A History of Magic
Disclaimer: The following is a work of fiction created by and for readers of the Harry Potter books for no profit. No copyright or trademark infringement was intended, and all of the characters, situations et c. belong to, though aren't limited to, JK Rowling.
A/N: This fic has been betaed by the wonderful RaeWhit. Your input has been truly invaluable; thank you. There will be eight parts to this story. They have all already been written and betaed. I will update around twice a week.
"Fight! Duel! Draco and Harry are –!"
I throw down the pathetic excuse for an essay I have been perusing and am on my feet before the full sentence leaves her mouth.
"Where?" I growl, and she stammers out the location of a bathroom she should not be haunting.
I instruct her to collect Minerva and Albus, already sprinting, suppressing a shudder as I push through Moaning Myrtle's ghostly form.
My wand is drawn as I burst through the door, prepared to counter whatever hexes Potter and Draco are currently hurling at each other, and am astonished to hear curses instead. The first syllables of Crucio leave Draco's lips, but Potter cuts them off with his bellowing.
"Potter, no!" I scream, recognition twisting my stomach like an icy fist. My command startles Potter into lowering his wand, and his gaze fixes on me in horror. Draco is not nearly so affected by my presence. His face is aglow with mad hatred, and before I can stop him, his wand is focussed on Potter once more. My heart stops with his next words.
"Avada Ked –"
I'm stunned. It takes me a split-second to recover, to raise my wand.
I'm too late. Oh, sweet Jesus, I am too late. Emerald light rushes from Draco's wand to Potter lying prone on the floor. He jerks back, but there is no chance he'd be quick enough to cheat death this time. It strikes his face, drawn to his scar as though magnetised. His expression registers shock as he is enveloped in green, and then he's –
Not figuratively, but literally and completely gone. He has vanished. I round on Draco, but his uselessly flapping mouth tells me he has no more notion of what has just happened than I. Somehow Draco has lost us the Boy Who Lived, and with him our one chance of freedom from the self-fashioned Dark Lord. An ache settles in my chest as my eyes flick back to that empty space, and away again. It hurts to look. I want to chide Draco, to tear him apart, but there are no words. I open my mouth to speak, my mind blank, when a thud and a groan interrupt me. I swivel to the source of the noise and am greeted by a heap of robes, which I have no doubt hide Potter's body.
My instinct is to drop to my knees at his side and feel for a pulse, but I control it enough to first incapacitate Draco, who is so stunned he doesn't seem to notice his wand whipping from his grasp and soaring over to me. I scramble through the sodden cloth covering Potter, pushing away enough to reveal a wrist. A slow, stuttering pulse answers me, and my relief is so great that a sob catches in my throat.
He is alive. Somehow, against all the laws of magic, Potter has survived. I hurry to remove his robes, needing now to assess the damage this ridiculous fight caused. I hear wet footsteps and in the back of my mind acknowledge that Draco has approached us. Stupid, fussy fastenings... I can't get this thing off! I tear at the clothes, terrified that the water-logged fabric might be suffocating Potter.
The seams give, and Potter is revealed. I draw back in horror. He is pale, sunken. He looks as though he has been dropped from a great height. I cannot fathom how Draco's curse could have had this effect, but do not stop to consider it. Carefully, I levitate Potter, intent on taking him to the Hospital Wing. I have forgotten my call for back-up, but Albus and Minerva are in the doorway staring at me when I turn.
"Mister Malfoy," I say, my voice as unsteady as my wand is not, "you will remain here and explain what has just occurred while I deliver Potter to Madam Pomfrey."
I make my way through the corridors, wand trained on Potter unfalteringly. The expression on my face is enough to prevent even the most curious of students from asking questions; the sight of an injured Boy Who Lived being carted to the Hospital Wing, though nothing new, is enough to fuel the flames of gossip in this school for weeks. They'll never guess what happened to him this time, that Harry Potter is now the Boy Who Lived Twice...
I barge in, the doors crashing into walls with the force of my entrance, shouting for Poppy even as I settle Potter on the nearest bed. I almost don't recognise him, and I wonder what Draco could have possibly done with that damnable curse. If Potter doesn't wake, there won't be enough of Draco left to salvage for potions ingredients.
Poppy answers my shouts in her usual brisk, business-like tone. She's pushing her sleeves up to her elbows as she approaches.
