Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters you might recognise from JK Rowling's books. I don't make any money with this story but write solely for my pleasure and hopefully, the pleasure of you, my readers.
It was the most difficult step of his life. He shivered and he trembled and his head felt as if it was full of cotton wool. Or maybe water. Or maybe it was empty.
He just followed the old man. The man who promised to help. He would hide her. Keep her safe.
He was willing, yes, to give anything in return. A Vow, if he had to. And he would have to. At this moment, entering that castle behind him, he would give his life for her to be safe.
"This way, if you remember," the old man said and he followed, his head hung low and his hair, greasy and wet, blocked his view. He couldn't think, merely walked, up some stairs, across a corridor and he barely noticed where he was going. No, he did not remember the way.
He heard the old man saying a word, or maybe two, but he could not listen. He heard everything as if his head was underwater, everything from very far away and he merely followed. Still followed. And if it cost him his life to keep her safe.
His beautiful Lily. Dumbledore had to keep her safe. He did not trust the Dark Lord any more. Not when he promised to spare her. Especially not then. He had seen too many of those, he had promised to spare, dead. Bodies twisted, lifeless on the ground, eyes staring up soullessly. He couldn't trust him. Couldn't trust that being that had tortured him with high-pitched laughter
because he cared for a Mudblood.
No – it had to be this way. He had no choice. Now that the Dark Lord knew that he cared about her, he would not be allowed to set another toe out of line. His life was at stake.
Not that it mattered any more. But here, in this castle, in this presence, he could at least be sure that Lily was protected. Even if he was not. Even if he had forfeited his life.
"Sit down, Severus," the old man said and through his lank hair, he saw him pointing at a chair and it took him a moment to understand that he was whom was meant by 'Severus' and that he was supposed to sit down.
He did not dare to look up when he shoved his hand into the pockets of his nondescript black robes and pulled out his wand. Unsteadily, he put it on the desk in front of him. He saw the old man moving and noticed from the corner of his eye how he stood next to him and watched numbly as he pulled something from his pocket as well.
He didn't care what it was. He didn't care as long as the old man knew that he had to protect her. That he knew now.
He could go back to the Dark Lord. Do something foolish. Trying to protect another Muggleborn. That way, the Crucios would be bad – and the Killing Curse long coming but coming for sure.
He swallowed. He had thought life would be different after joining in the ranks of the Dark Lord. He had hoped for a better life. And it wasn't. On the contrary. It didn't matter what happened to him.
"Take one," the old man said firmly – and it almost sounded as if he repeated the phrase.
He looked up – just as far up that he could see the hand which held a tin. A tin full of candy.
"Sherbet Lemon, Severus," he said kindly. "I will send for some food as well."
He did not want a Sherbet Lemon. He wanted Lily safe. Why didn't the old man understand that?
"I don't want food. I want you to make sure she's protected," he looked up defiantly.
"She will be, Severus. But I can't let my spy starve," he said kindly and somehow, those words reached something inside of him – it stopped a part of the numbness and it felt as if he had resurfaced from whatever liquid his head and his ears and his eyes and been engulfed in.
"A sp-spy?" he stuttered and for the first time, met the old man's eyes. He had heard of Legilimency, had heard of the art of looking into someone's memories, seeing deep-buried secrets, longings, hopes and dreams. Things consciously long forgotten. Seeing someone's thoughts. He had heard rumours that the Dark Lord was employing this technique. And the Dark Lord had cautioned them. Had explained that Evil Wizard of the Light was applying this as means to change someone's mind. Had cautioned never to make eye-contact. Had said there was no other way around it.
But if the old man needed to see his wish to save her – his Light – then he would submit to his demand. He looked into blue, twinkling eyes. Shining like the Light he symbolised. Not the Dark his represented.
"Yes," the old man said in a kind voice. "And first, we have to teach you the art of Occlumency."
He had never heard the term before and he shook his head barely perceptibly.
"All in due time, Severus. For now, I just would like you to take a Sherbet Lemon, then take one of the sandwiches the elf will bring up."
"I'm willing to give my Vow," he said voicelessly but the old man shook his head again.
"I would like your word. No Unbreakable or other Vow."
