They waited until the clup-clup-clup of Umbridge's pink heeled footsteps had faded into the distance until they all began venting their anger.
"Inefficient managing of hospital supplies, my foot!" exclaimed Poppy Pomfrey, flinging her reading glasses onto the nearest table with feeling and nudging the document that Umbridge had shoved at her onto the floor. "With the cutting supplies and the constant prank injuries how does she expect me to be managing! I've hardly gotten a wink of sleep since those dastardly Weasley twins left!"
"No trips out for staff!" Auriga looked as though she was going to combust in a burst of dust and light, like the very stars she studied. "Unbelievable!"
"Don't worry, Auriga," said Septima, battling to keep a straight face, "you'll find another way to snag a man."
"She could not!" Charity had never looked angrier in her life. "How are we supposed to teach these children about Muggles if all our Muggle books are taken from the library? It's called Muggle Studies for a reason you candy-floss covered clot!"
"Silence!" cried Professor McGonagall, rising from her chair in a single, fluid, catlike movement. Instantly everyone fell silent. Alongside Dumbledore she was the most reliable and looked up to figure in the school. Now that Dumbledore was gone she was the one whom both staff and students now turned to for emotional support. Even now, dressed as she was in a flowing white nightgown with a tartan dressing gown and her greying hair coming loose of her hair net, she commanded their respect. Seeing that she had their attention she spoke more quietly. "We've all been given a hard time over the past term or so. However, there is no need to compete with each other at the top of your voices to see whose plight is worse. We are mature, educated adults here."
"Who are running low on their chocolate supplies!" Charity called out.
"I haven't had bacon and eggs in forever!" groaned Filius.
"A good old slice of pavlova wouldn't go astray," Poppy murmured.
Minerva rubbed her hand over her crinkled brow. Why was it that such conversations always turned to food? "Well in that case," – she gestured for the room to be silent once more – "I volunteer myself and the Quartet of Chaos to join me to go down to Hogsmeade and buy you all a decent breakfast and I would have you lot know," – here she fixed Charity, Auriga, Septima and Eowyn with a stern glare – "that I have only referred to you by your nickname because I could not be bothered to recite your names."
"Oh, we're not complaining," said Septima with a grin that made her look quite murderous, with her poker-straight black hair hanging around her face in ragged strands. "It brings back joyous memories."
"Of the time we graffitied the prefects' bathrooms," said Auriga, eyes bright with mischief.
"Correction," said Charity, smile wide. "We magically graffitied the prefects' bathrooms."
"As I remember that took four years and numerous failed attempts by both students and staff to remove it," said Rolanda Hooch, yawning loudly.
"Mud-blood is red,
Your blood is blue,
Tom Riddle is stupid,
You Purebloods are too," Eowyn murmured under her breath.
"That should have been our motto, Minerva," said Auriga with a grin as they followed their older teacher down the stairs, leaving the warmth of the staffroom and promise of a good banter behind.
"If you are intent on offending half the wizarding community then yes, Auriga, that would be the way to do it," Minerva agreed.
When they had changed into acceptable clothes and coats all five professors began to make their way out into the freezing, early morning cold towards Hogsmeade. As soon as they were out of earshot of the entrance hall, Auriga turned on Eowyn. "Alright, spill the beans, Winnie. How long have you and the greaseball been at it?"
"I'm only going to tell you as long as you call him by his name," Eowyn said, shooting Auriga a warning glare.
"What, you mean 'the bat'?" Septima suggested.
"Well you've got to admit he's been a lot better over the past few years," Charity pointed out from somewhere within her enormous, furry coat.
"I wonder why that is …" Auriga said, shooting Eowyn a sly grin. Eowyn kicked her in the shin.
"Enough messing around," Minerva said, grabbing Eowyn's elbow. "Answer the question."
"Fine," said Eowyn. "It's been going on ever since the holiday of 1994, after Lupin got fired and all."
"I still can't believe he gave Lupin away like that!" said Auriga.
"Another potential boyfriend lost!" Septima exclaimed with false sorrow, a hand over her heart. Auriga threw a chunk of ice at her.
"Well he didn't!" said Eowyn. "Not willingly."
"Why then?" Charity asked.
"It was a bargain with someone from the Ministry," Eowyn told them. "If he gave away Lupin's secret, Pettigrew would be tracked by this person."
Minerva shook her head. "That man has too many shady dealings for my liking."
"Hear, hear," said Eowyn.
"The ironic thing is you're one of them!" Auriga exclaimed, dodging a kick.
"I don't understand how Umbridge hasn't found you out yet," Charity said, skidding slightly on a puddle of ice. "She's been nosing so much into our private business she'll find out that I caused three car crashes in three weeks solid while staying in London for studies."
"As I've said many times before," Septima said, "you, Muggle alcohol and traffic lights do not mix well."
"Shut up and let Winnie answer the question!" Auriga exclaimed.
"Well," said Eowyn, a smile creeping onto her face. "There was this one time …"
First term of 1995, several months ago
"Well it's obvious that you're a Muggleborn, Mr Fennec," Severus murmured, scratching a bright red 'x' onto the paper.
