Title: Intrinsic Charm
Author: Arsenic
Rating: PG-13
Fandom/Pairing: HP, SS/LL (with mentions of DM/GiW and HP/HrG)
Disclaimer: Harry Potter is the property of JK Rowling, Bloomsbury, Scholastic and Warner Brothers, I am merely borrowing on the ideas that they own.
Summary: As much to his disbelief as anyone else's, Severus Snape is the headmaster of Hogwarts. Luna's joined on as his Charms professor.
AN: An Aethonan is a variant of the winged horses, as explained in FB… The odd place names etc., are Gaelic. I have no actual knowledge of this language, I used a dictionary. Aite-falaich = hiding-place, buth = shop, ainmidh = animal, roghainn = choice.

For the gorgeous, talented and courageous Allecto on her birthday. She planted the idea of these two in my head, wherein the image refused to leave. With any luck she's not actually around to see this posted, she's gallivanting about Europe with a backpack and not much else to call her own. You've had a hard year baby, may this next one be infinitely better.


In a lifetime of unexpected occurrences, this is the one that catches Severus most off guard. He's not entirely sure why. This is something that he most definitely could have planned for; still, somehow it just never came to mind he might survive the months of Voldemort's final assault but that neither Albus nor Minerva would.

It never chanced upon his mind that Harry Potter might lobby as angrily for Severus's being awarded an Order of Merlin and set safely in the position of Headmaster of Hogwarts as the boy had once railed against him.

He certainly never thought that he would accept such a position. Particularly not with over half the faculty needing to be replaced.

Regardless of this lack of foresight, that was how things played out. Which is how Severus finds himself standing in front of a Hall of children with guarded eyes, at his back a staff that he barely knows and isn't certain he can trust to support him. After all, most of them were his students at one time.

Lacking anything to say, Severus waves his hand, orders, "Eat," and watches the Feast appear on the table. He sits down at his position at the Head Table. On his right is Iris Vector, one of the few other surviving pre-war Hogwarts staff members, now his deputy Headmistress. She has none of the presence that Minerva had but she's a solid teacher, an efficient administrator, and only questions Severus when it is truly necessary. Even then, she never does it in public, keeping things between the two of them. It is a type of respect Severus has long forgotten existed, and though he cannot find it in himself to tell her this, he appreciates the reminder.

Iris has also taken over as Head of House for Ravenclaw. To Severus's left sits the new Defense Against the Darks Arts professor and Head of Slytherin House, Draco. While Severus suspects that Draco switched sides for all the wrong reasons -- a combination of teenage rebellion and overactive hormones -- the last months of the war pounded a good dose of humility and maturity into the boy. He has become someone that Severus knows he can trust, both in his job responsibilities and as a friend. At least Severus thinks that's what they are. He's out of practice in the realm of friendship and his relationship with Draco is nothing like that of his with Albus or Minerva or even Filius was.

To Draco's left sits Draco's wife, the reason behind his sudden revolt against everything he once held dear, and the school's newest flying coach, Ginny Malfoy, nee Weasley.

To Vector's right sits what is left of the pre-conflict Hogwarts staff; Saffron Sinistra, Seraphine Sprout and Firenze. Severus does not count Remus Lupin, who is back in the capacity of Transfigurations professor and Head of Gryffindor House. He is part of the "arrangement" between Harry Potter and Severus.

The arrangement was laid out in one conversation, a conversation that happened nearly a month after Severus had been secured as the new headmaster. Harry came to his office and said, "You have a considerable number of positions to be filled."

Severus looked at him. "Get on with it, Potter."

Harry smiled at him. "Now you're just being difficult. You only call me Potter when you expect a hard time."

It was true. Distance was hard to maintain in the midst of life and death struggles. Severus glared.

Harry said, "I want the Potions position."

Severus would have spluttered, if spluttering was something of which he made a habit. "Potter, even at the best of times you could only manage that class with Miss Granger whispering the answers in your ears."

"For one thing, you know that's not true, I achieved highest marks on my NEWTs and I spent a considerable amount of time helping you keep up the stores of necessary potions while we were in the worst of it. For another thing, Mrs. Potter can still whisper those answers in my ear, since she's wanting to be hired on as the Ancient Runes professor." Harry gave him a look daring him to challenge the request.

Severus -- like much of the magical community that knows anything about anything -- is of the opinion that Harry and Hermione's marriage is their way of mourning Ronald Weasley. Not being any kind of expert in human relationships, however, Severus doesn't figure he has the right to judge. The truth of the matter is that he needed someone for both Potions and Ancient Runes and by hiring the two of them he netted at least one excellent professor. Harry was more than likely competent, (a private admission only,) and he was most certainly owed by Severus, who knew how to pay his debts. Severus said, "The pay is nothing like you could expect anywhere else."

Harry rolled his eyes.

Harry and Hermione are to the right of the Malfoys, and next to them is the new Charms professor, Luna Lovegood. Severus almost skipped right over her application, remembering how flighty she had always seemed in school. It wasn't as though the school had been flooded with applicants, though, and the girl had been a Ravenclaw. They were usually good at something.

She is more clear-eyed than he remembers her being at school. He doesn't know if this is real or something he imagines; he did not much know her back then. He left the students to themselves so long as they weren't Potter, Weasley or Granger and they didn't get in his way. Either way, he doesn't regret hiring her, as she stays out of his way, shows up to staff meetings promptly, and has already designed a new course curriculum that Severus not-so-openly admits to being impressed by.

Finally, at the end of the other table, next to Remus, is Charlie Weasley who is standing in as Care of Magical Creatures professor until the time when Severus can find someone more permanent.

When the feast is finished, Severus rises again. He introduces the new staff -- most of them already known to the younger children through one story of heroism or another, and the older children through personal experience -- and lays out the warnings of the house elves who have taken over the positions of both Filch and Hagrid as per Severus's request. The end of the war brought an influx of house elves seeking asylum (but not freedom) at Hogwarts. Severus was forced to create new duties or deal with house elves going stir crazy. The latter is not a pretty sight to behold.

Finally, Severus says, "This is a year of great paradox. There have been so many lost in the war, but our gains in recovering this school and its functions have been infinite. Keep this in mind as you make your way through your courses and your lives. Good luck."

He thinks he's probably going to need quite a bit of it himself.


Severus doesn't miss most of the classes. Perhaps the sixth and seventh year classes, the periods where he was teaching people who at least had the capacity to be taught, if not the drive for it. He does miss the ability to say whatever he was thinking (well, within very small limits) and indulge in blatant favoritism. Everything, he supposes, has a positive and a negative side to it.

He's up late working at yet more pointless bureaucratic paperwork, casting less-than-surreptitious glares at a very asleep portrait!Dumbledore when he hears the staircase to the office in motion.

Severus sneaks a quick rub to his temples in before whoever it is reaches the top. All he needs is to find out about a scuffle in the corridors ending in permanent disfigurement for one of the first years. At least Poppy is still at the school, he muses, competent and implacable as always.

The door slides aside, however, and behind it is not one of the senior staff coming to gripe or any of the faculty come to report mishaps. Instead, Luna Lovegood stands with a tea tray carrying both tea and rolls of parchment. She says, "I've never gotten used to being up in the castle at this time of night. I was wondering if you wouldn't mind some company."

Severus does mind, he likes the solitude that comes with being the last one awake. More important than his need to hole up is his need to keep the Charms professor in his good graces. Luna is unpredictable at best and the last thing he needs is to be looking for someone to teach seven years of rowdy children a subject that it takes a rather patient person to begin with to instruct.

Severus gestures to the area behind his desk. "Find yourself a chair."

She sets the tray down on the sideboard. Severus hasn't had the mental energy to convert much of Albus's office into his own space. He's had most of the knickknacks and such distributed to people and museums, but as for furniture, the office remains almost entirely as it was. She asks, "Tea?"

Severus starts to refuse out of sheer habit before he realizes that what she's offered actually sounds good. "Please."

"Sugar or milk?"

"No, neither."

She pours a cup and sets it, with a saucer, next to his elbow. He takes a sip. It's nice. Mint and lavender, the second he senses more than tastes. The concoction is rather soothing. Unlike the past few nights, Severus thinks he might perchance sleep after he's finished everything that needs doing.

