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Chapter 7 : Of Shakespeare and Werewolves
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McGonagall had scheduled a kind of meet and greet dinner for the entire staff. It was a chance to introduce new staff, and for the more social staff to reacquaint themselves after their long summer break and share the scholarly results of the summer research trips that many of them often took. To Snape, it seemed little more than a chance to boast and gossip, but it was required. He looked forward to seeing Alara at dinner, though undoubtedly that would bring him in close proximity to that disgusting Werewolf, Brandon Brewer. What Alara saw in him was beyond Snape's comprehension. Then again, Brewer usually told the truth. He promised himself he would never lie to her again.
He walked into the Great Hall and spied Brandon Brewer, Poppy Pomfrey and two other healers he didn't recognize. New staff... he mused. There was always a high turnover amongst the lower level healers as one of Poppy's passions was raising up the next generation. He paid no attention to them, they would be gone in a year or two, off to the next stepping stone in their careers.
He sought out the only person he was really interested in talking to, Alara, pleased to see she was not with the werewolf. "How was your afternoon?" She looked slightly hesitant, and Snape couldn't blame her. He'd been rude to her when they spoke in the library. He was always rude to people. As he himself said in his dream, he was irascible. He knew it. He hated himself for it. Yet when he looked in Alara's eyes he didn't see condemnation for his attitude, he saw a friend. He was so very grateful for her friendship.
"Severus, Alara, come meet our new medical interns." Poppy Pomfrey interrupted them before Alara could answer and led them to where the auburn-haired healer smiled. She had the ease of a student who had graduated from Hogwarts and was happy to be back. Snape searched his memory and came up with a bland face in Gryffindor robes graduating his NEWT class his final year of teaching Potions. The other, the blonde with a pixie cut who had now moved off to the side with Brewer, had obviously never set foot inside Hogwarts before, evidenced by her over-appreciation of the hour glasses for the House Points system. Snape looked twice at her and stopped dead in his tracks. In spite of the pixie cut, Snape recognized her at once. The new intern was a very young looking Jenna Johnson. Snape stared at her, not hiding his shock.
"Severus?" Poppy asked. "Are you all right?"
Brandon laughed as the pair walked over joining the group. "He's all right. It's just that never, in all his days and nights, has one so beautiful been found to walk the lands of Wizendom." He indicated the new Nurse Johnson.
"Sweet talker..." the new nurse drawled back in a Southern US accent with a smile on her face.
"Shameless and unabashed." Brandon answered back, his smile evident in his voice as well as on his face. "Which doesn't make it any less true." He bowed slightly to Jenna.
Snape raised his eyebrows at the revolting display of affection with a rumbling of nausea in his stomach.
Poppy Pomfrey quickly stepped in and between Brandon and Jenna in a clear message to Brandon that he had taken his newfound infatuation far enough. "This is Jenna Johnson, who recently graduated from the Salem Witchcraft Institute with honors. She graduated with a specialization in lycanthropy."
Snape cast a sideways glance at Brandon as he muttered to Alara. "Thus her mistake of introducing them. Miss Johnson, a pleasure." His tone conflicted with his words. He barely heard the introduction of the other medi-witch, a Hogwarts graduate precisely as Snape remembered, Megan Maloney. Nurse Maloney held a keen interest in medicinal responses to the Dark Arts, in spite of the inconsistent teaching the subject had before Snape's post-war tenure began. As such, Snape should have been far more interested in the auburn-haired former Gryffindor, but his attentions were riveted on the young American.
"So Miss Johnson, what brings you to Great Britain? Surely you have werewolves in the United States?"
"We do." Jenna Johnson drawled and the disgusting Brewer hung on her every word. "In fact quite a few where I'm from down in Southern Georgia. They congregate and fight in the Pecan Groves, it's really rather frightening."
Snape cast a glance at Brewer, who in Snape's view, was looking quite ridiculous in the attention he was paying to the new intern.
For her part, Jenna seemed to be unfazed by the attention as she continued. "What brought me here is your post-war legislation on Werewolf rights. We have nothing like that in America. It has the potential to bring more Werewolf victims out of hiding and into a place where their burden can be eased."
Brandon Brewer stepped in, "and I, of course, am nothing but a willing volunteer in your magical hands."
Snape wanted to vomit.
"Thank you, Professor," Jenna answered shyly.
"Please!" Brandon objected. "Please call me Brandon."
"The rest of us call him Clueless." Snape muttered, earning him a glare from Brandon, Alara and Poppy.
"I wouldn't say he's clueless," Jenna defended him in her perfect Southern drawl. "He was reading Shakespeare to me this afternoon, I've never heard it in an authentic British accent before. It was really quite lovely."
Snape raised an eyebrow. "As I understand it, Werewolves reciting poetry is little more than howling."
"Severus..." Alara warned.
