Okay. I've been thinking and thinking and thinking about this idea, and I've finished it. The bunny is happy. For now. Just warning you, it's really odd. Not odd like "Oh Rats!" odd, but still… odd.
August 11: -plots- okay... I've got another fic, set in the same universe, about the aftermath of HBP... um. but the thing about this fic (and that one)is that you've just got to play along. Some stuff won't fit with the books, but I've tried to make it work... and it fits pretty well. so... willing suspention of disbelief, people!
Disclaimer: Tamora Pirece owns the Tortall people. JK Rowling owns the Wizards.
Oh, and this fic is DEFFANATLY an AU.
And it has been Beta'd and read over many times by me.
Sad dark eyes gazed into the tiny blue eyes of a portrait in a locket. A locket that he had quite purposefully taken off his left hand. He didn't want her anywhere near that mark on his arm, portrait of her or not. He wondered what she would think of him, if she knew what he was now. She'd be horrified, of course, just as horrified as he was. He could hardly even explain himself.
He hadn't spent time outside in years. His once-swarthy skin had turned pale from the lack of sun in the dungeons, and his old laugh lines had, in the despair and distress of this world, turned to frown lines. His once warm and laughing black eyes had turned to cold bottomless pits. He didn't care for himself anymore. There was no one to impress, and he felt dirty anyway. His once painstakingly cared for hair was now lank and greasy and dead. He didn't care.
After all, the days when he was clean and happy were very much over.
There was nothing to research, because there were no magical discoveries to be made. He had a different kind of magic then the kind the people had here; his wand, used so he blended in, was hollow to allow his Gift to stream through. He could not research because he could not use the magic here, could not use it for science.
He didn't feel like researching anyway.
He had wasted away from what he used to be; he was starved without his friends, his world, and dehydrated without his wife and child.
He had come, sixteen years ago, just after Sarralyn's birth. The creature that had found him was a man that could talk to snakes. He had liked the man on sight; his wild magic reminded him achingly of Daine, but it was a good ache. An ache he had welcomed. A reminder of what had been waiting for him when he got home.
He had turned a blind eye to the fact that the man had red eyes.
The man, called Lord Voldemort, had promised to help him get home, and he had readily agreed. The man, after all, had wild magic, didn't he? Animals were very sensible, and so was anyone who could talk to them. So, Numair Salmalin had been tricked into helping Lord Voldemort.
His heart had twanged when he had gotten the Mark branded on his arm, screaming that it was binding him to this man, but he ignored it. Anything was worth getting home. Anything.
He had had nightmares. Every time he got back from a gathering of Voldemort's followers, he had vomited and tried to scrub the horrors off him with a bath, then had dreamed of the horrors he had seen. They were always awful, filled with torture and death and pain. He would always wake up gasping in the night, after a gathering. After all, he was born from non-magic parents. He had non-magic friends. Magical heritage meant nothing to him: absolutely nothing. He really didn't care about who someone's parents were, unless they were a king or a noble, and then he only cared vaguely. He just wanted to go home.
After the third raid, on the Other Side of the war that was apparently going on here, Numair found the name of the other ruler. Albus Dumbledore, the one fighting for the Muggles and the Muggle-borns and the half-bloods. He teetered in his decision. He hated killing, hated it desperately, but he feared that Dumbledore would either kill him, which wouldn't actually be that bad, or throw him to the Dementors, a breed of Immortal here. He had learned about them during their first raid, after a conversation with a man named Lucius Malfoy, someone who reminded him immensely of Ozorne. Worst of all, though, he knew that Dumbledore would not help him get home, not after all the horrid things he had done.
It had been three weeks and four raids later that he searched for Dumbledore. Getting home was not important anymore, no matter how much he longed for Daine and his friends. That was no excuse to be killing so many. The second he had locked eyes with Dumbledore, his mind had screamed Derrol! The man looked remarkably like another Black Robe Numair knew, and before he had known it he had poured his heart out to the man, so glad to see a face reasonably familiar. Of course it wasn't Derrol; Derrol would have, actually, cursed Numair on sight if he had heard of the horrors he was describing.
No, no, the headmaster most defiantly wasn't Derrol.
He had, surprisingly, taken Numair under his wing, given him a name, Severus Snape, after a poor student that had been killed by a werewolf in his fifth year at school. He had told Numair that nothing would atone for his mistakes, but he, Dumbledore, would not throw him to the Dementors and might even help him get home if he helped the Order of the Phoenix, Dumbledore's side. He could spy. Numair had nodded. He knew how to spy; before he had been Tortall's top mage he had been a spy. He was very good at it; the only reason that Lord Synthia had recognized him that time was because he recognized the color of his Gift, black and white fire.
That had been two years before Harry Potter had somehow vanquished Voldemort.
Thirteen years before Harry Potter came to Hogwarts, where Numair now taught as Professor Snape. He was the Potions master, as it was the only thing he could teach, his Gift being so different from the wizards' magic.
