Severus waited until the girl had left to start throwing things.

He broke the lamp on his desk, a potted plant Dumbledore had given him three Christmas' ago, and an entire row of potions ingredients. He'd cut his hand on something in the process, but he didn't care. Severus barely felt it. All that mattered was the hammering of Lily-things' words in his ears, the echo they'd cast in his classroom, and the darkest, most secret place in his tattered heart. Severus couldn't begin to fathom how'd they gotten to this point, where this most precious thing, his sole motivation for everything he did for the past decade, was suddenly a newfound knowledge to Lily's daughter.

Stupid stupid STUPID GIRL how did she know what did she KNOW SHE KNEW SOMETHING —

There was another loud CRACK as Severus tossed the carving knife the girl had used to gut the toads at the wall. It ricocheted off, leaving a mark on the stone. He could see blood on the handle from where he'd cut his hand. It ran down his arm, splattering to the floor as Severus threw his arm out again, clearing the contents of his desk in one swoop. That little brat, this… thing that looked and talked like Lily, but not-Lily, with her damn questions and longing for something Severus could not — would not — give her.

Why did it have to be him? Why had Lily-thing come to him, of all the fucking people? Was this really only because she'd overheard him shouting at Dumbledore about Petunia?

No. It wasn't.

Lily's letter.

Of course she'd left something for the girl. Lily would have made sure that Lily-thing knew she was loved and cherished, especially if Lily thought there was even a chance she wouldn't be there to tell the girl herself. What the sodding fuck did Severus have to do with it? There was no comprehensible reason Lily should have said anything about him, especially to her and Potter's child. Lily had hated him, resented him, been disgusted with him. Lily had wanted nothing to do with Severus, and rightfully so. Severus had screwed that up royally, and even then, Lily was smart. She would've known he'd joined the Death Eaters, and if the Dark Lord had been after her baby…

Severus sat with his face in his hands. He hadn't spoken to Lily after that day in fifth year, when she'd gone back through the Portrait Door and left him sitting there in self-loathing and despair. There had only been looks from there on out, terrible, awful looks that bordered on hatred, but with an edge of sadness that he couldn't place. Was it regret that Lily had ever known him, or that he still existed?

Severus had never been able to figure it out, but he'd avoided her like the plague, especially once she'd started dating Potter. The only other time after that had been during one of the few battles against the Order Severus had actively taken part in, months after they'd graduated from Hogwarts. He'd seen Lily there, battling with Bellatrix, when Lily had gone flying back, Bellatrix's wand raised to deliver a final blow, and something inside of Severus he thought long dead took control of him like he was a man possessed. Lily hadn't recognized him, though, when he'd saved her… he'd been wearing the mask… and Dumbledore wouldn't have told Lily and Potter, no…

What the sodding fuck could Lily have POSSIBLY —

He should have known there would be some sort of reckoning, a return, even though Lily was gone. It was inevitable that it would lead her daughter there, to this… this blood trail. And it was a blood trail, because Severus had murdered Ariel Evans' parents. Severus was going to find out — no.

NO —

He didn't want to know. He didn't want to touch whatever this… thing was with a ten foot fucking pole. Love was a terrible, terrible thing. You wore your heart outside of your body with no skin, no bones, nothing to protect it. He wouldn't entertain this… curiosity the girl had. It wasn't his responsibility. Severus had pledged his life to the girl, to this Lily-thing that was the last of her, but he would not pander to whatever childish fantasies she held close to that incomprehensible little heart of hers. Merlin only knew…

But then again, it was the things one could not see coming that were strong enough to kill them. Severus was terrified of what Lily-thing knew now, of what she still wasn't telling him. He was going to make that girl pay, Severus decided, a dark thought moving through his thoughts, like a shadow. He'd make her regret ever seeking him out, for telling him about her mother's damn letter.

(how could he go on, without knowing what Lily had said, there was no reason for her to be saying ANYTHING)

Severus flung another jar at the wall, his irritation growing when he did not feel any satisfaction at the glass shards littering the stone floor. He couldn't destroy his classroom, but he couldn't simply leave this alone now, either. Lily-thing had gone back up to her blasted Tower, probably feeling smug and important.

He could destroy this… need to talk to him, the curiosity.

Curiosity killed the cat

Until Severus figured out what that little shit did and did not know…

Dumbledore had asked him to keep an eye on Quirrell, hadn't he?

The next morning, Ariel awoke feeling as if she hadn't gotten an ounce of sleep. Her dreams had been plagued with poor dead-toads and Snape's sneering face glaring down at her, telling her to hurry up, that he had to go and check on the Stone, but the bucket was endless, and the more toads she gutted, the angrier dream-Snape became.

"I'm not your father," he'd kept saying to her. "Don't get it twisted."

She rubbed the grit out of her eyes, meeting Hermione's as they both slid out of bed, looking equally exhausted. It was almost midnight by the time Ariel had returned from Snape's detention. Ron and Hermione had waited up for her, but they'd dozed off a couple of times, they'd sheepishly admitted. Ariel didn't blame them. Once the adrenaline had worn off, she had felt completely knackered herself.

