Written for i_octopus for smutty_claus 2006.|
Many thanks to Kalena, Meri, Rex Luscus, and Venivincere for beta'ing!
"...must first combine equal quantities of Symphytum officinale and Myrtus communis, then...."
There is no rug on the cold stone floor, no coverings on the bare walls, and little natural light apart from those weak rays of sunshine that slant into the cell for a few moments each day through the small window set high in the back wall.
"...an infusion of ginseng, lavender, and linden flowers...."
Amongst the items Severus is not permitted are the following: newspapers, books, parchment, quills, ink, coffee, tea, tobacco, alcohol.
"...salamander eyes, dragon's blood, a single scale from an immature Horntail..."
Severus spends his days reviewing potions ingredients; Latin noun declensions; the names of the hallucinogenic plants that Pomona used to grow in her private garden, the nature of the offenses committed against him by allies and enemies alike...
...his own sins.
"...wormwood, valerian roots, sopophorous beans..."
Severus has not set foot outside his cell for the past nine years.
Some years ago, one of the guards, a relatively inoffensive young man with a round face and watery blue eyes, had taken to reading the Prophet aloud to Severus at night when the other guards were on their supper break. Severus had little interest in Quidditch scores, trade negotiations with the Asian wizarding community, fashion news from New York, the programming schedule for the WWN, or any of the other items that the Prophet tended to include between their pages. However, although he'd be loath to admit it, enough time had passed for Severus to be inordinately grateful for the sound of any voice other than his own.
One evening, just before midnight, the round-faced guard read an article in the late-night edition of the Prophet which did interest Severus. It was an official Ministry announcement, buried beneath the adverts on one of the back pages and written in tiny print (or so Severus guessed to be the case when he heard the guard casting a Magnification charm), informing the populace that a change had been made in the laws covering a certain class of prisoner.
The announcement stated that parole might be granted to former Death Eaters in cases where each of the following conditions applied: the prisoner in question had already served five years of his/her sentence prior to a request for release, documentation existed to support claims of extenuating circumstances, a member in good standing of the wizarding community took legal responsibility for the parolee (including a vow to forfeit all goods and property in the event that the parolee in question fled the country), a job would be provided, and an appropriately-warded domicile would be made available for the parolee.
Severus had never been a particularly optimistic man, but the Ministry conditions didn't seem terribly onerous. It was possible that somebody - perhaps a former colleague or a fellow member of the Order, who might stumble across the announcement in one of the publications to which the Ministry typically distributed such news items - would believe Severus had been punished sufficiently for the wrongs he'd committed and would make some small effort to see that he was freed.
For quite a long time, Severus held out hope, but as the years passed, his hope grew increasingly slim, until finally, it disappeared altogether.
The string of charmed silver bells hanging over the fireplace played the opening bars from "In the Hall of the Mountain King," letting Luna know that someone was trying to reach her by Floo.
"Hullo," she called, as the green flames flared into life. "Is that you, Neville?"
"Hello, Luna. Are you upside down, or is there something wrong with the Floo Network?"
"The Floo's fine. It's the Dwarf Sphinx that's the trouble."
"Should I ask?"
Luna's eyes widened. "You haven't heard? I thought it was common knowledge that a Dwarf Sphinx had taken up residence in England."
"And so you're hanging upside down off the edge of your desk because...why?"
"So that the blood will rush to my head and make it easier for me to answer whatever questions it might pose if it visits me, of course."
"The Quibbler ran an article about it just last month," Luna said. "I'll send you a copy if you'd like."
"Thanks. And I've got something to send you, as well. Remember how I told you when I started this job that every nook and cranny in my new office was crammed with unfiled press announcements?"
Luna nodded, her long blonde hair almost hitting the floor as it swung back and forth.
"It's worse than I'd thought," Neville said. "I don't reckon more than half of the press releases were ever sent, except to the Prophet. I've spent the past three days removing old Stay-Behind spells from the scrolls, and I still can't get them to fly to their destinations."
"I don't suppose you've had an official memo about sending them on," Luna said.
"Not exactly, but like my gran always said, I might as well start as I mean to go on, so...could I just hand you the ones that were meant to be published in the Quibbler?"
