Chapter 19 : Caught Off Gaurd
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"Was my intention to take control again?
Somehow you've got me on the ropes of my own plan."
She sang to herself. A few nervous giggles made her glance up and she realized she had being doing that in full view and earshot of her class. She smiled at bit at herself and tapped her wand on the desk.
"Five points to whoever knows what I was just singing." she said with a smile. A shy Hufflepuff raised her hand and Valora nodded for her to tell the class.
"She by Live?" the timid blonde said quietly. Valora's smile widened.
"Five points to Hufflepuff. Well done, Ms. Rogers. Return to your essays now." She said before going back to her own work. When the bell rang the students dropped off their papers on her desk before filing out the door. Valora stretched her arms above her head and took a deep breath as she wiggled her fingers trying to relieve the cramped feeling.
"Uhm, Professor Nox?" said a quiet voice to her left. Harry stood nervously in the doorway. It had been two weeks since her last attempt to speak to him. Valora saw that he looked almost as nervous as she felt.
"You can call me Valora, Harry." She said quietly. He took a step forward, then seemingly thinking better of it turned and closed the door before continuing to walk closer to her desk.
"How are you?" he asked tentatively. Valora raised an eyebrow.
"Fine." He mumbled, looking at the ground. Valora leaned back, torn between not wanting to piss him off and wanting to demand that he spit out whatever it was he stayed behind to say.
"Will you be staying at Padfoot's for the spring holiday?" Harry asked, finally looking her in the eye.
Valora glanced up at the clock before gathering the essays and a few other things and placing them in a basket on her desk. The house elves would deliver them to her rooms later.
"That was the idea. Do you mind?" She asked, now worried that he came here to ask her to stay away.
"No, not at all. I mean it's really not my decision, but if it was...well, it would still be okay." He said bluntly.
"Thank you. That's very sweet of you." Valora said with a smile tugging at the corner of her mouth. Harry returned the half smile with one of his own.
"Right, then, I guess I'll be seeing you." He said quickly.
"You will, we still have another few days of classes before we leave. I think I'll be taking the train this time with you. Unless you'd rather I-"
"- no, yea, the train's fine." Harry said, cutting her off, smiling slightly at her nervousness. "I'll see you tomorrow, Valora." he said before giving a quick wave and walking out.
Valora smiled and leaned back in her chair with a bemused smile on her face. She didn't know what had exactly changed but she was sure it must have been heavy guilt-tripping on Sirius's part. She laughed and reminded the herself to thank him.
She double checked the note Severus had slipped her earlier before making her way to the library. When she walked in she immediately went into the restricted section and began to browse through the books, still humming quietly as she read the dusty spines.
"Generally, it's polite to keep quiet when in a library." a sarcastic voice came from behind her. Valora smiled but didn't bother to turn around.
"Hello to you too, Snape." she said, pulling out what appeared to be an original copy of the karma sutra. Valora's eyebrows shot in the air as she flipped through the yellow pages. Apparently the Founders were frisky.
"What's that doing in a school library?" Severus demanded as he peered over her shoulder, ignoring the book in his own hands.
"I don't know, but I'm intrigued." Valora admitted as she flipped through, feeling an odd pride as she mentally checked off the positions in her head 'done that...done that...'
"When did we do that?" Severus asked looking at a rather complicated looking drawing with a wrinkled brow.
"It was after Gryffindor won the Quidditch Cup, on the divination pillows- HEY! Stop going in my head!" Valora said a little too loudly. Severus quickly cupped a hand over her mouth and forced her farther back into the room.
"Could you be any more obnoxious?" He asked, taking the book from her hands and hiding it between some autobiographies that looked untouched.
"Probably." she said with a smile. Severus muttered something to himself but Valora took no notice of it. "Harry spoke to me today."
"How very thrilling." Severus said dryly, earning him a solid hit fist in his shoulder. "Must you be so violent?"
"Must you be such an ass?" She countered. They stared at each other for a minute, neither one blinking. Valora's eyes began to sting and water against her will and Severus smiled, then let out a tiny bark of a laugh when she blinked.
