AUTHOR'S NOTE:

This story is part of my complete, fall 2003 revision of the original "Darkness and Light" trilogy, significantly altered from the form in which it first appeared on the web in the spring and summer of 2001. In order to fit with HP canon up to and including OotP, new scenes have been added, others moved to different times and locations, and others trimmed or excised. I have also smoothed out what I considered to be uneven or poor characterization, corrected errors in usage and style, and fixed two or three minor but annoying Flints.

I am profoundly grateful to everyone who assisted me in the process of revision, tracking down and identifying discrepancies between D&L and OotP, as well as making helpful suggestions for improvement: first, my long-time betas and dear friends Teri Krenek, Alec Dossetor, Liz Barr, and Erica H. Smith; and second, the members of the "D&L Revisions" mailing list, particularly Christy/Sabrina, Sarah Izhilzha, Kim Krajci, Sannali a.k.a. Morwen, Emily Bytheway, Carole a.k.a. Snape's Witch, Laura Page, Elaine Lahey, Liz E., Julia Steinberg, Manda, and Zebee Johnstone. My heartfelt thanks to you all.

Comments and criticisms are always welcomed.


Darkness and Light 2: Personal Risks

by R. J. Anderson (Revised 08/2003)


Chapter One: Light Denied

"You are lazy and undisciplined, Potter."

Even at a whisper, Professor Snape's low, mellifluous voice could be heard down the full length of the corridor that led to his office. He could mesmerise his students with that voice, holding their attention without effort; and in his rare moments of satisfaction it held a seductive resonance that could almost - almost - make one forget the greasy hair, the yellowed teeth, the gaunt and angular features. But there was no pleasure in his voice now, only malice.

"Perhaps you think your reputation entitles you to succeed without effort," he sneered at the bespectacled fifteen-year-old before him. "But let me assure you that with regard to this subject, and all others I may teach, that is not the case. Ten points from Gryffindor."

Harry's face was colourless, except for two livid spots high on his cheeks. He opened his mouth to protest, but Snape forestalled him, leaning closer in a horrible parody of intimacy.

"And Potter... one more word... just one... and I'll make it twenty."

Harry closed his mouth abruptly.

"Now," said Snape between his teeth, "get out of my sight."

Fists clenched, his whole body stiff with outrage, Harry spun about and walked rapidly back down the corridor. If he even noticed Maud as she passed, a pale-haired seventh-year girl with a little owl on her shoulder, he gave no sign of it. His eyes were frozen in an unfocused stare, as though he were as sightless as Maud herself, and her heart went out to him. Undeservingly famous or not, spoiled or not, no boy should ever have to look like that.

She waited until he was gone and the corridor was clear before she spoke to Snape. "What did he do now?"

He did not reply, only turned and strode back into his office. She followed him in and shut the door before repeating the question.

"Nothing out of the ordinary," said Snape, irritably plucking a porcupine quill off the surface of his desk and making it vanish with a snap of his fingers. "Arrogance. Stubbornness. Presumption."

Maud glanced back at the closed door. "What was he doing here?" It was just after seven o'clock in the evening, well after the fifth year Potions class would have ended, but too early for the end of any but the lightest detention. Remedial lessons? But if he had come to ask for help with his Potions work - which he must have done on his own initiative; Maud knew Snape too well to think that he would offer to spend extra time with a student whose abilities he considered substandard - then accusing the boy of laziness was surely unfair...

Her expression must have betrayed her, because when Snape spoke again, it was icily. "Miss Moody," he said. "May I remind you that I am the master here. And my dealings with Potter, however intriguing you may find them, are none of your concern."

Maud said nothing, only watched Snape through her owl's unblinking eyes as he strode around his desk and sat down. His expression was as sour as she had ever seen it, and looking at him, she felt an unfamiliar cold tightness in her stomach.

Until now she had believed - or at least tried to make herself believe - that Snape's well-known cruelty toward Harry was a necessary evil, an essential part of his guise as a former Death Eater who had never really reformed. The Potter boy was, after all, one of the Dark Lord's greatest enemies, and the one responsible for his most humiliating defeat: if Snape were to pretend even the slightest sympathy to Voldemort, he could spare no kindness for Harry.

