Regular readers of these pages already know the tale of how Severus Snape and Luna Lovegood became "an item" [see installments 8 and 9 in our 72 part series "The Life and Loves of the Heroes of the War of Liberation," Daily Prophet Press. 2000], but what of their life together after they took their vows? Was it a magical happily ever after for these two lovebirds or would the fates have other plans?
Although Severus Snape had little experience with the intricacies of home purchasing, the listing at Huvvell and Shacque Estate Agents sounded ideal:
Llamedos: Originally built in 1876, this property boasts three bedrooms, 2 baths, master with new en-suite, kitchen, dining area and lounge, rear herb garden and side garden directly off kitchen, attic with wizarding space storage charm recently renewed. Viewing is highly recommended, but Llamedos is a perfect fit for the creative witch or wizard with a talent for magical home modifications. All serious offers entertained.
The reality was somewhat different.
The house - invisible to Muggle eyes - stood high atop a granite tor. The stone exterior had gone black with mould over the years and the window trim, now chipped and dulled with age, was painted a sickly yellow. The upper storey jutted out six feet past the ground floor, leaving the impression that a beaked ship's prow had somehow been merged accidently with the rest of the house.
The inside was no better, with its sharply angled hallways and irregularly shaped rooms. The kitchen walls were coated with grease, and throughout the house, the windows were small and grimy.
There was a warded shed just off the side garden entry suitable for conversion to a potions laboratory, and Luna swore she'd found the most perfect sun-drenched bedroom on the first floor (although Severus, who'd been upstairs twice, had seen no such thing), but a shed and a single sunny room were no match for this otherwise gloomy and miserable abode, and as far as Severus was concerned, no reasonable person would even consider purchasing such a monstrosity.
Naturally Luna loved the house at first sight.
two months later
"For the last time, Luna, I think it's been made perfectly clear that I am not meant for home ownership."
His tone brooked no disagreement, so it must have been the newfound softness of his voice (the damned house seemed to object to raised voices) that resulted in his utter failure to convince his spouse that they should sell the house and see what there was in the way of flats to let in Diagon Alley. Luna simply gazed at him with those misty grey eyes of hers and smiled as if he'd said something particularly amusing.
"You owned Spinner's End," she said simply.
He hated it when she sounded reasonable. "Spinner's End was an albatross around my family's neck from the moment my father dragged my mother across its threshold until the instant it was burned to the ground by overly enthusiastic Aurors. I should have got rid of it the day my mother died."
"But you didn't, Severus, because you cared about it." He snorted, but Luna just patted his hand in that ridiculously nanny-like manner she had about her, which would have earned her a hex if she had been anybody else. "Anyway, once you have one of your own, it's yours for life."
"That is the most patently ridiculous thing I ever...where in the world did you hear such a thing?"
"Oh," she said airly, as she walked up the stairs. "Everybody knows that."
And that was the end of that conversation.
Severus had suspected from the first that purchasing a house - and this house, in particular - would be a terrible idea, but as was generally the case when he and Luna were of differing opinions about anything more significant than what sort of tea to brew, she somehow emerged victorious. Secretly, he didn't ordinarily mind this state of affairs (although he never would have admitted this to anyone). The fact was that over the years he had reached the conclusion that his decision-making process about important matters was slightly...flawed. Even the decision that the time had come in his and Luna's relationship for the two of them to marry had been Luna's, and at that point, Severus had barely come around to the realization that he was in a relationship.
But this - this house business - felt different somehow, almost as if it were a larger commitment than marrying, and he was certain it was the house's fault. Luna put an equal amount of effort into their marriage (if by 'an equal amount of' one meant 'most of the...'), but even less troublesome houses than theirs played no part whatsoever in seeing to it that relationships ran smoothly. And this house seemed to be hell-bent on sabotaging his quiet, content life from the start.
Luna had said that all houses needed attention, especially when they had just been purchased - and who was Severus to argue with Luna's no-doubt expert knowledge in the psychological requirements of non-sentient objects - but even Molly Weasley, who had somehow become their most frequent visitor, agreed that this particular house seemed to need more looking out for than most.
"Although...I don't quite see why you feel you need to stay home so often," Molly said, unwrapping a cucumber and tomato salad and placing it on their dining room table. "I was just saying to Arthur - wasn't I, love? - that the two of you should visit the Burrow more frequently. It's not as if you have a garden full of gnomes or a ghoul in the attic that needs seeing to."
"Don't look to me for answers," Severus said with an unintentional sneer, a habit he'd all but lost in the three years since he and Luna first came together. "The eccentricities of this abode are not my department."
"What Severus means, Molly," Luna said, "is that the house is just so new."
He hadn't meant that at all. "New? It's almost 150 years old!"
