(Highlight to View) Warning(s): None.
(Highlight to View) Prompt: A cuttlefish has three hearts, and so does Severus Snape." The requirement is to use this sentence in some way, either literally or figuratively. The stranger the use, the better.
Summary: Severus can dissect hearts in more ways than one.
"Right," said Hermione. "You have two choices, young lady. You can either help me sort through some old paperwork, or you can spend the day doing some of the set reading before term starts."
"Oh muuum." Heather Snape whined. "Can't you see I'm broken-hearted?"
Heather had all the classic signs of a broken heart: dark shadows under her eyes, unbrushed hair, coming to breakfast in her pyjamas, and restlessly poking at her breakfast whilst not consuming anything above a bit of toast. No jam.
"I can certainly see you're moping, but hard work is the best cure for that," Hermione replied. "I know it feels like the world has ended, but…."
"You never liked him anyway," Heather said, slumping down further in her chair, abandoning the argument that she wasn't moping but suffering as a lost hope in the face of her mother's constant levelheadedness.
"I never said so," Hermione said.
"You didn't need to. I could tell, and so could he." Heather scowled. "And besides, I heard you talking to Dad one night, about how you hoped I would get over him, but it was for the best if you didn't forbid us to see each other because that would only make us keener. It's no wonder we didn't last. We were Romeo and Juliet, separated by the cruel indifference of an unfeeling family."
"And yet, you're still alive," Severus said, shifting from a position of neutrality behind the Daily Prophet. "My advice is, don't take Draught of Living Death. It has a really nasty taste, and it's unlikely to bring young Colin back, unless he has advanced tastes."
"Severus! Necrophilia is not an appropriate topic over breakfast."
"I merely said advanced tastes," Severus remarked mildly, disappearing behind his paper again. "You were the one who moved to that conclusion."
"And you, young lady, shouldn't listen at doors," Hermione said, giving her daughter a hard look.
"I notice you're not denying it," Heather replied.
"No," said Hermione. "That is what I said. I thought Colin was a nice enough boy, but not bright enough to hold your attention for too long."
"Show's what you know. He dumped me, not the other way round. I hadn't even begun to get tired of him." Heather let out a long huff, jiggling her foot in suppressed exasperation. "And now you want me to slave for you. Well, I won't."
"I hardly think that asking you for a little help counts as slave labour."
Heather looked imploringly at her father. "Daaaad?"
Severus lowered the paper, and exchanged a long look with his wife. "You can help me in the lab, if you'd like?"
"Yeah, great!" Heather snatched up a piece of toast, and dashed off to get dressed before her mother could change her mind.
"This is detention, isn't it?" Heather announced, swiftly bisecting a flobberworm and discarding the unwanted innards. "I actually volunteered for detention."
Severus smirked at his daughter. "You should have asked what help I needed."
"Even so." Heather scowled at her mucus covered hand, then carefully wiped her forehead with the still-clean back of her hand. "It had to be better than what Mum planned."
"I can see that sorting papers, followed by a trip to Fortescue's for ice cream was a hardship compared to the joy of slicing and dicing invertebrates."
Heather turned her scowl on her father, who just grinned at her.
"If the wind changes, your face will stay like that," he said.
"Oh, ha bloody ha."
"So…?" said Severus.
Heather shrugged. "So, what?"
"Do you want to talk about it?"
Heather snorted. "Did Mum put you up to this?"
Severus arched an eyebrow. "Do you think that your mother would need to?"
Heather poked a flobberworm particularly hard. "No. S'pose not."
"Your mother would tell me that I have to be non-judgemental and supportive and open to whatever you want to say to me. I say that I am a Potions' Master, and there are any number of non-fatal but unpleasant potions that could fall into the drinks of ex-boyfriends, if required."
Heather brightened, then let out a long, martyred sigh. "Mum wouldn't let you. She'd do that disappointed face that she does."
"Your mother…" Severus shook his head, decrying the innocence of youth. "Your mother has left a book of charms by your bedside has she not?"
"Homework!" Heather protested. "She set me homework to take my mind off boys."
"If you'd read the book, you would have noticed the very interesting section on time delayed hexes and their uses."
"Oh." Heather blinked a couple of times, processing the information that her mother was rather sneakier and more vindictive that she had supposed. "Really?"
Severus snorted. "I've seen you reading the more lurid tales written by Skeeter about your mother and what she got up to as a student. You heard what she called the Minister for Magic last night over dinner. You know better than to suppose she's a law abiding and well behaved, and you know she loves you very much."
"So why didn't she offer to hex him herself?"
"She trusts you to make the decision on whether what he's done needs hexing." Severus sliced deftly through his cassia root, splitting it into careful equal sized cubes with an expertise Heather found vaguely disturbing.
"And you, dad?"
"Your mother doesn't trust me to make that decision at all." Severus smirked. "She does, however, expect me not to get caught."
"I can't hex someone for dumping me," Heather said thoughtfully, trying the idea out for size.
