delphi: Mod icon for the HP Beholder exchange. (HP Beholder)
[personal profile] delphi posting in [community profile] hp_beholder
Recipient: shadowycat
Author: ???
Title: Fallow Fields
Rating: R
Pairings: Pomona Sprout/Severus Snape, other Hogwarts staff, Cedric Diggory
Word Count: ~20K
Warnings/Content Information (Highlight to View): *[Angst, h/c, first time, oral (both), frottage, plain old fucking]*.
Summary: Series of behind-the-scenes moments between Pomona, Severus & a few others
Author's Notes: There are two birthdates provided for Pomona Sprout in canon, one being 15 May 1931 as well as 15 May 1941. For the purposes of this fic, I chose the latter. I used a mix of book, film and Pottermore canon for this fic, most especially for certain revelations re: Professor McGonagall. Also, I admit this (NSFW!) bit of art might have inspired me just a tad for one scene.... Happy Beholding, shadowycat!





1980





"He's insufferable."

"I'll say! He had the gall to imply that when it comes to protective charms it would be more beneficial for my students to pay better attention when he teaches Healing Potions."

"I rather suspect he was not deriding your teaching, Filius, but the students' ability to learn."

"Humph."

"Have you duelled with him, Filius?"

"He's quick, agile and has a nasty streak that will take him far in a dirty fight."

"If you pardon my saying so, Perfesser, but aren' all fights dirty? Excuse me, folks - must see to those Eye-eating Potato Lice in Greenhouse Five."

"Oh, in that case, I'll go with you, Rubeus."

The Headmaster smiled at the pair, before asking mildly, "We never heard your opinion on our newest member of the staff, Pomona."

The industrious witch looked back at the assembled staff and shrugged.

"He's young, that's all."

"Old enough to know better," mumbled Minerva as she sipped at her tea.

Pomona grunted amusement at this and stepped outside the staff room to join Hagrid who was already down the hall.

Her amusement died as she considered the topic of their newest, youngest staff. Severus Snape might be a practiced brewer, might have studied advanced potions and attained his Mastery, but he was still being treated like a wayward student and to her mind, that was the crux of his problems.

The fact he had not even been informed of the informal STEM (Start of Term/End of Month) staff meeting was a case in point, as McGonagall had taken it as opportunity to discuss him behind his back. Pomona felt irritation at the Headmaster for not putting a stop to it. It was informal, but still, as a full professor and not a junior member of staff he should be treated with greater respect. Instead, Minerva had superciliously informed those present this afforded the opportunity to discuss what she felt were his many faults. Pomona wondered now if they had ever done that for her.

It mattered little, truly. Pomona was what she was - she knew well her strengths, her weaknesses and her path of growth. To her, everyone had a path of growth, like a plant. Some needed much care and attention, a careful environment and the right nutrients to thrive and achieve their maximum potential. Some needed humidity, some preferred an arid environment. Some thrived on even rocky soil and some liked the sand. Some required rich loam and had thirsty roots. Some grew tallest and proudest while striving alongside others and some grew best in isolation. Some struggled after being scattered in the wrong soil for them, working hard to grow, much less bloom or thrive.

Pomona suspected Snape was one of these sort -- since she had known him, he struggled for his achievements with few exceptions. He constantly strove to improve himself. On arrival at the school, a small, thin, too-pale urchin with large dark eyes and lank hair falling onto shabby robes that barely covered shoes that had seen far too many inexpert repair attempts. She had been unsurprised he was sorted into Slytherin, although she had been prepared to welcome him into her house if the hat had thus chosen. For some reason, with few exceptions, the poorer students tended to be placed in either Slytherin or Hufflepuff. She had always supposed it had to do with whether a particular student felt more ambition to prove themselves or more in need of nurturing and stability. One thing Pomona had learnt was that Severus Snape was wary of nurturing at best.

If he had been placed in her care, she would have spoken to him privately in her office, sussed out the sort of attention he required and ensured he received it. Sadly, he had been given over to Slughorn, who only seemed to care about his new charges if they came from noteworthy families. Snape was a name on the Wizarding Register to be certain, but it was not attached to any noteworthy achievements or to any ancient or Pureblood House.

She had shaken her head at the time of his sorting, aware he was likely a half-blood and obviously poor and therefore would never be of interest to Horace unless he invented something Slughorn felt was worthwhile. She snorted now in consternation at the thought of the posturing old crank. He knew his potions and he was a decent enough teacher, she felt, but he could use a lesson or two in humility. Slughorn had not bothered to attend the informal session because he was "quite busy," as was his perpetual excuse. Pomona would bet Greenhouse Four's entire supply of Venomous Tentaculas that the man was currently having a lie-in.

She approached the green house now, instructing Hagrid to fetch the foul smelling solution that would take care of the infestation. He was a good man, Rubeus. She smiled as she watched him trundle out toward the shed that held the various solutions the Greenhouses and grounds sometimes required.

As she entered the greenhouse she heard the sounds of rustling. Assuming the clump of Venomous Tentacula was in a pet she hurried to that corner of the interior where to her surprise she discovered a lithe figure hard at work.

It was Snape, lacking the usual voluminous black robes he wore, in a button up shirt with rolled up sleeves, but he had not removed his cravat which was soaked with sweat. The sight made her stomach quiver and she paused to assess him.

Still thin, still too pale, the only thing about him which had changed dramatically was his clothes. Of good quality now, when he wasn't in his shirtsleeves, he wore perpetual black, a well-tailored frock coat, almost a mourning coat as if he were going to attend a formal function. His shoes, she noted, were now well-made boots of dragon hide and currently coated with mud.

"Go on then, little one."

His voice had also changed, she noted now, as she felt a nervous flutter in her stomach. It was deep and resonant and when pitched low as it currently was whilst he whispered to a quivering Clinging Calumny plant, made more than a few females feel a bit faint... or so she had overheard from at least two of her sixth years. She watched as he continued to entreat it, holding a section of drooping Coughing Crocus closer to the deceptively timid little plant.

"Go on. You know you want to..."

Pomona felt a sudden quiver rather lower than her stomach at his dark, seductive tone. Combined with her feminine appreciation for finding a healthy specimen of manhood hard at work in her domain, it gave her an entirely new appreciation for Severus Snape.

Suddenly, the Clinging Calumny leapt to spread its fuzzy leaves around those of the Coughing Crocus and as they both watched, merged seamlessly and took on the appearance of the crocus, making the leaves look larger, thicker, and healthier than they previously had. Soon both plants had seemingly become one, a healthy, no longer droopy crocus which quivered for a moment, before opening its blossoms and beginning to issue a slight cough.

Pomona was impressed. She had only just heard of this technique for reviving certain plants in her latest Herbology Monthly. Calumny was a nasty, vicious little plant that tended to hog the sunlight from other plants and cover their blooms and healthy areas so that a gardener would see only the bad or withered areas of the other plant at quick glance. However, when coaxed into merging as Snape had just accomplished, the weaker plant would seemingly become healthier. It was false, of course, but the trick was that the sickly plant was also fooled, as in the case of the Coughing Crocus.

It had become too weak and listless to cough up the mucous which tended to fill its stem, where it would become bloated with congestion, grow infected and die. Snape's actions might have enabled at least the one plant to survive, although she realised it was likely self-interest that motivated him; one of his upcoming lessons involved the use of Coughing Crocus phlegm.

She watched now as Snape retrieved a small device from a canvas roll-up kit beside him. It had a narrow glass tube and a bulb and she realised now what he intended. Squeezing the bulb and holding it, he gently inserted the tube within the still hacking plant and then released the bulb. A dreadful sound was heard, but a healthy amount of foul fluid filled the glass tube. Snape pulled the tube free and squeezed the bulb again to deposit the gunk onto the ground. Then he watched the plant.

It quivered, coughed delicately several times in a row and suddenly appeared to inflate and vibrate. Suddenly it issued an enormous cough, spraying Snape's arm. He sighed, but merely turned to retrieve a small glass jar which he opened. Then he took up his wand, waving it over his arm to siphon away the crocus phlegm spattered on it, soon to reside in the jar. As he reached to reseal it, Pomona froze, suddenly noticing the dark smudge on that arm whose details could now more easily be made out - a hideous skull's mouth from which a snake protruded. Her mouth went dry at the sight and she fought to swallow, unable to tear her eyes away from it.

"Want a better look?"

In her horrified fascination, she had not seen Severus notice her, and she started as he stepped up now, a scowl on his face as he held his bared, now clean arm, in front of her face.

"I'd prefer it if people asked, instead of sneaking about hoping to catch a glimpse," he muttered darkly. His tone and expression made him seem older, dangerous.

Pomona blinked, suddenly feeling vexed.

"And I'd prefer it if people didn't assume I sneak about in my own greenhouses," she snapped back, satisfied to see him look momentarily startled. "I'd come in to check on the state of the potatoes with eye-lice, young man, and you are the one intruding in my domain, not the other way around."

He considered this and seemed to relax. He suddenly realised he was still holding his bared arm out to her and she was intrigued to see him blush, before pulling his arm back to him. He held it, she noted, against his chest as if it pained him.

"Does it hurt?"

He frowned, before looking down at his arm. Snape shook his head.

"Well, it doesn't bother me," she asserted quite truthfully now. "Just looks like an unfortunate choice of tattoos."

This said, she turned from him and headed toward the corner of the greenhouse where the afflicted potatoes waited.

She did not have to check behind her to know he stood watching her, flustered and uncertain, a callow young man once again and not a dangerous Death Eater.




1982





"Where the devil are my mandrake rootlings?"

"Good morning to you, as well, Professor Snape. It's so nice to see you again before term begins. Why yes, the weather has been particularly warm this summer. I do believe my perennials are in a state of blooming health and the crop of--."

"Bugger your perennials, Sprout, where are my rootlings?"

Pomona studied him in the doorway of her office. He was still thin, far too pale for the amount of lovely sunlight the Isles had received this summer and currently in a lather, literally as the heat outside and especially in the greenhouses, was stifling. Sweat stippled his brow, his temples, neck and, since he was wearing only a button-front shirt with a rather incongruous cravat, it stained the fabric across his chest and under his arms. This had the effect of moulding the rather sheer Muslin to him and she noted it did not make him look weedy as she'd first suspected, but rather wiry and lean, instead. In fact, she was quite sure she could see a hint of nipple...

"I planted them myself end of term in the back of Greenhouse Two and now there's nought but bloody orchids and roses and -- are you entering Muggle flower shows now? Where the bugger are my plants?"

Pomona looked away from him and his unintentionally revealing garment and finished writing the final line on her requisition form. She set down the thick, stubby pencil before addressing him again.

"You know, Severus, I was going to show you, but since you ask so nicely and it's such a lovely day, I'll just let you find them for yourself."

His brows drew into a frown and he waved a finger at her. "If you don't tell me where my mandrake rootlings are, I will incinerate every last useless orchid and rose in that greenhouse."

She stood at this, iron in her tone now. "You wouldn't dare."

He scoffed. "There wouldn't be an outcry, either. None of the flowers in there is of any use in Potions, only in the making of essential oils and scent, both of which would be side businesses that I'm sure Dumbledore would be quite interested in learning about."

She stepped up to him, not the least intimidated by his full head of height difference from her.

"You're a nasty, bitter little bug, my boy. I'd squashed bigger bugs than you well before your skinny arse was slapped by the midwife."

This took him aback. She shifted her weight and settled onto her heels, drawing in a deep breath.

"Now, if you are willing to be reasonable -- and reasonably polite -- I will not tell you to bugger yourself with your favourite stirring rod as I'd considered, and instead inform you of the location of your equally vexatious rootlings."

