First time

Snape in the Muggle world

Chapter 27

Snape in the Muggle world

Nearly two months had gone by since Snape’s unexpected decision to actually acknowledge the existence of something as contemptible as the customs of St Valentine’s Day, and still his roses looked as though they’d just been plucked. Elizabeth figured he must have put some kind of charm on them, and silently marvelled at his thoughtfulness. Come to think of it, there were actually quite a lot of things concerning Snape that she simply couldn’t help but marvel at lately, a classic example being that one day he had suddenly announced that he had finished reading Ten Little Niggers, whereas the murderer had already been known to him two-thirds through the book. Needless to say, Jane was deeply impressed by this finding, and immediately insisted on sending Snape another book. Snape, surprisingly, didn’t seem to mind, and soon let her know that the murderer in Sparkling Cyanide was probably even more predictable than his predecessor in Ten Little Niggers. To Elizabeth’s great amusement, Jane’s view of Snape had changed rather drastically after that, and the insult ‘greasy git’ had permanently left her vocabulary. Snape, meanwhile, seemed to have developed something of a passion for murder mysteries.

Despite these pleasant exceptions, however, there were still areas where he failed to surprise completely, and his attitude towards the issue of Easter fell into this category without question. Just as Elizabeth had expected, he strictly refused to even consider Grandma’s invitation to visit the Woodhouse family during the upcoming spring break, claiming that if, by any chance, Dumbledore’s only reason for continuously delaying their interrogation rested in an insufficient amount of proof, then the day the two of them coincidentally requested a leave during the very same holiday would be the day they could start digging their grave. Not to mention the fact that Snape had never asked for a leave in his entire life.

As much as Elizabeth hated to admit it, inwardly she knew that Snape’s argument definitely had a certain degree of logic in it, and so, even though her personal opinion of Dumbledore’s behaviour somewhat differed from Snape’s, it wasn’t long before she reluctantly assented to write her grandmother a letter informing her that Snape, unfortunately, was too afraid of Dumbledore’s wrath to wage such a reckless venture, which inevitably meant that she would be coming alone. Little did she know that when it came to her grandmother, even the inevitable could still be averted.

Several days after Elizabeth had sent her letter and just before the beginning of the holidays, both she and Snape were suddenly requested to make their appearance in Dumbledore’s office, which, despite there being absolutely no indication as to the reason of this strange biding, immediately caused the couple the expect the worst. They had no choice but to obey the Headmaster’s wish, however, and so it was with a heavy heart that they eventually set off towards the man’s sanctuary to find out exactly what he wanted.

“Maybe it’s not what we both think it is,” stated Elizabeth as they slowly climbed the stairs leading to the second floor. “Maybe Dumbledore had asked all the teachers to come, not just the two of us.”

“If that were the case, then the meeting would have taken place in the staff-room,” said Snape passively.

“Oh ... right.” Elizabeth fell silent, unable to come up with any further theories explaining Dumbledore’s request that didn’t feature an accusation of a student/teacher relationship. Suddenly she was no longer as certain of the man’s benevolence as she had been only a day or two ago, and it didn’t take long before her imaginative mind began to generate the most horrible directions their meeting with Dumbledore could possibly take. She immediately felt a pang of guilt; it would, after all, be entirely her fault if Snape had to go through something like this. Maybe...

“Maybe we really should have left it until after graduation,” she continued her thoughts aloud. “I must’ve been completely out of my mind to have pushed you into this. If anything happens to you, I’ll never-”

“Enough, Elizabeth,” said Snape, still in that strangely detached tone. “Now is not the time to bring such matters up.”


“But nothing. You should know by now that some things are simply too good to last.”

Elizabeth sighed; it seemed quite obvious to her that Snape had already given up all hope, meaning that any attempts at a conversation with him would currently lead nowhere. It was therefore in silence that the two of them eventually reached the stone gargoyle guarding the entrance to Dumbledore’s office, which Snape promptly set in motion by muttering the correct password. Elizabeth threw him a fleeting glance as he waited for the wall behind the gargoyle to spring apart, and noticed that he looked incredibly tense, despite doing his best to give off an impression of complete calmness. She suddenly felt an irresistable urge to do something – anything – to comfort him, to make him, at least for a moment, forget what was coming, and so, after first making sure that there was nobody around, she took a tentative step closer and quietly said: “Severus, I ... I know this will probably sound corny, but ... I love you.” It was only now that Snape turned to face her, and their eyes locked. “Whatever happens...” she made a vague gesture towards the spiral staircase “ there.”

Snape said nothing, but he didn’t need to – his eyes spoke for him. They were full of anxiety, and despair, and sadness, and, most of all, love. And then, as if in a daze, he suddenly took one of Elizabeth’s hands in both of his, which were incredibly cold, and for a moment he just held it, almost as though it symbolized the last shred of hope he had left, before, at last, he seemed to realize what he had done and abruptly let go. A second later, he was already about to step onto the spiral staircase, motioning for Elizabeth to follow him.

The ride up to Dumbledore’s office only took a moment, and before Elizabeth realized what was happening, Snape had already knocked on the door.

“Come in!” called Dumbledore’s cheerful voice from the inside.

Snape threw Elizabeth a quick glance over his shoulder, possibly to reassure himself that she was still there, then pushed the door open and stepped inside. Elizabeth quickly followed, only barely restraining herself from jumping ten feet in the air when the door suddenly closed behind her with a mighty bang. She instantly felt trapped, but did her best to ignore it as she accepted Dumbledore’s offer to take a seat and sank down into one of the two squashy armchairs standing opposite the Headmaster’s desk. Snape had already claimed the other.

“Tea? Biscuits? Lemon Drop?” chirped Dumbledore, standing up behind his desk and levitating an old and valuable-looking tea-set from one of the cupboards lining the office walls.

Snape firmly shook his head, and Elizabeth hastily followed his example. Dumbledore only shrugged, and sybaritically poured a cup for himself. Then, after taking an excessively long time with adding the milk and sugar, he finally turned his attention back to his two nervous companions.

“You might be wondering why I have called you here today,” he began slowly, taking a sip of tea before continuing. “Well, let me enlighten you. You see, a certain fact has come to my attention ... a fact concerning the two of you.” He gave his two guests a piercing look. “You still cannot see where I am heading?”

Elizabeth tried to arrange her expression into something closely resembling neutral, and, out of the corner of her eye, noticed Snape doing the same.

“Ah well, never mind,” smiled Dumbledore, extracting a biscuit out of a jar on his desk and chewing on it thoughtfully. It was only when he had completely devoured it that he finally went on: “The information that has reached my ears is this: apparently, there is something more going on between the pair of you than meets the eye, something you do not wish the outside world to know.” He took another sip of tea. “Perhaps it wouldn’t be too much to say that you are – ah – romantically involved with each other.” He surveyed the couple in front of him over his half-moon spectacles, looking almost as though he was X-raying them. “Do you have anything to say to that?”

Elizabeth glanced over at Snape, who was staring unblinkingly at the biscuit jar, obviously pondering over the wisest thing to say. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, his gaze travelled over to the Headmaster, and he said, in a voice that was completely steady: “Only that it is true.”

“I see,” nodded Dumbledore, his smile quickly fading. “And you did this even though you knew how most schools deal with student/teacher relationships?”

“Yes,” said Snape firmly.

“So I presume you are prepared to face the consequences, now that your little secret has been revealed?”

“I am.”

“You too, Elizabeth?” asked Dumbledore solemnly, transferring his penetrating gaze to the Ravenclaw.

Elizabeth opened her mouth to reply, but Snape was quicker.

“I suggest you leave the girl out of this, Headmaster,” he said quietly. “Punish me in any way you please, but it would be a great waste to ruin the life of someone as young as Miss Woodhouse.”

He fell silent, while Elizabeth stared at him in shock. How could he possibly say such a thing? It was, after all, she – and nobody else – who was to blame for the enormous mess they had got themselves into, and yet Snape was still trying to protect her by taking all the rap. Well, she wasn’t going to allow that. If Snape was going to be punished in any way, so was she – she would make sure of that.

Then again, maybe not, considering the threatening look she noticed Snape give her just then, clearly indicating that she was expected to stay quiet this time ... or else.

Not even trying to imagine what the ‘or else’ might possibly be, Elizabeth quickly shifted her gaze back to Dumbledore, who was currently busy nibbling on another biscuit and seemingly pondering over Snape’s earlier suggestion. Finally, he stuffed the last remains of the biscuit into his mouth and glanced up, nodding.

“Very well, then,” he declared. “I agree it would indeed be rather cruel to ruin the career of our promising young teacher here, who, I am sure, will be able to learn from her mistake even without punishment.” He gave Elizabeth an expectant look, as if to ask ‘Won’t you?’, and the Ravenclaw gave a reluctant nod. Apparently satisfied, Dumbledore turned to Snape. “Severus, on the other hand, whom, at his advanced age, one would have expected to have more sense than to start a relationship with one of his students, will apparently need a more forcible reminder of how he is to treat the young ladies at this school. His punishment will therefore be...” Dumbledore took yet another sip of tea, clearly only to prolong the maddening suspense that hung in the air “ accompany Elizabeth when she goes home for the Easter holidays.”

Elizabeth stared at him for a moment or two, not quite sure whether he was serious or not, then burst out laughing. All her previous nervousness was suddenly gone, almost as if it drifted away with the giggles. Snape, however, was still looking tense, while regarding Dumbledore with a mixture of disbelief and suspicion.

“I beg your pardon?” he said finally.

Dumbledore beamed at him. “Is anything unclear?”

Snape, for once in his life, looked as though he wasn’t quite sure what to say. Normally this would have brought Elizabeth some sort of perverse satisfaction, but seeing as this time she felt more sorry for him than anything else, she quickly decided to take pity on him and help him out.

“No, I think it’s all as clear as daylight,” she said with a smile. “I suppose my grandmother wrote you a letter, didn’t she?”

