A Question of Timing
"You're Snape's grandfather?" replied Harry in astonishment.
Desmodus inclined his head slightly, his eyes glinting. "Unfortunately, yes. But I also did have the honour of knowing your father and his friends quite well, Mister Potter-"
"Hated them too, did you?" cut in Harry sarcastically.
"Actually no...." Desmodus raised a quizzical eyebrow. "Why in Varney's name should I object to someone teaching my deranged grandson a few home truths about himself?
The teenager blinked, startled. "Er...well, I just thought that you would-"
"Agree with my deranged grandson? After five years of tolerating his idiosyncrasies you should agree with me more than anyone, Mister Potter; why should I presume sons take after their fathers, or even grandsons after their grandfathers, for that matter? Surely someone who asserts such a thing is arrogant himself?"
Harry took a careful look at the portrait before he finally snorted in agreement, "He believes it all right. He calls me arrogant...but I suppose their hating each other makes sense if my dad was as well. Mum said my dad and Snape were as bad as each other."
Desmodus gave a slow smile. "Maybe, maybe. You are fair, but don't be so hasty as to judge your father from one bad memory. Your mother never saw the half of the dark deeds my grandson did, she hardly knew him. I, however, watched him grow up. James Potter was a touch arrogant, yes, but merely mischievous in comparison to the miserable wretch of a creature Severus was, and still is."
The teenager listened avidly, but a frown was gathering above his eyes. It all seemed too good to be true, really. After all, this was a member of Snape's family he was talking to – could he trust him?
But a Snape who liked your father... whispered back a voice. A Snape who is actually capable of decent conversation...a Snape who hears your questions, and might just tell you some answers...
It was too tempting. Harry looked up and down the corridors listening intently; he had to keep an eye out, he didn't want to get caught, particularly as he didn't have the Marauders' Map or his cloak on him. Finally, heart hammering a little, he returned his gaze to the portrait,
"So...the memory I saw in Occlumency, he was a small boy, I saw a row between his parents, and him crying in the corner - what happened there?" enquired Harry carefully.
"Ah, you could not have picked a better memory," responded Desmodus in a chilling tone that made Harry's eyes widen a little. "But first I need to give you some background history. Severus was a hellish and undisciplined child, his parents continual spoiling was the ruin of him, I fear. It wasn't uncommon for young Severus to sneak into my library and take my books. I would not have minded so much, if he had treated them properly, but he had the tendency to scrawl on them and tear pages out." Desmodus paused and narrowed his eyes malevolently. "Unfortunately my daughter-in-law was blind, so he turned this to his advantage; learning to creep around silently and cause mischief which she could never detect."
"Blind? Was she blind from birth?" asked Harry, surprised.
"No – from her early twenties, two years after her marriage to my son, unfortunately," returned the portrait. His mouth twisted slightly. "Though Incisia coped pretty well without sight, some things could and did evade her, particularly when they concerned her only son. She doted on him utterly, and in return he behaved impeccably in front of her, so ensuring she would never believe me when I said he'd misbehaved."
Harry felt his spine tingle at the amount of stress Desmodus had placed on his last word. And by his slight pause and the glint in his eye it seemed clear the man was expecting him to ask about it...again he couldn't resist...
"What sort of things do you mean by misbehaved?"
Desmodus looked across at the teenager, sparing him a wry smile in reward for his full and undivided attention. But inwardly he sneered; the boy was entranced – sucked in by the slightest gossip.
Gryffindors and their lack of subtlety...
"Well, as you are asking.... One day I returned home early without announcement. Walking into my library I immediately noticed an old volume from the top shelf was missing – one of my father's awful cursed books. It was such a dark volume that I had held it in place by permanent fixing charm. I don't know how he did it, but that day Severus had somehow managed to break the charm, get it down and open it. And inspecting it afterwards, worse discoveries followed; I realised it likely wasn't the first time the boy had had the book down..."
