DISCLAIMER: All characters seen here are the exclusive property of JK Rowling. She's the genius, I'm the fangirl who can't resist playing with her creations.

Chapter 12: Interrogation

A tall, thin man stalked purposefully through the dungeons of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. His robes swirled around him as he walked, conveying a fleeting impression of rippling black wings. In the flickering torchlight, he was corpse-pale, except for his eyes, which were deep wells of blackness.

He reached the stairs and began to run, taking them two at a time. He ascended several flights before he reached his destination—the large double doors of the hospital wing. As he reached them, he paused, collecting himself. His hair hung heavily around his face, casting it into shadow as he flung the doors open and strode through.


He did not raise his voice, and yet somehow it seemed to carry and resonate into the walls. He stopped in the center of the room, scanning each bed carefully, checking to see if anybody was there. Apparently satisfied, he pulled a wand from his robes and waved it at the doors through which he had just entered. They closed with a loud slam, and locked.

Another door opened, a small door at the end of the room, and a slightly plump witch emerged. Her attitude bespoke a woman who would not suffer fools gladly, in which she resembled the dark-haired wizard immensely. Beyond that, however, they could not have looked more dissimilar. She hurried over to him, looking displeased.

"Severus Snape, you'd better have an excellent reason for locking those doors," she said irritably. "This room may be located within the school, but it is a hospital, and as such it ought to remain open at all times."

He regarded her coolly, waiting until she was done speaking before he replied: "I need to speak with you--privately. If you are needed, I daresay that whoever it is will remember how to knock."

"I suppose it is too much to ask that the end of the war might bring an end to your paranoia and bad temper?" she asked irritably. She studied him contemplatively for a moment, and then continued: "I have work to do, Severus. You don't appear to be ill. What do you need?"

One corner of his mouth had quirked in amusement at her first question, but the expression disappeared as completely at the next as if it had never been there at all. "As I said," he murmured smoothly. "I need to speak with you."

"As you have now pointed out twice. Get on with it, please. There will be students arriving in five days, and I've had to entirely restructure my filing system to accommodate the changes that you helped to implement for this year. It needs to be finished before they get here."

"Very well. I will, as you say, get on with it." With an irritated expression, he conjured a chair just behind her and gestured gallantly, although his voice remained cold and sarcastic. "I hope you will be seated, Poppy. I would hate for you to be uncomfortable as well as annoyed with me for interrupting your work."

For a moment, she looked as though she would refuse, but then she sat, gazing up at him appraisingly. "Something's happened, hasn't it?" she asked, lifting her eyebrows. "Honestly, I don't know why you feel the need to set up this…interrogation."

His eyes flashed. "Because when I simply asked you, you withheld information from me, Poppy. I told you at the time that I wished to know everything about what went on between Miss Granger and myself in this room, and I now have reason to believe that you did not, in fact, enlighten me completely. If you find me angry, perhaps it has something to do with your omissions."

"I am not a student, Severus!" she snapped angrily. "Kindly do not speak to me like I am. What on earth are you talking about?"

"Matrimonium Verus Mens," he hissed, leaning over her and placing his hands on the back of her chair. Her eyes widened, and he sneered triumphantly. "Ah yes, you are familiar with the name? Tell me what you know, Poppy, or so help me, I shall not be responsible for my actions."

"Calm down." She pushed his hands off the chair. "When will you learn that amongst peers and friends, it is preferable to simply ask?"

"When those supposed friends learn that it is distinctly unfriendly to hide information from me." He retreated a fraction, but he was obviously angry. He seemed to be unable to stand still, and paced agitatedly around her.

"I've known you since you were a child, Severus, and you don't scare me with the 'bat of the dungeons' act," she said sharply. "If you have questions, ask them, and I will answer, but I will not stand for this ridiculous attempt at intimidation and interrogation. We are on the same side."

"Then do not lie to me!" he shouted. She did not recoil.

"If I thought it was anything other than preposterously unlikely, I would have mentioned it to you, Severus. However, I did not." He did not look mollified. She eyed him shrewdly. "Was I incorrect? What has happened?"

"It is most likely nothing," he muttered. "I asked merely because I desired information."

