A Pure-Blood Profession
She was dressing for work now. The garments laid out on the bed had been chosen carefully. And she had ample time. The French long case clock in the corner had just chimed the quarter. She rubbed the last of the bathwater from her shoulders, tossed the towel aside for one of the house elves to pick up later, and contemplated her choices.
"One does not," her Teacher had pointed out, "simply wear clothes. One inhabits them. Like your home, they are the outward signal of your wealth and power, or (his nostrils had flared in what was not, quite, a snort of derision) your slovenliness and lack of taste." He had turned away then, robe swirling about him, to attend to some other student. And she had watched, thinking how much his garments concealed and revealed about himself.
But that had been years ago, before battle, murder and sudden death had revealed to the world all that Severus Snape had wished to keep hidden under that thick black carapace.
Save for his secret teaching. He had been a Master of more than potions. He had Mastered her; and taught her the art of mastering others. Save on one disastrous occasion, she had been very good at it. And after Hogwarts, after the War, after everyone in the Family had deserted her, she had taken on the duty of maintaining this house, and she had chosen the oldest profession as her means of doing so.
So, first, the undergarments. The Mistress preparing her domain for habitation. The suspender-belt came first; leather, not lace, not for this occasion, black as sin. She cinched it below her navel, arranging the dangling straps fore and aft, before taking up her stockings, rolling them carefully so as not to snag the fine spider-silk, and bending to drawn them over toes, heels and long legs to clip to the suspender-ends. Best to do this before her movement was restricted by the rest of her garments.
Lace followed, in the form of a triangle of froth to cover what her Teacher had called her 'modesty' (they had both laughed. She had never forgotten his laugh. Sometimes she wondered whether she had been the only one privileged to hear it unmixed with sarcasm.) Then more leather, in the form of boots laced tight to her calves. Once the laces had been firmly knotted she planted her feet apart, stood and stretched. It would be the last opportunity that she would have to do so for some time.
The brassiere was next. Two more triangles of crimson lace, enough to meet the demands of propriety, and then black leather again, boned with steel and held tight by a fan of blood red silk cords. There was skill in lacing oneself into a corset, whether or not one resorts to the use of magic, which she did not. Another lesson from Severus. "To resort to the use of magic for the mundane limits your experience and your skills."He had been talking about stirring potions, but she remembered the first time that she had used a charm to lace her corsets – and the failure of her Muggle client to unlace them.
So. Her fingers found the long loops, selected out the bottom set carefully, and pulled, settling the steel firmly around her hips. A second pull on the upper cords secured her a cleavage and a third straightened the line of the busk before she looped the cords into a bow and secured them with a final knot. Only then did she breathe carefully out.
That was the simplest part of her job, the basics, the things that one must get right so that they become second nature. Only then can one build on ones skill to become a Master (Severus again – she felt him very close this evening), or a Mistress. She crossed to her wardrobe. The figure reflected in the mirrored door was the perfect Dominatrix. It was why her clients came to her, but it was not what they needed. The discipline was often merely an encore to the performance, and this client required a symphony. She opened the door, watching the black and red clad figure slide out of sight, and surveyed the contents. Her school uniform still hung here (or a facsimile of it, tailored to her current, slimmer, dimensions), and the Muggle maid's outfit (none of her clients suspected that it had once been worn in service – after the War there had been few openings in the wizarding world for former Slytherin students). Her fingers trailed over the silks of the kimono and of the sari (the latter a gift from two very grateful clients), and came to rest on the mutton-sleeved blouse and long pleated skirt of an Edwardian witch of quality.
He had ordered it for her, based on the gown worn by his great grandfather's sister in the only portrait that remained of that formidable dowager. She wondered, as she took down the hanger and laid out the garments, how he had endured the old harpy's complaints while he made notes of the details of her wardrobe. The portrait had finally been destroyed when the house had been blown up (a Muggle outrage – Grimauld Place had survived the Blitz and the Death Eaters only to succumb to what the Muggle press had called 'urban terrorism'), he would have been surprised to know that Walberga Black had widely been regarded as the image of her paternal grandmother, Violetta, whose own portrait was hanging on the wall opposite to the mirror in which his inamorata was currently checking her appearance.
She smiled at its reflection, which might have been her own. The midnight black hair, the square, determined jaw, and the calculating eyes had been taken into the notorious Black family by Violetta, but had been bequeathed to her through the direct pureblood line. The blouse, with its high lace collar and V-shaped waterfall of lace over the bust fitted perfectly over the corset. She had a little trouble adjusting the train of the skirt, it had been cut by a modern seamstress who had not understood the intricacies of Edwardian tailoring. She had settled it to her satisfaction just as the doorbell rang.
The sound of Dyson the house elf admitting the visitor drifted up from the hall as she completed her toilette, a dust of powder and a streak of kohl, before winding her black hair up into its severest bun and stabbing in the pins to secure it. On the opposite wall the portrait of Great Aunt Violetta Bulstrode looked on with approving eyes.
She took a breath, composing herself and getting into character for the role this client required. He would expect chastisement, but the whip would not be appropriate with these outer garments. Later perhaps... Thoughtfully she looked around the room, and her eyes lit on the companion set by the fireplace. She smiled, and picked up the poker, weighing the brass in her hand. It would do. With the instrument still in her grip she stepped out of the room and onto the landing.
The visitor, caught in the act of divesting himself of hat and gloves, looked up. His hair changed colour from sun-touched gold to raven black. "Madame Millicent..." he began.
She allowed him to get no further, leaning over the bannister rail and screaming like a harpy. "Weyr-blood! Filthy excuse for a wizard! How dare you raise your Muggle-loving eyes to your betters?!"
He dropped his gaze obediently, but there was a half-smile on his lips. Madame Millicent was on form tonight. He knew that the tongue-lashing would be followed with more physical force. And she had brought the poker. Her next words sent a shiver of pleasurable anticipation through him.
"Dyson, show this scum to the cellar. I will deal with him there."
Teddy Lupin bowed his head, resigned to his fate, and followed the house elf.