Celebrating Voldemort's Downfall
A/N: In all probability, this won't be a long fic so I will leave it unbetaed – my regular readers know that English is not my native language; my new readers are warned hereby. Thanks and enjoy! (-:
All characters belong to JKR, sure, I just like to play with them. (-:
Chapter 1: Overdose
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Early November 1981
Albus Dumbledore didn't like Severus Snape. It wasn't much the fact that the young man was a Slytherin – Dumbledore liked to think that he wasn't as biased against that House and its qualities as some of its members thought. After all, he had been friends with the more than a little cunning Horace Slughorn since more years than either of them had cared to count. No, it were rather Severus Snape's unfortunate choices that made Dumbledore disgusted with the boy – such as he had openly said to Snape some time ago.
In Albus Dumbledore's eyes, Severus Snape had it entirely too easy. The boy had committed crimes and very probably had lives on his conscience – a fact that Dumbledore didn't desire to get confirmed for the time-being –, but since he came to Dumbledore just in time when the Order desperately needed a spy in Voldemort's circle, Snape didn't have to even as much as speak with the Aurors. A proper hearing before the Wizengamot was out of question, too – a spy was of worth only when he remained a secret to most.
No, there were simply no real consequences of the young man's atrocities, Dumbledore thought with disgust. The only thing Snape had to do was to come to him, his benevolent old Headmaster, confess his one crime against Lily Potter and he was cleared of all his sins – at least so Dumbledore felt it. When the old man compared Snape's apparent indifference with what the Death Eater, for Heaven's sake!, had done with his own desperation over Ariana's death and the sick feeling he had had for years! after his short allegiance with the Darkness, the aged Headmaster often thought the youth hadn't earned any forgiveness at all.
When Snape repeatedly asked to be allowed to see Lily Potter and excuse to her, this was also one of the reasons why Albus Dumbledore never allowed it. The old wizard felt that such a minor punishment was only well earned – and if the boy proved himself, there would be enough time for him to reconcile with his childhood friend after the war. Not that the old wizard thought it very likely that Snape wouldn't relapse earlier than it ended!
But then the war suddenly and unexpectedly finished. Lily Potter and her husband were both dead, mourned by the whole wizarding world and quite unpredictably leaving Dumbledore with two grief-stricken boys.
From these two, the toddler Harry had it easier, despite the fact that Petunia Dursley heavily protested against his placement with her family. As Dumbledore soon found out, she remembered only too well the address to which she had once sent her pleading missive to be accepted at Hogwarts; the traffic between Muggle Contact Service Point in Hogsmeade and Hogwarts becoming uncomfortably frequent in the last few days...
The other boy, just over twenty and now a real ex-Death Eater no matter his true intentions, whom the old Headmaster didn't like and who he hadn't believed to had sincerely turned before, broke down the moment Dumbledore informed him that his childhood friend was dead.
The Headmaster understood that Snape's tears over the loss of Lily Potter were sincere, but he still didn't find it in himself to feel compassion for the boy who had openly declared that Lily's family hadn't mattered to him. In some twisted satisfaction, the aged wizard nodded in approval at the young man's tears and after he had lured a promise to protect Lily's son out of the Slytherin, he left Snape to his grief and – more importantly, as he thought – bad conscience.
It would serve Severus Snape well to understand how his deeds in Lord Voldemort's service had (and might have) harmed people, Dumbledore thought, determined that now that Lord Voldemort was gone and spies were no longer needed, the dark Slytherin would stand his trial. A couple of weeks in Azkaban wouldn't go amiss either...
The whole Hogwarts and Hogsmeade was celebrating the Dark Lord's fall; the fireworks resonating in the walls of the castle, no matter how many sound-proof charms Severus had cast on them. Snape frowned at his wand and flicked with it resignedly in the direction of the windows so that he at the very least wouldn't see the bright explosions above the village. The world had gone mad, he thought, hating it all, and Dumbledore especially.
The nerve of the man – inviting him up to his office with his usual simple note as if nothing was out of ordinary and there, with a relieved smile!, telling Severus that the Dark Lord had fallen, sadly with the cost of Lily's (and Potter's, though James hadn't mattered to him at all) life!
Had the old man been hoping to enrage Severus to have a good reason to kick him out of Hogwarts now that he had no longer been needed? Or had he possibly thought this would awake Severus's conscience? Hadn't the man seen that that had happened already half a year ago?
In all probability no – Severus was after all no immature acting, but in reality brave Gryffindor of his. No, the Slytherins were simply not redeemable in Albus Dumbledore's eyes – or why the man had never allowed Severus to briefly visit Lily (Snape hadn't asked for more, not believing it possible) and beg her for forgiveness. To have heard her telling him that he was not solely guilty if something should happen to her would have meant much to him at present – though it wouldn't have changed anything on the way how he felt.