"Of course," Luna said, righting herself and hopping off her late-father's desk. She stepped carefully over the gently-glowing Pixie detector that was currently winding its way around the room, then knelt beside the fireplace and took hold of the stack of parchments Neville was passing through. "Oh dear. There really are quite a lot, aren't there? I wonder if I'm going to have to publish a special edition to make room for them all."
"I shouldn't think so," Neville said, as he brushed Floo ash off his hands. "Most of them must be well out of date by now. Anyway, I've got to run. That bit I gave you for the Quibbler was just the tip of the dragon's horn."
Luna waved goodbye to her former schoolmate, then settled down in her father's old leather chair to see what Ministry information the press should have been sent over the years.
"Effective immediately, parole may be granted to former Death Eaters in such cases where each of the following conditions apply...."
Three paces across the cell gives way to eight smaller, more careful steps, when Severus is thinking.
He is sure that a Shrinking Solution requires a rat spleen, but he is not certain whether one rat spleen is sufficient. He seems to remember that rat spleens are very small. Perhaps if a rat should come through the bars...but, no. One did, he remembers...a rather sickly specimen. Severus thinks he once shared his bread with the rat, but the rat died anyway.
He frowns, then turns around and starts walking in the other direction. His hips have started hurting recently, as have his knees, but Severus walks through the pain. He must make fifty circuits of the cell before he allows himself to eat his meager breakfast, fifty more before lunch, one hundred more before supper.
"...seventy-eight, seventy-nine, eighty...."
"Snape!" calls the guard from somewhere down the corridor. "You've got a visitor."
"..eighty-four, eighty-five, eighty-six...."
He hears the clang of metal against metal as the outer doors are unlatched. He walks more quickly.
"...ninety, ninety-one, ninety-two..."
"I'm warning you, Snape. One more step and I'm casting a binding spell on you."
Severus wishes he had some way to protect himself against the spell, but he doesn't stop walking. He's not certain he can.
"All right, that's it!"
"No, wait, please." The voice belongs to a woman. It's calm and gentle, and it causes Severus' steps to falter slightly.
The woman speaks again. "He looks as if he'll be finished soon."
"...ninety-eight, ninety-nine, one hundred."
Severus stops by the head of the bed. His fingers twitch; they clutch at the worn fabric of his grey robe. This is his first visitor since being incarcerated.
"You sure about being left alone with him, Miss?" the guard asks.
"I'm sure," says the stranger. "Professor Snape won't harm me."
Perhaps she's not so much of a stranger as he first thought. The voice, at least, is familiar, although it has been many years since he heard her speak.
"Good afternoon, Professor."
He looks up. Peering at him through the bars stands a young woman wearing a simple blue robe. She has long, blonde hair with multi-coloured ribbons winding through it.
He recognizes her calm, silvery-grey eyes.
"Miss Lovegood," he says. "I'd offer you tea, but...."
She nods, then reaches into the pocket of her robe.
Sheer force of will is all that keeps Severus from backing up against the wall. He relaxes - but only a little - when she draws forth from her pocket not the wand he was expecting to see, but a long piece of parchment.
"It's a contract," she says. "I thought you might want one."
He wants to ask what in the world she's playing at, but over the past nine years, he's learned that questions yield little but mockery, and so he remains silent. He wishes he could show disinterest, but Severus finds that impossible to do.
"You must have some questions," she says. "I tried to tell the Liaison Officer at the Ministry what the position entailed, but she seemed a bit unfocused."
A part of Severus wants to laugh at the notion of Luna Lovegood calling anyone unfocused, but he does have questions, and so laughter must wait.
Now it's her turn to look confused. "Yes. The job. They did tell you about the job, didn't they? They promised they would."
"Nobody spoke to me of a position."
"Oh dear. I suppose I'll have to start at the beginning." Lovegood reaches back into her pockets and pulls out a jobberknoll feather, the Queen of Hearts from an Exploding Snap deck, two chestnuts, a brass ring, a silk scarf, a small carved wooden badger, and finally a neatly wrapped piece of Honeydukes' finest chocolate fudge.
When she unwraps the fudge and hands it to Severus through the bars, he quickly turns away and nibbles at one of the corners. The rich, sweet taste of chocolate on his tongue after so many years is...perfection.
Still holding the rest of the chocolate fudge in his hand, Severus turns back to face Lovegood.