"No, Severus. I trust you and your wish to do everything that lays in your power to protect Lily and her family," he said sternly and for a moment, the twinkle in his eyes was gone. So he did see his thoughts. He was willing.
"I want to give the Vow," he repeated but again, the old man shook his head.
"No, my boy. I will not allow it. You will work for our side. You will master the art of Occlumency. And by that, you will keep her safe."
He shook his head. "Let me."
"Your life might be in danger such as it is. I will not add to that unnecessarily," he said.
"I am however, sad that you are not willing to trust me. Well," his tone seemed to lighten considerably, "we will give it time. Eat now," he pointed at a plate full of sandwiches, "and we will talk about the rest later."
Hesitantly, he took one and bit in it. His stomach, he found now, growled and hurt, but all of it tasted – bland. Like cardboard. However, it filled his stomach and it would make the old man explain. And it would make this horrible night end quicker. It would make the darkness end.
He did not understand why the old man would not take his Vow. It would give him and his side – their side – security.
But maybe – perhaps – the old man had seen in his mind what he did not dare fully admit to himself yet. Maybe – perhaps – the old man had seen that he was revolted by what the Dark Lord expected them to do, by what they had to do. Thoughts he had hidden – from himself – and maybe – perhaps– by doing that, hiding them from the Dark Lord himself.
Maybe the old man had seen this. And trusted him.
19. Almost 19 anyway. And she stood there and had to beg the bloody Gargoyle to let her up to her Uncle's office.
"Maltesers," she huffed angrily.
"Just let me up. You know who I am. You've known me for almost 19 years," she shouted at the bloody stone idiot.
She stomped her foot. "Mars Bars," she tried.
The Gargoyle shook its head lazily.
"Just let me up there, I have to talk to him, please," she tried whining. But the Gargoyle only chuckled and she stomped her foot again – and let out a low, angry growl. Mother didn't know she was here and she better not be caught by Filch again. Or by Mum. Or by anyone. She didn't really fancy being told off. Again. And she had a good reason to be there. She heard Alb talk to Dad and to Mum. She knew what was going on. She read. She knew. And she wanted to be there. And they wouldn't let her. As if she was a little girl. She was 19, for Merlin's sake. 19! Not 12 any more. She huffed – loudly.
"I'll blast you to pieces," she pulled her wand from her pocket and pointed it at the stone figure.
"We are in a tizzy, aren't we?" the Gargoyle sneered and she crossed her arms in front of her chest.
"Haha," she grumbled. "Very funny." She watched the Gargoyle as it laughed and she knew her face had that very unbecoming expression again – when she looked like Mother and her lips were too thin and – no. She forced her face back into a neutral position though she truly hated the pun. And from a Gargoyle as well! Gargoyles were supposed to be silent and just stand there, or hang there but not this one. Never this one. No, this one, she called him Bob when he was too annoying, pulled faces, talked to her and generally bothered her every time she tried to see her Uncle without Mother or Father.
"Popcorn!" she shouted – and when the Gargoyle grimaced and revealed the spiral staircase, she sent him a grin, cried a "Thank you, Bob," in his direction and with her wand still in her hand, ran up the stairs. Her favourite sport when she had been a girl – it always made her nicely dizzy. It still did, even though she hadn't run up in a while. But after the news she had heard just earlier when Mum had flooed Dad and she had been, well, listening, and the delay by the Gargoyle, she was in a hurry.
She knocked lightly on the door but without waiting for an answer, she pushed it open and was glad that her wand was in her hand and at the ready.
Here was her chance to prove herself. To show that she could fight.
There was a Death Eater in her Uncle's office. Just like that. Sitting there, revealing the Dark Mark on his forearm and Alb was bending oddly over him, and she could only see his back, keeling over the dark-haired man. In long strides, she was standing behind the man and had the tip of her wand pressed against the side of his neck.
"Let him go," she growled and shoved it deeper in.
"Tizzy?" Alb straightened and with a wave of his hand, had the man's arm covered by his sleeve again.
"He's a Death Eater," she exclaimed and had her wand still there, pushed against his skin.
Her Uncle looked at her and moved to her side, took her hand in his and pulled the wand effectively away from the man. She looked at Alb and of course he smiled gently. "Tizzy, this is Severus Snape. Severus, this is Tisiphone Dumbledore, my niece."
