A/N: A chapter! Only a short one, because I've been super busy and things are happening, but I still love this story. I do. It's my not-so-guilty pleasure.
I'd like to respond to the lovely guest, Lexxy, who asked whether this fic was abandoned; thank you for so faithfully checking back! I hope to update more frequently and I'm sorry to have left you hanging so long. It's a mood-driven story, so it takes longer to get things down on paper. Hopefully, things will look up.
To everyone: Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I do not own the works herein, all characters from the Harry Potter Universe belong to JK Rowling, and all characters, storylines, situations, plots and the like do not belong to me. I make no money from this work. The opinions expressed in this piece are not the authors own, simply written in for the character.
Warnings: Rated M for situations, LOTS OF swearing, possible violence, sexual scenes...
Alihotsy, Aconite and Amortentia
Fleur Delacour had always been a stunningly beautiful woman. Even at seventeen, the potential had been there in her face; the softened sweep of her cheekbones, the porcelain-perfect complexion. The years had only improved what was already there, sculpting away at her until those gorgeous features had mutated into a walking wet-dream of a woman.
She was so sexy it made Lavender sick. Literally, sick. Bile had risen, if not been expelled, and no, Remus, it wasn't from the left-over Chinese she'd had for breakfast.
(Lavender didn't speak French, but say she wanted to learn, how far into the course did you have to get before the instructor would teach you to say "STAY AWAY FROM MY FIANCE YOU MAN-STEALING HELL-BEAST!"? Inquiring minds would like to know.)
Shell Cottage was predictably adorable, made all the more charming by the miniscule babbling infants on the rug in the front room. From the window, the family looked like an advertisement for - well, anything expensive and beautiful, really. The smoking-hot hubby in his apron, kissing his model wife on the cheek, while multiple cherubs in tiny Chanel onesies dotted the scene, no doubt taking a short break from their busy schedule cameoing in Renaissance landscapes.
Snape stood next to her, tapping his foot impatiently. Well, let him be impatient. Her own feet were hurting from having to stand on her tiptoes to creep on them through the window, but you didn't hear her complaining.
"Are you quite finished?" he drawled, checking his watch imperiously. "It has been ten minutes. Surely that's enough 'reconnaissance'?" He sneered the last word so emphatically that Lavender could be left in no doubt of how ridiculous he found this whole enterprise. Kind of him to make that clear.
"You never know what that bitch might be hiding in her underwear drawer," she replied without taking her eyes off the Stepford Family. "Except fancy French thongs, probably. She looks like she wears thongs." They probably didn't even ride up into her arse, either, but lay there obediently like soldiers awaiting orders, thanking the Gods that they went home with this angel rather than old Madge from down the street with her cellulite and the untreated thyroid problem that makes her sweat twelve buckets an hour.
"Do you make a habit of investigating other women's underwear choices?" Snape asked, sounding somehow both resigned and curious at the same time. Lavender decided that resigned was probably what he was going for, but the curiosity had slipped through out of turn.
"You can tell a lot about a woman by what underwear she wears," she informed him with good cheer. "I, for example, wear -"
"Let's save that for the wedding night, shall we?" he interrupted - rude - with more haste than the occasion warranted. She wasn't going to pull her skirt up and show him, after all. Not with these stockings on, anyway; they were only her second best, and she wasn't getting on that with any less than the utmost preparation. "Get away from the window. It will be rather hard to get the woman to assist in our endeavour should she find you skulking about her home like a ghoul."
Good. Watching her had Lavender reconsidering their whole effort, anyway. Marrying Snape wouldn't be that bad, would it? Not if it meant she never had to witness the indignity that was her intended drooling over the bitch. It was a matter of pride.
Snape seemed to sense this thought and made a growling noise in the back of his throat. The next thing she knew, she was being dragged backwards and away from the window by the collar of her dress, around the cottage to the door. How rude. It had taken her hours to sew this frill on! Didn't he know how hard it was to find pink with lime-green frills nowadays? Really, if he was going to tear apart her trend-setting outfits before they even got an airing, she should be getting something fun out of it.
And, if the size of his nose was anything to measure by, she was sure at least that part of their marriage would be fun.
