Chapter 3 : Steady As She Goes...
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Harry hadn’t brought up their conversation again and Valora was thankful for it. He was probably used to random strangers knowing him or his parents by know. Besides, it was perfectly reasonable for someone Valora’s age to have known James and Lily, so there was really no reason for him to investigate the matter further.
It was late in the afternoon now, and all her classes were gone. Valora sat quietly at her desk, reading over the homework she had assigned her first years the night before. It was a 7 inch essay on the use of simple spells used as a defense. Some of the remarks were very clever, others a bit on the dim side. She found herself smiling and laughing at some of the more absurd writings.
“Something amusing, Ms. Nox?” A gentle voice came from behind her. Valora squealed and jumped up a bit much to the amusement of Dumbledore who now stood chuckling at her sudden alarm. When she saw his laughter she allowed herself a smile and put a hand over her rapidly beating heart.
“You startled me, sir.” She said, a little breathless.
“Obviously, Lora, obviously.” He said, motioning for her to sit down again as he transfigured her uneaten corn muffin into a large, comfortable looking armchair for himself.
“How are you, sir?” Valora asked, taking a sip of her mint tea. It was really the only thing she drank. Sirius used to complain that she smelled like an old woman – mint and vanilla. Severus on the other hand, who had never been much of a tea person himself, insisted on kissing her after (or sometimes in the middle of) drinking her tea; always telling her how much he enjoyed the minty-ness.
"You seem distracted, Valora.” Dumbledore noted as he watched her wistful expression. Valora immediately pushed her memories aside.
“Distracted, sir? How so?” She asked. Dumbledore peered at her over the top of his half moon glasses, clearly not buying her ‘playing dumb’ act.
“Valora, I’ve known you since you were 11, you can call me Albus now. As for your being distracted I think I’ve come up with a cure.” He said proudly. Valora raised an eyebrow.
“Indeed. The first Hogsmeade weekend is coming up, and we could always use more chaperones. I was thinking maybe you could go and accompany a few of the other teachers there.”
“Snape’s not going, is he?” Valora asked. It was the first question that had come to mind and she immediately regretted asking it. It made her sound like an immature schoolgirl again. Dumbledore however took no notice of her girlish tone, or if he did ignored it.
“No. I’ve been trying to get Severus to take a weekend off for years he prefers to keep himself locked away for hours studying those books of his.”
“Yes, I know.” Valora said, taking another sip of tea to avoid biting her lip. Dumbledore studied her face for a moment.
“He hasn’t written back then?”
“You know who.” Dumbledore said to her.
“I haven’t written to Voldemort in ages, Albus.” She said. It took him a moment but then Dumbledore chuckled at her joke, which wasn’t entirely a joke but still had the same amusing effect.
“I know who you meant, and no, he hasn’t. I wrote to him and told him that I’m not going to tell Harry. He’s probably still upset about the whole thing.” Valora admitted. Dumbledore frowned at her.
“I think you should tell Harry. So many people in his life were taken from him, you have the chance to fill an empty space, Valora.” The old wizard said softly.
“Where would I begin, Albus? I can’t even completely remember the last fourteen years, let alone explain them to a sixteen year old boy. He’s going to want to know why I stopped seeing him when he was two years old, why I had to fake my death for four years, where I was living, who I was…” She stopped before she continued. She wasn’t going to bring up Severus with Dumbledore. Valora already knew how the old man felt about her and the potion’s master. He had made it clear the day she had gotten the job. He was positively tickled by the idea of their reunion.
“I think you are making a terrible mistake by keeping this from him, Valora, but I can’t force you to tell him.” Dumbledore said as he stood from his corn muffin chair. “So, Hogsmeade weekend; Think about it Lora.” He said, patting her shoulder gently before leaving. Valora sat at her desk and lowered her face into her hands, rubbing her eyes which suddenly felt tired and sleep deprived. Maybe that was because she hadn’t been sleeping and was running on adrenaline and mint tea.
The next morning Valora stretched her arms above her head as she sat up a bit and looked around. Clothes were strewn all over her bedroom. Why was that again? Oh yes she had been looking for something last night. What had she been looking for? She wondered groggily, her mind still clouded with sleep. She turned and on he beside table was the answer: a picture, a very old picture, of her with Severus. It was the only one they had really. Since they’re relationship had been a secret it hadn’t exactly provide them with many photo opportunities. This one time it had been allowed. They were together in Norway and staying in a tiny hotel. Severus had given in and allowed her to set up the camera as long as he didn’t have to move from bed. So there in the picture was Severus, shirtless, sitting in bed with Valora smiling happily from her place on his lap. Remembering that morning Valora almost felt happy, but mostly she just felt the stab of loss and regret. She went to lie back down and saw the streaks of mascara on her pillow, and then she remembered fully. She had cried herself to sleep last night.