Luna folds herself up in one of the chairs and immediately gets to work on the pile of marking she has brought for herself. Severus is surprised to find that not only is he unbothered by the occasional scritch of her pen and the soft resonance of her breathing, it's sort of…companionable.

Two hours (and several cups of tea) later, Severus says, "I'm going to my quarters."

Luna blinks, looking at the clock behind his desk. "Oh, yes. You should sleep."

Something about the phrasing makes Severus say, "I don't fancy any of my staff teaching without the advantages of some rest."

Luna says, "Yes, Headmaster," but he gets the sense she's not in the least cowed. He'll have to brush up on his intimidation techniques. She gathers up her things, leaving the tray (the house elves will take care of it). "Thank you for your company."

To his surprise, Severus has a response. "Thank you for the tea."

She smiles at him on her way out.


Harry petitions to be taught the brewing of Wolfsbane, arguing that Severus, "Needn't have more on your plate than you already have. I'm competent. Do you honestly think I would even ask if I thought I couldn't prevent Remus from running around and swallowing up those of us who are left?"

The point is solid and Severus does have far too much to be doing, so he relents. "I'll be monitoring you for at least six months after you've been taught."

"Wouldn't expect anything less, really. Nor would Hermione, otherwise I don't think she'd've let me ask in the first place."

Severus wonders if he's getting predictable. Draco makes him feel better about it (not purposely, but nonetheless) by being surprised when Severus announces, "I want Quidditch under way as soon as possible."

Quidditch hasn't been played on Hogwarts' grounds in three years. Not since seven players -- three Hufflepuff, four Gryffindor -- and Madame Hooch were lost in a Death Eater attack on the school whilst a match was being played. The last Death Eater attack ever. Harry evidently didn't take kindly to his favorite past time being interrupted.

People were a bit surprised when Severus hired Ginny on as flying coach. He has plans, however. As far as Severus is concerned, with the state of British wizardry, Voldemort still has a shot of winning posthumously. Hogwarts has been in limbo for two years, most children being home-schooled and the few that actually managed to come caught in the maelstrom of bureaucracy that prevented a staff from being placed for both of those years. There were Ministry officials who were (and still are) highly in favor of shutting the school down completely given the memories associated with it.

Severus will be damned if he's going to just lay back and allow any of that to occur.

Draco says, "With all due respect, Headmaster-"

"If you have to start that way, then I seriously doubt it," Severus says. "Just tell me what issue you take with my decision."

"I'm not sure if the students are ready for that."

Ginny, who is often the far braver of the come-lately Malfoys, says, "I'm not sure I'm ready for that."

That Severus can respect. "Why is that?"

Ginny looks over at Harry and Hermione before glancing in Charlie's direction. One of the Gryffindors lost in that match was Ron. "I haven't been to a game since. Flying… I can convince myself that that's something separate, but-"

"I hired you on as a flying coach. It stated very clearly in your contract that if Quidditch were to be reinstated-"

"I know, Headmaster." She meets his eyes. "Severus. I know. What's more- What's worst is, I know you're right."

Draco puts his hand to his wife's lower back, rubbing in circles. He faces Severus. "Give it another year."

Severus tries to display some of the regret he feels at his next words. His face has been trained to remain impassive for so long that he's not sure if he succeeds but the intent is there. "I can't. If I do, the same request will come next year, and the year after, and then yet again the year after that. Until Hogwarts Quidditch becomes something that is spoken of the way Triwazard Tournaments are, as a relic of the past. I will not have that happen."

Charlie frowns. "I thought you despised Quidditch. Considered it a foolish past time."

Remus and Saffron, both his contemporaries (Saffron is two years older than him and Remus), laugh. Remus says, "Severus does. Which doesn't mean that he hasn't the insight to understand that what he feels and how the world functions don't necessarily always align."

Iris, who began teaching when Severus was a fifth year, adds, "And I suspect that his feelings toward Quidditch stem from considerably more than the sport as an objective entity." She glares eloquently at Remus.

Remus looks for confirmation at Severus, who doesn't give it one way or the other. Whatever Remus reads into that, it makes him say, "Well, perhaps you will find it more enjoyable this time 'round."

Luna, who has until this point appeared to be more interested in the fire than anything going on in the room, says, "Maybe if the games had no bearing on anything?"

Severus catches her gaze. "Take the Cup out of the equation?"

"It will lessen the pressure in one area, if not solve the problem." Luna's voice is even softer than normal, and Hermione's hand has found hers. Something tugs at the back of Severus's mind, a rumor he once heard about Luna and Ron.

Ginny takes a deep breath. "I like that. I can maybe work on convincing the players that it's supposed to be fun. It is. I remember that."

Severus doesn't really care one way or the other, so long as the premise of his desires are being played out. "I leave the program to you discretion," he tells Ginny, "but I wish to see the first game played before Halloween."

In his peripheral vision, he can't help noticing Luna. She's gone back to staring at the fire.


Luna knocks on the door of the Potions lab, where Severus is setting up to teach Harry how to brew the Wolfsbane. Severus releases the wards and she glides into the room. "I was hoping you wouldn't mind if I observed."

Severus pauses in setting out the ingredients. Even Harry, who has chosen to learn both to help lessen Severus's load and to ensure that Remus is always provided for, isn't really looking forward to spending the next week's worth of nights brewing. "I'm forced to ask after your motivation, professor."

Luna shrugs. "Sordid curiosity, I suppose."

Severus just barely remembers Luna from classes. He remembers most students, having the type of memory that keeps everything, even the things he wishes it wouldn't. Even if this weren't true he thinks she would have stood out. She scared him for the first two years until he got used to her modus operandi. She never seemed to be paying attention. In fact, Severus would have sworn that she wasn't once mentally in the same classroom with him. When it came to the actual brewing, though, Severus could only remember one or two times that she'd actually made a mistake and they had both been advanced-level potions. "I didn’t think you liked the class. You always seemed… preoccupied."

"There wasn't much imagination in your lectures, I had to add some of my own." She doesn't even look apologetic as she says it, merely matter-of-fact.

Severus is somewhat at a loss for responses. He finally manages, "Potions aren't about imagination. They're about proscribed amounts and brewing times."

Her eyes soften in something that Severus almost suspects is pity. "You've come up with some of those proscribed amounts and brewing times. Are you telling me that you merely set out a chart with possible mixtures and ticked away at them until you found something that worked? And even if you did, where did the chart come from? There's imagination in everything, Headmaster."

"Inspiration, perhaps. I don't know about imagination. My potions have come from an occurrence which lead me to see possibility."

"The seeing of possibility, that is imagination. It's merely a way of using one's mind, opening your instincts to the world."

"Was that what you were doing in my classes?"

Luna smiles. It's a secret, amused smile. "No, I was imagining what you must be thinking. It was the only way I could keep myself grounded. You left too much open to the mind."

"And what was I thinking?"

"Most often about other things: the new article in Ars Alchemica, the potion waiting to be stirred in your lab, what was for lunch. Every once in awhile about how incompetent another student was or how you wished I'd pay attention because I was going to get someone killed."

Severus blinks. "Surprisingly on target."

"The eyes and the brain combined are powerful tools."

While he may or may not agree with much else she's said throughout this conversation, that is an incontestable truth. "Indeed."

Harry walks in asking, "Am I late? I had Hermione keep track of time for me. Hullo Luna."

Luna says, "You're on time. Mind if I sit in?"

Harry looks to Severus who makes it clear with barely a shift of his facial expression that this is up to Harry. Harry says, "Sure, why not?" in a tone that betrays his confusion as to why she would want to.

Luna doesn’t seem to care.


Severus is dealing with yet more parental Howlers on the subject of his employing a centaur and a werewolf to teach their children when Draco slips into his office. Severus looks up at him. "Unless this is dealing with two children who have managed to get themselves locked together in carnal rutting and there is no known counter-spell for splitting the two, I am really not in the mood for a casual chat."

"Does Ginny's being pregnant count? There is a counter-spell, I suppose, but neither of us are inclined to use it."

Severus carefully resists the urge to put his head down on the desk. "My flying coach is pregnant?"

"She swears she won't let it affect her job performance."

