Characters: Severus, Daphne
Word Count: 918
Summary: Severus is troubled by a Slytherin observation.
Disclaimer: This work of fan fiction 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 fan work.
Author's Note: This ficlet follows my previous post, A Thoroughly Inappropriate Riddle.
Severus had to circle the Black Lake twice before only Daphne remained of the "Inter-House Unity Club," as he'd been thinking of it to himself, and he noted that she did, in fact, appear to be holding a copy of the Codex Exoniensis. "Preparing for your next round of riddles, are you?" he asked, stopping before her.
"Mostly just enjoying one of Father's old books, sir, but I do like to be prepared. Chang and Zabini are wicked riddlers."
Severus snorted, a noncommittal sound. "How often do you play against Ravenclaws? What are the rules?"
Carefully laying aside her book, Daphne rose. "We mostly play amongst ourselves whenever we can, and the rules are simple: one must offer the most un-guessed riddles to win."
"Do you enjoy Anglo-Saxon poetry, sir?" asked Daphne, appearing completely at ease to be speaking with her Head of House.
It was one of the reasons that he'd stopped to speak with her. "One" did grow weary of being looked upon with alarm, but he didn't say as much to Daphne.
Instead, he replied, in part to test her knowledge of the codex, "Some fiend robbed me from life, deprived me of worldly strengths, wetted next, dipped in water, took out again, set in the sun, deprived violently of the hair that I had after, the hard knife's edge cut me, ground from impurities, fingers folded and a bird's delight spread useful drops over me, swallowed tree-ink over the ruddy rim, portion of liquid, stepped on me again, travelled with black track. After, a man clad me with protective boards, covered with hide, adorned me with gold. Forthwith adorned me in ornamental works of smiths, encased with wire. Now the trappings and the red dye and the wondrous setting widely make known the helm of the lord's folk, never again guard fools. If children of men want to use me they will be by that the safer and the more sure of victory the bolder in heart and the happier in mind, in spirit the wiser. They will have friends the more dearer and closer, righteous and more virtuous, more good and more loyal, those whose glory and happiness will gladly increase, and them with benefits and kindnesses, and they of love will clasp tightly with embraces. Ask what I am called as a service to people. My name is famous, bountiful to men and my self holy. Who am I?"
Daphne smiled. "What are you, I think it should be."
Severus nodded, pleased.
"The Muggle Bible."
"And can you read such riddles in the Old English?"
Daphne issued a self-deprecating laugh. "Anything's legible with a translation charm, sir."
Severus leaned down a bit and half-whispered, "I make use of those, myself." A floral scent washed over him; at once, he straightened up and away from its influence. "No wonder you win the riddle game so frequently."
"It's not as though I have the Old English Exeter Book memorised, of course. It's just that I do know how to cook, at least, a little, and I'm partial to onions, so remembering today's winning riddle wasn't difficult."
"You can cook?"
"You sound surprised, sir."
"I am. Given your family's . . . situation," Severus said, waving a hand and feeling rather foolish.
Daphne didn't appear to notice his discomfiture, replying, "Tessy's a dreadful cook, but Father enjoyed camping and taught me a few simple dishes in self-defence."
"I have a difficult time imagining that Diana was pleased by that."
"Then you know Mother well, sir, but it was Tessy who worried me. She punished herself for my cooking, so—"
"You stopped," Severus interrupted, feeling certain that Daphne wouldn't allow any creature to harm itself on her behalf, pure-blood witch though she was.
"Actually, I asked her to teach me other dishes, and because she thought I was approaching cookery as a game, she did—without hurting herself anymore."
"That was kind of you," Severus replied, at once wishing that he hadn't.
"I like Tessy," Daphne told him with a shrug, before bending down to gather up her books.
No, Albus, there's no reason not to have abolished the robes requirement on the weekends, though Severus, shifting his gaze to the lake—until he heard Daphne clear her throat to speak.
"Thank you, sir."
He looked at her again, saw her square her shoulders as she hugged her books to her chest, and felt something of the ease between them pass.
"It was nice of you to take an interest," Daphne continued, tilting her head to one side.
Again feeling as though he'd been dismissed and welcomed in the same breath, Severus nodded in confusion. Why doesn't she go? he wondered, but only briefly. Oh. She's your student, you idiot. She can't dismiss you.
She was his student, and he'd been playing something of a game with her, he suddenly realised as he observed the fading sunlight dance in her hair. The pause between them grew awkward, but Severus, by dint of long practice in such matters, didn't permit it to deepen into something more.
"I trust that you won't share my appreciation of Anglo-Saxon poetry with anyone. The loss of points to Slytherin were I to discover mocking poems on my desk, for example, would be painful."
Daphne laughed. "Yes, sir. Your secret's safe with me." With those words, she did leave him.
And Severus, even as he damned himself for having indulged in the thoroughly inappropriate observation of a student, compounded his error by watching Daphne walk away.