A/N Thanks to my beta Duniazade. All remaining mistakes are my fault. All warnings still in effect.
In which dead men walk and old bonds are broken...
Finally when morning came, and everyone had woken again, they waited only a few more hours before Severus stirred awake.
When his eyes fluttered open, he closed them again, as if willing the world away. Lily gave him a watery smile, stroking his hair and holding his hand.
"Severus? I'm here. You're fine, you're safe now."
He didn't respond and she looked at him worriedly.
"How are you feeling, Severus?"
Instead of answering, he tried to get up. He propped himself up only to fall back down again when he didn't anticipate that he had only one arm. He twisted his head to look at his side and saw the abused, ugly socket that was left. Instead of the horror or disgust she had expected to see, Severus had no response. He looked at it as mundanely as if he were looking at a gnarled tree.
Lily helped him sit up, and he made no effort to hold onto her or prolong their contact for longer than was necessary. He swung his legs over the edge of the chaise longue so that they touched the floor and he sat, stony.
Lily looked at him, disturbed. There was something wrong with him. Not only was his skin now that sallow colour it had been when he was almost dead, but his eyes were stony and cold. There was no emotion on his face when he looked at her. All sense of history that they had was gone, and Lily felt betrayed. What of their memories? What of all the happy times they had? What of all the hardships she had helped him through? There was no sense that they had ever shared anything intimate in their life.
In fact, he looked about the room as indifferently as if nothing had happened and the Order members were just the house elves. The coldness emanating from him was so deep that Lily was unsure if anything would ever move him or affect him again.
"Do you remember anything, Severus?"
He looked as if he would never be moved to anger, to happiness, to great sorrow or to any other emotion again. He glanced at her, and then a bitterness crossed his face.
Lily's voice had quieted to a hush and she looked at him desperately, hoping to coax out the sensitive boy she had loved.
"I missed you, brother."
Severus looked at her, a weariness hanging heavily on his face.
She was dismissed as a curious nuisance, no more worth his attention than a housefly buzzing in his ear. Lily felt startled tears prick at her eyes and slowly backed away from him. She seated herself at the other end of the chaise longue, unable to move far away from his presence, but afraid to come too close.
"Can you stand, Severus?" Aberforth came over to inspect his nephew, inwardly cursing his brother and himself.
The boy… the young man slowly stood up. At first his legs were shaky and weak, but he took his time and finally stood straight, legs gaining strength and his shoulders settling back so that he stood at his full height. He was still thin, his ribs lightly outlined on his chest and his frame cut with severe angles. Aberforth had the suspicion that he would never be able to look healthier and that he would always possess that skeletal quality from now on.
Molly had gotten to her feet as well, making her way over to Severus. She looked apologetically at the solemn young man, searching for something.
"It will never feel the same, but it will work as well as any natural appendage."
She twirled her wand and an ivory substance unfurled from its tip, slowly forming and shifting in the air. It began to mold itself into the form of an arm, and it moved over and attached itself to Severus' side. He had watched it emotionlessly apart from a muted curiosity on his face at the incredible magic being performed.
When the ivory finally finished knitting itself to his skin and adjusting to his body, it stopped shifting and fell dead to his side. He lifted it experimentally, flexing the fingers and examining it in the cold morning light. It looked like the arm of a marble statue.
There were no words of thanks from Severus, and it took Molly a moment to realize there would be none. She looked at him a little sadly, wondering at what sort of boy he was before his death. How much had they lost of him?
"We'll leave you for now, there are many things to be discussed, but they can wait. Your sister is probably most anxious to speak with you privately."
With that, Aberforth gestured for the others to leave the room. Some left reluctantly, stealing glances at Severus over their shoulder, but soon the room had emptied and only Severus and Lily remained.
He had remained standing until everyone had left. Then, he looked to abandoned mead glasses and decanter by the fireplace and sat down in one of the chairs. He bent down and picked up a glass with his ivory hand, marveling at its stunning artistry and realism. The glass suddenly exploded in his hand, shards littering the floor. He frowned slightly. He would have to learn to gauge the strength of his new limb.
