Author – Dzeytoun
Rating: PG 13
Disclaimer: Main characters and background owned by J.K. Rowling.
HERE BE MONSTERS
Chapter One: Waking the MonsterSaturday, 29 June 1996
The soft chime resounds through my sitting room, summoning me from my late breakfast. I take another sip of orange juice and sigh as the chime echoes again. Fawkes trills softly.
"Yes, Fawkes, I heard it. Let's go and here what Severus has to say."
Fawkes glides to my shoulder, trilling again, this time with an unmistakeable undertone of worry. I smile and stroke his back soothingly. Fawkes, like the rest of us, has not had an easy time of it these last few weeks. Being hit with a Killing Curse is an upsetting experience, even for a phoenix. Still it is remarkable how fast Fawkes regenerates. He has already regrown much of his plumage.
Having said that, it is true that I am moving more slowly than usual. I was up very late last night, and have slept much later this morning than is my wont. I am usually up much earlier, even on Leavetaking Day when the students are much too busy trying to get packed and down to the train to cause much trouble (and the staff is much to glad for a coming vacation to cause much trouble either).
I wish it was age that slows me this morning, but it is not. It is fear. Fear and sorrow for those I love so very much. And dread of the coming confrontation. I have had to face, and eat, many of my mistakes these past days, and I have found them to taste bitter. I fear that I have more draughts of wormwood yet to swallow in the next hour or so.
I enter my office, which is still strangely bare. Fawkes flies to his perch while I use a small hammer to ring an answering chime that will be heard in the castle's dungeons. The chimes are one of the few things that survived Harry's recent frenzy. I have a largish closet full of debris yet to go through.
Waiting for my morning guest to arrive I walk to a window and stare out. The Hogwarts Express will have left some time ago. Harry will be on board thinking of ... what? He was not at the Farewell Feast, and that was both expected and deeply troubling. He will be in mourning for Sirius, still fuming at himself, at Voldemort, at sundry other persons and circumstances, and at me. Will he be afraid? Is he worried that I will be angry, that I will punish him for his display of rage?
Probably not. He is far to deep in turmoil to worry about such things. I dare say at the moment he would spit in my eye if I were to send him to Azkaban, even if the Dementors were still on duty.
Do not fear Harry. Do not be afraid my shining prince. I will never punish you. Not if you had laid hands on me as I richly deserved. Not if you had screamed unforgivable curses at me for hours on end. I will never, ever punish my darling Harry.
//But you are punishing him, Professor.//
Tom Riddle's voice. The memory of him is my faithful tormentor, my ever-ready scourge.
//You are sending him back to the muggles, are you not? And in such a wounded state! I daresay they will find him to be rare sport indeed.//
Anger wells within me, but not at Tom. At myself. I am to blame for this horror. It is my doing that Harry's life is a weal of injustice and pain.
They will not make sport of him this summer.
I say that as forcefully as I can, and try desperately to believe it. I have "suggested" to the members of the Order that they confront the Dursley's about their treatment of Harry. If they are forceful enough....
//But I thought you could not interfere Professor. I thought that would compromise the magic that protects him at Privet Drive.// Tom's laughter is undergird by a sound that has haunted me for fourteen years, but has waxed again of late. The sound of an infant crying in a cupboard.
I squeeze my eyes closed as hot tears of guilt and pain roll down my face. Oh, to have made another choice so long ago! Did I have another choice?
We must take the chance. Harry is in far too delicate a condition. And we will have him out, before long.
//Of course you will. You only left him in the cupboard ten years.//
I want to scream, to rage, to sob. But I will not allow myself that release. Any such action might lessen the pain. And I richly deserve every pang I feel.
//You should have let him stay here a while. Why didn't you give him a ticket to this morning's show? You sat back while Umbridge made him cut his hand open. This least you could do is give him the courtesy of some recompense.//
I don't answer Tom on that one, for the horrible reason that he is absolutely right. And when Tom Riddle is right, affairs have come to a dark and dreadful nexus indeed.
"You know Fawkes," I say softly, "maybe we should have let Harry stay for a few days more and go down by floo. He could have watched the two people he hates most in Hogwarts have a go at each other no holds barred."
