Chapter 2 ~ It Ends

Muriel looked cautiously around her darkened room for signs of a house elf before pulling Severus' wand out from under her pillow. She wasn't sure how she'd got to her bed, but she suspected Lupso had brought her.

The guilt over what she had done was gnawing at her. Now that she'd experienced the Cruciatus curse first hand, she knew that she'd done a dreadful thing to Severus. Almost she was loath to cast anything else with this wand, but in her fitful sleep an idea had occurred to her. A way to help.

She swallowed again, and finding her throat still numb, she held up the wand, and pictured her friend in her mind. "Legilimens," she muttered, bracing herself.

An instant later the pain was back, fainter than her mother's curse, but still enough to make her whimper pitifully. She quickly stifled the noise and lay back, concentrating on taking as much of the pain into her own mind as possible. She knew that if he could only be free to think, Severus would come up with the counter spell. He had to.

Throughout the night, Muriel lay in bed, stiff and awake, trying to think through the pain. She could hear some of Severus' thoughts, and tried to make suggestions when it seemed like he was onto something. He was angry. He was so very angry with her, and she knew she deserved it.

By morning she couldn't concentrate on the problem anymore. She could only whisper her apologies, over and over again. Her own body ached with the after-effects of her mother's curse while her mind reeled under the influence of her own curse on Severus.

Lupso came to check on her at midday, bringing food. She pretended to be asleep, though she was sure the uncontrollable shivering would give her away, even if he didn't notice the wand in her hand. But he must have held his tongue, because Mother never came upstairs.

Relief came late that night. Nearly two days after she'd originally hexed him, Severus came up with the counter curse. Both children, separated by a short yard and the walls of their homes, gasped in unison. Muriel sent words of apology to Severus as best she could, though she was exhausted, then broke the spell that bound them together.

When the light hit her face in the morning, she swung her legs out from under the covers, planning to run over to the Snapes' to see Severus. She'd barely stood, however, when the edges of her vision went gray and fuzzy, making her sit down again hard. Then the aches set in. Even though she'd only been sharing in the spell, her muscles had tensed with the pain, and stayed that way for hours on end. It was taking its toll.

When Lupso returned with breakfast, she sent him away. The pain in her throat had returned, and she had no intention of eating anything. When he was gone, she locked the door with Sev's wand and cast the Legilimens spell again.

In the neighboring house, Severus' eyes flew open. She was in his head again, and he absolutely HATED that. Not to mention the fact that he was still furious because she'd cast that damned curse on him.

"Go AWAY," he thought, over and over. From somewhere in the back of his mind he heard the stubborn answer.

"Don't be mad, please don't be mad. I'm sorry, Sev, really I am. I never meant for it to hurt you so much."

Her voice seemed small and scared, though how he could have known that, he didn't know. It wasn't as if he could HEAR her, exactly. He just knew what she was thinking. And he knew more than that, as well, though he wasn't going to tell her about it.

He could see her memories, or at least, the ones that were foremost in her mind at that moment. He saw what Mrs. Deesia had done to punish her, and it made him even angrier, for some reason. He couldn't break the connection, only she could do that. So instead, he stopped thinking at all. He let himself drift into dreams that he wasn't sure were his own, knowing that she would leave when she thought he wasn't listening anymore.

"Please, Sev. I'm so sorry."

This went on for a week, during which time Severus all but begged his mother to let him go over and tell Mur that he was all right. She wouldn't believe it from his thoughts, and he was getting really tired of listening to her beg his forgiveness. If her mother ever heard her apologizing like a weak minded fool, she'd be in for another round of Cruciatus, and Severus wasn't ready to be the cause of that.

He knew full well that the only reason he'd been able to recover at all was because she'd taken half the pain for him, even after weathering her mother's hex. As a result, he'd long since forgiven her, though she didn't seem to believe him. Finally his mother let him out of the house. He knew Papa had come back yesterday, since he'd been up to Mur's room quite a few times and Muriel had no control over what information Severus received from her when she used the Legilimens curse on him. Lupso the house elf let him in, which was odd. Usually Mur knew who was at the door and ran to meet him when he came over. He was even more surprised when Papa appeared and led him up to Mur's room.

"Severus, listen to me. I know you're probably still very upset about what happened but - " he stopped for a moment as he noticed the concern on the young boy's face. "She's made herself ill over this. We can't get her to eat anything," he finished quietly.