"You lose." He said, crossing his arms across his chest.
"A breeze hit my eyes, it was natural interference." Valora said in her defense.
"A breeze in the library?" He asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Yes." Valora said defiantly, beginning to look at more books.
"What did Potter want?" Severus asked finally.
"Harry, wanted to know if I was going to Grimmauld Place for the holiday. He actually didn't seem upset when I told him I was. He was even okay with me taking the train with him."
"Thank Merlin." he replied sarcastically. Valora rolled her eyes. "You're taking the train into London with the school?"
"Why?" Valora asked. Severus took a deep breath and pressed his lips to her forehead.
"Just want to make sure you're safe. I don't like the idea of you traveling alone." He said quietly. Valora gave a guilty smile.
"Then you're really not going to like the next thing I have to say."
Severus groaned and pinched the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger, pursing his lips in an attempt to stay calm.
"And why is that?"
"Well, I'm actually taking tomorrow off. I need to make a day trip to London. I'll just be gone the day. I thought I'd apparate out of Hogsmeade then-"
"- absolutely not." Severus said quickly and angrily. Valora straightened her shoulders.
"There's a few things I've neglected and I really need to-"
"-what things?" He demanded. Valora's eyes narrowed at him.
"First of all, don't interrupt me again. Secondly, my errands are private, but no less urgent."
"Private and urgent reasons to go off into London on your own while you're being hunted by the greatest dark wizard of our time. I'll need to have a better explanation than that." He said.
"Well, you're not getting one."
"Then you're not going. Valora, do you have a deathwish? You'll be a huge target the moment you step foot out of this castle."
"Merlin, Sev, you don't expect me to stay here in the library twiddling my thumbs until the war is over do you? I have things that need to be done."
"You're not going. I don't want to hear another argument. Promise me you won't go."
"No!" Valora said stubbornly, storming out of the restricted section. Luckily the library wasn't too filled with students and so they didn't notice Severus wait a moment before following her out. She kept a steady pace as she stormed down the hallway. The nerve- the absolute nerve! Bossing her about like she was a dog instead of his....girlfriend? That seemed so cheesy. Lover, came off as trashy...fiancee? ha. Oh, what did it matter, she'd be his worst nightmare if he didn't stop acting like he could control her.
"You are absolutely ridiculous." Severus said, his stride matching her own. Valora ignored him and kept walking.
"Valora, stop." He said grabbing her elbow and wheeling her around to face him.
"You're not going." He whispered hotly.
"I am, actually."
"How do you plan to stop me?" She said as they argued in heated whispers.
"Don't go there."
"I'm going there. What are you going to do? Pout until I come back, which is what you normally do. Then you won't speak to me for a day or two until I pretend to be sorry and you finally get over yourself." she said with a non-chalant shoulder shrug.
"Please don't go." He said quietly. "and I don't pout."
"I'm still going, and yes you do pout. You're doing it now." She said. He locked eyes with her again, but this staredown was different from the one in the library, it had a pleading look. Suddenly both Valora and Severus blinked as a bright flash a few feet away blinded them. Still seeing spots Valora managed to note Colin Creevey. Her look was lethal and the boy's eyes widened. She beckoned him to come closer to where she and Snape stood. They made a rather intimidating pair.
"Yes, Professors?" he asked nervously.
"What do you think you're doing?" Severus asked. Valora noted the immediate change between the tone he had been using with her and the tone he used with Colin. No wonder his students hated him.
"It's for the yearbook, sir."
"You should be in class Colin, and you shouldn't take pictures of people without their permission. It's rude. Give me the camera." Valora said calmly but forcefully. Colin reluctantly placed the camera into her waiting hands. Severus and Valora gazed down at him.
"Ten points from Gryffindor for cheek." Severus finally said. Both Colin and Valora shot him looks of disbelief. Colin looked like he'd just been slapped. The boy had only taken a picture for the yearbook.
"Five awarded for school spirit." She said, earning her a smile from Colin and a glare from Severus. "Get to class, Colin."
