Flames of War

Chapter Thirty-Two: Spicy Marmalade

Well I wonder…

Well I wonder…

Please, keep me in your deep mind.—"I wonder"

July 26, Wednesday, AFTERNOON, 2000

"How on earth did you do it?" Draco asked, circling Harry as though the Boy Who Lived was a science experiment. How did Severus get Harry to be so…so…Harry-like? "It's like a miracle!"

"It's an abomination," Ron piped up.

"It is neither," Albus said.

"What are you talking about?" Harry asked. "What the hell is wrong with you all?"

"Harry, go take a nap!" Severus snapped, clearly irritated.

Something strange seemed to flash through Harry's eyes as he said, "Yes, Severus," and retired, heading back into the heart of Severus's chambers.

"What did you do to him?" Ron asked. "What the fuck did you do?"

"That question should be directed at me," Albus replied. "I transferred the curse, as I told you I would."

Draco smiled, his curiosity for magic overcoming Ron's graveness. "How did you do it, Severus?"

Remus frowned. "I'm afraid that with me doing research, I must concur with Draco's question. I don't mean to pry, but I need the information."

Severus once again looked as he did when Albus had been casting his spell—broken, torn, like he had nothing left in him. Like had lost his soul. "I merely followed Albus's advice. The curse…it function as a better, more exact version of Imperius. Those possessed by Voldemort in his reign could not be found simply because he ordered them to behave normally, excepting covert instructions specifically given to them. The fault in Imperius was that a strong will would overcome the magic, as it was only based on mental persuasion rather than control. Ron, since you were not with us yesterday, Albus informed us that Lucius's incantation included a full day of gathering magic." That fact appeared to have left Ron speechless. "Yes. A full day. There is no way, even if Harry mentally comes to terms with his memories, his faults, that he can battle the magic imprisoning his mind. Lucius did his work well. I simply ordered Harry to use every memory at his disposal to reconstruct his personality." Despite the rather simple explanation, Severus looked worn, as though demanding Harry to do these things had taken every ounce of strength he'd had. Draco pitied him, and the smile vanished from the younger's face.

"Every memory as his disposal," Remus echoed. "Are there any that he can't access?"

Severus nodded. "I…he tells me that trying to remember some things makes his head, his scar, hurt terribly. The only two instances are the Final Battle with Voldemort, and…the nine Death Eaters he killed."

Draco perked up his ears to this news, and everyone else appeared to have followed suit.

Albus looked confused, his brows furrowing. "To my recollection, Severus, Harry only killed six Death Eaters. Their bodies were discovered by the Ministry." Draco was pretty sure that he and Remus blanched simultaneously.

Ron said quite easily, "I heard that Harry killed nine, and that he didn't remember what had happened to the other three. I assume that they went unreported." His superior smirk grated Draco's nerves. It wasn't enough that Ron was back, but he seemed to be under the impression that having betrayed his friends partially to become a Death Eater made him noble. While Draco was very much thankful for the help in defeating Voldemort, there was no reason for the redhead to get a bighead over it all. He was important yes—but not better than the rest of them.

"Really?" was Albus's suspiciously calm response.

"This isn't a Death Eater Camp," Draco hissed at Ron. "You don't get promoted based on valuable information." Remus sent him a stern look. Ron and Severus appeared to not have heard him, although Draco knew better. It just reminded him of his days in school. Gryffindors, always so quick to alert an adult to the doings of a Slytherin.

"Is there a reason no one told me of this?" Albus said, reclaiming everyone's attention.

"Ah," Remus began, "I was supposed to inform you, but with Sirius and Lucius—"

"I understand," Albus said, and a bit of the tension melted away. "How do you know that he killed nine?"

"I asked him," Draco answered.

"How does he know he killed them?" Albus asked, more specifically. Severus shifted in his seat. "Severus…?"

"He had a dream, Albus," said the Head of Slytherin.

"I assume that it is safe to say that he told you as well, then."

"Yes," Severus replied.

"He told Hermione as well," Draco piped up. "I heard them talking."