"New to us," she said. "It won't always be like this, Severus. We all need some more time to grow used to each other."
But how much time was needed? That was the question?
As far as Severus could tell, Luna was spending every hour of every day on house renovation and decoration. While she had occasionally asked him (two or three times a day, if truth be told, but Severus's relationship with "truth" had always been tenuous, at best) if he'd like to work on the house with her, Severus always refused. It was all well and good for her to ask, but what could he contribute? Nothing, most likely, and he couldn't help but suspect he wouldn't really be welcome at all, certainly not by the damned house and possibly not by Luna either, not now that she had such an engrossing project to focus on.
Severus made the mistake of mentioning this theory to Arthur one afternoon, as the two men sat in Severus's shed, drinking Newcastle Brown Ale and sorting Severus's collection of potions vials.
"Sounds to me," Arthur said with a fatuous smile on his face, "as if somebody's a bit jealous."
Jealous of a house.
two months and three weeks later
Severus dug his fingers into the small of his back and tried to massage the stiffness away. Seventeen attempts at a damned cushioning charm and the damned transfigured cot in his damned draughty shed was still the most uncomfortable thing this side of the Cruciatus curse.
Three nights in a row he'd slept in the shed now, and it would probably be another three before Luna would even notice that he wasn't sleeping in their bed. No, she had more important things to think about, she'd made that clear enough.
First, she had to finish painting the murals or charming the paint onto the walls or doing whatever decorative task it was that had to be completed right away, even if it was past midnight and her apparently forgotten husband had been looking forward to a bit of...intimacy.
Then there was the endless creaking of the house, night after night. Severus had told Luna the creaking didn't mean anything, that she should just close her eyes and go to sleep, but she insisted the house clearly needed something and it was up to her to find out what it was.
Then the leaks began. Drip, drip, drip, like a medieval system of torture which left damp patches on the walls and floors, but would Luna allow Severus to fire-call a specialist (surely there was a specialist in the field of drips) to take care of the problem? No, of course not. Luna said that it was probably an infestation of Humming Something-or-others, and if she walked through the halls for a few hours a night, keeping the house company (and entirely ignoring other people's needs in the process), it was sure to clear right up.
It did clear up. Eventually. But each day, a new house-related problem arose - sudden draughts and odd stains on the floorboards and Merlin knew what else - and Luna, who should have been exhibiting at least some frustration with the house like a normal wiza...witch would by this point, just smiled and petted the nearest wall as if the damned house were some inordinately large crup and cooed and said how lovely the house was looking, until Severus couldn't bear to watch any of it for another moment.
And so...the shed.
It wasn't as if Severus couldn't see that there had been some minor improvements made to the house since he and Luna moved in. It couldn't have looked any worse, after all. The mould was gone, and while the trim was still yellow, at least it was a fresh yellow now, almost exactly the colour of the magical daffodils that Luna had encouraged to bloom year round in the garden. The hallways were just as oddly angled and the rooms just as irregularly shaped as they'd always been, but somehow they didn't seem quite as dreadful as they had the day Severus first cast eyes on them. And yes, the windows were clean, the kitchen walls weren't terribly greasy anymore - at least not all the time - and if he'd still never caught a glimpse of the sunny upstairs room that Luna swore existed, at least the lounge was freshly painted in colours far more restful to the eye than Severus would ever have expected his spouse to choose.
However, the fact remained that the house...all right, saying their house didn't like him quite probably made Severus sound like a complete madman, but what other explanation was there? In any case, it was due to the damned house that Luna was no longer able to spend every waking moment in Severus's company, and if the house wasn't doing that intentionally, which Severus was certain it was, then...
Well. Yes. Perhaps he had run mad, just a bit.
two months, three weeks, and five days later
He'd been abandoned.
Not permanently - or at least not yet, he thought gloomily - but for the morning. Luna had set off early for her father's office to try and convince Xenophilius (for the nineteenth time) that, no, she was not going to marry Rolf Scamander, that she was already married and quite happily too, and no, her husband Severus had actually not died at the Battle of Hogwarts.
"Where does my father come up with these peculiar notions?" Luna asked, without the slightest hint of irony, before handing a cotton-candy scented rolled parchment to Severus, kissing him twice ("Once for luck!") and Apparating away to see her father.
When he unrolled the parchment, Severus discovered a sixteen item list titled "Important Care Notes!" beginning with "Keep warm and dry," and growing increasingly more absurd as it progressed.
"Sing to the house?" Severus muttered to himself. "Not bloody likely."
And so Severus dropped the parchment on the dining room table, and went out to the shed for the morning. But when morning turned into afternoon, and afternoon turned into early evening without any hint of Luna's return, Severus started to grow concerned.