She was deposited on the doorstep beside him as he knocked, and she noticed for the first time that he wasn't as tall as she'd always thought he was. She was of average height and proud of it - her legs were just long enough to make the taper of her full hips attractive, but not so long that she looked like an alien from an eighties B-Movie (which was lucky, because conical metal bras were not a good look on her) - and yet her head passed his shoulder, enough that if she were so inclined, and he were not about as welcoming as an ice bath in winter, she could snuggle up into his neck quite comfortably.
Something to consider, she supposed.
Fleur greeted them, of course, with typically Gallic delight. "Professor Snape! Ginny-" pronounced Gee-knee, which sent Lavender's brain spiralling off into fantasies of the proud redhead prancing about her cottage in pink gauze, twitching her nose madly alá Jeannie, "-told us zat you would be coming. Come een, come een!"
Swinging hips led them into the cosy living room Lavender had seen from outside, decorated tastefully, if a bit boringly, in creams and pinks and blues. Snape nodded approvingly at the pretty but serviceable grey couch, which made Lavender immediately hate it. Even if it did feel like a cloud beneath her arse.
"You know my Beell, of course," she said, fluttering a hand at the redhead, who shook Snape's hand and gave Lavender a peck on the cheek that made her heart flutter. There was the shadow of a Pack bond between them, but Bill had never been inducted fully into their little club of drunkards and misfits; he had a family, and therefore wasn't available for the necessary bonding activities that kept a Pack together (you know, the fighting; the hunting; the obligatory Christmas screening of Die Hard, complete with popcorn and hot chocolate and she and Pansy moaning in delight every time Bruce flexed a bicep. Which was a lot). Still, they saw each other infrequently, got along fine, and Lavender was nearly over her reaction to his ludicrous sex appeal. Nearly.
"I'll take the girls upstairs, shall I?" he murmured with a knowing smile, taking the tiny cherub's hand and stowing the tinier one in his arms before wandering out. Lavender watched them with detached curiosity, while Snape looked as if he was wondering how much the parts might go for on the black market.
"Your children are beautiful," She told Fleur, because it was her experience that mothers liked to hear that about their spawn whether it was true or not. It was true, this time, but she couldn't help but find them creepy, too, in the same way that those porcelain dolls with the eyes that moved independently of their bodies were - one expected that at any moment its head might rotate a full circle on its shoulders, or start talking demonic nonsense in a deep voice through the baby monitor, or… Well, the possibilities were endless. Lavender much preferred Parvati's kid, even if it did look like it smoked twenty a day and was about to do your taxes.
"Yes," Fleur agreed with a smile. "Zey are. Good blood, see? I am beautiful, Beell eez beautiful, therefore ze child eez lovely." She turned to Snape, which was unfortunate timing, because it made the movement look like a comment on his appearance. Probably an honest mistake, but Snape didn't see that, stiffening in his seat. "Ginny says you need a leader. Of course, zat cannot be me - I am 'appily married! But I will 'elp, yes? I know many, many people affected by zis law. Some good, some not so good."
She leaned over the back of her chair to reach for a folder Lavender hadn't noticed before. It was thick, the sheaf of paper - Muggle paper - within dotted with pink, orange and green strips that poked outward to mark the pages. "A leest," she said, handing it to Snape with a businesslike manner. "Also, ze law, annotated by my mother. Apolline Delacour is a very prominent - how do you… solicitor? For ze International Magical Congress. Per'aps her notes will help you? I, myself, found zem very enlightening."
It surprised Lavender to see that she'd been so very thorough, but she wasn't sure why. Fleur had been a Triwizard champion, after all, if a bit of a pathetic one. She worked for Gringotts, who refused to hire dunces. Yet… her face distracted Lavender from the reality of her intellect, which left her very uncomfortable, indeed. Also, feeling terribly inferior - looks, after all, were an accident of birth, and Fleur had simply won the genetic lottery there. But one had to work to be clever, something she had never had much luck at, no matter how many late nights she pulled in the privacy of her four-poster, trying and failing to measure up to Hermione.
"I'm sure this will prove most helpful," Snape said in a painfully neutral tone.
"You must have worked very hard," Lavender added, shoving resentment aside. "I can't imagine… it doesn't even affect you."