"I'm writing, you see. Not just for the Quibbler, although I have the responsibility for that, as well, now that my father's passed on. Although...I don't suppose you ever met my father, did you? He was a Ravenclaw. He and my mother waited a long time before thinking about having a child. Waiting until the stars were in perfect alignment, my father used to say." Lovegood pauses in her narrative then reaches into her pocket once more and pulls out a small Muggle notebook. She flips through the pages for a few moments.
"Here we go," she says, stopping at a page decorated with green and blue and orange flowers. She scans the page, then looks up. "On behalf of the Quibbler, I'd like to offer you the position of editorial assistant."
Severus knows he should reply in some way, but he can't, for the life of him, come up with an appropriate response.
"The pay isn't terribly much," Lovegood says, "but the work's rather interesting, and room and board is included, of course. I know the job isn't really what you might have chosen, but there is a small potions laboratory just behind the house which you could use. My mother used to work there sometimes, and...I suppose you might not have known my mother either. She was a Hufflepuff." Lovegood picks up the small wooden badger from the floor where she'd set it down earlier. "This was hers. My father carved it for her when they were courting. So what do you think?"
Severus frowns. "About the badger?"
"No, Professor. About the job. Do you think you might be willing to consider it?"
Her expression is hopeful, but uncertain.
"You're here to offer me a job?" he asks. Severus knows it's not a terribly uncommon phenomenon, but he's having great difficulty making sense of anything Lovegood is saying. "I'd...be able to leave?"
"Oh yes," she says, then kneels down and wraps the badger in the silk scarf and replaces it in her pocket along with all the other items, apart from the contract, the quill, and the ink.
She waits patiently for his answer, and it suddenly occurs to Severus that this is the first time he's been allowed to make a decision for himself in close to a decade. He reaches out through the bars and takes the quill from her hand, then signs his name to the contract. Twelve minutes later, one of the guards unlocks the door to his cell.
Thirteen minutes later, Severus Snape follows Luna Lovegood down the corridor and out of Azkaban.
"You did what?" Neville asked, shock plain in his voice.
Luna sipped her cocoa, then placed the cup down on the table before answering. "I offered him a job, Neville. It really shouldn't be all that alarming. People are offered jobs every day of the week."
"Well, yes," she said placidly. "I was aware of that."
"I know, but...."
"He'd been in that cell for nine years, Neville."
"That doesn't mean you had to offer him a job and take him into your home." Neville shook his head. "Honestly, Luna...the man was a horror before he went into Azkaban. What do you think a decade in prison's done to him?"
"Made him terribly hungry, I expect," Luna said, reaching for a biscuit. "Just between you and me, I don't think the food in Azkaban was very plentiful."
"Luna, you have to take this more seriously."
"Speaking of taking things seriously, did I ever tell you the joke my father used to like? A man goes to St. Mungo's, and he says to one of the healers, 'My brother's mad, he thinks he's a chicken.' The healer says, 'Why don't you have him committed?' The man says, 'We would. But we need the eggs.'"
Neville stared at Luna. "What in the world is that supposed to mean?"
"Oh...nothing, I suppose," Luna said with a smile. "It's just a joke. And now, I must go. I left Professor Snape with this month's edition of the Quibbler, and I need to get back so that we can finish doing the copy-editing."
"See you next week, Neville," Luna said.
As she Apparated away, she was almost positive she could hear Neville cry out, "Don't blame me if he murders you in your sleep!"
Severus stands in the doorway to the kitchen, breathing deeply. Miss Lovegood has baked chocolate biscuits before leaving for her lunch with Neville Longbottom, and the smell is tantalizing. She told him, as she was leaving, that he must help himself...
...must help himself to some chocolate biscuits, but Severus sees locked doors where none exist. Rationally, he understands that nothing will happen to him if he goes into the kitchen for a moment to put a biscuit or two on a plate and brew a pot of tea, but rationality has little to do with his perceptions.
After fifteen minutes, he forces himself to step into the room. The immediate tightness he feels in his chest tells him that this was an inordinately foolish idea.
As quickly as he can, Severus returns to his desk. It is a long time before his heartbeat returns to normal.
When Luna brought Professor Snape into her home a fortnight ago, she took him upstairs and showed him which room would be his, then left him to settle in before dinner. When the clock struck seven, and he hadn't yet come downstairs, Luna had gone upstairs to fetch him, only to find him sitting on the floor in the walk-in closet.