His concern only grew when when he went back into the house and it was completely silent. It wasn't just the fact that Luna wasn't there, humming or singing as she ordinarily did when she went about her daily business (although...where was she? Surely she couldn't still be with her father?), but the house itself was silent. No creaks, no whistles, no sounds of water dripping.
He stood in the middle of his completely normal, beautifully decorated, utterly silent house. By all common standards, it was lovely - precisely what Severus had thought he'd wanted - but it felt horribly wrong all of a sudden.
He glanced over at the parchment he'd left on the table earlier that day and frowned. Surely Luna hadn't really expected him to take the care instructions on that list seriously.
What was he thinking? Of course she had, just like she expected everyone to believe in the existence of Crumple-Horned Snorkacks. Just like she'd expected her friends to take her relationship with him seriously, back when even he could hardly credit the fact that somebody as decent and loving and beautiful as Luna wanted to share a life with him.
And now, because he'd been too greedy for her time and attention - because he'd been jealous of a perfectly innocent house, for God's sake - Severus might have been responsible for...what exactly? Was it his fault that the house was suddenly still and unresponsive? Had he killed the house, somehow?
Feeling inordinately foolish, Severus placed his hand on the wall, then patted it as he'd seen Luna do. For a long moment, there was no response (which was no more than he'd expected, of course), but at the very instant he began to pull his hand away, his sensitive fingers detected something, a warmth he hadn't noticed before, at the very edges of his fingertips.
He took a few steps, moving his hand slowly along the wall and trying to find the source of the warmth he'd sensed, but it was elusive, always just out of reach. A few steps more and he was at the foot of the stairs, and with each step he took up the narrow staircase, the warmth grew increasingly more intense.
And then, at the first storey landing, he turned to the left and instead of the linen cupboard door that he expected to find, Severus saw - slightly ajar - a door to a sun-drenched room that Severus never truly believed had existed before this instant. With rather more trepidation than a former Death Eater should have been feeling at that moment, Severus stepped into the room.
It was a bedroom - the sunny bedroom that Luna had always said she loved so much. The walls were painted in muted shades of lavender, blue, and green, and the trim was a gleaming white. On top of a small chest of drawers sat a blue toy rabbit, its eyes bright and its pink nose wiggling.
And in the corner of the room was a crib, the sort you'd only expect to find in a Muggle fairy tale.
Here it was, then. The site of that mysterious warmth he'd found himself reaching for below. He glanced once more at the crib; was this what Luna and the house had been readying themselves for, and if so, what would his role be? All the alternatives he could imagine were, quite frankly, terrifying.
Severus was unsure how long he stood, unmoving, in the center of the room, staring at the crib and trying hard to draw a breath. And then he felt Luna's small, warm hand grasp his cold, stiff fingers.
"Breathe, Severus," he heard her say in her most gentle voice.
two months, three weeks, five days, and eleven hours later
"I can't believe I was manipulated so easily by a bloody house," Severus grumbled as he poured a second cup of chamomile tea for Luna. "You'd have thought I'd have learned by now."
"The house was just trying to be helpful, you know."
"Mmm. Annoying sounds, constant dampness, waking me in the middle of the night, taking your attention away from me...all in the service of preparing me for fatherhood?"
"I wanted to tell you as soon as I suspected, Severus, but I had to let the house do things its way."
He sighed. "Of course you did."
Luna took a sip of tea, then gazed at him with her soft grey eyes. "I hope you're happy about our baby. I'm happy about our baby."
"I can't believe you're actually pleased by the prospect of raising a child with a dunderhead who was so jealous of the time his wife spent with their house that he ran off and hid in the garden shed."
"You came out of the shed."
"Eventually," he muttered.
"Eventually," Luna agreed.
"How many months do I have left to learn to be a decent father?"
"Molly thinks it'll be at least five more months."
"Oh God," Severus groaned, burying his head in his hands. "Are you absolutely certain the child can't be convinced to wait a few years to make its appearance?"
"I'm fairly sure babies don't work that way."
Oh yes, Severus could hear the laughter in her voice and it was clear that she was laughing at him, but when Luna wrapped her arm around his shoulders and kissed him softly on his temple, he couldn't bring himself to care.
eleven months later
On behalf of the Daily Prophet, its editors, writers, photographers, and ancillary staff, I would like to apologise wholeheartedly for the unfortunate misunderstanding associated with yesterday's edition. We were unaware, when yesterday's paper went to print, that Mr Severus Snape had somehow placed a curse on all unapproved public images of him, his wife, and their infant son - particularly when said images involve Mr Severus Snape engaged in acts of "cuddling." On the advice of our solicitors, we have taken steps to ensure that in future, our regular subscribers will not be subjected to Prophet photographs bursting into flames at their breakfast tables.