Disclaimer: (In the spirit of Crimson Starlight)
Shana: *fuming, arms crossed over chest*
Snape: Why are you not typing?
Shana: Time for that chat.
Snape: *innocently* Oh?
Shana: Oh, yeah.
Snape: *eyebrow, waiting*
Shana: You know that was mean, not to mention exceedingly juvenile.
Snape: To what are you referring, madam?
Shana: *incredulous look* Duh? The bra snapping?
Snape: Oh, that.
Snape: Well, what?
Shana: *throws up hands* You do realize that was a stunt worthy of Ron Weasley?
Snape: *narrows eyes*
Shana: Sexy looks are not getting you out of this. *crosses arms over chest again*
Kim: Insert standard disclaimer here.
Snape: *annoyed* Well, there went that idea.
Shana: You\'re still on the hook.
Chapter 9: Hey, Mr. Sandman
Shaluinn lost track of time as she stared out the window, while the world turned dark beyond the glass. She repressed a shiver as a chill ran through her, the cold seeping through her clothes from the pane. She turned her gaze back to her darkened rooms, absentmindedly wiping the wet trails off her face.
She finally noticed the hearth on the opposite wall, only because someone had lit a fire there. In the flickering light, she saw a small table set with various snacks and several bottles and a chair set beside it, all next to the fireplace. Dobby, bless your heart.
Bending down, she made a swirling gesture with her index finger over the Discman, setting it to random play. She stood back up and didn\'t move for several beats, trying to remember the light spell. It came back to her, and she lifted both hands, waving them as she called out, \"Incendio!\" Several sconces holding candles on each wall burst to life, driving back the encroaching darkness.
The redhead finally, really took a look at her rooms for the first time. The main entrance was opposite the bank of windows. The hearth was to the right of the entrance from where she stood, its mate in the office obviously right on the other side of the wall. The room itself was rather large and rectangular, the windows and entrance forming the short sides. The ceiling was vaulted, going up at least ten meters.
The woman noticed doors opposite each other, about two meters in from the windows. Wonder where those go? Making a snap decision to do reconnaissance first, eat second, she executed a \"right-face\" and walked to that door.
Opening the portal, she murmured \"Incendio!\" again, lighting the sconces in this room. Unlike the main room, this one was furnished and obviously meant to be the bedroom. Directly opposite her was yet another door that, she assumed, led to a bathroom.
Standing in the doorway, taking in the positively opulent room, Shaluinn was awed. To the left of the bathroom door was another, smaller hearth with an already banked fire going, the room warm, but not overpoweringly so. To her right were more floor-to-ceiling windows, these covered by heavy, velvet curtains to keep both light and cold out. To her left, along the wall next to her was a massive wardrobe and two long, matching dressers made of a rich mahogany.
But the most stand-out feature was the positively huge four-poster canopy bed that dominated the room. It was centered with the head along the wall opposite the curtained windows. Heavy velvet drapes were tied back from the sides and foot of the bed. The entire décor of the room was in shades of deep, dark blue and black, accented with silver.
Albus, you presumptuous bastard, this smacks of your meddling. What the hell do I need such sumptuous furnishings for? And of what use can I make of a bed that big? I can probably lay totally spread-eagle on it and not come near the edges. This is too much!
The American stepped forward to go toward the bathroom, for the first time registering the way her boots were sinking into the carpet. Good lord! What next? This also reminded her of something she should have remembered before. Turning around, she returned to the bedroom entrance.
Balancing on first one foot and then the other, she pulled up her pant legs, pulling down the zippers set against the insides of her calves on her knee-high boots. She left the matching set of 13-inch blade ebony-handled long knives where they were, inside sheaths strapped to the outsides of her calves. Her boots she set next to the doorway. This was her home now, and she would not forget again.
Padding back into the bedroom in her thick socks, she could feel the thick, soft carpet sinking with her every step. The feeling was both delightful and unnerving. She had never lived in such luxurious surroundings. Her own house back in the Pacific Northwest had been furnished modestly, items chosen for high functionality, not necessarily looks. Everything had been quality, well-made and durable, but very simple.
The only area where that had not held true had been her study. She had spared no expense with the tall, rich with scrollwork, dark cherry bookcases. She took a deep pride in her library and its display. The same held true of her sword \"collection.\" Every sword and dagger had its place, whether in the locked glass wall case or set on table-top racks. The running joke among family and friends had been that her study was a cross between a library and an armory. It was an apt description.
Walking quickly through the bedroom that was becoming increasingly unnerving, she entered the room beyond, correct in her assumption that it was a bathroom. She was once again thunderstruck as she took the sight in. There was the usual toilet and sink, with more than enough counter space.
