By Astral Fou-lu
Disclaimer: As usual
Pale Rider: Thank you very much for your constructive review. Re-reading the last chapters, I saw your point. However, the reason why Zinfandel looks as if she doesn't do anything in the story is that her significance hasn't happened yet, the other chapters only showed some of her background. Now I've decided to quicken the pace up a bit and how the pivotal premise in the story, in which she has a part in this chapter. But it's not too much yet, the story has to come a long way first and a very weird twist will happen. And lastly, Zinfandel isn't that strong, in fact she is just as powerful as Harry is, only older. About Sirius, I haven't really stated it in the story but his extreme misgivings toward Snape was caused due to him feeling as if he had been robbed of everything by the greasy git. Anyway, thanks for your review. It had affected this chapter, (and the later parts) in ways more than you could imagine.
Gwedolyn-flight: Yes, let's see how strong Harry would be under more emotional baggage.
Kanslady: Thanks to you, I decided to pick this fic up. I was going to forget all about this…
Hearing from Madame Pomfrey that Severus had entered once again the unconscious state ("How dare you let him leave the Infirmary!" she fumed), Remus Lupin cursed himself once again for fucking up. Reaching the Infirmary fourth floor, Remus slammed the door open in trying to make himself forget even for one second that somehow, somehow things had mucked up because he tried to right the wrong doings which were happening to Harry. He only wanted to give Harry the knowledge that his true father was alive, that Severus still had responsibility towards his blood-son, and that all things should all be well.
Evidently, they weren't.
Seeing Severus slumped lifelessly once more in his bed, Remus walked over and checked his heartbeat, touching the backside of his hand on the Potions master's chest. While the beat was stable, it was undoubtedly weak. Remus turned to Harry, who was lying down with the blanket covering him head to toe.
"Harry, I know you're awake," Remus said.
The lump on Harry's bed slightly stirred. "G'way."
Remus heard a little sniffling. He sighed. "Look, Harry. I know that this…this thing is hard for you, but you have to face it. We all have to." He neared Harry's bed and gently pulled off the blanket from Harry, revealing a shaken teenager curled up in a fetal position.
"Why does he hate me?" Harry whispered.
Remus was dumbstruck with Harry's words. "What?" Somehow, this kid just needs to feel appreciated. And not Ministry-of-Magic-appreciated.
"He hates me. Snape." Harry said. "I fucking hate him too, the bastard." Bristling, he tried to sit up but he cringed, headache sweeping over him.
"Uhn…the scar…oh shit…"
Alarmed, Remus started to call for Poppy, but the sound coming from other bed startled him.
"NOOOO!" Severus' figure convulsed violently, his hand clutching the Dark Mark. Panicking, Remus Lupin hurried over to Severus' side and frantically whispered a Relaxing charm. It didn't help. "N-nnh…that's no g-good …" Severus managed to whisper, his face a violent rendition of his pain. "T-take me to the Forbidden Forest, Lupin…" His breathing shallowed, and his nails tore at his skin, blood and sweat trickling down to the blankets.
Harry, watching the whole spectacle, paled. So this is what happens when Voldemort summons him. Watching Snape made him remember every painful blow he had received, and felt in its fullest essence.
Watching Remus half-carrying, half dragging Snape while the latter raved triggered a sense of trauma within Harry.
Whenever Vernon hit him.
Whenever Dudley made fun of him in front of his friends.
Whenever he remembered how his parents were killed…
"Stop it, please," Harry sniffed, hands clutching his face, trying to block out the memories triggered by the other man's suffering. "Snape, wait…" he called tentatively, but he had already went out the door along with the lupine professor.
Face crumpling, Harry choked and let out a fresh torrent of tears. This time, there was no one to hear him.
They hate me.
I hate everyone.
Waiting for Professor Snape to return was an arduous task more than anyone would ever know. It was a virtual roller-coaster ride; every sound that arises in the midst of the deadness of the night makes one sit upright abruptly and turn to the door, anxious whether the awaited black-garbed figure would come through the threshold, only to be sorely disappointed that it would only be someone's familiar, prowling about the Common Room while its master or mistress was asleep. Then, learning that there was a chance that he may never return, not alive and breathing at least, made the anxious watcher's eyes dim and create her own personal dementor.
