A series of events during Severus Snape's second year at Hogwarts.
In the hallway there was the big grandfather's clock with its skilfully carved edges and the huge black pendulum swinging back, forth, back and forth... a hundred times each day, or more. The figures on it were carved in as well, and then painted. In green. They did not show the time, but something Severus did not grasp. Something to do with travelling... and transport.
There were no hands either. Nothing to point at the various long numbers or strings of letters such as 'Repetere', 'Regindo', or 'Deserere' that made no sense to him the longer he thought about it. And he did so - several times a day.
It took a couple of minutes before he took in his father's voice coming from the back of the hallway and the shuffling of his and his mother's bags near the entrance, which meant that the two of them had finally returned.
He whirled around and hurried towards them, but his father held out his hand and motioned him to take the bags. Severus did without complaint.
The soldier whispered something into his wife's ear, who was looking at Severus through big, glassy-blue eyes, not seeming to take them in, whatever her husband was trying to convey to her. Then, without another look at his son, he took her hand and escorted her to a small door behind the staircase, which led to their shared bedroom. Severus stopped at the doorstep, slightly unsure what to do, and eventually leaned the bag against the wall next to the door, carefully withdrawing from the doorstep, not taking his eyes of his mother.
Father had summoned a glass of water and was now watching his wife with something in his eyes that Severus had never perceived before. Their usual light and very determined blue seemed covered by a veil of despair, and something in his face was twitching, though Severus had difficulties seeing what it was.
For a moment, just for a second, he felt sorry for this man, who was staring down at the feeble woman before him as if thinking about what had happened - and what should happen now - and then turned.
Severus made another involuntary step backwards, letting him step out of the room and carefully close the door behind him. His face was a mask. He knew it. He was fighting back tears again, as, indeed, he had done all day, ever since mother had collapsed and father had taken her to St. Mungo's earlier this day.
The soldier's eyes narrowed. He was scrutinizing Severus's expression without any apparent emotion on his face. Then looked down at the bags in front of the mirror and back up into his son's face again.
'Going back to Hogwarts, are you?'
'Yes,' said Severus tensely. 'Tomorrow.'
'Good for you, isn't it?' said his father resentfully. 'To cause this and then be able to just... head off. Leave me to deal with her. Easy. Very convenient.'
'But I wasn't -'
One look at his father's expression made him shut his mouth at once.
'Why do you think she got worse so quickly?' hissed the big man, suddenly quavering with suppressed emotion. 'What could be the reason for her being perfectly all right only a month ago - until you came back? Why do you think she's seeing things again? Why??'
Severus shrank back, now seriously fighting against an upcoming bunch of tears.
His father glared. Then turned.
'She won't be taking these potions any longer,' he muttered, more to himself than anything. 'It's what makes them ill. Potions. And those foolish healers who think they know everything!'
He slammed a fist against the wall suddenly, his eyes apparently closed, and ignored Severus for a full five minutes before turning again, his face a mask of composure and superiority again. Just as Severus knew it.
'You'll try and make more of an effort this time, won't you? You'll try and not disappoint her again.'
It was not a question. Severus nodded. His father frowned and raised an eyebrow.
'Yes father,' said Severus quickly. 'I promise.'
'Good,' said the soldier, placing one hand briefly at Severus's shoulder before making his way through the hallway towards the office. 'I see you tomorrow then. You'll be tired, I presume.'
'Yes father,' lied Severus, thinking that he could easily read until he was.
'And remember,' said his father's voice from behind his back as he was ascending the staircase, 'if I catch you reading again you'll be in trouble.'
Severus turned quickly, making to protest, catching himself just in time, however, and threw a helpless look at the door of the office behind which his father had vanished.
He shut his mouth again and made the rest of the stairs, quietly closing the door of his bedroom behind him, slamming himself onto his bed as he was, staring at the ceiling.
Mother had been bad for the last couple of weeks, that was true. Admittedly it was hard to tell exactly what she was suffering from, but she was suffering, he did not doubt that. And it was his fault. Apparently.
Things were appearing in Severus's head. Pictures. When he was thinking of his mother, one particular image kept returning to his mind - it was the memory of a boat and two people on it. A man - and a woman. It was the woman who was steering the boat, yet the man was more important. A prince. A warrior. Someone who, people said, would return one day. To give them the help they so longed for. To guide them and be their guardian. His name was... Charlie. Bonnie... Charlie.
Severus turned and glared at the white wall. No singing. No humming... and do not cry!
The word repeated themselves in his head, driven by an automatic force he could not grasp. He tried to think of something pleasant again quickly. Tried to think of Hogwarts to drive out other images that were coming up rapidly, forcefully. He was blinking once, twice - and then they were gone. The room was not spinning anymore and the darkness of the memories had vanished.
Severus looked around, spotting that he was not alone anymore either. There, in front of him, sitting on his bed grinningly, flexing his hands and all fingers sat Skein. Severus's friend - the only friend he would truly call such - whom he had met at Hogwarts last year. Skein, who seemed to know the answers to anything.
'Why's she so bad again?' said Severus quietly.
Skein seemed in doubt.
'You think it is your fault?'
'What I think isn't relevant,' replied Severus, not knowing where this statement came from. 'It... yes, I... suppose it is.'
'Well, then that's that,' said Skein airily, letting himself fall back on Severus's bed. 'You've made your decision.'
'It's not a matter of decision,' said Severus angrily.
'No,' said Skein, sitting up again. 'It is a matter of effort. You want her to be proud, don't you?'
'I want her to be well again,' whispered Severus.
'Then stop disappointing her like that,' said Skein harshly. 'Stop being such a child!'
Severus felt his hands trembling, but nodded and lay back in his pillows again. He knew Skein was right, because he always was. Because not listening to him had never done Severus any good, as he remembered with a pained glance at his hands. But this year would be different, he swore to himself. He would not get into trouble - especially not with a certain insufferable bunch of Gryffindors, who seemed to provide him with a letter home every time they crossed his way. He would study, and he would sleep, and until next summer he would be doing nothing else.
The upcoming silence told him that Skein had left again and he curled together just slightly, shifting with his arm under his head. Oh yes, this year would be very different from the previous one. Charlie, he decided, would indeed come again.