Dumbledore answered with an even greater smile. “Indeed she did. She asked me to be so kind as to convince Severus that I really did not mind in the least whether he had a relationship with her granddaughter or not, and that it would therefore be perfectly fine if he spent the Easter holidays in her company. Naturally I could not refuse such an urgent request.”

“The act you so convincingly put up at the beginning, however, was obviously your idea,” muttered Snape, who seemed to have finally regained his wits.

“Oh yes,” confirmed Dumbledore, looking thoroughly pleased with himself. “An old man needs to have some fun once in a while, don’t you agree? And you two represented such perfect victims...”

“You really can be quite childish sometimes, Headmaster,” said Snape primly.

To Elizabeth’s not-so-big surprise, Dumbledore looked as though he had just been paid an enormous compliment. “There is an inner child in all of us,” he said cryptically. “Sad are the lives of those who can no longer bring it to the surface.”

He threw a pointed look at Snape, whose expression clearly indicated that he considered the Headmaster officially ready for a long stay at St Mungo’s. Elizabeth decided it was high time for her to step in.

“Um, sorry to interrupt, but I think we might still have a bit of problem,” she said timidly. “It’s of course all very well that you had absolutely no trouble accepting our relationship, but what about the other teachers? Won’t some of them be scandalized when they find out?”

“Ah yes, I have already thought of that,” smiled Dumbledore. “It is, of course, true that you have been of age for quite some time, and that most of the teachers at this school already consider you as their colleague, but I would still think it advisable for you to follow your original plan and wait until graduation before you let the information about your relationship become public knowledge. And as far as the Easter holidays are concerned, you need not to worry – I will naturally do my best to provide an appropriate excuse for your suspicious collective departure.” He stood up. “Now, off you go. I daresay you both still have quite a bit of packing to do.”

“Of course,” nodded Elizabeth, also getting to her feet. “Thank you, Headmaster.”

Snape, who was already standing beside his armchair and looking only too eager to leave, merely bowed, and led the way out of Dumbledore’s office without a single word. It was only when he and Elizabeth had reached the safety of the outside corridor that he finally spoke.

“I sometimes wonder why the man had not been sorted into Slytherin,” he declared, the tone of his voice making it quite clear that he had meant his words as a compliment.

“Yes, he had us both completely fooled, didn’t he?” Elizabeth agreed absently, her mind already on other things, namely a certain episode in Dumbledore’s office which she simply couldn’t leave uncommented. And so, after a moment or two of deciding how exactly she should word her thoughts, she looked Snape right in the eye and said: “Severus, I have to thank you. That chivalrous attempt to protect me back there...” she waved her hand in the direction of the stone gargoyle which had just snapped back into place “...that was very sweet of you. Even though I didn’t deserve it in the least.”

Snape only nodded, once again looking somewhat taken aback by the fact that somebody was actually thanking him. Elizabeth made a mental note to try and do it more often.

The first day of the Easter holidays arrived before Elizabeth knew it, and sooner than she could say ‘Portkey’, she and Snape could once again be found in Dumbledore’s office, both wearing Muggle clothes (much to Snape’s displeasure, although personally Elizabeth thought that he looked rather good in his black shirt and trousers) and both pressing their fingers against an old, chipped tea-cup. Dumbledore himself was standing a few feet away, looking even more cheerful than he usually did.

“Well? Are you both ready?” he asked finally, and, after receiving two impatient nods in response, began a slow countdown. “Three ... two ... one ... enjoy your holiday!”

Elizabeth, who had never travelled via Portkey before, was somewhat shocked when she felt a sudden jerk just behind her navel lift her swiftly off the ground, and she quickly sought out Snape’s shoulder for support. Fortunately, the dizzy transfer didn’t last long, and so only a few seconds later, Elizabeth once again felt her feet hit solid ground. Only somewhat harder than she had expected, and so were it not for Snape, who had caught her just in time, she would have surely toppled over.

“Thank you,” she muttered, shakily trying to stand up on her own. “I ... I think I can manage now.” Finally succeeding in getting her legs to listen to her, she gave Snape an accusing look. “Why didn’t anybody tell me just how horrid this form of travel was?”

“With any luck, you will most likely never have to use it again,” said Snape encouragingly. Or as close to encouraging as somebody like Snape could get, anyway.

“As if Apparition was any better,” sighed Elizabeth, feeling an unpleasant jolt in her stomach as she remembered exactly why she and Snape had Portkeyed themselves to a certain site in London instead of going straight to her house in the first place: she was, at long last, going to take her Apparition tests. Although, now that she thought about it, she was no longer sure whether she hadn’t been somewhat hasty. Maybe if she put it off for a couple more weeks, got a little more training...

“Oh, Severus, I’m so nervous!” she exclaimed desperately.

“A typical state before a test,” said Snape matter-of-factly, “which you will most probably be late for if, instead of trying to stress yourself even further, you do not take an immediate leave.”

Elizabeth glanced at her watch. “Oh my god, you’re right!” she cried and, with one last anxious look in Snape’s direction, dashed away, leaving the Potions master to watch her retreating form with a mixture of fondness and amusement.

A little over an hour later, however, she was once again back at Snape’s side, appearing out of thin air with a loud crack and yelling “I’ve done it! I passed!” at the top of her lungs.

“Well, that much is obvious,” said Snape with a half-smirk, half-smile, allowing himself to be pulled into a tight hug but quickly breaking free when he noticed some curious passers-by turn around to goggle at them. “Now, unless you want to dawdle around here for the rest of the day, I suggest you give your newly obtained skill some further practice and Apparate us both to your villa, seeing as, out of the two of us, you are the only one who knows its exact location.”

“So does that mean you actually trust me not to splinch us somewhere along the way?” grinned Elizabeth, feeling as though she had passed the Apparition tests all over again. After all, there were probably not many people whom Snape would dare entrust with something as delicate as the Apparition of his person to a fairly distant location.

Snape returned her grin with another smirk. “I think I will take the risk.”

Needless to say, in the end Elizabeth performed the Apparition without a hitch, and so within seconds she and Snape found themselves standing on the Woodhouse’s front porch, with all of their body parts still safely in place. Unsurprisingly, Snape looked positively relieved to have the transfer behind him; Elizabeth, however, still appeared somewhat anxious, although for a different reason altogether.

“I’m really not sure whether this was such a good idea,” she admitted finally, staring nervously at the quiet house before her.

“As much as I agree with that opinion,” said Snape, his voice carrying a trace of suspicion, “I do have to wonder why you would say such a thing to begin with. Is there perhaps something you have not told me?”

Elizabeth gazed guiltily at the ground. “Not really,” she said, after a moment of silence. “I’m just not sure whether my parents will approve of my unusual choice of partner.”

Snape’s eyes narrowed. “Do you mean to tell me,” he said slowly, the suspicion in his voice becoming more and more pronounced, “that your parents have not been informed of my arrival? That ... what exactly did you write to them?”

“Only ... only that I would be bringing my new boyfriend,” peeped Elizabeth. “I wanted the rest to be a surprise.”

Snape, it seemed, was having quite a lot of trouble controlling himself by now, and Elizabeth couldn’t help but wonder whether he had used the well-tried procedure of counting to ten before he finally responded. “Perhaps Dumbledore was not exaggerating at all when he called this trip a punishment,” he stated resignedly and, throwing Elizabeth an impatient look, added: “Now, do you think you can ring that doorbell on your own or do you need me to do it for you?”

“I think I’ll manage on my own,” muttered Elizabeth, reluctantly moving towards the door to do as she was asked.

Thirty seconds later, the door was flung open by her somewhat flushed-looking mother, who, judging by the discarded apron lying on the little table in the hall, had obviously just been preparing lunch.

“Why, hello!” she exclaimed as soon as she saw who her visitor was, immediately pulling Elizabeth into a bone-breaking hug. “I must say you’re a little early, but no matter; if you give me a hand, lunch will be ready in no time.” At last she released her choking grip and, peering curiously around, asked: “Now, how about that mysterious boyfriend of yours? Is he here?”

Giving a nervous nod, Elizabeth stepped aside, while Snape, who had until then been keeping well out of Mrs Woodhouse’s line of vision, moved over to get the greetings over and done with.

“Good morning, Mrs Woodhouse,” he said tensely, and – just as tensely – stretched out his hand for Elizabeth’s mother to shake.

Contrary to Elizabeth’s expectations, Mrs Woodhouse recovered remarkably fast: it took barely three seconds before her dumbfounded expression gave way to a forced smile as she grabbed the offered hand and shook it heartily.

“Good morning, Mr – er – Snape, was it?” she chirped, taking no notice of Elizabeth elbowing Snape in the ribs at these words. Snape, however, didn’t seem to take the hint and merely nodded. “Nice to have you here,” went on Mrs Woodhouse, stepping back into the hall and motioning for the couple to follow her. “Come in, come in ... oh, and here’s my husband. Henry, do you remember Elizabeth’s Professor, Mr Snape?”

Elizabeth’s father, who had just entered the hall from the living room with a look of utter confusion on his face, quickly shifted his gaze from his wife to Elizabeth, then to Snape, and then back to Elizabeth, looking very much as though he wanted to ask: ‘Is he the boyfriend, then?’

Sensing his quandary, Elizabeth promptly answered with a slight nod, which obviously seemed to be all that Mr Woodhouse needed, for he immediately said: “Of course I remember. How do you do, Professor Snape?” and went to shake the Potions master’s hand.

Mrs Woodhouse settled for watching the pair for a moment or two, before suddenly taking a perplexed look around and exclaiming: “Oh, but haven’t you brought any luggage? Aren’t you staying?”

Elizabeth smiled and tapped her pocket. “We have both shrunk our luggage, Mum,” she explained. “We’ll go and unpack after lunch. Oh, and as for Wilma – we thought it’d be better if we left both our owls at Hogwarts.”

