Of Snake Bites and Dittany Cures
Chapter 1: The Headmaster's Christmas
Disclaimer/Author's Note: Nothing mine, though I wish the last book was and I could change its outcome and the many things I didn't like in it. (-:
This fic is my try to include Professor Snape into DH – I am pretty sure that I was not the only one disappointed with his absence from the major part of that book.
Chapter 1 was betaed by JamesLuver. THANK YOU! (-:
"There is someone there. Someone watching us. I can tell. There, over by the bushes."
(Hermione Granger to Harry Potter, Christmas Night 1997, graveyard in Godric's Hollow)
J. K. Rowling: "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," GB adult version (2007) – p. 270
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Christmas Eve 1997
The dark greasy curtain of hair and black woollen cloak covered in fresh snowflakes, Severus Snape, the acting Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, entered the circular office of his predecessors. He brushed the snow off as far as it hadn't melted yet and taking off his heavy outer robes, he sneered at the portraits joyfully decorated with holly and mistletoe and armed with goblets full of Christmas punch. Christmas, he smirked with disgust, as if there's anything to celebrate!
The dark man threw his cloak on the chair in front of the fireplace, helped himself to a glass of spirit and took seat in the Headmaster's chair. For a while, Snape simply nursed the drink, his eyes absent; then, a voice addressed him from behind, interrupting his musing: "Have you visited her again, Severus?" Dumbledore's portrait asked, sounding sincerely interested.
"As if you would care," the younger man uttered unpleasantly, staring into the amber liquid.
Dumbledore smiled sadly: "As much as you refuse to believe it, Severus, I do care."
Snape's head jerked up in annoyance and the younger wizard turned and angrily eyed the portrait. "You are perfectly right, Dumbledore. I don't believe you," the Slytherin said, his voice icy.
Albus Dumbledore's portrait regretfully nodded and for a while, silence took over in the room. Snape's eyes were fixed at his half-empty glass when he finally started to speak again. "He… Potter… was there… with the Granger girl, I believe. Reckless as ever -" Snape scowled "- marching there with the whole parade when the cemetery may very well be watched!"
"You went there as well, Severus – and not for the first time," Dumbledore reminded the younger man. "It's not perfectly safe for you either."
"Maybe," Snape replied in a low, dark voice. "But I am not the currently most searched for wizard in Britain…"
"…and Lord Voldemort knows well about your affection to Lily Potter," Dumbledore added quietly. "While you never allowed the Order to be given the same information."
"Don't you dare to pretend you regret it, old man! At the end, it played in your cards!" Snape snapped at the portrait and took a hearty sip from his glass. Then, hesitating slightly, the younger man continued, his voice gradually growing enraged: "The boy will get himself killed before he even has the chance to get a glimpse of the Dark Lord again if this goes on, Dumbledore! I told you this was not going to work!" Snape stood up, hitting the desk in front of him with his glass and began pacing the room, his eyes shooting daggers at Dumbledore's cheerful face whenever his eyes turned in the portrait's direction.
"I told you that the boy would need some adult to assist him! But no, you simply refused to listen to me!" Snape shook his head in angry disbelief. "I will not deny Granger is very gifted and Weasley faithful beyond the grave, Dumbledore, but what do any of them – Potter included – know about leading a war? Do you know they shouted their real names at each other in the graveyard tonight? What does it help that they look differently or wear the damned cloak then? And what the hell is this constant use of Polyjuice supposed to mean, anyway? Does at least the Granger girl not know that in these amounts the draught is poisonous? Not deadly, mind you, but still unpleasant enough for them to want to avoid using it – especially when they have no access to medical facilities…"
Snape glared at the portrait: "What are they searching for anyway, Dumbeldore? Don't you think that it is high time you let me know?"
Dumbledore remained silent for a while, the piercing blue eyes studying the younger man. "You know the reasons why I cannot answer you, Severus," Dumbledore then said calmly.
"Indeed," Snape muttered through gritted teeth. "But I am still to protect the boy."
"You are to assist him when the need arises," Dumbledore gently corrected. "For the time being, however, I would very much prefer you to protect the children that were entrusted into your care here at Hogwarts."
Snape wordlessly stared at the portrayed man. Then he started to laugh madly. "Entrusted into my care, Dumbledore? By whom, pray tell? The Ministry or the Dark Lord himself? I can't see either of them caring for their well-being…"
Dumbledore waited until the young man's harsh laugh died out. "By me, Severus," he said quietly.
Snape looked back at him with a rebellious glance but the overwhelming sadness that took over on Dumbledore's face robbed him of words. He sat back in his armchair and again reached for the glass. "I cannot do anything about the Carrows," he said defensively, his voice resigned.
Dumbledore nodded. "I know."
Snape looked at him tiredly, a question in his eyes.
"Dilys informs me that the infirmary runs low on potions," the portrait offered.
Snape furrowed his brows. "Slughorn brews for Poppy, I have seen to that," he said calmly.
"Even the Anti-Cruciatus serum?" The portrait's voice was cautious.
"No," Snape bit his lips. Slughorn wouldn't know the improved version, anyway. "Not that one." He nodded, understanding. The Carrows hadn't become any more tolerable. "I shall brew it," he promised. "Even though, I do not believe Poppy will be inclined to use any potions of my production."
"Oh, she will make use of this one, I am sure. Thank you, Severus," Dumbledore gratefully smiled. "And now, before I forget - happy Christmas."
"Happy, indeed," Snape drawled and returned to studying his empty glass.
The room became silent once more and as the night grew shorter, Snape almost dozed off in his armchair as the majority of portraits surrounding him and lasting him the only company. When he finally tiredly rose to go to bed, he noticed that Phineas Nigellus Black was missing between the dozing celebrants - a strange sight, indeed, because the portraits rarely missed the celebrations. Snape frowned but decided to put off any investigation until the morning. As he staggered in the direction of his bedroom, however, Phineas Nigellus appeared in his empty frame, his eyes big and strangely concerned.
"The Potter boy was… was bitten… by You-Know-Who's snake," the portrayed wizard managed between raspy breaths.
"What!?" Snape bellowed, suddenly fully awake, angry eyes again directed at Dumbledore. "Do you know where they are?" he demanded.
"Yes… yes, I do … the girl was quite frantic and didn't pay attention… to what she was saying," Phineas smirked and both Snape and Dumbledore's portrait breathed out in relief.
"Then tell me where I am to Apparate to, damn it!" Snape commanded, rushing out of the office while Accioing supplies. "Happy Christmas, really," he threw at Dumbledore one last time and was gone the moment Phineas named the location.