Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to Harry Potter. My stories are purely for entertainment value. I do not make profit out of them in any way.
Severus looked down at the two Slytherin girls sitting in the Headmasters' office and sighed out of boredom. This was the most annoying part of being a painting: having to witness all those nitwits coming up here with their futility's. Now if he'd still be the Headmaster of Hogwarts, he would not allow everyone getting up in this tower all the time!
Only last week Professor Longbottom had brought a first year Ravenclaw up for refusing to touch one of his precious plants. You'd think a professor would know how to handle a student himself. And it wasn't just Longbottom, no, every Professor had slipped into the habit of leaving their problems with the Headmaster! As if the job didn't have responsibilities enough!
He took another look at the girls. One of them was blond and had a very serious look upon her face while the other – a good-looking dark haired chubby girl– didn´t seem to take being up here as serious as her friend. Both had been in the office many times before. Mostly for small matters, but he remembered the chubby one being charged for a serious offence last year. She was caught spinning her fellow student Blair up in the air in the Great Hall during breakfast. The poor boy had been naked at the time.
It had not seemed she'd cared for the consequences, she had just been standing there, laconic, sending the still shivering boy annoyed looks.
It had amused him and part of him wished he had witnessed the scene himself. He had overheard one of the paintings gossiping that the boy had screamed for help on top of his longs, but everyone had just pointed and laughed. Well - that was - until Professor Flitwick released him from his anguish. Apparently Mr. Blair wasn't very well loved.
He could not imagine this visit would be remotely interesting for him to hang around for, so he set off for his daily stroll around the castle.
Jasona sat back in her chair and scowled at her friend who had basically forced her to come up to the Headmasters' office with her. She thought it was ridiculous to show him the toy she'd found on her way back from Hogsmeade the previous weekend. She smiled at the memory of that day: It had been a great way to celebrate her 18th birthday! But Leila was really worried so she'd caved after the three hundred and fortieth rant about the danger of picking up random objects.
Her friend had grown up with continues warnings about Dark Magic from her Auror father and war hero grandfather, so it wasn't so strange that Leila was nervous about everything out of the ordinary. But to Jasona, whose family had been traveling through the darkest jungles of Africa in the years Voldemort had risen back to power, those things weren't very real. She took it as stories in books that were interesting, but no more than that. Sometimes it really annoyed her when old people felt the need to go on and on about those days!
"I'll be right with you girls!" Professor Muse popped his head through the doorway, into his office. His friendly eyes smiled at them before he disappeared.
Jasona studied the room and wished the Headmaster would just hurry up and let them go. She played with the small purple metal ball in her hand. It swiftly glided through her fingers. Leila send her a frustrated look. "Stop it!" she exclaimed. Jasona looked up, wondering what she had done. Then she realized what her friend meant and quit playing with the ball. "I bet he dismisses us with one of those funny smiles he gives when he thinks we've just wasted his time!"
Leila got up, angry. "I don't care! 'Better be safe then sorry,' that's what my grandpa always says." Jasona got up on her feet as well. "Well, your grandpa lived in another time, didn't he? We are safe! There'll be nothing to be sorry about because this is a harmless little thing!" She threw the ball high in the air and caught it. "See!" She raised her eyebrow in defiance before she threw it up again.
"Accio ball!" Leila put her wand out and pointed it at the ball. It floated towards her. Jasona had expected this to happen and pointed her own wand at the ball. "Accio ball!" she said, with a smirk on her face.
Leila grabbed the ball out of the air before it could float back towards Jasona. "You're an idiot!" She hissed as she squeezed it in her hand.
Suddenly a purple flash appeared from inside the ball and it traveled to Jasona with the speed of light. Both girls stood frozen in shock. A fog-like substance surrounded Jasona and disappeared, leaving an empty spot where a chubby girl had stood seconds before.
Jasona felt a sharp pain traveling fast through her bones. She was weightless for a second. Then she was dropped down hard. She found herself still standing and she opened her eyes to check where she had landed. Looking around, she realized she was still in the Headmasters office. Something was different though.
Leila was staring at the empty spot Jasona had stood seconds before, with a terrified look in her eyes. Then she let out a scream. Professor Muse came running out, but Leila was unable to explain herself, she just pointed at the empty spot.