They'd managed to stay awake long enough for Ariel to tell them what had happened, about the Stone, and Snape's weird not-really-answers to very direct questions. Ron had told her to burn the letter and be done with it (Snape's a git, Ariel, you're better off) while Hermione had endorsed Snape's advice to go and talk to Professor Flitwick about how to undo her mother's protection charm on the letter. Ariel had nearly forgotten to tell them about the Stone, which only added to the collective confusion between all three of them. While Ariel felt good about knowing that Snape had in fact known and been friends with her mum, this whole Stone business with Fluffy and the forbidden third floor corridor was an added layer Ariel didn't know how to categorize just yet.

Why was Snape so adamant about her staying away (besides Fluffy?). Why was the Stone being kept at Hogwarts, and who the heck was trying to steal it?

Ariel filed those questions away for later. There were more pressing matters to attend to, anyway.

(Like landing herself another detention with Snape)

"How're you feeling?" Hermione asked as Ariel bent down to pull on her shoes — she'd put them on the wrong feet the first time.

She didn't know how to answer that. Ariel felt… better, but not really. She wanted to talk to Snape again, but she was afraid that he might've snapped after she'd left. Ariel had spent the whole trip back to Gryffindor Tower looking over her shoulder, afraid (hoping hoping hoping) that Snape would be charging after her. He hadn't, though.

"Okay," Ariel shrugged, grabbing her rucksack. "I'm going to go and talk to Professor Flitwick after class today, to see if he can help."

Hermione beamed, like Ariel had told her she had decided to read next years' assigned readings. "That's a brilliant idea. What are you going to tell him?"

"Nothing specific." she wasn't going to tell anyone anything. All she needed was another professor telling Snape the truth — something told her that wouldn't go over very well. Truthfully, Ariel had gone back and forth over telling Professor Dumbledore, but something held her back. She felt guilty over taking the letter without telling him first. He'd been so kind, returning her mum's trunk to her after saving her from the Dursleys. Dumbledore was brilliant, and could probably help but… Ariel wasn't important enough. Surely overseeing a magic castle took up most of his time — she didn't want to bother him.

Hermione gave a quick nod. "I agree. If anyone will be able to help, it'll be him."

"I sure hope so." Ariel's heart ache with longing to have her mum's words back. She wanted the lopsided t's and the l's Mum only wrote in cursive.

"It'll be okay." Hermione reassured her. "We can look into this Stone, in the meantime. Want to meet in the library after lunch? We can all go together and see if we can find anything."

The Stone — as much as it had made her brain hurt last night — was a welcome distraction from Snape. The idea of reading through more books, however, made her eyes burn at the very thought. They had to start somewhere, though, especially if Snape was suspicious of them. "Yes, but —"

Ariel was about to tell Hermione that she had no idea what this magic Stone did (Ariel figured there were various types, since magic Stones seemed like something that would be in abundance) when Lavender, Parvati, and Fay walked in from the bathrooms. Ariel told Hermione with her eyes that they'd discuss this once they were alone, and Hermione nodded in acknowledgment. The other girls didn't even look in Ariel's direction. Lavender was still furious with Ariel for taking down the collage they'd spent so much time putting together. Ariel had a stinking suspicion that her dad (not dad, not James) wasn't on display for Lavender and Parvati to fawn over anymore.

She quickly pulled on her robes, pulling her red curls back into a ponytail as Hermione prepared for battle with her own. Usually she had Ariel try and brush it out in the morning, but they were already late for breakfast. Ariel's hair had grown out enough that she was finally able to tie it back. It was constantly falling in her face, especially while she was working, and it drove her bonkers.

On the other side of the room, Lavender and Parvati were trading bracelets, like they did every day, even though they always ended up choosing the same ones. They were always generous when it came to loaning Ariel things, but she had a strange feeling they were trying to fix something that Ariel didn't think was broken. They had been dumbfounded when she'd told them she didn't have pierced ears. Ariel had tried to do it herself once, just to get back at Aunt Petunia for ripping up the artwork that had been on display at Meet-the-Teacher night. She'd stolen her pearls and attempted to do it in the bathroom during Dudley's birthday party, but one of the mothers had come upstairs and nearly fainted at the sight of blood in the sink. It hadn't even been that much, but Aunt Petunia had let her have it later, after assuring all the other horrified parents that Ariel was "mentally disturbed, but harmless."

That last part described Snape to a tee. Maybe that's where she got it from. He was mental, but if Snape was as awful as everyone thought he was, he would've made her scorch mark on the wall after that detention. He hadn't, though, something had held him back.

Something that had to do with her mum.

Something like that

Ariel and Hermione met Ron downstairs in the Common Room, right in front of the couch Ariel had left them last night, before bed. He looked as tired as they did, but also anxious. Ron had been pacing the length of the rug when he'd caught sight of them.

"Hey," Ron greeted them with a tight smile. "Any luck?"

He was referring to the notebooks. Ariel and Hermione had told Ron they were going to try and search a little while longer after Ron had turned in for the night, but the exhaustion of the day had been too much to keep going.

"Nothing," Hermione shook her head. "We didn't try much longer after you left. We were exhausted."

"It's no use, anyway." Ariel said with a sigh. "I don't think Mum would've written it down anywhere someone else could find it."

"So what's next?" Ron asked.

"I'm going to talk to Professor Flitwick about it." said Ariel, slipping the letter out from her rucksack. She'd tucked it inside her Charms textbook for now. She was secretly afraid that the letter would return to normal while she was gone.