But what had caught her attention was the large, glass-encased shower with two steps leading up to it. The door was closed and she had a sneaking suspicion she knew what lay behind it. Goddess, Albus has set me up like I\'m royalty or something. I can\'t believe that every professor\'s suite looks like this. Needing to satisfy her curiosity, Shaluinn stepped up to the shower and pulled the door open, her mouth dropping open in shock.
She\'d been close with her guess. It was a shower/bath combination. It was a dual-head shower, and the bathtub itself was sunken and large enough to easily hold three people! Looking closer, she noticed holes at regular intervals along the sides and bottom. Oh. My. God. It\'s a whirlpool tub! Oh, gods! This alone is too much!
Shaluinn stopped herself. I am so NOT changing this. Considering how sore and in pain I\'m gonna be from teaching unarmed combat again, this baby\'s gonna get a LOT of use. I have always wanted one of these! Albus, for this alone, I could kiss you. She wrinkled her nose at that thought. OK, I take that back. Suffice to say, I\'m more than a little appreciative of the amount of effort and thought put into these rooms.
Mother Nature chose that moment to remind the American that it had been more than a few hours since she\'d last used the facilities. Taking care of necessary business, she gave the bathtub another longing look and left, heading through the bedroom and across the main parlor to the other door that still bore investigating.
Casting \"Incendio!\" again she found a moderate-sized room, cabinets and visibly stocked shelves lining three of the walls, the fourth holding the expected floor-to-ceiling windows. The center was dominated by several large work benches with cauldrons stacked beneath and piles of boxes scattered haphazardly everywhere. Stepping inside, she realized the floor was made of unmarked, bare stone.
Shaluinn was confused. Glancing into the boxes, she found a mishmash of texts, jars, and odds and ends. Brows furrowed, she made a circuit of the room, returning back to the entrance. It was obvious that this room was meant to be a very well-stocked Potions lab.
The room clearly had not been completed. Oooookay. I wonder what Albus was thinking when he set up this room. Then it hit her, why the room wasn\'t done. He didn\'t get to finish before he died. That sobering thought in mind, with a flick of her hand and a call of \"Exstinguio!\" she put out the lights, closing the door.
Back in the main room, she once again caught sight of the food Dobby had set out for her. She stepped around her bags, still lying where she\'d dropped them, and made her way to the fireplace. She looked down at the food assortment on the table, selecting a thick slice of herb-crusted salami, a slice of cheddar cheese, and putting them together, took a big bite. As she chewed, she considered the chair and decided to try her hand at a bit of Transfiguring.
Switching her food to her left hand, she licked her fingers before flexing her wrist to retrieve her wand. She thought for several moments about what she wanted, trying various wand movements before she was reasonably sure she had it right. The American finished off her morsel and turned her full attention to the chair.
Concentrating carefully, she made her first really serious attempt at Transfiguration in two decades. The simple, straight-backed wooden chair vanished, only to be replaced by a pile of \"Firewood?\" The redhead stomped her foot and cursed. \"That is NOT what I was going for!\"
She caught up one of the bottles from the table and, pulling the cork out with her teeth, spit it into the fireplace. She then took a long swallow, delighted it was some kind of mango-flavored beverage. Gods, what I wouldn\'t give for a diet pop right now. Me and my stupid cravings.
OK, let\'s try this again. At least I don\'t have to worry about setting up my sleeping quarters, so if I can\'t get this right, not that big a deal. Concentrating again, Shaluinn waved her wand, trying a different series of movements. The pile of firewood morphed into a large, gaudily-upholstered, wing-backed chair. Closer, but still not quite.
Heartened by having made some progress in the right direction, Shaluinn decided to try one final time. This time, the chair morphed into a micro-suede-upholstered rocking recliner. \"YES!\" The American clenched her fists and lifted them in the air over her head. Now if I can just remember how I did that.
Turning, she dropped down into the cushy chair. Drawing her feet up to her side, she ignored the mild discomfort caused by the knife sheaths pressing against her shins. Surveying the room and mentally debating what she would put where, she ate and drank her fill from the spread Dobby had left her. Satisfied, the redhead leaned back in the chair, closing her eyes as it rocked gently.
In less than a minute, her overtaxed mind and body made the decision for her, and she dropped into a sound sleep. Her face relaxed, and the soft candlelight took years off her damaged countenance, her posture adding to the appearance that she was in her teens. Unlike others, the hard years didn\'t show specifically on her face. The last six months had left their mark though. Instead, the American bore scars and pain that were not nearly as visible or as tangible.
Dobby returned a short while later to check on the food he\'d left. Finding Miss Callaway asleep, the house-elf conjured a light blanket and placed it over the woman. Seeing that less than half of what he\'d brought had been eaten, he decided to leave it, placing a preservative charm on the tray along with a sapphire blue phial. Dobby then went from room to room, extinguishing the lights and setting more wood on the fires before whispering, \"Good-night, Miss Callaway,\" and leaving.
