A Horned Slug, PassantAuthor: purplefluffycatPrompt:
The ABCs of sex: L; and AUgust: 'Voldemort wins'Pairings:
Horace Slughorn/Luna LovegoodThemes:
For you to guess :-) Content:
I'm not sure whether this should be an apology or an assurance(!) but it's not actually very porny - more of the AU scenario that insisted on being taken for a walk. It does just qualify for the R rating, though. I hope you give it a try, despite/because of the unorthodox pairing!Rating:
In a dystopian future where Voldemort has triumphed, Horace receives a disturbing letter from the Department for the Preservation and Furthering of Magical Blood.
Pacing the halls of his beautiful country mansion, Horace felt terrible. He glanced at the clock above the mantel. She'll be here, soon.
That made him feel worse.
One of the elves scurried into view - and despite it all, Horace couldn't help but be distracted by the thought that their new purple and gold tea-towels were an excellent choice; very smart. The elf bowed low, tripping on the hem.
"Yes, yes. What is it, Dimply?" He tried to keep the impatience out of his voice; the elves had only just come back to service, after all.
"It's all laid out in the Great Hall, Master. But the things that wouldn't fit, Dimply and Trinkle put in the Upper Gallery, we did. We are hoping that is alright for Master, sir?"
"-And it's all wrapped in the custom-printed papers and ribbons?"
"Yes, Master. Dimply is thinking it looks very nice. Very, very nice."
"Good, good." Horace's stomach knotted again. "And how about supper?"
"The Dining Room is all set, Master. But..." The elf hesitated, wringing his over-long tea towel.
"Well, the thing is, Master, sir... the kitchen elves, they are saying, they are, that... that some of the ingredients in those Quibbler recipes Master wanted, they don't..." He trailed off again.
Horace felt his bushy eyebrows snap together. "They don't, what
Dimply gulped. "Exist." He cowered.
In spite of himself, Horace had to laugh. Absolutely perfect, really
, he thought, somewhat hysterically, for this whole fearful, humiliating farce.
Turning his attention back to the little elf, who now looked equally terrified and in expectation of a slap, Horace said, "You've done very well, Dimply. You all have. Just let me know when she arrives at the gates."
Dimply seemed to bounce in wonder and surprise at the words, a grin from floppy ear to floppy ear. "Thank you, Master. Yes, Master."
"Could you turn up your tea-towel by a couple of inches? We don't want any nasty accidents."
"Yes, Master." He disappeared in a pop, clearly deciding to escape while the going was good.
Horace smiled fondly, and then collapsed in an armchair.
It had been only four months since the official end of the war - the sad demise of the Potter boy and his friends - but things had moved very quickly.
The new order was in place, its stranglehold on the country, complete. There was no resistance left; nothing to fight for. So many noble people had died, and so many despicable people were cawing and gloating as if they had inherited the earth. Perhaps they had.So, what,
thought Horace, for the umpteenth time, am I doing here, restored to my ancestral seat, Gringotts account untouched, and nestling in the very lap of luxury?
There had been no explanation when the jailers had come to let him out of the cell, three days after that terrible, terrible battle. He had still been wearing his tattered pyjamas, along with four days of dirt and an overwhelming sense of loss that would never wash clean. They had merely given him a portkey back home and said, "You are free to go. Do nothing to disrespect the Dark Lord, and you may stay that way."
Some of his colleagues had received the same treatment - but only the purebloods. Aurora was back in Wales, in the family farmhouse. Minerva had been released, but only on condition that she leave the country and never return. Horace wouldn't allow himself to think of what they had done to Filius.
Since then, he had barely dared to go outside his own front door. Horace communicated little with the outside world, save for orders of supplies from those Mayfair purveyors he had always used, who so happened to be unquestionably pureblood. Although his heart ached for all that had happened and all that had been lost, he reached out to no-one - for fear of what he might find, and through that clamouring wish to draw no attention to himself. In the grimmest of times, self-preservation is a powerful thing, indeed - a truism that Horace always had, and forever would, feel rather more keenly than he cared to admit.
But with money and a project on his side, it was odd how he had managed to half-delude himself into having a nice little time within these walls. The old place had been in mothballs ever since Horace had packed up and gone on the run, and the elves had become sad and listless. Now, with floors and chimneys swept, carpets beaten, topiary trimmed and ceilings re-gilded, it was back to its former glory, and the kitchen elves were doing everything they could to keep him happy. On some days, if he squinted and made a point of not thinking too hard, it was almost working.
