|Beth H (bethbethbeth) wrote in hp_beholder,|
@ 2010-05-06 13:31:00
|Entry tags:||argus filch, beholder_2010, fic, rating: nc17, severus snape, slash, snape/filch|
FIC: "The Conjugal State" for sweetmelodykiss
Title: The Conjugal State
Pairings: Argus Filch/Severus Snape
Word Count: ~6700
Warnings: V. mild dub-con (forced bonding, magical compulsion), Domesticity
Summary: In which Albus Dumbledore makes an error, Severus Snape is certainly not married, and Argus Filch is the happiest man in the world.
Author's Notes: Mrs. Euphemia Buttons' book was inspired by The Etiquette of Engagement and Marriage by G.R.M. Devereux (1903), The Good Housekeeping Marriage Book edited by William F. Bigelow (1938), and Searchlights on Health: Light on dark corners, a complete sexual science and a guide to purity and physical manhood by B.G. Jefferis and J. L. Nichols (1894).
Trains, owl post, and the Floo network have robbed elopement of its traditional charm in the author's opinion, and the venture today hardly seems worth the undertaking. If it must be done, however, let it be done on a dry spring night when there is no water on the ground to muddy the bride's robes or betray the bridegroom's footsteps.
- Mrs. Euphemia Buttons' Guide to the Conjugal State, pg. 16
It began, as these things usually did, with a proposal.
"Severus," Albus announced, "I have a proposal for you."
What he was proposing was a ritual—only a small one, really, taking up no more than an hour, two at most—and Severus certainly needn't have looked at him with such suspicion.
"The Juris Vestae," the young man echoed, one eyebrow arching sharply.
True, the spell had not been successfully performed in over fifty years, but that was hardly a disincentive to Albus, who preferred the personal touch of uncommon rites. Besides, its rarity might have owed to the fact that the only surviving account of it was contained in a book he himself had checked out of the school library fifty-two years prior.
Severus fidgeted in his chair on the other side of the desk as Albus cheerfully explained the particulars. His mouth was silently working as though he were chewing on a slice of lemon, but that was his habitual expression, so Albus did not take it to heart.
"You expect me," Severus finally said, his tone slightly incredulous, "to take a loyalty oath."
Albus smiled gently. "It's tradition."
Or at least it had been up until the fourteenth century or so, when the castle had begun to grow and the Great Hall's hearth became more of a figurehead than a figureheart, so to speak. Nevertheless, the Juris Vestae had history on its side and was a handsome little spell besides. Not a geas—heavens, no—nothing so coarse as the mark their newest professor still wore. Merely a reminder to a lost and impressionable youth not yet out of his first year of teaching that there was no place for him in this world of temptations like the sheltering embrace of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Severus, still lemon-sour, reluctantly nodded. “I don't suppose I have a choice.”
Albus laughed. Honestly, such drama. “Don't be silly, Severus. We'll meet tomorrow night.”
All of which explained how he and Severus Snape found themselves before the fire in the Great Hall on the eve of spring with a complicated arrangement of sigils at their feet and bowls of salt water, and honeyed wine, and lit pitch to hand. What it did not explain was why the spell was not working.
Albus frowned slightly, and his chanting very nearly faltered as they completed one circuit of the chalk path in front of the hearth. His gaze surreptitiously travelled from Severus's pale hand, where the long cut was already closing itself, along the length of cloth binding their wrists together, to his own unmarked palm. He squinted across the room to where the book lay open on the head table and wished he had brought his reading glasses. The matching mark should have appeared by now, shouldn't it?
He hesitated just a moment and then made a very swift decision against admitting his uncertainty. It was not entirely unheard of for classical texts to refer to a trio as one iteration; three was the principle magic number, after all. That was what the description must have meant. One set of three circles and blood-drawings for a vow of loyalty, two sets for a vow of subservience, and three sets for a binding. That had to be it.
Around they went twice more. “To the head of this household, I bind thee...to the head of this household, I bind thee.”
The fire leapt up in the grate, crackling in triumph, but Albus's hand remained unmarred. He watched in mild consternation as Severus swayed on his feet, visibly racked by the spell.
