PG-13 Methos takes a young Severus Snape under his wing.
Disclaimer: The only characters I own are the ones you don't recognize. Given this, it sure would be nice if you didn't recognize Methos or Severus, but alas, I rather expect that you do.
Death & Betrayal
There had been five snipers arrayed around the hills. All muggles with connections to the wizarding world and grudges against Death Eaters.
Conner O'Reilly felt better than he had in the last four years. He had watched his daughter fight in the final battle and he had been there to defend her. She wasn't aware of this.
She thought he couldn't deal with wizards in a wizarding war and she had even convinced him of his powerlessness in an attempt to protect him. He had been bitter about it. Hadn't he fought in a terrorist war before? He had lived in Ireland most of his life, and when his Sara had first told him about the war, he had started telling her about his experiences with the underground. She had been shocked, but he needed her to know how to deal with terrorists and small land wars. It had been all he could do since he was just an old muggle.
At least that is what they had both thought. That is what he had thought until he had gotten the call from a man named Adam.
Adam had introduced himself as a muggle who was not happy with the Death Eaters threatening muggleborns at Hogwarts and he wanted to do something about it. Would Conner like to meet with him to talk about it?
Conner had thought that no one knew about his role in the Irish underground but he had the distinct impression that this Adam knew exactly what his skills were. He also knew this was an offer he couldn't refuse.
In the end, he had met up with Adam and three other muggle parents. Two of them had outlived their children due to the Death Eaters in the previous war. All of them had experience with long range rifles and had accepted the fact that they would be killing people. Adam had provided the weapons, the knowledge of how the battle was going to take place, and the portkey that would take them to the battle. He had explained how they would slip into and out of the wizarding world and what exactly was going to be happening in the valley where he would take them. He had taken them to their posts, made sure they were prepared, and after the battle while the victors on the battle field started cleaning up, he took them all back to muggle London and made sure they were okay with what had happened.
Somehow Adam had known what the wizards' plans of attack had been and where the battle was going to be held. As far as Conner could tell, none of the wizards knew about Adam and this little group of muggles.
As disturbed as he was at resuming the role of assassin that he had given up after the birth of his first child, Conner was happy. For the first time, he wasn't upset with the fact that he couldn't be a good father to his daughter, the witch. Because even if he didn't have magic, he did have the ability to fight for her. He could help protect her as well as any wizard could.
Conner O'Reilly grinned maliciously. Those wizards had better be careful from now on. Because they could no longer write off muggles as useless. He and the others would make sure that other muggle parents were never convinced of their weakness. He wouldn't kill again unless it was necessary. But if it ever again became necessary, he knew that he had the power even if he didn't have the magic.
"I am nearly certain that Adam brought a group of muggles to the final battle."
Severus sipped his tea, watching Albus over the rim of his tea cup. He briefly hummed an "mm," which could be interpreted either as a request for further information or as appreciation for the tea.
Albus assumably decided that it was an encouraging noise since he continued. "From what we can tell, there were five muggles with weapons, the kind that Miss Granger refers to as guns. At least, we found evidence of guns and the people using them did not use any obvious magic. I assume that if they were wizards there would have been some evidence of magic. Thus, I hypothesis they were muggles. The Ministry assumes that no muggle could harm a wizard, and so these five people must have been wizards."
Severus continued to sip at his tea.
"The Order of the Phoenix set the time and place of the battle. And I told Adam when it was going to be, where it was going to be, and I sent him a portkey to bring him there."
Severus considered the sandwiches laid out before them on the table.
"Severus!" Albus finally looked slightly annoyed.
"Yes?" Severus attempted a look of innocent inquiry. He wasn't sure how successful it was.
"Wizarding society is hidden for a reason. How could he bring muggles into it and tell them to kill us?"
"I think you've missed the point. From his perspective, from the muggles' perspective, how could you have kept them in ignorance and allowed wizards to kill them?"
Albus looked rather disturbed at this perspective. "We tried to stop Lord Voldemort and the Death Eaters, and eventually we did stop them."
"Albus, it is times like this when it is obvious that as much as you try to be fair, you are a pureblood and have never lived in any society other than the wizarding one."