Horace swirled the gin and gillywater he had poured, and shuddered as the vile thought snuck up on him once more: perhaps He Who Must Be Named had remembered
. Perhaps, even, he was... grateful. Grateful for those fateful words that had been charmed out of Horace a lifetime ago. The words that had set all of this terror on its path.
He downed the drink and shook his head vigorously, pushing the idea away with clumsy might. There was no point in dwelling on such things.
Especially not today, when a new and terrifying challenge was about to land on his doorstep, breaching his asinine bubble like a Grindylow with a clutch of fresh merpuff eggs. Horace glanced to the coffee table, where the official notification still sat, taunting him:
Department for the Preservation and Furthering of Magical Blood,
Ministry of Magic,
12th September 1998
Curlicew Park House,
Re: Marriage Arrangements
Dear Professor Slughorn,
It has come to our attention that you are the last of a Pureblood line of English wizards. As you will no doubt appreciate, the Slughorn bloodline can be traced back to 1534; it would be both a genealogical travesty and a significant oversight on our part, to allow it die with you.
Therefore, as part of our Programme of Promulgation of Pure Wizarding Blood, you have been allocated a spouse of child-bearing age and acceptable lineage. No further ceremonies are necessary; the marriage has been completed and registered in our Department.
The young woman, who has hitherto been in our care, will be delivered to you on the evening of the 27th September. Her name is Luna Elspeth Adriana Lovegood.
May I take this opportunity to congratulate you on your marriage, toward our shared goal of Wizarding supremacy in this country, and abroad.
Madam Dolores Umbridge
Chief of the Department for the Preservation and Furthering of Magical Blood, Ministry of Magic
Once again, Horace found himself somewhere between laughing and sobbing. It was surreal. How could the world - their world, his
world - have come to this?
He had always tried to be a decent man. Admittedly, the partnered sins of sloth and greed had done their fair share to help along his lifestyle, but he had never in his life knowingly hurt
anybody. On the contrary - he'd shared around his good fortune with great liberality and the smile of the generous. He treated his elves well, and would always have been the first to pour another glass for any chap who was down in the dumps.
Life had ebbed and flowed, and overall, Horace had been pretty happy with his lot. There had been the odd amour
here and there, but nothing overly serious - and really, looking back, he didn't feel its lack.
Now, though, in this sorry ending of it all, what a moribund picture he painted: the last custodian of the Slughorn bloodline; that noble font of magic and ancestry lolloping around in his sad old veins with nowhere else to go. - And it was all about to be inflicted on a brave, captive, young woman who was approximately the most heroic person left alive.
Once again, Horace's stomach clenched with embarrassment and regret and sadness - for himself, for the country, and for so many things that he didn't really allow himself to think of, at all. He could only hope that all of his diversion tactics could take the edge off the awfulness, just enough for him to live with himself. And once again, he had that dreadful sinking feeling that he was just about to find out.*****
She arrived on Thestral-back, just as dusk was falling. Her hair was almost luminescent against those wings that beat and slithered against the inky-blue night and she wore the Ministry's Control Charm as if it were a kind of crown.
The beast landed lightly just in front of the knotted garden, and pawed at the gravel in a way that implied it had been much more comfortable in the air. Luna stepped down and looked from side to side, taking in her surroundings without hurry, like a visitor in one of those well-meaning cultural exchange programmes that they used to have between Hogwarts and Beauxbatons.
She was not very tall, thought Horace - but there again, neither was he. She was, however, undeniably beautiful.
"Professor Slughorn," Luna said in greeting, now at the top of the front steps.
Horace squirmed. "Please... I'm not a Professor any more."
She smiled kindly. "Ok, then. 'Horace'."
"Um... Madam." He bowed formally, largely to obscure the blush climbing into his moustaches, and held the door open for her to enter the house.
Luna was wearing a dark blue cape, and underneath, some simple witches' robes, in a dove grey. Although tasteful, they looked suspiciously like something that had been issued, rather than chosen. That gave Horace the tiniest hope that his plan might go down well.
She took her time in the entrance hall, taking in every detail of the carving and the artwork. Finally, almost more to herself than to anyone in particular, Luna said, "It's very nice, here," and floated on through to the Great Hall, where the elves were waiting.
Horace followed, his feet feeling like lead. "You must be tired from the journey," he started, playing for time.
"No, not particularly." Luna smiled pleasantly. "I like Thestrals, and Binky was very gentle."
"Binky?" Horace blinked.
"Yes; the poor dear told me he'd never had a name. So I gave him one. I think he liked having a cheerful name. Everyone assumes that Thestrals are terribly severe, moribund creatures, but it's not true, you know."