"What is it, Severus?" she asks, eyes moving from me to the desperate picture Potter makes against the lily-white sheets. "Oh, Merlin! Is that Harry?" she gasps. I can't begrudge her the exclamation, nor the disbelief. There is no doubt that the boy has been changed, and I drag my eyes away from his supine form in order to answer the question.
With a great deal more difficulty than I have had since I mastered language as a child, I attempt to explain what happened. Words, so often my armour and my weapons, fail me.
The house was almost completely levelled. Rubble lay like a miniature mountain range encircling the half-collapsed chimney, the only part of the building that remained even partially erect. Amongst the shattered glass, the broken stones, and the splintered wood that had made the house were the sentimental paraphernalia that had made the home. Photographs lay curling in the light rain, blankets soiled by dust trapped beneath bricks, children's toys torn apart viciously with stuffing spilling like fluffy white blood from their gashes.
A beam of wood shifted as Harry pushed it off himself. His head felt as though it had been cleaved in two and roughly glued back together. He groaned as he shifted himself into a sitting position, causing more debris to tumble off him. Still groggy from what felt like a good few hours of sleep, he squinted, trying to make out something familiar. He had no idea where he was.
He tugged his glasses off and wiped away some of the rain with a dry patch of his shirt. With muffled curses, Harry attempted to tug his legs free of the rubble lying on top of him. It took three tries before he managed to wriggle enough space loose to pull out. Standing shakily, Harry looked around at the debris. What had happened? The last thing he remembered was duelling with Malfoy in Moaning Myrtle's bathroom, and now it was morning and he was at a demolished house.
Well, standing around staring was getting him nowhere, so Harry began to stumble his way to the nearest road. His whole body ached. He tripped often, and eventually turned his gaze wholly to the ground in front of him. He was several feet short of where the front of the house would be when he saw the photo, weighed down beneath part of a sofa, fluttering in the wind. The photo's subjects were waving at him, wearing smiles incongruous with the environment around them.
Harry nearly fainted, falling to his knees as he examined the family within the picture.
"Mum?" he whispered, finger trailing over Lily Potter's bright young face.
He turned his attention to the fallen house once more, and understood. This was Godric's Hollow. And with the looks of things, the dust had only just settled.
Poppy is shooting an impressive series of diagnostic spells at Potter, her expression growing grimmer with each reading.
"Will he live?" I ask, reluctant to interrupt but desperate to know. I feel useless, stood watching her work.
Poppy doesn't tear her gaze from her patient, but she does address my question. "Without a doubt. He's dispensed a lot of magic and is suffering exhaustion. Aside from that, his injuries appear to be from some sort of impact, which I can heal well enough."
My relief is so palpable I can taste it, bittersweet and heavy on my tongue. All hope is not lost yet. My mind is so distracted with these thoughts that I almost miss Poppy's enquiry.
"– some of your potion to heal heavy internal bruising? I swear he must have dropped about ten feet to have acquired this level of damage at once."
I offer my assent and quickly stride to the fire, Flooing down to my quarters to fetch the potion in question. By the time I return, I am back in control of myself. Having recovered marginally from the shock that this war may have been lost, and having been assured by Poppy that Potter will once again survive, I can begin to contemplate how I'm going to punish the pair of schoolboys for the use of Dark Arts.
Draco should know better than to use the Unforgivables, and in front of a member of Hogwarts staff? That boy is surely too foolish, too impetuous, to be one of my Slytherins. And Potter... The mystery of his rapid improvement in Potions has at last been answered; there is only one place he could have learned that spell.
Poppy herds me over. "I can't get him to stay upright. Hold him while I administer your potion, please."
I don't bother to protest, though I sorely want to. I hook my arms beneath Potter's and pull him to sitting, then manoeuvre him until his head is cradled awkwardly on my forearm. I pry his lips apart and hold them that way as Poppy carefully dribbles in a dose and a half. He swallows convulsively.
Before I can rearrange him, Potter's eyes flicker open. They are unfocused, bloodshot, and the pupils unnaturally dilated. They are not even trained on me when he whispers, "Severus."
Before I can rebuke his forwardness, his eyes fall shut and he has once more lost consciousness.