Mrs Woodhouse gave her daughter a look clearly stating that conveniences such as luggage-shrinking would probably always remain beyond her reach, whereupon she spun around and swiftly led the way out of the hall and into the kitchen, with Elizabeth trailing slowly behind. Snape and Mr Woodhouse had meanwhile moved off into the living room.

“I simply cannot believe my eyes,” declared Mrs Woodhouse as soon as she and Elizabeth sat down at the kitchen table to cut up some more vegetables for the half-finished salad standing on the counter. “When you wrote that you would be bringing your new boyfriend, I naturally thought that you had finally found yourself somebody your own age, but never in a thousand years would I have imagined that ... what on earth did you do to him to make him suddenly decide that he wanted to start a relationship with you? Didn’t you once tell me that he hated you?” A look of panic crossed Mrs Woodhouse’s already agitated face. “You are not pregnant, are you?”

Elizabeth rolled her eyes. “No, of course not. And I didn’t do anything to him, either. I only gave him a little push after I found out that, in reality, he was only pretending to hate me to disguise his true feelings for me.”

“So ... you think he does actually love you?” asked Mrs Woodhouse sceptically, attacking the cucumber she was currently slicing as if it were the cause of all her frustration. “From what I’ve seen, he doesn’t bother to show it much, does he?”

“No,” agreed Elizabeth, who, unlike her mother, was handling her vegetables with complete (although somewhat forced) calmness, “but that’s definitely not because he doesn’t love me. He’s just not used to displaying his emotions; he thinks it’s something to be ashamed of.” She smiled. “I’d say he’s getting better, though; all he needs is more time.”

Mrs Woodhouse had nothing to say to this, but from the fierce way she continued cutting up the cucumber Elizabeth gathered that it was only a matter of time before she’d come up with another offensive question. And she was right.

“He is going to sleep in the guest bedroom, I hope?” the lady in question barked suddenly, startling Elizabeth so much that she nearly cut off her finger.

“Well, of course he is,” she retorted, getting more and more fed up with her mother’s interrogation by the minute. “Where else would he sleep?”

“How should I know?” said Mrs Woodhouse bitingly. “Perhaps you’re used to sleeping together.”

“No, we’re not,” Elizabeth ground out, her self-control going slowly but steadily down the drain. “We’re not that far yet.” Although, now that she thought about it, she suddenly realized that she rather wished they were. Not that she couldn’t live without it, of course, but when she pictured the feel of Snape’s bare skin against hers, her lips planting soft kisses all over his pale body, Snape’s eyes glazing over with desire as he-

Perhaps it was lucky that the doorbell rang at that very moment, because had Elizabeth gone any further in her musings, she would’ve surely burst into tears. Not only because at that moment she felt absolutely positive that her fantasies would always remain nothing but mere fantasies, but also because her own mother was deliberately failing to support her. Yes, there was no doubt that she would most likely accept her choice in the end, albeit grudgingly, but did she really have to make her endure the journey to hell and back before she would finally do so? How many more tantalizing questions would she have had to answer had she not fled the kitchen to seek out the fugitive safety of the hall?

Wisely deciding to quit this particular train of thought while she still could, Elizabeth hastily pulled herself together, took a deep breath, and shuffled off to open the door. Unsurprisingly, the person she found standing behind it was none other than her grandmother, who, as soon as she passed over the necessary greetings, immediately lowered her usually loud voice and, with a twinkle in her eye that suspiciously resembled Dumbledore’s, asked: “So, how are things between you and Severus? Was he too put out when he found out he had to come?”

“Not really,” said Elizabeth hollowly. “I’d even say that at the moment he’s more content than I am.”

Her grandmother raised an eyebrow. “Well, that certainly sounds serious. What happened?”

Who happened, more like,” muttered Elizabeth. “My mother happened – she doesn’t seem to approve of my choice at all. You should have heard those spiteful remarks of hers: how she doubts that Severus loves me because he doesn’t seem to be showing it, how she hopes that he would sleep in the guest bedroom, how-”

“Now, now, I wouldn’t worry about that if I were you,” said her grandmother comfortingly. “Your mother simply wants what is best for you, and so after she comes to learn that you and Severus really are as happy a couple as can be, I am sure she will change her mind and accept him.”

“I know that,” sighed Elizabeth, “but I’ll probably go crazy before then.”

“Oh, now, do you really think Severus would let you?” smiled the old lady mischievously, but then her smile slowly faded and was replaced instead by something very close to impatience. She adjusted her handbag, looked around, as if searching for something, and then finally said: “Now, I suggest we go and sit down somewhere, so that you can tell me all about how you two actually got together.”

Elizabeth shot her a pained look. “Couldn’t that wait?” she asked pleadingly. “I promise to tell you some other time, but for today I’ve had enough questioning about Severus to last me a lifetime. So please, if you want to do me a favour, don’t bring the subject up unless you absolutely have to, especially not during lunchtime. I daresay my mother will take care of all the unwelcome questions on her own.”

To her great surprise and delight, however, Mrs Woodhouse did no such thing. On the contrary: during the whole meal she spoke barely a word (although whether she was too upset to speak, too afraid of Snape to speak, or whether she simply didn’t want to cause embarrassment wasn’t quite clear), and so it was only thanks to Elizabeth’s grandmother, who soon launched into a long series of questions concerning the events of the final battle, that the conversation was kept at an acceptable level. Even if it was mostly Elizabeth who provided the greater part of the answers (taking extra care not to slip and mention her close enconter with death, which, enlightened by her previous experience with her mother and grandmother, she had so far been carefully avoiding in all her letters home), seeing as Snape seemed completely entranced by his plate and rarely uttered sentences that counted more than one syllable.

By the time Mrs Woodhouse had brought dessert, however, even the seemingly endless supply of questions that Elizabeth’s grandmother usually had in store ran dry, which suddenly caused the dining room to immerge into uncomfortable silence, where the only remaining sound was the occasional clink when somebody’s spoon came into contact with their plate. All in all, the atmosphere could easily be compared to that of a dentist’s waiting room, with most of the people present even wearing the corresponding expression for such a place. It was therefore no wonder that Elizabeth and Snape didn’t hesitate to leave the table as soon as they got the chance, disappearing upstairs long before Elizabeth’s mother could as much as think of raising any objections.

“Well, now I’m sure this visit wasn’t a good idea,” declared Elizabeth as soon as she reached the safety of the first-floor landing, where she was certain nobody from the dining room could possibly overhear her, and started leading the way down the corridor. “Did you see the look my mother kept giving me? I know we were supposed to stay here for almost two weeks, but with the way things are ... this is my room, by the way.”

They had just walked past a plain white door, towards which Elizabeth made a careless gesture, and were now nearing another one, located at the end of the corridor.

“And this,” announced Elizabeth as soon as they reached said door, opening it and feeling a wave of disgust rush over her when she suddenly remembered her mother’s undesired comments about the sleeping arrangements, “this is the guest bedroom. Hope you’ll find it all right.”

Looking somewhat anxious, she hesitantly stepped inside and seated herself on the bed, while Snape took a curious look around. Apparently satisfied with his accommodation, he then pulled his suitcase (which used to be a trunk before Elizabeth, completely ignoring Snape’s protests, decided to somewhat alter its appearance to resemble something a little more Muggle-like) out of his pocket, unshrank it and began to empty some of its contents into the built-in wardrobe opposite the bed.

Elizabeth amusedly watched him take out one black article of clothing after another, before, at last, she remembered her disrupted tirade about the length of their stay and chose to resume it.

“So ... as I was saying earlier,” she went on forcefully, “I think two weeks at this house and in the company of my parents is simply too long. Three or four days maybe, but would you mind too much if we went elsewhere after that?”

Snape made a pause in his unpacking and turned around to look at her. “And where exactly do you suggest we go?” he inquired darkly. “Dumbledore would never forgive us were we to return to Hogwarts.”

“Oh, but there are other places than Hogwarts, aren’t there?” smirked Elizabeth. “How about your manor? Do you think we could possibly go there?”

“I ... would rather not,” said Snape hesitantly. “It is not a particularly pleasant place to visit.”

Elizabeth threw him a suspicious look. “That’s not the real reason why you don’t want to go there, though, is it?”

“Indeed?” said Snape coldly. “So what, according to you, is my real reason, then?”

“Bad memories,” supplied Elizabeth promptly. “You are afraid that the house will stir memories from your childhood that you’d rather forget.”

Snape’s gaze, if possible, turned even colder. “And how, may I ask, did you come up with such an absurd theory?” he asked finally.

“Easily,” said Elizabeth, completely undeterred by Snape’s discouraging attitude. After all, she had long since learned that it was all just an act, put up to make it somewhat harder for her to verify that she was, in fact, right. And although she suspected that Snape knew that she had seen right through him, he still did it; perhaps out of habit, perhaps because he no longer knew how to do it differently. And so she played along, partly because she felt that things could get somewhat awkward if she didn’t, and partly because she had somehow come to enjoy it. “You had a traumatic childhood,” she continued breezily, feeling almost as if she were explaining something to a slightly retarded three-year-old. “You don’t want to return to the place where you grew up. What other conclusion could I have reached?”

Snape didn’t respond immediately to these words, which could only mean that he was planning some sort of nasty counter-attack. And sure enough, when he finally spoke, his eyes were glinting with something very close to triumph.

“Supposing I did agree to take you to Snape manor, however,” he said slowly, as if relishing the ingenuity of his words, “then your famous conclusion would suddenly seem somewhat unjustified, would it not?”

It took all of Elizabeth’s self-control not to smile. How easily Snape could turn his defeat into an impression of victory! He simply had to have the last word, didn’t he? But then again, why not? She would let him enjoy his moment of triumph for all she cared, because as long as it made him happy (and as long as she achieved what she wanted), she was happy as well. And so, after assuring him that he was, of course, right; that her conclusion really would seem completely nonsensical, and after making certain that his agreement to take her to his home hadn’t been strictly theoretical, she proceeded to completely change the subject and ask what on earth he had found to talk about with her father, whom she had always considered a quiet and somewhat boring comapanion.