"Vexatious?"

She stepped past him, summoning the requisition form with a flick of her wand which nearly went up his nose and ignoring his startled sound as the form rolled shut in his face before zooming to her hand as she strode down the corridor.


~O~



She led him past the greenhouses to the shady area between Greenhouse Five and Six, usually a catch-all place for equipment and tarps. As they neared Severus could hear a distracting buzzing like sound. Pomona waved her wand again and he suddenly felt his hearing diminish. He lifted his hand to his ears only to find skin had grown over them, effectively and almost completely deafening him. He might have complained, but noted she had done the same to herself. Then he noticed they had stopped and she was pointing.

He did not hear her very well, but could see she was shouting. He looked to the ground and saw very familiar fleshy tendrils waving above evenly spaced mounds and eruptions of dirt. Even as he watched, a tuberous finger-like tendril poked free of the ground directly in front of him, revealing a tiny hand which began to grab around blindly. It grabbed hold of another fleshy tendril from the mound beside it and yanked. Soon dirt began to shake free around both mounds and Pomona tugged on his sleeve, pulling him from the scene.

Once she stepped into Greenhouse Five she waved her wand again and he felt the skin about his ears slithering back into its normal configuration. She pointed at a very large pile of dragon dung steaming beside a seemingly endless row covered with tray after tray of pots. Sweat began to drip from him even as he seriously considered using a Bubblehead Charm to avoid the worst of the stench in the stifling hot room.

"Pots. Fertilizer. I taught you what to do your second year and you're a smart young man. I trust I need not explain any further."

"You expect me to re-pot those monstrosities myself?"

"You could save it for the second years, but those mandrakes might uncover themselves and either kill an unsuspecting passerby or, more likely, each other before start of term."

He looked aghast. "But the greenhouses are your responsibility."

She stepped up and poked a heavily veined and work-roughened finger into his chest.

"You listen carefully, Severus Snape -- I gave you permission to settle those rootlings for your own purpose. I didn't ask why and I didn't have to give you permission -- I did it in the spirit of interhouse cooperation and under the understanding that they were your look-out, not mine."

"But--"

She continued as if he hadn't even tried to speak. "Nor did I expect a Potions professor at this school to not be able to properly perform a Somnolescence Spell to keep them from agitating."

"S-Somnolescence Spell?" Snape suddenly looked very unsure of himself.

"Yes, Professor Snape, a Somnolescence Spell that any OWL level student would tell you is required to be placed on even the tiniest bit of mandrake being stored for other purposes. Or did you forget?"

He swallowed, but said nothing, merely growing a bit paler, not an attractive look on him.

She sniffed, refusing to feel sorry for him. "They are your responsibility, Professor, and unless you want those mandrakes all dead or to spend six months to two years in Azkaban for failure to properly monitor a Mandrake if one accidentally kills a student or staff, I'd suggest you find a spade and start shovelling dung in those pots and re-pot the little deadly darlings this very afternoon."

With that, she turned about and began to head out of the Greenhouse. She paused at the doorway, however, and turned briefly back.

"By the way, those flowers you were threatening? I saved them from Minerva's wedding. She asked me to preserve them for her so she could plant them in her garden once she and her new husband have a home."

"H-husband?" He seemed startled.

"Yes. She was married a fortnight ago. I was her Matron of Honour. The entire staff was there. Everyone assumed you chose not to attend. "

He shook his head. Then he let it droop down as he spoke to the floorboards. His voice was barely audible.

"I wasn't invited."

It was almost enough to make her feel sorry for him. Almost.



~O~




Sprout groaned as she read the duty board as she stepped into the Staff Lounge two weeks before Christmas.

Snape and she had drawn the dread duty of pre-holiday patrolling that weekend. The only thing worse, Pomona told herself, was chaperoning the little dears on the last Hogsmeade weekend before the holidays. Thankfully, she and Snape were spared that, but they would be short on sleep for the next three nights in order to walk the draughty castle for two hours past curfew.

She looked over to the wingback chair near the fire, but off to the side, which Snape preferred. The chair was a bit moth-eaten, but it seemed to fit him. She had not found it suitable, being rather short. His long, lean legs seemed to find the length of the cushion and the height of the chair quite comfortable.

He was brooding, she noted, staring into the fire having finished reading the evening Prophet which lay folded on his lap. He seemed to prefer it over the morning edition. She wondered if it was economy, since the evening edition was far cheaper, or if it was simply that he preferred to avoid news over breakfast. He rarely spoke at the staff table, and usually only to respond to direct questioning by another member of the staff.

"Two knuts for them."

He grunted, looking over at her with disinterest before looking back to the fire.

"I'm not sure they're worth that much."

She smiled at this and headed closer, to settle onto the leather armchair which was her favourite. It was poufy-looking, but rather more firmly upholstered than one might think, easy to stand from and yet comfortable to her aching back. She'd spent all afternoon weeding and her knees as well as her lower back were aching.

"I have a potion for that."

She looked over, surprised. It was the first time Snape had offered anything to anyone that she could recall, at least, not without haggling being involved.

"What do you want in return?"

He frowned. "Nothing. It's just my OWL level students surprised me by making perfectly acceptable Muscle Mend for their mid-year exams and even after stocking the Infirmary, I have three extra jars."

"Jars?"

"It's a potion, but once it cools, it solidifies into an unguent that is topically applied."

"Ah." She sighed and said regretfully, "I'm afraid that wouldn't help at all. I can't reach what needs medicating. But thank you, Severus, it's a kind offer."

She leaned back into the chair and winced as her back muscles stiffened uncomfortably, then began to slowly relax against the firm, but cushioned chair. She sighed gratefully.

"If it would not be taken in the wrong way, I would be honoured to help you in its application."

Pomona froze -- the sudden image of herself prone on her bed, topless, with Snape straddling her legs and working unguent into her aching low back flitting through her mind before she sat up in a flurry of dismay, quite appalled.

"No! I mean... really that's quite kind, but--"

"Never mind," he muttered, sounding rather morose now, and picking up the Prophet again, holding it before his face.

She wondered if he knew that it was upside down.

"Severus."

"Never mind. It's all right. I understand."

"No, dear, you don't."

He set the paper down again, agitated. "I didn't mean anything salacious. I really meant--"

He sputtered to a stop as she held up her hand and gave him a stern look. It nearly always worked, she knew, with students, and while he was no longer a student, he had been one but a few short years ago.

"I know you didn't mean anything salacious, my dear Severus -- why on Earth would a handsome young lad even look twice at old, dumpy me? I just didn't want to embarrass us both considering that it's my backside and just above it that are a torment at the moment, not to mention my knees. Now, I'll tell you what, if you wish to apply it to my knees, then we'll pop off straight to my quarters and they and I will both thank you, considering just how badly they ache."

He considered all this before finally saying, "You're not old. My offer stands."

Pomona was amused despite the slight pang she felt as she blithely replied, "I notice you did not dispute my being dumpy. Well, then, I accept, Professor. You fetch your medicaments and I will expect you in my quarters shortly."

She levered herself up with a slight groan and limped across the room, her knees accustoming themselves to movement as she did until she was no longer limping, but still moving rather slowly. The massage would feel nice, she knew, even if it was just her knees and even if she felt a bit of discomfort in letting him touch her so casually.

Besides, it was a banner day, given his usual standoffishness. Pomona believed in letting people as well as plants to bloom in their own time. This might well be a sign he was finally loosening up a bit toward his co-workers.

It was a small enough acquiescence she figured, since she could easily medicate herself. It was a small gesture of trust to build on and help an acquaintance grow, perhaps into full-fledged friendship.



~O~




Severus stepped rather timidly into her ground floor rooms. Sprout was the only teacher who had an entrance and exit directly to the castle grounds, well-hidden within her personal greenhouse. She also had a staff and student entrance within the castle proper, down a draughty corridor full of sleepy portraits and several dusty knights in armour. It was this one which Severus had approached.

"There you go," she proclaimed, vanishing the knees of her trews and stretching out her legs onto a cushion from her chair.

He nodded, but then appeared to hesitate. He held a large jar in his hand, but did not unscrew the lid.

"At the risk of sounding salacious again, I just wish to point out that this works far better when it's applied after a hot bath. The heat makes the skin soak in the unguent and helps it penetrate to where it can do the most good."

She considered this. "You should have said before."

He nodded, looking regretful. "It's just... I was misunderstood and I didn't wish for you to misunderstand again."

Pomona sighed, carefully setting her legs back down. "It takes two to create a misunderstanding, my dear. If it won't offend your sensibilities and if you don't mind waiting right here, I'll get you some tea so you can have something to do whilst you wait, and I'll hop into a quick bath."

"I don't mind waiting and I don't need tea, thank you."

"Something stronger then? I have some lovely elderberry wine I made."

"You make wine?"

She smiled at his look of startled interest.

"Yes, of course. I'll fetch you a bottle and you can help yourself." She waved her wand toward her kitchen area and soon a bottle came floating into the room, along with a sturdy earthenware mug. "I'm afraid I have no nice glasses for guests. I prefer these, easier to hold and they hold plenty, plus I can use them for hot or cold beverages alike."

"That's fine, Pomona, thank you," he insisted, taking the proffered mug from the air and the bottle. He looked about as if looking for a corkscrew and Pomona smiled.

"Use your wand, dear. Now excuse me. I'll be back in a trice."

He nodded, taking his own wand out and eventually figuring out how to uncork the bottle. Then he was sipping appreciatively of an uncertain vintage, finding the dusty label difficult to read.

Severus relaxed as the wine slowly did the trick. It was delicious. He finished sipping the mug and poured himself some more. He wondered if he could beg a bottle off her. Perhaps in exchange for more Muscle Mend. If she liked it, that is. Severus suddenly stood, setting down his mug in consternation. The room was a bit chilly. He did not want Pomona to grow cold which would only cause her muscles to hurt more.

He lifted his wand again to start a warm fire in her hearth. Soon the sitting room was growing quite cosy, indeed.

He sat back down and sipped once more at his mug of wine. It was delightful, heady, and rich with flavour but only a touch of tangy sweetness that chased its way down his tongue as he swallowed. It was perfect.

He truly appreciated the craftsmanship since he had attempted to make his own spirits once and failed utterly. Perhaps he could speak with her about the issue, go about experimenting with making wine and even whisky.

"You know, I found out recently why you weren't invited to Minerva's wedding in summer, or rather, I found out that you were," Pomona suddenly said, startling him from his reverie as she stepped out from her bedroom. "Minerva sent you an invitation she said, but the owl returned with it opened and looking a bit battered. She assumed it meant you did not wish to attend."

Snape frowned, shaking his head. He spoke without hesitation thanks to the bold wine.

"My father doesn't allow owl mail. He never has. He'll intercept and read it, but he always sends the poor birds on their way, sometimes injuring them, the filthy sod. It was a bugger of a time for me to receive my letter to attend Hogwarts. He wasn't home when the owl finally succeeded in delivering, but he knew how it had come when my mother showed him the envelope. That night was one of the worst beatings my mother and I--"

He stopped, appalled, and set his mug down heavily. What was he saying? Pomona shook her head, stepping up and putting a hand on his shoulder.

"Never mind. What matters is you were invited to her wedding, Severus. It wasn't a deliberate slight."

He still looked down at his feet and the side of his face she could see was bright red. She sighed and patted him gently, but spoke in a bright cheery tone.

"Will you still help me then?"

He blinked and looked up as if suddenly seeing her, and then he stood a bit awkwardly. "Oh. Yes. Of course."

