. Any lone magpie would have flocked to the annual marriage meetings to find a female with shiny plumage, bright eyes and an alluring grace in flight.
Having found such a female he would sing for her, and if his song was pleasing to her she would become his mate for the rest of their lives. They would share a nest and raise many fledglings, who in turn would help raise the following year's chicks, but never again, unless his mate died and he was forced to take a new one, would that male sing.
His human disdained the marriage meets, but the magpie knew, even if his human didn't, that he had chosen his new mate.
To Catch a Thief