Severus wants to rant. He's just hired a new staff contingent on performance (at least, so he told them) and there are already enough problems (obviously) without adding this to the pot. "How long?"

"Not very. Less then a month. We're not telling anyone else yet, even. There's still-" Draco's lips are white as he cuts himself off.

Severus finishes, "Plenty of time for something to go wrong." He regrets the words almost as quickly as they're said.

Draco's nod is tight. It's not exactly a secret that Ginny has already lost one child, their first, conceived on their honeymoon literally days after Voldemort's death. Draco waited for the demise of his perceived master but not much else. That child made it to second term before stress and residual injury caused her to miscarry. As far as Severus knows, they haven't tried again until now. So far as Severus knows, they weren't trying this time.

By way of apology, because Draco is the closest thing to family that Severus will ever have, Severus says, "Have her see me. There are some things, potions. They might help."

Draco's exhalation is just a second longer than normal. "Thank you."

Severus knows as much of Ginny and Draco's history as he supposes anyone does, albeit from a different point of view. He knows that Draco fell for her spirit, and didn't even know he had fallen until three years after the fact. He knows that Draco fought the tide of his own emotions for fear of what it meant in relation to Lucius and Narcissa. He knows that one kind word, one well-executed kiss was enough for Draco to realize he'd been missing more than he knew. He knows that Draco fought like knights of old for the right to wear the ring that now safely circles his ring finger, and that he will continue to do so wherever and whenever she is concerned. Draco recognizes that she can fight her own battles, he just refuses to be anywhere but at her side during them.

Severus can hear the hope in that one utterance of appreciation. If worse comes to worse, Harry, Draco and Charlie can most likely switch off filling in as flying coach. There's no way to replace another one of Draco's dreams. "When do you plan on telling others?"

"At the end of twelve weeks. It's a bit more certain at that point."

Severus hears the fear. "Nothing is ever certain. We're just going to have to try our best to make this as much a certainty as possible. All of us."

Draco says, "Thank you," again, and this time it sounds odd, overwhelmed.

Severus says, "I have to go back to warding off detractors."

Draco peers over the scrolls on Severus's desk and sighs. "Tell them that you never gave up Death Eating and that your true plan is to take over the Isles, starting with a crew of Dark and/or Unsavory Creatures taking over the finest educational institution in these parts."

"Mm, yes, that will help."

"Where's your sense of fun these days?"

Severus thinks it might be buried somewhere beneath all the paperwork and correspondence but he hasn't seen that area in a while, so he's just not sure.


Most nights Luna is up at least as late as he is. Though he thinks it's probably best not to ask he does wonder when exactly it is that she sleeps. When she shows up with hot chocolate, the real nearly-bitter brew that he suspects she makes herself over the protests of hundreds of disappointed house elves, he asks instead, "How are your classes?"

He doesn't usually initiate talk on the nights when she decides to visit with him rather than prowl the corridors or hole herself up in the library, so she looks slightly aslant at him when the question is raised. She recovers quickly, though. "I like the little ones. They're rowdy but they're still so taken aback by magic, even the purebloods. They still think I know everything."

"The older ones give you problems?" Severus frowns.

"Not all of them. Sometimes those are my favorite classes, because they'll do things that remind me of Professor Flitwick."

Severus knows what she means. He has "sit-in" on certain classes from the safety of his office (and through the "technology" of several magical mirrors, property of Hogwarts' Headmasters most likely from the time of the founders). The older children will sometimes challenge the newer Professors either with their words or with their way of doing things, ways that were taught to them by Professors no longer with them. At the same time that Severus suspects the frustration of that is keen, it is reassuring to know that for the moment at least, his colleagues legacies aren't in his mind alone.

"Unfortunately the older ones also remember me from school." Luna takes a sip as she says this, grimacing over the paper she is marking. Or perhaps the grimace relates to the comment.

Severus isn't sure so he says, "How is that?"

Luna scribbles a remark to the student in vibrant green. Severus is mesmerized by the color for a moment. She says, "Better on their eyes, and their minds. Red is a hurtful color."

Severus thinks of Gryffindor and Dumbledore's blood spread out over his pale skin and the sky over the type of sea that flooded his childhood house no more than seven times in so many years. He doesn't argue. He does repeat his question. "Is it bad that they remember you?"

Luna smiles. "You obviously don't, so it's a bit hard to explain."

Severus remembers her, just not in any particular way. She made surpassingly good marks in Potions and was rather quiet except for the odd passing comment. "You weren't popular among your peers?"

Luna taps the quill against the corner of her mouth, painting a small swath of skin green. "They called me Loony and stole my things, hid them for fun and games. It wasn't too much of a bother at the time, I just did without. Now, however, it's undermining my authority somewhat. I've had to execute three or four rather complex Charms ending in somewhat undesirable results for the miscreants who forced me into them at this point. I'm mostly certain I've established myself, though. I haven't heard a word this week."

Severus blinks slowly at her equanimity. "It's my job as headmaster, you realize-"

"To assist your staff as need be but despite appearances, I'm quite capable of taking care of myself."

She's still around, and that puts her in a select club, so Severus doesn't doubt it. All the same, "If there are more problems-"

"If I find myself in need of help, I know how to ask." She smiles. "I came here, didn't I?"

Severus isn't sure what that has to do with anything but she seems to believe it's significant so he nods. "Indeed." He goes back to dealing with Ministry bureaucracy that is only slightly harder to navigate than Luna's trains of thought.


The first Quidditch match of the year -- a match with no stakes, as Ginny has taken the Cup out of the picture -- is between Slytherin and Ravenclaw. It takes place the Saturday previous to Halloween. Ginny has taken Severus at his word on that issue, waiting until the very last minute. Severus can't find it in himself to blame her.

She's been taking strengthening potions and ones that supplement both her and the baby's nutritional standing. Draco and her plan on announcing the fact of her pregnancy at the post-game feast. It's only been ten weeks since conception but Ginny says that she feels good, like telling people can only increase the odds of things working out. Draco has confided to Severus that he's less than confident of this fact but unwilling to go against her wishes for a matter of two weeks.

Severus thinks that Draco is just well-past ready to brag.

Other than a fourth year Ravenclaw falling off his broom, the game goes spectacularly. Even that doesn't truly mar the afternoon as Harry is even more frantically on guard than usual, and "catches" the child with an arresto variant before he can fall five feet. Harry even returns his broom to him mid-air and the game goes on without a true pause of any kind.

Severus is pretty sure that Harry's going to have to deal with even more adolescent crushes than normal after this. Luckily, as Severus does not need marital strife among his staff members, Hermione is pretty blasé about her husband's popularity. Then again, she has been dealing with it since they were eleven.

Slytherin wins but just barely. Ginny is of the mind that this is because, "Their Keeper is a bloody human wall. The Ravenclaw Beaters are enormously clever but there's just nothing to be done in the face of a Keeper who can't be passed."

Still, it's a good game. Slytherin's numbers are drastically reduced and within the first week of school, when it became evident that neither the headmaster nor any of the professors were going to allow prejudice for the sake of deeds done and over, most of the children took to feeling a bit sorry for the Slytherin crowd and things have gone considerably easier than before. It also helps that there are a considerable amount of siblings split between the two houses playing, so while there is plenty of friendly rivalry, little of it manages to get out of hand.

On Severus's part, he's just glad that neither of the team colors flying correspond to the ones that were being flown That Day. He knows that he will have to deal with seeing that at some point, most likely in less than a month when the next game is scheduled to be played. Slytherin will take Gryffindor in that game and then red and gold will alternate with green and silver. Severus is aware of the value of taking one step at a time, though, and this has been a big step. Even for the children who weren't there.

Afterward, at the feast, Ginny and Draco make their announcement. The older girls coo and the younger children squeal about cooties, and professors being Too Old to be making babies. Hermione, Harry, Remus and Charlie bombard Ginny with physical affection.

Luna shakes Draco's hand, says something that has him smiling. She slides out of the throng of people who are too happy to remember how to be an adult and manages to get herself next to Severus. She says, "Slytherin won."

Remus has finally disengaged from Ginny and gone over to congratulate Draco when Severus says, "Ravenclaw will have other chances."


Luna shows up at the door to his quarters wrapped in three feet of winter wear at eight in the morning on the first Hogsmeade trip. Severus curses himself silently for weaving her into the wards. He says to her, "I'm not going. Hence why I assigned chaperons at last week's staff meeting."