"Good." She sat on the hard wooden chair she had sat upon earlier and extended her legs to rest on a cushion. "There."

Severus stared, a bit flustered both by his near confession and also by Pomona's bare legs which were as tan as the rest of her and extending out from under a robe, which if he was any judge at all, was all she was wearing! He coughed a bit and awkwardly pulled another wooden chair over, sitting facing her knees before realising he had forgotten the Muscle Mend. He smiled a bit wanly at her as he pulled out his wand and Accio'd the jar.

Opening it, he scooped out a liberal amount and smoothed it onto his palms, then set them onto her knees and began to gently massage. She sighed and he focused both hands on one knee, carefully lifting to massage all around it, feeling the tendons and ligaments and musculature under the skin. Despite her generally stout appearance, her legs seemed strong and well-shaped. She moaned.

To his chagrin, the sound caused a peculiar sensation deep and low in his belly, a not unfamiliar sensation. He closed his eyes and began to imagine he was making Slug Repellent in his laboratory.

Soon the unwelcome arousal crept back and he reopened his eyes to find he had coated not only her knee but down her calf and halfway up her thigh! He coughed again and gently set her leg down. He stood, and picked up the jar and chair. He moved to the other side of her, facing the other knee and scooped out more Muscle Mend.

Before he could lift her leg, she obligingly lifted it to him, seemingly ignorant of the fact her robe parted and he could see to the top of her thighs. Snape grabbed her leg and closed his eyes again. He imagined rubbing Slug Repellent onto an actual slug, a large, meaty, muscular slug. He opened his eyes to find Pomona's tanned and muscular leg in his hands, gleaming from the layer of Muscle Mend he had applied. He cleared his throat.

"How does that feel?"

"Mm... marvellous," she said with a contented sigh. "It's really too bad you can't get the rest. I bet it would be heavenly."

Severus's voice was a touch hoarse, but even as he spoke. "Yes, well, I'm pleased it worked on your knees. Please keep the container."

He stood and grabbed his wand, using it to cleanse his hands of the greasy unguent. Pomona watched him; he seemed flustered.

"I'd best be going. Thank you for the wine."

He rushed out the door, leaving Pomona with far happier knees and a contemplative expression.

She withdrew her own wand from her robe pocket and summoned another mug and the open bottle of wine, pouring herself a bit and sipping it. She carefully set her legs back down onto the floor and smiled at the fact her movements were now pain-free.

His hands were quite dexterous and strong, she thought. It had been wonderful having him run them along her legs and she had allowed her imagination to roam, allowed herself to consider how they might feel on the rest of her body. Sadly, this lovely imagery lasted only until the end of the massage when it was made clear to her that he found it uncomfortable to consider her body. Why wouldn't he? She was 20 years older than he and while still young for a witch, doubtless a 22 year old lad had his eye out for fit young lasses, or possibly lads if that was the way his field was oriented.

"Sun beams from either direction are just as beneficial, just as capable of growth and warmth and bounty," she intoned now, a wise old witch's saying from many centuries past which many in the wizarding world applied to far more than mere crop-tending.

She sighed in contentment as she picked up the jar and placed it on her table.

"Patrolling this weekend should be interesting, indeed."



~O~




"I thought I heard something," Pomona whispered in her partner's ear.

Snape held his wand up; it had not left his hand since they had begun patrolling. He tiptoed forward and cast Lumos Solem into the area past the apse near her and smiled triumphantly.

"Ten points from Gryffindor! Ten points from Hufflepuff!"

The two snogging students grew quite red and not merely from the sunny rays of light that still cascaded from Snape's wand.

Pomona waved her own wand authoritatively, not dissatisfied with his punishment and keeping it in mind to let Minerva know he was not taking an inordinate number of points as the older witch seemed to believe. It was the same amount she would have taken from a student in any house for the same infraction. In fact, she would have taken more if any clothes had been missing or unfastened and would have given them detention and spoken to their Head of House or written to their parents if any actual inappropriate activity had been happening.

As it was, she grabbed the young, blushing boy from her own house as he tried to hurry past and said, "Clement - we'll speak of this later. I'm very disappointed in you."

"Yes, Ma'am," he said dejectedly before hurrying away.

"Little trollop," Snape muttered to the red-faced girl and Pomona rounded on him, glaring. She waited until the humiliated girl rushed by before speaking.

"Point taking is one thing, but casting aspersions on a student is as inappropriate as what those two were attempting to do, Severus."

He shrugged. "She was the one meeting an older boy in a dark corridor. That makes her a little trollop."

"Perhaps that is what you personally feel, but it is what you keep to yourself. You take points, you inform their head of house if it seems warranted and you assign detention for egregious cases, but you do not cast moral judgements on a student, Severus."

"And what is to keep her from engaging in the behaviour again if not shaming? Are we not supposed to discourage their rule breaking?"

"The loss of points and having to explain the loss to her housemates should be sufficient."

Snape scoffed. "Oh, please. Most of the boys in my year got their leg over every chance they had... mostly with the girls of our house, with a few exceptions. Points don't mean anything to randy teens who think with their hormones. Loss of points for getting their leg over earned them bragging rights, except at the end of the school year if the House Cup was in jeopardy."

Pomona considered this. "Does shaming work with Slytherin girls then?"

Snape shrugged. "Well, they have to think of their purity, don't they? Pureblood boys from good houses don't want ruined witches, do they?"

"And what of the half-bloods and Muggleborn then? Does their purity not matter?"

"Some, with half-bloods, girls, at least. Boys don't matter. As for Muggleborns, no Pureblood would want one, so again, they don't matter."

Pomona arched a brow. "Oh? Andromeda Tonks née Black might have a thing to say about that."

Snape reddened briefly, and then shrugged. "You asked. That's what I know."

Sprout sighed. She took his hand and squeezed it gently. "I did. But Severus, we're adults now, not children trying to toe some ridiculous line with arbitrary rules. You're right -- that girl might be shamed into no longer doing something like that again, but it's also quite possible she will be shamed into feeling uncomfortable about her own growing body and its developing needs -- perfectly natural desires that every witch feels. She could be shamed into silence about being touched in that way by someone else who is not someone she chose, because she will be made to feel she will be thought a trollop by others and judged for her actions despite not being at fault. I know a girl that happened to. It was a horrible incident and she was never the same again."

Snape remained silent and she squeezed his hand again, before starting to step forward, taking him with her.

"Come on. Let's keep patrolling and after, if you like, we can have some wine and a mince pie. I made some fresh this afternoon."

He did not agree nor disagree, but merely nodded and Pomona noted he did not let go of her hand.



~O~




"I can't believe we made it through the weekend," Sprout declared two nights later as Snape headed to her rooms with her.

They had fallen into the habit of going to her quarters after for some wine and discussion if not some of her home-baked goods. Snape never turned any of them down, eating as he had as a boy, she noted - with gusto and as if afraid his food would be taken from him. She considered what little he'd said of his background, added it to how very pale and unhealthy he had looked every start of term as a student and sighed a bit sadly.

"Is something troubling you?" Snape looked at her a bit anxiously. "If you're tired, I can go straight to my quarters. I don't mind."

"No, no," she assured him, taking his hand and squeezing it reassuringly. "I was just thinking I have no treat to offer tonight, just wine."

"Wine is fine," he said. "I really like your wine. In fact, I'm hoping you won't mind showing me your technique in making it."

"Interested, are we?" She smiled up at him as they reached the door to her rooms.

He gazed down at her and nodded, dark eager eyes shining in the dim light and making him seem even younger than he was. Pomona closed her own eyes and turned to the door, shutting away the regret and thoughts coursing through her.

This bit of an infatuation she had with him was perfectly healthy and fine, but not if she was going to be depressed because he wasn't interested.

She froze then as a warm hand stroked her cheek, making her look back up at him. His gaze held concern.

"You're tired. I should leave you be," he said quietly.

She shook her head, mesmerised by the warm touch of his hand. She dredged up a smile.

"No, my dear. I'm... well, a bit melancholy, perhaps," she admitted.

She pulled free of his touch to open her door and walked in. Snape followed, uncertain now. They sat by the fire, grateful for its warmth. She had not lit any of the other lights in the room, so the fire's glow and the soft moon light through her kitchen area window were the room's only illumination.

"Why melancholy?" His enquiry seemed genuine. "Is it the holiday?"

She nodded, grateful for an excuse. "Yes, a bit. Mostly Minerva, lucky duck, with her new husband, enjoying the holidays away from this draughty old castle. I'm a wee bit jealous."

He shrugged. "I find it nice here at Christmas. Preferable to home, at least, even if I am alone."

She considered what he said and decided privately he had good reason to feel as he did.

"Yes, but wouldn't it be nice to spend Christmas with someone special? Share some wine, some Christmas dinner, and if you were so inclined, a lovely long cuddle together to celebrate the holiday."

The firelight made it seem as if he blushed, and perhaps he did, but Snape merely said quietly, "I don't see that happening."

Pomona stretched a hand across to him. "Severus... why?"

He did not take her hand and his voice was a whisper in the dark.

"I'm... not what decent witches want. I was a Death Eater."

He gazed at the fire, miserable in his guilt and shame.

"Good thing I'm not a decent witch then, eh?"

He stared at her. She smiled and nodded at him.

"I told you once -- it doesn't bother me."

He studied her still outstretched hand before looking back to her, uncertainty evident in his gaze.

"The question is, Severus -- would you be willing to spend the holiday with me?"

She stretched her hand out further and he suddenly clutched it. His voice was tight when he spoke.

"Yes. Please."

She tugged on his hand and he came to her, sitting on the cushion in front of her seat and she leaned over and gently kissed him.

He squeezed her hand in his own and leaned closer to kiss her back, a gentle, closed-mouth gesture that he repeated along her cheek and back to her lips. She could feel him trembling. Was it possible he was inexperienced? She could scarcely credit the possibility. He was 22, a full Professor; he had been a Death Eater for at least two years before renouncing it and turning to Dumbledore for his help in leaving that life behind.

He continued to kiss her now, a needy sound issuing from his throat as he clutched her hands and tried to press his closed lips tighter to hers.

The sudden surety of his inexperience was humbling. Pomona took his hands, standing and urging him to join her. He did, waiting for a clue as to what she wished to do.

She led him to her bedroom, which was even darker than the sitting room, illuminated solely by moonlight through a hazy curtain.

Once by her bed, she had him sit and leaned over slightly to kiss him some more, hands roaming through his lank hair and along his sturdy back.

Snape moaned, kissing her back with a sound of desperation. Pomona smiled, carefully tugging on his bottom lip with her teeth and then sliding her tongue along the seam. He froze and she pressed her advantage, slipping her tongue into his mouth to find his own.

He was still for only a moment before starting to slide his tongue along hers, an approving sound issuing from him as his hand slid into her own curly hair and held her to him. His need spoke to her and she knew this first time it would be best if he had some ease before they did anything further.

She broke free of his kiss to kneel before him in the dark. She reached for her wand and Severus gasped as he felt the cool night air against his now bare skin. He could not see very well in the dimness, but he could tell Pomona was equally naked. His thighs tensed even as his cock grew more rigid than he could ever remember it being.

He seemed a bit ashamed when he realised she was looking at it, at the evidence of his need, but she merely reached out to take him in hand, pleased to hear him gasp. Her voice sounded cheerful and somehow comforting in the dark.

"It's lovely, Severus. Sturdy and thick, a fine upstanding chap."

Before he could say anything, she was gently slipping back his foreskin and moving closer to slide the flared head into her mouth to carefully suckle him.