My regained calm serves me well as I spend the night brewing whatever standard potions with a considerable shelf-life I imagine Potter to have depleted from the Hospital Wing. My mind is too active for decent rest until about four in the morning and it is just as well that I achieve something in my restlessness as not.
When I finally sink into sleep, it is with more than twice what will be needed to replace the potions Potter might use over the course of his visit, and I make a mental note to deliver them to Poppy before breakfast
It is the fulfilment of this task that leaves me eavesdropping at the pulled curtains around Potter's bed before the sun has bothered to properly rise. Poppy is shrill and annoyed, and I do not want to face her until the source of this irritation has been cured. And so I wait, and cannot help but overhear the argument going on a mere sheet of fabric away.
"... you thinking, trying to hide an injury like that?" she is demanding, and I can see her silhouette throw its hands up in exasperation. "You cannot leave this ward until you are fully healed, Mister Potter."
Potter laughs darkly. "I'm not going to be fully healed, Madam Pomfrey. I know more about this type of injury than you, and there is absolutely nothing in your – or anyone else's – power that's going to have any effect when dealing with this."
The last word is laced through with disgust, and I wonder what precisely Potter is so confident cannot be healed.
"I am quite capable of living with it, I assure you. Now, was there anything else, or am I actually permitted to leave?"
Even I believe it is too soon for the boy to gallivant off to his next adventure, and am gratified to hear Poppy speak words to that effect.
"You should not have recovered so quickly. One night of bed rest is not sufficient for what happened to you."
Potter laughs again, this time with what sounds like genuine mirth. "There's hardly much of a precedent for what's happened to me. I'm sure one night of bed rest is just fine. It's about the same as I got the first time a Killing Curse bounced off my head."
"But there are visible effects this time that we should at least attempt to counter, if you would just –"
Potter interrupts. I am incensed at his obvious arrogance. This incident seems to have served only to inflate his head further.
"Madam Pomfrey, unless someone has figured out a way to bottle youth and I've not been told about it, I reckon I'm stuck this way."
Poppy doesn't reply, and I cannot blame her. What could one possibly say to that? The attempts to bottle youth over the centuries have only ever been disastrous. I wonder what Potter would want with such a commodity in the first place.
"Now," he says imperiously, "if there are no further problems you'd like to address, I think it would be prudent for me to go visit the Headmaster and explain a few things to him."
Prudent? Just what did Draco curse him with before I came in? Was he forced to swallow a dictionary?
Potter begins to stride to the seam between curtains, and I back away stealthily. He is stopped when Poppy places a hand on his shoulder.
"Harry, will you at least allow regular check-ups so that I can see how your injury progresses?" she pleads, and the genuine concern in her voice gives me more than a moment's pause.
Potter's hand comes up to rest atop hers and he speaks in a low tone clearly intended to comfort. "Just try to keep me away."
He bursts out from his cordoned-off bed, and my mouth actually falls open in surprise. Yesterday, beneath the bruises and pallor, Potter had looked as young as always. Now, however, there is a marked difference in his appearance, the sort that only comes with age.
He is taller, by at least several inches. His shoulders have broadened and his chest filled out. His hair has grown inexplicably, reaching his shoulders. His face no longer has that boyish roundness, the jaw squared and darkened by the faint shadow of stubble. There is no question now that Potter is no longer a teenager. The idea troubles me.
"Professor," he murmurs in a carefully controlled voice, backing the address with a tight nod.
I barely have control of myself enough to return the nod before he is gone. What in the name of Merlin's staff has happened to him?
Harry had found no reference to travelling forward in time so far, but he was far from ready to give up.
At first, Harry had tried to research the Killing Curse, which was a profoundly stupid thing to do, given that he knew he was the only person known to survive it. However he'd got here, it was because he'd survived the Killing Curse once before. And because something had gone wrong with Malfoy's curse. There was not going to be a tailored counter to send him back.
So he started looking for any way to reach the future.
The library on Diyurn Alley had seventeen floors and Harry had not yet finished looking through the ground floor. Six months. He had been looking for six months and still had two shelves left. At this rate, Harry wouldn't finish searching the whole library for almost a decade. He'd be as well off waiting it out.
