Serpents and Thorns: The Building Storm
By Jedi Blu, Lady at Large
Beta: Many thanks to Foggy Librarian, who came in half-way through the last fic and wouldn't take credit for all her hard work. She is now also beta-ing for Montana, who I strongly recommend as a great Severus/OC author.
Rating: PG13, for angst, language, and other fun boy-girl stuff.
Disclaimer: I do not own many of the characters portrayed within this story, they are strictly the property of JK Rowling. But the plot is mine. Don't steal it. Be your own kind of original!
Notes: You will want to read my first Rose fic, Rose Among the Thorns, before you begin this or else you will be completely confused. I also would like to thank those who came from that fic to this one with high hopes and expectations—I will do all I can to live up to them.
CHAPTER ONE: Lessons Learned
Rose had her back to the class and was writing out the day's lesson on the blackboard. Double-Defense that day, fifth year Gryffindors and Slytherins. They were only three weeks into the school year, but so far this particular class hadn't given her any trouble. She was said to be a fair teacher, but wouldn't hesitate to discipline—Fred and George Weasley had learned that the hard way.
She turned to face them with a small smile in place, directed towards no one in particular though her eyes lingered a moment on Harry Potter.
"Hermione, could you please read the first section of what I have written on the board?" she asked, walking slowly down the aisle between desks. Gryffindors were on one side, Slytherins were on the other but not due to any designation Rose had made. They naturally separated themselves that way, without even thinking much about it.
Hermione Granger stood, so as to be better heard, and began to read, "'Vampires are not to be trusted—they have many shady dealings and are known to avoid answering direct questions. The Ministry has decreed that all Vampiric people be treated with caution and the Ministry strongly suggests that they be treated with indifference as well. Never show your curiosity to a vampire.'" She took her seat and then whispered quietly to the red-headed boy next to her, "But vampires aren't for another three chapters!"
"Draco, the second line," Rose instructed without batting an eyelash.
Draco Malfoy leaned back in his chair and lazily read out, "'Vampires are known to be very well learned, especially well-versed in history and mythic lore. They are powerful as allies and adversaries; there is much to be gleaned from their extensive wisdom. Though many lack the ambition of mortal men, and therefore lack interest in mortals, once a vampire becomes allied to a cause he is likely to remain bound to it for the rest of his un-life."
"Thank you. Three points each to Gryffindor and Slytherin for their kind participation." That was another thing Rose Evans was famous for all ready; she dolled points out left and right for the simplest things, some said between her giving points and Snape taking points the Houses remained fairly even. "Take out your quills, please." There was rustling of parchment and bags being opened and shut as the students complied. "Make a list, number it one through five." She waited a moment, then began to stroll back down the aisle towards her desk and the board. "Mr. Goyle," she said. The large boy's head jerked up and he looked at her in surprise. Most teachers knew, of course, that Goyle wasn't the brightest student. A great many had given up calling on him.
"Yes, ma'am?" he asked, narrowing his eyes suspiciously. He did get called upon when teachers wished to make an example of his stupidity.
"If you could ask a vampire one question, what would it be?" Rose asked, examining the sleeve of her dark red robes. "Anything you wanted to."
He glanced at Crabb, who shrugged, and then looked back up at Professor Evans with apparent misgivings. "I-I would ask him if blood tastes any good."
"Write that down for your number one, everyone else leave their lists blank. Mr. Weasley, what would you ask a vampire if he were in this room right now?"
"I would ask him to go away and not stop in for a bite," Ron responded, not even hesitating. The class chuckled, a few Slytherins rolled their eyes. Hermione Granger scooted a few inches away from him, looking away, obviously embarrassed by his very unacademic response.
"Think more along the lines of an interview, Mr. Weasley," Rose responded patiently, pulling her wand from her sleeve to twirl it in her fingers. She pushed her spectacles up her nose slightly with the tip of the small cedar twig.
Ron Weasley thought about it for an instant and then said, "How did he become a vampire in the first place? What was it like to get bitten?"
"Excellant. Write those down as your one and two." Rose leaned back against her desk and flashed a wicked smile at her students. "And now the rest of you can fill in your five interview questions you would most like to ask a vampire. Turn them in at the end of the lecture for me to go through. I will return them to you with the inappropriate questions marked out. They will serve as a guide to you to in order to put the questions to our special guest, Andrew Mankiller of a Native tribe in America. He is a vampire and a very prominent one at that. He has agreed to come in and answer your questions."
There were gasps of horror, surprise, and little or no excitement at all. Hands immediately shot up.
"Yes, Mr. Longbottom?"
"Do we have to attend that class?"
"Yes, Mr. Longbottom, attendance to this class will be crucial." Rose sighed as she took in the other raised hands and worried faces. "And yes, I have had it approved by the Headmaster. Chief Mankiller is a prominent citizen of the wizarding community in the United States and it is not his fault he was bitten by a vampire. I assure you he will not be making a meal out of anyone."