Snape cried out and reached for her shoulders, seeking an anchor. His thighs trembled as her head bobbed and her other hand cradled and caressed his bollocks before wrapping around the base of his rigid flesh to stroke up even as her mouth slid up and then back down, sucking down his length as far as it was comfortably possible for her to go.

He cried out, not a word, more a sound wrenched from him and Pomona nodded encouragement.

His bollocks suddenly tightened as did his entire body and she used her firm even strokes as a means to urge him wordlessly to let go, even as she sucked a bit harder at his head, and made pleased sounds. The vibrations from her mouth finished him off as his cock jerked and began to spurt what felt like an endless amount of semen. She continued to gently suckle him through the twitching aftermath until his cock began to lose rigidity.

Pomona smiled as she slipped free of him and gently urged Severus to lie back on her bed. He did, collapsing with a groan. She petted his softening cock which gave a hopeful twitch and her smile widened.



~O~




"Pomona."

It was all he had said so far.

He had slept in her arms for awhile and woke to find himself cradled against her warm, ample, resilient flesh, free of guilt or shame or anything but gratitude and a profound sense of affection.

No one else, he thought, could provide such an all sensory experience. He loved the feeling of her -- warmth, pleasure, comfort. Her hands were strong, work-roughened but gentle and sure. He loved feeling her touching him, stroking his face before reaching down and taking his very root in hand, filling him with a pleasure he had not known existed. All she seemed to want in return was his body and he was glad to allow her dominion. She was a kind mistress, knowing and gentle, removing his desperation and making him feel fulfilled. In her arms he did not feel as if he was lacking or disappointing her or missing that which he could not have. She was so very different from what he had longed for once and Severus was grateful he'd been so very wrong about never finding pleasure in another, no matter how beautiful.

No one could be as beautiful as the vision in his head, but it did not matter. Beauty had no place in this warm, dark and soothing place. What mattered was their mutual need and the comfort each found in the other.

"Pomona."

She had positioned him so that he thrust through her grip and the flared head of his prick rubbed against her clitoris with each stroke. Now she shifted her own position and placed his lovely, thick head at her opening.

"P-Pomona."

She nodded at him and he fell into her embrace with a slight cry, sliding deep within her warm, snug depths even as she held him to her, his pale, wiry body cushioned by her soft flesh as he thrust, losing himself to the newly discovered rhythm of lovemaking.

"Yes, Severus."

She held him closer still, moving with his rhythm to find her own pleasure. Soon it crested over her, leaving her utterly relaxed and gratified. She could sense he was nearing his own completion and smiled.

"Yes."




1985





They had been circumspect and none could point fingers as there was no outward impropriety. Few had guessed and even then, they were not certain. They also saw no reason to pry or verify their suspicions. The professors, even rival Heads of House, tended to protect each others secrets. It was an ancient, unspoken code.

So if after their scheduled patrols, they found their way to each other's quarters, it was not unheard of for teachers to unwind and share a libation, to relate their daily frustrations to one another or discuss matters of class work and discipline. In fact, it was common enough to be utterly unremarkable.

Still, Pomona could not help the guilt she felt the night Minerva had been unable to find her, the night the Transfigurations Mistress had overseen a lengthy detention and made her very late way home to find her husband of three years long dead.

The fact his death had come from one of the very plants she had helped to cultivate and provided to the then-newlyweds as protection for their home, along with the blooms she had saved from their wedding for Minerva's garden, served only to torment her. As was her wont in times of strife, Pomona buried herself in hard work without respite.

She felt too guilty to seek refuge or comfort and could not offer any of her own and Severus felt cast adrift, alone once again amongst colleagues who, for the most part, misunderstood him at best and mocked him at worst. As was his wont in times of strife, Snape refocused his energy into what he knew best and what provided the most vengeful satisfaction.

So Minerva did not see the House Cup again for six long years and Snape became an epithet a generation of resentful students came to know instead of the weary, solitary, frustrated man behind the name.




1993





"They need more time. They're restless, but show no signs of trying to climb out of their pots."

Snape grunted. "With luck they'll be ready before I have to prep my OWL and NEWT level students."

"How long will it take to make the restorative draught?"

He looked up from his marking and into the tired, worried, brown eyes of Pomona Sprout. For a moment, he remembered those same large, soft eyes gazing up at him with joy as he moved within her. He cleared his throat and looked off as if he was thinking, although he already knew the answer.

"Four days. My main concern is how to dose a ghost. Albus wishes me to cure Sir Nicholas de Mimsy Porpington as well as the students and Filch's moth-eaten cat."

"I hadn't realised," she said now, considering this.

"Yes, well, unless there is something more, I really should be marking. The students expect their essays back, pathetic though they might be."

"Don't you have an assistant yet, Severus?"

He looked back up at her, vexed.

"No. I am perpetually over budget, Pomona. Potions ingredients and cauldrons are expensive and every year some lamebrain student ruins or steals some from my stores or blows up equipment that I must, per force, have deducted from my pay packet. This year alone I'm over budget by an exorbitant amount thanks to someone stealing Boomslang Skin. That's nearly two pay packets worth to replace alone and I had to ask Albus to spread out my deduction over the first half of term. Unless a student wished work experience and room and board without compensation, I'm afraid it's just me for the foreseeable future."

She nodded, feeling a touch of guilt for not being more aware of what Snape needed and offering to cultivate it for him. She had done as much for Slughorn, although Horace knew how to charm his way to ingredients. Severus was remarkably charm-free, at least so far as most social niceties went. Still, he was a far better Head of House than Horace had ever been.

Pomona had yet to see a poor or poorly turned out first year sorted into Slytherin that wasn't shipshape and smartly kitted out by the first day of classes. This was mostly due to his efforts in persuading the more wealthy Slytherin alumni to donate either funds or their own or their children's lightly worn clothes and shoes for the honour of their house. He took pride in his house much as she took pride in hers.

She also felt he took an inordinate amount of pride in being Head of House. It was a position of much responsibility, but also of minor prestige. He took his role very seriously, she knew. There was not a single Slytherin student who could say they felt unsupported by their Head. Severus defended his little snakes much as she did her badgers, regardless of status. Remembering Severus' own student years, this was more than she could have said for Horace.

Still her guilt was but slight. She well knew Snape enjoyed finding and gathering his own ingredients when possible. She had often watched him traipse past the greenhouses toward the edges of the forest on his lengthy ingredient gathering forays. More rarely, she had heard him send students as a punishment, but only if the ingredients were ones whose quality did not matter.

Snape was very particular about his ingredients.



~O~




The note had been simple and unambiguous.

It was written on a ripped off section of brown paper bag, quite probably a bag that once held potting soil judging by the stains. It was written not with quill and ink, but in the thick, soft-leaded pencil that Pomona favoured. He had gifted her with a beautiful quill and a stack of parchment one Christmas many years ago and she had thanked him, but given back the quill.

"My hands are strong, but a bit stiff at end of day. Touch of rheumatism per Poppy, nothing to worry about, but I can't grip such a small surface with these thick-fingered hands, dear." She had used the parchment, though, until it was used up. He still used the quill.

"Sir?"

He blinked and looked over to find the earnest young face of one of Pomona's tiny badgers awaiting his response having delivered the message. Snape nodded at the boy who hurried off and studied the note again.

They're ready.

Snape scrubbed at his face for a moment and ran a hand through his hair. He knew he should really take time that night for a bath, but given the circumstances... it would take him most of the evening to prep the mandrakes, cutting and starting them slow-cooking to release the most restorative properties of the draught as was possible and then tending the cauldron or more likely cauldrons over the weekend. So much for rest, he thought tiredly.

He had no detentions assigned, else he'd commandeer a student or two to at least scrub the mandrakes clean and skewer them through heart or head so they wouldn't scream while he chopped them into the right sized pieces to release as much juice as possible into the draught.

"Bugger."

He checked his watch and decided to attempt taking a small nap instead of enjoying tea time. That would gain him a bit of rest he would not otherwise receive. With luck, the monster from the Chamber of Secrets would not petrify someone else and no further calamities would befall whilst he tried to rest.


~O~



Her skeleton will remain in the chamber forever

The ridiculous popinjay foisted on them by Albus strode up as Severus was studying the message, trying to determine if it was only blood or something more had been used to create it. Gilderoy smiled broadly, ensuring everyone present could see his sparkling, pure white and perfect teeth.

"Sorry. Did I miss something?"

Snape felt his ire rise, but merely turned around and spoke before the rest of the staff.

"Just the man. A girl has been snatched by the monster, Lockhart. Your time has come at last."

"I, er..."

"That's right, Gilderoy," McGonagall interjected. "Weren't you saying just last night that you've known all along where the entrance to the Chamber is?"

"Well, um..."

"That's settled then. We'll leave you to deal with the monster, Gilderoy," Minerva declared.

Snape felt a weight lifted from his many burdens as the useless fop wandered off on his pointless task. With luck, he thought, perhaps he'd wander across the monster and they'd be free of his stupid prattle.

"Severus," McGonagall enquired once Lockhart had disappeared down the corridor. "Do you have any ideas? How should we proceed?"

He turned to the Deputy Headmistress and nodded. The rest gathered closer.

"The Mandrake roots are ready. I'm going to start preparing the potion. It will take a few days to complete and I will have to monitor it. Still, if we can revive those students, they might be able to provide answers, clues that we can use to find the beast stalking our halls."

"I'll help you," Pomona said suddenly. "I can cut up Mandrake along with the best of them."

"A few days may well be too late for poor Ginny Weasley," noted McGonagall sadly. Then she squared her shoulders. "Filius and Aurora, Argus and I will patrol the halls. Allow the House prefects to patrol the floor their Common Room opens onto. No one is to patrol alone; there must be two or more at all times, wands drawn. Hagrid, dear, you and Rolanda patrol the grounds. No student save the prefects should be wandering the grounds or castle. Any suspicious activity of any kind and the one who spies it is to sound the alarm. Is that clear?"

"Am I to be given no task?"

Everyone looked to Septima Vector and suddenly a more tremulous voice piped in.

"I should like to help, as well, if I can."

Snape lifted a brow at the willowy Sybill Trelawney, who appeared to be trembling on her feet. Her expression seemed sincere however and to everyone's surprise, he spoke.

"Septima, perhaps you and Sybill might work out a puzzle I have been considering since Albus requested I also cure Sir Nicholas, the Gryffindor Ghost."

"Of course, Severus, if it's possible," Vector replied. Sybill merely nodded myopically and he fought to keep from sighing.

"I have been unable to ascertain how to dose a ghost, when he can neither ingest a potion nor even have one applied topically."

Sybill frowned, but Septima merely nodded with sudden enthusiasm. "Oh, I do love a good puzzle. Come, Sybill, let's go to my office. I'll need to consult some graphs and you can make us a nice pot of tea."

To everyone's surprise, the two headed off and Minerva smiled at the rest. "Let's go."


~O~



Severus was astonished when Pomona led him into the greenhouse after first deadening their hearing with an Ear Smothering spell. Two fifth year Ravenclaws wearing fluffy pink ear muffs were nervously scrubbing Mandrakes. It was clear they could not hear the shrieking Mandrakes nor had they heard the alarm. Beside them was a large tub full of cleaned, scrubbed and to Severus' relief, skewered Mandrakes, ready to be chopped and stewed.

Pomona obtained their attention and waved her wand. A battered chalkboard slid from behind a tray of seedlings and with another wave of her wand it suddenly read:

Thank you, Blevins & Cole. Your detention has been served. Please hurry to your Common Room. Another attack has occurred and all students are to be in their dormitories. Do not separate. Inform the prefects you just finished your detention and were unable to hear the alarm. You can remove your ear muffs outside the greenhouse. Just leave them by the door.