"Don't bring it with you!" Ron whispered loudly. "Are you mad?"

"Well I can't leave it here!" Ariel shot back. "What if someone finds it?"

"Like who?"

"I don't want to take any chances." she gave him A Look. "Besides, I have to show it to Flitwick if he's going to be able to help at all. Maybe he'll know how to break the protection charm."

Ron made another disagreeing sound. All three of them looked to his stomach when it voiced it's opinion, much louder than Ron's.

"Let's go," Hermione said, taking Ariel's hand. "I'm starving too."

Ariel slipped her mum's letter back into the textbook, following Hermione's lead out of the Portrait. The Fat Lady was singing this morning, a lot louder than usual. They had to cram their hands over their ears as they passed through. Even once they got to the bottom of the stairs, they could still hear her trying to serenade whoever was unfortunate enough to pass. A group of Ravenclaws stopped to listen, giving each other questioning looks as Ariel, Hermione, and Ron moved past them.

Sunlight poured into the Great Hall, its rays like threads, weaving their way high above their heads. Outside, she could see flecks of something that looked like snow whizzing past. It was only November first, but it had been so chilly, especially up here in the highlands of Scotland. Ariel hadn't liked snow much, especially when she'd been living at the Dursleys. They'd never allow her to go play in it, which meant snow days and nights were spent entertaining herself, alone in her cupboard.

Ariel barely tasted the toast she'd taken from the center of the table, although Hermione had pointed out that she was eating it with nothing smothered on it. Usually she opted for raspberry jam, but she really wasn't hungry. Ariel exhaled through her nose, and courageously glanced up at the High Table, expecting to be smited instantly.

Snape was not there.

This gave Ariel a nasty shock. Snape was always there. She knew this because she usually waved to Hagrid every morning, and sometimes, Snape was right next to him. Ariel made sure not to do it if that was the case, because after the Sorting, when she'd almost waved at him, and he'd thrown daggers as sharp as glass at her, Ariel had learned that Snape wanted nothing to do with her.

This made her feel incredibly small as she smashed her eggs with a spoon.

She had Charms and Potions today. That meant she was going to have to see Snape after what she'd said to him last night. The only plus about this was that she'd be able to get that detention sooner rather than later. Ariel had to figure out what had happened between Snape and her mum, because, somehow, only through mental gymnastics, Ariel knew that it had somehow resulted in her being born.

"Air-ree-ella!" Fred sang as he sat down beside her. "How're you doing, ol' sport? We heard from Ronniekins that you landed yourself in detention with Snape last night!"

Ariel wanted to smash her face against the plate. "Yeah, something like that."

"Popped that cherry, didn't ya?" George grinned. "Congrats. There should be a prize once you get the first one over with. A consolation."

Angelina Johnson gave him a horrible look from a few seats down, one that told him to shut up. The twins didn't seem to notice.

"What'd he have you do?" Fred asked, trying to balance a fork on his finger. Hermione gasped as he turned, pretending to jab George with it, like he was a pirate wielding a sword. "Anything particularly unpleasant?"

"Gutting toads." Ariel said tonelessly. Her hands still smelt like their insides, even after scrubbing at her hands both last night and this morning. Ariel tried to imagine the twins finding out Snape was her dad. They'd be relentless, not to mention that they'd probably never look at her the same.

"Yuck," George made a face. "He made us scrape off… what was it, Fred? Flobberworms?"

"Yeah, something like that." Fred made a gagging sound that caused a group of Hufflepuffs to turn around to see what was happening. "Toads guts are definitely worse, though."

"Yes, thank you." Hermione said, shooing them away. "It was awful enough without you two making her relive it."

Ron ate the eggs and scone Ariel still hadn't touched, which made her feel awfully silly. She remembered days at the Dursleys when she would've killed for a meal, and now, passing up food felt like a sin. Ariel had never been the type to eat if she wasn't hungry, though. Weirdly enough, while she was dreading seeing Snape later on today she was also… excited. Ariel suspected it wouldn't take much to get him to assign her another detention, but Hermione and Ron were going to think she'd gone absolutely barmy. Her stomach was too anxious to eat — it felt like a swarm of pixies were playing dodgems. Neville joined them at some point, already a nervous wreck about Potions later on today. Ron had told Ariel and Hermione he had nightmares about Snape. That was something they had in common, Ariel thought to herself, while Hermione reassured Neville that she'd help him as best she could today.

"Well well, if it isn't Evans." said The Worst Voice in the History of the Entire Universe. "It's a shame she didn't get clobbered by that mountain troll, but she sure does look like one today, doesn't she?"

Ariel was going to stick her fork in Malfoy's neck, she'd decided, when Ron nearly flung himself over the table to get at Malfoy. Luckily, Fred and George hadn't gone far, and pulled him back before a professor could see. She didn't have the patience to deal with him today. Most times, Ariel ignored him, and that seemed to do the trick. Malfoy was a lot like Dudley in the sense that if you didn't acknowledge them, they were relatively harmless. The difference was that Dudley was pretty stupid, and had the attention span of an acorn, while Malfoy brooded and found ways to exact revenge that would make Ariel have to fight back.

She rounded on him, swinging her legs around the bench without standing. "Go away, Malfoy. Shouldn't you be patrolling for more people to snitch on?"