"Oh, what did the poor dear do now?" Eowyn asked, leaning over to look.
"Last I looked merfolk weren't that pretty," Severus remarked, tilting to the essay so that she could see it better. Drawn with extreme care and tedious precision onto the paper was a picture which looked suspiciously like the Ariel in the Disney adaption of 'The Little Mermaid'.
"Well you've got to admit that he has artistic skills," Eowyn said, smiling slightly. "I remember when I showed Charity that film she thought she'd found a kindred spirit."
"I'm not at all surprised," Severus murmured.
"Yup," said Eowyn, returning to the essay she was marking. "Back when I took her on her first trip to Dublin when we were little she called everything that she couldn't understand a 'thingamee' or a 'whatchamacallit'. And Septima would tell you that she went up and down the escalators fifty times at the mall. I was too busy trying to make sure she wasn't put in an insane asylum to count so I'm afraid you'll have to take her Slytherin word for it."
They fell into comfortable silence, Eowyn's head resting on his shoulder as she flicked through yet another essay, Severus' fingers warm on her waist where her dress was only done up loosely. She was just beginning to get sleepy, what with the hot chocolate, long essays, excruciatingly Umbridge-esque day and shared body heat, when they heard a sharp rapping on Severus' door. Both exchanged startled glances.
It was half past ten at night. No one at Hogwarts was up then. Well, apart from them of course. And the House Elves. And probably Mr Filch, prowling the halls for renegade students (cough, cough, Potter and company, cough, cough).
Putting a finger to his lips, Severus signalled that she was to remain quiet, pushing some of the essays aside so that –
"I know you're in there, Snape and Gondolin!"
Their eyes instantly met again, this time united in shock.
Damn Umbridge! both thought in unison.
Now was not a good time for Umbridge (or indeed any member of staff) to come waltzing into Severus' chambers. Severus was fairly sure that the rumpled bedclothes and their state of semi-undress would not be easily covered by the fact that they had been marking huge piles of second year essays on said rumpled bed.
Acting quickly, Eowyn tugged her hair into something vaguely resembling a ponytail and began hastily doing up the buttons to her dress. "I'll answer it, Severus," she muttered. "She knows I look like I've been attacked by crows on a daily basis but you have no excuse." Leaving him no time to protest she marched out of his bed chambers to the door, grabbing a random stack of documents on the way, leaving him to get his shirt on properly.
An opened door revealed a very red-faced Professor Umbridge standing outside, one hand gripping her wand as though it were a lifeline. She seemed rather surprised to see Eowyn greeting her at the door, not looking at all flushed or surprised by her presence.
"What can I help you with, Professor?" she asked, being careful to speak in a strong Irish accent and putting particular weight on the word 'professor' making it clear who she believed to be in charge of this school. Long may he stay there.
"I would like to see Professor Snape as well, Professor Gondolin," said Dolores, fingering her wand and putting on her best, fake smile.
"Of course, Professor," said Eowyn, opening the door with deliberate slowness. Then she turned to the door and called, "Severus, make another hot chocolate! We have a guest!"
Clearly stumped by such ordinary behaviour, Dolores allowed herself to be led into Severus' lounge, where Eowyn sat down and, picking up the nearest essay on a potion she'd never even heard of before and began pretending to mark it, pointedly ignoring Umbridge, who sat in her chair, pink dressing gown and (Merlin help me!) pink curling irons clashing viciously with the dark green of Severus' chairs. At least they weren't black like they had been when she first came into this room. She noticed Dolores glancing about the room … searching.
But for what?
Probably some sort of solid proof of 'us'.
They did not have any. Only memories.
Severus didn't do that sort of thing. And Eowyn was always the sort of person who preferred to tell you it to your face.
All set randomly about the room, as though they were merely part of the furniture.
A mess indicating … (Eowyn felt her cheeks flush) … recent activity?
Thank Merlin, no.
"Ah, Professor Umbridge. How … pleasant … it is to see you," said Severus, voice dripping with just the right amount of sarcasm as he swooped into the room, three mugs of hot chocolate balanced in one hand. Looking him over Eowyn concluded that he looked as immaculate as ever. Long, sweeping black robes. Check. Scowl firmly in place. Check. Collar done up tightly. Ummm. Oh well, maybe she's no the observant kind.
Umbridge smiled tightly at them, being careful to keep them both in line of sight, as though they might try something. "I have come to speak to both of you upon the topic of your late-night … meetings."
She said the last word as though she had something else in mind and Eowyn could not help but shoot Severus a glance, eyebrow raised. 'Meetings' was quite a delicate way of putting it, she thought.
"What about them, Professor Umbridge?" Severus asked, turning to face her again, face pointedly blank. "A teacher's life is hard." Particularly with you around, his eyes said.
Umbridge sniffed, turning her nose up even more than it normally was. "I have heard from certain sources that Professor Gondolin often leaves very late in the night. Sometimes in the early hours of the morning. Rumours even state that she does so in her nightclothes. What I want is to know exactly what is going on!"
