Chapter 9 : Undeniable
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Valora stood before the stone gargoyle and frowned. She had a feeling her erratic behavior was the reason she had been called to Dumbledore's office. The past few days she had been very on edge. The week had been a long one, a stressful one. It seemed like no matter where in the castle she went she ran into Severus or Harry.
"Licorice Whip." she mumbled. The gargoyle lept aside and she made her way up the winding staircase. She barely knocked before Dumbledore called for her to come in. She looked and he was smiling. She was being paranoid. People didn't get sacked for being tense, and even if they did Dumbledore would never sack her. She was turning out to be a damn fine teacher, and her students really enjoyed her class, much to Severus' dismay. She took a seat in the familiar looking chair that resembled a corn muffin.
"You wanted to see me Pro- Albus?"
Dumbledore did that peering thing he was oh so good at before giving her a rather patronizing smile.
"Are you settling in alright, Valora?"
"The strains of coming back into society aren't becoming too much to handle?" He asked carefully. Valora's pride kicked into gear and her back stiffened.
"I've just been tense- had a little trouble sleeping but I'm taking something for that now."
"So I've heard." Dumbledore said mysteriously, reaching into a drawer and pulling out a pack of candy, offering them first to Valora who declined before feeding them to Fawkes.
"Albus, I can assure you, I've just been tired." She said, calmly.
"Was exhaustion why you hexed Mr. Potter the other day?" Dumbledore asked, sounding genuinly curious. Valora felt blood flush her cheeks slightly.
"That was a misunderstanding. I didn't realize it was him behind me." Valora said in a rush.
"Valora, the use of magic on a student is prohibited. Seeing as this is your first offense I'll let it go but keep in mind not to hex students anymore." Dumbledore said slowly. Valora nodded and prepared to stand.
"There's actually a bit more I'd like to discuss, 'Lora." Dumbledore told her. Valora winced. This wasn't going to get better. She had a gut feeling it would be getting steadily worse.
"I've also heard reports that you've been jumpier than usual lately. I believe it's twice that you pointed your wand at a colleauge. Is there a reason to fear for your safety here? If so you should tell me." He asked seriously. Valora turned a deeper scarlet.
"They- I was caught offgaurd. I'm sorry. It's just my first reaction." Valora said softly. It was true, but it still didn't excuse her wand happy behavior the past week or so.
"You've still been doing night patrol, correct?" he asked, cleaning a spot off of his spectacles with his wand.
"Yes, every night, ten to midnight."
"Severus has the next shift?" It wasn't a question.
Valora shifted slightly in her seat. "Yes, he does."
"He's offered to take on the four hour patrol, if you'd like." Dumbledore proposed gently. Valora's hands clenched into angry fists.
"I'm tired, I'm not incompetent. I'm certaintly capable of doing a night patrol for two little hours. I don't need Severus taking pity on me because of a little sleep depravation." Valora said caustically. Dumbledore raised a snow white eyebrow at her tone.
"I think you misunderstood, Valora. You would be taking your patrol with Severus. He would be doing both yours and his, accompanying you. I think-"
"...THIS IS RIDICULOUS! I BECOME TENSE FOR A WEEK AND SUDDENLY SEVERUS HAS TO PATROL WITH ME LIKE I'M A LOST FIRST YEAR?! NO!" She yelled, standing from her seat. Dumbledore didn't look happy with her outburst, but he did seem as though he had expected it, and motioned for her to sit again which she did.
"It wouldn't have to be right away. He'll take it for the next day or so. I want you to rest. Perhaps you can resume on Tuesday evening?" He asked gently, only Valora knew he wasn't asking. He was telling her to take a break and calm down before she caused any kind of serious injury.
"Alright, fine, but I WILL be resuming my patrols on Tuesday." she said, standing once again from her seat.
"With Severus, of course?"
"Of course." she said stiffly. Valora paused at the door and turned to look back at the old man.
"Why do keep trying to stick Severus and I together? It's quite obvious he wants nothing to do with me and to be perfectly honest I'm not sure how much more I can take of this." Valora said sincerely, for the first time voicing some of her fear out loud. Dumbledore looked at her with a bemused expression.
