Word Count: 2500
Summary: Their Arrangement is only one of myriad reasons that Severus and Luna's marriage works.
Disclaimer: This piece is based on characters and situations created by J. K. Rowling, and owned by J. K. Rowling and various publishers, including but not limited to: Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books, Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made from and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended by the posting of this fic.
Author's Note: Written for the snuna_exchange community as part of the fest's 2010 run. Thank you,
arynwy and leela_cat, for beta'ing.
The table was laden with sausages, eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms, toast, marmalade, and a savoury porridge that Luna had developed and Severus, to his great surprise, had grown to love. It was warm; the kitchen fire crackled merrily in the hearth, and the fragrant scents of tea and coffee wafted invigoratingly throughout the room. Severus was pleased; not only had Luna remembered that it was her turn to cook, but she'd arranged the Prophet and several of his favourite publications by his place. The Quibbler was nowhere in evidence.
"Thank you," he murmured, bending down to kiss his wife before sitting down to join her.
Luna "mmmed" at him, her concentration focussed on the upside-down book that she was reading: Muggle Fairies: Wishful Thinking or Undiscovered Species? was its title.
Severus would have scoffed at the title but for the new Arrangement.
"You're welcome," Luna said, after Severus had tucked in, "and thank you for not harrumphing over Barnaby Toadstone."
Glancing at the book, Severus saw that Toadstone was its author. Again, he made no comment. Luna smiled, and he picked up the Prophet.
Luna scanned Toadstone's latest book in search of useful household charms. The man who'd flish-swish-flicked his way into the heart of every laundry-responsible English witch meant that most of them forgave him his bizarre fairy theories. If not for Toadstone, Severus (who'd grown used to relying on house-elves to wash his clothing while living at Hogwarts) would have been leaving the house most days in stale robes; he simply never thought of his clothing.
Surreptitiously, Luna glanced down at Severus' shoes, which were scuffed and in need of a shine. He's going to attract Glumbumbles if he doesn't take care of them, she thought, closing her book.
It had happened before. In fact, when she and Severus had first started seeing each other—not dating but seeing each other, everywhere, all the time—she'd noted the collected Glumbumble excrement on his shoes and had gleaned something of why it had been so difficult for him to let go of his depression and obsessive yearning for Lily Potter. She'd decided that the reason she and Severus had kept running into one another was because the universe wanted her to cure him of his infestation and had taken steps to do so. Three applications of Glumbumblecide later, she and Severus were drinking together at the Three Broomsticks; shortly after her seventh application of the insecticide to Severus' shoes, they were shagging. She'd shined his shoes the next morning and asked him to keep them shiny, and for a while, he'd been diligent about it.
But we're comfortable now, aren't we? she thought, trying to decide how best to bring up the topic without causing Severus to feel nagged.
She'd almost hit upon a way when he shouted, "Winifred Witherston couldn't brew her way out of an apothecary!" and crumpled the paper into a ball.
"Is she stuck in one?" Luna asked.
"Is Winifred Witherston stuck in an apothecary somewhere? I don't have anything to do this afternoon. If you'd give me her direction, I could help her get out before meeting Ginny for dinner this evening."
Severus almost smiled at Luna's seemingly sincere desire to assist the hapless Witherston, but his amusement dissipated as her dinner plans registered with him. "But I'm cooking tonight."
"I expect that you are. You don't like going hungry."
"I meant that I'm cooking for both of us tonight." Severus frowned.
Luna reached across the table and pushed up one corner of his mouth with a finger. "There. Better. No," she chided him, pushing up his mouth again. "The slight smile suits you."
Sighing, Severus sat back. "Luna, you know that it's my night to cook. I've already done the shopping for it." And he'd been planning to try something new that he'd been sure she would love; it was disappointing and annoying to know that she'd forgotten their plans.
"You knew that I was seeing Ginny tonight because it's on the calendar. She's going to tell me that she's pregnant again, so I can't miss it. Of course, you could come meet her with me."
"Why not? She's your friend, too."
"She is not my friend," Severus insisted, his conscience nagging at him. He did enjoy Ginny's company, but when compared to the rest of the imbeciles whom Luna called her friends, that wasn't saying much. "What about my dinner?"
"You should make it," Luna replied, turning her attention back to her book, "right after you shine your shoes. Oh!" Luna exclaimed, looking at him again. "Where does Witherston live?"