Severus drew a shaky breath, his sallow cheeks flushed. It took several attempts before he could properly speak. “Is...if everything is in order, Headmaster...”
Albus hesitated once again, looking from his hand to the book. “Ah...yes. Yes, of course. That will be all. Thank you for your cooperation, Severus. Are you quite all right finding your own way back to your rooms?”
Severus ran a hand through his lank hair and shivered hard once more, and for a moment he seemed to tilt alarmingly towards the door as if he were being reeled in by some ethereal fishing line. Then he straightened up with effort, and tugged at his cuffs, and crookedly strode out of the Great Hall without so much as a "you're welcome.”
“Curious...” Albus murmured to himself, and rather hurriedly proceeded to the table, whereupon he read the ritual through from start to finish. He peered at his own hand one last time and then gave a small, equable shrug. The writeup was obviously incomplete, but perhaps, as they said, birch water and belief was very nearly as good as quinine in a pinch.
He closed the book and returned it to the library before retiring to his rooms.
No harm done.
The wedding night is usually unkind to the new bride, and she should not be expected to enjoy herself. Thus great caution and kindness should be exercised by the new husband. It has been scientifically proven that animal passion soon produces in couples a nervous and irritating condition which breeds indifference and discord. True love and respect for one another will forgo passion for moderation.
- Mrs. Euphemia Buttons' Guide to the Conjugal State, pg. 110
Argus Filch awoke on the morning of March 21, 1982 a married man, although he did not know it yet.
The first few hours of his day proceeded as usual. He got up at dawn, and had a quick wash, and doctored the previous day's nicks and bruises. He fed Mrs. Norris before going down to the kitchens for a bacon sandwich, then returned the restored portrait of the three bulls to its place in the Hufflepuff dormitories and began the morning mopping. It had been his habit since the previous September to start in the east wing, working his way west, which meant that three days a week he would end up outside the Potions laboratory at exactly the time when Severus Snape would finish his morning class and take his tea break.
“How do you do, Professor Snape, sir?” Argus would say, and young Professor Snape—who always looked too tired and drawn—would smile just a little at being called 'sir' and say, "Tolerably, Mr. Filch. Tolerably."
It was invariably the brightest point of his day.
So it was that on that particular morning, he was mopping directly outside the laboratory when the clock struck the hour, and he watched the children stampede out of the classroom and growled after them for not having so much as an eye for his nice clean floor, and then young Professor Snape came out and Argus's heart went pitter-patter just like always.
They exchanged nods, and Argus had just managed to note the lad's flushed cheeks and say "How do—" when he was promptly tackled.
At that point, things diverged sharply from the usual routine.
Argus hit the wall with a thump, and whatever protest he might have made was instantly stifled by a pair of insistent lips pressing to his own. It had been long enough that it took exactly three seconds for him to realise he was being kissed, and another three for him to tentatively return the attempt.
A trio of thoughts swiftly tumbled through his head, one after the other:
1) He was having one of those dreams again. Except the hot tongue that had somehow slipped past his lips tasted like coffee, and Argus couldn't stand the stuff. He was a tea man, awake or sleeping.
2) Severus had gone and breathed in something he shouldn't have in that lab of his. Only he was too clever to go and do something like that, wasn't he?
The last one hit him like a punch to the gut, and his hands caught the lad by the shoulders and shoved him back.
“You're taking the piss,” he said. “Are you taking the piss?”
“I—” The lad's voice was raw. “No, you idiot, I—”
Then that coffee-bitter mouth was on him again, and hands so hot he could feel the burn of them through two layers of cloth were clutching at him, and Argus's idiot brain stopped thinking idiot thoughts.
His hands went to the lad's hair, fingers winding tight. A hungry little sound slipped from the lad's throat, buzzing against his lips, and then they were toe to toe and he felt the unmistakable hardness against his stomach. 'Twenty-two,' he thought, and then, 'Jesus wept, twenty-two.'