"Valora you mistake me. I didn't come up with this idea. Severus did." he smiled brightly while Valora's jaw went slack. She couldn't even gather words to form a sentence, instead walking from the room, feeling completely stunned.
Did Severus think her stupid, and dangerous? Or maybe....maybe he just wanted to spend time with her. Maybe she wan't alone in this. Maybe Severus still cared for her the same way she cared for him. These thoughts and similiar ones were maddening. If she didn't confront him about how she felt soon, she would slip into insanity, if she wasn't there already.
Valora barely spoke to Sanpe in the few days that followed. Sitting in the Great Hall for breakfast he turned to glance at her untouched plate.
"Not hungry?" He asked, seeming only half interested in the answer as he scanned his eyes over the students.
"No." Valora replied softly before taking a sip of juice without really tasting it.
Now Severus looked at her, for the softness of tone was quite unusual for her.
"Are you sleeping well?"
"Yes, thank you. That potion works very well. I don't dream at all."
"Good, good." He murmured, turning back to the students, all of whom had their eyes to the windows as the owls flew in with the morning delivery. Jasper flew dutifully over to Valora and dropped her a tiny letter which she snatched mid-air and stuffed into her robes. She turned to see Severus looking at her with a questioning expression. Valora gave a weak smile and halfhearted shrug before leaving and going to her office.
Once the door was safely locked behind her she tore into the letter, already knowing it was from Sirius.
I'll be in town this evening. Meet me at the Shrieking Shack after your last class. Don't wear anything complicated.
'Pig' she thought, scoffing in disgust.
Calm down, kitty cat, that was a joke. We do need to talk about your little 'mishap' with Harry. I'll see you tonight.
Pulling her cloak tighter around her did little to block out the frigid air that whipped around her as she walked the path towards the Shack. Valora made sure the hood was covering her face when she snuck inside the dilapidated old house that had once been the sight of many a party for her and the boys.
Inside Valora saw the Sirius already had a smokeless fire going and was comfortably asleep on the couch. It was like Azkaban hadn't touched him; he was still his same carefree self. Valora crept over silently, before jumping onto him. Sirius awoke with a start and would have yelled if Valora hadn't been covering his mouth. She began giggling like a sixteen year old girl at him. Sirius's eyes narrowed and he easily flipped her over so he was pinning her to the couch. She continued to laugh quietly.
"You're too easy to sneak up on Padfoot. It's a good thing I'm not a Deatheater." She told him, smiling. Sirius grinned.
"You could never kill me, kitty cat."
Valora groaned and pushed him off of her.
"That hideous nickname. I was hoping you'd forgotten it after sixteen years."
"It's not hideous! It's charming, if I do say so myself." Sirius said reaching into the pocket of his jacket. Valora rolled her eyes and then froze when she saw what was in his hand. A bottle of Firewhiskey. As soon as he uncorked it the warm and inviting aroma seemed to fill the entire Shack. Sirius took a tiny sip before offering it to Valora.
A few sips and she could go numb. she wouldn't feel Severus, she wouldn't feel love, she wouldn't feel pain. She would simply exist without feeling anything. Was she willing to trade her safety, her redemption, for a few hours of drunken peace?
"No, thanks." she said quietly.
"More for me." Sirius said with a wink before taking another sip and putting it back into his pocket. "Say, 'Lora. Do you remember the last time we drank here?"
"Mhmm." She said with a giggle. "Right before spring break in our 7th year."
James prodded Valora in the back as they snuck down through the Whomping Willow. She turned around as best she could and punched him in the shoulder, which made him back up into Sirius who whispered angrily at them.
"Knock it off! These bottles are huge, and I don't want them breaking!"
"Oh, calm down Padfoot." Valora groaned as she crawled into the opening of the Shack. Remus was leaning against a wall waiting for them with Peter who was looking nervous as ever but seemed excited. James and Sirius soon appeared behind her.