Ginny laughed. "You could always just shine them yourself, you know."
"No, I couldn't because that would be my taking responsibility for Severus' happiness, which wouldn't be responsible of me at all. If something were to happen to me, he would need to be able to look after himself."
"There's nothing wrong with him, is there?"
"You mean besides whatever's keeping him in scuffed, Glumbumble-attracting shoes? No, nothing. I think he's perfect," Luna replied, beaming at Ginny's odd little expression.
Luna understood that no one but she understood her attraction to Severus; that made her happy because it meant no one was likely to try and take him from her. In school, having her things taken had never bothered her that much, but she didn't know how she would react were someone to attempt to steal Severus from her—and she had no desire to find out.
"I don't get it—how the two of you stand each other, I mean," Ginny said.
"You manage Harry well enough."
"Manage to stand him, you mean?"
"No, you manage him, just like your mum manages everyone—that's how you can live with each other."
Ginny laughed again. "Well, someone has to manage us, especially as we're about to become a larger family."
Luna clapped her hands together. "I'm so happy for you!"
Severus sat in the kitchen, glaring at the mess of it he'd just made. Would have tried harder if Luna had been here, he thought, casually flicking a finger at the calendar hanging on the wall by the door.
It disappeared in a rain of ash.
The small act of destruction did nothing to improve his mood. Sighing, he considered the latest iteration of the Arrangement. Having lived on his own for a significant period of time before accepting Luna's proposal of marriage, Severus had become somewhat set in his ways—and Luna had apparently always been incredibly stubborn about how she went on. To survive the "honeymoon" phase of their wedded life, therefore, he and Luna had developed the Arrangement; it was a list of "proposals" for how they ought to live together. "Rules," Luna had decreed, were "too rigid." For Luna's sake, Severus tried not to think about the Arrangement as a set of rules; he tried to think about them in light of a set of expectations.
Currently, Severus was expected to cook dinner on the days on which Luna cooked breakfast (Luna was expected to actually cook something; main course salads and anything to do with raw fish were forbidden, particularly as breakfasts). Luna was expected to keep the general living areas clean during those weeks that Severus was to see to the private areas of their home ("seeing to" had been further defined by Luna as not "stuffing everything into a container and then Shrinking it," which Severus had initially maintained was perfectly fine for rooms other than his laboratory). They together dealt with the bills at the end of each month. No brewing or experimental magic was permitted on the weekends. All guests had to be approved in advance—and by "in advance," Severus meant a week's notice, not the five minutes' notice that Luna had initially been wont to give him. There were other components of the Arrangement, which changed often—for the most part because it could only be changed after a discussion, and that discussion, Luna and Severus had agreed, had to take place after vigorous, mutually satisfying sex.
I shouldn't have destroyed the calendar, Severus thought, drawing his wand and reconstituting it lest Luna discover him in violation of one of the Arrangement's "expectations."
He remained irritated, however, by the fact that she'd missed his dinner, and not having much of anything else to do that evening, he decided to take himself off to Witherston's apothecary after he attended to his shoes. The witch's column on home remedies grew more bizarre with every passing week, and before she proposed anything dangerous, Severus meant to set her straight.
Thirty minutes later, Severus was following the fragile-looking, faded Witherston through a circuitous route from her kitchen door to the chairs by the hearth of her crowded lounge. The rooms of her home were nearly impassible for the vast collection of... well, it was impossible to know what Witherston collected beyond thinking that it must be everything. Newspapers, periodicals, and books were stacked to the ceiling. Old food tins were arranged as shiny metal towers, and some even as would-be fairytale castles, complete with small, framed photographs of people who resembled Witherston.
Where the hell is her family?
Severus took a deep breath to steady his nerves against the profound sadness he felt to have found anyone living in such filth and immediately regretted it: the air was beyond stale.
This is like a tomb. She's buried herself.
Suddenly, Severus was quite angry, indeed.
"I've just made the tea, dearie," Witherston told him.
The "tea" was an open tin of beans and a steaming pot of water with lemons floating in it.
"Don't touch that!" he said sharply.
"Oh! I'm sorry. I would have poured for you first," Witherston said, crumpling herself into one of the dusty chairs and beginning to cry.
Severus sank to one knee before her and grasped her hand. "Forgive me. I only meant that having intruded upon you, I should pour."