Severus surged against him, frotting in earnest desperation, and while Argus was more than a lifetime away from twenty-two, his prick was swept up in a fit of nostalgia. Realising they were in for embarrassment at best and a sacking at worst, he groped along the wall beside him until his hand closed around the cold and blessed doorknob to the Miracle Cupboard. It took two fumbling attempts, but he managed to wrench the door open. Then he grabbed the lad around the waist, took a step backwards, and promptly tripped over the edge of a conveniently placed mattress.
They landed in a heap with barely a second spared to check for broken teeth before Argus kicked the door shut. The lad squirmed on top of him, fever-hot and panting. Argus yanked his robes up, letting out a faint groan at the touch of bare skin and the way Severus arched against him.
“Eager little tart,” he murmured, breathless with gratitude.
He jammed a hand down the back of the lad's pants, squeezing roughly, and then the lad reared back and, in a flurry of clever hands and sharp elbows, got his drawers down and the placket of Argus's trousers open.
“Shut up,” Severus said, and the starving kiss that followed ensured it.
They rubbed off against each other like schoolboys. The lad ground down against him, hips moving like there was a war on, and Argus's hands roamed roughly over his thighs, his back, his arse, unable to keep from moaning when his fingers pressed between the lad's cheeks and felt the heat of him there.
The kisses turned wet and clumsy as the lad started to shiver. Twenty-two and hot-blooded, it couldn't last long. Argus shut his eyes and tried to greedily bolt away every second of it: wicked hands, and a wicked mouth, and the wicked, slick spill of spunk over his prick.
His own climax seized him mercilessly. His hips bucked up, and the lad moaned sweetly against his cheek, and he came so hard that his eyes nearly crossed.
They lay together for several long seconds afterwards, breathing heavily and pressed together hip to hip, shoulder to shoulder, cheek to cheek. Then, just as suddenly as it had begun, it was over. The lad wrenched himself away and pulled up his drawers, and, without a word, stormed out of the closet and slammed the door behind him before Argus could even tell him he had spunk on his boot.
A proposal must never be made in too much haste. I have heard of a case in which a young wizard and witch made acquaintance, wooed and married in little over a fortnight. No sane person should ever advocate such haste.
- Mrs. Euphemia Buttons' Guide to the Conjugal State, pg. 22
It was around the third time he had sex with Argus Filch that Severus began to suspect there was something seriously wrong with him.
The first encounter he had been willing to write off as temporary madness stemming from a combination of stress, lingering grief, and a bout of hormonally charged dreams brought about by too much fresh fruit.
The second encounter, whereupon he'd cornered Filch in the empty staff lounge to tell him exactly what would happen if he breathed a word about their indiscretion only to end up on his knees sucking him off instead, he blamed on the fact that the earlier bout had led to the only orgasm he'd had with company in three years and the best he'd had in four.
The following morning, he had deliberately sought out Filch mere minutes before his first class with the rationale that he was hardly going to engage in any nonsense at that hour and risk being late. He made it to class on time as planned, and then passed the entire period with a cold, sticky mess in his pants and a distracting taste in his mouth, trying to figure out what exactly had just happened.
It was only on the fourth occasion that he put two and two—or rather, three and three—together.
“...what are those marks on your hand?”
This time, he'd at least had the foresight to order Filch to meet him in his rooms, and now he sat naked and rumpled in the middle of the salty-smelling bedclothes, peering suspiciously at three faint pink lines on Filch's palm.
“How should I know?” Filch asked, groping around for his pants with his free hand. “Scraped it up on something the other day, I suppose.”
Severus looked from those three straight lines to the matching set on his own hand. Then something went 'click' and he leapt to his feet with very long string of profanity.
“I knew it! I knew something went wrong! 'Thank you for your cooperation, Severus,' my arse—that fraud!”
The sweet vindication of sanity flooded through him. He knew it. He knew this wasn't simply post-traumatic madness, or the breaking point of celibacy, or the unfortunate fascination for working men he'd cultivated as a youth. He had been tampered with.
“What are you on about?” Filch asked, his expression baffled.
“The Juris Vestae,” Severus spat. “Not that I'd expect you to know anything about it. It's more commonly called—”
“A hearthing,” Filch said, and then looked far too pleased with himself when Severus blinked. “S'from the Romans. For when the head of the place took someone in. Once around the hearth for a sprog, twice for a slave, thrice for a bride.”
