Enshroud all then, your darkness and your light. So you choose concealment; it is as much a torment as a power...
Chapter One: Portentous Draughts
Professor Severus Snape was stalking about in a particularly foul mood today. One reason for it may have been the nearing of the O.W.L and N.E.W.T examinations, which meant extra work for all the Professors. But this was not all that was likely to have ignited his infamous temper, and had kept it on simmer all morning.
There were precious few weeks to go before the Summer Holidays, and the cocky students in year seven were getting cockier. Snape had lost his temper multiple times with them for not paying attention, and as punishment all houses were losing points (except for Slytherin, of course) more quickly than they could earn them.
This morning, his black eyes were even more watchful than ever; because the date was April the First.
There was no other date, which bothered him as much. Years of his cold and unfair dealing had made him the prime Professor for targeting, but this didn't make it any easier to fool. This was Snape, after all.
The last pupil to do so had been a very sharp Ravenclaw, who left six years ago. Jester Jakes had apparently managed to sabotage Hogwarts' incoming potion supplies, and slip a bleaching spell into them. The potion had hit the unguarded Potions Master, who, oblivious of his change in appearance had taken his next lesson with his greasy hair bleached yellower than straw. By the end of the morning Snape had been wound up to snarling limit by all the whispers and giggles; until a smirking Slytherin suggested he look in the mirror...
'Not this year,' Snape hissed to himself. 'Not this year...'
Indeed, it turned out that there was only to be one lame attempt at a prank; a Zonko's Snowing Confetti Bomb which hit him in the middle of teaching potions to a year seven Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff class. The spell successfully managed to turn his dungeon into a pink and yellow Santa's Grotto.
After the last flakes of the snowstorm had finished whirling, the dingy place was heaped several feet in paper, and it actually looked quite pretty. There was no appreciation from the owner though. The momentary look of abject horror on his face quickly twisted into a malicious sneer.
After the students had managed to shake all the bits from their hair and had stopped smirking, they appealed innocently to their teacher, who stood rigid, his black eyes gleaming dangerously.
'Your angelic poises won't protect you from punishment,' he began coolly, 'because you have disrupted my lesson, and put your revision behind schedule.'
His eyes began to scan their faces, 'I promise you all now, that I will catch the culprit, or culprits...' he glared at three girls in the corner, who swiftly wiped the smirks off their face, 'by the end of the week. But for now,' he hissed maliciously, 'I think it will be twenty five points from both Hufflepuff, and Ravenclaw!'
The class muttered and exchanged looks.
'Silence!' their teacher snapped. 'You are fortunate I do not have the patience to waste my break-time, or I would have had all of you sweeping out my classroom...the Muggle way...'
That had been his first double lesson.
Now it was mid-morning, Professor Snape felt he could afford to lighten his mood slightly, from malicious to moderately vindictive. Seven whole years of him being constantly on their back, and all they could throw at him were little bits of tissue paper. He actually smirked at the thought of it. If it had been Slytherins, or Gryffindors taking revenge though...
He clicked open the door to the staff room.
Professor Dumbledore was in there, engaged in a serious conversation with Minerva Mcgonagall, and a sandy haired, worried-looking man, wearing a rather shabby cloak.
Snape stopped abruptly, and considered turning back, but they had heard him come in.
'Oh...good morning Severus,' said Lupin, perhaps too cheerfully for Snape's liking.
'Good day, Lupin,' he scowled.
Snape noticed a bemused smirk on the Headmaster's face as he acknowledged the other professors. He stalked past them towards the other end of the room.
'What was Lupin doing in Hogwarts again? He was supposed to be busy with the Order,' he thought. Snape was becoming convinced that continually endangering, rather than protecting the students was Dumbledore's main aim.
'Severus,' came Dumbledore's tone of suppressed amusement. 'You...er...appear to be wearing bits of pink paper...in your hair...'
Snape's face drained of all colour; He had forgotten. Letting out a low hiss, he turned on his heels, and whirled back past the smirking trio. He snatched at the door, and whipped it shut behind him with a loud snap.
Back in the staff room, a bemused Lupin raised his eyebrows. His sensitive hearing was certain it had caught the Potions Master lowly hissing the word 'Freak!' in his direction.
Once outside, Snape shook his head upside down furiously, until all the offending bits had fluttered to the floor. Glowering, his black robed figure swept closely past groups of students in the corridors, causing a few to quail as his fierce eyes met theirs.