For this particular watcher, she had already been turned into a dementor.
Zinfandel looked up at the guest of the lupine Slytherin Common Room. "Well, could you explain to me for a thousandth time why the hell you let him get away without even notifying the Headmaster first?" she railed, voice shrilly but about to break due to her nonstop tirade since the last two hours. "If he turns up in a little tin box, I'll feed you to a basilisk!"
Remus rubbed his temples and sunk himself lower into a plush seat, trying vainly to hide from the girl. "It was urgent, girl, urgent," he moaned. "What do you want to happen? Let Voldemort be affirmed that his Potions specialist was the turncoat all along? Dumbledore was away," he breathed in deeply. "He shouldn't have."
"Oh, NOW it's Dumbledore's fault!" she hissed and banged her clenched fist onto the desk.
"Will you just bloody stop it?! You're getting to be very irritating!" Remus snarled, a thing that he usually did only in his bestial form. "If you knew better what to do, you should have just come with him and blast Voldemort away, Just. Like. THAT!" Remus shouted, his open palm slamming the desk's surface in the last word. "Since you always claim that you're the bloody Heir of Slytherin! Turn him into a toad! Turn him into turd!"
"You know that I can't do that!"
"Well, just bloody shut up!"
They both did.
"You know," Zinfandel said weakly after a minute of mutual silence, "I was going to like you, but now I decide that I really don't."
"I thought you liked Severus."
The girl's eyes sought Remus' and their gazes held, for a moment. It was never vocalize nor even in any way concretized, but Remus' last few words sunk into her head like Ogden's Firewhisky and sent her careening into despair.
"I was that obvious, wasn't I?" she said, her voice a mixture of melancholy and embarrassment.
"Yes," Remus answered, equally morose.
It was lucky that both had cast powerful Silencing spells in the Common Room, lest the Slytherins have another batch of fodder for Rita Skeeter.
It was already the break of dawn when Severus' sodden robes dripped all over the Common Room, but not before he cast an Unnoticeable Charm over his person. Zinfandel was there, curled up and snoring lightly. Thinking that she would never see him through the Charm, he walked past her but then he heard a rasp female voice ask "Professor? S'that you?"
Suddenly remembering that she could very well see through many Concealment Charms, Severus only affirmed her question with a weak "Yes."
Red eyes looked up at his sorry state. "I'm glad you're okay," Zinfandel said. "We were worried."
Severus appeared confused by the use of the collective pronoun. "We?"
"Ah," Was all Severus could say for the moment. "Probably was worried that his supplier of the Wolfsbane Potion would be lost to him." Saying that, he started to walk into his office via the hall connecting the Slytherin Common Room and his quarters. But after a short moment, he turned towards Zinfandel again.
"How is Potter?"
She was taken aback by the question. "Oh, uhm…ask Lupin for that information. I admit that I don't really care for the brat."
She thought her answer infuriated Snape since his eyes flashed, but after a second regained its weak impassiveness. "Be careful where you tread," he whispered. "Since he is my son."
Zinfandel paled. "Oh."
"Be sure to look out for him," Snape went on gravely. "The reason why Voldemort gave out Cruciatus through the Dark Mark so strong that I passed out that night was that he wanted to take out Potter as soon as possible, since he's growing strong in the same rate as Voldemort himself is regaining his power, since the two are probably connected when it comes to that. He can tell."
The girl said nothing.
Then why not let the bloody kid go and kill off Tom Riddle?
"I want him to be safe as possible," he said. "I'll do everything to keep his arse safe so that the whole Wizarding World would be as well."
"Even getting yourself killed?" Zinfandel pushed bluntly.
"Yes," was the swift reply.
But, you could kill off Voldemort now, since the kid's so strong. Zinfandel wanted to say. Of course, at this early stage, Harry's going to die in the process.
I don't care though. Fine with me.
Sirius met up with his cherished godson in the Hogwarts grounds as a dog. Tongue lolling in happiness, Snuffles the adorable stray bounded up to Harry, and as he made contact he jumped at him and slobbered all over his shocked Harry.