"'Bout bloody time." Remus said, walking over and grabbing a bottle from Sirius's hands, and uncorking it quickly.
"Rough week, Moony?" James asked with a smirk.
"He's just stressed. We have final exmas soon...IN THREE WEEKS!" Valora reminded him with a smile and a slight shove.
"That's not enough time to study for all the exams we're going to have." Remus complained between long sips from the bottle.
"I really think you should adopt my study technique." She said, accepting the bottle Sirius offered her.
"You have no study technique." Remus complained.
"Exactly." she said winking. Sirius sat on the couch and Valora plopped herself down beside him, and didn't give a thought when he slipped his arm around her shoulders.
"You may not need to study, kitty cat, but WE do." Sirius said poking her in the side, making her giggle slightly.
"Yea, we can't get O's in potions without cracking a book, like some people here...Pardus." James said, sinking down on her other side.
"When did you get so good at potions, 'Lora?" Peter asked sitting on the floor across from them. Valora just smiled and shrugged before taking a long sip fom her own bottle, desperate not to talk about potions.
"Well with Snivelly as a partner, of course a little bit of 'nerd' is going to rub off on her." James said, earning him a elbow in the ribs from Valora.
"As long as thats all that 'rubs off' on her." Sirius muttered protectively. Valora reluctantly pulled the bottle from her lips and looked at him with wide eyes.
"And what the bloody hell is that suppsoed to mean, Padfoot?"
Sirius shrugged innocently. "Just don't like how he looks at you is all."
"I just don't like how he looks." Remus joked. Valora stayed quiet, instead concentrating on finishing the contents of her bottle. The other boys watched in amazement as she down almost a third in a few short minutes. When she finally came up for air James took a better look at her bottle.
"Thirsty?" he asked with a smirk. Valora laughed and cuddled closer to him. For some reason she became very touchy feely when she drank. It was something both Severus and Sirius hated. James patted the top of her head affectionatley and let her rest her head on his chest.
"You're lucky Lily isn't here, Pardus. She'd hex you into oblivion." Remus joked. James and Sirius frowned while Valora laughed a little.
"I hope you all make it clear to any girlfirends you have in the present or future that I am in fact part of the marauders and don't plan on going anywhere. So if they don't like you hanging out with other women, tough." She said firmly. However she did sit up off of James and walk over to Remus who eyed Valora carefully as she took another long sip from her bottle. Valora raised an eyebrow at all of them.
"Merlin. Did I finally shock you all into silence? I didn't think I said anything that interesting." She admitted, smiling a bit at Remus. The boys all smiled a litle nervously but Valora frowned.
"What?" She demanded. Sirius snickered a bit.
"Kitty cat's got our tongue." he said, making James almost spit out the mouthful of liquor he had. Valora's eyes narrowed and she looked at Peter. Even if the other three tried to keep a secret she could always count on Peter to let her know what was going on.
"It's just weird, 'Lora. To think of you as a girl." the tiny boy admitted shyly. Valora threw her head back in laughter.
"Well I AM a girl. Complete with breasts, the ability to give birth, and supreme dueling skills." she said with a smile. Sirius walked over to her and hugged her close to him.
"We know you're a girl, Pardus, but you're OUR girl. No matter what we'll always have two women in our life." he whispered to her. Valora leaned back to look at him.
"You lot don't need to protect me. That's why I have Se- spells. I'm ranking best in our class yet again for DADA, and I'm third in potions."
"And I'm fourth." Remus added sullenly. They all laughed at his defeated tone, which made him laugh as well. From a little ways off they could hear the bells tolling close to midnight. Valora suddenly broke into a wicked grin and she slipped on her jacket.
"Well boys, I must be off."
"What? Where are you going?" Sirius demanded. Valora looked confused.
"It's early, Pardus. At least finish your bottle. It's still half full." James said, taking her hand and pulling him back down between him and Sirius. Remus stretched out on top of the three of them before Sirius shoved him off. Valora titled her bottle back and began to down it's contents.
"Slow down, 'Lora. Jeez, you in a rush or something?" Peter asked.
