Chapter 34 - I Want to Try
The pain sunk in again as he was transferred across the water on the ferry to Azkaban. Phantom pains ran up and down his right arm-or where his right arm should have been. A dragon had eaten it. A dragon. Somewhere in the gullet of a dragon lay his hand and his wand. And by Merlin, he would reclaim it. If it was the last thing he ever did.
. . .
"Tell me again what the mother dragon said," Hermione Granger tersely instructed Severus Snape.
He huffed and rolled his eyes, but the dratted girl refused to budge.
"One last time. And then you and the rest of your compatriots will leave us be!" He growled at her.
Hermione, Neville, Millicent and Theodore had crowded into his quarters not an hour after he and Moody had returned. He had walked into his home to discover that the ceilings had been lifted and that there was enough room within its walls for a small, barely adolescent dragon to also dwell.
Quietly. And calmly, had been Severus' first instructions to Singe after informing him of the change. His dragon could come in from outside by walking through the space between two specific trees at the outermost wall nearest his quarters.
"I'm glad they're here," Was Singe's quiet voice in his mind. "I missed them."
Singe was curled up in the corner like a large silver cat, his tail wound around one of the feet of Severus' chair.
Severus recited for the room:
"'Do not fear me, for we are same, though different. We are both alike and yet not. Unusual though you are, you have my gratitude for finding my lost one and keeping her from the harm this twisted creature might caused unto her.'"
"And then what did she say?" Hermione pressed. "And don't act like you can't remember. Har-Singe was there too!"
From the other side of the room, Moody snorted aloud and Severus pinched the bridge of his nose and muttered darkly.
"Singe asked if the baby was hers. She replied that it was also his . . . 'For though we are both here and now, you are also later and I am before.'"
"Hope you understand more than I do, sir," Teddy murmured.
"Sometimes I wish I understood less," Severus answered, not lifting his head out of his hand.
"I think that the Mother was talking about how Harry had been taking care of the baby before, but now she would be doing that," Hermione said, brown eyes bright. "And the rest?"
"'I am only dragon, but dragon is not only me. Dragon speak is not limited to only my species, despite dragons being unable to speak. Everything speaks, if only one listens.'"
"And then I asked, 'If I can't hear, how can I listen?'" Singe interjected, letting Severus say his words aloud for everyone.
"And she said?" Hermione prompted.
"'I cannot hear, but I can listen. Perhaps you are dragon not because of your form, but because you listen like a dragon.'"
"And Singe asked-rightly, if I might add-whether that meant that dragons were deaf," Severus added, lifting his head to stare at his dragon.
"'Snakes are deaf. Dragons are thus and more. We hear beyond the aural.'"
"So dragons can't hear?" Was Millicent's hesitantly voiced question.
"Well, that's true for the one we know personally," Hermione said matter-of-factly.
"But it was true before I became a dragon," Singe pointed out.
It was a strange bit of listening that he was able to do, hearing the conversation filter in from Severus' point of view. He waited for his sire to repeat his words aloud and then he sighed gustily. His breath caught the tops of books, flinging them open and fluttering about any loose papers within the quarters.
"Singe," Severus warned with a look.
"Sorry, da," Was Singe's contrite answer.
Hermione tapped her fingers impatiently on the table.
"It's like telepathy, but you said that telepathy isn't a thing in the wizarding world. Right? Professor Snape?" She asked, peering closely at him when he didn't answer immediately.
"Telepathy, no," Severus stated after a moment, before standing up and crossing over to a large bookcase near Singe's head.
He pulled a thin book out and then brought it back to the table with the other first years. Moody pulled himself upright from his chair on the other side of the room and stumped over to see what Snape was looking at.
"What're yeh thinkin'?" Moody growled.
Severus didn't answer, flipping through the book slowly and then more quickly as he tried to get to the page he wanted.
"Snape," Moody prompted in a louder voice.
Abruptly, Severus stopped turning pages and put the book down on the table, taking a seat in front of it.
"In the early 20th century, there was a girl born in the United States who could hear the thoughts of others just by looking at them. She would ofttimes get in trouble for responding to these unvoiced thoughts."
"Heard o' her," Moody added, grabbing a chair and turning it backward to then straddle.
Severus sneered at his plebeian way of sitting, but did not say anything about it.
"I imagine you, as an auror, would have studied her. What she was doing," He glanced up and looked at Singe in his nearest eye. "Was an art called Legilimency."
Millicent and Teddy's eyes widened at this revelation and they both nodded.
"Legilimency oft goes hand in hand with an art called 'Occlumency.' Occlumency is the art of protecting one's mind against external penetration, such as through legilimency."