That is a mistake. At the mention of Harry's name Fawkes becomes agitated, half spreading his wings and hopping excitedly from one foot to the other, his neck craned expectantly toward the door. Fawkes is a spectacularly intelligent creature, much smarter than many wizards I could name, but a Burning always leaves his mind clouded and ... chicklike, for many days afterward. He clearly misunderstood me and thinks that Harry is about to come up the stairs.
I walk over to his perch and soothe him gently. "No Fawkes, he won't be coming today."
Fawkes trills sadly and looks at me while I shake my head. As I expected tears are streaming down from his eyes over his beak. But they are not tears of sadness, for Fawkes is not as humans are. A phoenix does not weep for grief or anger or fear or pity, but for love. Their tears are one of the most powerful and swift acting healing agents known to wizardkind.
Poor Fawkes. He loves Harry as well as I do – or probably better, in that he has no shadow of guilt over his heart. Harry's recent rage upset him deeply, all the more so in that his mind is still so childlike. I think he believes that Harry must be mortally wounded to have been screaming so. Every time somebody mentions the boy's name, Fawkes immediately starts looking around for him with eyes streaming precious magical tears, seeking desperately to find him so he can heal whatever hurt was causing Harry's agony.
Noble creature. If only it was that simple. But even your tears, Fawkes, cannot heal the wounds that Harry bears.
Despite my own resolve, a tear starts to wind its way down my own face.
I soft bell warns me that someone has spoken the password below. I quickly wipe my face and retreat to my desk, assuming a seated position just as Severus enters.
He is sneering, as usual.
From his perch Fawkes hisses in disappointment.
Severus pauses in mid stride, cocking one eyebrow and looking with disdain at my phoenix who usually has impeccable manners. The cold glare from his eye has withered many a bravehearted Gryffindor into a shivering lump.
Fawkes makes a deep hawking noise like he is about to spit something large and messy. In all our years together I have never heard him make anything like it before.
Severus, Severus, why must you INSIST on bringing such scorn down on your own head.
//He would hardly be an effective agent if he didn't, now would he Professor? It isn't like ... I ... am known for favoring warm personalities and good conversationalists.//
I do so HATE it when Tom is right.
"Please sit down Severus," I say, hoping to cut off Fawkes before he actually does something embarrassing.
Snape gives me a half bow by way of acknowledgement and sinks into the chair opposite me. His movements have their usual arrogant fluidity, but as he leans back I see that the lines in his face are worn deep, and the shadows in his eyes speak of exhaustion almost too strong to withstand.
My throat tightens in pity. Severus has burdens to bear that none but I can appreciate, because none but I fully understand them. He is engaged in a deadly game, trying to play mongoose to the most evil, clever serpent in all of Europe – and quite probably all the world.
//Why thank you Professor.//
Oh do SHUT UP Tom!!
But I know Tom will not stay quiet for long. He is the manifestation of my long abused conscience, and what I am about to do this morning will give him plenty on which to comment.
Snape looks around with a slight frown. I know he is puzzled. Usually we meet in much friendlier surroundings – my sitting room for instance, over tea.
All purposes will be revealed, never fear.
"How are you holding up, Severus?"
"I will manage, thank you, Headmaster."
Severus you are a fool.
"Are you sure? It has been a very difficult time for everyone."
Snape sneers again. How dare I insinuate that anything that happens at Hogwarts – be it Umbridge, Voldemort's mechanations, or keeping an eye on a bunch of Deatheaters' children – could ever cause strain for Severus Snape!
"I have faced worse stress before, Headmaster."
That is such a classic answer coming from Severus! With one sentence he announces his own strength, reminds me of his suffering, belittles everyone else's accomplishments, and tries to close the door on further inquiry.
//The man is indeed a tribute to Slytherin.//
Sigh. This does seem like your day for being right, Tom.
"Very well then, give me your report."
You wish to be treated with detachment, even with harshness. Oh Severus! Your life has been filled with so much pain it is the only thing you can respond to effectively!
The report is not particularly illuminating. In the wake of the recent catastrophe at the Ministry of Magic...