Lily walked slowly over, climbing onto his lap and then holding his face in her hands. He looked at her, his sudden gaze intense and his focus preternatural. She stroked his gaunt cheeks with her thumbs, looking at him searchingly.
"I think I've already accepted things will not be the same. But I would like to know how much of you there still is."
Severus didn't respond.
"Do you remember me, brother?"
Lily took his ivory hand and pressed it to her lips. It was cold, hard and smooth.
"Do you remember me fondly?"
"Do you remember anything fondly?"
Severus was silent for a moment before replying, "No."
"Can you feel my lips?"
He paused for a moment, looking at his hand touching her lips, before answering.
"No, I can't."
A fat tear rolled down Lily's cheek as she stroked his face. She brought his face close to her own, staring into his eyes. Hoping to see something different… anything… but she only received the same stony glare. She kissed him, but he didn't respond.
"Can you feel nothing? Can you feel this?" She brought his ivory hand to her chest, guiding it to skim across the curvature of her breast before resting above it to feel the heart that beat underneath. His hand flexed, painfully enclosing around her sensitive flesh, and she cried out and wriggled away from him.
"I've damned you."
Severus frowned in confusion. He didn't understand what she meant. Lily had no more tears to shed. She was suddenly crushed by the weight of inevitability and she finally knew exactly what she had asked for when her uncle warned her of what it would cost to bring Severus back to life.
The withdrawn, sensitive boy she had known was now someone who had no childhood and no vulnerability. He would become a strange, bitter man who would often give way to cruelty and he would never be able to connect with something or someone again. He would be the man who would live in a world whose ways he could not understand, and in turn he would renounce it.
He grasped her hand, his ivory fingers were cold. He looked at her, puzzlement beginning to etch itself unto his brow. Tentatively, as if still trying to determine whether what he was doing was correct, Severus pulled her closer to him, attempting to initiate an awkward kiss of his own. Lily leaned in, resigned to the fact that he would never truly love her or anything again, but suddenly hopeful that they could at least make a performance of it.
Unknown to Severus, his fingers flexed and curled around her own and had squeezed too hard. There was a snap and she suddenly screamed, tearing her hand away from his. The sudden horrible moaning as Lily tried to free herself from him caught Severus off guard and his grip on her tightened, causing more snapping noises. Lily had gone white in the face from the pain of broken bones and was nearing a black out. In desperation, she struck him across the face and he was finally startled into letting go of her. Looking simultaneously horrified of him and disgusted with herself, Lily ran from the room, cradling her arm.
Severus watched her go, unsure of why she had decided to exit then. He looked at the ivory fingers and saw a pink smear. Where had that come from? And why had she struck him? A sudden flash of bitterness streaked through him and he stood up, determined to confront her and discern the source of the blood.
Just as Severus stepped outside the parlour door, he felt an arm snake around his waist and pull him to the side. Startled, he turned and felt a hand cover his mouth. It was Lucius.
When Lucius was sure Severus would be quiet, he uncovered his mouth and looked surreptitiously about the corridor. He handed Severus a traveling cloak.
"Put this on, keep the hood up."
Severus did as he was told, but he looked at Lucius, puzzled.
"What are you doing?"
Lucius grinned at him then, chucking him fondly under the chin although they were almost the same height.
"I want you as my ward, and this is something Aberforth won't be too pleased about. So come on, we can be on a ship to the Orient by noon."
"But, Lily… "
Severus looked down the hallway. It was empty. She had already gone somewhere, and he felt compelled to follow and find her. Lucius, however, had a firm grip on his arm and urged him to go down the corridor where the house's main doors were.
"Come, we have to leave now."
At Lucius' insistent tugging on his sleeve, Severus put up the hood of the cloak and followed. Lucius grinned broadly when Severus cooperated, and they jogged out the door to the main driveway where the coaches were.
"Why do you want me as your ward? Shouldn't I be uncle's responsibility?"