"So – what happened?" whispered Harry, green eyes hungry with anticipation.
The man in the portrait's mood darkened, his voice becoming quieter and deadlier. "Well...I searched the house for the brat, of course. Finally, I found him in the cellar, but by that time he was already chanting, and I only realised what he was actually experimenting on when it was too late to stop him -"
Desmodus pulled out a handkerchief from a robe pocket and dabbed it slowly over his face, pausing dramatically over his mouth. It was clear he was relishing the attention.
"Maligo. His father's...my son's Owl."
Harry grew hawk-eyed, hardly believing what he was hearing. "So he-"
Desmodus lowered the handkerchief and stared directly into the teenager's face. "Well, what do you think, my boy?" he whispered, eyes gleaming eerily. "Would you be shocked if I told you he ripped the bird to pieces with one-"
"POTTER! What are you doing out of your dormitory this early in the morning?"
The teen started and swang round to face the direction the snapped words had come from – the brightness of the morning sun splashing into the entrance hall sharply framed the shadowy figure of a man standing at the top of the dungeon stairs.
Harry felt a twinge of horror and backed off slightly as the malevolent figure began to descend down the steps, not taking his angry eyes off him for one moment,
"And without the usual excuse?" continued the cold voice. "Well, for once, Potter, I think I might quite enjoy hearing what your head of House has to say about your loitering about my dungeons..."
"Oh come, come, Severus; we were only having a civilised discussion..."
At this voice Snape abruptly stopped rigid in his tracks.
Desmodus raised an eyebrow and looked his grandson up and down in surprise.
"My, my; Severus, you have blood on you."
Snape turned his head slowly stared back unblinking for a moment, before comprehending his grandfather's words. Understanding them, he looked down at his robes in gathering horror. It was true – there on his travelling cloak were several patches of something dark and glistening. He lifted his arms slightly; his cuffs and sleeves, too were stained with several red blotches.
Snape looked up to find Harry's eyes boring into him.
Hermione had been restless most of the night; the Mock NEWTS were in a few weeks and her mind was weary with worry. Her dorm mates were getting increasingly annoyed with her constantly reciting dates, places and potion ingredients, and according to Lavender Brown she was even doing it in her sleep.
She turned for the umpteenth time and opened her eyes, to see the brightness of the sun peeping through the curtains.
"Oh good," she commented to herself. "It's finally light!"
Quietly easing herself up in bed in some sort of effort not to wake her grumpy dorm mates, she reached over into her bedside cabinet and pulled out a huge stack of revision notes so she could revise in bed. Straining slightly with the weight, she didn't notice a slight bulge developing halfway down the pile until it was too late. Before she could put out a hand though, the stack seemed to explode sideways, sending a wave of paper sliding and skidding all over the floor between the beds...
Hermione waited stock-still with bated breath, but just as she was about to breathe a quiet sigh of relief several low moans came from the other Four-Posters.
"Merlins' beard! What's the matter with you...at what time in the morning?"
"Sorry," Hermione whispered, and biting her lip, she quietly bent down to whisper a collation charm.
She tried to revise for a few moments, but found it impossible to do it without muttering to herself. Finally, after several more snorts were thrown in her direction, she finally got the hint and decided it would be best if she moved into the Common Room. Quietly dressing herself, she took a tight grip on her notes and began the careful tiptoe downstairs.
Once there she began her usual note sorting routine. She revised Transfiguration yesterday morning, so today she would start with Potions...She divided the stack up into colours and pulled the Potion notes toward her.
The first line that hit her was "One quart of bat's blood. Blood reference B684-71" She frowned as she noted that she had seemed to have hastily scribbled the word Vampire in the margins next to it. Why would she scribble anything in the margins of her neat notes? And besides, the Potion required blood from the Pipstrelle bat, not the vampire bat!
There was a slight shuffling from behind, and Hermione turned to see Ron, already dressed in his Quidditch gear.
"Morning," Ron yawned widely. "Seen Harry?"