"Professor," she said, kneeling down beside him. "Are you all right?" He frowned. "I apologize if you meant me to start working right away," he said as he pushed himself up off the floor. "It's just that I was surprised to discover that the bedroom you'd given me was carpeted. Thank you for that."
Luna tilted her head to the side, then rose from the floor and stood next to him. "This isn't...there's more to see, Professor Snape. Would you like to follow me?"
Tentatively, he stepped out of the hallway closet and followed her into the room that stood at the end of the hallway. The room was furnished with a full size bed, a bedside table, a free-standing wardrobe, a chest of drawers, and a desk and chair. A door between the bed and the wardrobe led to a small, private bathroom.
"This is yours."
"I see," he said slowly, although it seemed clear that he didn't quite understand what it was he was looking at. He sat down on the bed.
"Is there anything else you'd like, Professor?"
He looked up at Luna's words, and she could see that his eyes looked puffy and red-rimmed. If he had been Neville, Luna would have wrapped her arms around him, but...he was not Neville.
"As I no longer teach," he said finally, "there's no reason to address me as Professor. Severus will do."
"And as I'm no longer a student," she answered, "there's no reason for you to call me anything but Luna." She waited until he nodded, then she left his room and shut the door behind her. Later that night, Luna brought a plate of food up for him, but in the morning, it still hadn't been touched.
The work which Severus has been assigned is simple enough as long as he remembers to ignore the fact that he doesn't believe most of what he's writing. This is something in which he has a great deal of experience, of course, since over half his life was spent saying things he didn't believe. Truth be told, Lovegood sounds far more convincing about the existence of Blibbering Humdingers than his former half-blood master ever did when talking about the superiority of purebloods in the wizarding world.
One of the first things Severus discovers is that not all the articles in the Quibbler are written by Luna. Surprisingly, there are a rather large number of freelance writers scattered all over the world who share the peculiar interests of the Lovegood family. When an owl arrives with a manuscript from one of the Quibbler's correspondents, the first thing that has to be done is fact checking. At first, Severus finds the whole idea ludicrous. Confirming information about creatures and places which probably don't even exist seems like the height of stupidity, but Severus soon learns that nothing is so odd that it hasn't been written about...somewhere. However, the books and journals that Lovegood...that Luna (he swears he'll grow accustomed to using her given name in time) has in her library aren't those with which Severus has ever been familiar.
Regardless of what he believes about the nature of the articles in the paper, Severus says nothing. Luna doesn't seem to be the type of witch who wouldn't allow an employee to speak his mind, even if his beliefs were different from her own, but Severus cannot afford to take a chance that he's wrong about her.
When they have been working together for one month, Severus forgets the promise he made to himself that he wouldn't disagree with anything she said. Longbottom has contacted Luna through the Floo about his grandmother Augusta's ancient kneazle who suffers from a heart condition. Luna recommends he purchase a potion with fox sedge as its base. Severus shakes his head and without thinking about what he's doing, he says, "It's foxglove, for God's sake. If Longbottom uses fox sedge, he'll kill the damned creature."
Luna turns and looks at him, her eyebrows raised in surprise, and even though she thanks him, Severus is certain he's made a mistake.
"You know," Luna says, as soon as she closes the Floo, "I'd almost forgotten, but my mother's laboratory is still available if you're missing brewing."
He looks down at his hands, their joints swollen and bent from too many years in a cold, damp prison cell without access to any potions. "That's no longer an option."
Luna walks over and sits on the desk in front of him. For a moment or two, she stares at his knuckles.
"Accio lotion," says Luna, holding out her hand and catching a bottle containing a pale-green substance. She untwists the lid, then pours a little of the green lotion into her palm. "Give me your hands," she says.
The request is so unexpected that Severus does as she asks without even questioning her.
"This is made with Tei Fu oil," she says as she starts to massage his hands. "The Muggles think they discovered it, but it was really created by a Chinese wizard over a thousand years ago."
For a fleeting second, Severus wonders why he's letting her continue. His wand was confiscated years ago and was never returned when he was released from Azkaban, so he can't hex her, but there is nothing to prevent him from fleeing to his room - nothing apart from the fact that Luna's cool, slim fingers feel so incredibly wonderful on his skin.
"...say that it's caused by something blocking the flow of Qi..."