Malfoy's hair was perfectly gelled back, as usual, and he wore a sneer that seemed to be painted permanently on his smug, pointed face. Ron liked to call him a gremlin, which was very funny to Ariel and Hermione. Pansy Parkinson was on his left, Millicent Bulstrode next to her. If Malfoy wasn't bothering her, it was probably because the Slytherin girls were. Pansy loved to talk (very loudly) about how ugly Ariel's hair was, how she looked like a boy, and her height. If Malfoy wasn't calling her Red Cap, Pansy had taken to calling her Bug. Ariel wouldn't lower herself to name calling, but Pansy looked like a pug, and Millicent resembled a pitbull-bulldozer hybrid. Crabbe and Goyle were still eating, and Ariel secretly wished they were flanking Malfoy instead of the Slytherin girls. Crabbe and Goyle only offered supportive laughs when it came to Malfoy harrassing Gryffindors. Pansy actively took part in it.

Malfoy gave Ariel a satisfied smirk. "Enjoy your detention, then?"

"You know you set us up." Ariel said coolly. "Telling Snape we out past curfew was real low."

"Bested you, do you mean?" Malfoy's grin widened. "I'll take that as a compliment, Red Cap."

"She could use a cap, Draco." Pansy snickered. "Someone needs to cover that mess on her head."

Ariel wanted to knock their pearly white teeth out, but restrained herself. "Somebody needs to cover your mouth. Nobody likes a tattletale."

"Piss off, Malfoy." Ron shot from the other side of the table. "You know Ariel would've knocked your arse flat."

"I don't think so," Malfoy sneered. "you can barely fly a broom, what makes you think you could best me in a duel? I did you a favor, really. Everyone knows Gryffindors are all show, anyway."

"At least I showed up." Ariel stood up — she was half a foot shorter than him, but Malfoy didn't scare her. "Guess I shouldn't be surprised. Everyone knows Slytherins are cowards, anyway."

Pansy opened her mouth, probably to say something about the color of Ariel's hair, or how her freckles were probably acne scars, when the whole group turned to see Professor McGonagall heading towards them, her mouth set in a firm line. The Slytherins scattered like cockroaches when exposed to light. Ariel sat back down at the table, turning back to the scone she'd turned to a pile of crumbs when Professor McGonagall passed, the breeze noticeably chillier.

Ariel filed those insults away, for later.

After a Charms class that was blessedly free of Slytherins, Ariel stayed behind to speak to Professor Flitwick. Today had only been a lecture, which had made it very difficult to stay focused in class with everything on her mind. Instead of listening to Professor Flitwick drabble on and on about… what Charm had it been again? Well, it didn't matter, Hermione would be more than happy to tell Ariel all about it later on. Hermione spent the class with her nose to the parchment, taking down notes word for word. It had gotten to a point where Hermione's writing had drowned out Professor Flitwick, even. The only sound Ariel heard was the scratchscratchscratch of her quill, and so, she'd decided to do some writing of her own.

Ariel strained her memory of the original letter, trying to write it down, to recreate it. She now realized the irony in criticizing how short it was, when she herself could not even recall the opening line. Ariel certainly knew what was inside it, but she couldn't begin to try and dictate word for word what Mum had said exactly. She felt stupid and silly, the only thought in her mind playing like a record on repeat: what if Snape asks what if Snape asks what if Snape asks…

She didn't know what'd she say to him. Snape knowing her mum didn't necessarily mean he was definitely her dad, but at the same time, wasn't it silly to question the letter at this point? Mum had written it, and Snape had known her, been friends with her. The thought made her brain feel fuzzy, trying to picture the two of them having an actual conversation. Even if Snape was her dad, it didn't take away the fact that he was horrible. He bullied the Gryffindors and made Neville cry. He had accused Ariel of trying to steal that secret Stone and had insulted her. Imagining Snape being anything… more than Mum's friend was like putting her head in a vise. Mum had been beautiful, kind, brave. Snape was… none of those things, except maybe the latter. She couldn't say that one for herself just yet.

If Snape had been friends with Mum though… why did he ignore Ariel so much? The only times he'd ever spoken to Ariel were when he'd saved her from the Dursleys, and when the troll had cornered them. That was it. Ariel tried hard to think about what those two things had in common, but she couldn't…

Maybe Mum had Obliviated all of their memories? No — that couldn't be true, Snape had said he'd known Mum. But if he remembered… none of this made sense. Ariel couldn't even begin to put the two of them into a romantic relationship. Adults were so bloody weird, Snape being the weirdest of them all.

It was the shuffling of footsteps and chairs scraping against the floor that brought Ariel back to the present, where she found Professor Flitwick dismissing the class. Ariel hadn't written down a single thing on Charms today, just some chicken scratch that wasn't even legible to her when reading it over. She scowled down at the parchment, smashing it into a ball before tossing it into the nearest rubbish bin. Hermione looked at her in horror, but Ariel just shook her head.

"You go on ahead," Ariel said. "I'll meet you at lunch."

"You don't want us to stay?" Hermione asked nervously, shooting a glance at Ron, who was already halfway out the door. He'd started doodling pictures of sandwiches about halfway through, and then, a very unflattering picture of Filch.

"No, I'll be quick." Ariel promised. "Five minutes, tops. We're still going to the library, right? Before Potions?"

Hermione gave her a reluctant nod. "I don't mind staying."

"I don't want to make a big deal out of it."

