Chapter 7 : Pardus and the Prince
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Valora squinted in the dim lighting of the Restricted Section as she walked down the aisles looking for books on Vampires. Her NEWT classes would start learning vampire defence in a week or so as soon as they finished up with patronuses. She was pleased to see that Harry could produce a full bodied patronus, along with a few other children in the class.
Her fingers brushed across the leather binding as she struggled to read the fading script along the spines of the books. When she finally found what she was looking she could barely see the front it was so coated in dust. Lifting her wand she muttered a little spell to blow the dust away but instead it wound up blowing right in her face, making her sneeze loudly. From behind her, Valora thought she heard a book drop, but when she turned around nobody was there. Clutching Blood: a Study on the Dietary Habits of Vampires by Dr. Carlisle Cullen*, she peeked in the nearby aisles but nobody was there. From another side she thought she heard scurrying footsteps, similiar to the sound a sudent would make if they were running from a professor. Angry now, Valora began storming betwen the rows, looking for the student. It wasn't difficult- the section was called restricted for a reason. Oh sure, she'd been here loads of times in her school days but she'd always been careful enough not to be caught. If a less clever student didn't know how to keep quiet when he or she was sneaking around, that wasnt her problem. When Valora came to the last row she was surprised to find it empty, except for Severus snape. she hadn't even realized he'd been here.
Snape had his back to her and was holding a bunch of books in his arms when she approached him.
"Sev, did you just drop a book?" She asked. If she startled him he didn't show it, simply turning around slowly to face her with a bored expression across his face.
"Does it look like I did?" He asked rudely. Valora took a deep breath to keep from swatting all the books in his arms to the floor.
"I heard a book fall." she continued.
"Well, you are in a library, Valora." Snape said, roughly going past her to leave. Valora stared after him until he was out of sight. Merlin, he made her so angry! All she had done was ask a simple question and then that insufferable git had talked down to her like she was nothing- like he barely knew her.
Valora could feel her chest tightening and slowly sank to her knees, gasping for air. Shaking, she tried to catch her breath and think of something besides Severus. She flipped open to a random page of the book in her hands and began reading, paying close attention to the words, until her breathing returned to normal. When the fit was over, she wiped the tears from her eyes and rubbed the sore spot on her chest. She'd been having these little episodes for years but usually they were rare, maybe once or twice a year. Now she was getting them more often, and they almost always occured right after she spoke to Snape.
What could she say? Severus took her breath away. HA! At least she hadn't lost her sense of humor.
Brushing the dirt off of herself and standing up, Valora grabbed the book and went back down to her office. As she walked she began thinking of the last time she and Severus had been in the restricted section together, but she didn't have much time to reminisce because as soon as she reached her office she found Harry and the Weasley boy- Ron, was it?- waiting for her.
"Can I help you, boys?" She asked, praying they wouldn't ask about the incident at the trophy cases a few nights ago. Harry stared at the floor, clearly not wanting to be there, while Ron spoke.
"Someone stole out books, Professor Nox, so we were wondering if you had any extra copies, until we could write to Flourish and Blotts or something that is. We'd return them as soon as we could." Ron said, both he and Harry following Valora into her office while he spoke.
"Of course." Valora said, gesturing for them to sit in the dark red wingbacked chairs positoned in front of her mahogany desk. She knew the Weasleys weren't the richest of wizarding families but cetaintly one of the biggest. Besides, books were expensive these days, especially when you're NEWT level. Whatever little weasel that stole them probably deserved a good hexing.
"Do you have any idea who took your books?" She asked them, as she took the seat behind her desk. Ron shrugged in response while Harry got a little angry.
"I have a pretty good idea." he said bitterly. Valora allowed herself a tiny half smile.
"Malfoy?" Valora inquired. Harry rolled his eyes.
"How did you know?" he asked sarcastically. Valora raised an eyebrow at his tone but when she glanced at Ron he again gave her the confused shrug. Clearly he didn't know what the reason behind Harry's attitude was either.
"Well I have two copies of the defence books. I'm afraid I don't keep copies of other books in the NEWT curriculum, though. I'm sorry." She said reaching into a drawer and taking out the spare books.
"Snape'll murder us." Ron muttered to Harry who nodded in agreement. Valora raised her eyebrows. Was Severus that terrible as a teacher?