Severus closes his eyes and listens as Luna talks about Muggle herbs and acupuncture and fresh pineapple. He feels himself sliding down in the chair, inch by inch, while Luna rubs her thumbs between the tendons of the back of his hands and along his fingers and across his palm.
There might have been a time in Severus' life when somebody touched him this way before, but all he can remember is his mother's hand patting his shoulder once or twice, and Poppy's impersonal, efficient touch on those rare occasions he allowed himself to be treated in the hospital ward. This is...something entirely different.
Luna's hands slide up his arms, and he makes a strange noise that sounds suspiciously like a whimper to his own ears.
And then Severus starts to shake...with anger.
He has spent a lifetime trying to repay a debt that he should have known could never be repaid, and he has lost everything. Is this to be his recompense? When did he become this pathetic, passive creature without a voice, who moans and sighs at the first gentle touch?
When he feels Luna kiss his forehead, Severus can take no more. He pushes her aside and walks out into the night.
Ten steps lead down to the back garden from the Lovegood kitchen. When Luna was younger, she used to transfigure the steps into a slide, but she hasn't done that for a very long time. Too long, she sometimes thought.
Luna sat down on the eighth step. She peered into the moonless night, hoping Severus hadn't gone too far. The Ministry agreement that Luna signed had made Severus her responsibility. The Liaison Officer in charge of the case had suggested that Luna bind her new employee with a Proximity Charm so that she wouldn't have to worry about him wandering off and getting into trouble, but Luna hadn't thought Severus would like that at all. She knew she had never liked anybody trying to stop her from wandering.
After an hour of waiting, Luna was starting to get cold. She summoned a blanket and two mugs from inside the house, then conjured up a container of hot, spiced cider. She had just taken her first sip of the cider when she heard a rustling of leaves and a rather squishy set of footsteps that told her she was no longer alone.
"Severus?" she called softly.
"Of course," he snapped. "Who else would be here at this time of night?"
"Owls, possibly," she said. "Are your boots wet?"
In answer, Severus stamped one of his feet on the bottom step. It made a squelching sound and sent little drops of water up towards Luna's bare ankle.
"So you found the Koi pond then?" Luna said, pulling gently on Severus' sleeves and turning him around so he could sit on the step beside her. "There aren't actually any Koi in the pond, of course. It would be too dangerous."
Grimacing as if some outside force was compelling him to speak against his wishes, Severus asked, "How in the world can carp be dangerous?
"Oh, Koi aren't regular carp," Luna said, as she removed Severus' sodden boots and placed them on the ground. "Did you know that the ones which migrate up the waterfalls of the Yellow River can turn into dragons? It wouldn't do to have dragons in one's back garden."
"I know I'm going to regret asking this, but has it occurred to you that your home is not located on the Yellow River, nor are there any waterfalls within fifty miles?"
"Of course it has, but better safe than sorry, as they say." She reached down suddenly and touched the hem of his robes. "Oh dear, you stepped quite a ways into the pond, didn't you? Would you like some spiced cider? It's really just spiced apple juice, but it's very warming all the same. I'm not terribly fond of alcohol...it always makes people behave so strangely."
Severus snorted, but he reached out and took the mug from her.
When she wrapped one edge of her blanket around his shoulders a few minutes later, he didn't say a word.
Spending his days and nights under the mockingly voyeuristic gaze of prison guards hadn't been terribly conducive to relieving what rare feelings of arousal Severus experienced while in Azkaban. It has now been such a long time since he last felt his libido stir that he almost fails to recognize the once-familiar sensation as it begins to make itself known again.
He ascribes his initial confusion to the fact that the first twinges of longing he feels seem to be associated with...the smell of chocolate. Given the slightest opportunity, Luna tries to tempt Severus with something sweet. Profiteroles au Chocolat, fudge truffle brownies, Black Forest gateau, chocolate sponge pudding...every day, there's something new. Severus has always had a secret sweet tooth, and he finds it difficult to ignore the hunger he feels when these sinfully rich delicacies are paraded in front of him. Harder still to ignore is the rebirth of that other hunger: the one which he had come to believe was gone forever.
It takes two months and gaining half a stone before Severus finally understands that it hasn't been the scent of chocolate that he's come to associate with sex, but rather the scent of a woman, and once he realizes this, Severus can't stop thinking about it.