But now she understood, with painful clarity, that there was more to the story than that. There had been no mistaking the glitter in her mentor's eyes as he looked at Harry: the hostility, even the loathing, had been real.

#

"What's troubling you, Maudie?"

She gave a rueful smile, putting down her fork beside her almost untouched dinner. "Is it that obvious?"

Her uncle shook his grizzled head in fond exasperation. "Everything's obvious with you, girl. How you make a spy at all, let alone a useful one, I'll never know. By rights you should have been out of Durmstrang on your ear the second Karkaroff set eyes on you."

"You just know me too well," she replied. "Everybody else thinks I'm mysterious."

He snorted. "Yeah, you're mysterious and I'm handsome. Out with it."

Outside the snow was falling, drifting silently to earth like ashes. The night was dark, the moon and stars blanketed with cloud. If there were listeners at Mad-Eye Moody's window, they were uncommonly dedicated ones. Not to mention clever, considering the number of magical traps and defenses her ex-Auror uncle had set up around the house.

She took a deep breath. "I suppose you've been wondering why I came here, when we're supposed to be angry at each other."

"True enough." His magical eye rolled around in its socket and came to rest on her. "But we can always pretend this was my idea, a foolish attempt to make peace that didn't come off. Whatever your reasons, I'm glad you came. It does me good to see you, girl."

He'd been worried about her, she knew. He had thought she would be happy at Hogwarts, perhaps make some friends; but the Ministry's interference had made the school as forbidding a place as Durmstrang, and with several of Umbridge's spies in her own House she had thought it best to remain aloof. No doubt the rumours he'd heard of her isolation had troubled him. She wondered whether other rumours had reached him as well.

"I... need to talk to you," she said. "There are some things you ought to know."

#

Snape's long-boned hands flicked through a pile of papers on his desk, sifting them into order. "I assume you had a reason for coming to see me, Miss Moody?"

She shook herself free from her reverie with an effort. "Yes," she said. "I came to tell you what happened over the holidays."

"You spoke with your uncle."

"Yes. But I wasn't referring to that." She took a deep breath. "I made an appointment with one of the Healers at St. Mungo's, and had him take a look at my eyes."

Snape sat back, folding his fingers together. "And?"

"Remember the potion we tried back in November?"

"It didn't work."

"Well..." She swallowed back the dryness in her throat. "Apparently... it did."

He gave her a swift, hard look. "Impossible," he said. "If it had worked, your severed optic nerves would have regenerated. You would no longer be blind."

"They did regenerate. My eyes are completely healed."

A pause. Then Snape said, "I see."

"Well, I don't," said Maud bitterly. "And it makes no sense. I've tried to find my way without Athena, done everything I could think of to force myself to see without her. But without the spell that links her vision to mine, everything's just... black."

"You have no idea why?"

She hesitated. "No."

Snape's thin mouth twitched. "Ah. Is that the game we're playing? Very well. I will consider what you have told me, and if I am struck by some brilliant insight into your condition, I will inform you of it. Until then, I have work to do, so..." He made a dismissive gesture with his long fingers. "Goodbye, Miss Moody."

For a moment Maud was speechless. At last she said, "Is that all you can say?"

Snape's brows lifted, although he did not look up from the parchments. "No, it is not. But it is all that I intend to say at present." He paused. "Unless you have something further to report. If you do, I suggest you get to the point. There are forty-two assignments in this pile, and they are not about to grade themselves."

Maud dropped heavily into the nearest chair, causing Athena to dig in her talons and hoot a protest. "I don't know where to start."

"At the beginning, presumably." Snape put his quill down and sat back. "You arranged a meeting with your uncle, to explain why you were no longer spying on me, and seek his co-operation. Very well. Then what happened?"

Her fingers twisted in the fabric of her robes, white and fragile-looking against the heavy black. "His reaction... wasn't quite what I'd expected."

#

There was an awkward silence. Then:

"You've changed, Maudie."

Alastor Moody's "mad-eye" could see through nearly anything, a trait that most people found disturbing. But Maud knew her uncle, trusted him, and his piercing gaze had never troubled her.

