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23

Pink Cows Bite




Felicity had had a tough beginning to the second half of the school year. There was a siege mentality throughout the castle. Dolores Umbridge was terrorizing everyone. The tyrannizing toady seemed to be everywhere in that first week back from the Christmas break.

On the day after the Death Eaters had escaped, Professor Wood had a difficult class. Theo, the sole Slytherin in her advanced Runes class was again prone to sassy remarks and to make matters worse, halfway through the class Dolores Umbridge had come in to observe and meddle. Her mean little mouth had been set in a smile and her sweet syrupy voice was beyond irritating. Felicity could hardly concentrate on her Runes lesson for the day. Umbridge had constantly interrupted the class with coughing fits for attention.

It was going to be a long term if she kept up this abuse of both her teachers and her students. Felicity wondered when she had time to teach her own classes.

Hermione had lingered after class to talk with Felicity. She stood fidgeting with her books, a look of stress and fatigue on her face.

“Professor,” she said breathlessly. “I wonder if I might have a word?”

Felicity looked up to see Dolores Umbridge in the darkened hall beyond the door. She turned around, her amphibian leer coming to attention.

“Now would not be appropriate, Miss Granger,” she said quietly in warning.

She knew the girl was troubled and that she needed an adult she trusted to talk with but the toad loomed and there was nothing for it but to put her off.

“Perhaps, you could knock at my door this afternoon?” whispered Felicity just before the pink troglodyte was upon them.

“Is everything all right?” asked the syrupy voice of the Inquisitor. “May I help you?” She peered menacingly at Hermione.

Hermione looked startled but recovered quickly. The poor child, everyone was suffering under the controlling hysteria of the toady professor.

“I-I just wanted to ask the professor about my O.W.L exams, Professor Umbridge,” she said recovering her wits quickly. “I’m quite worried about my Runes exam and wanted to know if she’d thought I’d be prepared.”

Professor Umbridge looked suspicious under a plastic mask of a pleasant face accented with her bulging eyes. The woman was odious in every way.

“It’s against the Inquisitor’s decree number twenty-six to discuss matters outside of a professor’s subject, Miss Granger,” said Umbridge sternly. It was a warning and it was directed with malice at Hermione. Felicity wanted to step in front of her to protect the child from this creature but knew that it would only make things worse.

“I know of no such a decree,” she said instead.

Umbridge shot her a glare than glazed it over with her cloying smile. Felicity felt the urge to retch. “It’s being posted as we speak, Professor Wood,” she said. “It has come to my attention that some of the professors are advising students outside what they are being paid to do. That just won’t be allowed.” She glared at Felicity seeming to dare her to contradict her.

The woman was simply dangerous. “Miss Granger’s Rune’s exam is within my realm to advise upon, Madame Inquisitor,” she said coldly before turning to Hermione. “Just be sure you’ve got your Magical Hieroglyphs and Logograms down pat, miss Granger. You run along to lunch, dear.”

Hermione escaped looking very relieved to be away. Felicity wasn’t so lucky.

Umbridge stood watching her. She looked like a puppet in a muggle Punch and Judy show.

“Is there something else that you wanted to say, Dolores?” asked a very irritated dragon woman. She sorely wished yet again that she could eat the tasty toady.

“I merely wanted you to know that I’m watching you, Professor Wood,” said Umbridge. “Your father’s position won’t protect you if you defy the Ministry.”

“And you are the Ministry, I take you to mean?”

“I am at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.” Her wide mouth was one long line in a pancake face. “Those who don’t follow the rules will be sacked. I am fully aware of your activities over the Christmas holiday. You were seen in the company of Professor Snape in public and in a very compromising position.”

“Oh, please, Dolores,” said Felicity dismissively. “A harmless kiss between friends is hardly compromising. It was Christmas Eve. Frankly, I would think you’ve got enough on your hands to be worrying about Professor Snape. The man’s a cold fish most of the time, though I do consider him a good friend.” If the woman didn’t leave her soon, she was certainly going to eat her.

“I’m watching you, Professor,” sneered Umbridge. “If I catch you with one toe out of line, you won’t be here next year and there’s no reason for you to finish this year. Neither Dumbledore nor your father will protect you from me. Be warned, miss.” She smiled sickeningly and then turned and waddled off out the door.

Felicity watched her go with a combination of dread, anger and fear. The woman was dangerous, ambitious and sinister. There was something not quite sane about the way she needed to control all of Hogwarts. Dumbledore had better be the great and wise wizard that he seemed to be. Felicity made a wish for peace of mind, as was the dragon way when stressed, deciding that meditation was better than lunch, she walked to her dungeon haven alone.