Difficult enough are the hours the two of them spend in the offices of the Quibbler, but at least there, Severus is generally distracted enough by the curious, increasingly engaging work to keep from glancing in Luna's direction more than three or four times each hour. Every now and again, he gives into his impulses and invents a reason to move close enough to Luna so that he can breathe in her scent, but this has become a dangerous practice. Not only does it make him want to bury his face in her hair, but he has started to notice an almost reflexive twitching of his prick whenever he nears Luna.
However, the hours that Severus isn't needed in the office are almost worse, for with nothing else to occupy his mind, all he can think about is the way Luna has, unwittingly, made his body start to come alive again after being all but moribund for so many years. The hobbies and pastimes that once served to occupy Severus' mind are unable to divert his attention from these entirely inappropriate thoughts. Although Luna massages Severus' hands on a regular basis, the joints of his fingers are still not flexible enough to prepare ingredients and brew potions the way he'd once been able to do. This makes potions brewing not a means of relaxation, but rather an exercise in frustration. Even reading no longer engages him the way it once did, apart from the research he does for the Quibbler. All in all, Severus has been left with far too much time on his hands.
Or far too much time with his hands on...himself.
He knows that Luna has started to notice how many times a day he retreats to his room, but it has been so very long, and finding release has become almost an obsession. However, even without the watchful eyes of the guards upon him, Severus is unable to bring himself to an orgasm. The spirit is more than bloody willing, but the damnably limp flesh is weak. It is almost as if some vital piece of the sexual puzzle is missing.
What that missing piece is, Severus finally comes to realize late one afternoon when Luna (rushing to capture one of the descendants of Ginevra Weasley's Pygmy Puff) dashes down the hallway in which he's standing. Severus steps aside to give her room, and as she passes, Luna brushes up against him. They touch only for a fleeting moment, barely enough time for him to register her presence, but in that moment, Severus becomes instantly, achingly hard.
Late that night, long after Luna retires to bed, Severus creeps down to the newspaper office. Turning on no lights, he silently makes his way to Luna's desk and sits down in her chair, breathing in the scent that lingers in its fabric. In the blink of an eye, Severus' prick is hard once more. He leans back in the chair and props his bare feet up on top of Luna's desk, then tugs the ends of his nightshirt out from under him and pulls them up over his narrow hips. Severus slides down just a bit more - just enough so that the angle is perfect - then, breathing deeply, he takes hold of his prick.
The head is already slick and wet, and Severus strokes it with the edge of his thumb. He closes his eyes and tightens his grip, then turns to the side and licks at the exact spot on the back of the chair where Luna rests her head. Her taste and her scent assail his senses and Severus strokes his erection, slowly at first, then more quickly, the pulsing pressure in his groin intensifying, as...
"Lumos.. I was wondering if you might be up, and...oh."
Severus doesn't open his eyes, doesn't move his hand.
He knows that Luna stands in the doorway, that she's still watching him, but he's unable to take his hand away from his prick, unable to cover himself. He feels the throbbing still, and he wonders why he isn't mortified at having been caught wanking as if he were a third year schoolboy.
"You're quite well-endowed, aren't you?" Luna asks, as if she hadn't just woken in the middle of the night to find her employee tossing himself off whilst sitting in her chair, bare from the waist down. Severus feels an unexpected jolt of pleasure at her compliment, and oddly enough, it is this which finally makes him feel ashamed of himself. He starts to pull the nightshirt down, but Luna tilts her head to one side.
"Don't you want to finish what you were doing?" she says.
Severus looks up at her. Although Luna's eyes hold no hint of their usual dreaminess, they're wide with sudden interest, as if she's never seen a man unclothed before. For a moment, he considers asking her if that's the case, but the question would be as inappropriate as his actions have been, and so he says nothing.
"I just thought," Luna continues, as she walks slowly towards him, "that you might want some assistance with that. I've been told I can be very helpful."
The closer Luna gets, the more aroused Severus becomes. His erection, which has flagged a bit since Severus and his hand were discovered in flagrante delicto, is now fully engorged once again. Luna kneels down beside the chair and sits silently, as if waiting for confirmation. When he nods, she reaches out and takes him in hand, but only for a moment, because even before the shock of being touched so intimately by another person has had a chance to wear off, Luna lowers her head and engulfs him in her warm, wet mouth.