Still more hands shot up.
Rose suddenly knew it was going to be a long day.
Severus sneered over the cauldron of Ginny Weasley, another miserable little red-headed Gryffindor, and rebuked her for producing a royal blue vapor when he distinctly told the students it was only right when it turned navy. Back and forth he walked among the student tables, glaring darkly at all of them, but Gryffindor and Ravenclaw double-potions managed to leave the room at the end of the day with five house points a piece added and no idea why Snape was in such a 'good' mood.
"Wonder what's gotten into the old bat," Ginny muttered to a Ravenclaw.
Luna Lovegood rolled her shoulders back in a shrug and remarked, sounding bored and far-away, "Maybe he's in love."
"That vulture? With who?" She threw her head back and looked down her nose at Luna and said in a gruff, hissing tone, "'Yesss...I have finally found my true love.... Classss, I'd like you to meet my ssssoul mate, Severi the Hag...."
The Ravenclaw shrugged again, but was smiling as if at something very distant. "There's someone for everyone, Ginny. My father says...." Her voice trailed off as they walked further down the hall.
Rose stepped out from behind a statue of Morgan la Fey where she had been waiting for the students coming out of the dungeon to pass. Once they were all gone she smirked to herself and made her way down to the dungeons.
He was sitting in front of his desk idly reading the lab sheets the students had filled out as they went through the experiments for the day.
"Don't you just love Mondays?" Rose asked from the doorway, smiling at him. Her hair was gathered up and she still wore her dark red robes, but her spectacles had disappeared. When Severus looked up his eyes locked with hers and he wondered briefly how many times in his life she would startle a smile from him as she did at that moment.
The smile quickly vanished; he turned back to the parchment. "There is no point liking or disliking any day of the week more or less than another," he recited his usual reply to any member of the staff on such a topic to her. Then added, smirking, "Especially when you deal with Gryffindors every day."
"Tomorrow you've got Harry," she remarked lightly, coming to sit on the edge of his desk. "He's bright enough for you, isn't he?"
"Potter shows a distinct disregard for rules and lack of respect to superiors. I loathe the boy."
"Funny, he sounds a bit like you. And his father, and every other fifteen year old boy." Rose crossed her legs at the knee and folded her hands in her lap. "But I'd like to talk to you for a moment about something concerning Harry."
Rolling his eyes, Severus sat back in his chair and gestured with one hand for her to continue.
"I'd like you to give him Occlumency lessons."
Severus nearly fell backwards out of his chair. He recovered himself quickly, however, and stood abruptly. "Absolutely not," he hissed, glaring down at her. "Not if the Dark Lord started growing pansies and Dumbledore went to the moon!"
Rose laughed, outright, a low and silky sound gliding on air. "That was the most original response I think I've ever heard from you. Bravo, Severus! It seems being a teacher has helped your creativity somewhat."
"Be that as it may," he returned, unflinching and glaring sourly, "Your request is completely denied."
"Please, Severus?" she asked, looking up at him with a demure smile. "I'm not skilled enough to teach him and the Headmaster's time is so divided right now between the Order and school and convincing that horrid Ministry of Magic of what's what. Harry's been having these dreams—"
"Spare me the details," he hissed again. He put both hands on the desk, on either side of her, and leaned forward until their faces were only a hand's breadth apart. "The boy hates me. I have no reason to do anything but reciprocate those feelings."
"Of course you do," she said calmly, keeping her eyes on his. "You owe him the debt you couldn't repay to his father. Occlumency could very well save Harry's life."
Severus pushed away from the desk, turning his back towards her. His expression was one of disgust, his jaw was clenched. "It could be argued that I've all ready repaid my debt. I've intervened several times to keep Potter from harm."
She hadn't wanted to do this. She didn't think either of them needed it, but Albus Dumbledore had said that Harry's very life could depended upon him learning Occlumency to keep the Dark Lord out of his head. Rose had no other choice. She lowered her eyes to the ground, ashamed of herself for what she was about to say. Her words would make him angry, her words would hurt him greatly. But it was this or Harry Potter's life. "Then consider a debt repaid to me, Severus. You made a promise to me once and then did not fulfill it. I have a claim and I am making it now… a life for a life."
His back stiffened, the temperature in the room seemed to have dropped. "You would call that up for Occlumency lessons? For that selfish, irresponsible boy?" He paused, the air was tense between them. "You must be desperate."
Rose bit her lip and shrugged, even though he wasn't facing her direction. "He's the only family I've got, Severus. He's my blood. I owe him something, for Lily's sake."
"Don't give me that," he whispered, still not turning. "I don't want to hear your melodramatic explanations."
The witch tensed. "You owe me a debt, Severus Snape, and don't even think about trying to wiggle out of it. I name my payment for that promise you failed to uphold. The only price I will accept is that you teach my nephew everything you know about Occlumency and insure his safety from the Legilimens of the Dark Lord." She came off the desk, glaring at his back. "I didn't want to call that up. I never would have if you weren't so stubborn and arrogant. Grow up, Severus!"