For him, the world had ended – Lily was dead; thanks to Dumbledore not knowing he had attempted to save her, the whelp of hers and even Potter senior, no matter how much he had despised the self-centric Gryff... His best friend had died believing him to still be a Death Eater, the fact paining Severus more than her death itself. To hell with Dumbledore, he thought, the tears stinging his eyes now ones of anger rather than grief.
Hours later, Snape was still lying awake in his bed, the sound of the fireworks no longer disturbing him. The rage had disappeared and now he felt only overwhelming sadness. Had he not promised to Dumbledore that he would protect Lily's son, he would have been very tempted to try one of the remaining poisons he had brewed for the Dark Lord. As things stood, however, his only choice was some pain-numbing brew or a sleeping draught...
Snape stumbled out of his messy covers and soon went through the potions on his bathroom shelves. Madam Pomfrey had confiscated his Dreamless Sleep stocks after he had consumed too many vials in row for her liking some time ago, but he still had a rather wide choice of other potions, ranking from potent pain-killers to various mild sleeping aids Madam Pomfrey had approved of.
In the back of the top most shelf, there sat an emergency kit Severus had added to his private stocks at the end of the summer – a box containing Draught of the Living Death and several illegal antidotes (the brews containing always an additive taken from a human corpse, corresponding with the nature of the poisons the Dark Lord had preferred to use of lately). Catching the sight of the box, Snape gave out a relieved sigh. Draught of the Living Dead shall do, he nodded and, opening the kit, pulled out not one but two vials of the brew, downing the first while walking back to the bedroom.
The second vial shattered half-empty in his hand, as he fell to the floor the moment the first helping of the Draught made it to his stomach. Quite a potent brew, was his last thought, before he knew no more...
Madam Pomfrey searched her stocks for another vial of Stomach-Settling Draught, while the child behind her continued to retch. Butterbeer, she thought disgusted, for eleven year olds! What was Dumbledore thinking in Merlin's name? This was already sixteenth or seventeenth (she had lost the count) first or second year that visited her that night, the stomachs of the small children unaccustomed even to the mild alcohol scent in the drink.
Not finding another vial of the remedy (no wonder there, her stocks were by no means prepared for You-Know-Who's downfall!), she turned to the pale child behind her, weighting her options. She could put the boy to sleep – but that would mean sitting with him while he might still retch and that was something she couldn't very well afford unless the stream of sick children would stop. She didn't expect it to happen soon... She could also empty the stomach of the child at once while using her wand or some of her harsher potions – but both the methods tore on the tissues of the treated person, making the process particularly harmful, and she was quite unwilling to apply it on a twelve-year old.
That left the last option – one she tried to avoid. She would need to contact the present Potions Master of the school, Severus Snape, and ask him to deliver her his emergency stocks or brew a new supply of the potion right now...
Poppy didn't really want to do it – she might have repeatedly treated Severus Snape as a student here at Hogwarts and even a couple of times after he had rejoined the school as a Professor – but his cold demeanor and hostile habits had made it exceedingly difficult for her to behave other than strictly professional to him. Yes, she had checked him on overdose for Dreamless Sleep when Dumbledore had mentioned to her that the boy had suffered of insomnia; yes, she had even confiscated his stocks of the remedy and prescribed him to brew milder sleeping helps for himself – but that all was only her job.
Until now, she hadn't needed to interact with him otherwise – a fact she was deeply grateful for. God bless dear old Horace for brewing as much as he had for her this last summer! But even the old Slytherin Head of House (a position Horace thankfully still kept, although he spent most of his time out of Hogwarts and dedicated himself to his research projects rather than teaching or brewing for the school) couldn't have foreseen this latest mad idea of Albus Dumbledore...
Another two pale children entered her ward and interrupted Madam Pomfrey's musing – Poppy sighed resignedly and while waving them to one of the empty beds, she briefly entered her office to check on her emergency teachers' whereabouts board, functioning on the very same principle as a family whereabouts clock – validating that the Potions Master indeed was in his quarters.
Once sure about that, Pomfrey stepped to the Fireplace and throwing a handful of Floo Powder in the low flames, she exclaimed: "Severus Snape's Quarters!"
"Professor Snape!" Madam Pomfrey called into the green glittering flames and while waiting for the answer, she summoned two buckets and sheets for the newcomers, sending them with a flick of her wand towards the children who shivered on the bed, their faces green with sickness. Put the blankets around you, she motioned wordlessly while she waited for the Potions Master's reply to her call, and the children followed her orders.