"No?..." Horace managed.
"Oh no, not at all. They're quite playful really, when you get to know them."
Horace nodded, taking that in and idly considering whether a small herd would fit on the West lawn. "Miss Lovegood, please allow me to introduce Dimply, who is the Senior Elf at Curlicew Park." Dimply bowed low, even as Luna gave him a little wave. "And this is Trinkle, who has been specifically assigned to your care."
Luna looked at the smaller of the two elves, and crouched down so that they were nose to nose. "Hello, Trinkle."
"Mistress," she squeaked, and shuffled. Dimply nodded approvingly.
"I'm not sure I'll really need much looking after, Trinkle," said Luna - at which Trinkle looked immediately crestfallen - "But I'm sure we can play some wonderful games."
The little elf's expression morphed from disappointment to downright bewilderment. Horace swept in with a declaration that it would all be superb, he was sure, and that playing games were, from now on, an official part of Trinkle's bonded duties. That seemed to smooth things over just fine, and Horace chalked up one tiny victory in the aversion of disasters that he hadn't even anticipated. This was going to be one very long day.
"Would you care for some tea, Miss Lovegood?" he asked, gesturing to the laid table on the dais.
"That would be very nice." When they were seated and the elves had poured, she added, "But I'm a little confused by the 'Miss Lovegood'. Isn't it the case that-"
"-Oh, please don't!" At those words, Horace felt all of the guilt and unworthiness and tainted mercy attack him once more, and flinched as he lost his strained cool. "I mean to say... that is..." He trailed off. Hysterical tears welled behind his eyes and he fought them back. He took a deep breath. "This is..." The lump in his throat threatened to stop the words from emerging once again.Come on, old man,
Horace chided himself, and pressed on with the declaration he had rehearsed: "This is not the world that any of us would have chosen. But, for my very small part in it, I want to make it as bearable for you as possible. Whatever suffering you have endured since..." - that lump, again - "...will not continue here." Horace steeled himself. "I've had the house remodelled so the second floor of the East Wing is entirely private for you. There is a separate entrance by the rose garden; you can come and go as you please - and really, you won't even have to know whether I'm at home or not, if you don't want to." Inwardly, he rolled his eyes. Of course I'll be bloody well in.
He knew he was too cowardly to be anywhere else.
Sensing that the little speech was at an end, Luna looked at him openly and seriously. "That's all very kind of you," she said - with such mildness and placid inscrutability that they might as well have been discussing whether she would like sugar in her tea, rather than the fact that the regime of a murderous tyrant had issued her in forced marriage to an old fool of unimpressive stature and decidedly tatty moral fibre.
"And as a token of my benign intentions," Horace pushed on, "Please accept these gifts that have been chosen with your comfort in mind." He solemnly flicked his wand to draw back a purple velvet curtain, behind which lay the largest stack - nay, mountain
- imaginable, of exquisitely wrapped presents - reaching from the polished floor of the hall, up past the family portraits and alighting on the Mistrels' Gallery with its pierced golden balcony.
"Oh, my goodness!" exclaimed Luna, and she giggled in something between shock and simple delight. "For me? Really?" Horace nodded, blushing again. "How enormously wonderful and silly of you." She considered, taking in the vertiginous pile. "Should I open them now?"
Horace nodded, a little shyly. "They are charmed to accio
in numbered order. So yes, please go ahead."
Luna pulled her wand from a pocket and then looked down, running a delicate finger over the shaft. "It's so nice to have it back." A pause. "Here we go, then, accio number one."
An elaborate parcel sped across the room to land in her hands. The purple and gold embossed paper glistened in the firelight, and the ribbons were so pert and perfect, they could almost have been thoroughbred beasts. She looked carefully at the pattern. "Is this our coat of arms?"
Horace squirmed, but whether that was with pride or discomfort, he wasn't quite sure. "Yes: a horned slug, passant. On a field of Gillyweed, or. 'Or' means 'gold' by the way. In the old French." He fumbled with the tassel of his robes.
Luna peered carefully at the paper. "How very nice. I've often thought that slugs don't get the attention they deserve. Quite charming little creatures - and they are actually much more intelligent than people give them credit for."
"Mmmm. Is that so?" Horace said, doubtfully.
Incurring minimum damage to the paper, Luna unwrapped the gift: a box containing a small golden key.
"As I said, it's for your part of the house." She nodded, taking that in. "And," he added, getting into his stride, rather, "If you continue with the rest, you might find some things to go in it."