Severus woke several hours later to his muscles protesting the crick in his neck. Wincing, he rubbed his neck as he stood and exited his study into the parlor. Comfortable in the familiar surroundings, he didn\'t need a light to find his way to the bookcase and release the latch. The panel swung forward, and he stepped through, closing it behind him before mounting the stairs to the bathroom and his bedroom.
He made swift use of the facilities to the right of the landing, erasing all evidence of his \"breakdown,\" and then crossed over to the simple bedroom. It contained very little: a small dresser, a closet, and a straight-backed wooden chair set next to a full-size bed. It would have been a single, but those were too small for his tall frame. By sleeping at an angle on the bed, he just fit.
Ever meticulous, the Potions master neatly folded his clothes and placed them on the chair as he disrobed. He stripped down to his boxer shorts and, after a second\'s thought, doffed those as well. Contrary to popular belief, they were not silk, but rather an ultra-soft sueded cotton. Severus hated wearing silk boxers. The damn things had a way of creeping up your ass and getting wedged there. Cotton was a much more comfortable, as well as forgiving fabric.
Finally having the opportunity to sleep in a \"safe\" location, he wasted no time taking advantage of it, climbing under the covers and stretching out on his stomach. Once settled, it was less than a minute before soft snores began emanating from the prone man.
Several hours later, Shaluinn woke with a start, nearly overturning her chair as she untangled herself from the blanket someone had placed over her. The room was silent, other than the crackling emanating from the hearth, the CD player having whirred to a stop after playing all the songs on the disc. Blinking several times to get used to the firelight, she realized Dobby must have come back at some point, covering her and putting out the lights.
The woman took several deep, calming breaths, willing her heart rate down. That accomplished, she unfolded her legs and stood, gritting her teeth against the pain that shot up from her shins through her hips. Now her shoulders and back ached too. Catching sight of the familiar phial, she immediately downed the Pain Relief potion, again silently blessing a certain attentive house-elf. She took several more breaths while the pain subsided to a manageable level. She padded to the bedroom, only to trip and stumble over one of her bags.
Muttering curses, she made her way to the bathroom, making use of the facilities before stopping in front of the shower, debating if she had enough energy left to hop in before retiring for the night. Remembering just how \"yucky\" she\'d feel come morning without a shower, she peeled her leather pants off, tossing them into an untidy pile in the corner. She next removed the knives strapped to her calves, laying them on the counter.
Her socks joined her pants in the pile while she reached between her legs to unsnap the bottom of her bodysuit. That was quickly pulled off, and along with her molded-cup bra and low-rise cotton panties, joined the growing pile. With the removal of her bra, she could feel the weight of her heavy breasts pulling on the muscles of her shoulders and back. She refused to slump her posture in response to the discomfort. Catching sight of her reflection and resolutely ignoring the expanses of bruised skin revealed, she stood still. She was mildly surprised that Albus had put Muggle mirrors in her bathroom, the image only changing when she moved.
She was just about to reach in to turn the knobs for the shower when she realized something. Dobby must have left the candles burning in here, because I did not relight them when I came in. Or are they automatic? That\'s an interesting thought.
Deciding to test her theory, she backed out of the room, leaving the door open. She was three steps away before the illumination winked out. Very interesting indeed. Stepping forward again, the candles burst to life as she broke the plane of the doorway. That is a damn handy trick. I need to learn that.
Satisfied with the results of her little \"test,\" Shaluinn leaned into the shower, turning the handle for the hot water. Putting her hand under the faucet, she pulled it back fast, hissing. She\'d forgotten the perks of magic, not having to wait for hot water to travel from a heater being one. Turning the other knob with one hand and sticking one finger into the stream, she adjusted the temperature to her liking.
Climbing into the tub, she closed the stall door and yanked on the knob atop the faucet, switching on the showerheads. Her hands immediately flew to the wall, bracing her body as pulsing spray hit her from two directions, the sensation intense and not entirely expected. The redhead let her head droop, her hair hanging in wet curtains around her face as the water poured over her form. Gods, who knew two showerheads could feel this good? OK, duh. That was obvious.
The American tilted her head back, the spray pushing her red locks off her face. She opened her eyes to look at her arms, watching the rivulets of water running off her, distorting the designs etched under the skin of the insides of her forearms. Still braced against the shower wall, she rotated her arms so the undersides were fully visible.
The cascading liquid made the winding green, red and blue tribal tattoos appear to writhe on her arms. Removing her right hand from the wall, she traced the central, thick, black coiling line as it rose from her wrist to the inside of her left elbow. Letting her head drop again, she let her right arm hang down, droplets gathering and dripping from her lashes as she twisted her arm back and forth, playing with the rushing water.