Papa snapped his fingers and Lupso appeared, carrying a tray of food. "Try not to be too hard on her," he added, as he opened the door for Severus and the house elf. Sev nodded before following Lupso inside. Muriel didn't open her eyes until he pulled a chair over to sit by her bed. Then she blinked a few times, as if she thought she might be hallucinating.

"Sev?" she whispered. He nearly grimaced as an expression of pain crossed her face. It obviously hurt her to talk. He wondered how often her mother had punished her. If it had only been that once, she should be better by now!

"Don't tell Papa," she said weakly, having heard his thoughts.

He answered only by shushing her. Then he called for Lupso. The elf appeared instantly. "Can you do anything about her throat, so she can eat?" Severus asked. The elf bobbed an affirmative and disappeared again only to reappear a few minutes later with another bottle of numbing potion.

When Lupso was gone again, Severus took her hand to help her sit up and handed her the bottle, which she downed quickly, making a face. She was pale, much more so than any Italian ought to be. Her eyes seemed a bit glazed, and he noticed that she'd bit her lip so hard that it was scabbing over. Surely Papa hadn't failed to notice all these obvious indications?

"Lupso's been hiding the cut for me, and a bruise on my leg from where I kicked a chair leg last time," she whispered.

"You've got to tell him, Mur. He won't let her do it anymore."

Muriel only shook her head. Then she dug around under her pillow and pulled out his wand. "Here."

"Thanks. Father would have been angry if he thought I'd lost it."

They sat in silence, contemplating the anger of their parents. Severus was hardly aware that he still held her hand, but Muriel noticed it right away. If the muscles in her face had been working correctly, it might even have made her smile.

"I don't want you to cast that spell on me anymore," Severus said finally.

Muriel nodded. She could tell that he'd hated having her in his head. It had been fun a year ago, when they'd first discovered it, but somehow now it didn't seem so much fun anymore.

"Only when we need it," he amended quietly, and she understood what he meant. When she really needed him. She nodded again, squeezing his hand.

He pulled his hand away as soon as he realized that he'd been holding hers and turned his attention to the tray of food. "Here, eat something before Papa comes back. I don't want him to think you're still upset." She took a sandwich silently, but set it back on the plate after only two bites. Severus decided that was an improvement.

"I'm sorry about all this, Mur," he whispered finally, swallowing hard. He'd never had to apologize to anyone before now, and his father wouldn't approve of it even in this case, but this was his best friend. She was looking at him as if he belonged in St. Mungos.

"YOU'RE sorry? Sev, it was my fault. If I had just - "

He cut her off. "I shouldn't have said all those things to begin with. Let's just forget it ever happened, okay?" It pained him to admit it, but he wished he'd never said any of it. What did it hurt HIM if she thought they'd get married some day? Maybe they would. He just hadn't wanted to think about it right then, and so he'd hurt her.

"Okay," she said quietly. He forced a smile, which she didn't return, then headed for the door. When he'd closed it behind him, he trotted down the stairs and into the parlor. Papa was sitting stiffly with a book in his hand. Severus stood, indecisive, in the doorway before he went inside and closed the door behind him. Papa looked up.

"She tried to make me promise not to tell you this," he began, a sarcastic smirk creeping across his face.

"If you never give your word, you never break it," Papa replied. "There's more to this than her worry for you, I take it?"

Severus wondered for the millionth time why he and Mur couldn't have had her father and his mother and done without the other two parents entirely. "Don't leave her alone with Mrs. Deesia," he said, his smirk falling into a frown as he watched Papa's eyes narrow and grow dark.

When Papa didn't reply, Severus ventured another suggestion. "And get her a real wand." At least that way she could defend herself. Merlin knew she'd be able to, they'd practiced under Papa's watchful eye with his old wands for years. Papa wasn't looking at him anymore, though Severus could see that his knuckles had turned white where he gripped his book, and his face looked distinctly red.

Severus turned and left the room. He nodded to Lupso, who opened the front door for him, then paused in the doorway. "Keep that potion ready in case she needs it," he whispered. The elf nodded as it closed the door behind him and Severus sighed. At least Muriel would be safe in her own house now. For some reason that made it a lot harder for him to turn away from her house and walk back toward his own.