She chucked again, and it sounded like silver bells. In steady succession, Luna summoned the other parcels, and revealed all manner of treasures: Dirigible Plum tree saplings in golden pots; first edition books of rare and exotic magical creatures; a music box that played mer-music underwater; plans for a fairy garden; dress robes and night robes in all colours of the rainbow with exquisite embroideries and pearls and gems; an enormous bathtub in the shape of a scallop shell; a doorknob that asks riddles; a Pensieve with full set of vials; and, hastily conjured on top of the pile, a sketch of where a paddock for Thestrals might go at the side of the house come the warmer weather
As each parcel came loose, and Luna smiled and laughed and thanked him for the contents, Horace felt a little of the awful tension slip away. Everything was going far better than he had even hoped it might. There had been no cursing, or fighting, or hateful silence. There had not even been tears and terror and denial. She was... delightful.
How could a person who had suffered so much, be so whole
? Luna wore her sadness with such dignity and grace, and had been kind and courteous to him in a way that he didn't - that this awful world
didn't - deserve.
Horace allowed himself a dangerous, treacherous thought - a thought that he wondered might have been contagious; whisked to him through the air from someone who carried far more hope about life than he: perhaps, just perhaps, this wasn't going to be so awfully awkward and terrible, after all. Maybe they could be friends.
Indeed, in some strange, abstract part of his brain, it almost seemed as if little portions of the guilt for being still alive - for being himself
- had transmuted into a host of elaborate knick-knacks and expensive doo-dahs, all done up in fine, gold ribbon. And now, a wonderful, strange, young woman was undoing all of that elaborately-wrapped self-flagellation, and setting it free.
When the final gift had been uncased, and a towering stack of miscellany now stood where the parcels had been, Luna said - perhaps more to herself than to him - "I don't think anyone has ever been more thoughtful." She paused for a moment, and frowned. "I expect you had to do a lot of research."
"Well... yes." Horace shifted in his seat, unsure as to whether he was really being complimented for effort, or castigated for spying. "But all perfectly above-board, I assure you. I read as many of your guest columns in The Quibbler
as I could find, and I asked some of the other teachers -" He stuttered, "I mean, errr, ex-
teachers, what they thought you might like..."
She smiled, and then reached over to touch the back of his hand. It was cool and soft, like moonlight. "I think it's extremely kind. Thank you, Horace."
It was at this point that Horace nodded, upped and hurried away, trying to underline the fact that he really wasn't going to impose himself on her. As he left the room, his hand tingled and sang, making every part of his body aware of her touch and his silly old heart go pitter-pat.******
Despite the predicament in which the kitchen elves had found themselves, dinner was excellent. So thought Horace, as he mopped the last of the Hungarian dewberry gravy from his plate with a dainty crust of moonflower bread, and listened to Luna's animated musings on the subject of Kraken sightings in the Antarctic Ocean. There had been many, apparently. And recently.
The candlelight glimmered softly on the family silver - out and shining again for the first time in many years - and, if Horace squinted, it was almost as if someone nice had accepted an invitation to dinner with him, of her own free will.
He was also delighted to find out that Luna was just as enthusiastic about pudding as he was. "You made caramel springbunny cakes! My favourite!" Although Luna didn't quite make it to the fourth helping, she also didn't make him feel awkward when he did. Or the fifth, for that matter.
And as the finest elf-made wine ran in his veins, he couldn't help but think what a clever and attractive girl she was, and how the conversation did in fact seem to be flowing without any awkwardness at all.
"Where do we sleep?"
The question snapped Horace out of his post-pudding reverie, making him start. He was quite sure that he had missed something, and he suddenly felt off-balance. "Well, as you've seen, I have arranged for your apartments to be on the second floor," he blustered. "As I said, I've had them put in a separate entryway, so you can come and go in peace; all completely private, I promise." His voice took on an entreating tone. "And the elves are, of course, fully aware of your status as Mistress of the House, so if you need anything in the night..." He petered out, wringing his napkin as Dimply had wrung his tea towel.
Luna tipped her head quizzically to one side. "Yes, that is all extremely kind of you. But where do we
Horace merely gaped for a moment, sure that he had misheard, or somehow misunderstood.
Luna smiled kindly. "That's ok; you must have had a long day, too. I'll have a wander, and work it out, I'm sure. Actually, it will be quite fun to explore the rest of the house. It really is very beautiful."
