A/N: This story is a spin-off/sequel to Raven Dancer's "A Promise to Be Better" It's my job to try and help Sirius. You may want to go read "Promise" if you haven't. As you will be able to tell from this Introductory Chapter (which was an email to Raven Dancer imagining the American Academy), things that need to be explained will be so don't worry about finishing "Promise" before starting this one. Enjoy.
Chapter One: ALBATROSS POST
Lila Johnstone barely glanced up as yet another bird flew through her window
bringing in a salt-tanged breeze with it. She sighed. As Headmistress
of one of the major magical schools she knew correspondence was a part
of the job. At times, however, she felt that she hardly left her desk
chair anymore. The owls just kept coming. The whiffs of sea air only
made her self-imposed confinement harder. She wanted to join the
students bundled up in windbreakers walking around the school and over
the nearby sand dunes. She wanted to enjoy the post-exam reading week
before grades came out, too. But, alas...
Johnstone had been Headmistress of The Roanoke Academy of Magic for about forty
years, now. The academy, itself was considerably older, but considered
young by the standards of the international magical community. Roanoke
was approaching it's 300th anniversary. Nothing compared to the 1000
years Hogwarts had in Britain. Well this was America, after all. The
natives had not felt the need to create formal schools. It was the
colonial settlers who had done so.
A group of settlers established a colony on the shores of North Carolina
called Roanoke. All the muggle history books spoke of it as the
"ill-fated" colony that had been "lost". What the muggles didn't know
is that the colony hadn't been lost at all. It had been made to
disappear. Between one supply ship and next the witches and wizards who
had come to settle in the New World hid their "true" colony from muggle
eyes. To the muggles the colony "disappeared without a trace." It was
assumed that Native Americans had carried all the settlers off... but no
trace, even of that, had been found.
The problem with their neat little trick is that it attracted attention
even to this day. The tourists were few, but still they came to the
site of the "original" colony about a two miles distant. This is why,
about 150 years ago, the students and faculty had adopted the very
"American" habit of dressing in street clothes rather than uniforms.
It made sightings of careless students less of a crisis.
Lila drew her mind away from history and from the window to regard the
latest Owl. She shook her head. She really must be tired. She'd
hardly given it a glance and she should have. It was a Canadian Goose.
International mail. "Oh bother!" she grumbled as she got up to remove
the pouch from the bird's neck. International mail was always a
great deal more trouble. It was probably busy work from some stupid
sub-committee of the International Magical Confederation (it had been
switched from 'confederation of Warlocks' at the insistence of a few
'uppity witches' last year). Or, she thought pulling an envelope with
the Hogwarts crest out of the pouch, more bad news from Albus about
Voldemort. She repressed a small shudder.
She knew it was only a matter of time before that evil creature started
to spread his foul influence abroad. Thus far Roanoke and the rest of the States remained untouched... mostly by the providence of the ocean between them. That couldn't last.
She and Albus had corresponded for more decades than she cared to count.
They had formed a deep friendship and teased one another with the
occasional harmless flirtation, what was it? It must have been at
least sixty years ago. They had been put on the same "task force" by
the (then) Warlocks Confederation. A certain disrespect for the
bureaucratic nature of the whole operation had brought them together.
The rest, as they say, was history.
It was Albus who had convinced her to stay put the first time Voldemort
rose. He'd pointed out, correctly, that she could do more good in the
long run at the helm of her school than she could by leaving it to come
fight the evil mage. Not that he hadn't asked her assistance now and
then. She'd offered it again, readily and without reservation, at the beginning
of the previous school year when Albus had written of his suspicions
about Voldemort. He had been terribly correct.
She broke the seal on the envelope and slid the heavy parchment letter out.
This letter comes with hopes that you and your Academy continue to fare
well. Hogwarts and I remain remarkably well considering the harassment
we have lately suffered... "
What followed was a brief description of "Algie's Rings," the cursed golden objects Death Eaters had been planting around the Hogwart's grounds. Those who touched them became ill with what seemed, at first, to be a simple flu. The illness rapidly progressed, however. Without the counter-curse those infected would die. One professor and one student had been infected and cured. Albus then shifted topics,
"...You undoubtedly remember Snuffles from the brief time you sheltered
him in the early summer year before last. He returned to England a year
ago last fall and appeared to be doing surprisingly well.