...and he exposure of his return, Voldemort had summoned his chief minions for a strategy session ... or more exactly a general dispensation of pain followed by a detailing of specific punishments.
I interrupt the flow of the report.
"Were you included in this general chastisement Severus?"
"Yes Headmaster. It was uncomfortable. However, it was considerably less than the Cruciatus Curse, which frankly I was expecting."
Severus, why? Why do you say such horrible things with such a calm look, even in your eyes? Have I done this to you?
//No Professor. You ruined your precious Harry. Others ruined Snape here – starting with his own family, of course.//
Yes, his own family. We always come back to that, don't we? Severus growing up in an abusive hell...
Harry whimpering in a closet...
Tom Riddle in an orphanage.
Sometimes the thought of Arthur and Molly Weasley is the only thing that keeps me from favoring the outlawing of childhood. Young wizards and witches should just skip to the age of 11 when they can come to school.
//And live under the care of the infallible Dumbledore?//
Why do I do this to myself?
Because I deserve it.
Snape is continuing. Frankly there is not much else to the story. Voldemort's inner circle is, for the moment, in confusion while their master broods over his next move. I don't find that as comforting as one might think. The Dark Lord is never without two plans in the shadow of a third.
"Thank you Severus."
I really mean that. I have marvelled at the man's bravery, and his skill, for years. He would have made a splendid Gryffindor if not....
//If not for the fact that he is such a heartless, selfish, bitter, crabby, manipulative, serpent?//
If not for the fact that he was so damaged so young that his good qualities never got a chance to truly flower.
//And you deny that he is a heartless, selfish, bitter, crabby, manipulative, serpent?// Tom's voice is positively gleeful.
Snape is fiddling with the fringe of his robe in a gesture I have learned to dread. It is his signal of false reluctance. He has something he wants to say but he doesn't want to seem like he wants to say it.
"Is there something else to report, Severus."
"Yes, Professor Dumbledore, there is, and it is most distressing."
Judging by the gleam in his eye I would have said quite the opposite. But I have a cold feeling in my bowels that says I will find his news distressing, whatever his view of the matter.
"Well, it won't be made better by delay Severus. Say whatever you feel needs to be said."
Snape steeples his fingers and purses his lips.
Severus, you are enjoying this entirely too much. Something horrible has happened.
"You recall what I said about Bellatrix Lestrange, Professor Dumbledore?"
Since it was less than five minutes ago I would be a nincompoop indeed if I didn't.
"Well, when she was relating the events of her battle in the Ministry..."
Snape pauses. I swear he looks like he wants to lick his lips.
"It seems that in their encounter just before the Dark Lord's arrival, young Mr. Potter attempted to attack her with the Cruciatus Curse."
My bowels were right. I put my head down and cover my face with my hands, not wanting to let Snape see the pain in my eyes. I take in a breath and it feels like I'm breathing magma.
//Proud of your student, Professor? Not up to my record, quite. But still respectable.//
HARRY, I'M SO SORRY!!!!
I take two more deep, painful breaths. How can the poor, tortured child stand it? How will any of us ever endure it?
It takes all the discipline of more than a century to gather my thoughts back into a logical pattern and focus them on Severus' tale. Even then I feel as if my head will split from the pressure of the blood I feel roaring in every vessel.
Harry lifting his wand, his face twisted in hate. His sweet voice shouting that vile word, "CRUCIO."
A year ago, a month ago, even two weeks ago, I would not have believed it. I would have railed at anyone who dared suggest such a thing. But that was before Sirius Black died. That was before I realized how badly I had hurt Harry with my old man's miscalculations.
When Harry faced me in this office, shaking with rage, I would not have been surprised had he hurled the Cruciatus Curse at me.
Wait a moment.
"He attempted it you say," I lift my head and try very hard to keep my features bland, "I take it he did not succeed."
Snape frowns. Reluctantly he nods. "That is true. LeStrange said he did not have a strong enough will to properly perform the curse."
I have no doubt she said something of the sort, but I also have no doubt that the truth is quite something else. Joy, hope, and love all well up within me so strongly it is a wonder I do not jump to my feet and twirl with glee. Harry has willpower and to spare. There is only one reason he would have failed in the Cruciatus Curse.
