A Taste Of Pleasure

There had been so many long, tedious interruptions this night that when the knock came after eleven, instead of sending a curse under the door -- he'd at least have thought about it, were he not so tired -- he simply pushed his grading aside and said wearily, "Come in." No doubt it was another forlorn student, homesick for a home long gone and the loved ones gone with it, or perhaps a desperate colleague overwhelmed by such students.

How insane was it that Severus Snape, with his once-questioned loyalties and vicious tongue, had become father-confessor to a school full of grieving children and its staff? Still, he was one of the few people left here with any significant life experience, and the Headmistress had her hands full with other things.

There was no one else.

The constant stream of students and fellows badgering him for help had made him a part of Hogwarts in a way that playing the sacrificial spy never had. Apparently the respect implied had also mellowed him while he wasn't paying attention.

Somewhere, the Fates were laughing.

"Well?" he snapped at the door, which was not opening to admit some tear-stained child or frazzled coworker. The only response was another knock. "Fine. Just fine." Severus' back ached as he stood up. He needed to move about more often, and this was as good a reason as any.

"What is it?" There was no one there. He poked his head out, but only succeeded in catching a glimpse of the miscreant as the tail of a black robe snapped around the corner. Almost everyone in these hard times had taken to wearing the cheap school-issue black robes, so no help there. Even the teachers rarely bothered to transfigure their clothing unless it was for a special occasion.

A soft chime from near his feet had him three paces back, wand out, with a hex on his lips, before he even had time to look. It was good to know he still retained some skills of self-preservation. The unexpected was most likely to be unpleasant. The truth was, he would never stop being an ex-Death Eater. It had been a long time since he'd been tormented, but he remembered it well, and now it was starting again. He'd find a way to snuff this out of the bloody-minded little bastards, see if he didn't.

He peered a bit short-sightedly at something tiny and brightly colored. It was time to see the school's far-too-young mediwizard -- what was his name again? -- about that vision correction.

"Acclaro!" No hexes or curses revealed themselves at his command. Very well, he'd subject the artifact to a closer examination. Levitating it up and onto his desk, he waved his wand at it. The fussy ribbons untied themselves, the curl drooping out of them. Gold and silver paper peeled away, its creases disappearing. Severus might be able to use that some day, if he ever had need to give anyone a gift. The tiny box unfolded into neat parallellograms.

Resplendent on the now-flat box was a brown lump. It was a relatively undistiguished lump, except for the fact that even two feet away, he could smell chocolate. He began to salivate instantly, the rich, warm scent teasing him to ignore his suspicions.

Even in the post-war economic crash, students and teachers at Hogwarts ate well. Much of the rolling lawns had been turned to raising cabbages, potatoes, and peas. The greenhouses were filled with fruit. The new groundskeeper was also the gamekeeper, and his assistants were basically farmhands. Sugar, however, was extremely dear, and Hogwarts' sumptuous selection of sweets and puddings were a thing of the past. Even the Headmaster's lemon sherbets would have been welcome these days.

Severus hadn't tasted a chocolate truffle in as long as he could remember.

Selecting a small glass-stoppered cruet from a shelf in his abbreviated kitchen, he very carefully measured out exactly one drop onto the brown lump. For three seconds, Severus waited. Somehow they seemed longer than any given three seconds that came to memory. His stomach growled as a clean green halo flared around the sweet. There were no poisons in it.

Resisting the urge to pop the entire thing into his mouth and crunch through the chocolate shell, he reminded himself that there was still another possibility: like Bertie Botts' Beans, the flavor could be considerably different than the one he expected. With a yellowed nail, he cracked open the coating. The darker brown center gave every indication of being more chocolate, and was redolent of expensive liquor.

Undone, he bit down.

The explosion of melting chocolate and Grand Marnier nearly made tears come to his eyes. It was exquisite, and when it was gone he lapped every streak of confection from his stained and bony fingers. Afterward, he wondered about its source. A person likely to give him anything was also likely to have simply handed it to him. That left scores of others, and left Severus mystified. The knowledge that anyone could have left this gift at his door made him feel strangely in charity with . . . everyone.

It was an odd but warming notion, and one he decided to tuck away for future contemplation.


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