"Will he really give you detentions for having your books stolen?" Valora asked. Harry and Ron looked at her like she just asked what a wizard was, then nodded a yes. Pushing a stary hair out from in front of her eyes she leaned forward on her desk, resting her hand on her neck.
"You boys know the room of requirement, don't you?" she asked. Harry and Ron looked at her curoiusly.
"Yes." they said tentatively.
"I would check there for spare books. i mean if you truly require them, they should be there. At least in theory." She said softly. Ron and Harry looked at each other and remained silent for a moment.
"It's not a bad idea. 'Ron said softly. Harry nodded in agreement.
"If that's all you need, I really do have to start preparing for my other classes." Valora said standing up again. Ron and Harry stood as well and walked towards the door. While Valora had her back turned, going through her file cabinet, she heard Harry whisper something to Ron. When she turned around again she found Harry still standing in the doorway.
"Did you need something else?" She asked, feeling a little nervous. She couldn't deny that she wanted to tell Harry the truth, but it wasn't safe. It was best for everyone if she stayed out of his life a little while longer.
"Professor, I wanted to ask you about the other day in Hogsmeade." He said, looking her dead in the eye. Valora tilted her head to the side and frowned.
"If you're upset because of your punishment you can take it up with Professor McGonagall, Harry. Personally I think you and Mr. Malfoy were treated far too leniently." Valora told him flatly.
"No, that wasn't what I wanted to ask you about." Harry admitted. Valora brightnened a little and gestured for him to sit again while she retook her own seat.
"What was it you wanted to discuss then?"
"Well, Professor Nox, when you came up to stop mr and Malfoy dueling, you came from the shrieking shack."
Valora smirked a bit. She couldn't help but admire his observances. She wouldn't have caught a detail like that. Sirius would have though.
"Indeed I did. What of it?" She asked, again brushing that pesky lock of hair away from her eyes as she focused all her attention on the boy in front of her.
"It's not supposed to be open to the public, and it's supposeed to be haunted-"
"Supposed to be? Does that mean you don't think it's haunted, Mr. Potter?" Valora asked, leaning back and studying him intently. Harry gave a small laugh.
"Professor, you and I both know it's not haunted and I would also guess you know why that rumor was started." Harry said, with a smirk on his smug face. Clearly he had been spending too much time around Sirius. Valora raised her eyebrows and pursed her lips in annoyance.
"Quite the detective, aren't you?" She asked. Harry shrugged.
"I just want the truth." He said simply. Valora's heart broke when she looked at him. She closed her eyes and rubbed her face before resting her mouth on her steepled fingers.
"Someday, you'll understand, Harry. That's all I'm going to say for now. I'm going to ask you to stop looking for questions to ask until I'm ready to give you answers." she told him. Harry didn't look to happy. clearly he'd been expecting hetr to crack under the pressure. He rose silently and walked toward the door but the moment before he left Valora whispered.
"Send your godfather my best." and offered up a tiny smile. Harry stared at her for a moment before leaving. Valora rested her head against her desk. Crap. Why did she have to be so mysterious? She could tell that tiny encounter would cause trouble down the road. She began to root through her desk drawers again in earnest.
After Harry told Ron about the conversation wiht Nox they went to the Room of Requirement and began to search for the things they would need. They had found copies of everything they needed except a potions book for Harry. Ron had one and was now offereing to share it with him but Harry wasn't about to give up so easily.
Taking one last look Harry smiled when he found an old Potions: Level 7 book. Taking a quick flip through the pages he saw that there was writing all over it. Inside the front cover it read:
This Book is the Property of the Half-Blood Prince
"Who's the 'half-blood prince'?" Ron asked, looking over his shoulder. Harry shrugged and continued to flip through. He didn't feel like looking for another copy since it had taken him so long to find this one, so just shoved the thing into his bag with the oher second hand books he had found.
Sitting in the common room Harry began work on his potions essay for Snape. Hermione was helping Ron rewrite his, seeing as he'd spelled almost every word completely wrong. Opening past the first page Harry began flipping through the book to see what exactly this 'Half-Blood Prince' had written. On the corner of one page was written something peculiar.
PardusEven more strange- there was a heart next to it. Flipping through a bit more, an old, yellowed piece of parchment fell out. It was in a different, and much more feminine handwriting.