Unfortunately, your concerns about his mental and emotional state were
all-too well founded. Black has become unreasonable and violent toward certain individuals in our school. He has recently recognized his need for treatment . Unfortunately, a space
will not be open in The Clinic in Vienna for 6-8 months.
I do not believe, at this point, he would pose a danger to your school
or students. Therefore I was hoping that you might agree to shelter him
and give him what treatment you might until he can go to Vienna. I
would never propose this if I felt he was a danger. I do care about
Sirius, enough to realize he must go somewhere (away from here) to get
help. If you cannot do this I will certainly understand. In any case
I would appreciate a reply as soon as you are able to make one.
Lila let out her breath and sat down. Albus Dumbledore sending Sirius
Black away. Albus admitting (in so many words) that she had been right
about something (not doing so was a stubborn game between them)... this
must be bad. Black had clearly hurt someone. She had a pretty good
idea who that might be, too. Black had talked in his sleep a lot and
her healer gave her a synopsis of what he'd said. That, together with
other more conversational letters this school year, led her straight to
one person: Severus Snape. Damn, if she was right Black was lucky Albus
handn't shot him into that lake of his and let him drown.
She spent a few minutes going over the situation and the request in her
mind. Of course, she would do it. Luckily, she had a first-rate healer
on her school staff and some rather talented professors, as well.
Roanoke had a long (some said ignominious) history of attracting (some
said "poaching") talented professors for other international schools.
She took out a quill and paper (she took pity on international
messengers and didn't use the heavier parchment... Albus, unfortunately,
probably couldn't bring himself to write on anything other than parchment).
You may send "Snuffles" immediately. Please inform us of your arrangements so we may know when and with whom to expect him. We will shelter him and do our best to start the healing process until he may transfer to Vienna. Please also send word of Severus' health and well being.
The goose shifted in anticipation as she folded the note and put it in an envelope.
"Sorry, you've just gotten here after a long journey. I refuse to send
you back out." The goose gave an off-key honk, in either gratitude or
indignation, and flew out of the window. She'd send the Albatross, it
would be faster. He could make the entire journey himself instead of
transferring the letter from goose to gull to owl Lila looked out
the window after the rapidly disappearing goose as it flew joyfully over the wind-swept nearer dunes and decided to walk this note to the aviary herself.
Her albatross returned in surprisingly good time, one week later, with a
"My Dear Lila,
I thank you for not rubbing in the fact I was forced to admit you were
right and, by implication, I was wrong..."
Lila chuckled, Dumbledore's mood had improved since he'd written the
"...You have my gratitude for your willingness to take in "Snuffles."
He is traveling with a graduate and trusted friend, Bill Weasley, who is traveling to New York on Gringotts' business. Bill might appreciate staying at your academy for a day or two before going to New York.
Severus is doing much better than he was. He has suffered quite a bit this year at the hand of Voldemort. Unfortunately, as you divined, Snuffles has only made things worse. I am entrusting Bill with a more lengthy description of events to aid you in accommodating and treating
We nearly lost Severus this year. You know that he is like a child to me, and I don't mind admitting that I have had some very dark days on his account. I am grateful for his continued recovery. I would write more of the details of recent events but I do not wish to become lost in
anger at this moment. In spite of everything, I do hope Snuffles can achieve recovery and thank you for your willingness to set him on that road..."
"yeah, and get him the hell away from you before you kill him..." Lila murmured as she read.
"With events as they stand, it is hard to say when I might find the opportunity to travel far from Hogwarts. If, however, you find yourself in England the invitation to visit is always open.
Lila sat and let the letter and it's implications sink in. Certainly Albus was a bit more relaxed but also still quite angry with Sirius Black. Even with the scant details she had been given and could glean from between the lines, Lila knew Black probably was lucky to be alive. Albus' concern about becoming angry likely meant he'd become so angry he'd lost some of his famous control. He hadn't lost it all, thank Merlin. She hated to think what that would look like.
One thing was certain, the next six months or so were certainly going to be interesting.