A look of understanding crossed over her face. "Good idea. I'll save you a seat, yeah?"

Ariel smiled, turning her attention towards the front of the room, where Professor Flitwick was shuffling behind his desk. She loved the Charms classroom — it was so bright and airy. Ariel especially loved when they did demonstrations. When they'd done Levitation spells, Ariel had looked around the room at all the floating feathers in awe, wondering how she'd been so lucky to have gotten here, to that moment.

"Do you have a moment, Professor?" Ariel asked, shifting her textbooks to one side. "I'd like to talk to you about something."

Professor Flitwick looked up from his desk, shuffling his gradebook to the corner of his desk. It was very neat, Ariel noted, very different from Snape's. His was full of so much clutter it was a wonder he could still sit and write at it. "Of course, my dear, but do make it fast. I have a meeting with the Headmaster in a few minutes."

Her heart gave a funny little jump at the mention of Professor Dumbledore. Ariel wanted so badly to talk to him again. "Of course. It's just a Protection Charm I'm trying to break. It's been giving me a little bit of trouble."

He stopped what he was doing to give her a half amused, half stern look. "Something accidental that belongs to you, I hope."

"Oh, yes, of course, sir." Ariel said, feeling stupid. "It's been put on a letter from my mum that she wrote to me. When I first opened it, it read just fine, but yesterday it… it all disappeared, except for some riddle she left. Hermione thought I should talk to you about it."

"Smart girl," Professor Flitwick chuckled. "but a letter from your mother, you say?"

Ariel nodded, her hands shaking as she reached into her rucksack, slipping the letter out to show him.

"Your mother was one of the brightest witches I've ever taught." Fliwick said, smiling warmly down at the parchment, like it was a picture of Lily waving up at him. "She wanted to be a Healer, you know. She certainly had a knack for Charms and Curse-breaking. Such a quick wit, that girl. She had an answer for everything."

Normally, Ariel would have been leaping down his throat to hear more, but it made her uncomfortable, given the current situation. "Professor McGonagall said she was Head Girl."

"That she was." his eyes sparkled at the memory, like he'd gone back there to see it for himself. "But I digress. Let me take a look, Miss Evans."

Professor Flitwick bent over, steading himself on the tabletop (which was very high off the ground in comparison to his height) and squinted. He hm'd several times as Ariel nails dug into her palms, trying to keep herself from losing her patience. After a moment, Professor Flitwick unsheathed his wand, murmuring spells Ariel couldn't make out. Bolts of green and yellow and purple hung above the letter, twinkling and shimmering like sleigh bells. They pulsed as a heartbeat does.

Where do we go when we walk on light? Ariel didn't even know where to begin with it.

"This type of spell is tailored to the person the letter is intended for." Professor Flitwick lectured, tracing his wand over the parchment, the tip lighting up a sky blue. "That would be you, Miss Evans. Upon opening it, the spell… how can I put this? It reads you, in a way, much like how you read it. There's a connection formed there, and the spell is attuned to what you need."

Ariel blinked in confusion. "So it's… alive?"

"No, no… hm, yes, this is tricky." the lines of Professor Flitwick's mouth drooped, but his eyes were excited. "Your mother wrote this letter to you, yes? There are traces of her magic here, of the emotional bond she had with you when she was still alive. That type of relationship does not fade, the magic built into it, even though she is no longer with us. Once you opened the letter and read it, the 'letter,' which was really your mother's Charm handiwork, was able to see what you needed emotionally, once you concluded reading. It seemed that although you had read it and understood the contents, it no longer felt the need to be manifested physically. For example, did you happen to share this letter with anyone? Miss Granger and Mr Weasley, perhaps?"

Ariel nodded.

"Ah well, that is why it did not initially fade. It knew you would need to show it to Miss Granger and Mr Weasley, knew you trusted them and needed to share its contents with them. It knew you would need support." Professor Flitwick looked like a kid on Christmas morning. "Fascinating stuff, really."

Ariel's head spun. "So you're saying that the letter — er — Mum put this Charm on it so that the letter would know what I needed to… understand it?"

"Exactly." Professor Flitwick beamed.

"So then… how do I solve the riddle?" Ariel asked.

"This type of Charm can only be broken by speaking the response aloud to it." Professor Flitwick smiled sadly, clicking his tongue in disappointment. "I wish I could be of more help, my dear, but your mother did a number on this one. There was nothing in the original that hinted at what it could be?"

"Nothing," Ariel muttered, her disappointment insurmountable. "I've been trying but…"

"I must ask, Miss Evans," Professor Flitwick looked at her seriously, as if he was about to ask her if she'd done something wrong. "was there something… important that your mother wrote to you? Such spells are oftentimes meant to conceal information that could be harmful to others."

Her heart skipped a beat. "No Professor, it was just… personal."

His face softened. "I see. Well, if you find any clues, do let me know. I'd be happy to insist in any way I can. My only regret is that I couldn't help more…"

"It's okay," Ariel managed a wobbly smile. "Thank you for your help anyway, Professor. It did explain a lot."

"It was my pleasure, my dear girl."

Ariel trudged away dejectedly. What was she supposed to do now?

Severus was thinking about slipping some firewhiskey into his second cup of coffee for the day when Minerva walked into the staff room, which was otherwise blissfully empty.