As suddenly as she started, she stilled, watching her right forearm carefully as she flexed her wrist and observed the black line instantly detach from her skin, her hand catching her wand as it dropped. She repeated the move, noticing how the wand seamlessly reintegrated with the rest of the tattoo. Risky as she knew it was, the choice to undergo the still-experimental procedure had been a \"no-brainer\" for the American. She fully didn\'t expect to outlive the current conflict, which had made the decision moot in her mind.
Switching bracing arms, she repeated her actions with her left arm, her expression every bit as impassive as before. Having had enough of the little exercise, the redhead pushed away from the wall, standing free beneath the pounding dual sprays. She cast her gaze down to a small recessed ledge in the wall, spotting what she was looking for.
Reaching down, she caught the first bottle, upending it to pour a generous amount into her opposite hand and taking a deep breath. Mmmm… Vanilla. She returned the bottle and stepped slightly out of the spray, using her free hand to pull her hair up, now using both hands to massage the shampoo into the length. She stepped back under, rinsing the lather from her locks.
Retrieving a second bottle she grimaced, realizing she didn\'t have her usual metal clip to hold her hair on her head while the conditioner set. Swiftly applying the crème, she twisted and looped her red locks onto the top of her head. Holding the sodden mass with one hand, she managed to maneuver around the sprays to find the final bottle.
Pouring a small amount onto the sponge next to it, she lifted it and attempted to wash one-handed. With every movement, she could feel the twinge of muscles and old injuries that had never, truly, healed, her body mottled with bruises that never seemed to go away. But they were familiar pains that she had learned to ignore for the most part and live with. She finally had to switch hands to get everything before releasing her hair, soaping up her face, and finishing rinsing.
She bent to turn off the taps and caught herself on the lip of the tub, white-heat again flaring through her right hip and into her thigh before subsiding. Teeth gritted, she panted for several beats, lifting herself and completing the task she\'d started. Standing, she squeezed the excess water from the length of her hair and climbed out of the stall, reaching to her left to retrieve a medium towel from the rack on the wall. Drying her locks, she wrapped them up and twisted the mass onto her head, then reached for a large towel to dry her body off.
Pulling open various drawers beneath the counters, she came up with what she needed: a hair-tie and a comb. Padding out into the bedroom, she made her way over to the bed, sitting on the bench she had noticed by the foot. Releasing her hair from the towel, she carefully separated it into sections, combing out the tangles. That accomplished, she swiftly twined it into a loose plait, tying it off so it wouldn\'t become snarled while she slept.
Tossing the long braid over her shoulder, she walked around the side of the bed and sat on the edge, sinking deeply into the mattress. Her suspicion had been correct. The damn thing was so big it easily dwarfed her. Exhaustion looming to claim her, the redhead thought hazily, I can\'t sleep on this thing. I… just can\'t. I know I won\'t be able to. Something else also struck the woman. I don\'t have anything to sleep in. I am so NOT hunting for anything in my bags at this point. Fuck it!
Standing, her feet sinking into the thick carpet pile, the American came to a fast decision. Striding over to the bathroom, she doffed the towel she wore, adding it and its mate to the growing pile in the corner. She retrieved her sheathed knives, returning to the bedroom. Passing by the hearth, she set the weapons on the floor, continuing on to the bed.
Grabbing two pillows, she threw them over by the hearth. Using both hands, she grabbed hold of the thick comforter on the bed, and putting her weight behind it, pulled. After several jerks, she managed to dislodge the coverlet, dragging it over in front of the fireplace. Folding the comforter in half, Shaluinn swiftly made up a makeshift kind of sleeping bag. She placed one knife under her pillow, the other on the edge of the hearth\'s stone drape within easy reach.
Enfolding her nude form in the voluminous folds, she laid on her left side, left leg straight, right bent up at an angle so her foot rested against the other knee. Her arms were wrapped around the second pillow, embracing it. She stared hazily into the fire as sleep rose up to claim her again, strangely comfortable on the thickly carpeted floor.
A/N: A HUGE thank you to everyone who has kept reading and to those who have reviewed. The feedback has been both encouraging and productive.
In Japan, shoes are not work indoors in homes. They are removed at the entrance and soft slippers or stocking feet are acceptable inside.
Exstinguio This is the \"put out the lights spell.\" \"Exstinguo\" is Latin for \"to extinguish.\" (Nox goes with Lumos in only applying to wand tips, so it is inapplicable.)
Thanks go to my impromptu beta Kim for double-checking me and making sure I stick to canon as well as making spell suggestions. Thanks to NotSoSaintly for correcting both of us on a mistake about lamp-lighting spells and being one of my favorite comma-fairies.
The Lies You Tell Yourself by Shanastay