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Complete header information may be found in Part One. You may find all parts of this story by clicking the Getting Severus Married tag.


Chapter Sixteen: The Truth in Books

On the third Saturday in December, Oliver and Miranda Ollivander held their annual "Yuletide Yell," which was a party with dancing, drink, and song. Severus attended it as his second social obligation of the Presentation. Taking a page from Susan's book, or so he told himself, he didn't avail himself of an escort of either sex and spent the evening in uncharacteristic good cheer socialising with most of his Eligibles—paying particular attention to Miss Lorelai Lovegood. Attempting to appear charmingly aloof as he watched those who elected to sing, he refrained from sneering at them when Draco tried to engage him in doing so.

~*~

"Well," Harry said, joining Neville and Blaise on the lawn behind the house, "Snape seems to be handling himself all right, doesn't he?"

Blaise said nothing, continuing to puff dispiritedly on the pipe of home-grown tobacco that Neville had brought.

"He does," Neville agreed, "and I think he's made Luna's cousin fall in love with him."

"Bastard," Blaise muttered.

"Lucky bastard," Neville replied. "I spoke to Luna when I was last at Snape Manor, and she seems to think that Lorelai is too shy to want to marry someone as infamous as Snape—but who knows?"

"Who, indeed?" Blaise asked, passing the pipe to Harry.

"Blaise, you know he was just trying to rattle your cage."

"Consider it rattled."

Harry sighed. There's no talking to him when he's in a mood, he thought, turning to Neville. "So, how're things going with Laura?"

"She's here, isn't she?" he replied, grinning. "Give me that," he said, taking the pipe from Harry when he began to choke. "You're not supposed to drag on it like a fag."

"Show . . . off," Harry said, as Neville began to puff out fat rings of smoke. "Why does . . . it smell like grapes?"

"Because unadulterated tobacco smells fruity, and this stuff," Neville said proudly, gesturing with his pipe, "has been spelled to be innocuous."

"You could make a fortune selling it to Muggles."

"No, I couldn't. It's not addictive because of the spell."

"Oh," Harry said, glancing worriedly at Blaise who was glaring at Severus and Hermione, who were having an animated conversation.

"Excuse me," Blaise said abruptly, striding off into the garden.

"Shite," Neville remarked.

"Yeah."

"Is he behaving himself?"

"He's been spouting gloomy poetry and moping," Harry replied, grinning ruefully.

"You're not."

"I'm not, what?"

"Moping. Is that because you counted the letters?"

Harry bit his lip and flushed.

Neville snorted. "No, he doesn't hate you. In light of this, do you think you might ask the man to dance?"

"As soon as I can catch him without Hermione or a reporter hanging about, I will. Why'd the Ollivanders invite so many, anyway?"

"They invite everyone, being quite the democratic couple. Have you noticed that Skeeter isn't here, though?" Neville asked, smiling slyly.

"So she isn't. Why is that?"

"Well, you are an Auror. I'm not sure I should tell you."

"I'm an Auror on holiday, of course."

"Point. It seems Skeeter ran afoul of Ginny at the gala, and she's since checked herself into St Mungo's."

"What did Ginny do to her?"

"Nothing Skeeter wouldn't do, herself. It's just that now she can't stop doing it."

"Please tell me that we're talking about writing."

Neville chuckled. "We are, and Skeeter can't stop doing it."

Smirking, Harry replied, "I suppose it's a good thing that I'm not on duty. Otherwise, I'd be forced to report this violation of the Magical Code to my superiors."

"Your conscientiousness is to be commended. When are you going back to work?"

"I couldn't say," Harry answered, and then he and Neville burst out laughing. "Oh . . . oh, that's too funny, Nev. But I think I'm going to have to do something about it, anyway. I can't stand that woman, but it's not right to leave her like that—not for much longer, at any rate."

"That reminds me, did Blaise ever remove the curse from Marazelle?"

"Good question. I don't think he did, but she's a Spellcraftre. I'm sure if he didn't, she's found a way to lift it. I'll look into that, as well."

"You're very good, Auror Potter."

"I try to be."

"Right, I'm off to find my increasingly less reluctant vicar. Try not to do yourself a harm," Neville told Harry, passing him his pipe and blowing out a last stream of smoke rings.

