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Severus watched. He patrolled the halls late into the nights and found corridors long unused. He sought out Hagrid and told him to watch for a change in the animals. He told him to report even a slight change in the flight of the owls, perhaps a space in the forest over which they refused to fly. He told him to listen for a change in the forest, but could not tell him why.
He watched Lily's son. He saw him as he ran with his new best friends, and wondered at the wisdom of leaving him freedom to roam the grounds.
Severus almost discounted her claims of the Dark Lords return or of the Lords obsession with the Potter boy until he saw the boys broom fall out of control. He thought it a novice's mistake that made Potter lean too far forward.
As he chanted a soft incantation to correct Potter's slant, he felt an unknown magic hurl back at him. Gasping, he uttered a stronger spell, and found he was battling a force he could understand.
The magic he fought was cold and seemed dark, but cast into a sunny day, the stands filled with witnesses. Some force held back, he could feel a waiver. He could feel a slight hesitation in the opposition, then a whisper of recognition to him, and it ceased.
He left for Hogsmeade immediately after the game. He rushed into the Three Broomsticks, and stopping to ask her room number took the steps two at a time, and pounded on her door.
"You oath still holds," she warned as she stepped back, widening the open space between them as she did. "Just remember, the oath still holds."
"I would not hurt you with or without the oath," he said, glaring at her.
"Yet you already have," she said bluntly and turned to sit on one of two chairs that sat by a table.
"Potter was put in danger today." He started to pace not knowing what to say from here.
"What does that have to do with me?" she said softly, looking at a book lying open, as if he had interrupted something more important.
"Albus wants to meet you," he told her flatly.
"He will accept my regrets," she stated, showing no emotion.
"I can not leave it like that," he said, stopping his pacing long enough to sneer at her.
"Then make something up." She shrugged her shoulders as if to cast something off. "Tell him I am evil, that I refuse to help. Tell him the truth. Tell him I wear the mark."
"Are you? Evil I mean?" He stopped pacing again, and turned to look at her. "Do you keep company with Bella?"
"She fancied you," she said, looking to see his reaction. "Did you know she fancied you? When you loved your Lily, she fancied you."
He turned away from her and strode to the window, then turned even from that, fearing the reflection in the glass would show his face.
"That is why we were forced to marry. She could not have you, and she did not want you to have Lily." This time her shrug was slow and easy as if shedding a too warm shawl.
"What of you?" he asked, closing his eyes and willing his chest not to heave. "Why would she choose you?"
"I was there. Just there." She looked as cold as she sounded. "I had gone to Hogsmeade. I wanted chocolates from the sweets shop."
He turned and looked at her, waiting for more, but she offered nothing else.
"That was it?" he asked her in a whisper. "That is the only reason?"
"Yes. My crime was in wanting a chocolate on my birthday." She looked at him calmly then looked down to her lap.
"You should leave now," she said in a long sigh.
"You were at St Mungo's. I had to give them permission to treat you," he said looking at her lowered head.
"Why were you there?" His voice was rough, demanding in its tone.
"You were late to your meetings. They thought to punish you through me." She lifted her head and stared back at him. "They soon learned that it made no difference."
"I did not know," he spat at her angrily.
"I did not think you did," she spat back.
"Why was I not told?" he stormed.
"Because, then it would not have ended." She looked at him and he knew she was right. "They stopped with the Cruciatus and the beatings as soon as you showed you did not care." She sighed as if at the end of her patience.
"I DID NOT KNOW," he shouted at her.
"Do you feel better now that you do?" she asked with a strange smirk on her face. "I want you to leave. I find the air in here fouled."
He stormed back to the castle and told Albus of her refusal. He shook his head when the Headmaster demanded he return and talk to the witch. He rushed to his chambers and sat up all night drinking his whiskey and staring at the fire.
He did not see her the following week, or the one that followed. He found himself thinking of her, not the fourteen-year-old child. He wondered what she did when not at the inn. He wondered what she dreamed and where she went.
He went to Hogsmeade to restock his liquor cabinet and thought to buy a bag of chocolates. He bought the rich dark ones, with sweet sharp raspberries in the middle. He frowned when he took up the bag and placed it in his pocket. He meant to leave it at the Three Broomsticks telling Rosmerta to leave it in her room and that he would return to see her later.
He was walking down the cobbled street when he saw two wizards step out in front of him. He placed his hand on his wand and stood still. Two more stepped out behind him. He felt his spine turn cold as he stepped in to an assassins trap. Then he heard a crack as she apparated in.
He knew who it was by the sound of her steps, sure and steady she walked towards him.
Looking at the wizards in front of them, knowing they held their wands in the folds of their cloaks, he moved slowly to the side. Placing his back against the wall, he hazarded a look behind him. She was walking up to the wizards on the pavement behind him, her wand up and ready.
"Who sent you?" she demanded screaming. "Was it Bella?"
Her first curse knocked the taller one down, and then with a fluid turn she swiftly pointed at the other two.
"Avada Kedavra" rang out in the now silent streets as the first pair split in two. One lay dead on the ground as the second fled in a crack of thunder. She did not pause, but turned back to the first pair and levelling her wand at them, she allowed them to leave.