Jasona stepped forward to comfort her friend, but her foot bumped to a wall. Looking left and right, she thought she must be standing behind what seemed to be a window. She had to climb out of it, she thought. But she couldn't grab the wood. She turned sideways to find another way out, but she was trapped between impenetrable walls. A slight panic overcame her when the realisation hit her:
She was trapped inside a painting!
She sat down on the ground and put her head in her hands. She felt embarrassed and ashamed for her foolishness. Leila had been right – the toy was dangerous and she'd been so airy about it all! She wasn't ready to face the humiliation. She had to just sit here and think of a plan that would not make her look so bad. She had to be quick though, for whoever owned this spot in Muses' office, wasn't going to stay away forever! Especially not when a girl just vanished from the Headmasters office!
Severus sat in his favourite painting, high in the south tower, enjoying his view of the blue sky outside. Closing his eyes, he leaned back at the tree and smiled genuinely. These were the moments he savoured. He loved being by himself and he could really use the energy he regained from it. It had been a busy week in the office. He deserved this, he thought with a hint of indulgence.
After a while he became aware of excited – no- frightened voices from the castle below. Curiously he decided he'd check them out. His peace had been broken anyway.
On his way down, bits and pieces of conversations made him change direction towards the office he'd started to call home. A strange cold had come over him. A worry that had not triggered him for at least forty years had surfaced. He'd better move quickly!
He noticed the girl before he entered his painting. He squeezed his eyes, afraid she might have perished, but then he saw her move. She had the air of someone who did not want to be found and he wondered why. For the moment he decided to go with it. He stepped beside her and coughed.
He felt her sudden movement as she touched his leg in alarm. He sensed her fear. Strangely, this excited him in a way he had not been excited for a long time. Professor Muse turned towards him and Severus saw his worry. He was holding a purple coloured metal object as he approached his painting. Hope leaked from the Headmasters' voice as he showed him the ball.
"Severus, we need your expertise. A student vanished from this very room and we fear she might be trapped inside this .. artifact."
One short look was enough for Severus Snape to recognize the object Muse was holding in his hand. It took him all his strength not to gasp.
Jasona looked up at the former Headmaster whose painting she inhabited. Surely he must have noticed her. What were his motives for not giving her away? For now she was grateful though, for she could not think clear enough to come up with a good explanation why she'd hid herself – not one they'd understand.
All those times she'd been in this office and she could not remember any of the former Headmasters faces. Let alone their names! Apparently this one's was 'Severus'. She tasted the sound on her lips as if she could learn his character from the way his name was pronounced. The man himself stood confident and solid. She could not make out his face, but she saw he was pale and had long black hair that needed to be washed. He had thrown his black cape over his shoulder and he was watching Professor Muse walking up and down the room. He smelt like shoe polish. She closed her eyes for a moment to inhale.
Was it selfish of her to let them think she was gone? Probably. But the moment of showing herself had long passed. If she'd stand up now, the situation would be worse than before. And she had the distinct feeling that even if she'd try to get up, this Severus man would not let her. He was involved in her disappearance now, whether she wanted it or not.
The caped man spoke in a deep, husky voice. The low timbre gave her an involuntary shudder. She listened to what he had to say. ".. I can think of many causes, Professor Muse. Did anyone witness how it works?"
She heard Leila's shrill voice answering. Severus watched her intently as she was speaking. Then he nodded softly. "Obviously," he said, "It's some kind of entrapment. Don't touch it. I'll see who I can find to tell us more about it. I might have an idea where to start."
His hand came out of nowhere. He painfully grabbed her shoulder and pulled her along as he walked out of the frame. She expected to be knocked to the wall, but she glided through the framework like a ghost. She tried to stand up but he pushed her down again. "Stay out of frame, you silly girl!" He let out in a soft whisper. Everything about him screamed anger and frustration. She thought she'd better do as she were told until they'd be in a safer place. Then she'd make it clear she would not tolerate being spoken to like that – no matter who he pretended to be.
Horrible visions were swimming through his mind. Memories he'd never wanted to surface again. His anger against the girls' recklessness rose with ever step he took. How could she throw him back in time like this.. How dare she! He rested in the library. This late at night no one would be there. All the inhabitants were in the castle, visiting friends to share today's gossip.
He let go of the girl in the middle of a still. He distanced himself before turning back to her. She was rubbing her sore shoulder and looked at him with tired eyes. She opened her mouth to speak but he didn't want to hear her questions, he needed her answers. He had one thing on his mind as he began shouting at her.