"Yucch, Snuffles! Get offa me!" Harry exclaimed, but laughing at the same time. "What's wrong with you?"
Ron and Hermione, who watched the sappy exchange in amusement, decided with one look to greet Sirius and leave the two to their own devices, since they had clamored for each other's company for too long. "Hiya Snuffles," Ron said, eyes twinkling in happiness and ruffled the hair on the dog's head. "How you doing?"
The dog barked back in happiness. Hermione reached into her robes and produced a quite large packet of food for Sirius. "Here you go Snuffles," she smiled, bringing the packet of food close enough for Sirius to clamp his jaws on the top of the packet to carry it. "I hope that's enough for you."
Left by the two, Harry along with Snuffles went behind the bushes in the pretext of playing hide-and-seek with the dog, and once in out of sight Harry fished out of his pockets the Invisibility cloak. Covering him and the dog, the two rushed into a relatively safe part of the Forbidden Forest, wherein Sirius turned into his human self.
Giving Harry the long-delayed hug (hindered by so many factors, his being a fugitive for instance) he smiled and sighed in relief. "Thank all the gods that you're safe, Harry," gently he let go and playfully pinched Harry's cheek. My, my, we're filling out already, aren't we?
"Cut that out, Sirius!" Harry laughed and swatted Sirius' offending hand away. He too was very glad that he was able to see Sirius again, the only one that he could consider a relative, even if they were not related by blood. Seeing Sirius was a very big reprieve from the most distressing turn of events for Harry, since besides Ron, Hermione and his very few other magical friends, Sirius Black was the only one he could fully trust, and what helped was Sirius' pledge to James and Lily to protect Harry at all costs.
"How are you uncle? I mean…having to go around so often and…" Harry looked up at his uncle hesitatingly. He knew that he, Harry Potter, was mainly the cause of why Sirius had to run away in hiding.
"Nah, I'm okay," Sirius answered, but then sobered quickly afterwards. "I'm sure I'm doing relatively better than you, Harry. I wish it were different."
Unbidden thoughts of the latest revelations ran quickly to the boy's mind and slightly soured his disposition, but Harry was also saddened, at the most. "Is there anything even worse than encountering Dementors, Sirius?" Harry asked absently, moving away from the man and settling himself down beside a blueberry bush, picking at a berry until it bled and its dark blue juice tricking down his thumb and forefinger. "If there is…I think I know what it could be."
"What could be worse than having a Dementor at your heels…what is…well…" Sirius tried to stall, but he knew that he should be truthful to his charge. "I reckon its finding out that a part of your life is actually false."
Harry laughed bitterly. "You got that right. But you know what, Sirius? I've been thinking."
Sirius sat beside Harry and put an arm around him, plucking a blueberry and popped one into his mouth. "About what?"
"It could have been better if Snape had, say, liked me. You know? Kinda like Remus and you did. I could have swallowed that medicine better. I could have had a Dad right now, wouldn't you say?"
Abruptly Sirius found himself tightening his arm around Harry rather uncomfortably. No. He couldn't say…say…
"Uh, Sirius, you're hurting me…" Harry said weakly.
Sirius looked into Harry's eyes as if the boy had said he had a sex change. Clearing his throat Sirius slowly removed his arm around Harry. "Ah, ehem. You're not serious, are you, Harry?"
Raising an eyebrow, Harry said in momentary jest, "No, of course I'm not you."
"I'm not joking, Harry."
Harry looked away, looking slightly sad. "What I was saying, Sirius, is that things could have been better if Snape was kinder…you know? Dad material. He's much nearer to Uncle Vernon by comparison. Not as stupid as that fat pig though," Harry spat the last sentence.
Panicking but not showing it, Sirius felt for words but could not find suitable ones. "Look, Harry, you can forget Snape, okay? I'm here. Your Dad appointed me as your godfather."
"Snape is my father, Sirius."
"Well yeah, but…" Damn it! I've lost so many things in my early life to Snape. James, Lily, and now Harry?
