Author's Notes: To enjoy this story, you will need to take on the assumption that everything has played itself out with Severus turning out to be a good guy. Of course he is! Voldemort has been permanently smacked down, and the good guys win. So, suspend that disbelief and join me in a place where someone who is flawed, but redeemable (just as we all are) finally meets his match.
As you read, you will notice that I find it interesting to see characters taken out of their comfort zone and see how they react in unfamiliar circumstances. I am interested in growth and change. You have been given fair warning. You may get a toothache on this ride.
This story was written after the release of HBP and may not correlate with the events of the seventh novel.
Disclaimer: Everything submitted here was done so for the sole purpose of my entertainment and hopefully, the enjoyment of any readers. No money was, is or will be made for this fictional work, and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Credit: The fate of Snape's parents is used through the gracious permission of Holly Ilex, and is featured in her story, What Goes Around, Comes Around, Lost and Found Love.
Sincere thanks go to my long-time friend, Vitraille, and my new friend, Holly Ilex, for their extensive help and beta-reading. I would also like to thank WhiteRaven and Soignante for their encouragement thus far. Truly, my cup runneth over.
Soundtrack: You will notice soundtrack entries at the ends of some of the chapters. These are songs that I felt in some way went along with the action of the story, character motivations, inner dialogue, etc. They vary from character to character depending on the chapter, and I will warn you now that they vary greatly in style and genre. Music is a strong motivator for me, and I hope you will enjoy them.
a jagged shard of ice
on a pedestal sitting in an perpetual, tortured night
calls out silently, fruitlessly to an empty room, futility in action
the slight force of its frigid breath stirs the air with the revolutionary power of butterfly wings
cracking the door to the outside world
warmth seeps in, unbidden, smoothing the rough edges
water drips and pools,
running in rivulets toward the light outside the door, curious,
a firefly buzzes and tempts hovering just outside the door, determined, thirsty
its flame, just out of reach, inadvertently warms the water
teasing, damning?, redeeming?
more droplets flow,
abandoning the pedestal prison to join their brothers in the light
risking all, bravely changing form but retaining their essence
Green leaves fluttered on their branches in the breeze, warm and lush. Water lapped lovingly onto the pebbles at the edge of the lake as energetic birds offered their song for anyone willing to listen on that placid, Sunday afternoon. It was early August, and the students weren't due back for another few weeks to begin the new term. While Severus was thankful for the quiet summer afforded him, restlessness prompted him to take a walk by the lake for a dose of fresh air. Pausing along the shore, Severus meticulously scanned the banks as far as he could see, while maintaining an uninterested façade for any potential onlookers. But no one watched. He was alone, as usual.
Professor Severus Snape was rather like Ebenezer Scrooge. As solitary as an oyster. Luckily, he grew to somewhat enjoy his self-imposed isolation. His choices and in turn, his duties, left him no other option; as a double agent, he could not risk truly becoming close to anyone. It was for their own safety as the Dark Lord would have thought nothing of destroying someone to punish Severus when his true allegiance was discovered. He would not allow himself to put anyone else in that kind of danger.
Severus was relieved when the war was over and the uproar and ceremony died down. The endless inquiries from the Ministry and the magical press had danced on his last nerve. He wanted quiet, time to rest, time to think. He had earned it. For years, he basked in his newfound freedom, trying to clear his mind and put to rest the torment of his past. Returning to Hogwarts, Severus began to rediscover what he loved about his post as Potions Master. It was not the students; with the exception of his house members and those with extraordinary potions abilities, students were the bane of his existence. (Although, he would gladly deal with them rather than the Dark Lord.) What drew him to his work was the solace and the sly genius of potions themselves. The unique properties of the ingredients combining to bring about the desired results had always fascinated him. There was power in the ability to produce change. A myriad of combinations and cures laid in wait for discovery, and they were all at his fingertips.
The few people who knew the real truth about the Potions Master and his past hoped to see his hard exterior soften somewhat as time passed. Severus, however, remained outwardly just as he always was, and his success at keeping up his usual façade left them with the impression that his heart was made of stone, immutable.
What they didn't know was that he had changed on the inside, even though he did his best to deny it. He could feel it. Like water constantly running over a stone, Severus was altered as time passed. Something inside him began to unclench, but his years of solitude hadn't equipped him with any way to show it. He had no clue how to handle it or what exactly to do about it, and he had no idea how to let go of his cold façade or even a good reason to take such a risk.