“And yet he provided me with a very illuminating insight into Muggle medicine,” said Snape, the tone of his voice – much to Elizabeth’s disbelief – almost avid. “He, I believe, works in something called a chemist’s shop, and as such was able to deliver detailed information on the exact composition of some of the more important Muggle medicaments. From what he said, I gathered that the chief ingredients seem to be mostly drugs – codeine or morphium, for instance – while substances common in the wizarding world, such as dragon blood, are not used at all, mainly because Muggles are not even aware fo their existence. Strangely enough, however, they seem to be doing extremely well even without them. Apparently, they have found a number of alternative methods to cure common illnesses, and so while we administer the Pepper-up Potion, Muggles take a pill of ... aspirin, I believe it is called. Its effects are not immediate, of course, but the final result is impressive none the less.”

This time, Elizabeth didn’t even fight the urge to smile. After all, it wasn’t often that she saw Snape speak so ... spontaneously and eagerly, almost to the point of reminding her of a little boy who had just been given a new toy and was now excitedly informing his mother about all the cool stuff it can do. And so, just to prolong that rare moment, she encouraged him to tell her more about what he had learned from her father, and listened fondly to what she had known ever since she was five, but what, coming from Snape, sounded exciting and new.

Fascinating though the subject was, however, it was by no means inexhaustible, and so it happened that after some time Snape eventually returned to his unpacking, while Elizabeth was once again left to ponder over her unfortunate debate with her mother.

“You don’t know how glad I am that you and Dad seem to be getting along so well,” she declared eventually. “If only my mother-”

She didn’t really consider it a good idea to enlighten Snape on what exactly her mother had told her in the kitchen, but for some inexplainable reason she felt the need to arouse his interest to the point where he would ask about it himself. After all, if he all but pried the answer out of her, then her conscience would be relatively clean, and she wouldn’t feel so bad if Snape didn’t take the information well.

Fortunately for her, though, her intention failed miserably, for while Snape did indeed react to her words, the question he asked was somewhat different from what she had expected.

“Speaking of your mother,” he said acridly, “I would be extremely grateful if you did not attempt to break my ribs with your elbow the next time we come to face her. A less painful means of non-verbal communication would have been equally effective ... or, better said, equally ineffective, seeing as it was absolutely impossible for me to determine what exactly it was that you wished me to do.”

“I only wanted you to ask my mother to call you by your first name,” said Elizabeth with a sigh. “It would’ve made a good impression on her, and maybe she would have even thought somewhat differently of you afterwards.” She threw Snape a thoughtful look. “Then again, maybe you could still fix it. If you ask her-”

“I shall do no such thing,” said Snape flatly. “I absolutely refuse to be on a first name basis with a person whom I barely know and whom I do not wish to acquaint myself with any further than I have to. I am not going to go out of my way merely to make an impression. Pleasantries, as you should well know by now, is something I have never believed in, not even with the few people whose appreciation I cared for. Your mother, purely for your information, does not fall into that category.”

“So who does?” inquired Elizabeth, even though she didn’t really care; she simply needed a reason to keep the conversation going so that Snape wouldn’t notice how his words had upset her. She had so hoped that he and her parents would get along, she really had, but it seemed that in the case of her mother she would simply have to keep dreaming.

“Surely it is not so difficult to work out?” said Snape, who obviously wasn’t too eager to give away such a personal piece of information, but nevertheless felt that it would undoubtedly do less harm if he didn’t have to say it himself.

“Isn’t it?” asked Elizabeth doubtfully. Then again, now that she thought about it, maybe it really wouldn’t be so hard... “Well, all right then, I’ll give it a try,” she declared finally. “You just tell me if I’m right or wrong, OK? So, let me see ... your parents, while they were still alive?”

Snape replied with a small nod.

Encouraged, Elizabeth went on. “Dumbledore?”

Another nod.



“Um, Voldemort?”

Snape looked thoughtful. “In a sense, yes,” he admitted finally.

Elizabeth sighed; she was slowly running out of ideas. “Lucius Malfoy?”

Snape shook his head. “I only needed him to trust me. Otherwise I did not care what the man thought of me in the least.”

Having decided that Draco would probably earn a similar answer, Elizabeth found that she was stuck. Who else did Snape respect so much that he would want their appreciation?

“How many more people are there?” she asked finally. “Do I know them at all?”

“Two,” replied Snape without hesitation. “And yes, you know them both.”



“Oh, so ... are they, or were they, teachers at Hogwarts?” asked Elizabeth hopefully, although besides Dumbledore and McGonagall she could currently think of no other suitable candidates.


Now, what was that slight hesitation supposed to mean? Could it possibly be...

Elizabeth’s lips spread into a wicked smile as it finally hit her. “My Grandma?” she drawled, suddenly forgetting all about her problems with her mother and beginning to concentrate fully on her questioning, which was becoming more and more enjoyable by the minute.

Looking as though he expected his confirmation to bring him anything but good, Snape eventually gave a reluctant nod.

Elizabeth’s smile immediately grew even wider, and before she knew what she was doing, she once again found herself asking about Snape’s supposed feelings for her elderly relative.

Snape, naturally, didn’t seem to find the question pleasing at all. “I seem to recall you making a certain promise once,” he said sternly, “involving the fact that you shall refrain from asking me personal questions of this kind in the future. It must have slipped your mind, however.”

Elizabeth sighed; she should have known that Snape would dig out something like that. On the other hand, it once again proved just how superb his memory really was, which Elizabeth simply couldn’t help but admire, even if said memory was often used to her disadvantage. Which, if nothing else, meant that she had already discovered the best way to react in such a situation.

“No, actually, I do remember that promise,” she admitted unwillingly. “I just thought that things have changed since then. Well, it seems I was wrong.”

Apparently, she had managed to strike home with these words, because, for a short moment before he recovered, Snape looked truly hurt. Then, after an unbelievably long time during which he seemed to contemplate how to react, he finally said: “May I ask why you would find the subject of my feelings towards your grandmother so extremely fascinating to begin with?”

“I’m just curious,” replied Elizabeth, wondering whether Snape’s question meant that he was actually considering giving in at last. “Once I find out, I won’t have any reason to mention it ever again,” she added suggestively, just in case.

Once again, Snape remained silent for quite some time before he finally spoke, although what exactly he had been pondering over for so long Elizabeth could only guess.

“I ... admired her,” he enounced, all of a sudden, looking as though the mere words made him sick.

Elizabeth, however, was not exactly satisfied, mainly because – in Snape’s case, at least – the word ‘admire’ could mean practically anything, from something closely approaching love to simple affection. Unfortunately, though, Snape, who had meanwhile turned his attention back to his suitcase, looked anything but prepared to clarify his statement, which inevitably meant that Elizabeth, whether she wanted to or not, would have to settle merely for the scarce information that he had conceded to give her, seeing as it was as clear as daylight that any further questioning would only lead to another bout of temporary deafness. Consequently, she reluctantly decided to return to the previous subject, determined to at least find out the name of the one remaining person who was lucky enough to have made it onto Snape’s list of individuals whose appreciation he strived for. However, it didn’t take long before she realized that mere determination obviously wouldn’t be enough in this case, for no matter how much she strained her mind, the identity of the aforementioned person still seemed to be escaping her.

“Severus,” she announced finally, doing her best not to sound as though she was whining, “I can’t think of anyone.”

“Think harder, then,” said Snape unconcernedly, transferring the last of his clothes into the wardrobe before getting to his feet and turning around to watch the Ravenclaw with a rather annoying air of impatience and expectancy.

Perhaps it was this that had finally set Elizabeth’s mind on the right track, she didn’t really know, but the fact was that she was suddenly quite certain as to who the mysterious person was. Honestly, it was so easy that she marvelled at her own stupidity for not having figured it out earlier.

“It’s ... is it me?” she asked meekly, rapidly losing the confidence she possessed only a moment ago when she noticed the way Snape was looking at her. Was it contempt she saw in his eyes? Had she perhaps been too conceited to think that he would want her appreciation? No, surely not. Upon closer inspection, it looked more as if Snape was simply trying to determine just how much damage he would suffer were he to openly admit that, in reality, Elizabeth was somewhat more important to him than he was usually letting on.

At last, however, he seemed to have reached some sort of conclusion, for his expression changed somewhat, almost as if he were bracing himself against what was to come, whereupon – though not before allowing a few more seconds to pass – he gave a barely recognizable nod.

Elizabeth felt a wave of emotion rush over her. True, were it another person, she would have probably brushed the preceding reaction aside as something of no particular importance, but with Snape, who usually guarded his thoughts and feelings like a precious jewel, a confession of this nature meant almost as much to her as a declaration of love. She therefore rewarded Snape with a grateful smile, then, on a sudden impulse, slid off the bed and went over to give him an affectionate hug. Snape, for once, didn’t seem as surprised by this unexpected act as he usually was, and even, for the first time ever, began to stroke Elizabeth’s hair; tentatively at first, almost as if he were afraid that she would pull away, but getting more confident by the second.

Wondering whether she hadn’t, by some strange accident, been transferred to heaven, Elizabeth couldn’t help but wish for this rare and wonderful moment to last if not forever, then at least a couple more minutes longer, and she also hoped that Snape, encouraged by the experience, would resort to such endearments a little more often from now on. After all, he really could have got somewhat used to being involved in a relationship by now.

Her mind filled with such thoughts, Elizabeth eventually loosened her hold a little and tilted her head upwards, inviting Snape to kiss her. Which he surely would have done, had it not been for Elizabeth’s mother, who was unlucky enough to walk into the room at the very moment their lips touched.