"You don't need magic to be dangerous, and you don't need magic to be worthy of respect."
"Of course. I respect muggles."
"Then you are failing to demonstrate that respect. Muggles are as human as any wizard and should not be enslaved, but neither should they be protected for their own good. They have just as much a right to fight and die and kill as any wizard."
Albus slowly nodded his understanding. They sipped their tea in silence for a minute. "Adam did bring them, did he not?"
"He didn't tell me what he was doing. But, yes. I knew he was responsible as soon as I saw the wounds."
"He terrified Voldemort, according to young Harry. And Fudge will be furious but also deeply scared when he realizes that muggles killed so many wizards in the final battle. Even the ghosts of Hogwarts are wary of your Adam, did you know?"
"I wondered if I had dreamed that."
Albus quirked an eyebrow and looked inquiring, but Severus remained silent as he remembered the events that had been made foggy through pain and potions.
Normally the loud crash would have had Severus springing to his feet. Even laid out in the Hogwarts infirmary and filled with various potions to heal him from the beating Lord Voldemort had ordered as a preliminary to his death, Severus was jolted to some semblance of consciousness by the sound.
Further clatters and crashes were eventually identified as Peeves making a mess. Severus struggled to maintain his awareness and clear his brain somewhat so that he could order the poltergeist away, or perhaps summon the bloody baron. Before he managed anything, someone else spoke.
"Poltergeist." The single word was both a command and a warning. Severus recognized his mentors voice and relaxed. Adam would know what to do. None the less, Severus tried to stay conscious to see what happened.
"Ooh, who do we have here." Peeves chuckled with glee. In a singsong voice he said, "Somebody's wearing Death Eater robes."
"Poltergeist. You will be silent and leave the infirmary alone. This is supposed to be a place of rest."
"And what if I don't?" Peeves moved to knock over a stack of reference books on curses.
"Do you know what you are, poltergeist? You are a little bit of life force, a little bit of quickening, that is not attached to a body."
"And without a body you can't do nothing to me." Peeves giggled and pushed over the books which all thumped to the ground. Severus was rather glad of the sudden sound since it gave him another jolt that awoke him from the half-slumbering state into which he had slowly sunk.
"No. If you had a body, then you would be anchored to this world. But since you do not have one, I can swallow you up. It is a natural talent of mine, the ability to absorb another's quickening." Adams voice was amused but also spoke of vicious intent. And this time it was Adam that laughed. A soft, low laugh that was short and barely audible.
Severus thought at first that it was the laugh that had caused the hairs on his arms and the back of his neck to rise. But the prickling sense continued long after the laughter had disappeared.
It was perfectly silent for a long minute as some sort of presence seemed to fill the room. Then Peeves began talking again, but this time he was begging.
"Please, Sir. I didn't mean anything by it. I'll be perfectly silent. Please. I'll be good. Good, good, good. Oh, Sir. Don't do this to me. Be merciful. Please. Please, Sir."
Peeves' voice grew ever more frantic.
Severus grew more disturbed as Peeves' voice brought up the memories of other voices begging. He had seen too many torture sessions to not recognize the horrified and fearful begging.
Severus struggled to open his eyes, and managed briefly, but saw only the flicker of shadows. He did manage to make a noise.
Suddenly the overwhelming feeling of presence was gone, and the small hairs on his body settled once more. Peeves stopped begging and started rambling protestations of gratitude. Even that ended with a single word in Adam's voice. "Silence."
Then there had been a hand his head, stroking his hair.
"Shh. Sleep. You're still healing. The poltergeist is gone from the infirmary but not from Hogwarts."
Severus mustered the effort to murmur, "how?"
Luckily, Adam understood the question.
"Every living creature has a life. And this life is made up of little bits of your life and other people's lives. In your life you have a little bit of Lord Voldemort's life and you have a little bit of Dumbledore's life and a little bit of each of your students' lives." Adam continued to stroke his hair.
"Those we kill, in particular, will always be part of us. We carry them around always. This is, of course, metaphorical. For you at least. But some of us, take it a bit more literally.