Severus turned and looked at Hermione and Neville who were both looking at him with mildly horrified expressions. He tapped the book in front of him.
"This woman, Queenie Goldstein. She was naturally talented in Legilimency. The references I found on her suggest that she found it as easy as we find breathing. I wonder," Here he stopped and looked at Singe. "I wonder if that is what you have been doing all along?"
He held up his hand to forestall any arguments from Singe.
"No, not knowingly. And yes, I very much doubt you have been looking into people's minds in order to glean extra information. But Singe, you have to admit, your ability to lipread is far beyond the normal. Yes, I know that you were raised-perhaps raised isn't the right word," Here he exchanged a glance with Moody.
"Your upbringing was exceedingly lacking, and therefore you were pushed to exceed far past the norm. After all, as you have alluded to in many of our conversations, your mere survival depended on it. Am I right?"
Slowly, Singe nodded his large head.
"Perhaps that's what the Mother dragon meant. Perhaps all dragons communicate thusly. So then your idea of telepathy isn't all that far off, Miss Granger."
"Why can I only hear you, then? In my head?"
"I don't know, Singe. Perhaps you only want to hear me? Perhaps it's a side effect of that spell that Dumbledore used? I don't know. What I do think is that your ability to read lips-even before being adopted-is nigh impossible without the use of some other gift. Yes, I do mean gift. Most practitioners of legilimency have to study the art for years before developing any kind of proficiency at it. If this is what you're doing, child, then it is most impressive."
Singe responded to the would-be compliment by hiding his head under his wings.
Moody guffawed and the other children broke out in whispers and smiles.
"Now, if you all would be so kind. I would like to have some peace and quiet with my family."
The children all gave him and Singe knowing glances as they filed out of the apartment.
Severus acknowledged none of it, choosing rather to snipe at Moody for putting his dirty boots atop a pile of his books.
From the other side of the room, Singe watched from under his claws and snickered to himself as his tail caught on his dad's foot not once but three times.
"No! You will let me go!" Severus barked, finally tired of tripping over his son's tail. "Pick on your grandfather!"
"But you make funnier expressions!"
. . .
Singe stretched in his father's quarters and marveled at the way the walls automatically lengthened around his body. Turning around in a circle, he used his claws to pull some of the blankets around his body in a more comfortable manner. His father had gotten them from somewhere. He said that they had been left in some kind of lost and found room, probably by former students.
Once he was as comfortable as he was likely to get, he looked back over at Severus and Moody as they peered through various books. They were trying to find a way to change him back, and though he wished he could help, he also was glad that he didn't have to sit and read what looked like piles of dullness.
He thought back to what Severus had said about why they were able to talk and he frowned. Unbidden, more smoke began rising from his nostrils and moments later both Severus and Moody were coughing.
"What's wrong?" Severus asked him, after performing some sort of charm on himself.
The smoke cleared around his father's head and the man stopped coughing shortly thereafter. In turn, he realised where the smoke was coming from and mentally fought to stop his body from producing so much.
"I forgot about what happened in the forest with the centaurs. You're not the only one who can talk to me. One of them could too."
At Moody's questioning look, Severus spoke aloud.
"A centaur spoke to him in the forest," He said, gesturing at Singe.
"And he understood?"
"So it seems."
"Child, did the centaur look you in the eye?"
Singe nodded his head.
"I suspect that the centaur spoke to him using legilimency," Severus said, looking thoughtful. "Singe, have you tried speaking to Moody while looking him directly in the eye?"
"Why don't you try that then?"
They watched as Singe shook himself and then stood up, leaning his large head forward on long neck to stare Moody directly in the eye.
Then, suddenly Moody jerked.
"Lad? Am I hearin' yeh?"
Singe broke eye contact and looked back to Severus.
"I did it! And I want to see, maybe if I think of you both?"
An intense look of concentration appeared on his face as he stared at the wall behind the two men. The magic around them seemed to gain weight, making the very air in their lungs feel heavy. All of the lit candles abruptly lengthened, and within their shadows danced a myriad of impossible shapes.
"Can you hear me, Granddad? Dad?"
A chill went down Severus' spine as he heard his son's voice. A glance over at Moody and he was surprised to see wetness on the older man's rough unshaven cheeks.
"Yeah, lad, I can. I 'spect we both can," Moody answered in an unsteady voice.
. . .
Across the castle a very different sort of meeting was taking place. As the cerberus in the Forbidden room finally nodded off, a man with a dark aura allowed himself a small smile.
"Too easy, my master."
"Don't get too overconfident," The voice snapped.