She looks confused for a second before laughing. "Not Hogsmeade. I just thought having a good fourth of the students away from the school was a good excuse to get you out of it. Most of the staff agreed with me but Iris, Draco and I were the only ones willing to intrude on your privacy far enough to make sure you actually left. As Iris was already promised to stay here and Draco to go to Hogsmeade-"

"I get the point. If not Hogsmeade, then where?"


Severus is interested despite himself. Aite-falaich is a magical town not unlike Hogsmeade. The difference is that around the time of the founding of Hogwarts, the denizens of Aite-falaich performed a spell on the town not unlike the Fidelius, meant to keep its whereabouts from outsiders. The spell was meant to protect against Muggles who were afraid of (and therefore dangerous to) the inhabitants of the town. "You know how to get there?"

"My mum was born there."

The loophole in the spell is that all those born in the town, or descendent of those born in the town, can find it. Severus knows he should turn down her offer, prove to her that she's not as clever as she thinks, dangling this bait in front of him when he really does have quite a bit to get done today. She is that clever, though, and Severus wants to see this mystery village. "Allow me a few minutes to dress."

She withdraws to his study and no more than ten minutes later he emerges, not a button out of place. As they're walking to the outside of the wards she asks, "Can you read residual Apparition signals?"

In the seconds after a person has Apparated, the lingering magic from the jump causes a signal that a wizard who knows what he is doing can use to follow the first person. Severus nods, "Yes."

"Follow quickly, even if you can read the signals, the memory of the coordinates will erase itself almost immediately. If you haven't shown up two minutes after I arrive I'll come back and we'll try it again. Sorry, but there's no other way."

It's a nuisance but Severus can’t help admiring the ingenuity behind the design. It nearly guarantees that nobody can break the town's defenses. It does guarantee that a group of people trying is doomed to fail. "Will I remember having been there when we leave?"

"Of course. The spell doesn't block people's awareness of the town, after all, you knew what I was speaking of when I told you we were going there."

"Have they ever thought of undoing it? I mean, now that the risk is reduced."

"The issue is raised every year by the town's council and the decision is made to keep things as they are just as often. Partly it's that nobody is entirely sure how to undo the spell and partly…well, you'll see, it's just nicer this way."

Severus wouldn't be surprised. There's a lot to be said for avoiding the world at large. At a point a few feet from the last of the wards Luna says, "All right, pay attention."

She feels nice even after she's left.


Aite-falaich is a throwback in ways that Severus would have been hard-pressed to imagine. Then again, Severus has just recently turned forty and while his knowledge of wizarding history is good, it's not quite so intimate as most of the students would suggest.

Wizards in general aren't terribly concerned with the passage of time, hence the odd pockets of nearly eighteenth century-chic among the hustle of modern Muggle living. Aite-falaich seems to have left time completely behind. Even innovations as "modern" (created in 1322) as floo spaces, are somewhat rare. Luna explains that those who have floo ports allow others to come and use them, or time can be purchased at some of the larger, more public ones.

Once Luna's affirmed that he's followed her safely, she asks, "Hungry?" and at his affirmative, leads him to a pub. The pub is empty this early in the day but when they enter the small bell above the door causes a wizard to stick his head up from the cellar. He grins upon seeing them. "If it ain't Diana Woodbury's li'l girl!"

Luna approaches him and allows him to enfold her in a hug. "Hullo, Ben."

"Who’s yer friend?"

"This is Severus Snape, Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry."

Ben whistles and sticks out a hand for Severus to shake. "Getting fancy, ain't we?"

Severus shakes Ben's hand. Ben lets go of the grip. "In for a bit of breakfast?"

Luna says, "Please Ben," then leads Severus off to a table while Ben goes to stoke the fire and get something cooking. She sits. "Everybody sort of knows everybody else around here. I've seen great-great-great-grandchildren of people who once lived here come back and get recognized."

"Considering that everyone is guaranteed to be related to someone who once lived here, I can't say as that surprises me terribly."

Luna tucks a whisp of hair absently behind her ear. "It's sort of comforting. Mostly why I come back. There's not much here that I can't get elsewhere. Nothing except that."

While Severus has never really felt the need to have legions of people know his name and be of the mind that that means they know him, he has known the tug of desire for comfort in familiarity. He can certainly understand what brings her back here from time to time. Still, if Aite-falaich is somewhere that she goes for a certain experience, "Why did you bring me?"

Ben delivers their breakfasts and chats with Luna for a bit. He then refuses when Severus offers to pay. "Not today. Haven’t seen this one in a while."

The food is good, though, and Severus figures he'll leave the money in the communal floo pot when they leave. He's almost forgotten that he asked a question when Luna says, "You needed to get out of the castle. I haven't much in way of bait other than this."

Severus wonders at the fact that his mind protests diligently at that statement but pushes the response to the side. "And you just knew that I would be interested in this."

"Everyone is interested in Aite. The more curious a person, the more interested he is."

"I am not a curious person."

"All right," Luna says, and Severus knows he's lost this round. She tells him, "Eat your breakfast. Outing to get out or no, I have errands to run."

Severus goes back to his oatmeal, seeking out the raisins and eating them first.


After Luna has run her errands, quick stops at four separate shops wherein each and every one of the owners recognizes her and can quote her family tree some ways back, she says, "One more."

Severus isn't particularly a fan of shopping but Aite-falaich isn't crowded like most of the venues he's familiar with, and she's very efficient in her ways, only stopping to browse when there's something truly worth looking over. With the added interest of the way Aite-falaich runs on "magical technology" considered antiquated throughout the rest of the Isles, Severus is able to amuse himself throughout the morning without pause.

The final shop is Buth Ainhmidh, a small building filled with familiars of every kind. Severus looks at her, faintly perplexed. "You have a familiar."

She does, too, he's positive. She keeps the crup safely in her quarters when she's not about to take it on the grounds but he's seen it with her more than a few times.

She tells him, "It's not for me, Severus."

"I am not in need of a familiar." Severus doesn't care that it is tradition for headmaster of Hogwarts to have one. He doesn't care that Harry has expressed just such concerns since Fawkes adopted the boy in the wake of Albus's death. Pets are not his thing. Not even gifted ones.

"Everyone is in need of a bloody familiar," Luna says, and the profanity shocks Severus out of his mental protests.

"Why is that? As I understand it, yours is a rather recent addition to your home."

"Two years of recent and my competency in magic has increased by metaphorical leaps and bounds. They're proven to help calm a wizard and augment his skills."

"Are you trying to suggest that my skills need augmentation?" Severus affects just enough of his professorial tone to send her running.

She doesn’t even take a step back. "Well it could hardly hurt, could it?"

"It would be a distraction, another responsibility for which I have no time."

"Familiars can be most incredibly independent, assuming you pick the right one. I've found that they're much like wands as well. The familiar picks the wizard, so this shouldn't be too taxing on you." She spins on her heel and keeps walking into the store.

Severus considers walking out but he's pretty sure he would feel ridiculous just standing outside and he's not entirely sure his sense of direction is good enough to Apparate back out of this place. He follows, serene in the knowledge that no animal in its right mind would pick him for an owner.

His confidence is sustained until they are walking out of the back of the shop. None of the creatures has so much as looked at him. He is about to (very subtly) gloat, when no further than three steps out the back door an Aethonan steps into his path. The Aethonan nudges its large nose at Severus's stomach and then again at his neck. For some reason that Severus can't explain -- perhaps it is shock -- he stands and allows the animal's perusal of him.

When the Aethonan has determined whatever it needs to know from his scent it whickers slightly and places its head directly under Severus' hands. Even Luna looks a bit awed by this turn of events. "I think you've been chosen."

Severus starts to tell her what nonsense this all is but the Aethonan's fur is silken under his fingers and he feels so…wanted in its presence. It's an unusual feeling in Severus's experience but rather than being a nonsensical one, he has found it something to be guarded, once found. "Find out how much he is, would you?"

Luna slips back into the shop. Severus, giving credence to the place he finds himself in, asks, "How's Roghainn for a name? I rather like it."

Roghainn pushes his head up against Severus' hands and whickers. Severus says, "Roghainn."