Severus stared. “How on earth do you know that?”
The man looked suddenly embarrassed. “Common knowledge, ain't it?”
“No,” Severus said crisply. “It isn't.”
Filch fidgeted. “Well, see, it's like this. Professor McGonagall doesn't like things that come wrapped in brown paper, if you catch my meaning. But one day I was mucking out Professor Chaisty's room—her that used to teach Astronomy—and she had these books. They sell 'em plain as day in the shops. Anyhow, they've always got hearthings in them, on account of the nice young ladies in them usually aren't keen on getting married off to wicked dukes and the like.”
Severus wondered if he might be having an aneurysm.
“But what's that got to do with—” Filch began to ask, and then he proved that he was not as stupid as he looked, because he stopped. And then he proved that he was madder than he looked, because he smiled. Bashfully. It was a terrifying expression. “Really? You and me? We're—”
“No,” Severus said firmly. “We aren't. This is a mistake. A misfire. The headmaster swore me to the head of the household—he got that part right, at least. I heard it. You must have shed a hair on the table or touched one of the candles. This is your fault. Yours and his.”
His mind began to race through the implications of undoing the rite, measuring the pleasure of telling the great Albus Dumbledore he'd made an error against the humour Dumbledore would undoubtedly find in the situation. He swiftly came to the unpleasant but inarguable conclusion that Dumbledore would see no difference between blood oaths and blackmail when it came to the efficacy of keeping him in line.
“But he ain't head of the household,” Filch said.
The race skidded to the halt. “I beg your pardon? Of course he is.”
Filch had an expression on his face that suggested one of them was missing something integral here and it wasn't him. “Of course he ain't. He's head of the school.”
“You're about to tell me there's a difference.”
Filch looked slightly put out, as though he thought this too was 'common knowledge.' “'Course there's a difference. Headmasters come and go. Most are at least sixty 'fore they're sworn in. Old Apollyon, he saw four, and I've seen two already. A lad that wants to be Caretaker gets apprenticed at twelve and stays on 'til he's dead and buried. Takes care of the castle, keeps the fires burning. The school and the place are two different things, aren't they.”
“I...don't think the headmaster is aware of that,” Severus said very faintly. He sat down hard at the edge of the bed when the weight of how fully this had been buggered up hit him.
“Thinks he's the Queen of Sheba and all, Albus Dumbledore.”
Severus put his clothes back on and rubbed his eyes. “You seem remarkably unperturbed by this turn of events, Filch. Do you even understand what's happening?”
Filch beamed again. It was no less disturbing the second time. “'Course I do. Now, can't say I figured on getting married at my age, but I properly esteem you, Severus, you know that.”
“Oh, for pity's sake, don't use that word! We are not married. This is a spell gone awry.”
Filch got off the bed, and for a terrible moment Severus was certain he was going to drop to one knee, but he only started getting his trousers on, his brow creased in some expression between concentration and consternation. “But...but it don't work unless you want it to, does it. You've got to want it deep down, even just a little. That's what all the books say. It always works out for them in the end, and I'm not even wicked.”
“That is so thoroughly open for debate that I don't even know where to begin,” Severus said. “For the moment, however, rest assured that I am going to fix this. I'm sure it's simple enough—a little blood, a little fire, instant separation. In the meantime, we need to establish some ground rules before we're sacked for fornicating in front of the students.”
“Himself might give us a honeymoon. The rutting only takes a week or two to die down in the books,” Filch said in a tone that suggested he thought he was being helpful.
For the sake of both their healths, Severus ignored him and began counting out rules on his fingers. “You will stay out of my way during school hours. If we happen to meet and I am not myself, you will make certain we come here to my rooms before anything inappropriate occurs. Come to think of it, you will report here once a day in case I have need of you.”
He would be working to unravel the bond as quickly as possible, of course, but there was no need to turn down the prospect of discreet sex in the interim.
“In the meantime,” he added, marching over to the desk to retrieve a piece of parchment and a quill, “I have a double class, but I want to get on this as soon as possible. Go to the library and take out anything by these authors. Get everything that's on the shelf with them, for that matter. And if you tell anyone about this, there won't be enough left of you to pour into a casket, do you understand me?”