Sprout was fretting over a new crop of Shrivelfig that had begun to take earlier that week, the others undoubtedly moseying around the castle, taking their sweet time to make their way here. Severus wasn't complaining, an empty staff room meant he wouldn't have to entertain mundane conversations. He'd secretly been hoping that Quirrell would appear before anyone else, but that was wishful thinking, and Minerva, being Minerva, had of course, found him. She'd been sending him notes all morning, which Severus had gladly ignored.

Severus had a feeling Quirrell would be avoiding the staff room (and Severus) for a very long time. Last nights' encounter hadn't done anything to curb Severus' wrath, but it had aided him in channeling at least some of it. If that bumbling idiot had anything to do with whoever was trying to steal the fucking Stone, Severus was a Hufflepuff. Quirrell had cowered and stuttered his way through excuses, but deep down, as much as Severus loathed to admit it, if Dumbledore was suspicious, Quirrell probably wasn't as innocent as he was portraying himself to be.

"Good afternoon, Severus," Minerva said stiffly as she sat down across from him. Severus could automatically tell that she was here to speak with him about something specific, probably on a subject that Severus would loathe discussing — like Granger. Or perhaps Minerva was still upset by the troll incident. In that case he was (almost) glad at least one other member of the staff had any sort of sense. He was, however, disappointed that Minerva didn't have enough sense to leave him alone. "I didn't see you at breakfast this morning. Are you feeling alright?"

Severus grunted in response, not bothering to look up from his mug.

Minerva raised an eyebrow. "A verbal response would suffice, Severus."

He would certainly not tell her that he'd harassed a fellow staff member in the middle of the night, and he would most certainly not tell her that he'd sat at his desk until dawn pondering what the sodding fuck Lily could have possibly written to her daughter that had anything to do with him. The thought was burrowing deeper and deeper into Severus' psyche, an itch he needed to scratch, one that not even his Occlumency could keep out. Lily had that prophetic affect on him. No matter how hard Severus tried, and he tried, (oh how he tried) he could not rid himself of thinking of her on the daily since Severus had found Lily-thing in that blasted closet.

Dumbledore would have told Severus it was his greatest strength. It felt like failure, because Severus had done so to her, to her child, time and time again.

"I'm fine." he said shortly. "I had papers to grade."

"You mean desecrate." Minerva gave him a thin smile.

"They get what they deserve." Severus snipped back. "If even half of the little dimwits put any sort of thought into the assignments, I —" still wouldn't give them high marks. "— would certainly consider giving them grades that reflect it."

"It's usually not until late February that you're this… ornery."

Severus had the girl after lunch. He planned on making it a particularly unpleasant class for the Gryffindors. If Granger so much as looked in his direction, Severus was going to dock them fifty points. He couldn't take Lily-thing's dark eyes watching his every move, like she had last night. Those eyes weren't Potter's, no, and for that Severus was grateful. He didn't know if he could handle seeing a little amalgam of Potter and Lily that manifested in the form of their spawn. She was the last of Lily, and Severus had sworn to protect her, yes, but that didn't mean he was going to put up with this nonsense that felt a lot like blackmail.

"Miss Granger has the innate ability to cause migraines." Severus said, taking another sip of his coffee, wishing more than ever that it was spiked. "Longbottom is useless. The boy can barely hold a ladle."

"That would fix itself if you stopped scaring the poor boy out of his wits." her face darkened. "The students tell me you terrorize him."

"The students are hardly reliable." They were, Severus had zero patience for the boy. If he didn't learn how to get his fear under control — it truly was a marvel the brat was in Gryffindor — then he'd end up hurting himself, or someone else, and it was not going to happen in Severus' classroom. That was far too much paperwork.

"Speaking of Miss Granger," Minerva said, and Severus suddenly felt like a mouse that had been cornered by a feline. "I wanted to inquire about Miss Evans' detention last night. How did you fare with her?"

Of course she did. Everything lately was becoming about Miss Evans. Severus had experienced enough of Lily-thing in the last forty-eight hours to last ten lifetimes.

Severus set the mug down, his knuckles cracking around the handle. "She's meddlesome."

Minerva raised an eyebrow at him. "Come now, Severus. I still don't understand why you found it necessary to give the girl detention for something completely out of her control."

Ah — that was what this was about. Normally, Minerva would give Severus the cold shoulder if she thought Severus was being unfair (which he usually was), but this was, after all, Lily-thing they were talking about. Minerva would never admit it, but she had a soft spot for the child.

Because they died

You said Aunt Petunia hated Mum because Mum had magic

"The girl needed to be taught a lesson." Severus said stiffly. "She was not forthcoming with her true whereabouts."

Minerva sighed, drumming her hands on the tabletop. "Severus, not everything is —"

The door opened, and Severus' eyes flickered to the doorway as Dumbledore entered with Flitwick. The old man's robes were an offending neon yellow today, gold tassels embroidered on the inside. A pegasus was stitched onto both arms. It hurt Severus' eyes to look at him. The mere fact that Dumbledore wore robes like that was offensive on every level imaginable.

"… letter is quite advanced." Flitwick was saying. "Ariel was quite adamant about keeping it to herself, but I found it rather peculiar —"

Severus sat up like his spine had been electrocuted. He whirled around in his seat, his heart slamming against his ribs. Dumbledore was bent over, hands clasped behind his back, listening intently as Flitwick waddled forward, seating himself on the sofa beside the fireplace. The fire popped and crackled heartily, casting their shadows along the walls behind them. Minerva was still speaking, rambling on about Lily-thing's detention, but she sounded like she was underwater.