He did not have enough hate.
Despite everything, despite the Dursleys, Voldemort, Umbridge – despite my own decisions that have brought so much ruin, my Harry does not have enough hate in him to enjoy the suffering of the woman who had just killed the only parent he ever knew.
MY GLORY. MY MIRACLE.
To be blessed with such a person is worth more than all the wands of all the wizards in this poor suffering world.
Not that Severus would agree. Even now he begins to sneer again, watching me expectantly.
"Yes, Professor Snape?"
//Here we go. The fun begins.//
Think about Harry and shut up Tom.
"I was wondering, Headmaster, what you plan to do."
"Do?" I blink in my best look of blank incomprehension.
//Oh really Albus you're over doing it.//
"What do you plan to do about Mr. Potter's actions?" He flushes red slightly, as I knew he would.
//Well maybe you aren't over doing it.//
People often call me manipulative. In fact I HATE manipulating others. It is the thing that rends my heart and burns my stomach – the thing that, as I get older, makes me resort ever more frequently to the milder of the sleeping potions (and wouldn't a lot of people be shocked to know about that – Albus Dumbledore with nightmares! A sign of the Apocalypse!).
I only resort to stratagems when I must. Yet it seems that life takes a perverse satisfaction in forcing me to do things I hate.
//And in forcing other people to pay for them.//
I manipulate Fudge and the Ministry because they are dangerous fools who refuse to see beyond their noses.
I manipulate the Houses to try to keep some semblance of peace and tranquillity, blood off the Great Hall floor and screaming parents out of the Hogwarts grounds.
I manipulate Harry because I love him so much that the very thought of .... no, that wound is too deep.
And I manipulate Severus because I desperately don't want him to do what I think his nature is inevitably going to lead him to do today.
But in truth I am not manipulating Severus. I am just giving him every chance I can to avoid the worst.
Well, Professor Snape must have his answer I suppose. But I will give him one more chance.
"What would you suggest I do Severus? We are at war and he had just lost his godfather. Shall we send him to Azkaban for the rest of his life?"
As I feared, Snape's sneer only grows wider. "No. I don't suppose that would do for our freshly rehabilitated savior would it? Although," he smiles vindictively, "if the dementors had not left a longish stay in their care would likely improve his attitude, and help deflate that ego of his."
I have recently told Harry that old men sometimes forget that some hurts go too deep for the healing. Do old men also forget the depth of vicious pettiness those hurts bring forth? Am I really that old? Is that why, even after knowing Severus since his student days and understanding only too well the causes of his bitterness, I have to consciously lock my jaws to keep my mouth from sagging open at that remark?
//No Professor, you never understood this. And that is why you failed so singularly to understand me nearly sixty years ago.//
I am saved from making an immediate reply when a flash of color darts across my desk. Fawkes has launched himself from his perch and landed on the outer edge of the heavy wooden table, his talons gouging scars in veneer that has been spelled for protection against anything less powerful than an ax blow. He issues a sharp set of screeching notes that cause Severus to rear back in surprise. I don't blame the potions master as I almost jump myself. I have almost forgotten what an angry phoenix sounds like. And Fawkes is definitely angry, no let us say furious. His wings are three-quarters spread in attack position, his claws flex to dig deeper into the abused wood of my desk, and his beak, pointed directly at Snape's prominent nose, snaps warningly.
Evidently Fawkes understands more than I was giving him credit for. The words "Potter," "Azkaban," and "Dementors," have triggered memories and a protective response.
"Here Fawkes," I say quietly.
The phoenix obeys somewhat grumpily, giving several farewell snaps in Snape's direction before strutting haughtily across the desk to settle in front of me and be stroked soothingly. He still eyes Severus malevolently, occasionally giving out one of the strange, non-avian hissing sounds only a phoenix can make – rather like cold water suddenly splashing on heated metal.
"Please accept my apologies Severus," I say, struggling with all my might to keep my facial muscles under control. After all of the stress and pain of the last few days I am sorely tempted to collapse into laughter. "Fawkes is not himself. It always takes him a while to recover from a Burning."