Filch took the list, his smile only slightly dimmed. “Yes, Severus.”
Frowning, Severus rummaged around in his pockets until he found a spare bit of chalk. Then he went to the door, opened it, and drew a line across the threshold. He stepped out into the corridor and drew a wide circle around himself.
“I've got to clean that up, you know,” Filch muttered a tad reproachfully.
Severus gestured to both lines. “To be clear. When we are outside this room, you will stay at least this far from me at all times, and you will call me...”
“Professor Snape, sir.”
“Good.” Severus stepped back inside.
“Poppet,” Filch promptly supplied.
Severus frowned. “What?” He looked at the line again. “No, I—”
Filch took his arm firmly, then steered him inside and closed the door.
“Come on, poppet,” he said soothingly. “You've had a big day. Let's get you some tea.”
Young wives, remember that the home you make is your husband's haven. Always take time before he returns from work to make certain that both you and your home look their best. It is your duty to ensure that your husband is never sorry to see his work day end.
- Mrs. Euphemia Buttons' Guide to the Conjugal State, pg. 140
Tempted though he was to tell Irma the good news, Argus was on his best behaviour at the library and even let her hush his cheerful whistling without a word of defence. Secret weddings were the done thing in the books, after all, and he was hardly going to prove himself a worthy husband by wagging his tongue all over the castle.
“Sorry,” he whispered, and went to root around in the card catalogue.
He soon found himself at the section that divided the how-to's of domestic spells from the how-not-to's of higher magic. He compiled the stack of books as ordered, and added a few more that looked useful. That was when it caught his eye: a cover of handsome blue kidskin with silver lettering, wrapped around a slim volume of cream-coloured pages.
The spine read: Mrs. Euphemia Buttons' Guide to the Conjugal State.
Argus could not resist picking it up. It was not very old, and had the crisp-edged look of a book that had seen very little abuse from grubby young hands. He opened it to the first page.
Home: the very thought of it excites good feeling in even the most reserved. Its sheltering safety, its glad guidance, its gentle restraints—how dear and tender our memories of home are to us. How can the hollow pleasures of single life and intemperate pursuits begin to compare?
They really couldn't, he thought. A little rumpy-pumpy down the brothel was all well and good, but it did wear on the spirit and the wallet after a while.
Imagine the warmth of a fire in the hearth, over which cooks a wholesome meal. A restful tune plays on the wireless, and a couple find respite from the day's worries in the clean and respectable embrace of marriage.
Does this not sound fine?
Argus found himself nodding. It sounded wonderful.
Then be at ease, gentle reader, for whether you are a young witch still at home or a spinster of thirty, the advice of a woman forty years married can help you make the home you have always dreamed of.
He read on for several pages, and then shut his book, his fingers curling covetously around the edges of it. He pictured the pretty scene again. Severus had been miserable ever since he came on to teach, even after You-Know-Who got kicked downstairs. He didn't sleep enough, that much was clear, and he couldn't be eating enough either, as skinny as he was. He needed someone to do for him, no argument, and Argus decided there and then he wasn't going to let him down.
He placed the book carefully on top of the pile and hauled the teetering collection to the front desk.
Irma regarded him with suspicion. “May I ask why you need nineteen books on blood-binding and one on social hygiene?”
He thought for a moment. “General curiosity.”
Her eyes narrowed further. “Are those for Professor Flitwick? Because if so, he knows perfectly well that having someone else check out the books still counts towards his hundred-volume limit.”
Argus swore innocence up and down, and when she finally let him leave, he carted the lot back to young Professor Snape's rooms. Once there, he took the afternoon off, on account of it being a special occasion, and he read Mrs. Buttons' book from cover to cover, all in one go. It was brilliant. When he was finished, he looked at the clock. He had just enough time before the end of the last Potions class to implement chapter four.
"Let's see, let's see," he muttered to himself, appraising the untidiness. He had a shave, and combed his hair, and put on a clean shirt. Then he dealt with the lad's apartments.