"Did Ariel mention what it said?" Dumbledore asked, his bushy eyebrows knitted together in deep thought.

"No, only that it was personal. I did ask, Headmaster, but Miss Evans seemed very aloof about the whole thing, and very disappointed when I told her there wasn't anything I could do." Flitwick sighed, waving his hands as a teacup settled itself on the table in front of the, the spoon stirring in sugar cubes. "The poor girl, I can only imagine losing something like that, something precious that's just within reach…"

The old man nodded, a sad look painted on his face. "Were you able to give her any guidance, Filius?"

Flitwick shook his head. "Unfortunately not, the protection charm Lily placed on the letter can only be broken by speaking the correct response out loud. The peculiar thing is — and I didn't tell Miss Evans this, she was already quite upset — that it doesn't appear to be directed to her at all. It seems like it needs to be spoken aloud by someone else, which doesn't make any sense to me, Albus. The girl had no clue what the countercharm could be. The letter is ingrained with magic all tied to her, but the protection charm is not… very odd indeed. Perhaps Lily meant it for James?"

Severus' chest clenched painfully. He shoved the thought, the cold slap of reality, of his greatest fear come to pass, away from him. What the hell was the girl doing? What was in the damn letter Lily-thing was so desperate to restore?

Severus heard Minerva sigh in exasperation as she got up to leave.

… if Severus was mentioned in this letter, why WAS SHE SHOWING IT TO —

Before Severus' head popped off his shoulders, Dumbledore looked straight at him, catching him in the act. Eavesdropping was nothing Severus was below, but he was usually much better at it, and this happened to be the worst possible thing Dumbledore could have caught him doing; listening to a conversation about Lily-thing.

Instead of inviting Severus to join the conversation, though Dumbledore's eyes lit up, twinkling like fairy lights, the ice blue of his eyes aglow from the firelight. Severus could feel it then, an unspoken string of words between them, unraveling like yarn as Flitwick prattled on and on about Charmwork.

Dumbledore… knew something about this.

Severus' eyes narrowed dangerously as Dumbledore gave him a merry smile.

Just like the smile Lily-thing had given him on Halloween.

Ariel was still feeling down after her conversation with Professor Flitwick. When she'd sat down to lunch, she'd simply shaken her head at Hermione and Ron. They'd responded with shoving a plate of food at her, and telling her that Fred and George were planning something with dungbombs later that day. Ariel appreciated her trying to distract her before they went to the library, but her heart was so heavy she was surprised it was still working.

Snape had not been at lunch, either.

Ariel, Ron, and Hermione made it just in time for potions, and luckily, were able to avoid to queue outside that contained Slytherins. Malfoy had reserved that time to goad Ron, while Pansy made fun of Hermione's front teeth and Ariel's boy-hair. Ariel was always pretty proud of herself for not socking them and giving them big fat lips, but she knew those Slytherins would take a bruise if it meant landing Ariel in detention.

You could've used that today, said a small voice in her brain. Two birds, one stone.

She really, really hated them. Almost as much as the Dursleys, but they held a special place that not even Malfoy could touch. Ariel still wished she could've seen their faces when they'd returned home from their stupid, fancy dinner.

Unfortunately, the trio were the last ones in the room, which meant they earned themselves a round of snickers from Slytherins, and a horrible, warning glare from Snape. They'd barely made it in time, but it had been worth it. Hermione had found something about a Stone… a Stone that granted one immortality. Ariel couldn't wrap her head around someone living forever like that, or how someone had invented an object so powerful that it kept you from dying. It sounded too good to be true, but then again, Ariel lived in a magic castle with ghosts and three-headed dogs and giant squids. Hermione was just as excited, though, while Ron had looked incredibly uneasy at the prospect of the Philosopher's Stone being held here.

"Of all the classes to risk being late to," Ron hissed as they hurried inside. "why did it have to be this one?"

Normally, Ariel sat with Neville during class to keep him from having a heart attack. She'd done this after the first Potions class, when Neville had been a shaking mess, barely able to squeak out a coherent sentence. Malfoy had laughed so hard that Ariel thought he'd break a rib (she really wished he had), and so Ariel had sat with Neville from there on, managing to keep Snape mostly at bay. Since Snape ignored her, this helped keep him away from Neville, repelling him like two magnets when you tried to press them together.

"You sit with Neville today," Ariel whispered to Hermione, as she and Ron walked to their seats. "I have something I need to do."

Hermione's eyebrows furrowed together. "What do you mean?"

"Just trust me." Ariel shot a glance at Snape, his eyes trying to put a hole in her forehead. He was definitely mad about last night. Hermione frowned, but she wasn't in any position to argue, because everyone was staring right at them, now. She felt like a goldfish in a bowl.

Neville shot Ariel a panicked look as Hermione sat down next to him, while Ariel slid onto the stool next to Ron. She felt her heart squeeze with guilt, but Neville would be okay. If he was her partner this class, Snape would filet him like a fish for what Ariel was about to do, simply because he sat right next to her.