Hermione Granger hadn’t come to her rooms and was distant to her after that. Many of the students were distant from the teaching staff. It was only the beginning of the hell that became the Hogwarts routine. Everyone had become territorial and guarded. Both students and staff were tense. Umbridge was everywhere and into everyone’s business. The students were sullen and though outwardly compliant, there was a siege mentality amongst them as a whole. Many seemed as if they weren’t getting enough sleep at night and Felicity suspected that they were secretly meeting for some purpose unknown that she couldn’t quite put her finger to.

During the month of January and into February the only people she had to talk to were the other teachers and even then, most of them she had to talk with in the hallways as if in passing. Their own staff room wasn’t safe for discussion of any subject. Umbridge had spies everywhere. Felicity suspected some of the students of spying against her. Theo was particularly uppity and presumptuous in class and out. The Slytherin House students seemed to relish in the tension under Umbridge iron rule while the others withered.

Severus refused to discuss the Slytherin behavior when she tried to point out their growing allegiance with Umbridge one day in his office in mid-February.

“You’re very dramatic, Felicity,” he told her dryly. “They’re students, teenagers and ridiculous hellions the lot of them. It isn’t just the Slytherins that are throwing their weight around. Your precious Harry Potter has been particularly obstructive of late.”

“Why do you hate that boy so much?” she asked him irritated.

“Don’t be absurd. I don’t hate any of my students. I am severe with them because that’s what they deserve. Potter is a little subversive rabble-rouser just as his father was. That little holy triangle of Dumbledore’s favorites is up to something. I can smell their deviousness.”

“Hermione Granger is hardly devious, Severus,” she said. “The girl is a very smart. I’ve no other student as talented as she.”

“She’s a prissy little know-it-all that can’t hold her tongue.”

She watched his pursed lip with interest. He was irritated at Mr. Potter for something else and she knew what it was. “How are your private Occulmency lessons going with Harry Potter?” she asked. “Are you behaving yourself?”

She sat on his desk quite close to him. No one in his or her right mind would presume it acceptable to sit so. She smelled heavenly like springtime in the midst of winter. Her leg brushed against his knee. As usual, she was disconcerting to him. “How I behave toward any student is none of your business, Felicity,” he said grumpily. “He is not cooperating, frankly.” He brought both his hands to a peak under his chin setting his elbows on his desk. His elbow touched her thigh and memories of his dreams came freshly to his mind.

“He’s young and under pressure from everyone, I think,” she said.

“You’ve no idea what you’re talking about. The boy is a pampered prat. Sometimes I get glimpses, disturbing and violent images of feeling from him.”

“Violent?”

“He is more connected to the Dark Lord then I think healthy, and I don’t think that he actually wants to succeed in severing the link between them if that indeed is what it is.” Severus leaned back in his chair shaking his long stringy hair from his face. “This is none of your affair, Felicity,” he said dismissively.

She pondered him. They sat looking at each other and saying nothing. She missed him, missed Remus, who she hadn’t heard a word from in over a month. She hadn’t even been allowed to attend the meetings at Grimmauld and Severus had meanly not told her a thing about what was going on with Remus and his watch at Wolvin. Voldemort also had been strangely quiet. It was disconcerting. His followers escaped from Azkaban and then nothing of significance had happened for weeks. There hadn’t even been a call for Severus to attend him.

“There’s something that I’ve been meaning to broach with you, Felicity,” said Severus finally.

“What?”

“My dreams, I’m still having them.”

“What dreams?”

“The dreams of an intimate relationship between you and I.”

“You can’t have done.”

He looked at her strangely. His eyebrow rose. “I think myself fully capable of remembering what I have in fact dreamt, Felicity.”

She was agape. He didn’t often surprise her. How could it be possible? He was supposed to forget. She closed her mouth. “I have no idea why you should have dreams of me, Severus,” she mumbled looking away.

He rose from his chair and towered over her. She hunched under his stare suddenly interested in her shoes. “Look at me, Felicity,” he said dangerously.

He reached out leaning close to guide her chin up toward him. “Tell me why the dreams haven’t stopped. Why do I feel the desire to kiss you like a lover whenever you’re near? Why does it drive me mad when I think of you and that animal, Lupin? Why are you trembling with anticipation of my touch even now as if you know what it’s like to be close to me?” He grabbed her by the shoulders bringing her to her feet, his face leaning so close the desire rose in her with a fire that threatened to consume her willpower.

“Severus, don’t,” she said weakly.

He relaxed his hold. “Why not?” he said. “There is an obvious attraction between us. Why not?” He stroked her arms wantonly. It was all she could do to not reach out to him. Fidelity was not the dragon way and her desire was rising to a fever pitch as he moved his hands from her arms to her waist. She was stunned by the desire that emanated from him and about ready to give in to his seduction.