The effect – from the perspective of an outside observer, at least – was truly comical. With a great start, Snape, as though stung by some invisible insect, instantly drew back, his normally pale cheeks suddenly as pink as Elizabeth’s Valentine card. Elizabeth, meanwhile, remained standing where she was, feeling a mixture of anger, disappointment and embarrassement overcome her as she slowly shifted her gaze from Snape to her unfortunate mother, who was now hovering uncertainly near the doorway, obviously at a loss of what attitide to adopt.

As was always the case with her, however, she recovered much more quickly than one would have expected, and soon launched into a declamation that, oddly enough, comprised an apology as well as a hint of an accusation.

“Forgive me for disturbing you,” she prattled, “but I was looking for Elizabeth, and since I didn’t find her in her room, I thought I’d check whether she hadn’t come here. I would’ve knocked, of course, but since the door was wide open, I thought... Well, never mind; what I’ve come to tell you, Elizabeth, is that you’ve got some late Christmas presents downstairs, which we all thought you might like to come and unwrap. You, Mr Snape, can come too, of course,” she added hastily, shooting Snape an uneasy look.

Elizabeth unconsciously followed her example, whereupon she nodded and, with a very meaningful look, told her mother that if she gave them a minute or two, they would be right with her. Her mother, fortunately, took the hint and left the room without further ado, leaving Elizabeth to spend the aforementioned minute or two (or ten) trying to convince Snape that what had just happened was really no big deal, and that, if anything, the incident would only lead her mother to realize that he definitely wasn’t as much of a cold fish as she had originally thought him to be. Unfortunately, though, this didn’t seem to calm Snape any more than saying that he would be thrown out of the house, and so by the time he and Elizabeth arrived in the Woodhouse’s living room for the present unwrapping, he was still looking as though somebody was torturing him. Consequently, Elizabeth found that she couldn’t enjoy her presents nearly as much as she usually did, which eventually led her to, for the second time that day, leave the room at the earliest possible opportunity in order to seek out the relative privacy of the first-floor.

To Elizabeth’s extreme disconcertion and disappointment, Snape didn’t seem to be able to forget the whole episode with her mother so easily, and so while Mrs Woodhouse had indeed fulfilled Elizabeth’s expectations and began to think of Snape in a more favourable manner, Snape himself was now so afraid of repeating the experience from the first day of his stay that, unless Mr and Mrs Woodhouse were at work, he rarely allowed Elizabeth to come any closer to him than within the infamous respectful distance. This, of course, bothered Elizabeth greatly (and not only because she feared that, with such an attitude, Snape could once again stir up her mother’s previous doubts), but since there wasn’t much that she could do about it, she eventually decided to make the best of their stay even as it was. And not without success, either: now that she had her Apparition certificate, she and Snape could be found roaming the streets of London almost every day; trying out various restaurants, theatres, and even cinemas, which Snape, despite his proclamations about movie-watching being an even greater waste of time than listening to music, obviously found deeply fascinating. Then again, it soon became clear that as far as the Muggle world was concerned, Snape was fascinated almost constantly. There was rarely a moment during which he wouldn’t be demanding a detailed explanation of how this or that worked, how it was used, or what it was made of, something which Elizabeth, who was by no means an expert in electrical appliances, naturally found somewhat frustrating. In fact, she often found herself thinking of Snape as an overly curious child, whose questions had somehow come to be so elaborate and complicated that his parents were no longer able to answer them. This, however, definitely didn’t mean that Snape had learnt absolutely nothing during the time he had spent with the Woodhouses. Quite on the contrary: by the end of his stay he knew how to operate the television, VCR, DVD player, telephone, microwave, toaster, kettle, and – despite his initial complaints about the Marilyn Manson posters in Elizabeth’s room making him feel somewhat uncomfortable, as the singer allegedly bore a close resemblance to Voldemort – even Elizabeth’s computer, where he had, during the one time the Ravenclaw had left him at home and gone off to the supermarket (seeing as Snape, like most men, took an instant dislike to shopping of any kind, and was therefore much happier to stay by himself for a while than endure the torture again), easily beaten her high score in Minesweeper. All in all, he was an extremely fast learner, and Elizabeth often wondered whether it was even possible for him to stumble across something that, once given the appropriate training, he wouldn’t actually manage. And so, still under the thumb of this impression of Snape’s genius, she eventually decided to put the man through one last test – by casually suggesting that, as they had now reached the final day of their stay, they didn’t go to a restaurant for once, but instead stayed at home and prepared some lunch themselves.

Snape’s reaction to this plan, however, wasn’t nearly as positive as it could have been. “Well, as long as you feel up to the task, I am certainly not going to stop you,” he stated, preparing to leave the kitchen with the obvious intention of tranferring to the living room to watch TV.

“Well, actually, I rather hoped that you would stay to help me,” said Elizabeth in her sweetest voice. “After all, it’s the last morning we’re spending at this house, so I thought that cooking a meal together would be the perfect way to ... it’ll be fun, don’t worry,” she added hastily, noticing Snape’s expression growing more and more sceptical. Needless to say, this last remark only caused the scepticism to turn into disbelief, accompanied by a small trace of suspicion. Not to mention one of Snape’s typical nipping retorts.

“How you can possibly regard cooking as fun completely exceeds my imagination,” he declared haughtily. “Personally I have always considered the preparation of meals as something that ought to be left to the house-elves to take care of.”

Elizabeth smirked, unable to stop herself from imagining what Hermione would do to Snape if she heard this, but she quickly pushed all such thoughts out of her mind and said: “Yes, but, as you might have noticed, Muggles don’t have house-elves. Therefore, they find cooking their own meals perfectly natural.”

“Which still doesn’t explain why we cannot simply go to a restaurant,” muttered Snape, in a last attempt to elude the undignified activity that Elizabeth had thought up for him.

The blond witch, however, merely smiled; after all, Snape was – unconsciously, of course – playing right into her hands. “Simply because restaurants are full of people,” she replied readily, “whereas I want to be with you alone.”

“I see,” said Snape after a while of thoughtful silence, whereupon he asked, in a tone of fake disgust tinged with indifference: “So, what exactly is it that you are so anxious to poison us with?”

Elizabeth shot him an equally fake look of grievance. “Have some faith in my cooking, won’t you?” she scolded playfully, so happy that Snape didn’t put up as big a struggle before eventually giving in as he usually did that she couldn’t quite find it in herself to feel offended by what he had said. ”And, purely for your information, I’m planning to make vegetable soup, roast chicken and potatoes, and, if we have time, also some fruit salad.”

Strangely enough, this time Snape exceptionally chose to leave Elizabeth’s announcement uncommented; instead he resorted to giving off an aura of quiet suffering mingled with impatience, obviously hoping for Elizabeth to eventually take pity on him and let him be.

To his great misfortune, however, Elizabeth remained firm. “Now, I think I’ll start with the chicken, while you can cut up the vegetables into the soup,” she announced cheerfully, and promptly dove into the fridge, from which she presently emerged with two carrots, a kohlrabi, and some broccoli. These, along with a knife and a cutting board, she ceremoniously handed to Snape, and, with a warning look, told him to kindly desist from using magic, seeing as the mess it sometimes made often took longer to clean than the whole lunch took to make.

Contrary to Elizabeth’s expectations, Snape took these news surprisingly calmly, and set to work without another word. Shrugging, Elizabeth chose to do the same, and moved over to the fridge to take the chicken out of the freezer. She had barely removed it from its bag and put it in the microwave to defrost, however, when Snape proclaimed that he had finished, and asked for some bowl to tip the cut-up vegetables into.

Elizabeth spun around in disbelief; surely it was impossible for somebody to cut up the vegetables as fast as that? Unless...

“I thought I said something about not using magic,” she muttered dissaprovingly, eyeing the almost identical pieces of carrot and kohlrabi and the neat chunks of broccoli while handing Snape a microwave dish to put the vegetables into.

“I know you did,” said Snape smugly, taking the microwave dish and using his knife to tip in the imposing mixture lying on the cutting board.

Elizabeth frowned. “You mean you ... you cut all this up by hand?” she asked uncertainly, gesturing vaguely towards the microwave dish.

“I certainly did,” replied Snape, not without a certain degree of proudness. “Perhaps it had never occurred to you, but the procedure is very similar to that of cutting up potion ingredients, which, as I accentuated several times during our private lessons last year, I also prefer to handle without magic.”

“Oh yes, I think you did say something about magic never being as accurate as a well-trained hand,” agreed Elizabeth, somewhat disappointed by the fact that her plan to finally discover an activity that Snape would find out of his power had, once again, failed, but at the same time pleased that, after finding out that he was good at it, the Potions master no longer seemed to find cooking as contemptible as he did only a couple of minutes ago. Smiling contentedly, Elizabeth immediately decided to put this convenience to some use. “Now,” she said, handing Snape a potato peeler and several potatoes, “since you seem to be so good with vegetables, could I ask you to be so kind as to peel these potatoes for me?”

Snape didn’t seem to have the slightest problem with this request (although he did choose to use the knife again instead of the unfamiliar peeler), and by the time lunch was finished and ready to be served, he had even come to prepare the whole of the fruit salad. Perhaps this was why, in the end, he couldn’t find a single negative thing to say about any of the courses (he wouldn’t really want to criticize his own work, now, would he?), although Elizabeth preferred to think that the real reason for that was that the meal really wasn’t as bad as he had originally feared it to be. And when, after polishing off his second bowl of fruit salad, he eventually declared that perhaps the two of them would live to see the next day after all, it was no longer possible to convince her to think otherwise.

From then on, however, things didn’t go nearly as smoothly; and the disaster was completed at dinner when Mrs Woodhouse, who had, undoubtedly due to Snape’s unusually distanced behaviour towards her daughter, recently come to confirm Elizabeth’s worst fears and reverted to her previous (and not exactly positive) opinion of her surly ‘boyfriend’, suddenly put down her fork and, with a speculative look in Snape’s direction, said: “Pardon me for asking, Mr Snape, but there is something that, as a mother, I feel I have the right to know: do you plan to marry our daughter?”