Valora shrugged. "Or something."
It took her only a few more minutes until the bottle was empty. The room was suddenly very comfortable looking. Why did she ever want to leave again? Oh yes, she had to meet Severus. Surely he could wait a little while longer. It was so cozy here, snuggled between her friends.
"I'm going to stay a bit longer, but only if I'm entertained." She warned them with a smile. Sirius smiled and took another sip from his bottle. Valora turned to James and took his hand, pulling him up off of the couch. Wobbling slightly she managed to pull him to his feet.
"What are you doing, Pardus?"
"I want you to dance with me, silly." She told him. She positioned one of his hands on her waist and then held the other in her own. James, who was slightly less drunk, managed to sweep her delicately around the room. Remus laughed and made his wand play music lightly. Valora giggled as James spun her around. A cough behind them made them turn to see Sirius, who bowed playfully, almost falling over. James handed Valora over to her new partner.
"Fancy meeting you here, kitty cat." Valora laughed lightly, drunkenly, and let Sirius spin her around. she wasn't sure when or how it happend but soon they were just standing, swaying slightly to the music, Her head was resting on his shoulder and he had his arms wrapped around her waist, holding her close.
The rest of the night was a blur. Valora woke the next morning with a terrible headache and grass stains on the knees of her jeans. no doubt she had fallen more than a few times on her way back up to the castle. She groaned and closed her eyes agaisnt the bright light of her bedroom.
"I'm never drinking again." she told herself.
"I had the worst hangover in Wizarding history." Valora remembered. Sirius smiled and stood from the couch, setting his wand down and making it play a soft melody. He reached out for her hand.
"You're kidding?" she asked, looking up at him.
"I never joke about dancing, kitty cat." He said, not waiting for an answer as he pulled her up from the couch. Valora smiled as he spun her around, feeling seventeen again.
"So you hexed Harry?" Sirius asked, his voice pleasant as he twirled her effortlessly.
"It was an accident."
"I've no doubt."
"He was under the invisibility cloak. It would have been nice to know he even HAD it in his possesion. I've been thinking I had a deatheater tailing me in Hogwarts."
"My apologies, I'll be sure to fill you in on every article of our godson's clothing from now on."
Valora punched him lightly in the shoulder and he smiled then spun her quickly and dipped her, making her gasp in surprise. Sirius chuckled, before pulling her up and continuing the conversation as they danced around.
"How are you, though? Harry tells me you seem on edge lately."
"I ran out of my sleeping potion for a few days, and I was getting exhausted is all. Snape was nice enough to make me new potion so I'm fine now." Valora said. Sirius stopped dead in his tracks.
"You let Snivellus make you a potion and you actually took it?"
"He is the potions professor." she said.
"I don't care, Valora. He's a deatheater. I don't know what Dumbledore is thinking in trusting him."
"Well, I trust Dumbledore, and therefore Severus by default has my trust. I'm sorry if that offends you." Valora said, pushing away from him and walking over to the couch again. Sirius ran a hand through his hair and looked at her carefully.
"I don't want you taking any more potions from him. I don't want you taking anything from him. Just steer clear of him, Valora. Please." Sirius said, taking her hand in his. Valora frowned at him and withdrew her hand.
"I don't care what you don't want me to do. I'll do as I damn well please, and if that means getting a good nights sleep, then I'll be doing just that. I have patrol duty tonight, so I have to leave." Valora said curtly before turning to leave.
"Don't be mad at me, kitty cat."
"Stop calling me that!" She demanded angrily. Sirius looked a little taken aback. Valora instantly regretted yelling at him and closed the gap between them and hugged him fiercely.
"Write soon?" she whispered, and Sirius's arms tightened around her.
The broke apart and Valora was about to walk out when Sirius spoke again.
"Wait, you should stay at Grimmauld Place for christmas break. It's almost as safe as Hogwarts and the entire order will be there, and so will Harry."
"Sirius, I'm not-"
"I'll say you're an old friend, nothing more, I swear. C'mon ki- Valora. Please?" He asked, with those big puppy dog that melted her willpower. Valora smiled and sighed abit.