"Thanks, Professor Nox." He said before scurrying off to class. Severus turned to Valora and she looked at him sheepishly. He held out his hand to take the camera and she handed it over. He looke furious.
"Don't undermine me like that again, Valora."
"I'm sorry, but you were being ridiculous. Ten points for taking a picture? Honestly..." She said, running a hand through her hair.
"Can you imagine if people saw this picture?"
"Well, thats why I took the camera, you git. There was no need to be so mean." She said. Severus turned and walked down the hall without saying anything.
"Severus, don't walk away." She said hurrying to match his steps. He didn't respond. She did feel a bit guilty about making him look bad in front of a student.
"I'll make it up to you."
"Don't go to London."
"Don't go to London." He said again, this time turning to face her. Valora bit her cheek and then sighed.
"Fine, I promise I won't go to London tomorrow. Happy?" She asked bitterly.
"No, relieved." He said before walking off towards his rooms. Valora rushed to her own rooms to change. She had to go see Dumbledore.
Valora knocked quickly before rushing into Dumbledore's office. She had her traveling cloack around her shoulders and Dumbledore raised an white brow when he saw her.
"I thought you weren't leaving until tomorrow, Lora." He said quietly. Valora shrugged.
"Severus doesn't want me to go and we had an argument, so I promised him I wouldn't go tomorrow." she said.
"So by leaving tonight, you're not techinically breaking your word." Dumbledore finished with a smile. He shook his head. "Of course you may go tonight, my dear but be careful."
"Always, Albus, always." She said.
"Oh, Valora now that you and Severus are together again there are a few things we need to discuss." Dumbledore said. Valora nodded.
"Of course, what did you want to talk about?" She asked. Dumbledore smiled.
"It can wait until you return. I'll be seeing you tomorrow afternoon, I take it?" He asked. Valora nodded and smiled before leaving.
She walked down to Hogsmeade and as soon as she was off Hogwarts property spun on the spot and found herself standing in the cool night air of Knockturn Alley.
Valora immediatley checked to make sure her face was obscured by the hood of her cloak. She slipped her hand into her pocket and patted the key there before setting off down the street. Valora was surprised by how well she remebered the route to the run down flat she owned. This flat was of course owned under the name Ophelia Prince but she had paid for it with her own money and it was, by all rights, hers. She climbed the dirt covered stairs to the third floor hall. She tentatively stuck the key into the lock and with a loud creak the door opened. Stepping inside Valora was met with the overwhelming stench of stale alcohol and cat urine. She coughed and shut the door behind her before flicking her wand and opening a window. The fresh oxygen helped to clear her head and she took a good look around. Shockingly, everything was exactly how she had left it. How had she lived like this?
The living room was covered in old copies of the Daily Prophet, owl droppings and random pieces of yellow parchment. Almost every piece of furniture had burns in it she noted as she walked into the kitchen. Bottles covered every inch of counter space there was, even a few full ones. She shuddered and turned away from them in disgust, walking now to her bedroom. She took a deep breath before turning the handle and walking in. The bed was a rumpled mess, and she could still see the make-up and blood stains on her pillow. She used to cry so hard she'd give herself nose-bleeds. Like the living room, this floor too was covered in paper, but this wasn't newspaper. They were all letters she had never sent and almsot all of them were addressed to Severus. She picked one up and read it.
I was wrong. I didn't mean what I said...
I can't believe you kicked me out. You don't care about me at all...
Sev...please come and find me and bring me home...
Valora tried to push the ancient sadness from her heart, reminding herself that she had him. He was hers again. She took a few deep steadying breaths before crumpling the letter and tossing it back onto the floor. She walked out of the bedroom and closed the door. That would be the last room she would tackle. She hadn't come here to reminisce, she had actually come to clean and sell this place. She didn't need the Death Eaters finding this apartment and finding those letters. She could undo everything the Order had worked for, what she and Severus had worked for. She rolled up her sleeves and decided to start with the kitchen and pouring those bottles down the drain.