Snape shouldn’t still have this effect on her! She angrily grabbed her clothes from off the floor and stormed into her bathroom, turning the hot water on full blast and letting the steam cloud around her, hoping she would somehow lose herself in it. Memories once again came crushing down. It felt like she couldn’t breathe without remembering something. This was why she had started drinking so much, and now she longed for the familiar taste of whiskey on her lips, anything to dull the pain and blur her thoughts so she didn’t feel so terribly helpless, so weak.
Stepping out of the shower with fresh clothes on and towel wrapped around her head like some bizarre turban, she walked to her window, which overlooked the quidditch pitch. Something black came hurtling towards her window and belatedly Valora realized it was a bludger, she ducked but unnecessarily since some practicing Hufflepuff beater flew by in the knick of time and knocked it back into play. She rose again, realizing that the windows probably had protective spells on them to prevent breaking. Sometimes, Valora was quite an airhead.
Walking downstairs felt odd since she wasn’t wearing her teaching robes. Instead she just wore black pants and a pale green sweater, nothing leather. McGonagall had already informed her that any of her leather attire would be unacceptable, much to Valora’s disappointment. She loved the pair of leather pants she had, and personally thought they looked very nice. It was a bit late and breakfast had been over hours ago so instead she just dropped by the kitchens for some toast. The house-elves were so cute when they ran to get it for her. She thanked them, smiling which sent a few of them scurrying and blushing back to their chores. Valora looked on them as children. Not HER children, but tiny, odd-looking, eager to please, children.
Munching happily on her toast she climbed the stairs to the library, walking in to the familiar smell of musty books was a comfort, for about three seconds.
“No food or drink is permitted in the library Ms. Nox.” Madame Pince said sternly. Valora rolled her eyes, feeling like a student again.
“It’s just a piece of toast.” She protested with a full mouth. The unamused looking librarian narrowed her eyes.
“I don’t care what it is, you finish it outside. This isn’t the Three Broomsticks. You may come back when you’ve finished. Now, OUT!” she said, shooing Valora through the doors.
“Shhh! It’s a library you know.” Valora said, just before Madame Pince shut the doors firmly. Valora smiled to herself and took another bite of her breakfast.
“Already getting on someone’s bad side, Valora? Isn’t it a bit early, even for you?” came a cold voice to her left. Valora turned to see Severus.
“You know she never liked me anyway.” Valora said, in too pleasant a mood from pissing Pince off to bother being catty to Snape.
“She never liked you because you always broke the rules.” He told her as he went to walk in.
“I recall someone helping me break them.” She said, smiling a bit as she finished her last bite of toast. Snape opened the door and Valora strode in ahead of him, even though he hadn’t exactly been holding it open for her.
“I believe that was you and Black doing the rule breaking.” He whispered bitterly. Valora just chuckled softly.
“Yea, because Sirius spent so much in the library.” She replied sarcastically. “No it was you. In fact you’re the reason we always got caught.”
“ME?” he asked indignantly which earned him a ‘shooshing’ from Pince. He continued, more quietly, following Valora as she wandered along an aisle of old looking books, letting her fingers run across the leather bindings. “I never got us caught. I was always discreet. You however-“
“I was very discreet.” Valora said quickly. Severus smirked a bit.
“You were very loud.” He said, brushing past her. Valora felt her cheeks grow hot. She immediately followed his black-clad form around to a different aisle.
“I was only loud when I was telling you to knock it off.” She said, shoving past him and reaching up to a high shelf for a large green book.
“When did you ever want me to knock it off?” He asked, standing close behind her and grabbing the book for her. Valora spun around to face him. She hadn’t realized how close they were- almost touching.
“I told you to knock it off more than once.” She said, defensively.
“When?” He asked, looking both smug and curious. Valora scoffed and struggled to think of a time in their youth where she had ever told him ‘no’.
“That one time…in - uh….seventh year…after a quidditch match let out and I snuck away from the tower and then we…well the details are fuzzy but I know I told you to knock it off.” She said, making to step around him but he blocked her off with his arms, which were now pinning her to the bookshelf.
“My memory of that day isn’t fuzzy at all and I believe the term you used was ‘take it off’ not ‘knock it off’.” He said, leaning in and smiling. Valora wanted to smile but then she remembered herself and where she was and how old she was and doubt flickered across her face. Severus saw it too and like that the spell was broken. The short trip down memory lane was obliterated with the reminder of the present. They weren’t seventeen anymore.
“Here you are.” He said, backing away and handing her the book he had gotten for her. Valora smiled and quickly left the aisle in search of a large reading chair in a different section of the room. Why had she let that happen? It was so easy to slip into that way with him. Yes a part of her despised him. Yes he had hurt her. Yes by all reason she should loathe his presence, but, Valora had never been a reasonable woman.