When nothing happened on the other side of the Floo connection for a minute or so, Madam Pomfrey sighed. Her voice alone had clearly not been enough to wake the young Potions Professor – another thing for which she would miss the light sleeping Horace. She pointed her wand on her neck and commanded: "Sonorus." With much stronger voice, she shouted in the flames once more: "Professor Snape, you are needed in the infirmary. Please, come up. Immediately!"
Sure that her enhanced voice would awake even dead, Poppy Pomfrey turned from the fireplace to treat her new patients, while leaving the connection open for the expected arrival of the Potions Professor.
With a quick flick of her wand, the nurse undid the Sonorus charm and kindly asked the two children in her normal, gentle tone of voice: "Too much butterbeer, right? Professor Snape shall deliver the Stomach Settling Potion for you in a moment." Or brew it, if he has no stocks himself, she added for herself, not wanting to mention the possibility to the children just yet.
Holding the long curls of one of the girls back while she emptied her stomach some five minutes later, Madam Pomfrey cursed Severus Snape for his slowness. Not that Horace would not be comfortable himself – but this had reached all boundaries. The teachers' whereabouts board had clearly said that Snape had been in his quarters – and her voice must have waken him. Why then, in Merlin's name, the man hasn't been there yet?
Pomfrey helped the girl clean her face and wash her mouth out with some water. Patting the child's shoulder for comfort, the nurse excused herself for a moment: "I will be right back. Don't worry. It will be better soon."
The Fireplace in her office still glittered with green flames and Madam Pomfrey resignedly knelt in front of it and looked through the flames into Severus Snape's dungeons quarters. For a moment, all she could see was just darkness. Then her eyes adjusted and she took in the Spartan furnished sitting room. Nothing out of ordinary here, even though the bed behind the open threshold to the adjoined bedroom was clearly empty. Snape must have been on his way up to the infirmary, walking rather than Flooing, Poppy Pomfrey sighed with relief and wanted to withdraw from the flames, her knees already starting to hurt.
Taking in the room on the other side of the flames one last time, the nurse was however to freeze in shock: a pale arm was stretched out on the floor behind the battered looking armchair. Unlike family whereabouts clock, her board only gave her the location of Hogwarts Professors, not their condition. Could Snape be injured or even dead? Dumbledore had told her that the boy had once been a Death Eater when Snape had injured his arm and she had found his Dark Mark. The Headmaster had believed him to have repented – but maybe Snape only pretended that and killed himself when You-Know-Who disappeared from the scene?
Madam Pomfrey forced the disturbing thought away. Be it as may, her task now was not to muse on Snape's choices but rather help him – if he was still alive...
"Emergency House Elf on duty to the infirmary!" Pomfrey called, as soon as she emerged out of the flames, gathering together her emergency kit and summoning her antidotes. Unlike Severus Snape, the tiny creature with large ears she had called for appeared almost immediately, bowing its head and asking for instructions.
"Three children with upset stomachs in the ward, untreated and have to remain so until I am delivered new stock of Stomach Settling Draught," Madam Pomfrey explained to the obedient creature, thankful for its assistance. "Help them if they should vomit and clean their faces and help them wash out their mouth when they are done. A Professor has taken ill – I will tend to him and come back up here as soon as I am finished. When I am needed sooner, you know the rules."
The Elf nodded eagerly back, ensuring: "I knowing the rules. I summon Mrs. Nurse when a student take ill."
"Very good. Thank you, dear," Poppy Pomfrey said and armed with her supplies stepped over to the Fireplace and into the still slightly green glittering flames. For the way back, she would need to refresh the connection but to get down to Severus Snape's quarters, this remaining power of the Floo should still do.
Hastily approaching the collapsed young Professor down in his dungeon quarters, fearing for his life, Madam Pomfrey found herself breathing out in relief when she noticed the slight movement of the boy's chest up and down. Snape was still alive then and she still might pull him through – if she would soon find out what exactly had happened to him, that was it.
Pulling out her wand, Madam Pomfrey knelt next to the young man, waving her wand over Snape's far too slim body. Exhaustation and depression were her first readings, though there was more – poisoning of some sort, mild and at present not exactly endangering the young wizard's life but not safe either.
What have you taken? Pomfrey mused, staring pensively at Snape's pale face. Far too pale even for him, and the slight trembling of his extremities – not the Cruciatus that would have affected the whole body, but none of standard poisonings, Muggle and wizard alike, either.
Her eyes fell on the floor where something glittered silvery, drawing her sight and she spotted a half-shattered vial with several remaining drops of a potion. The nurse pulled out a clean tissue from her pocket and reached over for the tiny container, sniffing it carefully. It reminded her of Dreamless Sleep though the Valerian scent was much too transparent in this brew.