She spent the whole day cleaning, only pausing for a few hours to nap on the sofa, and she still wasn't finished. Severus was probably furious she thought as she sprayed doxycide on the curtains. The living room, kitchen and bathroom were cleaner than they had been when she'd bought the place but she still didn't have nerve to go to the bedroom. Glancing outside she saw the telltale orange glow of sunset. She streched her arms and yawned. She would just have to come back another day, she couldn't stay here, Severus would go positively insane. She pulled on her cloak and left, making sure to lock the door behind her. Once she was in the hallway she safely apparated to a darker alley and began the walk towards Diagon Alley. She enjoyed walking in the fresh air. It was a freedom she had missed. As she walked she felt prickling sensations travel along her spine. She subtly glanced behind her an saw a cloaked figure following her.
'Padfoot, that idiot.' she thought and turned down into a small alley behind a dingy store. She waited for a moment for him to appear, and appear he did, with his hood still obscuring his face.
"I thought I told you not to-" she stopped speaking as the cloaked figure was soon joined by two others, which made three dark figures and for the first time she noted the unmistakeble glint of silver masks.
"Shit." she said quickly drawing her wand and narrowing her eyes, prepared to fight. "Stupefy!" she yelled at the big one in the center. He toppled over and she took the slim window of opportunity to run, knowing she was being followed by the other two.They were firing jinxes and hexes after her and so she was running in zigzags, trying to use every shortcut she knew. It seemed as though she didn't remember Knockturn Alley as well as she had previously thought because soon she came to a dead end. She glanced up at the wall and thought seriously for a moment about trying to scale it but then she heard the sound of footsteps behind her. She turned a quickly fired a jinx at one of them. Luckily he landed a few feet away from the force and knocked himself unconcious against the cobblestone road.
"We thought you were dead, Valora. The Dark Lord was quite surprised to hear that you were alive." The remaining deatheater taunted. She couldn't make out who the voice belonged to, he was too far away and she hadn't spoken with a deatheater in near sixteen years.
"Yeah, well, you know how much I love surprising Tommy." She said with a gaurded shrug, her wand still pointed. She felt the fury radiate from the Deatheater before he spoke.
"Expelliarmus!" Valora shouted and the wand soared out of her opponents hand. Valora watched it as it flew into the air before landing delicately in her open hand, but as it turns out she should have kept her eyes on the Death Eater because moments later he crashed into her, sending her sprawling to the ground. It seemed he didn't need a wand and was content to crush her face between his fist and the road. Valora kicked managed to bite him quite hard which gave her the time she needed to free her wand hand from underneath herself.
"Stupefy!" She shouted and the spell hit him squarely between the eyes and he fell on top of her; unconcious, his weight crushing her. She pushed him aside and picked up his wand where he'd dropped it and then walked over to his accomplice. The broke both wands cleanly in half and threw them in a rubbish bin before turning on her heel and apparating to the park around the corner from Grimmauld Place.
As she crossed the road she realized belatedly that the Death Eater had done some real damage. Her adrenaline was wearing off and the pain was kicking in. Her ribs were badly bruised if not completely broken. She felt her face and she could feel and fat lip and black eye beneath her cool fingers. She didn't bother knocking and instead just walked in.
"Sirius!" She called, her voice catching in her throat. She felt shaky and unsteady. She hadn't had to defend herself like that in a long time. Tears threatened to come out and she forced them back by yelling again, this time with a bit more volume.
"Sirius!" She said, this time pain was evident in her voice. Sirius came rushing down in only a pair of boxers, with his wand drawn. Clearly she'd woken him up as his hair was sticking up in odd places and he looked as though his eyes were still unfocused.
"Pardus? Is that you?" He said, dropping his wand on the coffe table and smiling before walking over but as he got closer his expression changed to a worried panic.
"Merlin, what happened to you?" He asked, tilting her chin into the light to get a better look at the damage.
"Is it really as bad as all that?" She asked, wincing slightly. Sirius let out a noise that sounded like a growl.
"Who did this?"