Harry tugged his thoughts back to the task at hand. There was no use in worrying about that and wasting time that could be better spent on today's books. There were twenty-nine today, if he wanted to get this shelf finished by the end of the week. Twenty-nine books that mentioned time travel and the future. Harry had originally spent months checking the contents pages and indexes of almost every book until he'd hit on a book about research methodology. There was a charm that could be used to make books mentioning key words glow. Hermione had probably been using it for years. Without the charm, Harry knew that any attempt to find his way back would have been hopeless. He pulled the first of today's stack towards himself and began the laborious search for the context of his key words.
Hours later, Harry slid the books back onto the shelves in the order he'd found them. He hadn't figured out how the books were sorted yet, which made it all the harder to find what he was looking for. But it was hardly something he could ask about: "Excuse me, but I got sent back in time by a Killing Curse. Any copies of Back to the Future I can borrow?"
His snort drew the attention of a wizened old witch seated at a nearby desk, who scowled at him as though he'd started singing loud and off-key songs about pornography. Mind absorbed with the task of composing one such song, Harry managed to walk right into someone. He bounced off the solid chest and fell to the floor with an 'oomph!'.
"Are you okay?" the man inquired, hand reaching out to pull Harry to his feet. Harry took the hand, surprised to find it warm despite being ice-white.
"Fine," he answered a little breathlessly, peering up at the owner of the hand.
"You are here a lot."
Harry nodded. "Uh, yeah. I'm looking for something."
A wry smile. "Aren't we all," the man replied dryly.
Harry found himself smiling back.
"So, uh, you must spend quite a bit of time here yourself to have noticed me," he commented, wondering why he was so reluctant to leave.
"I work here." He pointed to a small gold brooch on his lapel which read, 'Assistant Librarian, First Eight Levels'.
Harry nodded. "Great," he said, then immediately felt stupid for saying it. "I'm Thomas, by the way."
"Hello, Thomas," he answered, extending his hand once more. Harry shook it. "I'm Morgan. And I just got promoted."
"Congratulations, Morgan," Harry said uncertainly. Why would he tell Harry that?
"Which means I need a new assistant for the first through eighth floors. You interested?"
So that was why. Harry thought about his job in Muggle London, working in a cramped, greasy spoon café. Then he thought about how much time he would save if he was at the library already when he finished work. Then he thought about his boss, Milo, a man who reminded him unfavourably of Uncle Vernon, and looked at Morgan, who was watching him expressionlessly, waiting for an answer.
"When do I start?"
I deliver my potions to a grateful Poppy and depart from the Hospital Wing hastily. I hope to catch Potter before he is ensconced in Albus's office so that I can menace him personally when I share the news of his first detention. No doubt Minerva will be only too happy to join me in supervising – and lecturing – the pair later this evening.
It so happens that I am in luck. When I turn the corner, I can see that Albus must have been on his way to visit the boy and they plainly crossed paths. I am torn between making my presence known so that I can reprimand Potter in the manner he has earned, and waiting to see what information he has to impart to the Headmaster. As is my wont, my curiosity wins out.
"Harry, your education is of paramount importance. You have always been well aware of this," Albus says gravely, his tone chiding.
Potter looks irritated. "There is nothing remotely useful that I can learn from carrying on with classes. I need to be trained to fight, and you know it."
I am startled at the demand. It seems ludicrous, even coming from that spoilt, arrogant brat. Surely he does not expect the Headmaster to excuse him from classes as a result of this accident? But it seems that is exactly what Potter expects.
"There is time enough for you to learn to fight, my boy –" Albus begins, but is interrupted by a frustrated noise.
"There's not. Killing Voldemort is more important by far than my NEWTs, especially now."
I suppress a shudder at the name, astonished at the boy's continued gall in speaking it.
Albus shakes his head, almost sadly. "What I shared with you last spring was not intended to influence your attitude to your learning, Harry. I do not understand your urgency. There is still much that needs to be done before you can face Voldemort."
Potter grimaces "There's not," he repeats, his voice taut with impatience. "That's what I'm trying to say. I mean, I couldn't do all of them because I didn't want to take unnecessary risks –"
That does not sound like something Potter would say.
"– but the path has been mostly cleared. All that's left is Nagini."
I can make neither head nor tail of what Potter is saying. Nagini is all that's left of what?
"Harry, it was dangerous for you to undertake such a task yourself. I do not need to inform you of the repercussions, had you been killed," Albus says, sounding almost angry. I cannot fault him; Potter wants to risk everything to storm ahead. And by the sounds of things, he's risked it all already.