He emptied the waste paper bin and dusted the furniture. He cleaned the bath, and he swept the floor, and he straightened the haphazard stacks of parchment that were attempting to take over every flat surface.
There was a bit of broken glass in the corner, the remnants of a wine bottle, and he picked up the shard with a frown. "Tsk."
Next, he stripped the bed and changed the sheets. "There," he said, turning down the blankets and plumping the pillows. "Snug as a bug."
At half-three on the dot, Severus came in and promptly pushed Argus down on the nice fresh bed. “Did you get the books?” he asked, impatiently pulling Argus's shirt off.
“On the desk,” Argus proudly reported.
A hand snaked down the front of his trousers. “And Madam Pince didn't ask what you needed them for?”
“She asked. Didn't tell. Marital confidence and all that.”
The lad's eyes squeezed shut as though he were pained, and worse, his hand stopped. “For the last time, Filch, we are not married.”
Argus very nearly argued the point, but then he recalled what the book had to say on the matter: never let a silly argument ruin a perfectly pleasant encounter. He flipped the lad over instead, and soon enough, neither of them were talking. That Mrs. Buttons knew what she was on about.
Remember, having a hot meal ready on the table when one's husband steps through the door is the surest way to let him know that he has been on your mind throughout the day. Men will always be hungry after a hard day's work, and the prospect of his favourite dish will ensure that he always comes home.
- Mrs. Euphemia Buttons' Guide to the Conjugal State, pg. 141
Several days later, Severus knelt on the bed, his sweat-slick hands clutching at the headboard as Filch did his level best to bugger him right through wall.
“Harder,” he growled, and then very nearly choked when Filch readily complied.
He shut his eyes tight. Short, harsh cries broke out of him with every hard thrust. He lost his grip on the headboard, and his hands skidded over the cold, rough walls as he pushed back.
Filch was crooning nonsense in his ear, calling him dirty, pretty, a right little tart. He tuned out the words, taken instead by the strained and hungry tone.
One large, rough hand was curled around his hip, fingers digging in so hard he was certain there would be bruises. The other was wrapped around his cock, pulling him off in pitiless counterpoint.
The heavy bed began to creak as they worked themselves up to a lather.
“Let's see it,” Filch hissed in his ear, his strokes getting rougher. “There's a good lad...let's see you come...”
Severus shoved back hard against him, senses swimming in the tang of sweat, the scrape of callused hands, the ache and the burn and the desperation of it all. He moaned at the top of his voice as he spent, his body winding up painfully tight and then shuddering sweetly loose. He was limp as a rag doll as Filch rode him to a noisy finish.
Afterwards, when Filch had fallen back with a breathless curse, Severus reached for the book on the bedside table and returned to his research.
Extricating himself was proving to be a full-time job. For the past week, Severus's life had consisted of nothing but work and research, with the occasional interruption of coffee, sex and, more rarely, food and sleep. Had Dumbledore merely adopted him out to Filch, the problem could have been solved within hours. Severus would simply have to recreate the rite and pledge his allegiance to Dumbledore, or back to his family, or even to a passing owl if need be, and that would be that.
The solution to this thrice-damned bond, however, was proving more difficult. It appeared that the magi of Rome were not as amenable to divorce as their Muggle counterparts. Not that this was a divorce. That would imply a marriage, which was both factually and metaphorically incorrect.
To be fair, Filch was not being entirely unhelpful. He had not, so far as Severus could ascertain, said a single word about the accident to anyone. He was carrying out the housekeeping in Severus's time of distraction. He was amenable to having sex at least once a day, even if both his wheezing and bowleggedness were beginning to grow a little alarming, and he cheerfully took over all of Severus's detention duties.
There were two downsides.
1) Both Filch and his cat appeared to have moved in, and
2) there was such a thing as too helpful.
Case in point. He had not even noticed Filch was gone until the man returned an hour or two later and shoved a plate laden with three distinct yet unidentifiable substances under his nose.
“Dinner,” Filch said cheerfully.
Severus did not look up. He scribbled another note in the margins of Hickingbottom's 1001 Blood Bindings. “That smells atrocious. Did the house-elves get into the cooking sherry again?”