Snape was patrolling the class today, which always made things significantly more unpleasant. Ariel couldn't help but wonder if this was a consequence from their encounter last night. Normally, Snape would just sit behind his desk and glare at everyone, only rising if one of the Slytherins had a question — he made the Gryffindors walk up to his desk, which meant that none of them ever asked for assistance. When Snape decided to walk around, however, he'd throw insults left and right, most of them at Neville, even if he hadn't done a thing — Ariel had a feeling Snape was very easily annoyed by fear, which made her feel very badly for poor Neville. Sometimes, Ariel found herself wanting to say something just as awful back at Snape, but then she remembered that he'd been the one to find her under that cupboard, and kept her mouth shut.

If your potion was fine, however, Snape wouldn't say a word. Ariel usually held her breath when he passed by, but he barely glanced inside her cauldron. She guessed that was a good thing.

They were making a Forgetfulness Potion, which had been written out on the board, but Ariel had brought the Potions textbook too. She'd thought it peculiar that Snape's directions differed from the textbook. Hermione never looked at the board, because an academic book being wrong meant Hermione's world would collapse on itself.

Ariel watched Snape carefully as he moved — he hadn't even addressed the class today to tell them how dimwitted and careless they were, how maybe only one of them would successfully brew a Forgetfulness Potion, while the rest of the class forgot how to read, which meant they probably shouldn't be here. He'd simply pointed to the board, surveying the class with a scowl so potent that Ariel could've sworn the fetuses in those creepy jars quaked with fear.

Snape looked like a great bat, swooping around workbenches to startle even the Slytherins. Poor Neville was a wreck already, Hermione quietly dictating directions while taking things from his hands. No wonder Hermione and Ron argued so much during Potions — Hermione really did have to be in control of everything. Ariel loved her dearly for it, but she liked Potions, and would've been bored out of her skull if Hermione did it all. It was probably for the best with Neville, though, in his current state.

Snape started with the Slytherins (because of course he did). Usually they didn't say anything when he swept past, but today, Malfoy and Pansy must've been bored, because Pansy's hand went out straight away. Whenever Ariel glanced in their direction (to look at Snape), Pansy would grin evilly, flicking the leftover moonseeds (which Malfoy had put in too early) at her and Ron. When Snape finally got to them, however, he said some intelligible, and nodded in approval.

Pansy beamed, and something inside of Ariel felt burning hot, like a pipe whistling as steam poured out of it. Her vision blurred as she quickly busied herself with watching the cauldron bubble, wiping her nose with her sleeve.

Ariel hated this, she realized. Maybe she even hated Snape.

"Are you okay?" Ron leaned close to her, giving Ariel a nudge. "Do you need —"

"Pass me the moonseeds, will you?" Ariel muttered back. Ron handed them to her, a concerned look written plainly on her face. That was when Snape noticed them, again.

She could feel it radiating off of Snape — the insult she'd been terrified of all this time, the culmination of the last two days finally coming to fruition, a scathing remark that would echo Aunt Petunia and Dudley and Uncle Vernon and Malfoy, but so, so much worse…

For the greater good, Ariel thought to herself.

She picked up a handful of moonseeds, and chucked them straight at Malfoy's stupid head.

Pansy screamed — one might've thought Ariel had taken off Malfoy's entire upper half, by how she was carrying on. The room erupted into chaos, the Slytherins shouting at Ariel, while the rest of the Gryffindors quickly came to her aid, yelling right back at them. Ron was practically leaping over the workbench to get at Malfoy by the time Snape shot over, a billowing mass of rage.

Ariel didn't even flinched as Snape bared down on her. She was expecting a little more, like how mad he'd been at the Dursleys, but this was still pretty darn scary. Perhaps she was becoming immune to it. Was that a thing?

"Miss Evans," Snape hissed venomously. "just what do you think you're doing?"

Ariel looked him straight in the eye, trying to ignore how badly her hands shook. "He forgot the moonseeds go in after the bat spleen, sir."

"I did not!" Malfoy fumed, shaking his hands through his tidy hair. Ariel tried not to snicker at his hair, which was sticky up in pointy directions. Malfoy looked like a ferret with a mohawk.

"He did," Ariel said, biting back a smile.

"You're an idiot, Bug," Malfoy sneered, his face glowing pink. "Stupid Glamour Girl, nothing inside that Mudbl—"

"And you're a SLIMEBALL!" Ron roared back.

"ENOUGH!" Snape boomed, and Neville let out a moan that sounded like he was going to pass out from fright. With a flick of his wrist, all of the cauldrons evaporated (Hermione let out a gasp of horror) and then, Snape turned to Malfoy and Pansy.

"Miss Parkinson," Snape's voice was barely a whisper, so deathly quiet, like the sky before a hurricane. "you will take Mr Malfoy to the infirmary at once. The rest of you are going to stay put, or so help me, I will make you regret ever being born."

Pansy fretted over Malfoy as they headed out, the rest of the class so quiet that Ariel could've heard a pin drop. Malofy walked with a limp, holding onto Pansy for support. Ariel rolled her eyes. Snape did not turn until they had gone, and when he did, he moved like a panther. Ariel heard Ron exclaim a defiant "HEY!" before someone — probably Hermione — shushed him.

Snape grabbed Ariel's wrist — hard — and hauled her out the door.

A/N: Sorry this chapter is a few days late... life gets in the way sometimes. Reviews would go a super long way! xx