Severus flipped through various books, not really reading them. He was mentally berating himself. What had he been thinking? Valora was the last woman he should be doing anything with. They weren’t students anymore, the time for fooling around in libraries had come and gone, and it was never coming back. He hated her. She was a liar, and a coward, and a manipulative, vindictive, wench. So he didn’t understand why he felt so comfortable when he was with her, comfortable enough to slip into old habits of almost snogging her in the library.
It was dim in the parlor of Grimmauld place, and there was Sirius with his ass in the air as he put his head into the fireplace for his weekly chats with Harry. The boy was still shaken from the events over the summer but it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. It was best for everyone if Harry just focused on his studies. Harry really seemed to like his DADA class. Sirius couldn’t believe Valora was refusing to reveal herself. He understood her fear to a degree but not enough that he could completely agree with her. Still he had promised to keep her identity secret. He hadn’t even been able to see her yet – she had made it clear that it wasn’t safe for the two of them to be anywhere near each other. With him in hiding they would assume that she would be the first person he’d want to see, and they were right. Valora was probably under surveillance most of the time. In fact if she hadn’t gotten a job at Hogwarts they wouldn’t even have been allowed to write to each other.
“Sirius?” Harry asked. Sirius smiled at his godson, who was growing to look more and more like James every day.
“Do you know Professor Nox?” he asked, his green eyes sparkling with curiosity.
“She went to Hogwarts with your mum and dad and Remus and me. Never really talked to her much.” Blatant lie. She had been his best friend, next to James. He had told her everything.
“Why do you ask?” Sirius asked him, hoping beyond hope that she maybe had mentioned something about him, something to Harry about who she was. Maybe she had changed her mind-
“No reason, just something she was saying a few days ago, before Snape interrupted.”
‘Leave it to Snivellus’ Sirius thought.
“Are they together?” Harry asked
“Professor Nox and Snape.” Harry asked. Sirius fought the urge to laugh out loud. Valora was his girl, thought not official they had always had a thing for each other, and it lasted all the way into Azkaban. She had written to him for about two years into his sentence and then the letters just stopped coming. That’s when he began to hear rumors of her drinking, then her death. It had been terrible, and truth be told, he had gone a little mad. Then eleven years later he finally broke out and found Harry, he was finally getting some pieces of his life back together. Not two years after reuniting with Harry he received a letter from Valora. It was like he was getting a second chance at his life. Again the idea of her with the greasy-haired git was laughable.
“I recall Nox being a bit too pretty for Snape, Harry.” Sirius joked. Harry smiled but then his face fell.
“Someone’s coming.” He whispered sadly. Sirius gave him an encouraging smile.
“I’ll talk to you next week.” Sirius said before pulling his head back out of the fireplace.
The sky was a sickly green-grey color, and the air was thick with humidity. A thunderstorm was predicted for that evening and Valora could practically taste it. No more than an hour before it would hit, maybe less. Was that thunder in this distance? Never mind that, she had a game to play. She laced up the pads on her red and gold uniform and playfully smacked James on the backside with her club.
“Best not flirt with me before a game, Lora, I’ll only get all hot and bothered and won’t be able to concentrate on the snitch.” He said, smiling as he pulled his shirt on over his head.
“You can’t concentrate anyway with Lily cheering in the stands.” She responded, smiling. James fought a smile and didn’t even try to deny it. Sirius come over and wrapped an arm around her waist pulling her close.
“First game of our sixth year, excited?” He asked, smiling down at her. Valora shrugged.
“I’m a little nervous. I’ve missed a few practices.” She admitted.
“A few?” Sirius laughed.
“Shut up, I can still fly circles around you.” She said, shoving him lightly. He only tightened his grip on her.
“What have you been up to? Holed up in the library until all hours of the night? If you don’t stop acting like such a bookworm Remus may start falling in love with you.”
The three of them laughed at that. When it came to girls Remus was perpetually flustered. Valora just bent over and busied herself with re-lacing her boots even tighter than they already were.
“Seriously Lora, what have you been doing?” Sirius asked as he sat beside her on the bench.
“Studying.” Valora said simply. She left out the fact that she was studying with Snape because a- the boys would kill her, b- the team would kill her, and c- Sev’s friends would kill him. She also decided to omit that they hadn’t just been studying. A week ago they had kissed and a little more. It hadn’t been planned, at least not on her end. Besides Valora didn’t plan on making it a regular thing, it was just an accidental, wonderful, sensual, passionate-
“Ok, team! Let’s get out there! It’s our first match of the season against Ravenclaw. Let’s go out there and kick some arse.” Captain Damon Bogsworth said.
The entire team cheered and got ready to leave the tent. Valora grabbed her broom and went to leave until Sirius grabbed her, quickly kissing her cheek. Valora’s eyes widened.
“What was that for?” She asked, more than a little shocked. Sirius shrugged nonchalantly.
“Luck.” He said simply before walking out. Valora rolled her eyes and followed him onto the pitch. What an arse.
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