"Where did you get it! Where did you find that ball!"
She actually laughed at him! He had thought he could not get angrier than he was, but he'd been wrong. His hands were tingling, ready to strike her, but he forced himself to control the urge. He watched her sitting at the table. To his horror, she took a bite from one of the tastefully displayed apples. The girl looked back at him in an apologetic way. "Haven't had dinner."
He closed his eyes to suppress his irritation. It had been forever since he last used Occlumency and he hoped he wasn't too much out of practice.
She knew she shouldn't have laughed. It was rude to say the least. It was just that people shouting made her extremely uncomfortable. Her parents used to fight all the time and she'd learned to let it stop bothering her by thinking happy thoughts. When she looked into the angry face of the shouting bat-like man, her first impulse had been to think of something that made her happy. Right at that moment, an image of him kissing her had come into her mind. The image had completely thrown her off, the thought of being kissed at a moment like this was so ridiculous, that she couldn't help but laugh.
She'd seen his reaction. She'd hurt him deep, but how could she explain why she'd laughed? She had to do something, she couldn't continue standing there, staring into those pit black eyes. The apple tasted good though! She glanced back at the corner where he was still standing and wondered why he was pulling those faces.
He had completely forgotten that it was impossible to do magic inside a painting. It annoyed him immensely to just be the painted essence of the man he was before he died. He could think of a thousand ways to make her speak. But they were all done by magic. Conversational skills were not high on the list of Severus Snapes' virtues, and he didn't want to use physical force to get the information he needed. What he wanted, was a way in her head. If not through magic, he should try being friendly. It seemed to work for some people.
He sat in the other chair and watched her eat. He tried to smile, but he knew it failed when she looked away with fright in her eyes. He needed a different approach. "What's your name?" His voice had a silky sound and he was pleased he made it sound like he was actually interested. She turned her head back towards him and studied his face curiously. He made sure she could not see what he was truly thinking and tried another smile. This time she responded. She hesitantly smiled back. It surprised him that her smile seemed to reach his insides. He could feel his blood warm up and there was a curious sensation prickling on his skin.
"My name is Severus. Severus Snape."
Encouraged by her earlier response, he send her another smile. He could feel her doubt. She wasn't completely convinced he had different intentions than before, and he could not really blame her for it. Part of him was impressed she didn't cave so easily. She clearly wasn't the silly girl he had taken her for.
She told him. It didn't really matter to her, and something about those eyes – a silent plead – made her feel weak inside. Maybe he could help after all. Maybe he knew more. The man across the table was particularly interested in the place she had found the metal ball. She had to describe every single detail, over and over again, though there wasn't much to tell. It had just laid there in the grass, next to the road, and she'd picked it up. She liked the colour.
He interrogated her: had there been anyone else? Had she noticed anything different? At times he seemed to remind himself to smile at her. He must think it would open her up, make her feel more comfortable, but it distracted her. The smiles never reached his eyes and it made her wonder who was living behind that pallid mask. What would happen if anyone broke through?
After a quarter of an hour he stood up and walked across the room. Her eyes followed him curiously.
"What is it?"
She felt now it was time for her to get some answers back. He didn't move. She wondered if he'd heard her and tried again.
He turned back at her, his eyes squeezed together with a cold look on his face.
"Professor Snape!" He snapped at her.
She swallowed. He must be really worried. Why wasn't she? Why was she so calm? Didn't she want to go back to the physical world? What was the matter with her! She felt the tears well in her eyes. She swallowed again. She didn't want to cry in front of him.
Oh great, he'd made her cry. He turned his back to her once more and leaned his hand against the wall. He thought about what she'd told him. It was bad. Clearly someone had put it on the path with the intention for it to be found. Someone who was up to no good. He wondered who it had been – who had found it in the first place! To his knowledge, every single piece had been destroyed the night before the Dark Lord fell!
He only realised she'd stood up, the moment he felt her warm hand on his shoulder. Every single muscle in his body tightened. He held his breath. Tensions built up inside of him. He wanted her to remove her hand, but at the same time he feared it would leave him with a longing for more. He could not remember the last time a woman had touched him.
She was mocking him, there was no doubt about it. He had not meant to snap at her, it had been an instinctive reaction. Her hand dropped – he missed it immediately. He felt his breath return, his muscles relax. He wasn't sure whether his voice would hold so he kept silent.