"What?" Harry asked, a little impishly. "I know you hate Snape, Sirius, but what's happening…"
"…should might as well be forgotten," Sirius cut in a tad too strongly. "Look, it wouldn't have had happened if only Remus hadn't found that Diary, okay? And Snape would want your guts to be in his Potions rather than acknowledge you as his son. Listen to me, Harry. I know Snape better than you do."
After a moment's pause, Harry relented. "Yeah, Sirius. You're probably right. Snape's a slimy git."
And I wouldn't let that slimy git lay his hands on you, Harry, Sirius thought fervently. Father or no father.
I thought you liked Severus.
Zinfandel swooped down the stairs, and when she let her impatience get the better of her, she straddled the banister and jumped off to another flight of stairs, to do the same again. I thought you liked Severus. Remus Lupin's words ground into her mind as painful as if her face was pushed down onto a roughened asphalt road and swiped down along the way akin to an eraser on a paper. Damn I liked the man, she thought with a grimace. And here I am, I could defeat Voldemort if they could only give me more time. No, they just had to wait for Harry Bloody Potter, who's going to mature in a myriad of years the way he's acting.
The short talk she had with Snape after he had arrived from a near-lethal Death Eaters meeting made her decide on one thing: Harry Potter is certainly harmful…no, lethal to one's health. Snape is certainly willing to risk his life for a kid who just, just survived an Avada Kedavra blast when she could practice more in order to deflect it. And that thought soured her very, very much.
Putting her Slytherin qualities into full use, she decided on one thing: Send Harry Potter into an early mission. She could do that. That way, not only the whole issue would be over soon, whether or not Harry is successful, since it would prove how much he is really worth against Voldemort.
And that's the sole thing the Wizarding World wants to know, Zinfandel told herself as she descended the last flight of stairs towards the secret passage to the outside grounds. Whether a mere boy would measure up to Voldemort. Well, I'll make them find out soon enough.
But first, she had to lay down her foundation. Two birds in one stone, really, she convinced herself, crawling through a narrow tunnel that led outside. I get to have Severus' attentions, AND I'm going to prove to the world that I'm the one. In the sullied name of Slytherin.
Reaching the end of the tunnel, she crawled up to the outside and shook dust of her robes. Preening herself as she walked, she straightened her countenance to start laying her ground.
Trotting in his appointed patrolling hour around the Hogwarts grounds, Sirius as Snuffles smelled a strong female presence but just before he could act two strong arms pinned him down. "Don't make a noise," Zinfandel whispered. "I have a proposition to make."
Whimpering, Sirius tentatively looked at the cloaked figured and growled softly. "Shh," Zinfandel hushed the dog. "Let's go to a place where no one could see you transform."
With Sirius leading the way, the two surreptitiously went to where Harry and Sirius had their talk earlier. Since it was already almost midnight, the place was almost dark enough for the two to carry out a torrid exchange but for this certain moment, the two had something else in mind.
Turning back into his imposing human self, Sirius steeled himself for whatever the Slytherin woman wanted from him. "What is it that you want, woman?"
"I'm going to be frank about this," Zinfandel crossed her arms and leveled her sharp gaze towads Sirius'. "I know for a fact that you strongly object to Snape being Harry's father."
"Yes, and what?" Sirius groused. "I don't see where this is coming to."
"I want your cooperation to keep them apart."
Sirius laughed derisively. "Look, woman, I would do that if I know how to. Merlin knows I don't want them bonding with Snape sneering at me as if he's stolen Harry away from me," Sirius shook his head, "which is probably going to happen. You don't have to rub it in."
"Well, I don't relish the idea Harry simpering up to Severus either," Zinfandel said gravely. "It's a waste of time."
"Since you seem to know what you want to do, you tell me how I could do it," Sirius said, tone challenging. "That doesn't make me appear as if I'm against whatever Harry's wishes."
Zinfandel smiled a tad cruelly. "You're talking to a Slytherin."
"So, have any ideas?"
Before responding, she reached out a hand towards Sirius. "Before I say anything, I would like to seal this arrangement with a handshake. You get Harry, and I get Severus. A nice proposition, is it not?"
After a moment of intensive decision-processing, Sirius tentatively reached to grasp her hand. "It is."
"Then it's business."