"And Draco told me," Remus added softly, "but I did get the opportunity to question Harry about it myself."

Apparently, Severus hadn't know Harry had shared this information. "There was blood. Lots of it, he said," Severus continued. "That was all that he could ever remember. Blood."

Ron frowned. "He was angry when I was attacked. I felt it. The rage was almost evil…" Ron's expression changed to one of chagrin, and he looked directly at Severus. "Deliciously so."

Draco was taken aback by the slight purr in Ron's voice. Since when was any sort of evil described as delicious? Draco had been there, had seen Harry's anger, and felt it—it was—

"Shocking," Albus said. "I was concerned when he had returned. He was rude to Poppy. Very rude." A pause. "It rained that night. It may have washed him—and the victims—clean. It would explain why there were no wounds visible on the bodies that we did find. I was under the impression that he simply took care of them with the Killing Curse, but now…" he paused again, this time, humming thoughtfully before he spoke again. "What if he healed the wounds before leaving the bodies where they were?" It was indeed a new concept, especially for Draco. Would Harry had been so meticulous—to actually rid himself of the evidence that would support that he tortured the Death Eaters to death? What on earth did he actually do to them?

"So," Ron said, "even with Harry not back to normal, Hogwarts is starting up again?"

"Yes," Albus said, accepting the change of subject. "We must. He is the only untreated victim, and we are the only ones who know about it to boot. Hogwarts cannot remain closed for simply one person, and considering that everyone else is under the impression that he is fine, it wouldn't do well to announce we were remaining closed without a reason."

"…not even for Harry?"

"No," Severus answered coldly. "The world does not stop for one person. You should know this, Ron, as they are not stopping for you either." Ron looked away.

"I wanted you to know," Albus said, "that I am not returning to Hogwarts as Headmaster this year." Of course, Draco had only known this, and he kept quiet as Ron gave the reaction that everyone was already expecting. He felt Remus's hand on his shoulder, and he gently leaned into it as Ron replied.

"What?" The ex-Death Eater seemed to explode.

"Ronald—" Draco supposed that he was using Weasley's first name to help quiet him.

Unfortunately, it didn't seem to have much of an effect. "You can't quit Hogwarts!" Ron said rather forcefully.

"Ronald, I am not—"

"Minerva, I am sure, will do a well enough job for me. Official Hogwarts letters with the change in management printed will be sent on Harry's birthday in his honor, after your trial."

"That's only five days!" Ron practically shouted.

"Yes. There are some issues concerning Hogwarts that I must set into order first. One of them, coincidentally, is requesting—pending your release from charges—that you become our Official Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor."

Ron blinked several times, shocked into silence. "What?" Draco was just as speechless. So, it seemed was Severus. Did the older man still covet the position?

"I know that this is rather sudden, but take your time," Albus said kindly. "Remus has offered to aid you with lesson plans and technicalities. Of course, I am assuming that you'll accept the position, but I am not forcing you. You can refuse. Just a thought."

"What?"

Clearly his throat, Remus said innocently, "Headmaster, you have managed to cover such a wide variety of topics…"

Albus smiled. "You're right, of course. Back to Harry. I am glad that he is functional on his own. It will take some time before his condition is discovered at this rate. I would like to delay that as long as possible." Draco gave up, sighing loudly. There was really no predicting the Headmaster. From Harry to Death Eaters to the position of Headmaster of Hogwarts, to Ron being a DADA Prof and then back to Harry? This was ridiculous. "If anything happens," Albus said, continuing, "I will be supplying you all with an emergency Portkey to the Ministry."

Severus finally caught up with the conversation. "If, for instance, I go insane?"

...nevermind about that, Draco thought. Everyone looked at Severus. What on earth is the old man talking about now?

"I am serious," Severus said. "I do not think that I can survive this. I cannot last. The War, perhaps; Voldemort, barely; Lucius, I withstood. But this, Albus? Harry? I cannot do this."

"You promised him," Albus answered.

Promised him what? Draco thought. What did you promise Harry?

"I am too weak," Severus insisted. "I should not have. I told you, Albus, that I would regret that."