"Show off," Harry said again, though he didn't mean the exhalations. I'm glad our talk helped Nev along, but I wish

"No one's ever taught you to blow properly, Potter?"

that I would pay more attention. Damn, the Ollivanders really do invite everyone. "Good evening, Malfoy," Harry said, and was pleased to note how nearly sincere he sounded.

"What's this? You're not rising to the bait? How mature of you, and how boring."

"If you're finding the evening tedious, why don't you leave?"

"I'm working on it. Have you seen Morgan Moody?"

How is it possible for someone to leer like that and still appear so . . . polished? "You're feeling brave tonight. Master Moody's got to be around here somewhere. He'll kill you if you actually make a play for his grandson."

"Wouldn't be sport without the risk."

"Risk, right. That's why you spent the war in hiding."

Draco's expression darkened. "Careful, Potter. It wouldn't do to—"

"Stuff it—or stuff him—I don't care," Harry interrupted, extinguishing Neville's pipe and placing it in his robes. "Just go away. We're not friends, so I can't be arsed to care about your potential shags."

"At least be consistent."

"What?"

"You just assumed that I'd be doing the 'stuffing' in almost the same breath as you implied my 'work ethic' was lacking. Consistency, Potter, is—"

"A hobgoblin in Chelsea, and not well-liked," Severus interrupted, approaching them.

Harry felt both careless and stupid then; he'd been too irritated by Draco to pay much attention to his surroundings, and he felt it was a bad lapse on his part. Perhaps taking a holiday wasn't a good idea.

"Good evening, Severus. Harry and I were just discussing the . . . intricacies of love."

"Of course you were. I believe your true object is somewhere towards the front of the house enduring the attentions of Junior Minister Argyle."

"Then I'd best see to his rescue," Draco replied smoothly, moving dangerously close to Harry as he sailed by him.

Harry glared in his wake, more than a little irritated, and started when he felt a warmth enfold his closed right hand and pull his fingers out of the fist he'd made of them. He looked up to find Severus staring tenebrously at him, his face impassive, as he began to massage the blood back into Harry's whitened fingers.

"Better?"

Hell, yes, it's better. "Er, yeah. Th—thanks."

"You spend too much time with your wand in that hand to mistreat it."

What? "Wh—what?"

"Don't misunderstand me, Mr Potter," Severus continued, stepping a bit closer to him without relinquishing his hand. "I don't mean to imply that your skills are . . . lacking in any way, but I do believe that Mr Malfoy flusters you more than is," he said, pausing as if to think, "wise to allow."

"Co—constant vigilance, right," Harry stammered, feeling the blood from his extremities begin to draw towards the centre of his body. He really doesn't hate me.

"That's the waltz beginning," Severus said, abruptly dropping Harry's hand as the sound of music filtered towards them.

He's going to ask me to dance! Harry thought excitedly.

Instead, Severus asked, "If you'd excuse me?"

"But . . . ."

~*~

You definitely affect him, Severus exulted, forcing his legs to carry him forward when all he truly desired to do was seize Harry into a fierce embrace, public exposure and prudence be damned. He'd heard the strangled protest, and it had inflamed him. But I must be cautious. I must give Harry the opportunity to adjust to my interest and to the change in our interaction.

He also, he knew, needed to find a suitable way in which to thank Luna for inadvertently illustrating for him that his object was likely to be as unused to valuing himself highly as he, himself, had always been. Luna's drawings of Harry at the gala had revealed a rather shy and humble young man, a man who appeared unsettled to be the focus of so much amorous attention. The drawings had given Severus much to contemplate.

Perhaps I can find Luna a later portrait of Verrio. Thanking Draco for his provocation of Harry will be all too easy—and I wonder what he wants the animation potion for? I can't imagine that any of his lovers have child—oh, he thought, as it suddenly occurred to him one use for the potion that Draco might enjoy.

~*~

Blaise looked up to see Mary Millblossom pass a flushed Severus on the path leading to where he was sitting in the back garden, and then looked down, hoping Millblossom would leave him be.

"That's a hard look for such a thoughtful young man," she remarked, as she drew nearer. "What could possibly be so disturbing?"

"Ms Millblo—"

"I did ask you to call me Mary, dear," she corrected, sitting down next to him.

"Of course. And I'm—"

"Blaise," she said firmly, in an aggressively friendly tone.

"I'm afraid I'm not good company this evening, Mary."

"No. It's probably the lingering illicit potion constituents in your system. That was an unprofitable thing to do, I imagine."

"How did you—oh. You're a Spellcraftre."