There was a voice at the door to his office. “Well, well, well,” said the drawling voice of Lucius Malfoy. “Isn’t this a pretty picture?”

Severus glared at Lucius who stood smugly leaning on his cane at the door.

Felicity turned around to see both Lucius and the pink cow, Dolores Umbridge staring at them. Lucius was sniggering quietly but Umbridge looked as if she were about to explode. Her eyes bulged and steam might have been rising from her ears if that were possible for witches.

“This is outrageous behavior,” she spluttered.

Lucius turned his amusement in her direction. “Really, Madame Inquisitor,” he said dryly. “We are all adults here. I have known both Severus and Felicity for years, since they were children.” His amused face took on a glint of the Malfoy brass. “There is nothing amiss here.”

The pink cow shot him a quick look of extreme malice before she masked it to a blank stare. “I will not allow fraternization amongst the staff, Mr. Malfoy,” she said. “Please have your visit then see me on the way out.” She turned and starred directly at Felicity. “I would like to see you in my office as soon as Mr. Malfoy is finished with you, Professor Wood.” She frowned and turned on her heel abruptly walking out the door.

Lucius watched her leave; the amusement still apparent on his and then shut the door behind her. “Someone is in a good deal of hot water, I should imagine,” he said snidely as he sauntered up to them. Felicity had removed herself from Severus’ embrace and stood beside him glaring at Malfoy. She simply loathed this follower of the Dark Lord.

“Thanks to you, I will probably have to pay heavily for that,” she said bitterly.

“I did nothing, my dear dragon,” he said. “It was your lascivious nature that got you into trouble. Tsk, tsk on both of you.” He looked slyly at Severus. “What will I tell my dear Narcissa, I wonder?”

“What are you doing here, Lucius?” asked Severus unperturbed. “You could’ve alerted me at any time that you were coming.” He looked sideways at Felicity feigning secretiveness. “It’s been strangely quiet since Christmas.”

“Yes, but that’s about to change,” said Lucius. Lucius had tired of teasing them quickly. “Let’s not play games, friends. These stonewalls have ears. You must come to the manor on Friday and spend the weekend. Both of you, I insist upon it. I’ve already cleared it with our most ambitious Ministry representative, Madame Umbridge.” He smiled at Felicity lazily. “Though, Felicity here might have detention for her sexual misbehaviors.”

“Do shut up, Lucius,” said Felicity crossly.

He laughed at her. “You’re both to be our guests at a very private gathering of our most intimate friends. It’s a command performance that mustn’t be missed.”

“At last!” said Severus acting his part. “It’s been an age and I was aggrieved at being left out.”

“Hardly, my friend,” said Lucius. “We’ve just been moving and adjusting is all. Things must be handled one step at a time and there is so much to accomplish before our duty is done, isn’t there?” He looked seriously on Felicity. “I don’t think your recent endeavors set too kindly with our friends, missy. You will watch your tongue.”

“We have no friends in common, Malfoy.”

“Oh, but we do, my dear. We have Severus, here for instance.” He laughed. “And others that you may not be aware of. Oh, yes. You will cooperate this time. You’ll have no choice if you care for their welfare.”

Felicity steeled herself but inwardly she groaned. She was loath to search inside the soul of this man she hated and then before she had a chance, he turned quickly and walked back to the door. “Friday, remember. Six o’clock and don’t be late,” he said bowing to them and walking out the door.

Snape stood contemplating the door just closed saying nothing for a full minute. Felicity was fuming and puzzled at the same time. Obviously they would be meeting Voldemort again and the escaped Death Eaters but to what purpose? Why should they involve her at all?

“We must inform the Headmaster,” said Severus at length.

“You do it,” she said with a sadness that overwhelmed her. “I have to go take my licks from that cow, Umbridge.” She glared at the ground. It wasn’t fair. None of it was fair.

Snape smiled down at her, reaching out and embracing her before she had a chance to protest. How she’d missed hid touch. She buried her face in his shoulder and let him hug her, her dragon self basking in his warmth. “I’m a magical creature of no consequence,” she said into his ear.

He shivered and gripped her tighter, kissing her on the neck. “You must stay with me,” he said quietly.

She pushed away from him. “I will protect you from the Dark Lord,” she said. Her voice was strained and it took all her effort to walk away from his magnetic pull. She went to the door and turned. He stood straight back and impassive watching her, his near black eyes boring holes into her from afar. She said nothing more and left to face the evil Umbridge cow.

She would surely be on probation just as Professor Trelawney was by nightfall.


**************


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