The boy and girl hurried out, grateful, but now appearing more nervous. Snape could not blame them. The tension in the castle was thick enough to be sliced and stewed.

Pomona tugged on his arm. She waved at the chalk board again.

How shall we proceed then? Will we need to finish the lot first? I don't fancy staying here and scrubbing and skewering by myself.

He touched her arm and shook his head. Fishing out his wand, he waved it at the board.

The tub is sufficient to get started. If I determine more are needed, we'll come back together. Thankfully, we won't need a silencing charm to transport them as this lot appears to have been rendered unresponsive.

She nodded, grateful, and merely waved her wand to levitate the tub full of lifeless Mandrakes out of the door. Once outside, Snape cancelled the Ear Smothering charm and they made their careful way down to his laboratory, keeping watch for any signs of suspicious activity the entire way.

"I was thinking -- it might not be a monster at all."

He glanced at her, intrigued.

"Go on."

"Well, some monsters are long-lived it's true, but it seems unlikely to me. More likely it's a dark wizard or witch using a new curse that can petrify people."

"An interesting thought," Severus admitted. "I rather admire the simplicity of it."

Pomona remained quiet and he finally looked over to find her looking disquieted. "What?"

"Simplicity. So you think my theory unsophisticated and not well thought out?"

He nearly groaned. "No, my dear. Not at all. I truly do admire how straightforward it is. It's quite likely true, as well."

She remained quiet and he glanced at her as they descended yet another set of stairs, keeping the tub of Mandrakes between them.

"Have I put my foot in it yet again?"

She looked over at him then and smiled. Her voice pitched lower, and she spoke in a hushed tone.

"No, Severus. It's just... you called me my dear, as of old. I rather missed that."

He nearly stopped, thought back, and realised she was right.

"I do, as well," he admitted. He cleared his throat, abruptly nervous and whispered, "Wouldn't the little idiots be astonished to overhear our conversation."

Pomona smiled. "Not at all. They'd assume we were having them on."

"And not having it off, as it were?" His smile was rare, but genuine. Snape nearly laughed and Pomona was glad to see his burdens lift just for the moment; it made him look like the young man he still truly was rather than the prematurely aged man he had become. It made him look like the young lad she had introduced to the art of love. Soon enough he was sombre once more. She wondered now what changes time had wrought on her once young lover. He had filled out in the intervening years; his shoulders broader, his waist a bit thicker. He was still far too pale and drawn-looking, though. This much she could see at the dinner table.

He's grown, has Severus, but he has not blossomed.

"Well, here we are." He startled her from her reverie as he began to lead the way down the final set of stairs to his domain.

"Heigh ho," she replied with false cheer. "To work we go."

He smiled at her and began to descend, carefully levitating the tub between them. She followed and shivered at how sepulchral was the sound of his boots on each step. The chill of the stones surrounding her began to penetrate her cloak and Pomona began to feel how cruel it was to entomb a person still living in this way, even if they could escape it for a few hours every day.

No matter what anyone told her, Pomona Sprout felt years of living underground, far from the sun, was not healthy for either plant or animal.


~O~



In the end, no one's theories about the Chamber were right and it was the speccy-eyed runty Gryffindor thorn in his side that had uncovered the secret and slain a basilisk, or so Potter claimed. The rescue of Ginny Weasley was deemed sufficient to return Dumbledore to his position and reopen the school and the cementing of the dangerous series of tunnels stemming from the third floor bathroom was deemed sufficient to staunch any future threat from below. Albus had not allowed him to investigate, claiming dangers untold, although he had brought him a fang that Fawkes had retrieved from the Chamber. The venom in it was so toxic as to eat through the container it was placed in and he had finally fortified a jar by magical means and stored it in his private storage cupboard. Perhaps one day he might be able to find use for the deadly poison.

To everyone's surprise, but Vector, Trelawney had been the catalyst for figuring out how to dose Sir Nicholas.

Septima had tried various Arithmantic permutations as Sybill had made cup after cup of alternately "mind-clarifying," "soothing," or "prognosticating" tea.

Sybill declared the prognosticating tea (a blend of Oolong, white peony and lavender) to be truly excellent with digestives, even when drunk without milk, and miscalculated her dunking so the biscuit fell apart into the clear amber liquid, turning it murky.

"Really, perhaps one should spray the tea onto the biscuit instead," she muttered unhappily.

"Sybill! That's it!" Vector had stood up and grabbed her partner in puzzle-solving, urging her out the door. "Let's go! There's something to be done!"

"But the Monster..."

"Bugger the monster! We need to check something in the Infirmary! Severus might have the wrong end of the stick!"

They made their way down Vector's tower rooms and to the third floor where the Infirmary was quiet in the torch-lit dimness. Wands still drawn, they made their way to the corner of the Infirmary where the ghostly spectre floated behind a sight screen. Septima used her wand and tapped him with it. There was no noise, but she felt a definite resistance.

"Of course! When he was Petrified, it partially solidified him!"

"Yes, of course," Sybill agreed, bewildered. "So we must dunk him like a digestive then?"

"That might work, too. You see, Severus was thinking of Sir Nicholas as being in his usual ethereal state. I bet he hasn't even examined Sir Nicholas yet, but then Minerva and he have been so busy with Albus away. But Nick is partially solid currently, so a simple submersion might do. Or if that requires too much draught then one of Pomona's misting devices should do the trick, filled with Severus's restorative draught." She beamed at Trelawney who blinked back at her. "I do believe we've done it!"

"Yes, very good. Very good," twittered Trelawney, still uncertain of things, but pleased to feel valued for a change.

"Now I'll have some of that excellent tea, Sybill."

Trelawney smiled back, a bit flustered, but glad to find someone else that truly liked her tea.




1995






"Yes, yes, he's fast and fresh and the hot new thing," Snape groused, adding sardonically, "Honestly, Pomona, one would think you're describing a Muggle food delivery service and not a mediocre sixth year student."

"Mediocre!" Sprout nearly stood, but thought better of it, waving her finger at Snape from beyond Minerva and Filius at the Head Table. "I'll have you know Cedric Diggory is one of my top scoring students!"

"Besides," intoned Hooch with an amused quirk to her lips. "Since when do you know anything about Muggle food delivery services, Snape?"

As the rest tittered at this, Snape growled, "One has Muggleborn students. One hears things."

Pomona refused to be ignored. "I certainly didn't see any Slytherin with the mettle to enter the Tournament!"

Snape looked patently unimpressed. "My students are smart enough to know when something is not merely suicidal, but a gaudy spectacle. No Slytherin would care to be pilloried in the press as they are doing to Potter and Krum, and no Slytherin is stupid enough to put their neck out for the chop. You mark my words, someone will probably die in this contest and then we'll be back where we started years ago, wondering why we encourage such dangerous games and crying useless tears over the thick-headed, bold-hearted lunk that had the lack of foresight to engage in vainglorious sport in the first place!"

His voice had not risen above a harsh whisper but the entire staff grew quiet at his barely repressed ire. Then Dumbledore began cutting up his chipolata and spoke in a mild, slightly amused tone.

"Now, Severus, you shouldn't hold anything back. Please tell us how you truly feel."

Snape snorted irritation and the rest all tittered, returning to their meal with the exception of Pomona. She sat looking at her dish for a long moment before pushing it away and turning toward the staff exit.

"Excuse me. I seem to have lost my appetite."

After a few awkward moments, Madam Maxime stood from her own chair. "So have I. Zees British food is so heavy for zee morning anyway."

Snape scowled.

Then Alastor Moody began to fork up his eggs and muttered, "Well, strangely enough, old Snape has the right of it, in my opinion. Someone's going to die and it won't be pretty."

Severus pushed his plate of sausage away, drained his coffee and stood. "If you'll excuse me."

He did not say, but he had also lost his appetite. Let them assume Moody put him off his feed.

Once he was alone in the corridor, he rubbed at his left arm for a moment, refusing to uncover it and actively scratch his tainted flesh. Soon he heard a noise down the hall and let his arm go, heading swiftly toward the stairs leading to the dungeons.



~O~




"Some burn heal paste would finish off this lot nicely," Pomfrey said with a tired flourish, closing her storage cupboard and waving her wand to ward it against students. "I had to use all of it thanks to that first task the contestants were given."

"I'll assign that to my fifth years," Snape muttered, still making notations of what the Matron required for the Infirmary. "It's simple enough to make, despite being an emulsion, and might well be on the OWL exam."

"You also might whip up some Demulcent Decoction, if you have any time," she suggested.

"Oh? A bit of laryngitis going around?"

Poppy touched a hand to his arm, stopping his writing. Her gaze was a bit too-knowing for his comfort. He frowned.

"What?"

Pomfrey's voice dropped to a whisper.

"Pomona can barely speak at the moment."

He snorted, shaking her hand free and continued writing. '

"I'm not surprised," he muttered repressively. I could hear her screaming from the far side of the viewing stands when Mr Diggory retrieved his egg."

"Oh, Severus. Do make it up with her, honestly. Hasn't it been long enough?"

He stopped now to stare at her in astonishment. She copied his snort.

"Oh, give it up, boy. Do you think me blind? Or anyone else? You and she were good together. She was good for you and you were good for her."

"What on Earth makes you think that we--"

Poppy shook her head. "Pomona came to me with a womanly ailment... some years ago now. I had to make certain necessary enquiries before treating her. She told me about you."

"I see." He cleared his throat, feeling very uncomfortable.

"Don't clam up, Severus. We are trusted colleagues if not friends." Her tone changed to a slightly teasing one. "Aside from Pomona and your mother, I'm probably the only one to see you naked, albeit professionally."

He glared at her and she smiled. "There now. There's the Snape I know and love."

"I don't find your comments amusing, Poppy."

"They aren't meant to be, not really. I was making a point. We aren't enemies. I don't mean you ill. I'm your medical care provider and I know you as well as anyone could, better in some ways. So I don't mean you harm when I say you should talk with her, try again. You were good for one another. I know you aren't seeing anyone, nor is she. With everything happening now -- Death Eaters at the Quidditch World Cup, some nefarious goings on here that has young Mr Potter taking part in a deadly game of chance, after that horrid incident two years back in the Chamber of Secrets and a madman running loose trying to kill him last year, poor Mr Diggory nearly being roasted by that dragon... it's impressed on me that life is so very short. Take the good that's offered and don't focus on just the bad. Live, Severus. Please. That's all."

"Is that your sage medical advice?"

She shook her head, undisturbed by his sardonic tone.

"No. It's advice from a friend. Think about it."




~O~



She held up the small vial and cleared her throat, wincing to whisper hoarsely, ""What do you want in exchange?"

He looked a bit disquieted at this and considered how to answer. Then his brow rose and he spoke in a mild voice.

"Nothing. My OWL level students were assigned to make some and I find I have extra."

"Liar," but she said it without true accusation and a smile on her face.

His own expression softened. "I wondered if you'd remember."

"Oh, I remember." She winced and uncorked the vial. She sipped at it and replaced the cork with a gratified sigh. When she spoke, her voice was much stronger. "Thank you, Severus."

"No need. I couldn't sleep. I had to do something, might as well be something useful."

She studied him for a moment and sat back, lacing her hands over her belly. It emphasised her girth, but she did not care and to Severus, it had never mattered. Still, she thought, he had never truly looked on her in the light; they had always made love by moonlight.

"What's troubling you, dear?"

He looked at her and the creases by his eyes grew as he looked down. He almost seemed ashamed, she thought.