"You can. It depends on why," Severus said softly.
Heather had never really understood why people were frightened of her father. She had told anyone who would listen that he was just a big softy underneath his gruff manner, but in that moment she could see Bastard Snape flexing behind her father's eyes.
She sighed, letting go of the fantasy of a be-warted Colin. "Mum was right. He was dull. I'm just irritated that he got to dump me before I got round to dumping him. It's nothing really."
"Nothing worth hexing someone over. Or slipping them a potion. Or anything more than a couple of weeks of moping, and some hard looks when next we bump into each other."
Severus settled back into being just dad again. "And do you want to talk about it?"
Heather sat down on the stool to watch her father continue deftly slicing and dicing, propping her head on her hands. "Did Mum put you up to asking?"
"You were there at breakfast," he replied mildly.
"S'pose not then."
"I do anticipate that she will ask me tonight whether you wanted to talk about it," he added, not mentioning his wife's ability to communicate her wishes by simply being in the same room after so long a marriage. "So?"
"Merlin, he was boring," Heather said eventually. "He talked about nothing but football."
"It was Quidditch in my day."
"He wanted to be all progressive and pro-Muggle," Heather replied. "What with him being a Pureblood."
"Ah." Severus slipped his sliced Jerba root into the cauldron, and stirred four times in a figure eight. "Sensible of him, though I can appreciate that you would prefer him not to share his interests."
"Mum said that was one of the reasons she split up with Uncle Ron," Heather offered.
"One of the many," Severus replied, and sliced through another root. "His habit of walking out on commitments was another."
"I didn't know that. You've never said. I always liked playing with Uncle Ron when I was little. He was good fun, and he'd take us up on his broom and give us flying lessons behind Mum's back."
"He took his godfather duties seriously enough," Severus replied. "He'd step in front of a dragon for you. He's just unreliable when it comes to your mother."
"But you're telling me now," Heather said, half a question in her voice.
"You're old enough to be able to understand, to weigh a man's failings against his good points, and have mercy on his weaknesses." Severus' lips twitched wryly. "And Merlin knows, I have my own faults to seek mercy for."
Heather worked on her dicing for a couple of minutes, digesting her father's words and rearranging the world round this new knowledge, like stirring a cauldron until its contents came together into a potion rather than a collection of plants and animal secretions.
"So, how did you and Mum end up together then? It wasn't just that you talked about more than Quidditch, was it? How did you know she was the one you wanted to marry?"
"Your mother told me she was the one I should marry."
"Oh." Heather looked down at the work surface. "So Colin was right then?"
"About Mum being second best. I mean, if she asked you to marry her…?"
Severus put down his knife very carefully, and fixed his daughter with a powerful stare. "Second best?" he said softly, and if Heather thought that she'd seen bastard Snape earlier, her father now had the look of someone who had fought in a war, and who was preparing for another one.
"He said that… You know." Heather waved her hands, searching for the right words, the ones that would ease her father's dreadful stillness.
"Let me guess - Lily?"
Heather shrugged. "Yeah. Lily."
Severus moved again, flicking a slimy, tentacle creature in front of him and deftly removing its stomach with the air of someone imagining a different face beneath his knife.
"I hope you didn't read the Skeeter book. You know how much it annoys your mother," he said.
"I read it, but I bought it second hand, so she didn't get a sickle out of me." Heather grinned.
"A compromise we can live with." Severus nodded gravely. "Most of it is speculation; the greater part is nonsense, with some lurid rumours added to sweeten the pot. I did love Lily. I do love your mother, and anyone who ever calls her second best is an idiot and a fool."
"Ok," Heather said. "But Mum asked you to marry her, you didn't ask her? Why did she have to ask you, if she was so special?"
"Before I met your mother, I did not get the things I wanted. I had failed to realise that my life had changed enough to allow her to be something I wanted and could have. She simply persuaded me that I had a future, and not just a past."
"That's … What did she say? Was the proposal romantic?" Heather asked.
"Your mother said I was like this creature and I had three hearts. One for Lily, one for putting that right, and one for her." Severus picked up the cuttlefish and spread it wide across the table, long fingers probing its flesh. "And if I was free the following Saturday, she was prepared to make the whole arrangement permanent."
"That's sort of romantic, I suppose." Heather surveyed the slimy creature askance. "If you don't mind being compared to something with tentacles."
"I've been called worse," he replied.
Heather shook her head in disbelief. "Only you could be wooed with potions ingredients."
Her father cocked his head to one side, as if to say, and what's wrong with that?
"And Mum was definitely right about Colin. He was dull, he had no style, and he had no heart if he couldn't see that you and Mum were real."
There was another moment of silence as they busied themselves with more slicing and grinding, acknowledging the shape of their bonds by allowing them to be recognised in passing, as all important things are, because looking at them straight on is too raw.
"Your mother was wrong in one particular," Severus said eventually. His face softened, and he smiled at Heather. "I had three hearts, one for Lily, one for her, and one for you."