**What she wants is to catch us in the act,** Severus whispered into her thoughts.
Eowyn decided it was time for her to speak. "Professor Umbridge. I am quite willing to admit that yes, I do often leave Professor Snape's rooms late at night. But I would also like you to take into consideration that I and my friends, professors Burbage, Sinistra and Vector often go to each other's rooms and remain there for the whole night."
"That may be," said Professor Umbridge, fiddling with her wand in her lap, "but Professor Snape is a male."
"Good of you to notice," Severus murmured.
Eowyn choked down laughter (and half melted mashmallows) as Professor Umbridge shot him her best death glare. "Professor Umbridge," said Eowyn, trying to maintain a sober façade, "I can assure you that the most Severus would ever let me get up to in his rooms is marking homework and arguing. Does he strike you as the sort of man who would be involved in an affair?"
"Eowyn!" exclaimed Severus, trying to hit her with the nearest essay at hand. Severus was allergic to any word which so much hinted at … you know.
"Someone had to say it; otherwise we'd be dancing around the subject for hours!" Eowyn shot back, fending off his attack.
"Very well then," said Professor Umbridge, "may I see the bedroom?"
Severus blinked. "What?" he asked, as though Umbridge had just asked him to go out on parade in clown makeup.
"I wish to see the bedroom. If what you say is true then I shall find nothing there."
"Well I should imagine you'll find a bed," Severus pointed out. "Last I looked that was normal in bedrooms."
Eowyn was not sure if he was playing for time or just being his usual, pernickety self. Professor Umbridge obviously opted for the former. "Enough of the playing for time, Professor Snape. I wish to see the rooms. As the High Inquisitor you must obey me."
"Very well," said Severus, looking as though he had just been asked to swallow Trevor the toad whole, getting up and moving towards the door to his bedroom.
**Is it cleared?** Eowyn asked.
**No,** was his answer.
**Great, now what?**
**I will take care of it.**
**Famous last words.**
Severus flung the door open, allowing Umbridge to prance into it. A step in she immediately stopped prancing. She had seen the bed.
"Bloody hell," Eowyn whispered, burying her head in her hands. Then, unable to stand not seeing her doom, peeking through her fingers.
The bed was a right proper mess. The outer cover was pretty much lying across the floor. The sheet was tangled hopelessly. And the mattress was indented in the centre, where two people had lain together for a long time. Essays, some marked and some not, were scattered across the sheets, although it was clear that they had been in two neat piles at first.
Until her grandness came dancing in.
But this was not the end of it. Eowyn's boots lay on a hearthrug near the fireplace. And her belt was on the floor. And a brooch that her mother had given to her as a birthday gift when she was eight was glittering rather prominently on a side table.
Umbridge spun around as swiftly as a stinging hornet. "I knew it!" she hissed. "It's been going on ever since I arrived hasn't it! You little … sneaks!"
"Is that really the best you can come up with?" Severus drawled. Eowyn glanced up at him, wondering whether she should be panicking right now. But Severus seemed as calm as ever. Maybe she should just leave it to him. He was, after all, the trained Death Eater.
Though that probably shouldn't be of any reassurance to me.
"You shall be fired for this!" Umbridge declared, advancing on them, where they stood in the doorway, side by side.
"I don't think so," said Severus quietly.
"And why not, may I ask?" Umbridge snapped, standing up to her full (and not very impressive) height.
"Because you aren't going to remember it," said Severus. He raised his wand and murmured, "Dorius Somnus." Instantly Umbridge collapsed onto the floor, snoring contentedly.
Slowly, Eowyn tiptoed over to Umbridge and waved a hand in front of her face. Nothing. She gave her a nudge with her foot. Umbridge only snored louder.
"She'll be out for about half an hour I expect," Severus murmured, laying his wand down on the nearest table.
"Well as charming a Sleeping Beauty as she makes, what are we going to do about her firing us?" Eowyn asked, giving Umbridge another nudge.
"A memory charm should do that," Severus said, moving over to sort the marked exams into a single, neat pile.
"But unless we wipe her brain of everything that's happened here she'll still suspect us," Eowyn stated, moving over the help him, picking up her brooch and belt as she went.
"Alas yes," Severus conceded. "We'll just have to wipe it of everything that has happened in this particular episode, leave her in her room and then wait for her to come down again, with you gone."
"I'm not carrying her on my own!" Eowyn stated. "Definitely not if she keeps drooling like that."
"Who said you had to carry her?" Severus asked. "The Levitation Charm is hardly difficult."
"Well if Mr Filch –" Eowyn began.
"Also known as her secret valentine," Severus muttered.
" – sees me with the High Inquisitor hover above me in a deep and magical sleep there are going to be questions asked."
"Well if I do it there won't be any questions asked," said Severus. "They'll just ship me off to Azkaban straight away."
"Fine!" Eowyn huffed. "I'll do it. But you've got to turn up at my trial."
"That's an idea. It would be a change to be in a courtroom outside of a cage."
Will Mr Filch catch her in the act? You'll see in the next chapter. (Which I'll hopefully get up tomorrow.) Until then, enjoy this! :)