Suddenly he pulled up the fabric from his left arm and held it out to her.

The dark smudge of the tattoo was now well-defined, slightly raised and a dark angry-looking red. She felt a touch of nausea when she realised the snake was blindly undulating along the corded muscle of his arm.

"So... he's back then," she whispered with a sort of horrified fascination. "I shall set my sixth years to planting more Venomous Tentacula cuttings and Devil's Snare, as well as ensuring all the students are proficient at their Severing Charms when I cover grafting."

He slid his sleeve back down and frowned. "Is that all you have to say?"

Pomona shook her head. "My dear, what do you want me to say? I cannot stop him. If I knew how, I would. I cannot do anything but help protect this school and its students and my methods involve the earth and growing things, deadly things, but still, growing and nurturing them so that they are strong and can be used if needed. Those are the tasks I can and must do. If there is anything else you think might be helpful that I can do, please advise me."

He considered her, studying her earnest, lovely brown eyes and feeling a pang of desire that nearly made him fall to his knees. But it was not right; it was not his to ask for, not anymore. Merlin, but he missed her, though.

"Just... don't lose faith in me. Please." His voice was strangled and he blinked to keep the telltale moisture from his too dry and tired eyes.

Pomona stood then and stepped up. Severus stilled and she slid her arms about him, holding him tight and close and ignoring the hard rigid pressure she could feel and his sound of protest to burrow her head against him and sniff appreciatively at his robes which smelt, as always, of herbs and spices and a hint of smoke and the sharp musky counterpoint that was his own deeply personal and much-beloved scent.

"Oh, Severus, do forgive me," she whispered.

His hands had only just gathered her closer and he whispered back, "Forgive you for what?"

"Turning you away. I turned everyone away. I just couldn't face... I felt far too guilty for pleasure and too deeply for pain. But then it became a habit, and soon, I realised I'd pushed you away. You deserved better."

He shrugged. His voice was soft.

"I didn't expect it to last. I figured eventually you would grow weary of me."

She stilled and then pulled back to look up at him. "Weary of you? What made you think that?"

"I'm not an easy man to know. I'm not particularly kind nor do I have wealth or fame or even halfway decent looks. What any woman would see in me for a partner is a mystery I try not to consider very often."

"You forgot talented and wickedly intelligent and dedicated and a wonderful lover."

He pulled back from her at that, making a scoffing sound. "No need to trowel it on. I know what I am, Pomona."

"Having listened these last few moments, I respectfully disagree."

He would have spoken but for the sudden rapid knocking on her office door and they both turned in alarm as Cedric Diggory burst through the door with the golden egg in his arm. He was wet, wearing a robe and foam and soap scum rimmed his hair and the back of his neck.

"Professor Sprout! I did it! I figured out the clue!"

He paused, taking in the tableau. They were no longer holding one another, but were still unusually close. Snape stepped further away and tucked an arm behind his back.

"Oh. I'm sorry, did I interrupt something?" The boy looked earnestly upset even as he dripped soapy water all over her office rug.

"Not at all, my boy. Please sit." She conjured up a towel and draped it over his damp shoulders, then conjured another and began to towel off his hair. "Between this and the last task, if you don't catch your death of cold, I'll be surprised."

Diggory looked uncomfortable with her attention and Severus shook his head.

"Professor Sprout, are you a witch or aren't you?"

She turned at this, an exasperated expression on her face, before growing apprehensive as she realised his wand was aimed in their direction.

"Siccus adulescens!"

Abruptly a warm wind seemed to sweep over Cedric, engulfing him all around and leaving him warm and dry, his hair ruffled into untidiness.

"Thank you, Professor Snape," he said gratefully, and sighed satisfaction. Pomona set the wet towel aside and looked a bit ruffled.

"You're welcome," Severus replied, before reaching into his coat pocket and removing a small vial. He began to head out of the room and he handed it to the boy as he passed, but spoke directly to Pomona. "For everything."

Snape stepped from the Infirmary, leaving Cedric to smile at the Pepper-Up Potion in his hand and Pomona to stare at the door for a few moments, feeling a pang of regret for the interruption.


~O~



Returning was nearly as agonising as having gone. He ached, body and soul. He wanted nothing more than to take some Dreamless Sleep and wake on the morrow, well-rested if still unclean.

Having spent so much time in the presence of the Dark Lord, having to allow him to read his thoughts, know his feelings... his only saving grace being the sheer loathing he felt for the boy. The Dark Lord had found their shared confrontations of most interest, nearly cackling with laughter whenever Snape punished the boy or gutted him verbally. He watched them more than once before declaring Snape was not the turncoat he'd assumed.

He did not clarify this, but none of the Death Eaters dared to ask. Thankfully, the Dark Lord had no wish to view any of his other memories aside from his meetings with Albus, although he did catch a glimpse of a few, mostly pedestrian incidents that were of no interest to anyone, not even himself.

Snape was weak from fear repressed and his head ached from having his thoughts and feelings probed for so very long. No bath could cleanse him of the Dark Lord's influence. He was soiled from within and he would have to continue to live in this manner for the foreseeable future.

Thanks to his audience with the Dark Lord, he had also missed the Diggory boy's funeral. It had been held that morning and he had been unable to break free in any unsuspicious manner to attend. The Dark Lord did not care. He suggested Snape's absence would be the right message for his faithful Slytherins. The boy had been an obstruction and his family consorted with blood traitors. His death, therefore, was merely to be expected.

Snape drew his cloak tighter about his frame, suddenly realising he had not eaten in at least two days, his stomach suddenly speaking louder than his dismal thoughts and he trudged into the castle and headed straight for the kitchens.



Having finished a splendid meal of stew and bread and fruit the elves had prepared for him, along with two cups of excellent coffee, Snape nearly felt back to normal, save for his fatigue. He thanked the little beings sincerely as he left; often enough they had kept him from starving as a boy and despite rumours to the contrary, he truly appreciated their efforts.

About to turn to the stairs leading down to the dungeons, he realised he was quite close to the Hufflepuff Common Room as well as not very far from the corridor leading to Pomona's rooms. A pang filled him at the thought of her.

Something might have happened the day Diggory had interrupted him. So very much had happened; the Dark Lord's return, the tainted tournament, the poor boy's death. Snape suddenly turned and headed for her quarters. The very least he could do was convey his condolences, his regret for being unable to attend. The boy had been one of hers and he knew how deeply she cared for all her badgers, big and small.



~O~




She had just changed out of her clothes from the funeral and was debating a cuppa when there was a knock on her door.

It wasn't a student; her entire house had been given special dispensation from Dumbledore to attend the funeral if they wished and simply go home after. It was best they be in the company of their loved ones at such a difficult time, he felt, and Pomona had concurred. It was a testament to their fear and grief and confusion that none of her students had been pleased or cheered at the news.

Most seemed numb and she had done the best she could to chivvy her little badgers into readying to go home, speaking to them as a whole and in groups and, in the case of Cedric's friends and the youngest of her charges, individually. Most had attended the funeral; the rest had gone straight home on the Hogwarts Express that morning. She had seen them off and headed straight from there to the funeral. Afterward, she had conveyed her deepest sympathies to the poor, grieving parents once again and then summoned the Knight Bus for her charges. It would take them to King's Cross where their luggage and parents awaited them.

Pomona was knackered now, in every possible way and she hoped it wasn't the Headmaster wishing to give her some pointless pep talk to cheer her or to convey his own sorrow and regret. She was not in the mood for small talk or polite conversation.

She opened the door now and was startled to find Severus in the corridor, looking rather diffident.

"If this is a bad time?"

She shook her head, suddenly profoundly glad to see him. She didn't even care why he'd come. She needed his solid stability, his refreshing distaste for social inanities and cumbersome chatter.

"Oh, thank Merlin," she declared and urged him in, barely closing the door behind him when she slid her arms around his waist and leaned her head against his chest. "I'm so glad it's you."

Bemused, he wrapped his arms about her and held her tightly, feeling closeness to her he had never experienced before, even when they had been sharing intimacies. It felt different, an upwelling of the deepest, fondest regard, of... he closed his eyes as he wondered now if this was love.

He did not know. He remembered what he felt once for another, but this was different. It was deeper somehow; more satisfying and he wanted to never let her go.

"Pomona."

"Please, Severus," she whispered. "Just be with me. Please."

He nodded without reservations, without even thinking about it. "Of course."

She slipped carefully from his arms, taking his hand and leading him to her bedroom.

There was no uncertainty despite the brightness of the room. Sunshine streamed in through the sheer curtains and Pomona slipped off her clothing without shame or hesitation, her warm brown eyes on him as he watched, riveted to the sight.

Soon she was nude, round belly, her springy iron-grey thatch of hair at her groin, heavy hips and breasts, and warm, tanned flesh his body well remembered. She lay back on her bed and watched him. He swallowed and let his cloak flutter to the ground.

Without looking away from her, he unbuttoned his jacket and waistcoat and shirt, slipped the cravat loose and pulled it over his head, sliding his arms out of all his garments at once and letting them fall where they would. He unbuttoned his trousers and kicked off his boots and slid his remaining garments off, revealing his quiescent if interested manhood to her attentive gaze.

She smiled. "You've filled out."

"The elves cooking, no doubt."

"You have more hair now, too, on your chest and across your belly."

He gazed at her and swallowed again. "You're beautiful."

"Liar."

"Temptress." His voice had dropped to a suggestive register and she reached a hand out to him. He stepped up and she pulled him down onto the bed with her.

They carefully adjusted their positions until she was lying with her head on his chest, arm around his waist and he had curled an arm around her, holding her close. They lay until their breathing evened out. He considered their situation and sighed with regret.

"I'm so tired."

"So am I," she mumbled.

"Good."

He said no more as he drifted off into a deep and comfortable sleep, certain in the knowledge she would be in his arms when he woke.



~O~




"Your cock is thicker now, too, and a bit longer than I remember," she mused the next morning, running her fingers through the heavy black curls at the base of his cock.

"No doubt it was performing at its best," he muttered sleepily.

"Your bollocks are definitely bigger, heavier. They hang a bit lower, too."

"Is that bad or good?"

"Very, very good. I want to feel them slap me when you fuck me from behind," she admitted.

"Pomona," he moaned, equal parts fatigue and desire in his voice. "Last night and then this morning. Keep this up and they'll be the size of raisins."

Pomona quaked with laughter at this, finally stifling herself and gently rubbing his hefty scrotum. "No, no, no. You just need a bit of my wine. Very good for potency, or so I hear."

She summoned her wand and used it to summon a bottle from her kitchen. She offered him a swig and he accepted, drinking with no little thirst as they had yet to eat.

"Mm. You still haven't taught me how to make this, you know."

"Later. Right now, I plan to have a nice bit of brekky."

He began to sit up, interested, when she pushed him back down. "What?"

"I plan to eat it off of you," she admitted before summoning a much scandalised house elf that quickly brought their order and kept its eyes on the tray it held with trembling hands.



~O~



"Severus!"

The shriek was nearly loud enough to shatter glass, but he continued to suck and nibble on her tender bud of a clitoris. He had always been intrigued by this part of her. It was almost invisible at first, but after he fingered it for a bit, it became a larger, if still small, rounded bit of rubbery and irresistible flesh he wanted to suckle and fondle, which he did. A lot.

Once she grew slick and wet, he had discovered during their earlier days that he could actually set his teeth to the tiny projection and delicately nibble. This had the effect of making her scream and flood his face and fingers with her powerful climax. That was when, he knew, she wanted him most.