"Death Eaters. Three of them. Broke two of their wands but I just didn't have the energy to go back and grab the thrird I really should have but I-"
She was cut off as Sirius caught her in a bone-crushing hug, which is not very pleasant when you think your bones have already been crushed.
"OW!" She said and he immediatley released her and she noted the moist look about his eyes. "Jeez, Pafoot, I'm the one who got the crap kicked out of me and you're the one crying? That's pretty selfish." She joked and walked toward the kitchen where she gingerly slipped her cloak off.
"What do you need?" He asked, standing in the doorway.
"I need antiseptic, skelegrow, a wash cloth, warm water, and for you to put some pants on." she said, then as she went to lift her shirt winced "and some scissors." she added. Sirius nodded and ran off to get her the things she needed.
Valora carefully felt down her side and realized her ribs were, in fact, broken. Damn, she hated the taste of skelegrow. She had been hoping she wouldn't have to use it. While she was here she needed to write the Headmaster.
"Accio parchment and quill." She said and began to write, but when no letters appeared gave an exasperated sigh.
"Accio ink." she said, very annoyed. She hated having to be so damn specific. She quickly wrote a note to Dumbledore, explaining the attack and her injuries and asking to be excused from teaching until after the holiday seeing as she would need the next few days to recover a bit anyway and she couldn't teach like this.
Sirius appeared just as she sealed the letter with everything she had requested, including pants. She took the scissors and made a small cut in her shirt before tearing it open and then cutting it into long strips. She needed to set the bones before she took the skelegrow or they would regrow all deformed, and that just didn't seem asthetically pleasing.
"So I have to wear pants but you're allowed to walk around topless. What a hypocrite." Sirius joked as he sat beside her and dipped the washcloth into the bowl of warm water and began to dab at her face. Valora smiled which caused her lip to split farther and she groaned.
"I hate this."
"We could call Molly. I'll bet she knows healing spells we could use-"
"-no. I don't want them seeing me like this. Well not yet, at least. We can deal with this on our own." She said, hissing as he next put on the antiseptic, which stung. Sirius rolled his eyes and closed the bottle when he was done and Valora fought to swallow the dose of skelegrow.
"Can you walk?" He asked as they both stood. Valora shot him a scathing look.
"Of course I can walk." She said, taking ginger steps as to not move her ribs too much. Sirius laughed a little as she moved at a snail's pace across the kitchen. He quickly scooped her up into his arms, careful not to touch her bandages.
"This is so patronizing." She complained as he took her to his bedroom.
"Yeah, well, it sucks to be you then, doesn't it?" He said as he carefully deposited her onto the bed. He then sat beside her and tucked a blanket around her, covering what had previously only been covered by a bra and shoddy bandaging. They sat in silence for a little while, staring out the window at the few stars that were visible.
"He won't stop until I'm dead." She said quietly. Sirius oddly enough gave a small smile.
"You sound like Harry." he said, laying down beside her. Valora shook her head.
"He's not going to touch Harry. I don't care what I have to do. He's not getting his hands on my godson."
"Our godson. We will do whatever we need to do to keep him safe. You don't have to do this alone, Valora."
"I know." She said reaching over and giving his hand a gentle squeeze. Sirius didn't let go and instead laced his fingers through hers. "I meant to tell you thank you. I don't know what you said but Harry actually spoke to me yesterday. He seemed fine with my coming to spend holiday with all of you."
"Harry's a good boy."
"I know that. He's like his mum."
"No, he's like James."
"Only on the Quidditch pitch. I've seen him with other students, and he may be angry and scared but he's got Lily's strength in him." Valora said. Sirius smiled.
"You keep a close eye on him, don't you." He said, more like a statement than a question. Valora's brow furrowed.
"Isn't that my job as godmother?" She asked. Sirius laughed and leaned up to kiss her cheek.
"Goodnight, Valora." He said. Valora was too tired to continue the conversation, so she simply sighed.
"Goodnight Sirius." she said, closing her eyes and settling in to sleep. In her mind she whispered. 'Goodnight Severus, I love you.' the same way she did every night for the past twenty years.
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