"Who's lying now? People who merely desire information do not carry on in this adolescent manner—not even you. If you want information, sit down yourself and stop behaving ridiculously. I will not be bullied by a man whose life I have held in my hands as many times as I've held yours."

He sat, with bad grace, and crossed his arms. He glared at her, his nostrils flaring.

"Much better," she said caustically. "Now if you will stop being an idiot, I might be able to feel concerned enough on your behalf to actually have some desire to educate you."

His eyes narrowed, but he didn't say anything. The witch seemed to think this was a satisfactory meeting of her demands. Perhaps she didn't believe him capable of containing his wrath sufficiently to do more than stare angrily at her.

"You said Matrimonium Verus Mens?" she asked, her brow furrowing slightly. He nodded, making no move to push his hair out of his face as it fell forward. "What do you already know about it?"

Making a show of it, he carefully straightened each of his sleeves before answering, brushing a piece of imaginary lint off one of the spotless cuffs. "I know that it is possible, although rare, for a witch and a wizard to form a…link, on a psychic level."

"The marriage of true minds," she murmured softly. "It is incredibly rare, because the circumstances necessary for it to come about are unusual. And, frankly, I don't think you ought to be worrying about this, Severus. I've never heard of it occurring between two people who did not already know each other quite well. What made you even think of it?"

He ignored her question. "What, specifically, is required to bring it about?"

"Well," she said. Then she stopped. It was apparent from her face that she was thinking very carefully about how to word her answer. "As I understand it, and I have never had the opportunity to study it in detail, mind you—I've never encountered anybody who had experienced it and there's very little reason to study it otherwise. As I understand it, Matrimonium Verus Mens occurs between two persons who are both relatively powerful, magically speaking. Under circumstances of great emotional stress, an event occurs which causes them to connect on a metaphysical level. It's really rather poorly understood, Severus." She looked apologetic.

"Explain what you mean by 'great emotional stress,' Poppy."

"In the literature I've seen, it almost always involves death. That's one of many reasons I didn't think of it in regards to you and Miss Granger. You may not have noticed it, but you are, technically speaking, alive, and have been so all along."

"Evidently," he said wryly.

"At the precise moment of death, the soul is thought to be caught between two worlds. Those who have reached that moment may still be recalled, although it is very difficult to do so. Wizards who have been saved at the moment of death frequently report unusual visions or experiences—many of them even claim to have encountered and had conversations with others that they know to be dead." Severus suddenly gripped the arm of his chair, but she did not seem to notice.

"In the rarest of cases, a person with a strong emotional attachment to another can, in some way that is not understood, establish a connection with a dying person so strong that it enables them to literally return that person to life, assuming that they do so in time. You understand, it is not actual revivification; it must occur at the moment when death is about to happen, not after the process has been completed.

"It is rare however, because although there are of course many people who feel deep emotional attachment to others, there are few who are also magically and mentally so compatible that the link may form without collapsing in on itself due to the discord between the two souls." She gave him a look. "Again, another reason I did not find it likely. You could not be more different."

He did not move to contradict her—indeed, something in his face seemed to say that he agreed completely.

"Matrimonium Verus Mens—the Marriage of True Minds—occurs at that point because, having once forged such a connection, it is impossible to break it without an extreme act."

"Such as?"

"It is believed that the connection may be severed by death, if one of the parties involved is killed at the hand of the other."

"There is no other way?"

"None that is known of."

She lifted her face, studying the vaulted ceiling quietly, mulling over her next statement. "It has been suggested, although there is no official literature on it at this point, that the connection between Harry Potter and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was a variation on this phenomenon."

"Are you suggesting that Harry Potter kept the Dark Lord alive by choice?" He raised his eyebrows, looking disgusted at the thought.

"No—that's why it would have to be a variation on the phenomenon. There have been rumors, Severus, that You-Know-Who made a Horcrux." She glanced at him sharply. He had again tightened his hand on the arm of his chair, but otherwise did not respond. "They've even said that it was located within that boy's scar. If it were true, that would explain it. For a piece of his soul to be physically attached to the boy—well, it certainly would have required the forging of an intense emotional connection. Although the order is reversed; he would have pulled himself back from death using Harry as a tool, rather than Harry doing it himself."