Until now.

"Changed?" she said, trying to speak lightly. "You think one term at Hogwarts could do what six years at Durmstrang didn't?"

"You know what I mean." He leaned over and poked the fire, sending a flurry of sparks up the chimney. In the flickering light his blunt, scarred face was sober. "Durmstrang changed you, all right; and not all for the better. But in the end, you were still my girl."

"And now I'm not?"

He shook his head. "Maudie, would I say such a thing to you? Your old uncle's a bit confused, that's all. You tell me there's something you want to talk about, but then you can't seem to find the words. We've always been able to talk to each other, before now."

Maud bit her lip. "I'm sorry. It's not you. I just..."

"Well, then. Let me see if I can help." His big hands came to rest on his knees, and his tone became brisk, businesslike. "You were supposed to be getting close to Snape, keeping an eye on him, and from all I've heard, you've done well. But if all I had were your letters-" he picked up the two or three sheets of parchment on the table beside him, flicked through them and set them down again- "I'd think you'd never met the man, much less troubled to spy on him."

Maud was silent, her face averted.

"You're protecting him," said Mad-Eye flatly. "Why?"

It was as good an opening as she could have wished for: this was, after all, the reason she had come. She had anticipated this conversation, readied herself for it, over the past month. And yet, even now, the words came hard.

"He's not what you think," she said. "I know you find this difficult to believe, but Dumbledore really does have good reason to trust him. Underneath the harshness, he's... a noble man."

"Noble?" Moody's shaggy brows shot up. "Not a word I'd choose for a Death Eater-"

"He's not!" The words came out louder than she'd intended, and she saw a flicker of surprise in her uncle's good eye. Abashed, she lowered her voice and continued, "He's not a Death Eater, uncle, I swear to you. Not now, not any more."

"Is that what he told you?"

"He didn't have to tell me."

Her uncle let out an explosive sigh. "Maud, you've only known the man three months. What makes you so sure of him? You're young yet, you've no idea-"

"I'm not a child, uncle."

Something shifted in Alastor Moody's uneven gaze. He narrowed his eyes as though seeing her clearly for the first time, and she felt the colour rising in her cheeks even before he spoke:

"You're in love with him."

"No! Uncle, have you seen Professor Snape? I know there's been talk, we've spent a lot of time working together outside of class, but - no."

"Then give me a better explanation."

"I'm trying." She took a deep breath. "There's something I've never told you - or anyone. The night I lost my parents - when the Death Eaters came - I didn't really escape on my own. It was a man who saved me, a young man whose kindness I never forgot. He Apparated into my room to warn me what was happening, and told me he would protect me. I trusted him, and he didn't let me down: he kept me from seeing the worst of what happened that night, and he talked the Death Eaters into sparing my life. I never learned his name, but I remembered his face, and most of all his voice. And when I met Professor Snape, even though it was fourteen years later-"

Moody sat back heavily in his chair. "Maudie, I know you're not going to want to hear this. But just because Snape helped you out once doesn't prove he's on the right side. Few men are bad all through, and even a Death Eater might decide he doesn't want to see a little girl killed. If you'd been Muggle-born, or half-blood, things could well have been different-"

"I don't believe this! Dumbledore trusts him, I trust him, why can't you? If I can live a double life for the sake of fighting the Dark, why do you find it so hard to believe that Snape might be doing the same thing?"

Her uncle's fist came down on the table, rattling the cutlery and making the plates jump. "Because you never swore a blood oath to Voldemort!"

Maud stared at him, speechless.

"And that man's 'kindness' -" His mouth twisted. "D'you think I didn't notice what you left out of your story? I'd always thought the Death Eaters blinded you for sport, though it puzzled me why they hadn't just killed you and had done with it. Your Professor Snape's a lucky man, Maudie - if I'd known he'd been the one that took your sight, I'd have hunted him down like the rest of them."

"It wasn't his fault!"

"He cast the spell, didn't he?"

"He didn't mean - it was supposed to be temporary - to keep me from seeing - reacting -"

"And you believe that?"

"Yes!"

"Well, if he meant you no harm, why didn't he wipe your memory after he saved you? It would have been a deal kinder, in the end."