And with that, she nodded, rose from the table, and dreamily left the room.******
Horace went to bed with less dilly-dallying and filibustering than usual, that night. Typically, he'd retire to his chambers, pretending to himself that it was bedtime, and then sit for hours in his dressing gown with a large glass of firewhisky and the charade of a book. In reality, he was merely avoiding the unfettered thoughts and sleeplessness that came when he turned out the lights - by turns moribund and nightmarish. Battle flashbacks played before his eyes, and nagging thoughts of loneliness plagued a fitful slumber with rearing spectres of unworthiness. Bed was not a happy place.
That night, thought, he felt somehow... better. The relief of nervous tension, maybe? The completion, in a way, of a large aesthetic project? Or perhaps just some decent conversation, of which Horace realised he had been sorely starved.
He climbed into his bed - so tall that it had a step-stool to one side - with the full achievement of the Slughorn arms emblazoned on the purple velvet canopy. The linen was crisp and cool, and he was asleep in moments.
He was asleep that was, until a gentle rustling appeared to his side.
"Oh, sorry. I didn't mean to wake you. I was just out exploring the gardens, and got rather carried away with the time." Luna snuggled down under the covers, and Horace's mind - for all his wittiness, and repartee and life-experience - went perfectly, dauntingly blank. What on earth was he supposed to do now?
Luna seemed to move closer, and the edge of her silk nightgown brushed his fingers. Like a prey animal in the glare of some fearsome beast, Horace's every muscle, sinew and tendon froze in place. Even his breath seemed to stop, and his skin prickled and chilled.
And then - crazily, unbelievably - she spooned next to him, her slender frame fitted to his side as she nestled between his arm and his body, her head resting on his shoulder, and her arm laid across his chest. She was warm and firm and delightful, and her skin was finer even than the silk of her nightdress. Luna hummed a little, and the kissed him on the cheek; softly, deliberately. Horace felt utterly pinned to the spot.
She was just about to kiss him again, on his forehead, when Horace - throat tight and desperate - found a smidgen of voice. "Really, m'dear," he choked out, "You don't have to."
"Oh." Luna stilled, sounding nonplussed. "You don't like me. Not in that way, I suppose."
"No!" Horace exclaimed with an urgency he hadn't even realised that he was feeling. "I mean, 'yes!'. I mean..."
"Shhh... it's ok," Luna said, settling a finger across his lips. "It's perfectly natural to be nervous."
"Nervous?" Inside, Horace flailed. The sensation of her touch set off fireworks in every corner of his body. It was all he could do not to open his mouth a fraction, to taste that dainty finger; to kiss it; to kiss her
He tried to summon just a little sense. "I mean, I wouldn't want you to do anything under duress. I know what I look like, after all." He gave a self-effacing laugh, the hysteria returning. "For all the world, I don't want you to feel forced... I promise you, I give you my word, that nothing bad will happen if you don't-"
Luna silenced him with a kiss - a proper one, this time. She raised herself up onto her hands and bore down on him, lips sweet and insistent, and with a tongue that sought and danced with his own.
Horace could not help but groan and kiss her back, his body responding of its own accord, and years-old instincts rekindling despite the utter confusion in his mind. His hands moved from their frozen position and found her: the delicious curve at the small of her back as she arched into his touch, and the perfect globes of her hips and buttocks, encased in clinging duchesse. A shudder of lust went through him, and Luna broke the kiss, seeming to smile.
"We may as well build what happiness we can, do you not think?" Her tone was calm but serious.
"Ummm..." Words were now a failing measure, as his hands slid up and down her body, his blood beginning to boil.
"I have always regarded you as a decent man, Horace, and one with a nice sense of humour." Luna gave a little laugh. "I don't judge people on appearances."
Then, she started in his touch as if realising something, and pulled away slightly. "I'm sorry," she said in forthright tones, "I'm sure that sounded terribly
rude. I mean, I don't judge people on appearances, in what I'm told is the conventional manner." Luna seemed to muse on that for a moment. "In fact, I've been told that I don't do very much conventionally, as it happens... And also, as it happens, I think your appearance is quite nice. You look like someone who knows how to enjoy yourself, and I like that."
Horace took all that in, fairly sure that he must be asleep, but for once his dream wasn't a nightmare. Far from it. She was unicorns and rainbows; spring showers and flowers; port and Stilton; velvet and gold. "I know I don't deserve this," he managed, "But you're beautiful." Horace had meant, in body and soul
, but eloquence had deserted him, and the simple words would have to do. He laughed a little. "And I say a wholehearted 'yes' to making happiness where we can."
"Mmm," affirmed Luna, leaning down to kiss him again - and when a small, sure hand curled around his cock, Horace was lit with a million fires.
Perhaps it wasn't curtains for the old Slughorn bloodline, after all.