A wave of her wand over the vial – and she gasped. Draught of the Living Death! Has the boy gone mad? His body has not yet fully recovered from the Dreamless Sleep overdose, no matter what he thought about her and Dumbledore being mother-hens, and he takes an even more potent brew to ruin all the curative process and even deepen the poisoning! If he had taken more than the standard dose of the potion – Poppy strongly suspected so – he would be on the verge of a long-term coma now, with his body so pumped up with the sedating substances. Pomfrey shivered, sadly too familiar with the consequences for a body in such a case.
I am not letting this happen, she resolved and merciless, hit the boy's cheek, one, two, three times – hard. "Wake up, you thick boy, right now! Wake up!" She shook him by shoulder. "You need to get up and move – no more sleeping –, so that your body can metabolize the potion before the hypnotics would worsen your previous poisoning – do you hear me, Severus Snape!" Again, she shook him and finally was rewarded with an eye opening.
She nodded satisfiedly, and informed him matter-of-factly: "You might have died, Mr. Snape. I hope you are aware of that. Up with you now!"
"Why can't you let me be in peace!" Snape complained grumpily, his eyes still half closed and he remaining still. "If I was dead, it would have mattered to no one – I am a bloody Death Eater, remember?"
Pomfrey frowned. "I am not going to deny that, young man, the tattoo on your arm is proof enough. But you will get up and walk with me no matter what – I am your Healer and I will not have your life on my conscience. Up with you!" She pulled him by arm, but he was too heavy for her when he decided not to cooperate with her. "Severus Snape!" she scolded and bowed over his again comatose figure. "I will call the Headmaster!"
Snape gave out a bitter, resigned laugh. "Oh, please, do it. He doesn't give a damn, Madam, you know?" Irony was dripping out of his weakening voice.
Poppy stared at him disbelievingly for a moment. The Headmaster not caring for his protégé? What a nonsense!
When Snape's colour started to fade again, his eyes remaining closed, she nonetheless decided not to argue with him over that. Kneeling next to him once again, she said resolutely: "No matter what you believe about Dumbledore, Mr. Snape, I do give a damn – and you are not dying nor falling in coma on my duty." She cast a levitation charm on him. There, that will help to make him stand …
A moment later, she led him by arm around the room, careful so that he didn't hurt himself while stumbling on her side, his eyes half-closed with sleepiness. Some really strong coffee might help, she mused, planning to order some later. At the moment, she needed to get his attention somehow, so that not only his body but also his brain would start to recover from this latest foolishness of his.
"Have you intended to kill yourself?" she asked harshly with that in mind, hoping that she knew the right (negative) answer – but not letting him to see that. "You are a Potions Master, for Merlin's sake! Don't you know what a prolonged use of addictive hypnotics may do to your body and brain! Mr. Snape!" Her fingers painfully bored into his arm, getting him to weary gaze at her.
"Potions Master?" He gave out a bitter laugh. "Let me correct you, Madam – Poisons Master, Madam, p-o-i-s-o-n-s. If I have indeed intended to kill myself, believe me, I would have had ways you wouldn't even dream about."
Poppy breathed out in relief. Excellent, then this point is solved. For the time-being, anyway. She recalled her wand reading. Much else was wrong with the boy, but here and now she could only help with this.
Wordlessly, they wandered around the room for another minute or so, Snape finally appearing slightly awake.
"What have you meant with Dumbledore not giving a damn?" Pomfrey asked when his eyes turned weary again.
Snape shook his head faintly. "That's not important," he said.
"Isn't it?" She wondered aloud, keen on keeping his attention. "Why have you said it then?"
He gazed at her with disgust and she thought she would celebrate – her tactic was clearly working.
"I am no longer of use to him, Madam," Snape explained as if she was a particularly dense child. "And I might not be for another ten years. I would bet with you that he would gladly send me to Azkaban now."
"I don't believe you. Dumbledore is not like that," Pomfrey said, confused, but before she could add anything else to explain her point of view, the House Elf she had left in the infirmary appeared in front of her, breathlessly informing her: "Students – three – they fighting. Everywhere blood. Madam Nurse come now!"
Poppy Pomfrey froze. Now, this was something she had feared – clearly some fight between Slytherin and one of the three remaining Houses. Uncertainly, she gazed at the pale young Professor – the children needed to come first but he wasn't exactly alright either.
Understanding, Snape nodded, "Go. I won't take anything else." Not right now, anyway, the Occlumens in him added to make his statement a half-truth.
Pomfrey reluctantly nodded, leading him over to the sofa and making him to sit there."Bring him coffee, dear." She turned to the Emergency Elf. "Very strong. And keep an eye on him." I am not absolutely sure he is not lying to me. With one last glance at the pale young man she tossed Floo powder into the low flames in the grate and was gone as soon as the Floo connection opened.