Severus closes his eyes once again, just briefly, then reaches down and tangles his fingers in Luna's long, blonde tresses. He inhales deeply, almost tasting the apple-scented potion she uses to wash her hair. It has been so long since he was touched and even longer since his touch was welcomed by another.
Luna glances up, almost as if she can hear his thoughts, and her eyes are shining more brightly than the faint Lumos that still illuminates the room. Never before has Severus known anyone who is able to smile with their eyes alone, but Luna can. As gently as possible, Severus places his palms on either side of Luna's soft cheeks.
She pulls back - just long enough, he guesses, to give her jaws a rest - then lowers her head again. Severus blinks with the shock of intense lust when he feels his own prick moving just beneath the smooth skin of her cheek, but then Luna swallows him even more deeply, and Severus grips the arms of the chair as Luna's mouth moves up and down, her tongue swirling around ever so slowly each time she moves toward his head, and the intensity grows until...
"Fuck!" he groans loudly, as he comes for the first time in over a decade.
"You're welcome," Luna says with a smile. She kisses the tip of his soft prick, then pats it gently as if it were a newborn kneazle and sits back on her heels. "Next time, we'll be able to try other things. It'll get more fun the more we practice."
Still panting slightly, his hand resting heavily on Luna's shoulder, Severus thinks that if it gets any more fun, it'll probably kill him.
Six months after hiring Severus to work for the Quibbler, Luna changed his job title. The job itself hadn't actually changed: Severus still spent most of his working hours fact checking and re-writing the stories that the paper's correspondents sent in (although Luna suspected that he'd started to believe rather more of what the Quibbler published these days than he had when he first started working for the paper), and his pay remained the same (identical to what Luna paid herself). However, on the morning of Severus' half-year anniversary as a mostly-free man, two gifts were waiting for him in the office. The first was a new wand. Luna refrained from telling
Severus that it was only Neville's tenaciousness which got the Ministry to reverse their edict that no former Death Eaters be allowed the unsupervised use of a wand. The second gift was a nameplate for Severus' side of the desk. It said "Severus Snape: Defense Against the Dark Arts Master."
"You never did finish teaching the Summer Term of Defense," Luna said, as if that explained everything.
For weeks afterwards, whenever Severus happened to glance at the nameplate, he couldn't stop himself from laughing.
Nine months after hiring Severus to work for the Quibbler, Luna received a package from Madam Malkin's Robes for All Occasions. Inside the package was a bronze and blue checked silk robe, trimmed with green and silver feathers, and a matching hat. Luna loved them at first sight. Beneath the robe and hat was a letter from the newly-freed Draco Malfoy addressed to his former Head of House.
When Severus finished reading the note, he looked up at Luna and frowned. "Draco tells me you stood surety for him with the Ministry and that you were instrumental in arranging his terms of employment. Madam Malkin's?"
Luna nodded. "I thought he might enjoy it. In school, he always had such a flair for the dramatic."
"That's one way of putting it," Severus murmured. "And...where is he living? He doesn't mention what sort of accommodations you found for him."
"Oh, he's living with Neville," Luna said blithely.
"He's...what? How did you get Longbottom to agree to that?"
Luna set her new hat down on the desk.
"Because it was the right thing to do," she said. Then, gazing steadily at Severus, she added, "And because sometimes it's very hard to be alone."
Twelve months after hiring Severus to work for the Quibbler, Luna asked him if he'd like to share her bedroom on a permanent basis.
Severus knows only too well how very difficult it can be to change the habits of a lifetime.
By natural inclination, he is a solitary and taciturn man, not inclined to casual friendships. He is often bitter and sometimes angry.
With Luna, Severus has found an oasis of comfort in the harsh and unforgiving desert that is his inner landscape, and he recognizes that this is a miracle. However, her love (a love which he reciprocates, although he often finds the words difficult to say) has not led to Severus extending his trust to anyone else, and he suspects it never shall.
For reasons too numerous to mention, Severus has never slept well, and he still never sleeps through the night.
Now, though, when he wakes at three in the morning, Severus is content to gaze upon the woman who sleeps beside him, her pale, smooth skin still flushed from their lovemaking.
Luna's eyelids flutter as she dreams, and she smiles the secret smile meant only for him.