'Lupin; here on Fool's day,' he muttered menacingly to himself while crossing the entrance hall. He was becoming more and more suspicious of everything. Even the nastiest looking gargoyles seemed to shrink back from his stare.
He must avoid opening anything until lunchtime. No vials, bottles, jars or boxes. And, he must be extra vigilant with doors.
Luckily, he had until lunchtime free. He decided to spend this safely shut in his quarters, which were concealed from students; there nobody should be able to disturb him.
He had reached a particularly gloomy torch lit passage.
'Rigor Mortis...' he hissed, running his fingers down several stones. With a low rumble the stones parted to reveal a door. He unsealed his door with a quick spell, stood aside, and flung it open.
No tricks here; not even a bewitched bucket of Hogwarts' vanilla custard above the door.
Seeming relieved, Snape peered into the dark chamber before entering cautiously. Nothing looked, sounded, or smelt out of place. The fireplace was barely alight. Greenish torches flamed on the small sections of wall, which weren't covered with bookshelves, or obscured by tall stacks of books. The dungeon ceiling was low and curved, and bewitched blacker than the stormiest night. A dark and musty green arras hid a low, shadowy archway opposite. Beyond this was Snape's sleeping quarters.
Snape swept across to a gnarled wooden desk, and sat himself down on an old chair, which looked as if it was covered with black hair. He picked up his dog-eared volume of Portentous Draughts and Elixirs.
One wave of his wand, and a plate of what appeared to be dried fruit, appeared beside him. He ate slowly, becoming more and more engrossed in his reading.
A chill wind seemed to curl through the room. Draughts were to be expected in dungeons, and Snape was quite used to them. But today, he was so intent on forgetting the morning through the words on the page, that the fact the draught was some degrees colder than usual seemed to escape even his sharp senses.
Half an hour before lunchtime Snape came out of his trance, and snapped the book shut. He went to sweep across to the door, but a movement the other end of the room caught his eye. The arras.
It was normal for hanging tapestries to sway slightly in the breeze, Snape reasoned. But this one had twitched.
Eyes narrowing, his long nostrils quivering, he bent cautiously down to peer under the tapestry. Something with thin, clawed feet was standing in the dark archway.
Snape reached into his robes, and drew out his wand. He couldn't detect a heartbeat, yet the feet looked somewhat familiar....
'Of course,' he muttered, sourly. They belonged to the werewolf gargoyle that normally stood in the entrance hall.
So, the 'prankster' had chosen to leave a screamingly obvious calling card.
'Very funny, Lupin!' Snape hissed darkly to himself. 'Your jokes increase in hilarity every year.'
But in reality he was rather amused by it. Compared to the other Fool's days, this one had turned out almost pleasant. He pointed his wand upwards, and muttered a spell to swish the tapestry back.
It wasn't the werewolf gargoyle. Snape's eyes widened as an evil looking, hook-nosed wizard dressed in black met his gaze, and let out a horrible snarl.
Snape jumped back, alarmed, and pointed his wand to strike. The other wizard copied, but Snape thought he was slightly faster.
'STUPEFY!' cried the professor. A bolt shot from his wand straight at the impostor, but just before it reached him it seemed to rebound. It streaked back at Snape, and struck him on the shoulder.
He yelped, and fell backwards, crashing into his desk. As he sat up and found his bearings, something dawned on him. He saw now that the werewolf feet were attached to an ornate ebony framework, which he could now see was encasing a large mirror.
A mirror? Obviously, he had fired at his own reflection. 'How embarrassing,' he thought. His eyes narrowed irritably as he imagined himself becoming as paranoid as Alastor Moody.
He looked up again in curiosity, staring long and hard; he didn't have a mirror in his room, and had never considered just how sour and unpleasant; repulsive he looked. His hand clenched into a fist.
'What an April Fool, to be reminded just how much I look like my father's side of the family!' thought Snape, scowling murderously. 'Yes, people must pay for this...'
He glanced at the mirror again, and started. The whole reflection had tinged a sickly yellow, and so had his reflection. A thick, red liquid had begun to seep out the wood at the top of the frame, and was now dripping in fast streaks down the mirror.
When the whole background had turned bloody, Snape saw his reflection smirk evilly and point a wand at him.
'Why, hello again, Severus,' it sneered coolly. 'I must thank the werewolf for installing me into your dungeon. Nice little April Fool prank if you ask me. Those Marauders certainly knew a lot about the secret rooms at Hogwarts, didn't they?'