"Poltergeists, or any kind of ghost really, is a bit of life that isn't currently being carried by someone who is alive. After a while, they tend to dissipate, but until then, I am perfectly capable of absorbing that little bit of life and carrying it with me, as if I had killed the original. And I've found that those who have died are even more wary of oblivion than those who have yet to experience that first death."
Severus had drifted off to sleep under the pressure of the potions and the soothing hand of his mentor, but the phrase "bits of life" stuff in his mind. He dreamed of a life like a patchwork quilt, made up of bits of this and that. Then a man in white was there and the patchwork quilt was a cauldron filled with ingredients that Adam stirred. The potion turned dark and pure and calming and filled his entire vision.
When Severus next woke up, it was day and Dumbledore sat by his bedside.
"Should I be scared?"
Severus startled out of his meditation as he tried once more to recreate the memories that were more dreamlike than real. "What?"
"With so many people scared of your Adam, I just wonder if I should be scared as well." Albus' eyes twinkled with amusement but the question itself was serious.
"Yes. Of course. He is a dangerous person. But at the same time, no, you don't need to be nervous. He is not a threat."
They both drank their tea and thought in silence.
"Little bits of life." Severus murmured.
"I think what makes Adam so dangerous is that he is not predictable to anyone but himself. He once said that he was made up of little bits of the lives of other people. He is a thousand different people. When confronting a dark lord he can be a greater dark lord, when confronting a child he can be childish, when confronting a scholar he too can be an intellectual."
"Most people change depending on who they're with."
"Yes." Severus felt his lips curl up in a faint smile. "Yes, but they rarely have so many different people they can change into and have such perfect control over who they are at any given time."
It was several months after the final battle that Severus realized he felt good. For the first time in his life it seemed, the good days outnumbered the bad. The war was over. It wasn't just in recess, but finally over for once and for all. Lord Voldemort was completely destroyed and the rest of the Death Eaters had all been rounded up. He was no longer a spy. He was completely retired from any wizarding conflict. Someone else would have to deal with the future politics of the wizarding world, he no longer cared.
Instead, he focused all of his concentration on his research. He wasn't a spy, he was merely a potions master.
The academic community would not appreciate his use of the word, "merely." Now that his focus wasn't divided between discovering hidden information and keeping himself alive, with potions research in his spare time, his research was going better than ever before. He already had his place in the history books as the first real wizard spy, but he was now rapidly creating a place for himself in the history books as one of the most outstanding potions masters.
And he was getting on better with the people around him. He occasionally had real conversations with his fellow professors. They no longer had any reason to distrust him, and he no longer had to act around them. Of course, he was still nasty, but he was no longer shifty. He was more relaxed in his bitterness and even that was slightly less since he had received an Order of Merlin, first class.
And he was corresponding with Adam.
After the last battle he had gone to the white marble mansion to find it empty. He had felt empty after the end of his purpose in fighting the dark lord and the loss of his mentor. He remembered the end of the last war when Adam had simply walked away and into some other life of which Severus had no knowledge. He had wondered if he would ever see his mentor again. The thought that he probably wouldn't was unpleasant. But the more he thought about it, the more he realized that he really and truly didn't need Adam. He was an adult, accredited, and fully confident in his own power.
Instead, he just wanted the presence of his old mentor, he liked him. He had purchased a new owl and sent it as a gift to Adam along with a letter letting him know that he no longer considered Adam his mentor, but that he would still like to consider him a friend. He had watched the owl fly off, hoping but not really expecting to ever see it again.
He had gotten a response and it was the most relaxed communication from Adam he had ever received. It was written on a muggle "Congratulations for Graduating" card. It had been pleasant and interested in what he was researching and how his life was working out. It had been the start of a correspondence. He hadn't felt at such ease with Adam since the first year of their acquaintance when Adam had focused most of his training in the area of potions. After that, he started learning more about manipulating people. Now, again, they discussed mostly potions, but also Severus' attempts to become more social.
"What's that you got?"
"It's a letter from a friend." Methos sat on a stool in Joe's bar and had been rereading the most recent letter from Severus. It told him about a recent potions experiment that had come out with unusual results and some new ideas that Severus had had. There were a few tangential comments about students and professors. Life at Hogwarts continued.
