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An Exercise in Good Potions Theory, a study in complementary substrates - A Place for the most Rare of Loves
Find it in the Room of Requirement

Boca. posting in A Gift Exchange for HP Rarepairs
User: hprare_exchange (posted by msqu)
Date: 2007-10-17 00:14
Title: An Exercise in Good Potions Theory, a study in complementary substrates
Security: Public
Tags:het, petunia, severus, severus/petunia
Story for:shanaeplusb2
Title: An Exercise in Good Potions Theory, a study in complementary substrates
Pairing: Severus/Petunia
Rating: PG
Summary: School is out for the summer and Severus has found a new compatriot of sorts.
Additional Notes:The recipient did ask to be surprised with this pairing and I found this piece rather surprising myself. I hope it brings some joy at the very least for its novelty. I did enjoy writing it.

~*~


"I see you staring at my sister, you know. I'm not stupid."

Severus turned slightly to face her, the book in his hands falling closed automatically. The summer had barely begun and he'd already begun to despise it. Petunia scuffed her shoes along the ground before moving at her own peculiar pace to fall to her knees at his side.

"Tell me what you did to her! I know you did something, Snape. I can see it in her eyes."

Petunia's eyes were bright and feverish. He wondered how someone so hopelessly plain could be related to someone so impossibly lovely. No wonder she hated Lily so. Plain and mundane and prudish, Petunia would be a hard child to love when compared with the incomparable Lily. Her fine hair blew into her face and Severus's fingers itched with the urge to push it back, to dare to touch her if not her. Severus knew well what it was it meant to be the one difficult to love.

"Why would you think it was me that had done anything? We do attend an entire school filled with miscreants. Why should I be the offending party when there are so many others to choose from?" he answered with Slytherin smoothness, playing to her proclivities with hardly a thought to his tactics.

"Don't play me for a fool," her thin lips compressed invisibly before relaxing, "No one could hurt her like you. You're her friend. She lives for your affection."

Severus blinked convulsively in face of such honesty. Lily had never truly needed him as he needed her, but Petunia was an impossible liar. Fifty-one days had passed since he had last spoken to Lily Evans, called her a mudblood and been humiliated before the entire school. Their weight was omnipresent now: bowing his thin shoulders, dropping his head automatically, and keeping his eyes fixed permanently to the floor. He felt every day of those fifty-one as Petunia callously commented on Lily's quiet, elegant despair.

"She lives for James Potter's affection now," he answered through numb lips.

"Is he the freak that keeps sending birds around the house? Our parents are having hysterics over the mess they make. They even took away her privileges last week when one of his letters exploded flowers all over everything and it took Mummy the better part of two days to clear them out again. That was him then? Potter?"

Petunia picked at her skirt with long, trembling fingers that held a hint of Lily's grace. Snape considered his own potion-stained hands and realized the terrible artistry in their matched imperfections. She would make a good wife to someone one day; Petunia Evans was the sort to live for her family where Lily was the sort to live because of them.

"I imagine so. We don't speak, in case our silence has slipped your notice."

Her hands stilled and her voice whispered to him, "I noticed. I wondered if you'd broken up finally."

"Broken up?" Severus considered how he viewed their estrangement, how it could be construed by anyone not directly involved in the incident itself.

"Yes," he concluded, "I think that's apt. Our paths have definitely diverted."

"She never deserved you. Never!" Petunia grasped at the worn material of his tunic and Severus stared at her perfectly imperfect fingers on his arm.

Her grip relaxed but she didn't let him go. Like Lily, she wasn't easy to intimidate. Yet. Severus wondered how scared she would become when she became exposed to the darker side of wizardry. The side that showered a house with blood -Septumsempra!- instead of mere flower droppings. Severus swallowed against the flood of bitterness in his mouth and caught her staring at his lips.

"Never? I thought I was one of the freaks she should stay away from. Didn't you say that once, Petunia?"

Her eyes never left his face; Severus wondered what she saw there that held her fascination so utterly. He was many things besides handsome; she'd had plenty enough time to get accustomed to that through their years of skewed association.

"You don't know how vain she really is. How much she prides herself on being the strange one. The pretty one. You only think she's beautiful but she torments me," she whispered fiercely.

Severus felt his heart race as he realized that this priggish Muggle girl was actually confiding in him. She was telling him her deepest secrets and hatred because she honestly believed that now, a mere fifty-one days past the last time he'd heard Lily Evans speak to him fondly, he could be her conspirator instead. Power gave him a heady rush.

"Does she?"

He didn't care. Lily could have asked him to eviscerate this girl and he would have done it gladly to see her smile on him again. She cared though and she thought he did as well. Therein lay the importance of the situation. One day, he might have need of such skills.

"Yes! Our parents never find time for me. For my accomplishments or my needs or anything to do with me! It's always her, her, her! She consumes them with her strangeness and there's only me, only ordinary, normal me being left behind always. She doesn't even care. She doesn't speak to me anymore."

Severus could taste her disappointment in the air. Bitter and sweetly familiar as an ex-lover's touch lingering ghostly between them. The sun slowly burned its way towards the earth as the day died to leave them all stranded in night. His family would never notice if he were not to return home but hers would for all her laments to the contrary. The Evans were very devoted to their daughters even as they weren't the most equivalent with their affections. Severus understood as Petunia possibly never could; it wasn't easy to accept being unlovable.

"I could speak to you. With you, if you like. The summer has only begun and already I find myself rereading my texts to pass the time."