"No." She breathed the word with sudden fervour. "No, it wouldn't. My experiences, good and bad, have made me who I am. If Snape had used Obliviate on me, I would be a different person. I'd give up my sight a thousand times over before I'd-"

She stopped. Her uncle was looking at her with a completely unfamiliar expression: part astonishment, part helplessness, part nausea.

"I've heard a speech like that before," he said. "I'll leave you to guess who delivered it." He closed his eyes, his heavy brow furrowed with grief. "What has he done to you, Maudie?"

Maud buried her face in her hands.

#

"I thought that when I told him how you saved my life, he would understand," she said quietly to Snape, her head still bent. "But it only seemed to make him more suspicious. He thinks - he thinks you're influencing me. That you have some sort of power over me."

Snape said nothing, only watched her out of his black, inscrutable eyes.

"He said, 'Not all spells are done with wands, Maudie.'" She mimicked Mad-Eye's rasping tones. "Whatever that's supposed to mean."

A half-smile tugged at the corner of Snape's mouth. "Sometimes," he said, "I forget how young you are. Your uncle is right, Maud."

Her head snapped up. "What?"

"You were raised in a wizard home. Most likely your first magic was done while playing with your mother or father's wand, and you never stopped to think whether it was possible to do it any other way. But most Muggle-born wizard children can tell you that their first spells were cast without a wand, indeed without even realising that they were doing magic at all."

He steepled his fingers, assumed a lecturing tone. "A wand is merely a focus, a means of refining and directing magic. But the source of the magic lies within the wizard himself. And at times of extreme stress or mortal danger, it is possible for even a fully trained wizard to cast an unintentional, uncontrolled spell." He paused. "Such spells are rarely subtle, and tend to have limited effects, so they are seldom a reason for concern. But - there are exceptions."

Extreme stress, she thought. Or mortal danger. On the night she and Snape first met, he had risked his life to save hers. It had been one of his earliest acts in defiance of Voldemort, and for his plan to succeed he had needed her absolute trust, her unquestioning co-operation. If she had resisted him, and the Death Eaters had guessed that her blindness was temporary and that her wits were still about her, Snape would have been exposed as a traitor and likely killed on the spot.

"When one wizard saves the life of another," Snape said softly, "that bond is not easily broken. Even if I did not inadvertently force you to trust me that night, as your uncle fears, there is still a life-debt between us. And that may well be affecting your judgement where I am concerned."

"Are you telling me not to trust you?"

He arched an eyebrow. "Is any human being entirely trustworthy? Growing up with a suspicious old goat like Mad-Eye Moody, I would have expected you to be less naïve."

"That's not funny."

"It wasn't meant to be." He pushed his chair back and stood, stretching his long limbs with an unselfconscious ease he never showed in the classroom. "In the end, Maud, only you can decide to what extent I am worthy of the trust you have placed in me. And only you can prove whether that trust is real." He put a hand on her shoulder, fingers curling gently around her collarbone. "Now. Stop worrying about your uncle, and your eyes, and get back to your dormitory. At any moment your roommate Miss Groggins is bound to notice your absence: and while I find her poisonous little rumours amusing, I expect they are less so to you. Go."

Reluctantly she rose to her feet, paused a moment to look at him. There was little about Severus Snape to invite a second glance, but her heightened senses had long told her that there was more to his appearance than first met the eye. His hair might look greasy, but it did not smell unwashed; and although his teeth were yellowed, his breath was never sour. Indeed, for all that he spent his days handling noxious substances and stirring bubbling cauldrons, his robes were unstained and his hands, while rough, quite clean. And they were beautiful hands: strong and long-fingered, with elegant bones. She wondered, irrelevantly, if he had ever played an instrument.

"Miss Moody," said Snape with cold emphasis, "are you intending to remain here goggling at me until the rumours are no longer rumours? Go. Now."

In classic Snape tradition, the remark was ruthless, uncalled for, and had precisely the effect he had intended: Maud whipped out of the office as though a three-headed hellhound were nipping at her heels. Only later as she dressed for bed, all the while avoiding Muriel Groggins's suspicious gaze, did she realise what he had said.