"I'll think about it." she finally told him. Sirius grinned wickedly and kissed her hand.
"Thank you, love. I'll be seeing you soon then."
"Bye, Sirius." Valora said, refastening her cloak and venturing once more into the swirling, snowridden town on her way back to Hogwarts.
As she walked Valora's mood darkened with the sky. She wanted to talk to Severus about this; ask for his opinon. what should she do. Surely spending time with Harry was a good thing, but at what cost? Eventually he would want to know about her. Still she couldn't stand it if he wound up hating her. Though she already hated herself, so I guess it wouldn't matter if one more person hated her as well.
Walking through the front doors she had only time to drop off her cloak in her room and change from her muddy boots to cleaner, black, stilettoed boots. They were her favorites. She loved the staccato click of them as she walked down the halls; it was an odd comfort. A noise to remind her that she still existed. As she reached the entrance hall at 10, Severus was already waiting there.
"Good evening, Valora." he said slowly. Valora smiled briefly at him. Her gaze lingered on him for a moment. He was in all black, but without those billowing robes that gave him the appearance of a bat. His hair hung in his dark grey eyes a bit. Most people assumed his eyes were black but Valora was one of the only people people who ever close enough to know the difference.
"Hello, Severus." she said mildly.
Severus raised a brow at he gaze. She had a million secrets dancing behind those golden eyes.
"I thought we should begin at the bottom and work our way up." He proposed. Valora nodded, her mind a million miles away as she followed him towards the dungeons. Valora bit at her nails nervously as she walked, thinking the entire time. Severus walked beside her, saying nothing until they were near the Hufflepuff dormitories.
Valora saw a spider on the wall and shrieked lightly before cluthing Severus's arm instinctively. He quickly scooped the thing in his hand and carried it to an open window where it crawled out. He looked back at her slightly blushing form. She was chewing the side of her cheek, the way she always used to when she was embarassed. Severus shook his head at her.
"You haven't changed, Valora." He said cooly, continuing his way up to the Astronomy tower. Valora followed beside him.
"I've got a few more lines in my face now." She said with a small smile. Severus turned to look at her. She looked older, yes, but no less beautiful. It was as if she had matured but age had not touched her.
"We're all older now. Wrinkles are a sign of wisdom, I'm told. So I must be very wise indeed." He said. Valora smiled at his dry humor with no hint of a laugh to it. It was comforting to see that he too, hadn't changed much.
"You're not wrinkled, Severus. Those are frown lines. Look how deep they are. It's like you keep a permanent scowl on your face. I think if you smiled your face would go into paralysis from shock." She joked, smiling wide and laughing a little.
"You're probably right." Severus agreed without argument, but a tiny smirk hinted at the corners of his mouth.
They continued a somewhat pleasant conversation as they walked, discussing simple things like Hogsmeade and London, the students, homework, who showed promise and who was lazy. They were by an old supply closet when Valora bgean to laugh.
"What's so funny about a closet?" Severus asked, raising a brow at her. Valora looked at him, a little shocked.
"You don't remember?"
"No." Severus said simply.
"Yes, you do. In seventh year, when Slughorn sent us for cleaning supplies, and we came up here for them. Don't you remember what happened?"
"I vaguely remember you dragging me inside." Severus said with an annoyed half-smirk.
"Me? No, that was you dragging me. Then we were gone so long long Slughorn himself came looking for us." She remembered, laughing.
"It's a good thing he wasn't a leglimens or we would have been caught."
"No we very good occlumens. As I understand it you still are. I don't know what happened to mine." Valora admitted as they continued walking.
"If unpracticed for a long time, say fourteen years, it's very easy to lose the discipline." Severus said. Any trace of happiness on his face was gone now, and the same went for Valora. The bells tolled midnight and Severus walked Valora to her portrait again.
"Goodnight, Valora." Severus said, turning to leave her. Valora reached out and grabbed his hand.
"Thank you." She whispered. Severus looked at her confused.