"Indeed," Snape arches his head disdainfully, "I thought Mr. Potter had found himself another follower."
You really MUST dig the wounds deeper, musn't you.
Fawkes hisses again. Luckily, Snape does not know how truthful his statement was.
"As I was asking Headmaster..."
Snape blinks. Once. Twice. Thrice.
Suddenly I am very, very tired. Tired of this conversation. Tired of this meaninglessly game of polite babble. Tired already of this day that has just started.
I have to carry the weight of Hogwarts, Britain, Harry Potter, and probably the world around with me all the time. Is it too much to ask of you that you understand the English language without making me repeat myself?
"Nothing Severus. That is the answer to your question."
Blinking again. One. Two..... He gets up to eight this time.
"You mean you are...."
"Nothing." And now my voice has grown cold and I know I am much too tired to be doing this, much to tired to be having this conversation now. And especially too tired and too much in pain to be dealing with Severus.
Snape looks like his is going to explode. He grips the arms of his chair and leans forward, hissing in a fairly good imitation of Fawkes.
"You don't care do you?" His eyes have narrowed and I can tell that he is choking out the words with great difficulty. "Precious Potter can do anything he wants can't he? He could kill somebody in the middle of the Great Hall and you would just tell us to clean it up while you went to tuck him in for the night!"
My hands continue to massage Fawkes as Snape goes through his tirade. The phoenix no longer seems angry, but looks at the potions master almost sadly.
Severus, how could I ever explain to you?
How indeed? I realize now that one of the tragedies of Severus's life is his inability to understand true emotion. He exists in a world of simplistic, violent, fierce passions – a world of all or nothing. He does not understand the rest of us, those poor souls who must go through life with hearts so deeply divided that we do not know how we will survive the day, much less the rest of our lives.
But even more importantly, he will never understand the danger he is in. It is my fault. I must be the wise, calm headmaster. It is what is needed by the students, the staff, the parents, the government. In time people come to believe such facades,
In time even I believed it.
And then one day I, poor fool, looked upon a dark haired child with a scarred forehead and sad eyes like haunted emeralds, and was lost. And when I found that the child had a soul imbued with a power greater than the strongest magic, and a smile before which all futures and schemes and plans and calculations became only worthless shadows, I knew that my wisdom was a so often only parlor tricks of rhetoric, my calm nothing more than a technique for keeping adolescents off-balance.
Yes, Snape will not comprehend that when he talks of Harry Potter he his approaching a land on which he has never tred, a land very different than the calm realm of the kindly, wise schoolmaster. He does not realize, because his poor, abused, truncated comprehension cannot go that far, that he walks on the edge of charted waters. Just beyond, in the place where he has just recklessly put his foot, are things he never knew existed. The muggle mapmakers had a way of designating such places, a warning they placed on the margins of their charts.
Traveler Be Ye Warned. Here Be Monsters.
Severus, you are sailing on the boundaries of my heart, and you do not have any idea how close you are to meeting dangers you never dreamed could be.
"It is not fair, is it, Severus." My voice is soft, because it has to be to make it past the lump of emotion knotting in my throat.
"I believe that is what I was just saying, Professor Dumbledore."
"No Severus, I'm talking about you."
Images. So many images in my mind.
An eleven year old boy in the summer before his sorting, trying to sink through the floor of the headmaster's office while his father demands to know the policies Hogwarts has in place to "keep the unwanted elements under control." His mother stares sightlessly out the window, ignoring husband and child.
A teenager, tormented by pranks initiated almost always by Sirius Black and James Potter, already too damaged to develop the resilience and sense of humor with which to defend himself.
An older Severus, weeping in my arms in that terrible, terrible day when he discovered, much too late, how warped and wrong his decisions had been.
Myself, giving Cornelius Fudge's predecessor bland lies as I defended my choice for a new potions master.
The brave endurance on the face of a man who entered the Dark Lord's presence, again and again, with treachery in his heart.
The face of a man whose heart had been split asunder, as Severus first looked upon the face of Harry Potter come to Hogwarts.
The face of a man determined to face his worst horror without a whimper, the night Voldemort returned.