"Apples and oranges, is it not, Poppy? I am not asking you about Potter and the Dark Lord, and I am certainly not dealing in rumors about Horcruxes," he sneered.

"I've told you what I know, Severus."

"What of the effects on those who experience such a link? What might they expect?"

"Have you experienced anything out of the ordinary?" she asked again, her eyes narrowing. "If you have, I suggest you tell me immediately. I suspect that you must have, to come barging in here as you did. I haven't seen you so upset in quite a long time."

"It was a very minor occurrence, Poppy, I do not believe it is relevant."

"Well. The mythology surrounding the whole thing is quite romanticized, in my opinion. It comes of the name, I suppose. One hears 'marriage' and assumes that the two people involved must fall in love and live happily ever after." She snorted derisively. "That is not the case. It has occurred between two heterosexual men and family members, although there have of course been reports of the phenomenon between lovers as well. I imagine if it happened between a man and a woman, it would be very easy for them to go down that path. As I said, it requires great similarity not only of mind but also of spirit. That level of compatibility is rare, and it's understandable that those who find it would be quite drawn to one another."

"Indeed," he said quietly. "It is helpful to know what effects are not to be expected, Poppy," he sneered. "But that was not my question."

Looking affronted, she said: "Very well, then. As I said, the literature is sketchy, and a good deal of it is rumor or speculation. The most plausible sources suggest that people who are so bound experience a significant increase in empathy toward the other person. It's been mistaken for Legilimency at some points, but I believe it's nothing so conscious. If they continue to spend a great deal of time together, there may be some exchange of character traits or thought patterns. There have been one or two reports of shared dreams."

Once again she gave him a look that seemed to be searching for information in his face, but he had drawn a mask of impassivity over his features, and she found nothing there. "Albus said something at one point about Harry and You-Know-Who…"

His hand twitched slightly as though he was going to stop her, but she trailed off and he kept silent.

"Severus, it's clear that you are unwilling to confide in me. All I can tell you is that I believe it is unlikely for you and Miss Granger to be capable of connecting in that way. However, if you believe I'm wrong, your best bet is to stay away from her. Even if you were to be linked in such a way, there is still free will at play. I would warn you, though, not to be tempted to spend too much time with her. Immersing yourself in a relationship with a girl you were so tied to would not be fair to either of you. These sorts of things can cause a dangerous dependency, and I know you well enough to believe that you would not desire such a thing."

He stood, nonverbally vanishing the chair he'd conjured with a quick wave of his wand. "This has been illuminating, Poppy." He hesitated, and then reluctantly spoke again: "I apologize for my manner."

"It was nothing you haven't led us all to expect from you," she said wryly. "Don't worry yourself about something so farfetched, Severus. I'm sure you're being paranoid."

"As you say," he said briefly. Without another word, he unlocked the double doors and slipped out, closing them softly behind him. Poppy Pomfrey watched him leave, concern written plainly on her face—her work, for the moment, forgotten.

Author's Notes: Yet again, you all have my humblest and deepest thanks for the reviews.

The "Marriage of True Minds" concept originally comes from Shakespeare. I first heard it discussed as a literary archetype in a class several years ago and have since read several essays on the subject. I thought it would be a fun idea to play with. I've always thought the Snape/Hermione 'ship was very reminiscent of Mr. Rochester and Jane Eyre in the book of the same title in many ways, and their relationship falls well within that category, in my opinion.

However, I'm always a annoyed by the fics that create some sort of enchantment or whatnot that simply forces Severus to fall in love with Hermione, against his character and sometimes even against his will. Although that has a pleasant Mr. Darcy-esque ring to it, I've never seen it done well, and I never enjoy it. I feel it is against both of their characters.

He might need a nudge, but there still must be free will, or the love is ultimately meaningless and would never rival anything he had with Lily. Mostly, in my mind, this is a way to get him to actually have to notice and deal with an affinity they already have, not to create one ex nihilo as a way out of the hard work at character development necessary to bring it about otherwise.