Snape, it seemed, was caught completely unprepared by this question; for a second or two he just regarded Mrs Woodhouse in a rather shocked and uncomprehending way, before, at last, he shifted his puzzled gaze to Elizabeth, obviously hoping that she would help him out.

Looking into his pleading eyes, Elizabeth couldn’t help but feel sorry for him; after all, it wasn’t often that he looked so helpless, despite there being something decidedly cute about him when he did. And so, although she would have given pretty much anything to hear what he would have to say on the subject of marriage, she eventually tore her eyes away from him and, giving her mother a withering look, said: “Isn’t it a bit early to discuss something like that? We’ve only been together for five months, you know.”

“Just the right time to start talking about marriage,” said Mrs Woodhouse relentlessly. “Your father and I-”

“Mum, just because you got yourself pregnant right at the beginning of your relationship doesn’t mean I have to follow your example and get married at the age of eighteen as well,” said Elizabeth fiercely.

Obviously, this seemed to have hurt Mrs Woodhouse quite a lot, for not only did she decide to drop the debate at that exact moment, but she also remained unusually quiet for all the rest of her daughter’s stay, which, fortunately, lasted only until the following morning, when Elizabeth and Snape were finally leaving the villa for the peace and quiet of Snape’s mansion.

Despite the cold goodbye her mother had put her off with, however, Elizabeth was by no means planning to apologize; after all, it wasn’t she who had started the dispute by trying to embarrass both herself and Snape – a fact her mother would hopefully come to realize once she was given enough time to think it over in peace.

The Apparition of both Elizabeth and himself to the unkempt driveway leading to his house was a trivial matter for somebody as experienced as Snape, although Elizabeth was only too happy to have the transfer over and done with. Apparition was a dangerous process as it was, but when trying to Apparate another person besides yourself, the probability of something going wrong naturally increased even more.

As soon as she recovered her balance and finally raised her eyes towards the majestic building towering before her, however, Elizabeth instantly forgot all about the potential dangers of collective travelling, and simply soaked up every single detail of the enormous house with a barely audible ‘wow’. Coincidentally, ‘wow’ just about described it: a three-storey colossus, with small, dark windows, walls covered with ivy, turrets and chimneys that the architect seemed to have placed rather randomly, and a huge front door with a silver knocker in the shape of a serpent. All in all, a rather ominous sight, although Elizabeth thought that the mansion’s gloomy appearance matched its enigmatic owner only too well.

“Are you quite certain you don’t want to change your mind about staying here?” the man in question asked eventually, bringing Elizabeth from her musings back to reality.

“No, why?” she replied carelessly. “I think the house is cool.”

“From the outside, perhaps,” said Snape, eyeing the house critically, “but otherwise it is in appalling condition. Most of the rooms have not been used since my father’s death.”

“Oh, but you can tell the house-elf to do a little cleaning up, can’t you?” said Elizabeth matter-of-factly. “That is, supposing you have one, although I must admit I’d be greatly surprised if you didn’t.”

“Then I shall spare you such a surprise,” said Snape, looking rather amused, “for, unless he had passed away since my last visit, I do indeed have a house-elf attending to the house.”

Elizabeth responded with a smile, after which she casually asked whether it wouldn’t perhaps be a good idea to actually go inside, rather than spend the rest of their day standing on the doorstep. Snape, it seemed, wasn’t exactly pleased by this suggestion (after all, he appeared to have more than one reason for keeping well clear of his residence, not to mention showing it off to visitors), but eventually he drew his wand and, muttering an incantation that unlocked the front door, briskly entered the house. Elizabeth eagerly followed, and soon found herself in a huge entrance hall, with a grand staircase located right in front of her and dark corridors whose end she could not see stretching on both sides. Once, perhaps, it must have all been very handsome indeed, but now everything lay covered with a thick layer of dust, and every convenient place seemed to be taken up by a fantastically large cobweb.

This was about as far as Elizabeth got with the study of her surroundings, however, for at that very moment there was a loud crack, and both she and Snape were somewhat startled by the appearance of an old, squalid-looking house-elf, who immediately launched into a hurried and rather affected welcome speech.

“Master Snape!” he exclaimed, bowing ceremoniously. “What a pleasure to have you here once again! And with a young lady, too; Marvin cannot express just how happy he is for his master! Shall he go and prepare one of the guest bedrooms for his lovely companion? Or-”

“Yes, a guest bedroom will indeed be needed, thank you, Marvin,” said Snape, rather more quickly than was usual for him. The elf, however, didn’t seem to notice this, and, with another bow and another crack, vanished out of sight.

Elizabeth, on the other hand, observed Snape’s hasty reply with keen interest, and eventually decided that the time had come for a little private talk.

“Severus,” she began uncertainly, only too aware that what she was about to suggest would probably sound incredibly daring, and therefore have only a small chance of success; however, she also knew that merely sitting with one’s arms folded had never brought anyone any closer to their goal than if they didn’t have any goal at all, and so it was with Jane’s favourite saying (‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained’) on her mind that she gradually forced herself to continue. “Don’t you perhaps think it slightly inconvenient to have the house-elf clean up another bedroom, just because of me? Wouldn’t it be decidedly easier if I just slept with you?”

In compliance with her expectations, Snape looked positively taken aback by this question, and his expression had gone through several changes, ranging from shock and incomprehension to thoughtfulness and temptation, before he finally recovered enough to answer.

“I think that would hardly be appropriate, Elizabeth,” he said stiffly, all signs of temptation now irrevocably gone.

“Oh? What makes you think so?” asked Elizabeth, feeling somewhat disappointed by Snape’s negative response but at the same time fully aware that, in a matter such as this one, it would be wholly unwise to push the man into anything he obviously wasn’t yet prepared to do. However, that still didn’t prevent her from trying to find out the reason behind this unfortunate unwillingness, nor did it stop her from giving the whole bed idea up completely. “We’ve already fallen asleep on your sofa several times, so it’s not like we would be doing anything new.”

Snape, however, seemed to find the sofa and the bed about as similar as the areas of Russia and Vatican. “I ... would rather wait,” he proclaimed stubbornly, though with the air of one trying to suppress some strong emotion.

“Oh, but it’s not like we have to do anything!” exclaimed Elizabeth, doing her best to sound as though the thought of doing anything else besides sleeping had never even entered her mind. “Unless you decide otherwise, we can just go straight to sleep.”

Unfortunately, though, Snape had already managed to fully regain his sharp wit, and as such was in no humour to allow himself to be ridiculed any further. “Tell me, Elizabeth,” he said softly, “do you really expect me to believe that, or are you merely testing me? Not that it matters, of course, for in either case I shall make sure to deny you the pleasure of succeeding.”

“Then there’s really no point in answering, is there?” retorted Elizabeth, not at all happy with the unfortunate turn their little talk had suddenly taken.

“No, I suppose not,” said Snape unconcernedly. “Now, I suggest we desist from leading this highly unavailing conversation in the middle of the entrance hall, and instead apply ourselves to something a little more productive. Personally I suggest we go and unpack, after which I could give you a small tour of the grounds.”

And with these words, he promptly started for the huge staircase Elizabeth had been admiring earlier, but he had barely taken three steps when-

“No, wait!”

Perceiving a hint of despair in his girlfriend’s voice, Snape stopped dead in his tracks and slowly turned around, his expression a picture of smugness. Elizabeth, however, didn’t let this discourage her; she had a sudden idea and she was determined to try it out. Well, all right, and she also didn’t want to let Snape get the better of her once again. And so, with an air of perfect innocence, she gave him an uncomprehending look and asked: “What exactly did you mean when you inquired whether I expected you to believe that after getting into bed we could just go straight to sleep?”

“I believe you know perfectly well what I meant,” said Snape quietly, his smugness slowly giving way to irritation. Not that one could blame him, of course: he had already considered the subject successfully closed, and yet Elizabeth chose to go and start digging into it all over again. And not only that; it sure looked as though she meant to make a proper job of it, too.

“Well, not exactly,” she continued doggedly. “I swear I wouldn’t even touch you if you didn’t explicitly ask me to, so where’s the problem?”

Snape, however, seemed to have decided not to provide her with the pleasure of answering for once, and settled instead for withering her with a look that clearly said: ‘Are you really so dumb, or are you just faking it?’

Unfortunately, though, this proved to be just enough to verify Elizabeth’s vague suspicions. ‘Well, well, well,’ she thought with satisfaction, ‘now we’re finally getting somewhere. If I understand it correctly, it’s not me you don’t trust, it’s yourself. How paradoxical can you get? The ever-so-composed Severus Snape, afraid of losing control. No wonder you are not willing to admit it. Then again, would it really be such a catastrophe if you surrendered to your instincts, instead of blocking them with your mind? What is your problem, anyway? That I’m still technically your student? That we’re not married? That ... no, better leave it there.’

Having this and more occupying her mind, Elizabeth had to use all of her willpower not to state her thoughts out loud, seeing as she knew only too well that it would be of no use: not only would Snape never consent to answer her highly awkward questions, but it would also infinitely ruin her chances of realizing her earlier idea. And so, not without some regret, she eventually bit her tongue as far as Snape’s motives for not wanting to sleep with her were concerned, and instead suggested that while he might not want her in bed in her human form, he could at least allow her to sleep with him in her cat form.

As could be expected, however, Snape’s first reaction to this suggestion wasn’t exactly enthusiastic. “That is the most insane idea I have ever heard from you, Elizabeth,” he declared, looking as though he had trouble believing his ears, “and that is certainly saying something.”

“I just want to be with you,” said Elizabeth timidly. “After all, this house is so big and scary; do you know how unpleasant being all on one’s own in the dark could get?”