He finished licking her through her orgasm and slid up and onto her lush, soft flesh, revelling in the sensation he had not experienced in far too long. He loved the feel of her, her roundness which cushioned his angularity, her warm, ample flesh he simply could not experience too often. It was what he had missed most, feeling her embrace, smelling her warm earthy female scent and hearing her soft moans of pleasure as he touched and stroked and licked and kissed her.

His elbows held part of his weight now as his hands gently rubbed her beautiful breasts. He licked one nipple, then the other, before beginning to suckle, his hard cock rubbing along the crease at the top of her thigh.

"I have a better place for that, don't you think?" She suddenly began to move under him and he pulled back to watch her get on her knees facing away from him and bending to grab the brass railing at the head of her bed. He groaned at the sight of her beautifully rounded buttocks and wet womanly opening, pink and fragrant. He tugged on his bollocks to ease them and crept up, sliding carefully onto her, before dipping the head of his cock into her folds. She moaned and pushed back and he moaned, too.

Moving further up, he began to thrust, sliding one arm around to take hold of a breast and the other to reach between her legs and finger her clit.

"Severus!"

He thrust faster, finding a good rhythm and closing his eyes to enjoy the sensations and her wonderful body. Soon he began to move faster and she panted, "Yes!"

The feeling of her tight fanny pressing along his prick made it harder than he had thought possible. His bollocks did exactly as she had hoped, slapping against her as he thrust home. "Oh, Pomona."

"Fuck me!"

He grabbed hold of her hips now and began to piston hard, exulting in the sensation of her desire, her need for him and what he did. Sweat ran from them both, but neither noticed as they strove to reach the pinnacle. She pushed back harder still suddenly and froze, moaning and he felt her tighten around him as he continued to thrust deep inside.

Astoundingly, he suddenly felt a warm, work-roughened, but gentle hand cradling his bollocks, massaging them lovingly. It undid him and he bellowed as he began to climax, the sensation sizzling through him to shoot forth from his heavy prick and he moaned as it ended.

He slipped back and dropped gracelessly onto her bed, nearly insensate. He dimly heard her do the same, but it was all he knew.

When he woke, it was dark and Pomona slept peacefully, a beautiful witch at his side. The pang he felt confirmed what he already knew; he loved her.

And he could not continue this path. Where he would be going no one could follow, for it was too dangerous. He might not survive. It would be better to end it here. She did not need the worry or the fear. She deserved better.

He considered her response and considered the time he had just spent in a dark, demented presence that tainted his very mind with vile filth. He thought of Dumbledore's plans and sighed.

I've dirtied her enough.

His eyes filled and he did not fight the tears as they began to fall as he reached for his wand and turned to his beloved Pomona.

His hand was steady although his voice was not.

"Obliviate."




1998





"You're doing him no favours, Potter."

"He deserves to live, to taste freedom from his masters, both of them."

Pomona looked over at this from where she was wrapping a bandage around Justin Finch-Fletchley's curse-damaged arm. He would need treatment at St Mungo's.

"He should go with the rest to St Mungo's."

"No. They won't treat him with the proper respect. Everyone thinks he was a traitor and he wasn't. He wasn't ever."

Pomona stepped up now and looked at the boy with interest.

"Are you saying it was all an act?"

Harry nodded. "Yes. Dumbledore knew, you see. He knew Voldemort would come to power and the school would be defenceless because Voldemort would either close it or put one of his own in charge. He would never let Professor McGonagall or Flitwick or anyone else he didn't trust in place. So it had to be Snape."

"But Snape killed him," Pomona asserted. "You said so."

"He did, but on Dumbledore's orders. He was never a traitor or even a murderer. He was already dying of a poison he had made me give him, and Snape was under an Unbreakable Vow to protect Draco Malfoy."

"Malfoy?"

"Yes, Draco was marked and to prove himself to Voldemort, he had to kill Dumbledore. But Snape made an Unbreakable Vow to do it himself if Draco couldn't. So if he hadn't, he would have died, and the school would have been defenceless."

"That wicked old fossil," she mumbled now, looking at Snape with grave eyes. He looked dead. Only Pomfrey's sophisticated wand work showed any life remained.

"So please help him, Madam Pomfrey. Keep him here and safe."

"I may not have the tools or drugs or equipment I need to save him and you will have condemned him to death, boy."

Harry looked sad, but resolute. "If so, at least he'll die among friends."



~O~




"Will he never wake?"

Pomfrey sighed.

"He might not. He lost far too much blood, despite the blood preservation spell he must have managed to cast. The Granger girl was there at the time and she told me when they found him he had his eyes closed and was mumbling something. The only thing that saved him from total circulatory collapse was the venom from that filthy beast has powerful anticoagulants. What little blood he had kept circulating just enough to keep him alive. But was it enough to keep his cells properly oxygenated? Time will tell."

"He looks so frail," Pomona admitted, running a hand through his hair and contrasting the image before her with the young, untried man she'd once known.

They had placed him in her quarters after a nasty incident with some angry students still riled from the battle trying to hex him even as Pomfrey had been attempting to stabilise him. Pomona had pointed her wand at them and they had ignored her, but never again. If any students had doubts about Hufflepuff mettle, she had put them to rest as she swiftly confiscated their wands, hoisted them up in the air upside down and swept them out into the hallway, deducting 100 house points from each of them, before dropping them. She did not bother to wait and see if they would land safely or not. She had given their wands to the Headmistress and so far as she was aware, Minerva only allowed them use of their wands as they helped with the castle's renovation. She confiscated them every evening.

It might have seemed unfair, but after the Headmistress had heard what happened, she had given the sullen young men the option of helping work on the castle with her retaining their wands at all times they were not actively doing renovation until the work was completed or, since they were all of age, having their attempt to seriously harm an unconscious and injured professor -- who was now being hailed as a hero by none other than Harry Potter -- reported to the Aurors. The penalty for such a crime was six months in Azkaban. Pomona had merely requested they not be assigned to work anywhere near her quarters or the greenhouses.

The greenhouses had seen some damage, but her quarters had survived unscathed and so there Snape was placed. All day the sound of reconstruction could be heard unless she used a muffling charm. Most of the time she played soft music, which helped not only muffle the sounds, but also soothed her nerves.

The warm hand on her shoulder startled Pomona now; she had quite forgotten Poppy's presence. Her gaze only took in Severus.

Poppy gently squeezed her shoulder in a comforting way. Her voice was quiet, but knowing.

"He's still a young man, despite appearances. He's stubborn and strong. I think he'll do."



~O~




Pomona waved her wand and turned Severus again.

It was an endless cycle: turning him, feeding him with that horrible tube, bathing him, massaging his limbs to encourage circulation. Then there were the potions, endless potions, also given through that horrible tube. Two weeks of the horrible tube.

Thankfully, it was charmed to make its own way down his gullet once she set it in his mouth, but the twitching of his torso and the choked off sounds he sometimes made filled her with horror and guilt.

Young Harry and Miss Granger had been by once. Miss Granger had tearfully whispered to Harry that her parents had informed her if a person did not rouse from unconsciousness within three weeks time, the chances for their recovery were dismal. Pomona took in the way Harry held the young witch close as she quietly cried whilst they sat beside Severus and pretended not to have heard.

She gave them tea and biscuits and sent them on their sombre way and then she had gone to the room and held his hand and wept.

"You stubborn fool. I love you, you know. Never said those words to another man in my life, and you might not hear them now, but I do." She stroked his hand in hers and whispered, "I miss you. I miss us. Why did we let it go on for so long, avoiding each other? We could have been together. I could have helped you with this, with your horrible, terrible burden."

She longed to see his dark, beautiful eyes gazing on her. Longed to hear his voice again, although Poppy had told her she was not sure if he'd have much of a voice after that serpent had done so much damage to his throat.

Pomona did not care -- if all he could use was a whisper, it would be enough in the dark.



~O~



"Might I enter?"

Pomona roused from her nap and hurried into the sitting room to find the Headmistress at the door, waiting to be invited further in. She waved Minerva in and shut the door. The Headmistress wasted no time.

"Still the same?"

Pomona glanced back to the room briefly. The charm that informed her of Severus's status had not been activated so he had neither moved nor attempted to speak whilst she slept.

"No change."

"You look knackered, dear."

"I am, a bit. I'm not really doing anything; it's Severus who's hard at work, healing himself."

"Is he truly?"

Pomona nodded. She couldn't manage a cheery tone, but she strove to sound positive.

"Every day a bit better, but... he doesn't wake. He swallows now so no more tubes. He shifts himself sometimes, but doesn't get up. He mumbles, but no actual words." She sniffed now and fought to finish speaking. "He fusses a bit when I wash him, but he doesn't wake. I've even seen him look as if he's trying to open his eyes, but..."

Minerva stepped up and drew her friend and colleague into her arms, shushing her quietly and encouraging her to let out her feelings. To her relief Pomona clung and cried and, when she was done, accepted the strong, bracing tea the Headmistress summoned an elf to bring, as well as a sandwich or two.

"I was staggered when I heard you accepted his charge," the Headmistress admitted. "He's not the easiest man to deal with when he's quite well, so I can only imagine."

"I love him," Sprout said simply.

Minerva paused in lifting her tea cup and looked over to her. "I see."

"No. You don't. You see, I kept something from you -- from everyone but Poppy." She looked longingly toward the door of her bedroom, but the charm had not sounded and she sighed. "We were together once, for a few years."

Minerva sipped her tea and set the cup down with great care. "I see."

"It wasn't love. Not then. It was... convenient and new and he was young and made me feel appreciated."

Minerva nodded, nibbling on a sandwich and silently encouraging Sprout to go on.

"Then... well, we stopped seeing each other and later, we grew close again. We both wanted it, I'm sure of it, but there always seemed to be something in the way, some catastrophe or other these last few years."

"Truer words," McGonagall nodded tiredly.

"Poor Severus never seemed to have a chance to even catch his breath, and then You Know Who came back... there was one night I thought he might, well, come to me, but nothing happened. Events just seemed to race along and there was no time but to deal with the students and each new horror."

"You must have felt utterly betrayed when he killed Albus," Minerva noted quietly.

Pomona sighed. "I didn't know what to think. Young Harry said one thing, the papers said another. Poor Rosmerta kept saying Harry's story didn't add up to what she remembered that night, but then she had been Imperio'd that one year, so who knew what was truth and what was a lie? I kept hoping. Then the Ministry appointed him Headmaster and a part of me hoped it was because someone in charge, someone at the Ministry still existed that knew the truth."

"He played his part very well," Minerva said with a sigh, patting her lips with a serviette as she finished her sandwich. "None of us even suspected, not even you who were so close to him."

"No." Pomona looked sad again. "He must have felt so very lonely."

Minerva smiled. "I'm sure the thought of what you had once was part of what buoyed him through the hard times. I know it has done so for me."

Sprout blinked and then looked to her friend, abruptly ashamed. "Oh, Minerva. I hadn't even thought... and here you're letting me go on about my... about us, when dear Elf..."

Minerva waved a hand in negation. "Don't trouble yourself; it was a long, long time ago now, dear. And it remains true. The thought of him, of what we had, it's buoyed me through some very rough times, indeed. So you see it pleases me greatly to know you both have had that -- something to hold onto when life's seas grew stormy."

"Oh, Min," Pomona was touched.

"I'm inordinately fond of the both of you, even if that man can be the most trying one in creation. Still, he's familiar, reliable, hard-working and... are you sure he's not a Hufflepuff?"

Pomona laughed. "Oh, no, not that. Young Harry told me at the end of his visit that he'd never known a man braver and more courageous, so surely that's Gryffindor."