The man looked up but did not meet her eyes and nodded briefly before he lowered his head again and greasy lank locks of hair covered his features and glared at her Uncle. "Alb! He's a Dea..."
"Tizzy, please," the twinkle, the always present twinkle in his eyes disappeared and he wore that face he had last worn when she had tried to pluck one of Fawkes's feathers when she had been five. "He is here for a reason and if you open your eyes, you will see his wand on the desk."
She glanced at the desk and there was a wand. Not her Uncle's wand. She closed her eyes for a moment only and tried to sort her thoughts. Death Eater with that ugly, evil thing on his arm. Sitting there like a lump. Wand on the table. And Alb probably having bent over to talk to him.
"What's going on?" she asked – not quite yet understanding. Was he a spy? Or someone who sought refuge? Or – someone Alb had taken captive? Wasn't that the Aurors' job?
"Get your mother, please," her Uncle said almost sternly and he had a hand on the man's shoulder. Severus Snape, that was what he had said, wasn't it? Didn't ring a bell. But it seemed at least Alb knew him. Could have been a student there. His head snapped up and tried to look at him, but since he was behind him, he couldn't.
But it gave her a chance to look at him. He was young. Not much older than herself. Dark eyes, dark hair, rings around his eyes, a hooked nose that looked like it had been broken more than once, thin, bloodless lips. And he was pale. Very, very pale. He looked quite – afraid.
"Tisiphone!" her Uncle snapped his fingers in her face. "Go get your mother now."
She rolled her eyes, pocketed her wand and went running. Towards her Mother's quarters. The place where she lived now as well with her and Dad. She didn't mind living in the castle. She had lived there for the first ten years of her life, before going to St. Augustus's School. Had fought at first and had wanted to be educated at Hogwarts. But no, with Mum teaching there and Alb the Headmaster, Mother and Father had not allowed it. They had said, and she still remembered the words clearly as if they had been spoken barely half an hour ago, that it was best for her to not be there – to not be taught by her own Mother. And so she had gone to St. Augustus's. The only all girls' Wizarding school in the entire world.
But now, the NEWTs secured, she had returned home. Had so wanted to fight against He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. And once more, Dad and Mum and Alb had forbidden it. Stupid adults still thought she was a girl.
He barely noticed the wand pressed into the side of his neck. He barely noticed that there was someone else in the room until the old man said his name and he looked up briefly to someone whose name he didn't catch. Tis-something. A young woman. His niece.
But he was more focused and replayed the old man's lecture in his head. Lily would be kept safe, and he himself was expected to stay on at Hogwarts. Had to teach potions. Had to go back to the Dark Lord and had to tell him that he had applied to the post of Defence against the Dark Arts position. Had to learn Occlumency, which would help him shield his true thoughts from the Dark Lord. Would more effectively hide his disgust at what the Dark Lord expected him to do. Would return to all his summons. Had looked in all detail at his Dark Mark but had not dared to touch it. Had merely looked. And he had not been able to look at the black thing on his arm. Had not looked at it for months, really.
And he had nodded at everything. He was good at potions. Didn't care whether he stayed at Hogwarts or the hole his parents had left him. Would definitely not be a good teacher but who cared? As long as she was safe. He would even train dragons if it helped keeping her safe. Would learn Occlumency.
He noticed the old man telling him to get her mother and that made him look up again and he tried to look at him but he had his hands on his shoulders and stood behind him. But he could look at her again. She reminded him of someone but he was too tired, too exhausted to think about who she resembled. She had dark hair, long, wavy, flowing to her mid-back, bright blue eyes, was tall and thin and her wand was in her hand. Her robes were long, with wide sleeves in dark, dark green. He didn't know who her mother was, naturally, hadn't even known the old man had a niece, or siblings, but he was sure of the fact that he did not want another person there.
The young woman darted away from the office and he let his eyes rest on his wand at the desk while the old man had his hands still on his shoulders and continued to speak softly.
"We will keep you safe here even when you go back to him. I have seen what he does to his Death Eaters, Severus, and I think it's best if we bring you to Madame Pomfrey as soon as possible. But I think it would be best if we at least tell my Deputy why you are here. I don't think anyone else should know, do you? Tizzy, of course, does know but she knows how to keep a secret. And my brother is not to be feared. And in case someone else should ever find out, we need another witness that you came to our side before the end of Voldemort."