The half-Veela's face tightened. "Of course it does!" She growled, deep in her throat. Her fingers appeared to elongate, sharpening into claws, which Lavender watched with interest. "My seester, Gabrielle, she eez only fifteen. Two years, and they would have her shackled to some stranger, breeding at their pleasure! No. It eez an abomination!"
Snape rocked back on his arse, eyebrows flying upwards, but Lavender smiled, feeling the first fluttering of warmth towards this woman. She might not be able to relate to this woman when she was perfection, all clever and pretty and so sexy Lav wanted to chew her own plump leg off, but this side, the vindictive, angry woman side, she knew back to front. Circe, she wrote the book on that.
"I see we're on the same page, then," She chirped happily, suddenly into this whole mission. Gods, if all their allies were this angry… the possibilities were endless. "I will get this law repealed," She announced happily, "even if I have to rip out Shacklebolt's throat to do it."
Severus had never considered bloodlust to be an attractive trait. Years of watching Bellatrix work her particular magic had stamped all of the pleasure out of it, if he was honest. But seeing the glee in Miss Brown's eyes when she made that brash announcement…
He'd have to have been a eunuch to be unmoved, and he was no eunuch.
This epiphany lasted only long enough for them to leave the house, but even after, he found that he couldn't ignore its happening, no matter how much he might have liked to.
"Well done," his fiancée chirped brightly as they wandered away, heading toward the seafront by mutual, unspoken agreement. "I was watching you - not a drop of drool in sight! In fact, you were terribly composed, very Snape-proper. Not much sarcasm, but I'll grant you that, seeing as your brain had probably melted from her presence."
It took Severus a moment to understand the girl's meaning, and when he did, he had to bite back a growl. "Jealous, Miss Brown?" he asked, an acid edge to his voice.
"Of course I am," she responded glibly, and Severus blanched. She must have caught his expression, for she let out a great, snorting laugh that turned her face a delicate shade of beetroot. "Oh - you really? Don't take it personally, Snape. Fleur and I, we're magical creatures. There are expectations. You've been in my territory and the Ministry has declared you mine - your little human mind might not take that seriously, but my wolf has taken note. We would have been possessive with any other creature we crossed paths with - even some geriatric half House-Elf omega type with a shriveled cock and no detectable charms. That it happened to be a gorgeous Veela was just bad luck."
Severus wasn't sure whether to be relieved or affronted at this statement. To think he'd thought her attractive only moments ago! He certainly wouldn't be making that mistake again.
"I see," he bit out, tone frosty.
Miss Brown squinted at him, shielding her eyes against the sun's glare. "Oh, now you're mad."
"I am not mad."
"Yep, you're mad." She huffed, rolling her eyes. "I just don't like it when people try to take what belongs to me, okay?"
Severus' lip curled back in distaste. "I am not yours."
Miss Brown waved the folder they had been given casually. "Hopefully not." Showing a sensible steak he wouldn't have imagined her capable of, she pulled her wand from the waistband of her dress - if something that disgusting could still be called a dress, rather than a nightmare - and cast a geminio. "You look over that, I'll look over mine, and we'll regroup tomorrow at mine to trade notes?"
He eyed the pile dubiously. "That soon?"
A mistake, apparently, for he found himself rubbing a sore arm in short order, with Miss Brown running a speculative gaze over his groin. "I am not an idiot," she snapped, bringing her gaze to his. In it, he found a challenge - one she obviously wanted him to fail, if the way she was shifting her weight in preparation was any indication. Inwardly, Severus sighed. He'd never been any good with women, and now he got a violent one? At this rate, he'd be lucky to keep his tackle intact for long enough to consummate a marriage.
He ignored how his cock seemed to like that. Obviously, those years with the Death Eaters had taken their toll and he could no longer be trusted to know what was good for him.
It took a minute to focus his mind once more, since it had decided to wander off into the realm of sexual fantasy (and he did not find the idea of those voluptuous curves wrapped in leather appealing, not at all) and by the time he had, Miss Brown was looking amused once more.
"Sweet dream, was it?" she smirked. "Perhaps you should worry a little less about me getting it done, and more about yourself. With that attention span…"
Another coquettish smirk and she turned away, apparating home looking far too pleased with herself.
Severus scowled. That woman!