“Yes, and I believe there are demons under the bed, too,” said Snape sarcastically, but something in his eyes told Elizabeth that maybe he had meant his words a little more seriously than he was letting on. After all, didn’t he once indirectly admit that he didn’t like visiting his house because it reminded him of his unhappy childhood? Couldn’t it perhaps be that he needed her company at night more than she needed his? Elizabeth didn’t know, but the fact was that from here on it was only a matter of time before she managed to convince him to agree with her Animagus suggestion. And so it happened that when, at last, they went to sleep that night, Elizabeth could be counted among one of the happiest cats in the world.

Starting with the very day of their arrival, the short time Elizabeth and Snape had come to spend at the manor could easily be considered as one of the best times they had ever had. Not a moment passed when they wouldn’t be doing something enjoyable, not an hour went by without them sharing at least one passionate kiss, and so it was really no wonder that they often wished for the days to last forever. Not that they weren’t together at night, too, seeing as Elizabeth had naturally ensured that her furry occupation of Snape’s bed became an absolute must, but that still wasn’t enough to surpass the appeal of the activities they indulged themselves in during the day. Elizabeth’s favourite was undeniably the Easter egg hunt she had prepared for Snape on Easter Monday, banning him from using Accio and forcing him to search the enormous grounds belonging to the manor in Muggle fashion. Snape, on the other hand, seemed to find the most pleasure in organizing long walks either to the woods behind the manor or to the nearby lake (but no matter how much Elizabeth enticed him, he never found it in him to actually join her in the water, claiming that he had never been particularly fond of swimming, and was therefore quite happy to watch her from the shore; Elizabeth, however, had a nasty feeling that he was simply not a good swimmer, and, being the proud man that he was, didn’t want to admit it), even though it soon became clear that most of the walks would end much sooner than he had originally intended. Not that Elizabeth was such a bad walker, no, far from it, but she seemed to possess an extra sense when it came to finding places where she and Snape could take a short rest, such as a particularly inviting-looking patch of grass, a fallen tree, or a sheltered area on the lake shore. Needless to say, the originally planned short rest then usually turned into a completely unplanned long rest, which the couple generally spent nestled together in pleasant silence, watching the countryside around them and occasionally leaning in for a tender kiss or caress, and which often ended long after sunset, when it was no longer possible to do anything except turn around and walk back home.

Another activity both Elizabeth and Snape looked forward to every day was, believe it or not, cooking, which Snape, despite his occasional complaints concerning the lack of the microwave oven in the wizarding world, had gradually come to enjoy so much that not only did he no longer request to eat at restaurants, but he even asked Marvin the house-elf to remove himself from the kitchen so that he could prepare all the meals himself. And since it was a well-known fact that whenever Snape did something, most of the time he did it well, it was really no surprise that, thanks to his creativity and skill, all his kitchen creations were absolutely delicious, and soon surpassed even the most complicated dishes contained in Elizabeth’s own ample repertoire.

Besides wandering about the manor grounds and cooking, the couple also spent endless hours in Snape’s well-supplied library: Snape refreshing his acquirements in the Defence Against the Dark Arts area, Elizabeth reading up on ancient potions.

Consequently, it was nowhere near unusual to find them there even on one sunny afternoon towards the end of their stay, though while Snape appeared to be wholly immersed in his book, Elizabeth had laid down her copy of Potions in ancient Greece some time ago already, and was currently engaged in studying the face of her beloved with an expression of ultimate adoration. There was definitely something different about him that morning, she could swear on that, something that made him look even more sexy than usual, but though she had been straining her mind as to what it could possibly be for the past fifteen minutes, she still couldn’t quite put her finger on it. The fact was, however, that he attracted her like a magnet, causing her to eventually get up from her seat, walk across the room until she was standing right behind his armchair, and, on a sudden, unexplainable impulse, start stroking his long, black, grease-free hair. Now, wait a minute ... did she really just think of Snape’s hair as grease-free? From the way it felt under her hands it would certainly appear so, but not only that – it even looked considerably more silky than usual, not to mention the fact that it emanated a very nice smell that Elizabeth seemed to find vaguely familiar... Well, there was only one way to make sure that she wasn’t simply having visions, and that was...


Snape, who had until then completely ignored Elizabeth’s presence and kept solely to his book, finally tore his eyes away from the yellowed pages of his volume and looked up. “Yes?”

“You didn’t, by any chance, wash your hair with that shampoo I gave you for Christmas, did you?”

For a short moment, Snape looked as though he wouldn’t answer, but at last he lowered his eyes back to his book, muttering a reluctant “I did,” as he did so.

Ignoring the fact that the words sounded as though they were poisoned, Elizabeth instantly felt a wave of enormous happiness wash over her, causing her lips to spread into a very idiot-like smile. Not that she cared, of course, because all that mattered to her at that particular moment was the fact that, for once, Snape seemed to have broken his resolution, swallowed his pride and done something that was deeply uncharacteristic of him, all for one simple reason – to please her. No wonder she was feeling so light-headed, and, were it possible, she would have surely found herself floating several feet above the ground as well. As it was, however, she had to settle for simply crying “Oh, Severus!”, before finally throwing her arms around the poor man’s neck and giving him an affectionate kiss on the top of his head.

Snape, however, didn’t seem to share her enthusiasm, and when Elizabeth hadn’t released her strangling grip even after five minutes, he finally shut his book with a meaningful snap, and acidly remarked that his vision was getting blurry and that he was therefore finding it somewhat difficult to read.

Finally realizing that she was apparently not wanted, Elizabeth felt her happiness slowly ebb away. “I’m sorry,” she muttered apologetically. “I’ll just get back to my book, then, shall I?”

And she indeed made to return to her own armchair, when the sudden sound of Snape’s voice caused her to somewhat alter her plans.

“You certainly shall not,” he said firmly. “Now that you have so successfully diverted my attention from my book, you might as well come back here and enlighten me as to whatever it was that you were so unusually eager to share with me.”

“But I didn’t have anything to-” began Elizabeth, but Snape never let her finish, uncompromisingly pulling her down onto his lap and thus surprising her so much that she completely swallowed the rest of what she was going to say.

Snape, however, seemed to know exactly what she had meant to tell him. “Do not play smart with me, Elizabeth,” he said softly, in a perfect immitation of the voice he usually reserved for interrogating his students. “I observed you staring at me for at least thirty minutes before you finally decided to grace me with your company; do you really think I will believe there was absolutely no reason behind it?”

Elizabeth stared at him in disbelief: how on earth could he know that she had been watching him when she could swear that he had been completely engrossed in his book the whole time? And what’s more: how come he looked so absolutely certain of the fact that she still hadn’t told him everything that had gone through her mind? He hadn’t been using Legilimency on her, she was sure of that (not that he would ever dare, anyway), but considering all that he knew it almost looked as though he had. Then again, maybe she was just being stupid. Maybe all of his conclusions were nothing more than the result of logical thinking, which, as everyone knew, was pretty much his second nature. Yes, she was sure that was it.

Satisfied with her musings, Elizabeth was finally ready to answer, although she wasn’t quite sure how Snape would react to what he was going to hear. Was it possible that he would think her sentimental and silly? Well, she would never know until she tried, and so, after taking one of Snape’s hands into both of hers and staring at it thoughtfully for a while, she eventually raised her eyes and said: “Well, all right, I admit there really was something else going through my mind before I realized that you looked somewhat different today, and started pondering over what you could’ve possibly done to make it so.” She gave Snape a mischievous look. “By the way, you really do look absolutely smashing when your hair is washed. Pity you can’t have it like that all the time.”

To somebody who didn’t know him extremely well, Snape would have looked absolutely unmoved by this comment – perhaps even impatient for Elizabeth to get back to the original topic. After all, it had most likely taken quite a lot of self-denial for him to, firstly, do exactly what Elizabeth had wanted him to do (and thus put his self-esteem at stake), and, secondly, wash his hair with nothing more and nothing less than a lavender-scented Muggle shampoo for greasy hair (and thus ruin his self-esteem completely). Obviously, then, he wasn’t exactly eager to be reminded of it (no matter how positive the reminder), which was probably the main reason why he had been acting so grumpily earlier.

All this, however, was only a part of what he felt (although, regrettably, the larger one), because when Elizabeth looked more closely, she could definitely distinguish something more in his apparently surly expression than just plain impatience: a sort of self-satisfaction, combined with pure happiness sequent upon the fact that the whole shampoo torture hadn’t been endured in vain. After all, what could be more rewarding than seeing Elizabeth happy?

Ineffably pleased with what she had deciphered in Snape’s eyes, the girl in question boldly resumed her account of her earlier musings. “Well, anyway, before I noticed that you looked even more gorgeous than usual,” (at this point, Snape evidently forgot himself, and gave her a decidedly odd look) “I was thinking about how lucky I was to have met you. I can hardly imagine a life without you any more, but I know for sure that it would be horribly empty.”

“Go on,” said Snape, evidently moved by Elizabeth’s words but doing his best to hide it.

“That’s all,” said Elizabeth, shrugging.

Snape gave her a pitiful look. “You may be a lot of things, Elizabeth,” he said slowly, “but you are certainly not a good liar. Now, what else did you think about?”

Seeing that Snape would pry the answer out of her anyway, Elizabeth eventually resigned. “My mother’s question,” she peeped.

Snape’s eyes instantly narrowed, although whether it was because the mention of Elizabeth’s mother still upset him, or whether he simply had a hunch as to what Elizabeth was hinting at was hard to tell. The fact was, however, that he suddenly looked rather apprehensive, and that when he finally asked “Which question?”, his voice carried a hint of suspicion.

Elizabeth took a deep breath. “The one about our marriage.”