For years, Severus' life consisted of unthinkable darkness, enduring things that made nightmares real. In truth, Severus thought that he lost his soul long ago, and without a soul, he never even dared to hope of finding peace. On that restless Sunday afternoon, Severus thought stretching his legs would do the trick to cure what ailed him, but he was wrong. He'd had a lot on his mind recently; a shadowed emptiness grew inside him, and he could no longer ignore it.
Pushing things aside had worked for many years, but now he couldn't suppress the feeling that something was wrong, missing. There had to be more than his current existence to fill the void within.
More frustrated and confused than ever, he walked back to the castle. Climbing the steps, he knew what he needed to do. Severus hated asking for help, but if there was one person who could help him, it was Albus Dumbledore. He went to his favorite portrait of him, just outside the Great Hall, and found Albus, snoring lightly, napping in the large chair in the background.
After surveying the area to make sure there were no witnesses, Severus cleared his throat. Albus looked up from his chair inside the enchanted portrait to see Severus standing before him, and he knew the time had come.
"Good afternoon. It must be something important, indeed, to bring you to see me looking so distressed," said the former Headmaster.
"I'm sure I don't know what you mean."
"Yes, Severus, I believe you do. I wondered when you would come to me about this."
"About what, exactly?" he asked, trying to hide his irritation at Albus' ever-present intuition.
"There's no need to play coy. You've been increasingly unsettled these past few months, and I knew you would come for advice when you were ready. You may want to conjure a chair, Severus, as I have much to tell you. I'm glad the time has finally come."
Severus arched an eyebrow in response.
"You have a challenge ahead of you. Sort of a quest, actually."
Severus listened, his arms crossed at his chest and his brow tense with concentration and annoyance, unsure of what to expect.
"There is someone you need to find. I know you have seen her in your dreams, Severus. You know of whom I speak. You have seen her over and over in the same dream since you were a boy. I've seen it in the Pensieve."
Severus tried to look puzzled for a moment, but Albus saw the light of recognition in his eyes.
Severus shot him a skeptical look. "You cannot mean the woman standing by the water."
"You do remember." Albus smiled softly and nodded his head. "Didn't you ever wonder why you dreamed of her over and over through the years?"
"I never gave it much thought, actually," he lied.
"I figured as much. You had more dire concerns, and you didn't have time to watch for the signs."
"Signs. When you're unsure of your path, you should always look for them. They will lead you in the right direction."
"How very poetic," Severus sneered, trying to hide his apprehension and suppress the bile rising in this throat.
"I know you have doubts, but this woman has information that will lead you toward what you seek. Be skeptical all you want, Severus, but at least give it a chance. Have I ever steered you wrong before?"
Internally, Severus bowed his head, ashamed of openly doubting the one person he truly trusted. Externally, he behaved quite differently.
"Well, no, except for the time you asked me to end your life," Severus snapped.
"Quit pouting, Severus. Do you want to know peace? Feel whole for once in your life? If so, then you may want to follow my instructions."
Severus knew when he was defeated, but it did not keep him from being petulant. "Very well. How do I go about finding this woman?" His voice carried all the bitterness of a man without a country.
Albus smiled warmly and simply said, "Her name is Leah. Leah Manning."
Then, something surprising happened. Deep inside, in a tiny, dark, cobwebbed corner of his soul, Severus could hear himself repeating the name softly, like a child praying in the night. He immediately squashed the hopeful feeling it gave him. It was strange and uncomfortable, and he didn't know where it came from or how to process it.
Albus felt his heart clench with joy, as he could hear Severus' thoughts; he was worried that the years of solitude and duty had taken too much of a toll, and he was glad to see that the longing was still there to find the woman from his dream.
Albus saw that same longing years before in the Pensieve, and it wasn't long after that he saw the person who could fulfill Severus' need. He simply had to wait until the time was right to present him with the information. As with most things, timing was paramount.
The former Headmaster knew that Leah would be a temptation as well as a challenge for his friend; someone to compliment his strengths and weaknesses, who needed Severus as much as he needed her, someone with talents lying dormant within her. All Severus had to do was remove the broomstick from his arse and swim with the current. Unfortunately, that in itself was a rather Herculean task.
These thoughts passed quickly, and for a moment, he was worried that Severus had seen the twinkle in his eye, but if he had, he said nothing of it. Albus continued to speak, telling his friend everything he would need to know to begin his journey. His instructions were quite specific.
Soundtrack Entry #1 – Isaac – Madonna