Lucius was in too much of a rush to answer him right away, flinging open the coach door and helping him inside. The coach was ordered to move even before Lucius had managed to close the door, and he jumped nimbly inside. The white stallions were his own prized possessions, the swiftest horses in England, and he snapped the coach door shut confidently. By the time anyone noticed their disappearance, they would already be by the ship docks.
Lucius then turned to Severus, who was looking at him confusedly.
"Forget your uncle. I'll take care of you now."
And then Lucius swooped on the younger man, taking his face into his hands and kissing him enthusiastically. Shocked, Severus sat stock still, and then once he realized what was happening, tried to push Lucius away. Lucius was larger than him though, and chuckled at his resistance. He scooped Severus up into his arms, tilting his head back and deepening their kiss.
As the coach sped away further and further from the Dumbledore house, Lucius soon had a curious and compliant pupil that he would enjoy instructing for the months to come.
The wedding ceremony had been a simple affair and Ginny was glad that mother had finally decided to be agreeable. Although, Molly still made sure to cry buckets of tears and squeeze the living daylights out of her before she finally let her go.
Still, Ginny was glad that part of it was all over, as she found so much more interest in exploring her new home. Walden had several houses all over the British Isles and had assured her that she could go to any one she wished. But Ginny liked the one he lived in best, the small cottage-like affair that was right within the grounds of Azkaban.
The prison itself was boring and somewhat scary. It was merely a holding place for criminals who were waiting for a release between trials, or waiting to taste the executioner's axe. Ginny stayed away from there. It was the other establishments on the grounds that interested her, the places where the permanent residents lived.
All of the staff had their quarters there, and she enjoyed their company as she had worked under them for two years. However, those grounds were also the places where the permanent prisoners went; those individuals who were never to meet the executioner's axe for some reason or another. Some of them were meant to undergo lifelong punishments. Some of them were magically insane and the court had ruled them to be incarcerated rather than killed.
As morbid as it may have seemed, Ginny loved seeing and talking to those prisoners. Most of the punishments assigned were obscure and not at all what she had expected. It must have been a more personal sort of torture or hardship for the prisoner to bear, because some of the punishments looked positively mundane. Some of the magically insane were funny, or even good company and almost all harmless.
The entertaining thing for her was that there were so many different rooms and so many different people to see. She mused that she could spend her whole life there and never be bored.
That morning she had seen a new room being built and once it was done, had eagerly gone over to see who the new occupant was.
Peering inside she saw an old man with a snowy white beard. He had within his room a table with a bowl on its surface. The bowl was full with crisp, cold water. He went over and lifted the bowl so that he could drink from it. When the bowl's rim was to his lips and he took a sip, Ginny saw him drop the bowl and spit out something red. It was blood!
He looked angrily at the bowl, but it was completely empty. He placed it on the table and magically it filled with water again.
Ginny saw him try to drink from it several times over, only to have the water turn to blood the minute it touched his lips. The cycle fascinated her and she wondered what he could have possibly done to deserve such a fate.
Looking up at the sun, she saw that it was at its zenith and that she had already spent the better part of an hour watching him. She picked her way across the grounds and walked back to her cottage for lunch. Walden would have finished with his morning rounds and would be heading back as well.
When Ginny arrived she found the cottage empty, and wandered outside to see where he had gone. She saw him out by the back, leaning on a spade. He smiled quietly to himself when he saw her and she made her way over, surprised.
"It's a garden!"
He dug into his pockets and brought out several packages of seeds. She examined the labels and saw from the careful handwriting that they had come from her mother.
"They're all flowers."
He glanced over at her, face schooled into an unfathomable expression. She could see the slight lifting of his eyebrow though, and smirked.
"Did you expect cactuses?"
Ginny wrapped her arm around his. "I suppose mother already thought I had one too many."
He playfully nudged her as they walked back to their cottage, only ever reserving his carefree moments for her sight. Ginny looked the packages over again, already thinking of the tiny seeds inside and what wonderful blooms they contained.
It would be the perfect way to start anew.
A/N The story continues in the next installment of the series (which...admittedly, isn't completed yet, but stay tuned)