It was quiet in the closed bar. MacLoed had brought in some paperwork to do on one of the tables, keeping Joe company as he cleaned. Methos had stopped by to get a beer and had settled into the companionable silence to read his letter and mentally compose a response.
Joe continued to clean glasses at the bar while watching Methos, in hopes of getting more information out of him. Finally he was rewarded.
"An old student. My most recent student."
At this Mac looked up from his work, "your student? Who is he?" Mac was apparently trying to keep a pleasant expression on his face and make his question appear to be one of mild curiosity. Methos didn't buy it for a minute, and he knew Joe didn't either. Mac was already preparing to meet an enemy.
It would be easier, Methos thought, if Mac were just this wary of any new acquaintance. But generally speaking, Mac was painfully naive and trusting about people. However, while Mac had eventually come to accept Methos and his past, any of Methos' old friends were automatically considered enemies. All the people Methos was attracted to were ruthless in some fashion or another, including MacLoed -- perhaps MacLoed most of all. But Mac seemed to think of himself as completely different from every other killer that Methos knew, because he only killed 'bad guys.' Methos had to stifle a snort of laughter as he thought about what Severus' comments on that would be.
"He's no one you need to worry about. I doubt you'll ever even meet him." Gods know I hope you don't ever meet, Methos thought to himself but did not say aloud. But for all of the necessity of keeping his friends separate, he realized as he sat in the bar with Joe and Mac, that he missed Severus. Methos was never entirely free to be himself. He didn't even know who he would be if he were not constantly wary. Being paranoid was such an intrinsic part of his personality. But at least around Severus he didn't have to hide his paranoia. He still wore masks, but it was one less mask than usual.
He looked at the folded letter in his hand. He missed Severus and their conversations. But Severus was now permanently installed in the wizarding world with no reason to visit the muggle world. Severus didn't like the muggle world. And Methos didn't like the wizarding world. It was dangerous to him.
"Tell me about him. Why is he writing to you?" Mac had pushed his chair back from the table and turned to look more steadily at Methos. Methos wondered if Mac even realized that he had just given himself room to leap up and pull out his sword, all because Methos had mentioned a student. Methos rather thought that it was a completely unconscious act.
Methos shook his head at both the thought and at Mac's question. Surely the wizarding world was no more dangerous than the world he currently lived in with all of the immortals coming through to meet MacLoed. And MacLoed himself was a danger. Champions and prophesied heroes were always difficult people.
Methos had convinced himself previously that living around MacLoed at least made sure he didn't get sloppy. Constant Vigilance! as the Auror motto was. That argument would be equally true of any time in the wizarding world. He remembered telling Severus that "those who have died are even more wary of oblivion than those who have yet to experience that first death." It was easy as an immortal to fall into the rut of taking absolutely no risks. But it was just as dangerous to be controlled by one's fear as it was to go out courting risks.
He had spent time in the wizarding world before this. Was there really any reason for him to stay away?
Methos smiled wryly.
"No, Mac. There's no reason for you to know anything about him."
Some months into the new school year Severus was working on one of his own experiments while keeping an eye on his seventh-year class when Adam strolled into the room.
Severus kept strict control of his expression and managed to keep his jaw firmly in place despite it's desire to drop. "Adam." He knew his eyes had to be absolutely shining.
"Severus." Adam peered into his cauldron, sniffed a bit, and then stuck one finger into the bubbling mass, pulled it out and licked it. Severus winced. Adam looked thoughtful for a minute before saying, "needs more ashwinder eggs. And perhaps some cinnamon."
"Adam. You know I hate it when you taste test my potions. And you're setting an absolutely deplorable example for my students."
Adam grinned at him.
Reluctantly, Severus grinned back.
A/N: This is the final chapter of this fic. I hope you enjoyed it. I used a very wordy style heavy on the narration since I wanted to cover a great deal of ground without bogging down too much in dialogue and details which I love reading but which I have a difficult time writing myself. This fic was more an experiment than anything else, in whether or not I could write a multi-chapter fic. It's hard to concentrate on one story line and character interpretation when I seem to have a constant parade of plot-bunnies wending their way through my head.
Comments and reviews are greatly appreciated.