There was a long moment of silence. Then he heard a faint sniff. “Made it myself,” Filch said quietly.
Now Severus did look up, his gaze shifting slowly from Filch to the plate and back again. “You do realise poisoning me is a temporary solution to a permanent problem.”
Filch's jowls configured themselves into something disturbingly like a miffed frown. “That's an hour's work there.”
Severus poked at one of the masses. It...jiggled. “What in the world is it?”
“Mackerel pudding with creamed spinach and tomato soup aspic,” Filch reported. “I got it out of a book. It said it was a 'guaranteed pleaser.'”
“This book didn't happen to be by a Madam Borgia, did it?”
Filch's frown deepened. He bore a very strong resemblance to the neighbours' Staffordshire Terrier that Severus had occasionally kicked as a boy. “Ought to at least try it, poppet. I could make you something else if you don't like it.”
“I didn't ask you to make this in the first place,” Severus snapped.
"At least I'm trying to make a go of this," Filch countered.
Severus rubbed his eyes hard. "Not this again. For the last time, Filch, there is no this to make a go of! This is a magical mishap, combined with the fact that I have not had sex in three years."
Filch sniffed again. "There's marriages that have started on worse."
“We are not married!” he shouted, and then winced as he always winced when he sounded too much like his father.
Filch stared at him, not even bothering to look cowed. His expression was only fondly exasperated and endlessly patient, as though he really would march back to the kitchen and make something else from scratch if need be.
Severus eyed the plate again crossly. He did not, admittedly, know much about cooking. His mother's repertoire had consisted of various combinations of tinned beans, fried eggs, chips, and toast. He sighed and picked up the fork and tried the mackerel pudding, and then the spinach, and then the aspic. Under Filch's doggedly expectant gaze, he choked it down.
It...could have been worse.
The well-mannered husband pays compliments to his bride, and may even secure her affection merely by patiently listening to her. He is tolerant and refrains from harsh judgement.
- Mrs. Euphemia Buttons' Guide to the Conjugal State, pg. 97
“Simpering little dunderheads! If they were capable of even an iota of rational thought—”
Argus abandoned the ironing and nodded sympathetically as he helped Severus off with his singed and splattered robes. He was tempted to go get the tongs rather than touch them, but he supposed he'd had worse sticking his hand down the laboratory drains. He wasn't entirely certain what had happened, but he had caught the words “Weasley” and “explosion,” which explained enough. He kept one ear open to the tirade as he went to draw a hot bath.
“And Dumbledore was no help! Do you know what he said? He actually laughed and said—”
Argus clucked his tongue and returned to steer the lad into the tub. “Terrible, just terrible. There we go.”
Once the lad was safely immersed, Argus went and poured a nice glass of whisky and brought it to him. Severus paused in his speech then and narrowed his eyes. Then, with a manner of great suspicion, he took the glass, sniffed the contents, and took a cautious sip.
“It was a wretched day,” he said, glancing about as though only now noticing that he was naked and in the bath with Argus sitting on the edge of the tub.
Argus nodded. “No respect for authority, those little beasts.”
Severus took a larger sip of his drink. His colour began to recede to a somewhat healthier shade of red. “And Dumbledore was no help,” he repeated.
Argus got the feeling the lad wasn't entirely used to someone listening to him. He nodded again. “Smug bastard. Thinks it's funny, don't he.”
Something visibly uncoiled between the lad's shoulders, and Argus rolled up his sleeves and started on a good back rub to loosen up the rest of him. Poor lad might not work with his hands, but he did work hard, and he was no good at relaxing on his own. He just wound himself up tighter and tighter until that vein on the side of his head started pulsing.
“Smug. That's the word for it, yes,” Severus agreed, slouching down further into the water.
It was a good thing the Easter holiday was nearly here, Argus decided, as he gazed his fill of wet, naked skin, and dark little nipples, and glossy black curls. The lad needed some time to relax, even if Argus had to tie him to the bedposts and fuck him silly for three days straight. Maybe with the aid of something handy, on account as he was getting chafed something terrible down there. Mrs. Buttons didn't mention bondage in particular in her book, but he reckoned it fell under what she called 'wiles.'