Any pupil who knew Snape would have been visibly shocked to witness it; but at the sound of this voice their professor's whole body had visibly shivered from head to toe.
It could not be. He had burnt all the family possessions...
'Turned out a bit wrong, haven't you, Severus?' the portrait remarked venomously. 'It's true, you do look like the real thing now. But-'
'Desmodus, please...' said Snape in a horrified whisper, his pale skin actually beginning to tinge green.
'Yes: Desmodus!' the portrait spat. 'The only other Snape to flit around the corridors of Hogwarts!'
Severus Snape was looking peakier by the minute. To see him being berated by his most cruel relative was certainly something the Marauders would have found rather amusing to watch.
It was a particularly nasty surprise for him, though. While he had taken great care to destroy everything in the family house, he had never managed to comb all of Hogwarts. Desmodus Snape was an Old School Slytherin through and through, and was certainly sly enough to creep about undetected.
The portrait looked around the room, wrinkling his beakish nose distastefully.
'Must I remind you your father held his very own castle at your age?' he drawled.
Snape's stood mute, his dark eyes boring coldly into the canvas.
'Mind you, you never really had his potential, did you? Or any potential, for that matter,' it mocked. 'Still teaching Potions, boy? What sort of vocation is that for a Snape!'
'My Vocation!' Snape spat back savagely. His eyes darted around the room. He was trying to think of a powerful enough spell to incinerate the picture in one go.
'And then,' he drawled, 'your persistent drive to cremate the lot of us, and pretend we never existed. Perfect preparation for the Defence Against the Dark Arts position, perchance?'
Snape could only glare murderously.
Desmodus took this as an affirmation, and curled his mouth into a triumphant sneer.
'Plotting against me, Severus? How very un-Snapish to betray your own blood! Why...if I were more than a picture - I would come over there right now, and kiss you...'
Snape pointed his eyes at the floor, seething. Did he even store a strong enough fire potion that would work against this?
'Oh - I'm not flammable,' Desmodus said silkily, seeming to guess what Snape was thinking. 'Dear, dear, and I thought you, of all people, would know that I took care to protect my portraits from such attacks.'
Snape shifted uneasily, this was very bad news. Desmodus when alive had indeed placed the complex anti-inferno charm upon himself. What better protection for a portrait, also?
And for just how long had he been creeping around the pictures of Hogwarts, keeping those chill, glinting eyes on his last descendant?
'And, I had a few other plans when modifying my portraits,' the voice continued smoothly. 'Plans which would give me more control over my family members, after my death.'
Snape braced himself for the worst. Gloating before a victory was another unfortunate habit of his family.
The portrait continued in a softer and more deadly tone. 'Control over family members...who somehow manage to trick their elders into thinking they were, what all along they were not.'
Snape paled again, Desmodus knew.
'It's Lupin's fault!' he thought savagely. But no...it was his. He was sharp, and should have predicted this, found and weighted the thing down years ago, and sunk it into the deepest gully of the Atlantic.
Because the last time he had seen Desmodus alive, was at the beginning of his Death Eater years, when he had been as impressively unpleasant as any Snape had ever aspired to be.
The blood was still oozing from the picture frame, dripping onto the floor and staining the stone black. His deception had finally seeped out.
Right from the beginning Snape had known that he mustn't go near the portrait. But now he had decided that Remus Lupin should.
'Incisia may have found out, and overlooked your little deficiency,' hissed the portrait viciously. 'But her motherly love, kept it from me!'
His face contorting at the mention of his mother, Severus Snape whirled about and grabbed his pot of Floo powder. He wrenched open the lid, and slung a handful of the contents into the fireplace.
'LUPIN!!' he screeched madly as the embers flared up. A few seconds later the man himself, appeared.
'You hollered, Professor Snape?' he enquired, frowning slightly while clambering out, and dusting off the ash. He glanced around looking surprised. 'I've never been invited into your private quarters before. An urgent matter, is it?'
'Yes!' spat Snape. 'You have never been invited! So, pray explain the meaning of...THIS?!'
'Well,' muttered Lupin. He frowned, and looked in the direction the maddened Snape had jabbed his wand. He noticed the growing pool of blood on the floor, and then the arras, raised and floating in the air. Finally, looking calmly from the sneering portrait, to the sneering look-alike next to him, and back again, he raised a quizzical eyebrow. 'It appears to mean, pardon me for saying; that you are having a little family reunion?'