"YOU STUPID BINT!" Severus yelled running up to her and grabbing her wand. "They had not yet thrown a curse, why would you cast an Unforgivable?"
"They were sent for you," she stated calmly. "Would you wait to feel the first curse before you fought back? You would not have lived to the second. You are the foolish one, you would be dead. Do you still think they play by a gentlemen's rule?"
The cracking of apparition began, bringing in the Aurors, Mediwizards and the Daily Prophet reporters.
"Damn you," he spat. "Do you know a shield? Could you not see a town full of witnesses?"
"Snape, hold it there." The tall dark wizard walked up to him. "I need to see your wand Snape."
Severus looked at his wife as he surrendered his wand for examination. Kingsley handed it back and turned to the witch.
"Now yours," he said, holding out his hand to her, surprised when Severus surrendered it for her.
"He took it from me, just before you came," she said. This was a confession to the Auror, as she looked evenly at Severus.
"Kingsley, there were four of them. They had set me in a trap." Severus crossed his arms and spoke to the Auror. "She was only helping in my defence."
Kingsley finished with the wand then placed it in his own pocket, looking coldly at Severus.
"What defence Snape? Your wand has not been used." Kingsley raised his eyebrows and waited for an explanation. "Hers was the only curse thrown."
"I had knowledge that they were coming," she answered Kingsley, as her eyes stayed on Severus.
"I want to see your arm." Kingsley ordered looking between the two.
She pushed up her sleeve and showed him the twisted snake of the foul mark. She looked up into Kingsley's eyes and almost smiled at the shock she saw there.
"Well my dear," she said, "It appears I shall be elsewhere this evening. Tell Rosmerta to let my rooms. I have not further use of them."
Turning to the Auror, she lifted her arms and pressed wrists together as his ropes twined around them, securing her as his prisoner.
Severus watched as they took the assassins dead body, as they questioned the witnesses, and he watched as Kingsley took her off to the Ministry.
The trial was a farce. The Ministry did not allow a real trial with witnesses and evidence of defense in such a clear-cut matter. She sat in a chair with magical bonds, and answered the same questions she had answered before. She opened her mouth, and in her own quiet absolution, swallowed the serum and spoke to their truths.
Severus raged when he took the stand. He defended his wife and asked them to spare her soul. She had not murdered in cold-blooded hate, she had saved him, and she had put herself between him and death. She had more than completed her wifely duties.
The verdict was swift. She bore the mark. That alone would send her to Azkaban. They conceded that she was innocent of murder, but still the mark was there. She had no great wizard to defend her. She had no Dumbledore to run to her side. She was not worthy of his precious Order which had deemed her worthless, unworthy, and dark.
They took her into a small waiting room and allowed Severus to say goodbye. He entered the room and found her standing, looking out to the street below. He crossed the room to her, afraid even now to reach for her.
He stood close behind her, feeling the heat slide off her body. He closed his eyes and leaned to her ear.
"Why would you do this for me?" He tried to keep his voice even.
"You are my husband," she said, no lowering her head or turning to him.
"Sometimes it is difficult, you know, to separate memories of dreams from the dreams of memories." She sighed deeply and allowed her face to be washed with her tears." I sometimes envy Bella her madness."
"I did not know," he said softly, the words sticking in his throat.
"You kept me sane," she said sadly, shaking her head. "That is your only fault in this. You kept me sane."
"How did I keep you sane when I never spoke to you?" He was finding it hard to spit out words, and found it disconcerting that she did not speak ill of him.
"I knew you found no humour in our bonding, nor did you seek it," she said in her cold and even tones.
"Your hatred of me kept me sane. I think if you had found enjoyment in me I would no longer have to envy Bella." She sounded relaxed and easy.
"It is a short time," he said, taking her shoulders and turning her to look at him. "Four years is not so long."
"Yes," she said steadily. "I hear that the first four years are easy."
He took his bag of chocolate from his pocket and pressed it into her hand. He looked at her to see what was in her face, but was unsure if he could see what he wanted. Needing to see more.
"They say that dementors suck out your happiness. I wonder what they will find," she said giving him her brown-eyed smile that did not meet her eyes.
"I don't remember what it feels like, happiness I mean. I don't know that I have felt it before." She shrugged her shoulders in her clam peaceful way.
"Maybe I will feel it at last, as it leaves. Maybe I will recognize it." She turned and walked away leaving his chocolate behind.
Severus took three long strides and was behind her, reaching his arms around her waist and laying his cheek in her hair.
"Have you ever made love?" he whispered to her, needing suddenly to know.
"No," She sighed, trying but not wanting to pull away.
"Have you ever lain in the arms of a lover?" he whispered softer still.
"No," she sighed, not trying to leave this time.
"Have you ever kissed?" He needed to assure himself that she was not alone. That she would have some memory to hold.
"No," she said harshly, pulling away and walking out the door and toward the end of the hallway, where Kingsley waited.
He watched her walk away, her steady gait, her chin held high.
"Oh Severus," she smiled and turned back, "I wanted to thank you."
"Thank me?" He frowned and studied her face.
"For remembering," she said softly.
"For remembering that horrid dress," she said with a smile that reached her eyes, as she turned and left.
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