Luna says, "I didn't exactly plan on your familiar being something you couldn't Apparate with."

Severus asks, "Is it possible to walk beyond the boundaries of the spell?" Actual spell casting was never one of Severus' strongest areas and the only way he can envision the spell that envelopes Aite-falaich is to imagine it like the wards that protect Hogwarts.

"It's a bit far."

"Specify 'a bit.'"

"Several kilometers. I might have a better plan anyway."

"And that would be?"

"There's one Portkey in town. It was designed as a way for parents to be able to transport children if need be."

Severus nods. "Where will it take us?"

"It can be keyed to different places."

Severus wrinkles his brow. "I didn't know that was possible."

"You still don't know," she says. "It's a really old type of magic. Portkeys are designed by the same basic principle that allows for Apparation, correct? The idea that if you know where the place is, you can go there. Only, with Portkeys the memory is stored in an object. This Portkey works a bit differently. It has to be keyed to the person who is using its signature. I'm going to key it. I can't explain the process. It's taught to us when we're children and…it's made to be very instinctual. It's nearly impossible to teach to someone who hasn't always known."

"But it will carry all three of us, being keyed only to you?"

"It was built to carry as many as were touching it. After all, can you imagine having to have each and every child in your family re-key it? And what if the child were an infant?"

Severus nods.

They arrive at what Severus would call the center of town. There's a monument to the witches and wizards who enacted the Hiding Spell. Around it is…a mosaic, for lack of a better word. Glass and pottery and shells and all sorts of odd things form a swirling pattern at the base. Luna stands over the art with her wand focused on it and recites a string of Latin. She puts her wand away. "All right, step on at the count of three?"

Severus pulls Riaghonn up to the monument. He counts, "One, two," on three he tugs at Riaghonn and puts his foot out. The lurch of Portkey travel pulls at him. In a second he is standing outside the Hogwarts gate, Riaghonn tossing his head in an annoyed fashion, and Luna laughing.

She turns to him, eyes still bright. Pretty. "Thanks for coming with me."

Severus bites back on his response for all of a second before he realizes that she is the only one listening, and he is the only person he has to answer to. "Thank you."


Ginny experiences cramping and some spotting just as she's heading into the second trimester. It sends both parents-to-be into an utter panic, even if Draco's version of that is somewhat harder to read than most people's. Severus can see it.

Iris insists on taking on some of the paperwork and correspondence so that Severus can have more time to work with Poppy, making sure the baby is safely brought to term.

Harry and Charlie take over Quidditch practices and flying classes. Hermione, Luna and Remus all help them to share the load of double classes.

Severus sits back and watches as, despite adversity, after two years of being in limbo, Hogwarts pulls itself together to once again function as the best wizarding school this side of the Channel. (Severus would argue that side of the Channel as well but that isn't really the point of his musings.)

Luna's nocturnal visits have become so much a part of his routine that he misses her when things come up or she decides to sleep. He hasn't told her this, doesn't plan on telling her but he thinks she's figured it out because she sends notes when she can't make it.

She brings spiked cider one evening and he knows she's made it because the house elves, brilliant as they are at all things culinary, could never think up something so wicked and delightful. He asks, "What's in this?"

She shrugs. "I suppose if you really wanted to know you could find out. Potions Master and all."

He frowns, a bit incredulous. "It's a secret?"

"Everyone's got to have a few. I use mine in place of my womanly wiles. Which, I've been told, are sadly lacking."

Severus looks her over once again, even knowing he's memorized her. "Whoever told you that was wrong."

Luna says, "Ancient history anyway."

Luna isn't old enough to have any history that's ancient. Severus asks, "Who was he?" intent on teaching the child a lesson like he never learned in any of Severus' classes.

"He's dead," Luna says, "and even were he not, it really wouldn't be your place."

Well, no, not as things stand now. Severus comes around his desk, leans in to where he can touch her lips and steals a kiss. "Now would it be?"

Luna considers him, their faces barely a breath apart. "I suppose that rests on the quality of the offer you just made."


"Was it real, or just to get me to allow you to have your way?"

Severus can't blame her for asking the question. Was he any kind of respectable Slytherin that's exactly what it would be. "How would that make me better than the cad I propose to whip within an inch of his life?"

"Just making sure you could see that." Luna stretches her neck the extra inch it takes to get to him and initiates her own kiss. "The drink tastes good on you."

"Tell me what it contains now?"

"Not a chance."


It's amazing, all the things Luna knows when it comes to sex. Severus is tempted to ask her where she learned but the part of him that was born at seventy years old is held by far too much propriety to even consider such a breach.

She's still silly and mildly mysterious as she drags him off to his quarters, underneath his covers, nearly over the side of his bed in pleasure. She's also soft and clever and strong. She's things that Severus has always had reason to suspect that a woman might be but never had the chance to discover whether those suspicions were correct.

When she has had her way with him -- and that is truly what it is, Severus has done no more than allow her her whims, not that it has left anything to complain about in the aftermath -- she drapes herself limply over him. "May I stay, or would that compromise your position too entirely?"

"I will not be made to be ashamed of having relations with you."

"That wasn't what I asked. Harry went through too much to place you in this seat only to have us unravel all his good intentions. Besides which, despite everything, you make quite a good headmaster. You're much better at administration than you were at teaching."

Severus grunts at this forthright assessment. "Perhaps it would be best if I hooked our floos to each other. Even should any of the rest of the staff realize what has been done," floo paths in the school were hardly a matter of great secrecy, "I sincerely doubt any problems will come from that quadrant."

"As they all know me far too well to ever suspect that I would allow myself to be bullied by anyone."

Cases of sexual harassment are rare in the wizarding world, given the ability to force truth out of crime perpetrators. Accusations of such crimes, however, are a little more frequent, generally used to discredit someone. Once the accusation has been made, of course, the stigma of it never quite disappears. Severus has far and away enough stigma surrounding his name to last a lifetime without giving others the chance to add to it.

Giving him one last out, she asks, "Are you entirely sure this is something you want? It's hardly too late to back out now, and you're really the one who stands to lose from the entire situation."

Perhaps it is her clear-eyed offer to back off for the sake of his reputation, or her willingness to hide without problem or hesitation so that he can maintain said reputation. It could be the sex -- it's been quite some time -- or the similarities between the two of them or any one of a million things. Severus thinks that the reason for his decision though, is none of these things or maybe all of them in a way. It is because, quite simply, he feels better when he is around her, calmer and more content, that he says, "I'm entirely sure."

She sighs, a small, happy sound. "Good. How long will it take to fix the floo?"

"A day. I have to look up the spell. I don't know it off the top of my head."

"I suppose I'd best get going then."

"You'd best."

She gets up, searching out clothes that were scattered about his quarters at points in the evening's proceedings. When she's fully dressed she says, "Get some sleep. I'll let myself out."

Severus obeys her instructions.


Iris finds him grooming Roghainn. The Aethonan doesn't actually need it but both man and Winged Horse find it soothing. Severus sometimes feels the frisson of power that Luna suggested was a reason for picking up a familiar as his hand is sending the brush over Roghainn's back. It's invigorating.

Since Iris is actually paid to notice changes and disturbances in the school, it's mildly reassuring that she is the first one to say, "You re-worked the floos."

As it turns out, the spell for connecting a floo is incredibly simple. However, in a network as tightly linked as Hogwarts, and as closed to outside sources, implementing a new link is slightly more complicated, as the whole network has to shift to allow for the connection.

Severus says, "Yes."

"To link your quarters to Luna's."

It occurs to Severus that perhaps it would have been wise to take up with an ex-student who is not from his Deputy's House but what is done is done. "Yes."



Iris sighs. "Tell me what to think, Severus. You're the man children hate and fear but you're also the man who suffered to save as many of those children as possible, the man who has spent the years of his life when he reasonably could have escaped his past piecing back together the remnants of it for the good of others. Do I find you the type to play with her? Hardly. I doubt you know the definition of play. Do I find you the type to act out your undying love? I'm not entirely sure I believe you know the definition of that either."

Severus rakes his fingers through Roghainn's mane, cautious when he reaches tangles. "It always has to be one or the other?"

"With you? I would imagine so. You are a man of extremes."

