A/N Welcome to Headmaster Series story two (Based on the Jennifer Craw Series, starting with Jennifer Craw and the Phoenix Wand), a series that began with a short story named Headmaster Snape and the Case of the Silenced Siren. Most stories in this series will be straight mysteries. But because I needed to introduce a couple of new characters and continue some storylines that started in the Jennifer Craw series, there will be a lot of character development in this story; in fact, because of it, it turned into a novellette more than a short, which is why I chose titles for this one. As in the past, I have borrowed some characters in later books but following a storyline that makes more sense for the overall series (that forks off the norm after GoF). For the record, however, I want to say that Horcruxes don't exist in my series...in my opinion they fall into the same category I put "metachlorians" in. Anyhow, thought I'd get saying that out of the way...as well as say I really hope you like my new student perspectives, although I warn you one is intentionally over the top...I am not a politically correct writer, it stifles creativity.
The story takes place just a few months after the first one. It's between 7 and 8 years since the last book, and Ambrose has just turned seven. That's all the background! Enjoy!
A Vision of Death
It was halfway through the summer holidays, and while the students and the majority of Severus Snape's staff was busy with their families, summer jobs, or any number of unproductive activities, Severus had long returned to Hogwarts. He had gotten approval from the school board for a little project of his and had been anxious to start on renovating the back storage room of the library.
It had been Hermione's idea but one of the few Severus actually agreed with; in fact, in many ways it had been a long time in coming. Any Professor in that school, especially one that had been there for awhile, could boast of an extensive personal library in their particular field. But sometimes research projects would find one or the other looking for a cross specialty and forcing them to borrow…and on occasion have to negotiate strenuously…with another Professor for a book or scroll that they might need. Once the faculty library was done, they would have the rare resources they needed for intensive work without the interference of haggling; of course, they would have to study in the room itself. Many of the staff that lent books for the project had distinctly insisted their rare volumes not leave the security of the room.
Severus stepped in and gazed around with his hands on his hips, looking over the huge book and scroll shelves being settled into place by a pair of Goblin carpenters while Librarian Boulderdash looked on. Spotting the headmaster, the Goblin librarian stepped over with an obvious expression of satisfaction on his gnarled, green face.
"Ah, there you are. How do you like the cases? I had them charmed to prevent dust from landing on them or any books or scrolls stored upon them."
"Unnecessarily ornate, don't you think?" Severus asked. The Goblin grunted.
"Sir, you may not be so particular about such things, but these cabinets here are going to outlive all of us. You can't blame the carpenters for wanting to put in their own signature touches for posterity's sake. They fixed those floorboards as well, as you can see. Are you sure the center of the room needs to remain open? We could use a few more bookcases…"
"Borrow some empty space from the dungeon to lengthen the room if you like, but the center aisle will remain open. And I want nothing around the windows either. It's not good for the books."
"I've already charmed the windows to filter the light, Severus," Boulderdash said, eyeing the Headmaster as if wondering why he was so insistent about the matter. "And exactly what is that thing in the center of the room?" He gestured to a thick octagon cherrywood pedestal which was covered with glass. A graceful, alabaster hand inside held a large unrefined crystal in its fingers, and placed just behind it were three concave mirrors sitting against the glass.
"Security," Severus said testily. "Speaking of which, where is Sirius?"
"Who wants to know?" Sirius' head appeared around one of the bookshelves. "Oh, it's just you," he went on in an unimpressed tone. Severus smiled poisonously at him. "Just checking out all the changes, Severus. Place looks splendid, doesn't it? In fact, you should be able to start moving in books tomorrow if you like."
"Not until I inspect all of the different security measures that were put in besides my own," Severus said.
"Well, if you're worried about anything conflicting, perhaps you could have told me exactly what your security measures do…"
"I'm not concerned about anything conflicting. I'm concerned about anyone getting in here that shouldn't be," Severus said. Sirius sighed.
"You know, I realize it's in your very nature to distrust me just as it's in my nature to dislike you," Sirius said. "But I can assure you that the fail-safes in this room are absolutely foolproof."
"They have to be more than foolproof, Sirius, they have to be student-proof," Severus said.
"Is there such a thing?" Boulderdash asked, only half-jokingly.
"Inspect and test all you like," Sirius said, bowing his head with a mocking grin. "No one is going to get in here that shouldn't be in here, Severus. I even reinforced the walls with charmed iron so it screens against wild magic teleportation. Even Anna can't get in here without using the door, let alone House Elves."
"It sounds thorough enough," Severus admitted reluctantly. "Still, I shall arrange for it to be tested tomorrow…"
"Arrange?" Sirius asked curiously.
"To see if the most cunning, powerful and disturbingly mischievous youth I know can get through it," Severus explained. "We'll see how it holds up."
"It'll hold, Severus," Sirius reassured him. "Besides, how many students do you honestly think would be that determined to break into a library of all places?"
"It wouldn't be the first time," Severus said.
"Yes, but Hermione is a Professor now," Sirius pointed out with a grin. Just then came the sound of someone clearing their throat…even though they didn't have one…came from just behind them. "Good afternoon, Ick."