Hermione looked up from her notes. "No, why?"
"Early Quidditch practice. I warned him about it a few days ago, but he just grunted at me."
"Oh," she replied, half-disinterestedly. "Maybe he wanted to revise – there are exams coming up, you know."
Ron snorted, turned and began to walk sulkily toward the portrait hole. "Right. He's not in the dorms, and he's not down here. Unless he takes his notes into the toilet with him, but I'd hardly think he'd do that! I wish he'd bloody tell me where he creeps off to!"
Hermione stared at Ron's retreating figure for a few seconds before looking back down at her notes, and then something finally clicked.
"Ron – do you know if Harry's taken his invisibility cloak out?"
Ron paused by the portrait. "How would I know?" he retorted.
Her voice hid a growing excitement. "Could you go and check, please, and if it's still there do you think he'd mind if I borrowed it? I think I finally know where the answer to Harry's question is in the library."
"But it doesn't open until nine!" he exclaimed. "Hermione, you've been in that library for days looking for that answer, you even skip meals. You'll burn yourself out."
"And since when have you been so concerned about my well-being?" she snapped back defensively.
"Okay, okay," resigned Ron hotly, dropping his Quidditch gear and storming forwards. "I'll go and get you the flipping cloak. But - if Harry comes back in and catches me at it I'll tell him exactly whose idea it was."
"Well, that sounds fair enough to me," she sniffed back.
Snape felt the breath hitch in his throat. How could I be so careless – why didn't I smell it?
Harry stared closely at the shining bloodstains on his Potion's Professor robes, before looking quizzically back at the portrait. Despite the younger man's eyes narrowing still further, Harry could see from his pallor he was still pretty shocked. A sneer rapidly began to curl Desmodus' lip.
"Did you get your revenge for his earlier mockery of you, Severus?" hissed the portrait quietly.
"Though I imagine it was hardly pleasant, your cold-hearted cruelty is shockingly wanton at times I must say. A dark curse, perhaps...? Ah, but I always thought with your knowledge you would have used silver. Silver would have left the wolf with far more painful wounds...it would have been far more effective for satisfying torture - it will teach him a sound lesson for even suggesting a deal -"
"WILL YOU SHUT UP!?" snarled Snape suddenly, his face contorting.
Torture? Harry felt himself go rigid with horror, it felt as if someone had just stabbed an icicle through his heart.
He tortured Lupin...
The portrait smiled chillingly. "A witty return, Severus; or should I say a telling one?"
Snape's blood boiled as he swang back around to the teen. "Potter, behind me, now!"
Harry stared back numb and confused. Dumbledore had told him that Snape's blood potion had kept him alive when he should have died. But Dumbledore wasn't a God and didn't know everything. For the good of the wizarding world - what good had being alive done him? Eleven years with nasty Muggles. Voldemort had risen again through his blood to terrorise everyone again. People had died....people were living in terror...
Harry looked back at Snape then and felt at that moment he could believe he saw nothing but cruelty, horror and darkness in his eyes.
Five and a half years of hatred and, suspicion, and now finally he actually seemed to have damning evidence against his cruellest bully.
"POTTER – GET AWAY FROM THAT PORTRAIT - NOW!"
Lupin was hurt. Snape hurt him.
The horror that had previously gripped Harry's insides, was slowly melding into a silent more dangerous creature, that of anger. A protective anger that did not know reason, nor care for it anymore. Why should he be yelled at like that? Instinctively, Harry felt himself curl his fingers around the handle of his wand.
No one hurt the people he cared about and got away with it. No-one.
Harry took in a single hot breath, only to breathe it out in chilling words. "What did you do to him, Snape?" He could feel his heart thudding madly behind his ribcage as he spoke.
"What did you do to Moony?"
Snape felt an odd chill run down his back. How ironic those words were; he recalled James Potter looking and sounding exactly the same – back in fourth year – before the fight between Wilkes and Potter started outside the Transfiguration classroom.