Severus sees her point. "Do you know what lemon does to nearly any Potion?"

"Cuts down on odor and/or bad taste without killing the active ingredients. Any first year knows that."

"It's like that. She…makes things better without changing me." Severus looks at his familiar and wonders if that's completely true, or if she is just more clever in her molding than most women. Somehow, he doesn’t think it matters. The spirit behind the point is true enough.

Iris is just as clearly noticing the creature under Severus's care. "Humans aren't Potions, Severus. Everything changes us, even the weather in the morning and the taste of potatoes at dinner."

"She doesn't force change, then. She doesn't ask it of me."

"So this is love then, at the very least?"

Severus is tired of titles and words and theory. All he knows is, "I reworked the floo so that we could be together."

Unexpectedly, Iris laughs. "Yes, I suppose you did at that."

"Something funny?"

"Is there something that isn't?"

Slowly, Severus smiles. "Less and less so."


Gryffindor beats Slytherin with only the Slytherin Seeker being slightly worse for the wear, having taken a bludger to the solar plexus. Even that is actually an accident, as the Gryffindor Beater who slammed it into the other kid was only trying to get it away from Gryffindor's Keeper.

Severus spends a good portion of the following meal indulgently listening to Draco sulk. Of course, Ginny eventually is distracted from the little Gryffindor-alum celebration going on at the Head Table by her husband's put-upon expression. She gives him an expression that clearly promises she'll make him feel better about the whole situation later and suddenly it seems that Draco isn't so upset about Slytherin's defeat.

Severus can barely contain his shock. Truly.

When the last of the children has left the Great Hall, Severus wishes that faculty which is left a good evening, and goes to handle everything that he knows has piled up while he was watching boys and girls play with over-priced sticks. He has discovered that the world does not acknowledge the presence of Saturday when one takes on the position of Headmaster.

Luna is in his bed reading a book when he finally gives up on what is left to get done, setting it aside for the morning. She sets the book on the night stand. "Sorry 'bout your team."

"I have no team," he reminds her.

"We always have teams. Politics aside."

While this is true, Severus has gotten to the point where he just breathes a sigh of relief every time a game finishes without something catastrophic having occurred. He doesn't really want to talk about that, though, so he changes the subject. "What are you reading?"

"Mystery. It's the newest in a series I read. The detective is a metamorphmagus. The writing's horrid but the plots are always good fun." She stands up, grabs her wand and comes around the bed. The camisole she's wearing hardly covers anything.

She spells his clothes away, adding a second spell to hang them up neatly. "Do you pleasure read at all anymore? You used to quite often. You would bring books to meals, or read them in class while pretending to watch us."

"I was always watching."

She bites at his neck. "Only if one of us did something wrong."

Severus's mouth quirks in appreciation of this observation. "I have less time to read now. It would be unacceptable to do so in the Great Hall and I haven't any classes, so."

"I could leave off some nights."

"I'd only use the extra time for work." Severus looks down at her, hoping she understands what he doesn't plan on saying.

"I could come and force you to take some time and unwind. Blackmail you, even."

Severus has never heard anyone make blackmail sound so soft, so rewarding. "It's not important."

"It's part of who you are." She backs up, her eyes set for an argument.

It's two in the morning and Severus has no intention of giving her one. He explores the possibility that he's getting old for a few seconds before saying, "Perhaps a few times a week. There are some things that I wouldn't mind sinking into for a bit."

There is a calculating look in her eye. Severus wishes he knew what she was thinking. For the moment it's all right that he doesn't, though, especially when she shakes her head slightly, "A few times a week. Fine."

He takes a step, closing the gap between them. "Not tonight, though."

"No, not tonight."


Ginny invites Severus to her and Draco's rooms for dinner on a Saturday. "Draco misses you," she confides.

Severus gives her a look that makes it clear he thinks she needs to get her hormones checked. "We see each other at every meal."

She is every bit as clearly not impressed by this information, "Mm, and you say two words to each other and they're usually, 'butter?' and 'thanks.' If he's lucky, some nights he gets a 'can you pass the' or an 'ever so' added on."

"I generally have work to get back to. Shockingly, this school does not run itself."

"I'm not having this argument with you. You're an emotionally fucked up closed off bastard but you're also the closest thing he has left to family, and family is one thing I understand. So regardless of how I feel about having you as an in-law, his mental health is drastically more important than my comfort level. You will come to dinner." She turns to leave, whipping back as much as she can with another body growing at her center. "This lecture, by the way, extends to Luna, who deserved to be with my brother for the rest of her life. If you hurt her I will have the twins create spells that make the Unforgivables look like a three-year old's training tool."

She stomps off, calling when she's down the hall, "See you on Saturday!"

Severus is there at six sharp with a well-aged Cabernet. Weasley women are fearsome enough on their own merits but he knows better than to ignore any threat that involves the twins. Even the smallest ones can (and routinely do) end in disaster.

Draco looks so thrilled (in his polite way) to see Severus that Severus holds back a wince at the suspicion that Ginny has been right all along. Ginny takes the wine from him and kisses his cheek. "So glad you could come."

Draco asks, "Is it Luna mellowing you, or old age?"

Severus gazes at him dispassionately. Draco laughs softly. "It wasn't so long ago that Saturdays were just an excuse to work more."

They still are, only Luna's generally there with him. She has a tendency to insist that they stop for lunch. Sometimes, though, when they stop, she decides to feed him which is sweet, and all but…well, it's never a nice half-an-hour break when that happens. Or, if she doesn't go for that tactic, she'll get up to use the facilities and come back naked. Severus is disciplined but in the end, he's only human. She takes advantage of this fact far too much. "I'd be inclined to argue Luna."

"Well of course you would."

"I should like to point out that I am not the one who is happily married and popping out children."

"A child," Draco corrects, his look anything but defeated. At best he looks unapologetic; at worst, gloating.

"So far," Severus says, causing Draco to grin. "Think it'll have red hair?"

Draco's gaze strays to where his wife has disappeared, pouring the wine. "I'm rather hoping for strawberry blond."

"There are always spells."

"I'll be quite thrilled with it no matter what."

Severus is pleased to hear that. "And Ginny?"

"Is holding out for a brunette."

Severus laughs at that, it's so very like Ginny. He begins to search for small talk to finish the silence when he realizes that this is Draco, and anything will do. What's more, he hasn't had a chance to ask him nearly anything for…since he caught him in the faculty lounge one morning over a month ago. "How are your classes?"

Draco sighs. "Remus says they're karmic retribution."

"What is he on about now?"

"It's a Muggle religious concept. Sort of a what-goes-around-comes-around philosophy."

"Ah, in that case, I might have to agree. Tell him that I said that and I'll suspend your right to leave the grounds."

Draco snorts. "The fifth years aren't horrible, so that's something. And they're all quite terrified of me for the most part, which is lovely."

"Glad to see my methods have rubbed off on somebody."

Ginny comes back with three glasses, hers filled with pumpkin juice, carefully balanced in her hands. She holds them out and Severus and Draco each take one. She says, "Don't be encouraging him," to Severus. "He's a bloody monster."

Even as she says it, she's leaning in to kiss him. He puts the hand that isn't holding his wine glass in the small of her back. He raises the wine glass, "To family. And being home."

There's the traditional clinking and sipping that follow a toast. Draco says, "Good vintage."


Luna has braided her hair, one thick plait running down her back. All day long it has been a torment to Severus, who has wanted nothing more than to undo the ribbon keeping the braid together and comb it out with his fingers.

He makes himself wait just a bit when she comes to him that evening, not wanting to seem too obvious. When he finally gives in, he takes things slowly, untying the ribbons, combing the strands out from the bottom up. No woman has ever allowed him intimacies that didn't directly have to do with sex, and Severus is not fool enough to waste the chance now that he has it.

When all five of his fingers are resting against her scalp, digging lightly into the sensitive skin, he says, "You have yourself some rather protective friends."

She laughs. "Ignore them."

For the most part, Severus has been doing just that. The warnings have come from every direction but Severus has no intention of hurting her so they've fallen on relatively deaf ears. What he has taken from them is who this woman giving herself up to him must be. Because while Severus may scorn the zealous ways of the Gryffindor and the stringent ways of the Ravenclaw, he knows that it takes someone of great value to have that many people band together in her defense. "Is there a reason that they should worry so?"