"That's what the licence book says. Now then, have you been arguing with your young lady?"

"My—you mean Hermione?"

Mary nodded.

"I'm afraid she's not mine, Mary."

"Why ever not?"

"Tell me, are you enjoying your visit?" Blaise asked, unwilling to be rude to Harry's friend but anxious to change the subject.

"Ah, polite chit-chat. How I hate it. Gossip is far more interesting."

Blaise smiled politely and remarked, "You're far too young to be one of those 'interested' ladies who tend the 'wounded hearts of youth'."

"Ah, Whingely! 'The wounded hearts of youth, did I perchance to see, the love-ruffled feathers of those, too blind to grieve with me'. Yes, I do think William Whingely is a worthy poet for such a time."

"What time would that be?" Blaise asked, charmed in spite of himself that Mary knew the work of one of his favourite poets.

"The time for you to take what is yours, boy. What other?" Mary asked, patting his right thigh and rising to leave Blaise alone with his thoughts.

Odd woman, he decided. But well-intentioned, I suppose.

The Scroll in his robes began to twirl, and Blaise lifted it out and unrolled it to see the name of Morgan Moody disappearing from it.

Hmm, I wonder why? he thought, though he wasn't surprised. There's something furtive about Morgan that Severus could never find pleasing.

Blaise sighed and wondered about his own hesitancy with regard to Hermione. His love for Susan hadn't made him cautious—or jealous.

It doesn't matter. I can't allow my heart to pull me apart. Without control, I'm little better than a monster, he thought, remembering with chagrin how he'd slaughtered his family. The memories of his acts that day never fully left him. I can't allow my passions to ever rule me like that again.

Losing Susan had almost destroyed him. The idea that he might destroy someone who got in between himself and Hermione was too much to contemplate.

"I have to let her go."

"Ah, but to do that would mean to condemn yourself to a loneliness not easily borne, either, Mr Zabini."

"Professor Dumbledore! I didn't see—"

"Forgive my intrusion, dear boy. I had no intention of startling you, but I fear my worries for you have caused me to be rude."

"It's not that I don't appreciate your concern, sir, but—"

"Tell me, do you remember all of Whingely's 'Bereft Cycle'?"

"What? Yes, of course I do. What does that have to do with anything?"

"The persona of the poem, I've always felt, is terribly selfish and short-sighted. He desires the love of someone who cannot bestow it upon him, and he crushes the life from his beloved so that no one else might receive it."

"And he taxes the other lovers around him for their happiness in his time of grief," Blaise added, not understanding what Dumbledore was implying.

"Exactly. The irony of the piece, of course, is that the hatred of the persona is such that he fails to notice there is one in his life who does love him. Truly, the poem isn't analogous to your situation with Miss Granger in any way other than that one."

"Why do you say that?"

"Because she loves you, Mr Zabini, and it's a poor thing, indeed, to allow one's fears of the past to interfere in one's future joys. You're not a monster, nor are you as weak as you pretend to be. You're just a man who's seen much to pain him, who's lost much, and you're afraid. Is it appropriate, do you think, to permit fear to rule your heart?"

"I'm just being cau—"

"It isn't caution that keeps you from Hermione. Don't lie to yourself, and don't permit yourself to act or fail to act out of fear," Dumbledore said, suddenly stern. "If Severus has learnt this lesson, it's surely one that you can master, for love isn't a stranger to you."

"I suppose you're right, sir," Blaise said, though he wasn't entirely convinced.

"Well, I suppose I've done enough meddling for one evening, but I would ask you to consider one thing more."

"And that would be?"

"Find yourself a new favourite poet. Whingely is certainly not what I'd call a master of his craft."

Blaise snorted. "Too romantic?"

"Too maudlin."

What a subtle way of telling someone he's an idiot, Blaise thought, smiling slightly as Dumbledore left him. Perhaps he's right. . . . I know that Susan certainly wouldn't approve of my recent behaviour. She despised cowardice.

~*~

Susan Bones Zabini had been a brilliant Auror but a better wife, for she had refused to allow her husband to hide from himself. Finding someone who would accept him—all of him—and encourage him to speak freely on any topic rather than brood, had been an education for Blaise. He knew that Susan had never hidden from anything, and that he should do so, that he should hide from himself in potions and poetry, was not the best way to honour Susan's memory.

With this in mind, Blaise Disapparated to the Hall of Monuments and walked slowly towards the wing in which the members of his family were interred.