"It's all right Alara. I don't mind," Brandon chided as he turned back to Jenna. "You see, Severus spent years under cover working to bring down Lord Voldemort. Much as we all owe him a debt of gratitude for what he did for us, to accomplish his goal he had to bury his heart, never to be seen again. And to properly recite Shakespeare, one must have a heart."
As Snape's wand itched up his sleeve, he wanted nothing more than to hex the smirk from the Hufflepuff's face. He smiled a cruel smile at Brandon, before he turned to Alara and looked her in the eyes. Snape dropped the barriers of occlumency which had so thoroughly hidden his every emotion perfectly for twenty years and allowed his eyes to come alive with Shakespeare's Sonnet 23.
As an unperfect actor on the stage...
As he continued he focused on her bluer than blue eyes, the eyes of the friend that told him he was safe when he showed up in the Godric's Hollow pub emotionally empty inside. The eyes that woke him from a disturbing dream with care and concern. The eyes that loved him beyond understanding in his dream- eyes that would have rather died than lived without him.
Like Shakespeare in his Sonnet, his emotions for Alara made him feel too weak, unable to express these new feelings in his heart. There was no doubt in his mind that Shakespeare's words could communicate better than he could, that they pleaded for love more eloquently than he could ever hope to. All he could hope to do was to communicate his feelings with his voice and his unshielded eyes.
O! learn to read what silent love hath writ:
to hear with eyes belongs to love's fine wit.
He finished and Alara was completely entranced. She remained silent, her gaze held firm by his. "Sonnet?" She blinked and whispered at last.
"Twenty three." Snape answered before raising his barriers back up and turning toward a slack-jawed Brandon. "You were saying?" As he worked to make his face once again as readable as stone he enjoyed the shocked look Brandon Brewer's face.
Jenna Johnson's eyes moved between the two men, uncertain of what to do.
A Great Grey Owl suddenly swooped in through one of the upper windows and diverted everyone's attentions in the hall, landing clumsily at the dinner table and promptly losing consciousness.
"Errol?" Hagrid loudly questioned coming over from where he'd been talking with Headmistress McGonagall.
McGonagall rolled her eyes as she went over to the unfortunate beast. "You would think, with Arthur's new post-war promotion that the Weasleys could afford a new owl."
"Ain't you heard? Arthur's got a wedding to pay for! And a thumpin big'n if you ask me." Hagrid bent low over the table and pulled a potion out of his pocket. "Don' you worry, jus' a little pick me up and a tickle under 'is beak. He'll be right as rain."
McGonagall unwrapped the small parchment from Errol's leg as Hagrid tended to Errol. She looked around at everyone, her eyes finally resting on Alara. "For you."
"Me?" Alara was astounded. "What would they want with me?" She took the parchment and moved off to the side to read it in private as Hagrid decided to impress Meghan Maloney with his ability to bring Errol around using Firewhiskey and tickling.
"Oh Merlin...." Alara murmured. "Will you excuse me? Minerva, I'm afraid I'm going to miss your welcome dinner."
"Is everything all right?"
Alara nodded off to Errol, now shakily on his feet. "I should have received this two hours ago, I'm expected at the Three Broomsticks." She nodded to Snape. "See you in the morning?"
Snape nodded, sorry to see her go but her question stuck in his mind. What would one of the Weasley's want with her? As far as he knew, the only Weasley she would know would be Ginny. She had admitted previously that she didn't have strong ties into the Order of the Phoenix, which in Snape's mind would be the only reason she'd even know the family. True, both she and Arthur had worked at the ministry before the war, but the two departments barely interacted together, and the age difference between the two made them unlikely to be friends.
After dinner Snape stopped by his office and spent another few hours probing the talisman before he left for his apartment, conflicted. The dream he'd had of a life with Alara was incredibly inviting. He closed his eyes and remembered the dream Alara's touch and her taste. He inhaled deeply, expecting to embrace her intoxicating aroma, then opened his eyes and stared at the door to his staff apartment. He opened it and went inside, the silence suddenly turning from welcome friend to crushing loneliness.
Outside of Lily he had never met anyone like her. Watching that fool Brewer make an idiot of himself over that new nurse Jenna Johnson only reminded him all the more of how he valued her acceptance of his caustic presence. Even with Shakespeare's help the last thing anyone would ever accuse Severus Snape of being was a hopeless romantic.
"Jenna Johnson" he whispered out loud. The nurse from his prophetic dream. Was she destined to take over as head Matron when Poppy Pomfrey retired? She certainly had the direct personality for it. Her presence only strengthened the prophecy in his mind. While he could have argued that he at least knew about the secretive bracelet now sitting in his restored hallway closet, he had no idea that the American-born nurse even existed until tonight. Could such events unfold? Could he find peace with his past? Not if he kept lying to Alara.
A soft knock tapped on his door interrupting his thoughts and he opened it to find Alara. He was pleased at her presence but her face told him that something was terribly wrong.
"Hi. Got a minute?"