He flinched upon hearing that name. None of those people that he had been in contact with in the last two, three years had ever said his name. It was forbidden, even his most loyal followers knew that they would suffer severely should they speak it.
And who was the Deputy? Couldn't be Melanole, his former Astronomy teacher and Deputy when he had been at Hogwarts. He knew for a fact that Martin Melanole was dead. Blood traitor.
For a moment, a shiver went through his body and he pressed his arms tightly to his sides.
"There is no need to be afraid, Severus, my boy. We will keep you safe," he said gently and squeezed his shoulders.
"Keep her safe," he croaked.
"We will keep her safe as well. But you need to be safe to do your job and to keep her safe."
"Mum!" she yelled, storming into their quarters and found her Mother sitting in an armchair, reading.
"Tizzy, what's wrong?" she looked up and squinted. She had told her Mother time and time again to get her eyes checked, that she needed glasses, but no. Minerva McGonagall was too vain to wear glasses.
"Alb wants you to come to his office. There's a, erm, young man sitting there and, well, I don't really know what he's doing there, since of course I'm too young to know things and Alb doesn't tell me but wants you there."
"Don't call him Alb, Tizzy. I've told you it is very unbecoming," she scolded mildly but got up and stood before her, smiling one of her rare, full smiles and touched her cheek gently. "I know you don't like the situation, but dear, we want you safe. You do not know what he's capable off. But you do know that you're a target. Tisiphone, please."
"But..." Tizzy huffed but Mother of course, only shook her head and the smile vanished. As it did every time Tizzy protested. But her Mother was always so overprotective. One day, she knew, she would just go and leave Hogwarts and fight. And they couldn't stop her. But as long as those bloody wards existed, she couldn't.
Yes, yes, she knew she was a target. But it wasn't her fault that Albus Dumbledore was her Uncle. It wasn't her fault that Minerva McGonagall was her Mother and it wasn't her fault that Aberforth Dumbledore was her Father. She could fight as well as them and they wouldn't even let her into that Order-thingy. She was of age. She could fight.
But oh no – Little Tizzy had to be kept locked in.
She sighed. Well, they were worried and she understood that. To a certain extent. Understood that her parents and her Uncle wanted her alive. But what they didn't see was that she would stay alive. Even if she fought.
"Tizzy, I have to go," she pressed a kiss on her forehead and brushed the back of her fingers over her cheek.
"I'm coming with," she said deviantly.
"Tizzy," Mum sighed but she only grinned, shrugged and linked her arms with hers.
"At least let me do that, please?"
Mum sighed again but nodded.
Tizzy knew she just won a small victory. Just a little one but usually, Mum, Dad and Alb always kept her from knowing anything about the War. She wasn't even supposed to know about the Order though Alb and Mum and Dad had founded the thing. In this case it was really fortunate that they seemed to underestimate her most of the time. Could get through the Charms they cast on doors so easily, really. Still, to let her be with them when they talked and finding out who that Severus-Snape-person was – victory!
"Severus Snape!" he heard a familiar voice through the mist that had settled into his ears again, his eyes steady on his wand. He had to prove that he was on their side now. That he would spy. But the old man was right. Another person there, a witness and he could give his Oath. Not an Unbreakable but he could word his Wizard's Oath that it acted as an Unbreakable. And he knew the words he would speak when he suddenly heard his name spoken by the familiar voice and he looked up.
And there, bent down to him, and fixing him with her green eyes was the reason why the young woman, standing a little behind next to the old man, seemed familiar.
So she was Deputy now. A school reigned by Gryffindors.
But Lily was a Gryffindor. And it was for Lily. He was there because of Lily. And he had to prove it. His hand inched closer to the wand on the desk when the Deputy Headmistress talked to him. He barely heard her and it didn't matter what she said.
"Albus, we have to get him to Poppy, he's completely out of it," he heard her say when his hand touched his wand. "Was he like this all the time?"
He moved quickly, lifted the wand and pointed it on his own chest and he spoke, quickly before the old man could interrupt. "I swear upon my life that I stand and fight against the Dark until the day I die."
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