"Hello, Susan," he whispered, running his hand over the cool, smooth stone of the marble behind which lay her body. "It's been awhile, hasn't it, love? I've come to . . . to say I'm sorry. I know you didn't approve of revenge, but . . . but I couldn't help it. I've . . . I've never," he stopped as his eyes began to burn, continuing when he'd collected himself somewhat, "I've never truly forgiven myself for it, you know? But perhaps it's time I did."

Blaise leant his head against Susan's tomb then and allowed himself to cry; he didn't stop until he felt he'd exorcised the worst of his grief.

He'd just composed himself when a goblin, for the goblins had in their keeping the maintenance of the Hall, approached him and made a respectful bow. "Would Sir care to view the Keeping Book?"

"Oh, has someone been to visit?"

In answer, the goblin handed Blaise a tan leather book and moved away to give him his privacy. The book, which kept the thoughts of those who visited the dead, flipped open to the last entry. It read:
I have known few people whom I esteemed to be of worth and loved fewer still, but you I keep in my thoughts as the most dearly departed of all my kin. Rest well, Mrs Zabini, and know that you have not left your husband alone.
Even without the signature under the entry, Blaise would have known who'd made it.

"Oh," he whispered, overwhelmed once again, but this time, not by grief.

Comments

( 30 comments — Leave a comment )
spike7451
Feb. 20th, 2008 03:08 pm (UTC)
I get so excited when I see an update notice for this fic in my Inbox. I love this story. Another wonderful chapter, glad to see Blaise coming to terms with things, hopefully now he'll get his act together with regard to Hermione. Naughty Severus, poor Harry, just when he thought Severus was going to ask him to dance he gets "If you'd excuse me?" as I said poor Harry, just loved his "But..."gave me a laugh .
iulia_linnea
Feb. 20th, 2008 03:17 pm (UTC)
*dances*

I'm happy to please, thank you! :D Poor Harry, indeed. He should have asked Severus to dance, shouldn't he? ;)
tudorpot
Feb. 20th, 2008 03:47 pm (UTC)
A lovely interlude with Blaise. I'm really enjoying this.
iulia_linnea
Feb. 21st, 2008 12:14 am (UTC)
*pleased*

Thank you. :)
emila_wan
Feb. 20th, 2008 07:32 pm (UTC)
Oh, the sexual tension is so delicious. Can't wait for more!
iulia_linnea
Feb. 21st, 2008 12:19 am (UTC)
Thank you! :D Yay!
shiv5468
Feb. 20th, 2008 07:53 pm (UTC)
All right, possibly he does deserve her.

And ooh poor Harry.
iulia_linnea
Feb. 21st, 2008 12:20 am (UTC)
*snerk*

It's nice to see you in a forgiving mood. ;) *huggles Blaise; eyes Harry, who might have asked Severus to dance, the twit*

:D
ryuaka
Feb. 21st, 2008 01:38 am (UTC)
I am pleased that there is More of this, and Im always all excited to discover more in my Friendslist.

Severus charming Lorelei makes me smile, Blaise reading Emo!poetry makes me wince and grin, and Poor Harry should have asked Snape to dance, the silly head!
iulia_linnea
Feb. 21st, 2008 01:53 am (UTC)
*beams at you*

I'm glad you're pleased. :D
ryuaka
Feb. 22nd, 2008 01:09 am (UTC)
^__________^
I am so very pleased and am eagerly awating the Next Chapter. I think you were all the way up to Forty one? Or Thirty Nine, and I devoured this story with increasing relish all in one go.....and then it was gone, and I was sad...But Now its back again, and Its better then ever!
:D
Cant wait for the next chapter!
iulia_linnea
Feb. 22nd, 2008 08:49 pm (UTC)
Re: ^__________^
I've forty chapters to revise that others have seen; everything after 41 will be new. :D

Yay! I'm so excited that you're so engaged in GSM! It's really great to know. *hugs*
ryuaka
Feb. 24th, 2008 04:53 am (UTC)
Re: ^__________^
Wooooot! I was right! It was Forty Chapters Long! Yay! And you have what happens after 40? EXCELLENT! You left us hanging, I believe.....

^__________^
Its only becasue its a really good read, with all your little intricacies and Harry and Snape just being so in character and so in love with one another and so much Love and &hearts.