Mrs Witherston's face lit up and she batted her eyes at him. "Such a gentleman!"
Taking the other chair from an underfed-looking cat, Severus drew his wand, Summoned food for the cat and a real tea, and poured it while trying to work out how best to help the lady.
A part of him that he tried not to listen to with any sort of attention whispered, This could have been you.
Life with Luna had saved him from any such hellish future, Severus knew that—and he was going to save Mrs Witherston.
No one should live like this. No one should ever be so alone!
When Luna arrived at the Witherston Witchery, it was to find the shop closed. Peering inside the window, she could see a sliver of light shining through the crack of the door at the back, so she went around to the rear of the building to see if Witherston was at home.
She was rather surprised, when in answer to her knock, Severus opened the lady's door.
"You're wearing an apron." The apron had a lovely lace frill edging it, and it didn't suit Severus at all. Oh, but look how shiny your shoes are!
Severus blushed. "Come in, but whisper. Mrs Witherston is sleeping."
Luna stepped into a half-grimy kitchen, noting how the cleaning implements were diligently scrubbing its other half. "Oh, dear. She really couldn't have brewed her way out of here. All the cauldrons are filthy."
"I'm working on those. None of my cleaning charms were strong enough to deal with them."
"So," Luna said, feeling sad, "is it all like this?"
"Yes. The front of the shop is in a terrible state—ill-stocked and disorganised—and the rooms..."
"Has Mrs Witherston gone dotty, Severus?"
He nodded. Luna moved to embrace him, his expression was so grim.
"No, I'm filthy, too."
"What's a little dirt?" Luna asked, kissing one corner of Severus' frown and then the other. "I'll help you, and then we'll find out where her family is." Luna was pleased to see that he almost smiled in response to her words. "Harry and Ron can help us with that."
"If they must."
"Oh, Severus, I think you know the answer to that."
Later that night when they were both clean and snuggled against each other, Luna asked, "What made you go see Mrs Witherston?"
Severus mumbled something that Luna couldn't understand.
"You wanted to shout at her, didn't you, for her awful column?"
"For her dreadfully irresponsible advice," Severus agreed.
"But then you saw that she was in trouble and you stayed to help."
Luna sniffled and let a tear or two fall; she always cried when she was happy. "That was lovely of you."
Severus snorted. "I'm a lovely man."
"You are a lovely man. There aren't many people who would have helped a scared, lonely, ill old lady. You're very good."
"What I am is concerned. I wish to return to the Witherston household tomorrow to—"
"Oh, of course. I want that, too. We'll keep on eye on the ladies, you and I. Oh, and perhaps I should take over Mrs Witherston's column. Toadstone's taught me enough that I could do it, and it would give me something to discuss with Mrs Witherston on our visits."
"My wife," Severus murmured, in that hoarse way of his that curled Luna's toes and meant "I love you."
"I... want kisses."
Luna shifted so that she was leaning over Severus and asked, "Where?"
In the moonlight, Severus' grin was breathtaking.
Sometime later, while panting and fighting the desire to laugh, he was so happy, Severus declared, "I wish to amend the Arrangement."
"We already have a section devoted to neither of us becoming seriously ill or dying."
"It's not that," Severus said, tightening his embrace of Luna. "I don't want to miss meals together."
"Then you'll need to be flexible with regard to guests or going out. Sometimes, our friends can only meet us on week nights."
Severus considered. Potter and Weasley had come with minimal delay to Witherston's shop and had seen her newly widowed, second daughter installed as her mother's caretaker within four hours of their initial assessment of the situation. Severus had appreciated their efficiency and the fact that neither one of them had remarked upon the apron, which he'd forgotten to remove before their arrival.
"Fine. On rare occasions, I wouldn't object to dining with friends."
"Your friends," Severus corrected himself.
Luna bit his shoulder lightly; Severus smiled into the darkness.
"I love you, you know."
"It's because I'm a lovely man."
Luna's hand trailed down Severus' chest and slid beneath the bedclothes. "Every bit of you, yes."
Severus grunted and thrust upward.
"I'm glad," Luna said, straddling Severus, "that you won't mind dining with friends more often because I've... oh, I like how you feel... invited everyone to come 'round next week."
Severus would have objected, but Luna was well within her proposed time limit for invitational notices, and he was too happily laden with Luna to mind anything at all.