"Can't you see he's using you, Potter?" hissed Snape. "He's preying on you, twisting your emotions to his advantage. Don't listen to him!"
"Even if he is, how do I know you aren't doing the same, Snape?" spat back Harry, rounding on his Professor. "You've always told me I'm like my father, so why shouldn't you be like yours?"
"Well..." mused Desmodus slyly. "I can't say Ictus exactly shared his son's passion for interrogation and torturing...but..."
Harry's temper was being stoked hotter and hotter with every whispered comment, and now he fairly shook where he stood. Ready to explode.
"He has been feeding you lies Potter," hissed Snape defensively. "He twists the truth to his advantage, not yours!"
The boy looked back, green eyes afire. "But that's Lupin's blood, isn't it?"
Snape stiffened. "Lupin's fine. We had an argument, Potter, that's all, none of your business!"
"So you did hurt him?" whispered back the boy.
Snape scowled, but made no reply – he hardly felt like explaining, thus pouring all his emotions and fears out to a brattish teenage boy; so what was there to say?
Hearing as much as he wanted, Harry took a decisive step forward and shakingly drew his wand...
He had to see if it was all true...
There was a clatter of shoes and Hermione suddenly came into view, her eyes widening at the scene before her. "I heard shouting. Harry, what-"
"Quiet Granger, and stay where you are!" hissed Snape.
Hermione stopped in her tracks and paled, watching the professor and student eye each other; one warily, one furiously.
There was a sudden movement. Snape had drawn his wand, but too late.
"LEGILIMENS!" roared Harry.
Snape braced himself to try and dodge the spell - but nothing happened.
Harry looked down at his wand and paled in horror as the realisation hit him. Not his wand – just the stick...
Snape saw the perfect chance and stepped forward swiftly, his wand high. "Legilimens!"
NO! Harry tried to put up a mental barrier but in his emotionally fired state it was too late. Snape broke into his memories in under a second. All his most protected memories...
...Neville being tortured by Bellatrix Lestrange in the Ministry...Bellatrix screaming as he tried to torture her...his mother and father smiling back at him...Lupin clawed and bloodied in Dumbledore's office...Snape staring at him aghast in Potions as he transformed into the vampire...Snape sobbing, roaring and tipping over his desk in the dungeons...
Harry saw Snape's eyes go wide with surprise and saw his ideal chance. He had no wand, so he needed to build up as much resistance as he could and force it out in one word.
Harry reeled as new images surrounded him. He was through into Snape's memories only for the third time ever. And at once he felt he recognised the gloom, it was that dark room yet again...
One shadow lunged at the other – the horrible scream rang out...then cut short...
"MOTHER!" Someone shrieked, springing out from a corner of the room.
The shadow fell limp into its hunter's arms.
A wand quivered wildly with it's holder's nerves. "N-no! Solis Ortus...SOLIS ORTUS!"
The room was suddenly flooded with bright light. The creature hissed with rage and put its hands up to cover its face, letting go of the body so that it slumped to the floor. Snarling, the creature then backed off and fled into the darkness of the corridor...
The light showed the truth in stark detail. The boy's face crumpled as he dropped his wand and threw himself down at his mother's side ...
Harry wanted to shut his eyes against the brightness of the awful scene, but it wouldn't have made any difference. What he wanted to believe and what he had to believe were fast beginning to polarise. He now knew the teenage boy here was also the same small boy who blew out the candles for his mother. The small boy who would have had a perfectly valid reason to fear the dark...
The small fearful boy who was to become his bitter Professor.
A/N – Finally – I updated. I'm so sorry to all my readers who have had to wait so inexcusably long – but I did have my doubts about this fic when JKR said there was no link between Snape and Vampires! But I suppose thinking about it rationally there's likely to be no SS/HG or Severitus either, but we still read and enjoy the fics!
Please review! ...begs...
Solis Ortus 'Sunrise' in Latin.