"I was rather in love with Ron when he died. I'd fancied him since third year. We'd dated from mid-way through sixth. I grieve differently than others, I suppose. It worried them. They're scared of seeing me go through that again."

"Are you still grieving?"

She takes his hands away from her scalp, into her hands. "In the way that one always grieves for the people she's lost. Not in the way you're asking, no. I don't cheat on people, alive or dead."

There's one more question that Severus needs an answer to in light of all this. "Is it because I'm so different from him? Mr. Weasley?"

Luna drops his hands, to lean back and scowl. "It's because you're you. I can't imagine what Ron could possibly have to do with this."

"It's that-"

"It's that you think you know yourself too well to understand what anybody could see in you on your own merit. I used to know myself 'that well.' Then I bloody well got over my teenage angst."

"It's hardly-"

"That's exactly what it is. In fairness to you, though, not all of us got stuck serving a dark lord while trying to work our way through that, so I can understand where the retardation in the process stems from."

Severus frowns. "No, you all were just fighting a war against him."

"Having the comfort of considering ourselves in the Right, and quite a few people to back up that assumption for us. As a teenager, that's quite reassuring."

"You make it sound as if it weren't my own choice, what I did."

"At that age, what really is our own choice? We do what we think will help us to survive, whatever our conditions for that survival are."

"Even if it's the destruction of others?"

"People called me names and stole my property, Severus."

"I created poisons and tortured people to death."

"Sadly, even so, it's all just semantics."

"You didn't see-"

"I did. I fought this war, too. I did see. So I know what I'm saying, you just don't want to accept that people, even you, make mistakes and that somebody has to be willing to forgive them. Especially if you can't."

Severus walks over to where the house elves have left tea earlier that evening and murmurs a reheating spell. "You're completely illogical for a Ravenclaw."

"The hat isn't always looking for a proscribed set of characteristics. It understands this place far better than we do."

"It's disconcerting."

"I've been told people can read me that way." Her voice has just a smidgen of uncertainty in it.

She deserves better than that. "I…appreciate your forgiveness."

"I know you do."

He laughs, a small, unsure laugh. "Of course you do."


"You, Harry, Hermione, Firenze, Remus, Saffron, and Iris are all staying at the school for Christmas," Luna says.

As Severus has seen to all the arrangements for the mid-term break, he's well aware of this fact. As Luna has been around for most of his work, she knows this. Which means that there's a reason for her statement of the obvious. She's never dull unless going somewhere. "Yes."

"That's over half the staff."

"By one person."

"To guard over five students."

Since the end of the war, parents have been more enthusiastic about bringing their children home at every possible opportunity. On top of this, though far more children are orphaned than previously, families have taken to fostering orphans for holidays and the summer as part of the wizarding community's attempt to rebuild itself and prevent against future dark uprisings. "It will be quiet."

"Practically a tomb," she agrees, rather cheerfully when taking the metaphor into account.

"I've always enjoyed crypts."

"My point is, you aren't needed here."

Severus knows she hasn't intended the quail of panic that such a statement causes in him. Ruthlessly, he drives it from himself. "I'm headmaster of this school, Luna."

"Yes, but not its jailer. I didn't mean that your position isn't integral, I meant that for three or so days, you can afford to get away."

Severus thinks he's beginning to understand. He hopes not but the suspicion is there nonetheless. "And where would you have me go?"

"Home with me. Just for the holiday. I'd like you to meet my dad."

"Someone neglected to inform you of the type of boy that is appropriate to bring home."

"My father edits The Quibbler Severus, the only type of boy he'd be interested in my bringing home would have at least four different species originations, preferably with at least two of them being completely unheard of and a story of flight from a country that may or may not exist. While, sadly, you do not fulfill these admittedly high expectations, I think you'll do just fine in all of his other categories."

Severus isn't sure exactly how to respond to that so he goes with the safe, "And those are?"

"That you treat me with dignity, respect and kindness; that you make my heart beat hard enough to hurt; that you look at me in ways that make my palms tingle."

"Your palms."

"Well, I prefer not to think about whether he's thinking about other parts."

Severus coughs. "Indeed."

"He wants me happy, that's all."

"It guarantees that we have one thing in common."

Luna smiles, a soft expression of surprise unfurling from her center. "Oh."

"Oh," Severus says.

Luna puts her hands in the air, palms up. "Tingling." She pulls them back against her chest as he makes a move to come closer. "You'll come then, for Christmas?"

While it wasn't his plan, Severus was rather pleased at the idea of having distracted her. Of course, he should have known better. "If something happens-"

"Iris is perfectly capable of handling it. As is everyone else you're leaving behind. And it's only three days, I'm not asking you back for the entire break. If nothing else, it will be your chance to see me for the two weeks that I'm leaving. I promised dad I'd stay the whole time and I've no intention of breaking my word."

She's hit upon a major argument for her cause. Not to mention, Severus isn't fool enough (or young and angry enough) to throw away the first opportunity offered to him at solid, unwavering happiness in years, perhaps in his life. "I suppose there's always the floo."

"I'll tell my father to cook for three Christmas Eve." She re-extends her arms. "Still tingling."


Galileo Lovegood's eyes are exactly the same as his daughters. That is, largely, about the only thing they have in common looks-wise. Severus is surprised by the giant that greets him at the door with a jovial smile and a, "You must be the man who's managed to make my daughter flutter more than usual."

Severus doesn't really think of Luna as fluttery. He never knew her well enough as a student to make such an assessment and as a colleague she's only ever been…different. The way this man says it doesn’t make it at all an insult, if anything, it's a fond observation. Severus can only hope he is that man. He holds out his hand, "Severus Snape."

The man shakes it. "Galileo Lovegood. Come in, please."

Severus does, handing over the imported German truffles that he picked up at a store in Diagon while doing the rest of his holiday shopping. Luna has a refined sweet tooth. He can only hope that she inherited it from her father.

Galileo takes the gift with a sound of appreciation. "Excellent."

They enter the kitchen where Luna is humming something, her hair strewn with tinsel, decked out in green velvet robes. She's a vision, and Severus wishes he'd thought to wear something a bit more enticing than his black silk. It's elegant but hardly a departure from the norm, and he's beginning to think she deserves a departure.

She grins, and comes nearer, angling in for a kiss. "Happy Christmas."

He obliges her on the kiss, a chaste one as her father is standing right next to them. "Happy Christmas."

"You've introduced yourselves then?" she asks with a note of teasing censure to her voice.

Galileo responds with a mock scold. "We're both grown men, daughter-mine."

It could be the heat in the kitchen that causes her to glow, or the fondness of the address, or the effect of the holiday. Severus chooses to believe she's that happy that he's here to witness all of this. The look she gives him is faith inspiring. She says, "Dinner's almost ready."

Like any good guest, Severus asks, "Is there anything I can do to help?"

"Go keep my father occupied so that he's not in my way."

Both men take the hint and retire to the dining room. Severus has just decided what tack he will take so far as small talk goes when Galileo says, "I don't believe I've seen her that happy since her mother was alive. You…do you have children?"

Not unless you count the students, which Severus doesn't. "No."

"Then you'll forgive me for asserting that you can have no idea what it feels like to see your daughter," Galileo pauses, as though there are no words for what he wants to say but he is determined to find them regardless, "realizing herself."

"No, indeed, only," Severus swallows, "watching her is reward in itself. Daughter or…lover or otherwise." Severus locks down on the blush that is fighting its way to the surface furiously.

Galileo says, "Good that you've noticed," and Severus hears something in it. Something that sounds like tacit approval.


Severus hasn't brought any paperwork along with him, intent on sleeping while he is away from the school. His body, though, has become accustomed to its forced routine and he finds himself awake well past when he wishes he weren't. At nearly midnight, when Luna sneaks down the hall from her room and into his, he's glad for his body's struggle.

She climbs into the bed -- thankfully a queen -- and takes over the entirety of his personal space. Something in Severus uncoils.

She says softly, "He likes you."

Galileo is odd. His thought patterns are sometimes hard to follow and his moods are quicksilver, at best. He's a much more mercurial version of Luna, and Severus finds himself wondering what Luna's mother was like. "You're quite alike."