*Hugs Back* :D *Looks forward to more."
iulia_linnea
Feb. 24th, 2008 04:58 am (UTC)
Re: ^__________^
*snuggles you* :D

I've got 40 chapters to revise, and a few written beyond those, but I'm not sure I can use them, now. I'll be picking the fic up fresh at 41, but, once I start writing it properly again, I'm not planning to stop until the fic is complete.

I'm so happy that you're still engaged! *dances*
ryuaka
Feb. 25th, 2008 11:57 pm (UTC)
Re: ^__________^
*Snuggles you too* Oouucchhh, Forty Chapters to go over again? Dont you have a Beta to help you with that?

And if you have some more written, then by all means, share it. Or revise it to make it fit. Im sure you have some idea of where you want this to go and I am all strapped in and ready to go for the ride. Im even holding my Harry Potter Plushie. Or I would be, if I had one......XP

And Yayyyyy! What happens in Forty One? All I can recall from 39 I beleive was that there were smoochies, and then a little magical rainstorm, and then...er...the other couple got locked into a room, and then theres nothin...........><

And I cant wait to read the end!
Im in until the end and Im looking forward to perhaps a happy ending......
iulia_linnea
Feb. 26th, 2008 10:32 am (UTC)
Re: ^__________^
I'm glad you're so engaged! *hugs*
ryuaka
Feb. 27th, 2008 04:27 am (UTC)
Re: ^__________^
Its a pleasure to be Engaged, and I vote for Harry!
:D:D
missingkeys
Feb. 23rd, 2008 06:18 am (UTC)
I don't know who wrote it.
iulia_linnea
Feb. 23rd, 2008 11:45 am (UTC)
You don't know who wrote what? I think this comment was mis-threaded.
missingkeys
Feb. 24th, 2008 05:41 am (UTC)
I don't know who wrote the entry at her gravesite. I've obviously missed something, and feel daft, but I just don't know.
iulia_linnea
Feb. 24th, 2008 11:00 am (UTC)
*leaves you ping message*
missingkeys
Feb. 24th, 2008 11:50 am (UTC)
argh, trillian's on at my ex's house not here. :/ I'm using a borrowed laptop at the moment and haven't got any chat programs! Sorry!
iulia_linnea
Feb. 24th, 2008 12:22 pm (UTC)
It was Severus. :)
missingkeys
Feb. 24th, 2008 12:23 pm (UTC)
Aww. *loves him*
sexyseverus
Feb. 28th, 2008 01:55 am (UTC)
Honour... again. Drives one batty, doesn't it. I know it does me when I'm trying to write it in British English.

After all this time, I'm still now sure why I got into reading Snarry...and I read it almost exclusively. But I really like the way you are handling the Blaise/Hermione aspect of this story almost as much as the main story between Harry and Severus. Keep it up!
iulia_linnea
Feb. 29th, 2008 04:10 am (UTC)
Oh, yay! I'm pleased that you're enjoying the B/H subplot. :D (And thanks for the typo-catching.)
mollyssister
Oct. 28th, 2008 02:43 am (UTC)
Progress! I see movement! I am glad Blaise is ready to move on and attempt to function like a rational human being. Hermione leaving a note in Susan’s thinking book is so unbelievably kind, I just dont have words.
iulia_linnea
Oct. 28th, 2008 08:00 am (UTC)
Aw. *hugs*
sexyseverus
May. 5th, 2009 04:14 pm (UTC)
"What did Ginny do to her?"

"Nothing Skeeter wouldn't do, herself. It's just that now she can't stop doing it."

"Please tell me that we're talking about writing."


OMG!! Just fell out of my chair laughing.

"You spend too much time with your wand in that hand to mistreat it."

What? "Wh—what?"
ROFL... you're trying to kill me and Harry's mind has wandered to the gutter!

I love how Severus is 'testing' the waters with Harry and it's leaving poor Harry all flustered. *snicker* You'd think that Harry might have thought to done the asking to dance... eh?

I also love how you have the scroll twirl in Blaise's pocket when Severus removes a name so that he's alerted of the change.

I really enjoy your characterization of Albus... his good-natured meddling and wisdoms he shares interspersed with his sternness when he thinks someone he cares for is being stubbornly obtuse.

And that scene with Blaise at Susan's tomb... it was wonderfully poignant and I think that Blaise is finally ready for Hermione...




iulia_linnea
May. 5th, 2009 09:19 pm (UTC)
It's so lovely to know how the fic makes you feel; thank you so much!
( 30 comments — Leave a comment )