"No it is not fair," I repeated softly. "James Potter did not sink the roots of your pain, but he harvested the fruit. Oh yes, he had many a laugh out of a misery he was far too shallow to comprehend. And in the end, he helped to sink roots of a deeper, much deeper, wound yet."
I rise and walk over to Severus, placing Fawkes on his perch as I pass. Now I regret the arrangement I have chosen, for I must stand awkwardly to one side, my hand on his shoulder.
"Harry is a living essence of pain for you Severus. He is the worst manifestation of your hearts worst nightmare, given form. And you must watch as, like James, he stands in a light you have never known."
A deep silence settles over my office. Fawkes trills plaintively at the sound of Harry's name, but otherwise there is no sound. Finally Severus drops his head into his hands.
//He's right you know, you do love Harry Potter far too much. Weren't you just thinking a while ago how you would never punish him.//
Yes. Yes I love him far too much. And I have hurt him far too much.
//So you love him to make up for hurting him?//
No. In that I love him I now know agony for hurting him.
//So Severus is right, isn't he.//
Is he? It is true I let Harry get away with things no other students in the history of Hogwarts would have been allowed. Case in point the closet of debris I have yet to sort. Had it been any other student in the last thousand years, they would now be heading home expelled.
But Harry is a special case.
Oh yes. He is a special case by definition. But I have been lying to myself. I have said that I allow Harry his freedoms and privileges because they are necessary for him to learn the hard, quick lessons he must learn to meet his destiny. I have reminded myself time and again that these freedoms are more than balanced by the pain he has endured and continues to endure. All this is true.
It is also all lies.
I let Harry get away with yelling at me because I love him. I let him wander around he castle with an invisibility cloak because I love him. I wanted to make him a prefect because I love him. I didn't make him a prefect because I love him. Four years ago, when I gave the Gryffindors 170 points at the Leavetaking Feast and upended the Slytherins, yes, I ground the pride of Slytherin House into the dust so that my beloved Harry would smile.
But would I really let him get away with murder?
//What do you plan to do when he murders...me.// Tom's voice is sarcastic as always. //Spank him and send him to be without supper?//
Point well taken.
"I spoke too hastily, Severus," I say. I'm babbling. Albus Dumbledore, babbling? Yes. Actually, I babble often. It's just that I've grown adept at covering up when I'm panicked. "Of course I will do something about Harry's use of the Cruciatus Curse."
Severus lifts his head from his hands and looks at me darkly.
"And what will his punishment be?"
I withdraw my hand reluctantly and return to my chair.
"I know this is extremely difficult, Severus. But try to look at it as it happened. He was in the midst of a battle. He had just lost the closest thing to a parent he had ever known. He was facing the witch who killed that parent. So he lashed out in anger and pain."
"Would I have done so? Would you? I do not know. Would a trained Auror have acted the same way? Almost certainly not."
"But it is not you or me or a trained Auror or any adult wizard about whom we are speaking. It is a fifteen year old boy under unendurable stress."
Severus maintains his dark look, folding his hands again. He looks so, so very tired. When this is over, I think I will order him to see Poppy for an examination.
"So, you plan to pat him on the head and give him some chocolate frogs?" he asks quietly, bitterly.
Deep, deep within me, in a place within my heart that has been quiet sense time almost out of mind, something stirs.
My hand rises before I can consciously realize what is happening. In a good imitation of Harry, I bring my fist slamming down on my desk, sending bright lances of pain up my not-so-young arm.
"I plan," I say with surprising calm, "to deal appropriately with the situation. I agree that it must be addressed."
"So you are going to, TALK with the boy, is that it?" Severus is sitting bolt upright in surprise. But sparkles of rage are glittering in his eyes, and his voice is almost a snarl.
"Yes, I will talk with him. Certainly I will talk with him. As far as punishing him, as I gather you are suggesting, Professor Snape," I take a very deep breath, "I do not think that is appropriate."
"Not appropriate?" He seems to be chewing on the words, testing their flavor.
"That is correct, Severus," I breathe deeply and force my voice to sound jovial. Usually I am able to do that without a particular effort. Now, though, I find it exceptionally difficult.