"Good afternoon, Sirius," Icarus Ravenclaw said, floating in. "Decent of you not to have put any ghost inhibitors in here."
"I couldn't very well do it with ghosts on staff, could I?" Sirius said.
"Thank you, nonetheless. We are often forgotten, especially this time of year," Icarus said forlornly. Sirius and Severus exchanged an exasperated look through the vapor of the depressed ghost. "Headmaster, this project of yours…I really want to speak to you about it if you have the time for a member of the condemned."
Sirius immediately took the opportunity to excuse himself to help with the bookcases. He had a lot of mixed feelings about the phantasm who was once the Warden of Azkaban, and not all of them were favorable.
"I suppose you have some Divination tomes to donate?" Severus asked, ignoring Icarus' exaggerated melancholy.
"Oh…well, yes that…I suppose that would be more important to you. But I just thought you ought to know that I remember this place rather vividly…I mean this whole renovation process. In fact, I even recall me telling you that I remember it just now," Icarus said almost casually. Severus frowned at him a moment, glancing at the pedestal then back at the ghost.
"Is it because something significant is supposed to happen?" Severus asked.
"Perhaps, although, I must admit, it is slightly different, even though I remember saying this as well," Icarus said. Severus stared blankly at him, waiting for him to continue. "Because from what I remember, Essie Brim was standing just on the other side of the doorway with Hermione…oh, never mind. There they are now and I guess that you'll soon forget all about me again…" he said glumly, watching as Severus turned around in surprise. But all Severus needed to do was to see the strangely dark look on Essie's face to know something serious was about to happen.
"I'll be in my office," Severus said to Boulderdash.
Severus had very little respect for Divination, and even less for those with fatalistic views about life. He was a man whose very existence depended on having as much control over his life and his situation as possible, and such ideas often impeded that.
But Severus had learned very early on the merit of listening to the warnings of Essie Brim; for they did not come often, and so far every one of them had been warranted. More than once had Essie saved lives by intervening before an unwanted event took place. Often Essie used her visions of the future as a way to control events instead of to doom someone to a particular fate; perhaps this was one of the many reasons why Severus had grown to accept her talent over many others who would use it to dictate the will of others. It had been several years since Essie had come to him for anything other than family events, and Severus knew better than to ignore it. In no time, he, Essie and Hermione had made their way up to his study, finding a tray waiting for them when they arrived.
"Thank you," Essie said, accepting a cup of tea. "I hope I didn't disturb anything important."
"Nothing that cannot wait, provided it doesn't wait all summer," Severus said casually. Hermione frowned at him, but Essie merely nodded.
"Well, if I could tell you for certain, I would, Uncle, but honestly I have no idea. In fact, I'm not even completely sure how important this is at all, or even what it means, only that I had a very strong urge to come here afterwards to tell you," Essie said, staring in her cup.
"A vision, Essie?" Severus prompted, pouring himself and Hermione cups as well before sitting down.
"It happened last night as I was taking my reading for the morning weather report," she explained. "I had no sooner stepped out of my house when I saw myself out on the countryside instead of inside of the city, walking up rolling hills. As I reached the top of one of them, I saw a figure…at first I thought it was a Dementor, for it was tall with a long black shroud. But then it raised its hand it had a sickle, and I knew that it was the Reaper, like from a Tarot deck. Suddenly, it was as if the air itself around me cracked like glass, and in each broken piece was another visage of Death. I tried to back away and then felt disoriented, finding myself looking into a crystal ball…I realized then that what I was seeing was some sort of reflection, and looked up to see you, Uncle, dressed in your old black robes and pinning up a number of those death cards on different members of family and friends…"
"Do you remember who?" Severus asked, unable to hide his alarm.
"Well, there was something else pinned to them, like small notes, which hid some of the faces," Essie admitted. "But I do know you and Aunt Jennifer were both up there, and so was Aurelius. And although I didn't see Corey, I am pretty sure he was there too."
"And who was there besides family that you remember?" Hermione asked sharply.
"Well, most of them were completely covered, but I can tell you one person who was on that board," Essie said. "It was Harry Potter."
"Oh no, not again," Hermione sighed, glancing at Severus who had sat back thoughtfully, sipping his tea. "Whatever you do, I wouldn't mention it to him if I were you. He's a bit sensitive about people predicting his death."
"I'm not sure that is exactly what it was showing, Hermione," Essie said, troubled. "It was more like some sort of elaborate warning for something that's going to happen, something Uncle Severus is going to try to piece together in some way."
"Maybe that's true, and I know from what everyone's told me that you do have a gift for this sort of thing, but I for one would like a bit more proof something odd is happening," Hermione said.
"Did you drink your tea yet?" Essie asked expressionlessly. Hermione stared at her a moment then looked down in her cup thoughtfully, glancing back over at her and trying to shake off the weird chill down her spine. As she set hers down by the others on Severus' desk, the three of them peered down to see that the tiny leaves in each cup had left identical shapes, unmistakable visages of the Grim Reaper.