Thirteen years before he took one look at the Potter boy's smiling face in the great hall, where he had been talking to that damned man Quirrell, and thought, no. No, don't look that happy, don't look so impressed! This world is horrible, go back to the muggles; there is so much more in their world. Potter had locked smiling, curious eyes with him, and Numair's Gift flared. He had no idea why; it simply happened. The boy had hissed, clutched at his scar and turned away. Numair gave a bitter smirk.
He had grown extremely bitter in those thirteen years; the absence of everything he loved and presence of so much that he hated and despised had hardened his soft edges. He became downright abusive in his Potions class; the children reminded him of the pages and wounded him with their simple presence. He saw Neal of Queenscove in the Weasley twins, and later saw Owen of Jesslaw in the Longbottom boy.
Of course, then, he would hate the Potter boy. He reminded him of Daine. He was reckless and foolish and loyal, just like her. He even had Wild Magic. Numair had made that mistake once before. He learned to positively despise the boy.
Two years after that, he learned of the boy's godfather. Sirius Black. He had thought, like the rest of the world, that Black had betrayed Potter's parents, and hated him for that act of scorning someone's love. Then he later learned that it was Black's trick that had killed the real Severus Snape, and learned to hate the man even more.
Now, one year after that, sixteen years since he had entered this gods-cursed world, he nursed a glass of Firewhiskey after the First Task of the Triwizard tournament. It had been dragons, had reminded him achingly of Kitten in their grace and magic, and he had nearly cracked his mask of indifference with tears when he had seen how very different they were from the beloved Skysong.
And Kitten had reminded him of Daine.
And Daine had made his heart shatter all over again.
And then he had remembered Sarralyn.
She would be turning sixteen.
His broken heart had disintegrated.
He missed his family. He missed his friends, and the world that he knew so well. There had been joy there, and none of this pureblood nonsense.
But then again, he was glad that he could not go home. Glad that his loved ones could not see the monster he had become. Because what he was now was worse than any spidrin; he was a spy for Dumbledore, and his hands were stained with blood, worse then they had been in Carthak, under Ozorne's rule. At least there he could tell himself that it wasn't his fault that Ozorne had made him – here it was entirely his fault. If only he had listened to his gut, listened to the instincts that had told him that unnatural red eyes were a bad thing and that no Wild magic could overrule it.
He tore his eyes away from the smiling blue ones in his portrait. Daine was Numair Salmalin's wife. Numair Salmalin was long gone. In his place sat Severus Snape, a man consumed by bitterness. Daine loved Numair, not Severus. Severus was the stuff of nightmares – the Longbottom boy was evidence of that. Longbottom. How was Jesslaw doing? The clumsy little 'jolly' boy. He wasn't a boy any longer, that's for sure. He was a full-seasoned knight, by now, had been one when Numair had disappeared from Tortall. But now his name was probably well known, like Raoul's. And the second lady knight, Keladry – probably married or at least had a lover. He wondered if there were any more Lady Knights. There probably were.
What of Alanna? She had probably retired. No, knowing her she was still riding about. And Daine? Best not to think about her. What of Onua? Maybe she –
"Go away Dumbledore," He growled.
The door closed behind the old man. "Are you alone?"
"Very much so," Numair sighed.
"You oughtn't drink like this, Numair," Dumbledore murmured, nodding to the half-empty bottle next to Numair.
"It doesn't matter."
Numair closed his eyes. He didn't want to argue. "It's been sixteen years, old man. Surely you already know that my name is Severus? Numair is long dead."
"He's not." The man's voice was gentle. "Not if he keeps drinking himself in despair. You still mourn – that means you're still alive."
The only response Dumbledore got was a sigh. "Who is this?" Albus had never seen the little gold chain sitting on the arm of Numair's chair.
Numair didn't respond. His face only filled with grief. "This is Daine, isn't it?" Dumbledore murmured, lifting the locket and opening it. "She's very beautiful, Numair."
"It's—it's all I've got," he didn't even know why he was saying it. Why was he telling Dumbledore? "From home. That and the clothes I was wearing."
"Why is she not animated?" Albus' voice was just as gentle as Numair's.
"I won't taint her with the magic of this land," Numair snarled vehemently, snatching the locket from Dumbledore. He wisely didn't respond, didn't say a word at the tears threatening to leak from Numair's eyes.
"I did come down here for a reason," the old man said quietly, "I've got news."
"I don't want to hear it."
"News from Tortall."
The glass in Numair's hand dropped to the floor and shattered, like his heart long ago. "Tortall? How? What is it?" his voice was slightly frantic.
"From a woman who calls herself Lioness."
Albus had never, in the last sixteen years, seen Numair's face light as it did. "Alanna! How? What did she say?"
"That they knew that you were not dead. That they had been working to complete the experiment that sent you here. That they were coming for you."
Numair stared to the old man. "C-coming? For me?" he stammered. Half of his mind filled with joy, the other half despair. He had become a monster; he didn't want to taint any of his old friends with his darkness. And Daine – he bet that she had changed so much, just as he had. She was, what, in her early twenties when he vanished? She would be in her late thirties, still beautiful, he was sure, but that widened the age gap. He was in his late forties. He'd be fifty soon, old and bitter. She'd be trapped in the marriage, just as he'd feared!