"It needed to be done, and when better? I was careful, I promise you. I did actually think about it before I went ahead."
"Harry, there is something yet you must do before –"
"The thing is..."
He trails off, and suddenly he looks much younger again, though still not quite his usual sixteen year old self.
Albus does not continue his sentence and I cannot blame him. Potter looks as though he is at the breaking point, and what Albus wants to tell him would break most. Instead, Albus tilts his head, waiting for Potter to continue.
Potter's eyes are beseeching and when he next speaks, there is a quiver to his tenor.
"I don't have the sort of time you'd like to get this sorted. I... I'll take my NEWTs before summer if you'd like me to have them, but I won't need them. I'd like to be prepared to face him sooner rather than later because I – the locket – I didn't learn, even after you –"
He breaks off, but the strength of eye contact he shares with Albus convinces me that the Headmaster is performing Legilimency. The boy does not seem to be struggling, meaning he permits it. I wonder what it is he cannot voice aloud. A spiteful part of my mind supposes that he has likely managed to embarrass himself in some way, and that he is trying to regain his pride by confronting the Dark Lord prematurely. This supposition is not supported by Albus's reaction.
"Oh, Harry," he cries softly. He brings a hand to rest on Potter's arm. "Come to my office. This discussion does not belong in the corridor. And I have a sudden desire for tea."
Potter smiles without humour and nods. They walk away, leaving me to contemplate what Potter has accomplished now to hurt that old man's heart so keenly.
Draco is slumped in his seat across from me, eyes cast down and a sullen expression pulling at his brow and lips. Neither Potter nor Minerva has arrived yet, and I elect to use this time to impress upon the boy the stupidity of his actions.
I lean forward, stood behind my desk with my hands resting on its surface. In a dark, low, hiss, I begin my lecture. "An Unforgivable, Mister Malfoy?"
His eyes dart up for a moment before continuing their study of the hands folded on his lap.
"He deserved it," Draco mutters.
"Without question," I concur. "But that does not make you any less of a fool. You will be expelled for this."
Draco shrugs. His assumed ambivalence grates.
"Did you imagine that you will simply leave the school and have the Dark Lord greet you with open arms?" Draco flinches. It is clear that his thoughts do run along those lines, and he is irked at being so transparent. "The Dark Lord would not be pleased, had you succeeded, Draco." My voice has softened, and is all the more dangerous for it. "To be bested by a school boy? To have you do what he famously could not? You would follow Potter in minutes."
That raises some vehemence in the boy, at last. "He's already given me a task to get someone powerful. He'll be pleased with me."
I sigh inwardly. Perhaps I should have addressed Draco concerning this matter before now. "And you expect this task to be easier away from Hogwarts, do you?" I ask, allowing Draco a moment to understand the implications before I continue. "You have failed already. You are a fool, and the Dark Lord does not suffer fools well."
Draco looks aghast. "That's not true!" he cries, but the protest lacks sincerity. He doubts his value to the Dark Lord now.
"Casting an Unforgivable is grounds for Azkaban. You are beyond lucky that you are not yet capable of casting that particular curse successfully, that the damage you inflicted is merely superficial. The Headmaster has not yet intimated to me whether you will be taken to trial. You will undoubtedly be expelled. I warn you against returning to Wiltshire."
Draco looks to be on the verge of tears, but his plaintive expression is wiped blank the second he hears a knock at my door.
I straighten myself. "Enter," I say. My door pulls back to reveal Minerva and Potter. The changes to his appearance are still startling.
"Professor Snape," Minerva says curtly with a nod, which I return. "I assume you have already begun to elucidate the seriousness of this situation for Mister Malfoy's benefit."
I incline my head. "Indeed. He has been made aware of his impending expulsion. Potter, should I assume you will be taking this to court?"
Draco cringes. He knows better than to rely on Potter's mercy. And he can no longer rely on his father's reputation to shield him from the worst.
"Uh, I was figuring we could keep it in the school, actually," Potter says, startling me and Draco both. "I reckon it's best that people think I was the victim of an ageing curse gone wrong, or something."
I frown, expecting Minerva to reason with him, but it appears she has already been apprised of this plan. "Why?"