"You can stand strong, my old friend."

"I cannot. I cannot wake up knowing, every morning, that Harry is this way. I cannot do it." Severus's eyes looked pained, heartbroken.

Just like Remus did, Draco thought, and then he remembered—"Please, don't leave me." Remus had said those words to him. Draco had even said those words to Blaise, when the latter had joined Voldemort. Those words, though not spoken had been the silent message Severus had sent to Harry even since Albus had inscribed the spell at the Shrieking Shack. No, Draco realized suddenly, even before that. Draco remembered quite clearly the anger Severus had displayed when Harry had aided in Sirius's recovery, how appalled and yet worried Severus had seemed about Harry. How did I miss that? Then there was the visit to the very chambers he was currently in to converse with Severus about Draco's own father. I am so clueless…!

"Severus," Ron said sternly. "You are not done yet. I don't care what you think, but you've been through worse. And I am not going to let you kill my best friend! Look, I know that your life sucks and shit, but you can't give up. What would Harry do?"

Severus shook his head. "I am not Harry. He was born destined for glory. I do not have the same fate. He tried to save me…he tried to heal me. And he was dragged down with me. Had I not been so self-centered, I could have stopped him—he wouldn't be this way." Everyone was silent, wanting to contradict him but not knowing his relationship with Harry well enough to do so.

After a moment, Draco leaned over in Severus's direction. Looking the Potions Master in the eyes, Draco crisply slapped him. Severus's head fell back a little, but Draco was sure that it was more so in surprise than anything else. He felt the irritation rising inside of him, and after giving Severus what he deserved, he gave his feelings a voice.

"How dare you!" he shouted, finding a level of pride for Harry that the Slytherin hadn't known that he was capable of possessing. "Harry risked his life for you, and all you can do is think about yourself? About how you've been hurting? About how this was your fault? I was there, when Harry fought Lucius; I watched Harry torture Lucius for his crimes against you almost as badly as Voldemort would have. I watched him torture Lucius again and again until he coughed up blood and fell unconscious! I watched him stab my father with his broken wand. I saw Harry glare at Blaise so hard that Blaise flinched. He defended you! When my father told him that you did that shit to yourself I watched him scream his lungs out because he loves you! How dare you belittle his actions and the very core of his feelings by focusing on yourself? Harry fought Lucius in front of the house his parents died in and still only saw you through the flames. Do you know how bloody hard it is to find someone like that? You drove him mad, Severus; So incredibly mad that he tortured people on your behalf and enjoyed it like a possessed man. I don't bloody care if you die, Severus Snape, since you're being so self-centered, but you will do it after Harry comes back, and you will do it after you tell Harry you love him so badly that if you had the chance to torture Voldemort a thousand times you would do it because of the shit that bloody monster has been put Harry through!" Draco took a deep breath, and felt Remus's hand on his shoulder again. "And you will do it after," he continued, "you go to Azkaban and tell my broken father that you don't bloody need him, because you aren't broken yet and you are still alive and you have Harry. Because Harry is your new reason to live. You will wake up every morning and thank the Gods, or whichever one you believe in, that Harry is beside you, let alone in any condition at all. And by those Gods you will live for him, Severus Snape, because by the Gods, for the short time you were together he lived for you. And I swear, if you do anything to contradict anything that I've said short of drinking wine and teaching, I will personally rip you limb from limb on Harry's behalf and send myself to Azkaban to rot with my father. Am I perfectly clear?" Breathing hard now, Draco waited for whatever response he was going to get.

To his surprised, Severus nodded. "Yes, Draco. I am sorry for my insolence." The man looked near tears, and without thinking Draco knew that those tears would be for Harry.

A silence followed, and Draco heard Albus say awkwardly—the first awkward statement he'd ever heard coming from the Headmaster—"I suppose that everything here has been…taken care of…"

I want to protect those timid creatures

Those who kneel in prayer

I'll even carve a cross in my chest

To believe in something

And the irrepressible spirit now and forever.—"Velvet Underworld"