"Get out," he said, voice hoarse and angry. "Get out of my dungeon and stay out."
"Not until you accept undertaking repayment of this debt," she bit out, planting her feet and readying herself in case he tried to use force. "I call this up, Severus, and I will have your word that you will repay me."
He cursed, bitterly. "You have it. I cannot deny the debt and so I cannot deny the repayment. You know that, you stupid little—"
"Don't you dare," she growled, her temper escalating. "And if I hear of one thing suspicious going on in those lessons I will personally take care of it."
"Get out, witch!" He finally turned, his face flushed with anger and his eyes cold as the North wind. His face was taut; he was obviously struggling with control. "Get out and don't ever come back into this room. How dare you pretend just days ago that I was forgiven for that night, only to come back and hold it before me maliciously?"
Rose wanted to storm out then, her composure had nearly given way to her temper...but who was he to command her like that? The situation hurt her as much as it did him. "She was my baby, Severus! Because you didn't even try to intervene she's gone and she's not coming back. I call the debt because I can and I will not have you feeling as if I've no right to it. I have forgiven you, but I will not forgive the debt if it will save Harry's life."
He looked at her silently for several long, cold moments. "Are you leaving?" he finally asked, his voice as hard as his eyes.
"If I walk out that door at your command, Severus," Rose whispered, tilting her chin up, "you will have done almost as much damage today as you did sixteen years ago. Don't tell me to leave again; I'm tired of hurting because of the past. I'm tried of being angry."
Severus stared into her eyes, watching the green flames dance within them as she fought to control her temper. Her small, thin frame was poised as if she was not sure whether to fight or flee, all the color had fled her face leaving it pale. The three freckles on her nose were visible.
He was suddenly thrust back in his memory.
She had been sick, alone in the infirmary with only Severus to watch over her. He had kept a silent vigil until the night of a horrible nightmare.... The nightmare only ended, he had only been rescued, when he heard a voice calling to him.
His eyes snapped open. The room was quiet. He was in the infirmary, staring up at the ceiling, only a lone candle lighting the darkness. He blinked, making sure it was all real and he was safe. But the hands on his arms were still there. He turned his head, slowly, and met the face of Rose Evans, tears in her eyes, her face pale and thin. She was leaning all her weight against his bed, her hands were on his arms, and she was trembling from cold and lack of strength.
But she was afraid for him
His shoulders slumped; he took a step back from her. His eyes went down, towards the dungeon floor, and he swallowed reflexively. His face paled, no longer red with anger. "Do you remember when you were sick, Rose? With Hemitertian?"
She blinked, confused by his change of demeanor and topic. "How could I forget that?" she asked. "It took me forever to recover, and it was a rare disease." She narrowed her eyes. "Why?"
Severus glanced up at her, then sighed. "You were the only non-pureblood to ever contract that disease."
"I know. Madame Pomfrey thought it was strange." Rose crossed her arms. "If you're trying to change the subject, Severus, you're doing a wonderful job. What the devil are you talking about that for?"
Severus shook his head. "Inconsistent. You've always been inconsistent of every person and every rule I ever knew. Why?"
"I beg your pardon?" An incredulous chuckle escaped her before she rolled her eyes. "What are you talking about, Severus?"
"I'm asking you a question. I'm asking you why you're so different from everyone and everything else." Severus stepped back again and then lowered himself into his chair. "Why are you...you?"
"You've been in this dungeon too long, the mold's finally gotten to your brain," she muttered, but she came forward and hesitantly took a seat on the desk. "I'm just me, Severus. I'm the way I am."
"That's a nonanswer."
"Well look at what you gave me to work with," she pointed out, smiling weakly.
The wizard nodded, considering his own thoughts. "You're different, Rose. You're unique. To this day I still don't understand how we became...so close."
Rose started to smile despite herself. "We needed friends."
Severus turned his attention to the lesson plan for the fifth years he had laying on his desk. "I have work to do, Rose." He ran a hand through his hair and shot her a quick, aggravated look. He couldn't puzzle her out to this day, and he wasn't about to waste an afternoon trying. "I'm sure you have better things to do, too."
"Perhaps." Rose stood again and began to make her way towards the door. "Don't forget about Harry," she whispered, looking back to see him all ready bent over his notes. She was out the door when he looked up again, frowning.
"I won't forget," he murmured, never smiling, before turning his thoughts again to his lessons.
Thank you for being here today. :-) I do hope you've enjoyed this chapter and I'm very excited by those which are upcoming.
Sneak Preview: It's All Wrong, in chapter two, with Rose arguing stubbornly with several wizards who refuse to see her side of things. Rose would really like to know, in chapter three, 'What's an Umbridge?' (Ha! And y'all thought you'd escape that horrid toad!) And fifth years get a startling, eye-opening experience when they're allowed to Interview with a Vampire.
Review, please! It makes me happy…and adds inspiration to my work!