The thing awakened in my heart stirs, then settles down restlessly.
"I thank you very much for pointing this situation out," I continue. I'm babbling again and this time I SOUND like I'm babbling. Very bad. "I will speak with Minerva about it. I am sure she would want to know. Perhaps both of us should speak with him together. In any case, we shall have to think carefully. This is such a complicated situation."
I sound like a dithering old fool.
"Think carefully?" Severus is glaring and the sparkles of rage are growing.
"Yes. We have time. The boy will be safely at Privet Drive for a couple of weeks, anyway." Desperation drives my to do something truly stupid in an attempt to head off disaster. Opening a drawer I grab an ever-handy bag and offer it to Severus. "Would you like a lemon drop?"
"Are you sure he won't practice on his aunt and uncle?" Severus hisses.
I would not blame him for that, either.
"I am sure we can trust Mr. Potter that far." I take a lemon drop myself. It does not calm me however. It just manages to make my mouth sticky. A very bad sign.
Severus stands and looks around at the portraits of former headmasters and headmistresses lining my office. They have all been listening while making bad attempts to look like they aren't. Most of them are wearing grim expressions. Like Fawkes, they were deeply upset by Harry's display, and haven't yet recovered. Snape finds who he is looking for.
"What do you think, Phineus?" He asks the only portrait wearing Slytherin colors, "Should Mr. Potter get a thorough talking to and maybe a few extra lines? Even if Professor Umbridge took that excellent quill with her when she left."
I bite my lemon drop so hard I draw blood from my tongue. The taste of lemon mixed with salt and iron floods my mouth.
But Phineus has not been the same since Sirius' death. He looks at Severus with undisguised contempt. "Oh shut up you poor excuse for a Professor! Take my advice. Do what Dumbledore says and SHUT UP!!"
Severus steps back, almost tripping over his chair in surprise. He had evidently forgotten that Phineus Nigellus was Sirius Black's great-great-grandfather.
He turns on me slowly, still fuming.
Severus, take your house brother's advice. Please.
"I still hardly think..."
The presence in my heart expands with such speed that I am caught in shock.
Again images flood my head. This time with sharp, short, thoughts like bits of some ancient doxology.
An infant, sleeping peacefully in Hagrid's arms.
Hope, sorrow, heartache, determination.
An infant's wail in a closet.
Guilt, necessity, sorry, sorry, sorry
An eleven year old walking in to his Sorting.
Too thin, too thin, so serious, sorry, sorry
The Mirror of Erised
No, no, no, not here, oh no
Green eyes filled with pain, with hope, with joy, with sorrow
Love, love, love
A fourteen year old boy shaking with the aftereffects of a terrible graveyard
Love, fear, horror, love, love, love, must protect, mustmustmustmust PROTECT
A fifteen year old shaking in rage and horror and despair
"What you think is not important." My voice is colder than it has been since, since ...
//Since the day you found out the truth about me.//
Severus, what have you done?
Snape draws back. Now, all of a sudden, he realizes something is terribly wrong.
Too late Severus. Too late.
"What you are is not important either." I gesture to the chair. "Sit down."
"Since I am the only wizard in this room who has never used an Unforgivable Curse, I am the wizard whose judgement will abide in the matter of Harry."
He has gone so pale he might be a vampire. He already ... what is it Quirrell said?... Harry told me....
//Sweeps around like a great black bat.//
Thank you, Tom.
"You were not so forgiving to me!"
There it is at last. The cankered heart of the matter. And much too far gone in this travesty of a conversation to do any good.
"You did not deserve it."
Snape sinks down into the chair, his mouth moving but forming no words.
I will be horrified later. I will wonder how I could ever have done what I just did. What I am about to do. Is it that I am weary? Is it that I am old? Is it that I am still in shock from having my precious treasure
scream at me with that look of hatred in his eyes? Or is it that I am just finally at my end with this childish, vicious, jealous, bitter man?
It does not matter the reason. Severus has crossed the uncharted boundaries of my heart.
Traveler Be Ye Warned. Here Be Monsters.
"We have a great deal to talk about Severus. Yes a very great deal."