Astronomy Tower at midnight? I miss you.
all my love, V
Who were these people? And why the hell did this handwriting look so familiar?
Valora sat quietly on the big leather couch the Room of Requirement had provided while Severus scribbled away into his textbook, making corrections and 'enhancing' it. Sipping her tea she allowed herself to be lulled into a relaxed state by just listening to his steady breathing and the scratch of the quill against paper.
"It's finished." He said simply, many moments later. Valora put her tea down and walked up behind him, leaning over his shoulder to read it.
"The Half-Blood Prince? Quite a clever play on words there, Sev." she teased and kept reading. "Uhm...where's my name?" she asked quietly.
"Why would your name be in it?" Severus asked, sounding confused. Valora punched him in the shoulder.
"You prat! I helped!" Valora said angrily. Severus laughed- I mean really laughed. Valora stared at him for a moment, shocked by his reaction.
"You barely did anything, Valora. I wrote the whole thing. I've been working on it for months."
"And I've been helping for months. Who bought all those books from Knockturn Alley for you? Who used the invisibility cloak to sneak into the restricted section and do research for you? Who helped point out where exactly the textbook went wrong?"
"Alright!" Severus conceded " you helped. Would you like me to add in 'Pure-Blood Princess'?" He mocked. Valora smiled at her victory.
"No- you don't have to put my name in there. I just to make sure you realize I helped you." She told him smiling. Severus pulled her onto his lap and rested his head on her shoulder.
"Of course I know how much you helped. So I'll put your name in it somewhere, just so it's there." He told her. Valora smiled.
"It can't be my real name though?" she checked.
"Alright, then just write 'Pardus'." She told him, bouncing up from his lap and over to tea once more. Severus stared after her with a raised brow.
"'Pardus'?" he questioned.
"It's my nickname."
"It sounds ridiculous." Severus told her flatly.
"You only think that because James and Sirius helped me come up with it." Valora said.
"True." he agreed, then gave a tiny half smile while she glared at him. "What does it mean?"
"-of course." He said rolling his eyes "because a name like 'Valora Nox' just isn't Latin enough."
Valora stared daggers at him for a moment before continuing.
"It's Latin for leopard - my patronus." Valora said before flopping down angrily on the couch once more.
"Alright then." Severus said, picking up his quill and scratching the name down. When he was finished he brought the book over to Valora who at first feigned disinterest, but soon began to flip through the pages seeing what corrections he had made, and where.
"This is really amazing, Sev." she said quietly. A tiny smile tugged at the corner of his mouth. Valora fluipped back to the page with her name on it.
"Can I see your quill for a moment?" she asked. Without a thought Severus handed it to her and Valora wrote a tiny heart next to her name. Severus groaned when he realized what it was.
"Lora, what the hell is that?" He complained. "Get rid of it."
"No." she said stubbornly, holding the book out of his reach.
"Now it looks girly."
"Now it looks like the 'Half-Blood Prince' wasn't a sad little virgin with nothing better to do than correct textbooks." Valora said, with a raised eyebrow, daring him to contradict her. Severus stopped reaching for the book.
"Fine. The heart stays." he replied sullenly. Valora smiled and kissed him softly before whispering.
Severus took the book from her hands and droppd it onto the floor before wrapping his arms around her and kissing her back with just a bit more intensity.
Valora laid on her side and watched the picture of her and Severus. They were eighteen - so young. Their eyes never stayed on the camera, instead they kept flickering back to each other's faces. In the picture she would smile and he would give her a tiny half smirk and tighten his arms around her waist.
She wiped bitterly at the tears collecting in the corners of her eyes. She was so tired of loving him. As happy as she was to have a small piece of her life back she almost missed the old days of constant terror and pain, because she had been with him.
She couldn't help but hope that maybe- somewhere in his heart- he still loved her. It was so ridiculous. Fourteen years of her life wasted because of a fight between them that probably could have been resolved fairly easily. She had let depression and loss get the best of her and she had ran. Such a coward. Could he ever love her again? She took one last look at the picture one last time before closing her eyes and found her answer.
chapter image by sammm @ TDA
A.N.: Sorry this chapter is so short, but I'm sticking to my outlines and this chapter didn't need anything else in it. Please review and I hope you're enjoying reading it as much as i enjoy writing it!
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