"For not asking me a million questions, for not demanding answers. It was nice just to...talk...with you...again." Valora managed to say. She wanted to kiss him, desperatley, when Severus withdrew his hand as though he'd been burned. Crap. She realized he'd accidently heard that.
"I'm sorry." she mumbled, biting the inside of her cheek.
"No, I apologize. I don't even realize when I'm using leglimens anymore." Severus said, staring at a wall, not meeting her gaze.
"You really should think about re-learning Occlumens, Valora." Severus said, turning to leave.
"Severus?" Valora called softly. Snape turned and looked at her again.
"Yes, Valora?" he inquired carefully.
"Do you think I could see you after classes on Friday?" She asked, her voice full of trepidation. Severus's eyes suddenly became sad.
"Why?" He asked quietly.
"To talk." Valora replied simply. Severus let out a long breath.
"After the students leave, I assume?" He asked. Valora frowned in confusion.
"They leave for break on Friday." Severus elaborated.
"Oh yes, of course. So, is that a yes?" She asked with a small smile. Severus shrugged.
"So it would seem."
Valora smiled wide and wished him a good night before climbing through her portrait hole to her room.
Severus paced the halls for two more hours but it did nothing to help him calm down. When he passed the gaurd off the Flitwick he was more than happy to retire to his own rooms. Damn this woman. She was intent on destroying the walls he'd managed to build against her in fourteen years. He couldn't deny the longing, the desire he still felt for her. He wanted to touch her, hold her, care for her again. In truth, he missed her, but he knew this was wrong. He had known it was wrong from the beginning.
A younger Severus sat at a table in the library with Valora sitting across from him, with her nose buried in a book. The 6th year DADA teacher was clearly oblivious to what other students thought and had paired him off with one of the marauders. It was as though the Professor wanted to cause tension between the students. Still over the last three weeks Severus had gotten to know Valora. She wasn't as terrible as the boys she hung around with. She was sweet, and sarcastic, refusing to let his comments get under her skin.
"Sev, what did you get for number three?" She asked quietly. Severus wasn't sure when they had lapsed into a kind of friendship but it hadn't taken long. They held a mutual respect for one another, and had decided from the beginning not to discuss the friends of the other. She didn't mention Voldemort and Deatheaters, while he didn't talk about Werewolves or Marauders.
"Finite Incantetum." He said softly, watching as she bent over her notebook, brushing a piece of dark brown hair out of those stunning eyes.
"Thanks." She said glancing up to smile at him. When she met his eye her cheeks darkend and she quickly put her head back in her book.
Had she just blushed at him?
Valora stood up and went back to a row of books. The library was empty except for them, and Madame Pince who was snoozing lightly at her desk. They always worked late. Their other duties kept them so occupied during the day. He wished he saw her more than just at night, whenever he saw her in the morning she was with Black and Potter, and the werewolf, and that little Pettirgrew.
"Sev, could you grab this for me?" She called quietly. She didn't need much volume for her voice, it carried easily through the silence. Severus stood and walked over to her, reaching high up to grab the book from the shelf. When he turned Valora was standing very close to him. She brought her hands up to rest on his chest.
"Thank you." She whispered so low he almost didn't hear it. Clearly she wanted him to do something but Severus was caught up in thought. If he kissed her now, he knew he would fall in love with her. He didn't want to but it was unavoidable. Kissing her now would lead inevitabley to secrets, and complications. Her hesitated a second too long it seemed, because she bit the inside of her cheek, a nervous habit, and back away from him.
"I'm sorry." She said quietly, staring at the floor. Severus wanted to kick himself. A beautiful, intelligent woman had completely offered herself to him and he had just stood there like an idiot. Without a rational thought he crossed the small gap between them and pressed Valora against the rows of dusty books and captured her mouth with his. Valora quickly wrapped her arms around him, her fingers twisting into his hair. Severus pulled back a little, and Valora gasped for air delicately.
"You do realize that this," Severus said "...this is-"
"The point of no return?" She finished. Severus nodded slowly and Valora smiled up at him.
"I know." she said before reaching up and kissing him again with even more passion than before.
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