'And you, Lupin,' howled Snape, 'were the organiser of it!'
'Tut, tut Severus,' said the portrait dangerously. 'You certainly know how to make your guests feel unwanted.' Desmodus then turned his contemptuous gaze on Lupin. 'As much as it pains me to, I must take the opportunity to thank you, werewolf, for helping to arrange this little scenario.'
'But why do you trust him, and accuse me Severus?' Lupin remonstrated, 'You know I have never played any trick on you...er...intentionally. And...I would especially avoid anything as cruel as this!' As Snape's eyes began to narrow, he added more quietly trying not to wince, 'You know, if he was still with us...this would have been more Sirius's taste...'
A crease appeared between his eyebrows, but Snape stayed quiet. Sirius Black was a subject, which had become completely taboo since last Summer.
'Ah...the Black family,' mused Desmodus, his tone dripping with sarcasm. 'They were worthy rivals indeed. Some of them...'
'Lupin,' muttered Snape, in as polite a tone as he could manage. 'I would like you to help me with something.' Ignoring the eyebrow, which had raised again at the word, help, he continued in a lower tone so the portrait couldn't hear. 'You are the only one in Hogwarts who can touch...it.'
'You mean,' whispered back Lupin. 'Old Des here?'
Snape nodded sourly, Lupin paused to think.
'Well,' he mused. 'I was the only one of the Marauders who could, and the others could never figure out why.'
'What are you up to, young Werewolf?' came the portrait's icy voice.
Lupin thought it was uncanny how much Snape sounded like him.
'So, Lupin, you're admitting that you, and your...associates, have known about this portrait, all these years?' hissed Snape, his temper climbing again. 'And you think it is still amusing to see me suffer, do you? More amusing, perhaps, than making allusive hints in front of certain students?'
'Oh, did he really?' cut in Desmodus, sounding rather amused. 'Good to hear it! This boy must be reminded of his bloodline.'
Snape shot the darkest look yet at his leering relative, before turning on Lupin again.
'This portrait only encouraged Potter to pick on me more viciously, didn't it?' he hissed at him through gritted teeth. Snape's jaw had gone rigid with anger.
Lupin remained silent; he wasn't proud that he knew this, but what was done, was done.
'Well, I'm sure it wasn't that bad, Severus,' sneered his grandfather coldly. 'You should be thankful that he bothered to notice you at all. You are a freakish anomaly, a bane to the family; you should never have existed.'
Lupin watched Snape's face contort still more with fury. It appeared that the Marauders aside, Snape's deepest and purest hate, was his very own blood.
Lupin had often felt it gnaw at his stomach often, the guilty reality of the past. 'Snape had been such a class 'A' git at school,' he thought gloomily. But, to his credit, compared to the creature in the portrait anyway, he had turned out slightly better...
'Only Incisia's magic stood in my way, Severus,' the portrait sneered dangerously. 'I would have had you...if I could!'
Snape stopped still, as if something had just occurred to him. His face blanched.
'Lupin,' he said hurriedly, 'cover the portrait now! Please...?'
Lupin was confused, the wolf in him could smell real fear. He looked incredulously at the shivering Potions Master.
'I can't deal with this! Not any more!'
There was a long silence, in which the pale-faced Severus had to lean on the back of his chair. Desmodus Snape continued to gaze at him intently, wearing a calculating and cruel expression.
Lupin looked from the portrait to the descendant in disbelief. He had never seen them together before, but had expected Snapish bickering, not a disturbing power struggle. Surely the canvas hadn't won?
'Lupin,' came Severus's voice again, more urgently. 'Cover and move him!'
Lupin made his decision. He crossed the room swiftly, removing his cloak, and reached up to drape it over the picture.
Instead he found both hands clamping themselves tightly either side of the frame, he was being compelled to by a very strong, dark force.
The full fury of the wolf snarled up in him. The blood red of the picture tinted redder as his eyes changed, and a deep rumbling growl began forcing itself from his throat. Dark hairs were beginning to sprout on his hands.
'Severus!' he howled horribly. 'Don't let him do this!'
'Calm down!' urged Snape. 'And try to move it!'
But Lupin didn't seem to have heard. Growling lowly, with wild eyes, his lips pressed back, Lupin was struggling against the urge to rip at the canvas, to tear the face glaring at him, to bite through the blood...