She didn't give up though. From the corner of his eye he saw her leaning back against the wall beside him. She crossed her arms and waited. He could feel her eyes searching his face. He couldn't concentrate with her so near.
Jasona knew a lot of people were repulsed by her appearance. She had seen it in their eyes on many occasions – especially when she was eating. It never really bothered her, for she knew she was a good person and if people couldn't make the effort to see that through her layers of fat .. Well, she decided a long time ago that it would be their problem, not hers. But somehow it had hurt her feelings when she had realized the black eyed man was repulsed by her. She suddenly was very aware of her body. It confused her. He did not know her, he had no right to throw her aside like a worthless piece of garbage. It wasn't as if he was all that himself, with his greasy hair and his sick looking white skin! Why didn't he talk to her! A rush of anger flushed through her body. She could not resist.
"I bet you don't know much about the Dark Arts at all. I bet you don't know much about anything. Did they ask for your help so you would not disturb them while the real experts are doing their jobs?"
He slowly turned his head towards hers and looked at her with a sardonic smile upon his lips. He searched her face before he replied.
"You have no idea who I am, do you?"
She shrugged and looked away shyly. "Aren't you one of those former Headmasters?" She felt him staring at her and found the courage to look back up. She could not define the look in the eyes that hypnotised her.
His voice was heavy with sarcasm. "And the last thing you remember from 'History of Magic' are those pretty shoes your neighbor wore?"
When he turned away, his cape waved behind him. She realized he'd left the room when it was too late. "Wait!" she called out. She knew she would not be able to cross the barrier without him, but she tried anyway. She ran towards the wall and crashed. The encounter left a painful spot on her right arm. She looked up the wall in frustration. Then an awful thought hit her: what if he wouldn't come back!
She panicked. "Mr. Snape... Professor! I can't leave this painting without you! I need you!"
Two men and a very frightened girl were staring in the same direction. The younger man reached out, but the elder man prevented him to touch the object on the table. Professor Muse shook his head. "He told us not to." The other man looked annoyed.
"How can we examine it if we can't even hold it!" He turned his doubtful face towards the Headmaster. "I have taught Defense Against The Dark Arts for twelve years now .. and before that I was a bloody good Auror. I've never heard of anything like what Miss Canopée told us just now. It comes closest to some of the magic from the Voldermort days.."
Professor Muse interrupted him. "That's why I had to ask Severus. And that's exactly why we need for him to come back before we can even think of warning the Ministry, Terry."
"Professor Rex?" Leila looked at her teacher with fearful eyes. "She's not coming back, is she? I killed her ..." The Professor shared an uncomfortable look with the Headmaster and checked his watch. "I don't know Leila. Let's say for the moment that everything is going to be all right."
There had to be a way, he thought, to get her out of the painting. It was unacceptable for a child her age to be trapped like this. Forever.
She was so young – what was she, sixteen?
Too young for him in any case. Impossible to even think about. He was a painting for Merlin's sake and she was a girl. A real one of flesh and blood! She wouldn't even look at him twice had she not been in the situation she was in right now. Girls like that never did, he experienced. She was arrogant, reckless, careless and lacked a certain basic knowledge, so why was he so tempted to go back to the library instead of the Headmasters office!
He had heard her cries for him and it had made him smile to know she would not be able to wander about. Something deep inside had stirred when he realized she would be there when he'd come back.
He moved on. He had to clear his mind. Focus. There would be much to explain and he could not afford to make a mistake. He wasn't prepared to tell the whole story though. Why should he? It would only make them more anxious. It was too complicated and he didn't owe them anything.
He entered the familiar space and addressed Muse. The three people sitting at the desk looked up at once. "I think you ought to call for the Minister of Magic."
Muse nodded at Rex to do the honours. The Professor didn't need more encouragement and left the office. Muse walked towards Severus in thought.
"Did you find any clues? How can I open this ball?"
Severus shook his head. "You can't."
Muse studied his face. "Who can?"
This was the hardest part of the message he had to deliver. Severus answered with care. "The maker."
Muse nodded, understanding his next question would not give the ultimate answer. He had to ask though, for them to proceed.
"And do you know who made it?"
Severus nodded. His black eyes were locked with the Headmasters'. His words had the effect of a Dementors presence.