He held up the closed Potions book as an example. Her eyes fixed on his fingers along the worn spine. The book likely appeared mysterious and forbidden to her rather than secondhand and commonplace as it actually was to anyone in wizarding society.

"It's getting late," she hesitated, her desperate desire to accept drawing her thin face into the hungry lines of starvation.

"Allow me to walk you home. You're getting a bit old to run about unescorted, surely your mother has told you that?"

Petunia's mouth turned down at the corners and drew into a pout familiar to him. She was Lily's sister. She was as close as he would ever come again. This summer he could learn what he could from her and then...let go with the coming year. She was not for him in ways even greater than those that separated him from Lily. Severus wondered if she had any clue how odd it was for him to associate with Muggles, despite his father's bastardly influences. She took his arm, her fingers thin, matching against his own slight frame, and he noticed that they were even close in stature despite the differences in her age.

"You're going to be a very tall woman, you know."

Such banalities were usually beyond him, Severus felt appalled to have said something so insipid aloud. A strangely captivating blush highlighted the sharpness of her cheeks and she gave him a sidelong glance that turned her nearly beautiful in the twilight.

"I know. Will you be my escort then?"

Severus nodded, mind numb once more with his duplicities. His book was a heavy weight in his free hand. Septumsempra! He wondered if Petunia would be able to stand to speak of Potions or if he'd be forced to exchange trivialities on Muggle lore all summer for the barest hints at Lily's life. She clutched at him as she stumbled on the curve and he felt the brush of her small breasts against his arm. Her blush deepened as he steadied her and made a spectacle of helping her find clear footing on the even pavement.

"Always?" she asked and he wondered where that had come from before remembering his offer.

"Yes. I'll ensure you get safely on your way this summer. While I can. I can't control my schooling as I'm sure you know."

She nodded and her hair blew at him, tickling him with impossibly fine caresses. He considered the elegant line of her throat and wondered if one day it would be possible for Petunia to grow into her own kind of beauty.

"Oh I know the schedule. Lily keeps a calendar to mark off the days in the front room. Our parents laugh at her for it but they mark the days off when she forgets."

Not unless she was given the chance to grow up outside of her sister's shade, Severus decided. Petunia would have to earn her few graces. She would have to learn that being hard to love was not the same as being unlovable. Maybe she could even teach him something of that, he thought while he opened the front gate to the Evans' home for her gallantly.

"Safely to your door."

She squeezed his arm before releasing him.

"Come by tomorrow before lunch? She'll be shopping with Mummy. You could pick me up here at the door?"

Severus forced a smile and hated himself for looking forward to it, "Yes. Of course."

She turned to go, raced for the door with a flash of slender ankles hidden carefully by sensible white socks. Petunia was everything that Lily wasn't. It was the first time Severus was able to consider that a boon rather than a curse.

He was leaving when she came rushing back to ask him breathlessly, "It wouldn't be inappropriate? You meeting me here when Mummy and Lily were away?"

"No," he answered, surprised.

"You wouldn't think me...loose?"

How old was Petunia anyway? Fourteen? Thirteen?

"No."

The succinctness of his reply must have appeased her because she smiled widely before racing pell-mell back to her door and the safety of tomorrow's promised meeting. Severus's arm tingled where she'd held it and he considered a summer full of politeness and mundane niceties as he walked slowly back to Spinner's End. Reaching his own front gate to hear his father's vulgar yelling, it didn't seem like such a hardship. Severus wondered if she would take his hand eventually. He thought their fingers would catch on one another quite nicely. He focused on all the compliments he could that night as his father railed at him, his mother endured in stoic, wilting silence, and he focused on forgetting the impossible perfection of the sister he never should have wanted and never could have had.

She lives for your affection.

He could live forever if he could only know that had been true once. Severus realized he obliquely loved Petunia for her casual sisterly betrayal. She was truly a much better complement to him. Two similar substrates that mixed well to form a more complete whole whereas he and Lily had been two dissimilar substrates that did not counteract one another's properties when placed together to form an admixture. Saltwater versus oil and water, one lubricating the recesses of the Earth and the other greasily coalescing into and around itself without ever mixing for all eternity; good Potions theory, that's all it was in the end. Everything, even why and how one person could be so difficult to love, could be broken down and returned to nothing more than good Potions theory. Severus stroked his book lightly as he fell asleep, dreamlessly anticipating tomorrow.
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Boca.: love hearts love hearts
User: msqu
Date: 2007-10-18 05:58 (UTC)
Title: (no subject)
Keyword:love hearts love hearts
Definitely not two characters I typically seek out to read, but this was crafted so well. I was intrigued all throughout. One of the lines at the end of particular interest to me was "Severus realized he obliquely loved Petunnia for her sisterly betrayal." The whole thing was just crafted so intricately like that.
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nyruserra: HP - Snape
User: nyruserra
Date: 2007-10-21 19:27 (UTC)
Title: (no subject)
Keyword:HP - Snape
You know, ever since reading DH, the possibilities have been tantalizing; and while this is not something I would normally read, or even think about, I really enjoyed reading this for its honest observations and well written truisms. You've captured both characters with a deftness not usually seen when attempting a new pairing.
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merlins_babe
User: merlins_babe
Date: 2008-10-29 03:45 (UTC)
Title: (no subject)
This story has been rec'ed at
The Golden Seeker
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Pining for...
March 2008