Chapter 8 : Part VIII
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Except when a girl in a skimpy red dress came waltzing up the pathway from the gate, a black cloak slung over her shoulder and a red lollipop on her lips.
Quite a few pairs of eyes followed her to the doorway, some with the result of bafflement, some with a scoff, and others with a little more than a summer blush in their faces.
There was nothing like the cool, golden halls of Hogwarts at sunset to Iris. The waning light illuminated infinite sparkling grains in the masonry of the walls, statues took on a sort of life (even though half of them were already alive) and the simple peace that radiated form the people around was reflected in all this.
Except for one native and harsh contrast, who at present was gliding towards her from the other end of the hall. His steady gaze made it perfectly clear that she was his target. Should she run? Of course not, what was there to be afraid of? After all, she was surely the adult in this situation. So she stood her ground, until the melodramatic swishing of his exaggerated gait ceased upon arrival.
They stared silently at one another for what seemed like an hour, until the look of disgust and disapproval on Snape’s face was finally wrought into voice. Iris only smiled.
"Where have you been?" He looked her up and down, disgust rapidly becoming the prominent shadow of his features. Iris still only smiled, and said,
She knew he wouldn't bother with any more idle chat before he got straight to the point of his disapproval, and rapidly it did come.
“There is hardly any excuse for dressing in such an incredibly absurd way, especially when you are to be a teacher,” he snapped, black eyes narrowing as they flitted from one area of the wild red paisley to another. But his attention was immediately drawn away from her attire up to her lips and the crimson confection that hover there. “What is that? It smells horrendous.”
"Well, I'm not really sure you want to know, Severus," she smiled, sticking the whole thing into her cheek and talking around it. "After all, it's not exactly...tasteful..." Her smile widened. His lines deepened.
"Speak before I confiscate it, though I would greatly regret having to do something so disgusting."
"Really want to know then? It's a blood sucker. No pun intended."
Severus, however, did not find this remotely humorous and stated thus with more repulsion than ever.
"Put it away when people are around," he muttered, visibly struggling to restrain his nervousness. His left hand clenched and unclenched, as though a sudden pain came to it. Iris knew why, and when she looked there, she could see a bit of white gauze bandage peeking out from under the hem of his black sleeve.
For all his bitterness he had done that one all-important and significant deed, and she had unrightfully forgotten this fact.
“I’m sorry,” she said lowly, and wrapped the candy back up in its spellophane wrapper. She expected him to look down at her with triumph, but no such expression came. The expression worn there on that thin and stress worn face was simply humbling in its façade of sternness as though his mind told him this was what his face should do, just as the red blood in his heart wanted him to smile. The blood hadn’t won for many decades now.
Iris thought then that this man had once been young, without the lines and almost imperceptible scars now marring its whiteness, void of the perpetually half-dead mask.
"Thank you, by the way," she said, with no explanation necessary, for her eyes fell back on the wrist that had poured forth his lifeblood and given her breath anew. That blood still circulated in her veins; she could feel it far separated from the lesser blood of animals as water separates from oil. He was a part of her. She thanked God she hadn't become a part of him in that fateful moment. "Oh, and here," the cloak was lifted from her shoulder, but was turned away promptly.
"Consider it a reminder of our standings."
"Our standings?" Did she owe him something now? "You can't be serious, I --"
"Good evening," he stated, and with that, made to turn away.
At first Iris thought to let him go, but then resolution drove her after him in the now torch lit hall. "Wait, Severus,” she placed a hand on his arm. At first this seemed a mistake, for he rounded on her with a look of fury, but it faltered and softened almost instantly. “I know you’ve done more for me than most anyone would bother to do for someone like…me…and I’ll do anything for you in return. You know I would.”
“Anything, except what I want, and that you cannot give me.”
“The job? No, I can’t; Dumbledore won’t allow it, I’m sorry. There must be something?” Desperation lit those yellow eyes in all genuine emotion, only to be reflected in black eyes that showed the smallest spark of quickly fleeting desire.
* * *
No, he couldn’t ask this. Not again. Memory came rushing back to him as though a year were a day, of that one instance of passion that had since been forcibly stomped down into the darkest recesses of his memory. Here before him was the same haunting creature as before, that same glow about the yellow green eyes, of pleading, of desperation to please him, to impassion him again. So delicate looking, so youthful…his hand seemed to reach out to her smooth face of it’s own accord…
He mustn’t do this again. It was a mistake before, as it was now. There was no way he could justify this.
“No, I…I haven’t anything else.”