Snape nodded and motioned her in. Unlike Alara's quarters, which were small but chocked full of books and mementos, Snape's were somewhat more barren. They were also quite a bit more spacious; being Head of House came with certain privileges over a junior professor. It wasn't that Alara had never seen his staff apartment before, they were friends. But for the first time Snape realized that his apartment was dark and gloomy. No thank you gifts from graduating students sat on his shelves. All the space simply made his lack of decor stand out all the more. Hardly a place to try and impress a beautiful young woman. Perhaps it was a good thing she obviously wasn't there to be impressed. "What's wrong?"
"Any luck with the talisman?"
It didn't take legilimency to spot a red herring when it walked up and slapped him in the face. "Stop changing the subject. What's wrong?"
Alara was very unsure of herself. "Before I start, I want you to promise to hear me out in full. Will you promise me that?"
Snape he could put two and two together easily. A Weasley owl. A hesitant Alara. This involved the man who looked just like his father. The man who's magic was mediocre, but who became champion of the world by triumphing over the Dark Lord. The man who could have been his son with Lily, but wasn't. If this were anyone else, he'd throw her out the door. But this wasn't just anyone, it was Alara, so he nodded tersely.
" I just had dinner with Ginny Weasley and Harry Potter at the Three Broomsticks."
"So I gathered from Errol's spectacular entrance into the Great Hall. I assume the discussion revolved around the great 'Hero of Hogwarts'? I didn't realize you knew him." His words dripped with distaste for the young man.
Alara shrugged. "Before tonight I'd only met him once- right after I stormed out of your trial, and that was just a brief conversation. Like many people, he's struggling to coming to terms with the burden he bore during the war, and he's trying to come to terms with the burden you bore as well."
"Because our two burdens are so alike..." Snape mumbled.
"In some respects they are. You're both suffered greatly because of Lily Potter's death, and you're both haunted by his father's behavior as a young man. Both of you lost your innocence to Tom Riddle, and both of you are continuing to suffer. He's uhm... he's asking to talk to you."
"Why is Miss Weasley involved in all this? Has all his Gryffindor bravery left him by the roadside helpless?"
Alara giggled. "As I understand it the conversation went something like this--
Harry: I need to reconcile with Snape. I'm going up to Hogwarts.
Ginny: Are you really that thick? Are you really just going to go flying up to Hogwarts and say 'Gee, Professor, no more hard feelings?' There's bravery, then there's stupidity.
Harry: Uhm... why?
Ginny: Because he'll kill you for barging in on him like that, and I'm not sure he'd be wrong. SEND HIM AN OWL FIRST.
Harry: ( after a long pregnant pause) Really?
Ginny: (after rolling her eyes up into the back of her head) Where's Errol? I'll send the owl."
Snape chuckled at her impressions of the troublemakers. He looked into her sapphire blue eyes and all his irritation at the subject of their conversation vanished.
"Personally, I'm not worried at all about their marriage. They have each other's backs, and that's a good foundation to start with." Alara continued.
"Once again, people have Potter's back," Snape mumbled. "He can't seem to do anything without help."
She stepped closer to Snape and softened her tone. "And I have your back, Severus. You're not alone anymore."
Snape closed his eyes against her. "You don't understand!"
"Then help me to." Her voice was soft and supportive, showing only the slightest hint of frustration.
"This is Harry Potter. He's arrogant, average....If Lily had just accepted my apology, if she had just let me protect her... even with James Potter... if the Dark Lord had just listened to me..." he stopped, not knowing how to continue, his guilt and pain ripping across his face.
Alara softly took his hand. "So much spun out of your control, didn't it? You tried so hard, but so much went so wrong, and you became trapped in a horrible position for so long. But Severus you have the chance to put some of those demons to rest. Isn't that worth meeting Harry? For a chance to stop living in the past and start having a future? Talk to him Severus, please. For me."
He opened his eyes up to her and found her sapphire blue eyes staring at him with a look he didn't recognize. Her hand remained holding his, causing every nerve ending in his body to stand on end. She was intoxicating and for a brief moment he thought he would do anything for her, but then his mind snapped back into focus. "What's the reason for your involvement?"
"Miss Weasley and I got on well last year, she thought I might be able to help soften their approach. They know this isn't going to be easy Severus. Miss Weasley is trying to make it as easy as possible on everyone."
Snape nodded."Following our little adventure last Spring she figured I'd listen to you."
"Will you?" Alara asked.
"And why did you agree? Are you still in the 'you'd do anything for any wizard' routine?"
Alara shook her head. "You're not just 'any wizard' anymore Severus." She moved her hand up to his cravat, fingering it lightly. "You haven't been just 'any wizard' for a while. But you are in pain." She lifted her hand to his cheek, holding his face. "The way forward isn't by living in the past."
Snape's world spun as he found himself touching her face, then their lips met. He wrapped his arms around her as the soft touch of lips deepened into something more.
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