"If that was meant as an insult, I'm rather fond of my father, I'll have you know." Her voice is teasing.

Severus finds the edge of her gown and slides it up her legs with one hand even as he says, "I'm rather fond of you."

She squirms to help him in his quest to divest her of any coverings. "Quietly, all right? He won't mince words in the morning."

"He'll disapprove?"

She laughs. His mouth is on her throat and he feels the sound more than hears it. He pulls back so that he can hear what she has to say. "Hardly, but the mockery will never cease. Not even if I live to be two hundred and thirteen."

"I've confidence in your ability to give quite as good as you get."

"Yes, but he's my father Severus, there are some things that I don't want to hear coming out of my mouth."

Severus, who has never really known family in any purposeful sense, can appreciate this only on a theoretical level. "He's not that old."

"You did have parents, didn't you? Slytherins do have to come from somewhere, after all."

Severus considers disappearing into the morass of covers and making her beg rather than continuing with this conversation. He would much prefer it that way. She's persistent though, and will only try again. "I had parents."

"If you don’t make me drag this story out of you piece by bloody piece, I'll make the talking worth your while," her fingers are already on the buttons of his nightshirt.

"My father was away more than not, which was a relief, because when he was home he beat my mother and my older brother. My mother refused to get close to her second child as having to see the first one so mistreated had slowly driven her insane. Magus, my older brother, considered mother and himself his responsibility and not much else. I was ignored for the most part with the exception of a few gratuitous beatings when Magus wasn't around to take them. When I was a child I would try and protect Magus and my mother, thinking that if they saw I was useful they would take me into their little circle but I learned quickly enough that this line of thinking was faulty and left them to fend for themselves."

Luna places one hand each palm down on Severus's chest. "What happened to them?"

"Magus was killed in service to Voldemort during the first uprising, my mother disappeared after that, I haven't the slightest of whether she's even alive, my father died rather unglamorously of alcohol poisoning before I had even graduated from Hogwarts."

Luna kisses him, and it is the type of kiss that every boy dreams of, warm and loving with just a hint of how much she wants him. "No wonder kindness comes so hard to you."

Severus keeps his lips against hers. "I have very little to base it on."

"Relax," she breathes. He works to obey. She is everywhere.


Nobody wakes him in the morning. There are no rowdy children two chambers over or meddling headmasters who wish to see him at breakfast. Even Luna, who has well been given the right to wake him at any time, has slipped away some time before dawn and he wakes much later than he's accustomed to doing.

He brushes his teeth and his hair and dons robes before making his way down to the living room area. Luna and Galileo are both settled on the couch, talking in soft voices. Galileo is facing the door and sees him first. "'Morning. I trust you slept well?"

Severus remembers falling asleep with his face buried in her skin, her fingers laced gently over his neck. "Quite."

She gets up with the awkward morning movements of a colt taking its first steps and a smile that distracts him from such a lack of grace completely. She kisses his cheek. "Hungry?"


He follows her into the kitchen, Galileo trailing behind them. He sits at the small table used for casual meals while Luna percolates coffee and Galileo rummages up oranges. Luna heats some oil with a quick spell and throws several rashers onto it. They're curling and crisping within seconds. She slides them to the side and breaks several eggs onto the surface, using the leftover grease to fry the eggs into perfection.

Severus stands and pours himself a cup of coffee. "Galileo? Luna? Coffee?"

Two nods, so Severus pours another two cups. He sets them all down on the table and rummages through the Cooling Box for cream. Galileo throws sugar onto the table next to the orange wedges he's neatly spliced with a handy spell that Severus thinks he'll ask for before he leaves.

Severus pours a teaspoon of sugar into Luna's coffee, a thimbleful of cream into his, and stirs. Luna brings the eggs and rashers to the table, levitating some plates alongside her. She sets them all down and takes a sip of her coffee. "Mm, thanks."

Severus waits until Galileo and Luna have taken a share of the food before parceling what's left onto his plate. They've left him the largest serving.

Luna says, "I opened my gift. I didn't think you'd want me to wait."

It's a rather startling -- and comforting -- insight on her part. Most people assume that he wants to be there for them to fawn over the gift but really, for the most part he figures that if someone truly likes a present enough, they'll find an adequate way of thanking him. The first reaction to a gift is something he prefers to avoid overall. "I thought you might find it…amusing."

"Is it from your personal collection?" she asks. The gift in question is a book, one of very odd (and nearly all useless, if enjoyable) Potion concoctions. The mixtures are obsolete and were used when the development of magical technology hadn't filled in quite a few of the gaps it has at this point in time.

"Yes." Severus bought it out of a prurient interest in its historical value but he knows that she's generally fascinated by both oddities and the evolution of magical process/invention. The book deals with each of these in an indirect way.

"It's incredible. Sure you feel like giving it up? I'm sure I could just borrow it, though I'm not giving it back without reading it."

"I don’t take back my gifts." Whatever else Severus is or has been, miserly has never been one of those traits.

Luna shrugs. "I’ll keep it then. I rather love it anyway."

Galileo is smiling and shaking his head slightly. Severus does the only dignified thing and ignores him. Luna picks up her coffee and walks into the next room. Severus frowns. He doesn't think she's upset but- The thought breaks off when she comes back into the room and hands him a small package. "Happy Christmas."

Severus nods. He slides a finger under the handsome green wrapping paper. Inside is a vial of ground manticore skin. Severus is surprised he even recognizes it, he's only seen it once before and that was nearly twenty years earlier, when him and Lucius were still friends rather than unspoken enemies. "Luna-"

"My dad has connections."

Manticore skin isn't illegal, it's just nearly impossible to harvest. This makes it hard to find and expensive to acquire. The edge in Luna's voice doesn't invite further inquiry, however. Severus says, "Thank you. I never imagined I'd have the chance to work with anything like it."

Luna says, "Use it well."

Severus has no intention of disappointing her.


Hogwarts has always been the one place that Severus could return to for sanctuary. He's never once not wanted to be back inside of its walls, hurrying down into his dungeons or (more recently) up into his study.

As such, it's disconcerting when returning there after three days at Galileo's is something of a chore. He misses the familiarity of the school, the safety of its wards. When he gets back, though, he misses Luna more. It's throwing and the only thing to be done for it is loads of paperwork, so much that Severus has no time to think.

It helps when Draco and Ginny return shortly after Christmas as well. Ginny bakes double chocolate biscuits and puts them in the staff-lounge, which gets Severus out of his seclusion. To Severus's surprise, Iris and Draco are actually fairly good at providing distraction as well.

All the same, he's far past ready when Luna arrives back at the school a day before the rest of the students. He's pleased to note that she looks rather ready as well, flushed as she is when she makes it into his office.

"Missed you," she says before she's around his desk with her mouth on his, and that's evidently all the preliminary sweet-talking that Severus is going to get. Severus is all right with that.

He pulls her up on the desk and makes love to her right there because he's too damn impatient to move, even if it probably would be more comfortable and definitely more gentlemanly. Luna doesn't seem to notice, or care.

On the night of the return feast, Severus watches out of his peripheral vision as Luna sidles up to Draco and says something that Severus can’t hear. Draco's mouth twists in a way that suggests he doesn't know whether to be amused to upset. Luna says something else. Draco nods and says something that looks to be like a condition. Severus wonders exactly what Draco is laying conditions on with Luna, and if he'll have to intercede.

Then Luna takes Draco's spot at the head table so that she's directly to Severus's left, and everybody else moves down a seat. Severus meets Draco's eyes. They're questioning. Severus turns as far away from the students as he can and gives Draco a small, grateful smile.

Draco settles into his new seat.

Luna has already dropped into hers, all whimsical grace and pleased smiles. It takes everything in Severus's long retinue of wall-building to maintain a straight face while welcoming the students back. For a second, Severus wonders what would happen if he smiled. The likelihood that all the students would expire from shock occurs to him and Severus seriously considers testing out the theory. The moment passes, however, and the plates are filling.

Severus sits down, looking slightly to his left. Luna says, "Evening, headmaster."

Careless of who can see, he leans ever so subtly toward her. "'Evening, professor."

Behind her, Draco is hiding his smile in his food. Luna is hiding nothing.

Severus only vaguely wishes he cared.

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