“I know what it is, I see it in your eyes as I have before, in that moment…”
So she remembered that in this very instance also. What else could either think of?
“No, I can’t--”
“We can’t talk about this here. I’m going to the Great Hall for dinner, as I’m sure Dumbledore will want me to appear. Later, Severus…I’ll talk to you later.” She clasped his cloak around her -- his cloak…and headed toward the Great Hall for dinner.
He would not follow her there…but he must, it was his duty to maintain order there…the last thing he needed now was to be harried by Dumbledore about his absence. Reluctance echoing in every hollow footstep, nearby observing students eyeing him with mixed looks, Severus entered the Great Hall through the back way along the staff table, trying desperately to not notice that Iris had been placed right next to him on his left. That was where all the Dark Arts teachers sat. That was where he should be sitting.
Dumbledore raised his hand and stood, giving a brief smile to Iris, who must have known what was coming, for she pushed her chair back, ready to stand when called. The hall fell silent.
“As you all know, Hogwarts has been without a permanent Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher for the past six months.” The students murmured in agreement. “So, it is my pleasure to announce that next year, that vacancy will be filled. I would like to introduce the newest member of our teaching staff to you, Miss LaRue.”
Iris stood, pride positively bursting from her smiling face, nodding to the polite applause of the students then seating herself once again. Severus noticed some of his own house members oggling at her as though they’d never seen a woman before in their lives, and quickly hissed at them to resume eating. They hastily obeyed. If it wasn’t enough that she held the job in the first place, now his male students were excited about the prospect of having her as a teacher next year.
“Can we talk now?” Her whisper made him uneasy, but his prior emotions freshly bubbled up again. “No one will notice…”
“There is nothing to discuss.”
“Yes there is. If you want the truth -- ”
“-- you know how I feel about you, and that hasn’t changed. I tried to change it but I can’t. I know how you feel too. Try to hide it all you like. But it won’t change anything. I’m not tied down by the lashes of consequence now, Severus. I am free. As are you.”
He would not grace her with a response to this, but would instead begin eating tiny bits of mashed potatoes, not daring to look at those eyes, for they would commit him to their intensity.
Dinner drew to a close, students filing out in small groups. Iris parted from Severus with a meaningful glance, leaving him to retreat in the other direction, towards the dungeons…
But he never made it to the dungeons. He made it as far as the staircase, and stopped. Students walked past him on all sides but they might as well have been ghosts to him, for that other staircase was all that filled his vision, and the possibility presented to him that lay ahead of it.
Iris slipped into dreams of hunting almost the moment she hit her bed. There were deer to be had, grand bucks with ivory racks as wide as her arm span…
A touch on the shoulder awoke her.
There he was, pale in the shadows and bright as day to her nocturnal senses. His arm gripped hers now, hard, his look was deeper than she had ever seen it, darker than the night that consumed the room. His thin lips quavered, and then he asked, barely audible, something like fear in his voice:
“Do you see what I am?”
She knew what he was asking.
“I see…I see what you are, for we are not so different monsters.”
His lips would not be steady in his silence, and then a great rush of breath escaped him as he collapsed into her, pressing his lips against hers just as before, feeling as though his grip would crush her arm, so tight it was. Neither pair of lips would move, unsure and surprised, until that soft, pleading undulation of before impassioned him to rake his fingers through her hair and crush her to him even more.
It was then that he noticed her lack of dress, as his hand found her back and felt only bare skin there. He felt as though he had just defiled some sacred ground through his accursed touch, for all he had touched before had perished…
They separated, Severus drawing his hand away from her, but not his face. She only smiled and made to touch his face, but he recoiled and turned away his gaze.
"There is nothing..." but he did not finish his words. In silence he turned and rose to leave, not casting a glance back at her as he escaped towards the door. Not even her forceful hand would stop him now from leaving this once and for all, for defeating this destructive desire consuming his mind.
"I will only destroy her," he whispered, too loudly to himself, pressing his cold palm against his face, standing only a few paces from her door, for he felt as though he could go no further. Despite his wish to escape he felt his heart palpitating because of her...
'Why did I ever venture to approach her?' screamed his mind. He barely noticed Iris come from behind the still open door, padding silently toward him with that fluid grace no mortal ever had. Her voice pierced him when she spoke.
"Can I really be decimated any further by mortal hands, Severus?"
Those eyes again...he was trapped, frozen to the spot, unable to will his legs to move with any amount of power. Their yellow light pierced him to his very soul, so haunting were they in their unearthly intensity, as though her own illuminated soul were reaching out to his through her eyes.
The expression there, however, was purely human.