And Alanna, everyone else… they would hate him. He was bitter and closed, now, not like the happy man he used to be. What if—
He interrupted himself with a random thought, a thought that filled him with such joy it was painful. He would go home. There would be no Death Eaters, no Wizards. Only mages and knights. And kings. No purple Knight bus, no flying brooms. There would be Stormwings and Spidrins, just like before. And Basilisks would be friendly once again.
Never mind that he was bitter. He would see Daine again. And maybe they had changed. They could revoke their marriage before the gods, much as that would hurt. He'd ask for Weiryn and Sarra's forgiveness. Maybe he could still be Daine's friend, if she ever forgave him. They had missed each other's lives, but maybe it would work. It didn't matter if his old friends decided that they hated him. He would hurt, yes, but he was used to that by now. He'd – he'd travel. Travel and travel, learn his own land once more. He'd be free.
"How?" he asked hoarsely, "how did she contact you?"
"A speaking spell," Dumbledore answered, "modified, somehow. And don't think such things," he added, "they're your friends, once they get to know you once again, they will love you once more. You are not a bad person, Numair Salmalin. Done horrible things, yes. But not voluntarily. "
Typical omnipotent Dumbledore.
Numair only sighed.
"And there was another message," Dumbledore smiled, "one that your friend Alanna relayed from a certain brown-haired beauty." He indicated the locket. Numair stared at him. He opened his mouth, but could not say anything.
"She said that she had heard of a snake-man – I'm assuming she meant Voldemort - and that he had made you do awful things. She said that she forgave you, but you better have a good explanation." Dumbledore smiled again.
"Typical Daine," Numair gasped, now trying to hold back tears. It was too much. "She's somewhere between Gryffindor and Hufflepuff – scares me to death with her foolish bravery, and loyal to the bone. No subtlety– none at all…." He buried his face in his hands, failing to hold back the tears of a broken heart that had never healed.
"There, there," Dumbledore murmured, "calm yourself."
It was the whiskey. That was why he was a blubbering wreck. The Firewhiskey.
"And I take it that this Alanna the Lioness is Gryffindor?" Dumbledore joked gently, hoping to prod Numair out of his misery.
"Oh, yes," he murmured, looking at his hands, thinking of something he had read; out, out, damn spot! "She's the worst liar you could imagine, and fool hearted to boot. Although, she does have a Slytherin streak," he smiled, "she's the first lady knight in a hundred years, and in order to become a page she had to pretend to be a boy. Apparently she was rather good it at – fooled just about everyone."
"Ah, well, no one's purely belonging in one house. Personally, I think Ravenclaw would have suited you better."
"I had to maintain the appearance of Severus come back from the dead," Numair said wryly.
Dumbledore smiled sadly. "And you've done a rather good job of it too. He was a bitter little boy…" his voice trailed off. They both knew that Albus blamed himself for what had happened. Numair patted his shoulder, then turned to the whiskey and glass shards on the floor.
He didn't use his wand because there was no point. He waved his hand and the stuff on the floor vanished.
"The Lioness told me that she would contact us some time tomorrow, next few weeks for us," the old man said, "apparently, there's a rather large time difference."
Numair sighed. "A time…?"
"Quite. It's only been four years to them."
Numair moaned. "Four! I—"
Albus interrupted. "The interesting thing about time differences in worlds, the Lioness said, is that one tends to age with their respective world. Numair, have you noticed, these past sixteen years, that your body has only aged four?"
Numair blinked, and looked at his hands. He would be turning fifty soon, but they were not wrinkled. His black hair was still black, not a speck of gray. He hadn't aged.
He hadn't aged.
But his soul had. It didn't matter what his body looked like – his soul was turning fifty.
The age gap would still be enormous.
He buried his face in his hands. At least he and Daine hadn't completely missed each other's lives.
He hadn't missed Sarralyn's childhood. Just her babyhood. His eyes glazed slightly as he thought of her, looking at something he couldn't see. Would she look like Daine? Himself? Curley black hair and black eyes, for sure, he remembered that. Would she have Daine's build?
He hadn't aged…
Something tickled the back of his mind. Distant memory, form his university days. Something about realms and age…something…
It was gone. He couldn't remember.
"Get some sleep, Severus," Albus said, opening the door, "you have an early class tomorrow. I'll Floo you when they contact us. It will be a few weeks."
Numair sighed and began to clean up. He waved his hand (after all these years of drinking so much firewhiskey, he bet he could now drink George under the table…)at the half-empty one, which put itself away, saved for whenever he might need it.
He took Dumbledore's advice, got ready for bed.
Before he left, he paused, looked at the gold locket with Daine's picture in it. He hadn't worn it for years; it had hurt too much. Numair lifted it and looked into the smiling face, stroked the lock of hair with one finger.
Carefully, he clipped it around his right hand and closed it. He put an invisibility spell on it and went to bed.
He could wear it. It wouldn't hurt, like before. He trusted them, when they said that they were coming. He trusted them not to betray him, the way he had betrayed himself. They would come.