Minerva snorted. "As much as he reads and researches, he should have been in Ravenclaw. Perhaps he would have been happier."

"We all choose our path."

McGonagall sighed. "Sometimes, my dear, one is forced onto a path and one must either follow it or remain unmoving and wither in place. The path is not always going the way one hopes or expects, either. Still, if one is resolute, one's feet keep propelling one forward."

"Oh, Min. There's still hope, isn't there?" Pomona looked at her friend beseechingly. She hated to think of Minerva being unhappy all her days, living on the memories of lost love. "Even now, there is hope of better, of finding another."

To her startled interest, the Headmistress blushed, and then stood, as if readying to go.

"Well, I should leave you to it."

"No, no, no. I saw that look. What is going on, Minerva?"

McGonagall closed her eyes, very definitely blushing before clearly steeling herself and looking at her old friend.

"Let's just say, you have your young man, and it looks as if I might have mine."

Sprout lifted a brow at this. "Oh?"

Minerva looked down and her voice was quite soft as she admitted, "He wrote me last summer, and we met at an event. Then he squired me to a few places before start of term. While we didn't consummate our affair, we did engage in rather more than a spot of snogging betimes. We've kept up writing one another. In fact, he's rather more articulate and expressive than I had first assumed! Now that Voldemort's occupation is over, he's coming to see me and he wants to take me to his home to meet his family."

"That's wonderful!" Pomona beamed and then asked as politely as she could, "Anyone I know?"

Minerva blushed again, but admitted, "Viktor Krum."

Pomona's eyes widened and then she considered it. Quidditch-mad Minerva and a world-class Quidditch player. It made sense. When she'd last seen him, during the Tri-wizard Tournament, he had been after Miss Granger, so clearly he liked intelligent witches. Miss Granger was a bit on the weedy side, too, and Minerva had been stick-thin as long as she'd known her. It all made perfect sense.

"He's perfect," she said with a big smile. "Just perfect for you, my dear. Well done!"

Minerva seemed abashed, but no longer blushed. "If all is well when I visit, neither of us sees any reason to wait. We would wed in Bulgaria, with his parents to witness, away from the vulgar press here. I still won't change my name. I see no reason to."

Sprout nodded. "Where would you live?"

"Viktor grew quite fond of my cottage near the loch of Yarrows, in Caithness. It reminds him of where he grew up and he quite enjoyed swimming over the summer when he visited. We feel with my work, we need to remain nearer the school. He's signed to play for Bulgaria for some years to come, and with training and matches, we shall see each other infrequently save for summers. So he wants to make the cottage his home base. We could always visit Bulgaria, of course, whenever we wished."

"Of course. It sounds splendid," Pomona enthused. "I'm so glad for you, Min."

"As for children..." Minerva sighed. "This is in strict confidence, but Viktor sustained an injury in a match at Durmstrang when he was still a boy. It did not affect his potency, but it is very unlikely he will ever father a child. No one knows save his family and me."

"And me, but I won't tell anyone. Not even Severus," Pomona assured her.

McGonagall smiled a bit sadly. "I appreciate that. It was not as big a blow to his family as it might have been. Viktor's family is quite poor. He helps support them with his winnings, so it is not as if there are ancestral lands or a title."

"Aside from the World's Best Seeker," Pomona noted.

Minerva chuckled. "There is that."

Sprout sighed, becoming sombre once more. "Well, so far as I know, Severus could father them and I can still bear them and per Poppy will be safely able to do so for another decade.... but I'm not sure if he would want any. It's not something we ever discussed."

"He will be right as rain before you know it, and then you can have that discussion," McGonagall said archly. "Trust me. Trust Poppy. Above all, trust Severus. He's the most stubborn and exasperating man I know. If he's held on this long, he'll sort himself soon."

Pomona merely nodded sadly. Minerva considered her friend. She hated leaving her in such a dispirited state, but she had far too many duties to attend.

Suddenly, a gleam came to her eye and her lips quirked with merriment.

"Before I take my leave," she began, gaining her friend's attention. "There's one other thing about Viktor I can share."

"Oh?"

"Well, you know what I told you about Elf that I made you take a vow you would never repeat?"

Pomona nodded.

"Viktor's is very like. In fact, he's bigger."

This said, McGonagall's cheeks grew rather bright pink and she headed straight out the door, not bothering with any parting wordsÖ not that Pomona would have heard them over the sound of her suddenly helpless giggles.



~O~




Once he started moving more on his own -- even if he was not aware -- Pomona had begun sleeping beside Severus.

She did not inform Poppy and decided it was no one's business but her own. She didn't do anything untoward. She merely snuggled up next to him and slept, sometimes taking his hand in hers and cuddling it to her chest.

She woke to the sound of moaning one night and quickly sat, casting Lumos to find Severus tossing and turning as if he was having a nightmare.

She set her wand down and quickly took his hand in hers even as her other one stroked his hair back from his face. He had experienced one or two nightmares during their time together and this one seemed quite powerful. She wished he would wake from it, but was no longer sanguine.

"Shush, dear. It's just a bad dream," she said soothingly, squeezing his hand.

To her surprise, Snape stilled. To her delighted astonishment, he turned to the sound of her voice and opened his eyes. He blinked at her and mumbled in a hoarse, dry voice, "Pomona?"

"It was just a dream, Severus," she said through her tears of joy, bending to kiss him. "It was just a very bad dream."



~O~



The sun was bright, streaming into the room through the sheer curtains of her bedroom window.

She was nude, her round belly and springy iron-grey thatch excitingly visible to him as she lay beside him on the bed. Her heavy hips and breasts and warm tanned skin were delights he well remembered and hoped to experience once again, once he wasn't off his form.

He was already nude since she had bathed him lovingly earlier and towelled him dry. She'd left him unclothed in the warmth of the summer heat that permeated the room and this part of the castle. It was a week since his awakening and he was able to fully move about again, but still grew tired at times.

"You've filled out," she said with a smile, gently stroking a warm, work-roughened hand across his chest, revelling in the feeling of his small brown nipples against her sensitive palm.

He gasped. "Eating regular meals will do that."

"You have more hair now, too, on your chest and across your belly." She frowned at her words, and then shrugged. He watched her carefully.

"Do you like it?"

"It's quite manly, and you were already quite manly," she said with a grin.

"And you are just the same," he sighed contentedly. "Just as beautiful as I remember."

"Liar." She spoke without heat, though.

"Temptress," his voice dropped suggestively and she smiled at him, even as he groaned. "I'm afraid I can't do as I'd like or else I'd be all over you, my dear."

"In that case," she whispered, moving to sit up. "Allow me."

He watched uncertainly and then groaned as she leaned over and gently sucked his still quiescent cock into her avid mouth. "Pomona..."

"Mm... soap. I'd better make sure it's all gone, then. Wouldn't want you to get a rash."

She licked him like a lolly, from base to tip in long, slow strokes that had him moaning. She gently mouthed his bollocks, licking the seam before working her way back up to suck on his lovely, large, flared head.

"Better. No more soap," she said with satisfaction.

A groan was her response and she smiled. She stroked him a few times until his cock was rigid to his belly and then she straddled him.

"Pomona."

"Shush. Just lie back and let me do it all," she ordered.

Snape moaned again, gazing on her above him, her luscious tits swaying with every movement and her warm soft skin brushing against his thighs and hips and groin.

"I love you," he whispered, before looking up into her clear brown eyes and whispering it again. "I love you, Pomona Sprout."

"And I love you, Severus Snape," she whispered back, before reaching down and positioning him where she needed him most. "Let me know if I hurt you."

"I thought that's what the wizard says."

"It's also good advice for when the wizard is under the spell of a kind and friendly witch."

"In that case, I shall, but I don't see you ever hurting me, dear."

"I don't want to," she murmured before moving up slightly and then sliding down with a soft groan of appreciation.

"Pomona."

She smiled, revelling in that tone in his voice -- the one that told her he was caught up in her spell and the feeling of what she was doing to him. Then she began to slowly move.

"Pomona!"

"I'm right here, dear. Not going anywhere. Not even if someone walks in."

"That," he gasped. "Might be a bit impolite."

"Sod 'em," she said cheerfully, and began to move a bit faster.

"Yes, yes, sod them," he muttered fervently. "Better yet, sod me."

"I thought I was."

"I love you so much," he insisted, gripping her thighs as she rode him to wickedly intense sensations.

She leaned forward then, resting her hands on his chest and rubbing along it, deliberately focusing on his nipples. His back arched slightly and he moaned.

"Was that pain?"

He shook his head, almost beyond words as her actions shifted his senses to a new high. He felt as if he was floating on the intense pleasure she was providing.

She adjusted her position slightly so that her clit pressed against his pubic bone each time she sank down onto him. Then she went back to rubbing his nipples and enjoying the ride. She pinched one gently and he nearly levitated.

"P-Pomona!"

She moved faster, taking his questing hands in hers and linking their fingers together, she pressed his hands back beside him on the bed, riding him smoothly and groaning her pleasure.

"Oh! Oh!"

Severus froze, arching slightly, and he shuddered. Pomona let his hands go to lean over and stroke his beloved face, feeling the rather rakish beard he had since she had not shaved him during his recovery. Her nipples brushed against his chest and she moaned, then did it again and again and--

"Oh, Severus!"

She clutched at him with both hands and the muscles within which quivered around him and let the climax wash over her.

Despite her great fulfilment, she nonetheless remembered to fall beside and not on top of him, not wishing to cause him any harm while he was still healing.

"Oh, my love."

"Mm?"

"You are a wicked, wonderful witch."

"I'm inspired by you, my lovely young lad."

He snorted.

"I'm not young and I'm no lad."

"You no longer contest lovely?"

"A certain witch of my acquaintance, who has sharp and canny eyesight and is highly intelligent, has taken pains to assure me she finds me lovely. Whether it is true or whether she is suffering from some form of visual ailment, I've decided to allow her the conceit."

"Gentlemanly of you."

"Quite." He turned to gaze on her, his lush and beautiful witch and sighed with gratification. "Besides, I don't wish to anger her before I've managed to convince her to be mine."

"Something tells me she probably already is."

"You think so?"

"I know it," she whispered, kissing him.

"Ah, but will she be mine forever? I don't wish to share and I'm a jealous man."

"You have no reason for jealousy, Severus, not now or ever. I only want you."

His smile was sweet, an unaccustomed expression, and he kissed her in exchange.

"So you'll be my wife, Pomona Sprout?" He watched her cautiously.

She stilled, looking at him for a long moment before her own smile emerged -- a broad, brilliant smile that lit up her entire face as if the sun had broken through a cloud.

Her voice was soft and a touch tearful, though, as she assured him, "I'll be anything you want me to be, Severus Snape."

"Just be mine," he whispered with longing.

Pomona beamed, eyes filled with happy tears.

"Always, love," she whispered back.

Then she leaned down to seal her promise with a kiss.





F*I*N*I*T*E





Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.
~ Buddha

Post A/N: For those who enjoy a little background as to writing process, I share the following. Two ballads "spoke" to me as I wrote. One distinctly from Pomona's point of view and the other from Severus's. Pomona's ballad was the classic Evergreen as sung by the phenomenal Barbra Streisand. It wove in and out of my mind as I wrote certain scenes, but the ballad that remained with me as I wrote this, was a soft, insistent and beloved ear worm, as it is one of my personal favourite of love songs. That was Play Me by the incomparable Neil Diamond. If you've never heard it, you probably should as this is an unvarnished and beautifully unashamed song of love that deserves permanence in the collective memory. It depicts Snape and how he views his Pomona better than any of the words that have brought you here thus far.


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