“And another thing,” Severus said, his head lolling forward as Argus's thumbs dug in at the nape of his neck. “We're still using the textbooks my mother used at school. I was promised new ones for January—where are those, I wonder.”
“Shameful,” Argus said soothingly, “just shameful,” and when the lad's thighs parted slightly in invitation, he let his hands slip under the water.
If I may be blunt, gentle reader, allow me to say this: As far as you yourself are not faultless, you must accept the faults of your husband. Do not cheat a potential mate by accepting a match offering more than you can give. None of us are perfect, and we must bear the imperfections of our husbands and be glad they are no worse. Remember that a faulty husband is a great deal better than no husband at all, if he loves you.
- Mrs. Euphemia Buttons' Guide to the Conjugal State, pg. 139
Upon reflection, Severus suspected he might be drunk.
It was a curious conclusion to come to, as he had only had one bottle of beer from Filch's private cache. He was not a heavy drinker by habit, but he was certainly no featherweight. However, his classes were done for the day, and dinner in the Great Hall had been suffered through, and though he was in the middle of the torturous process of splattering a stack of thirty-three essays with red ink, he was suffused by the warm feeling he associated with complete and utter inebriation.
The lamp was burning low in his sitting room, and the window was propped open to let in the mild spring air. The Friday night concert was playing on the wireless. He didn't know enough about music to even guess at what they were playing, but it was quiet and thoughtful, with a violoncello.
Next to him on the sofa, Filch was darning socks. The cat lay in front of the fire, its tail twitching irritably due to Severus forcibly evicting it from the furniture.
A tug at his sock made him look up. “There aren't any holes in this pair,” he said.
Filch pulled it off anyhow, and then the other.
“I said they're fine.”
Filch let the socks drop and started kneading the arch of Severus's left foot.
“Mm.” Severus stretched out with a sigh, slumping until his head was on the armrest. He dipped his quill in the ink pot again and corrected the spelling of 'strophanthus' for the eleventh time.
Filch began to hum softly along with the music, rustily but mostly in key. Severus was tempted to tell him to shut up but decided to wait until he'd finished both feet.
The worst of the spell had run its course, at least. He was, as it happened, mildly aroused, but the urgency of it had been blunted. He was quite capable of passing Filch in the corridor now without dragging him into the nearest empty classroom, and they had settled into a rather more comfortable schedule of three times a week. A large bottle of vitamin tonic had appeared in the bathroom cabinet, and Filch's hip had ceased making that annoying creaking sound.
He placed his current essay on the 'finished' stack and moved on to the next one.
“Got to go into town tomorrow,” Filch said. “Need anything?”
Severus chewed on the end of his quill and scrawled 'Rubbish!' across the entire first page of Muriel Montrose's essay. “Some fairy water from the apothecary. The sixteen-ounce bottle.”
“All right, poppet.”
Severus glared. “Don't call me poppet.”
“Yes, my sweet.”
The cat stirred, croaking a querying meow.
Severus rolled his eyes. “Oh, shut up.”
Filch pinched his foot. “Manners.”
Severus half-heartedly kicked him and returned to his marking. If he finished before ten o'clock, he reflected, he would have time to get a start on the fourteenth-century spellbreaking monographs he had begged from Brouillard over at Beauxbatons.
He let out a faint grunt of pleasure as Filch rubbed firmly at his sore heel. Then again, he did have a novel he'd been meaning to catch up on, and it was his day off. He was certainly entitled to one of those. Besides, there was no sense in getting rid of Filch right at this moment, not when exams were coming up and he would soon be too busy to breathe.
“Will you be back for dinner tomorrow?” he asked.
“Should be.” His ankle was gently rotated until it hung limp.
“You should make that concoction.”
“That tomato soup concoction. It's tolerable.”
“Ought to have gelatin down the apothecary. I'll pick some up, then.”
Summer, he decided. Yes, summer would afford him with two unencumbered months in which to focus on nothing else but his little problem, away from the prying eyes of his peers and the distractions of his students. They would end this nonsense come summer.
Filch squeezed his foot gently and moved on to the other one, and Severus flunked Joshua Bones with a small smile on his lips.