At variance with her expectations, Snape stayed completely silent this time, watching her intently with an expression that was nowhere near possible to read. Did that mean he wanted her to continue? Or did he, on the contrary, want her to drop the subject and never mention it again? Elizabeth didn’t have a clue, but in the end her desire to have this particular discussion over and done with outweighed her fear of Snape’s reaction and she blurted out: “I know it’s far more usual for the man to bring this subject up, and I also know it’s still a bit early to talk about it, but since my mother had mentioned it I simply couldn’t stop thinking about it. Perhaps you are still not ready to take such a step, and I really wouldn’t blame you, but if it were up to me, we could get married right this instant and I swear I would never come to regret it. I love you, Severus, and I am prepared to spend the rest of my life with you. And though you may choose to ignore what I’ve just said, I’ll be happy with the mere fact that you’ll store it somewhere at the back of your mind, and perhaps dig it out when you find the time has come for it to aid you in your decision whether to propose to me or not.”

She finished, breathlessly awaiting Snape’s reaction. She never got any, though; Snape merely looked at her for a while, so fixedly that it made her nervous, before, all of a sudden, he pushed her off his lap and left the room without a single word.

Elizabeth stared after him with a frown. What on earth was she supposed to think of that? Did the idea of marriage scare/anger Snape so much that he ran away from her, never intending to come back? Or did he just need some time out to think the matter over in peace? Elizabeth sincerely hoped that it was the latter, and that when, in an hour or two, Snape would come back from wherever he had disappeared to, he would sweep her into his arms, declare his undying love to her, and beg her to marry him. Or something like that, anyway.

To her growing disconcertion, however, Snape didn’t return in an hour or two. Nor did he return by the time they usually went to bed, by which point Elizabeth was beginning to suspect that something was definitely amiss. Lying in Snape’s bed, she shakily started counting off all the horrible things that could’ve possibly happened to him (deliberately ignoring the most obvious option of all, viz, that he had, indeed, left her), all the while listening to the faintest sound that could in any way resemble his approaching footsteps. Twice she thought she had heard his quick stride echoing through the hallway, but in both cases it seemed to be only her imagination playing tricks on her. And so, no longer able to keep herself awake, she eventually fell into a restless slumber, dreaming of her beloved getting eaten by an enormous wedding ring.

She woke up with a great start at the break of dawn, immediately looking beside her to see if Snape had, by any chance, returned while she was asleep, but his half of the bed looked exactly as it had in the evening, with no signs of anybody sleeping in it at any stage of the night.

Elizabeth felt the tears well up in her eyes. What was she to do now? Where was Snape? Did he really leave her for good? Should she have bit her tongue yesterday, and never brought the subject of marriage up at all? Unable to supply an answer to any of these questions, she eventually decided that the wisest thing to do at present would be to go down to the kitchen and make herself some good (and preferably large) breakfast, seeing as she found it somewhat difficult to think while her stomach was growling with hunger. Or, even better, maybe she could ask the house-elf to prepare her something, as in her current state she would probably drop everything even before picking it up.

This was better said than done, however, because even twenty minutes after coming up with this plan she could still be found sitting on Snape’s bed and gazing numbly into empty space, but at last she managed to get up, dress, and, after pulling herself together somewhat, even leave the bedroom in search of said house-elf. Fortunately, she didn’t have to look long, for as soon as she called his name for the first time he appeared right in front of her with his characteristic crack, looking as shabby as ever and instantly inquiring what it was that miss needed.

“I would like some toast and coffee, please,” said Elizabeth hollowly. “And maybe also some eggs and bacon,” she added presently, realizing that she really was very hungry. “Bring it to the lounge when it’s all done, OK?”

“Yes, miss,” said Marvin courtly. “Anything else Marvin can do for you, miss?”

“Well, yes, actually,” said Elizabeth impulsively, nearly slapping herself for not thinking of seeking the house-elf out earlier and asking: “Can you, by any chance, tell me where Severus has gone?”

Marvin, however, didn’t even seem to know that Snape had left the house, causing Elizabeth to eventually release him and shuffle off to the lounge in even lower spirits than she had been in before.

Plopping down onto the sofa, she once again tried to analyze her present situation, but it was of no use: her mind simply refused to co-operate. Consequently, Elizabeth once again found herself staring absently in front of her, thinking about nothing and, at the same time, everything.

She didn’t know how long she remained in this apathetic state, it could have been ten minutes as well as an hour, but the fact was that she nearly died of shock when Marvin the house-elf finally appeared in the room, carrying a tray containing her breakfast and a bouquet of wild flowers. All this he laid on the coffee table, and, after apologizing profusely for giving miss a scare, moved off to stand by the sofa, awaiting further orders.

Elizabeth, however, didn’t pay him much attention; instead she stared at the flowers as if they were something she had never seen before, all the while trying to convince herself that she was completely crazy to think that they were from Snape. She had to make absolutely sure, however, and so, after eventually forcing herself to shift her gaze from the mysterious bouquet to the house-elf, she took a deep breath and, in a trembling voice, asked: “Marvin, who asked you to bring me these flowers?”

It seemed like an eternity before the elf finally spoke (though, in reality, it was probably only a second or two), but, to Elizabeth’s extreme disappointment, his answer didn’t turn out to be nearly as promising as it could have been. “No one, miss,” he said. “Marvin found them in the kitchen when he went to make miss her breakfast. He thought miss might like them, and so he brought them. But he can go and throw them out if-”

“No, Marvin, it’s all right; I’ll keep them,” said Elizabeth hastily. “And you’re free to go now; I won’t be needing anything else,” she added, even more hastily, when she noticed the house-elf still hovering round, not showing any signs of leaving. Upon hearing this, however, he vanished almost instantly, leaving Elizabeth to study the unnerving flowers in peace.

Unfortunately, though, it soon became painfully clear that her inspection would most likely bring her no closer to solving the matter of their origin than she had been to begin with, causing her to eventually put them aside with a great sigh, and concentrate instead on something that was bound to bring her at least some sort of positive result, such as the consummation of her breakfast.

She had barely picked up her fork, however, when she noticed something lying on the tray that didn’t seem to have any connection with the food whatsoever – a small black object that looked suspiciously like the box one would usually expect to find a ring in.

Elizabeth stared at it in bewilderment. Surely her eyes were betraying her? Surely it couldn’t be what she thought (and hoped) it to be? Well, there was obviously only one way of finding out, and so, at last, she picked the box up with a trembling hand and, as if afraid of it exploding in her face, slowly opened it, almost dropping it as she did so. For it was indeed a ring that she found inside – a simple silver band with a snake coiled all the way round it, making it a perfect counterpart of the pendant she already owned.

“In case it does not fit you, I can always spell it to change its size,” said a sudden, familiar voice from the doorway, startling Elizabeth so much that this time she really did drop both the ring and the box onto the floor, from where she didn’t even bother to pick them up. At least not now, seeing as her attention was currently needed elsewhere.

“Severus!” she exclaimed. “You scared me! You ... I...” she trailed off, suddenly unsure of what to say next. She would have liked to tell Snape so many things, from how angry she was with him for leaving her without saying a word, to how much she missed him and how ineffably delighted she was to see him again, but in the end all that she managed to force out was a “Does this mean...?”, before all the emotions that had accumulated inside her during the past several hours finally caught up with her, causing her eyes to fill with tears and her voice to crack.

Unfortunately, though, Snape had interpreted her reaction somewhat differently. Crossing the room in several quick strides, he sat down next to her on the sofa, and, after a while of thoughtful silence and in a voice full of suppressed emotion, said: “I cannot force you, of course. If you have any doubts about this, I suggest you refuse. Although from what I understood yesterday, you seemed to be fairly certain... Well, perhaps you have simply changed your mind since then,” he finished curtly, his voice now betraying a mixture of accusation and pain.

Now, this was too much even for Elizabeth, who finally decided to put an end to this whole misunderstanding and quickly step in. “No!” she cried, ignoring the fact that her voice was still thick with tears. “How could you even think such a thing? I would never change my mind like that, not unless you gave me an extremely good reason to. So, naturally, I do accept your offer, and will be honoured to become your wife.”

Snape, however, still didn’t seem to be entirely convinced. “Are you quite certain of what you are saying?” he asked doubtfully, regarding Elizabeth’s tear-stained cheeks with a clearly distinguishable question mark in his eyes.

“Of course I am!” retorted Elizabeth, desperate to make Snape believe her. “Do you really think I would lie to you about a thing like this? And if it’s the tears you’re worried about – have you never heard about tears of happiness?”

“Indeed. Though, as far as I can see, your tears of happiness seem to bear a suspicious resemblance to hysteria.”

Reluctantly admitting that Snape had a point, Elizabeth eventually closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Breathe in, breathe out... “OK, I’m calm now,” she announced finally, willing her voice to sound firm. “It’s just that I was so worried about you leaving so suddenly ... I didn’t know what to think about it ... I was afraid that something had happened to you ... I even suspected that you might have left me for good...”

“And I would have thought you had more confidence in me than that,” said Snape casually, though it was obvious that in reality he was feeling quite hurt.

Sensing his reproach, Elizabeth had to use all of her willpower not to start crying again. “Oh, I know it was wrong of me to think so unfairly of you,” she said ashamedly, “and I apologize for it, but I couldn’t help it, I was so stressed... Still, was it really necessary to leave without a single word? If you’d only said something-”

“-then there would have been no surprise,” finished Snape dully, evidently beginning to wonder whether the whole ‘surprise’ idea hadn’t perhaps been a bit of a mistake.

“Yes, but still... No, let’s not talk about it any more. Just promise me not to ever leave me like that again, all right?”

Snape smirked. “I shall do my best.”

Ignoring the hint of sarcasm in his voice, Elizabeth simply smiled at him, after which it was only a matter of time before her lips found his, involving them in an activity that most certainly didn’t include talking. It worked like magic, and in a moment or two Elizabeth could remember almost nothing of her previous distress, consequently forgiving Snape even the things he had never done. And to give him even more proof that she really wasn’t kidding him when she insisted that she would be delighted to marry him, she decided to top the whole kiss with a question which she hoped to put a definite end to all of Snape’s speculations about the idea of marriage being just a temporary whim for her, and to convince him once and for all that she really did take the entire matter most seriously.

“So, do you think we could get married right after I graduate?”

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