Potter raises an eyebrow at me, and a smile toys with the corner of his lip. He looks at me as though he believes the answer to be obvious. "I don't want anyone to know about this. If Malfoy gets dragged into court, it'll be impossible to keep the reason for it quiet."
Understanding flashes through me, and he smiles as though he knows it.
"I don't want anyone knowing that Malfoy managed to get a curse in on me."
Draco looks smug, clearly ungrateful for his reprieve. Just as Potter wanted, I have no doubt; Draco will not question Potter's clemency.
And I cannot contest his logic. Potter's survival of a second Killing Curse is an anomaly, even one cast by an unqualified school boy; it is inadvisable for Potter to allow this incident to be widely publicised. However, I doubt he is aware of the full repercussions of his decision and it is better he knows now than figures it out later and reacts recklessly. "Mister Malfoy cannot be expelled on the grounds of a poorly cast ageing curse," I warn him. I am surprised to see him nodding, expression dark.
"No. But he won't be the first student to get away with attempted murder at this school. Or worse." I am not sure whether he is alluding to Black or not. He gives nothing away with his expression. His face could have been carved from marble. "It might be best if we keep an eye on him, though," he adds.
Draco's ego is rapidly deflated at this insinuation that he is a child to be watched, and a sulk settles over him.
I was certain that Potter would use this to land his rival in that Dementor-swarmed prison, and cannot credit his handling of this matter. It is almost adult, and transcends the pettiness and childishness I have been led to expect from him. He has taken the time to consider the larger picture.
A moment later, it occurs to me that likely Albus convinced him to take this course.
"Very well. Both of you will, however, need to be punished."
Minerva finally becomes active in the conversation as we decide on an appropriate means of punishment that will not too openly implicate the severity of the crime. I barely repress a cruel smirk. Oh, I'm sure that we'll think of something.
Albus's eyes are bereft of their customary twinkle, and as damnably irritating as it tends to be, I miss it now. Whatever the root of this meeting – and I find myself at a loss to explain it – it can only be bad news. Albus's dull eyes and grave face would be cause enough for concern, but there was no offer of sherbet lemons upon my entering his office. As ridiculous as it seems, that alone suggests that this matter is serious.
I shuffle my chair closer to his desk and lean forward, closing the gap between us. It is enough to prompt him into speech.
"The matter of my hand, Severus," he begins, and I close my eyes for a moment to gather my strength for this conversation.
"You have already forced my agreement in this," I whisper harshly. My breath catches in my throat as a thought occurs to me. "Has the incident with Draco altered circumstances?" My inflating hope is punctured with his soft sigh.
"Draco's wavering does not affect the Vow, Severus. Let my leaving offer you some protection, some manner of rank amongst those peers, and let it not bring about the destruction of another young boy caught up in things he cannot yet comprehend. No, if the time comes, I must hold you to that promise, my boy," he says, voice firm.
I press my lips in a thin line, and nod. It was a whimsical notion, and I was a fool to entertain it. I dread the day I must raise my wand to him. "Then what is the purpose of this meeting?" I demand.
"Do you believe that, given more time, you would have been able to prevent the inevitable course of this curse?" he asks seriously, lifting his hand for illustration. I cannot fathom his reason for asking.
I shake my head. "I doubt it. More so that my hand won't be forced before then by some rash action on Draco's part. He fears the Dark Lord will find out about his attack on Potter, and believes that completing his task will stem the Dark Lord's wrath."
Albus is nodding, but he dismisses my worry. "I am asking whether you believe it is possible to live through this curse, not whether I will die at your wand."
The statement hits my gut with iron-force. I ignore the rapid beating of my heart as he reminds me that his death will be my responsibility, and instead consider his question. "I have not given up my research yet," I admit slowly, unsurprised that he acknowledges this as though prescient of it. "It may be possible to counter the curse, if I had this summer. I am close, but not close enough. Draco will undoubtedly make his move before then."
"Undoubtedly," he agrees, but my news seems to have cheered him somewhat. He strokes his beard thoughtfully and considers me over his glasses. His eyes have a burgeoning twinkle, and I wonder that I ever missed that expression. "Severus, I am about to ask you for an unusual favour."
My hands clench around the arms of the chair and my nostrils flare. "Have you not asked enough of me already?" I say, knowing regardless that I will agree to whatever he asks.
Albus stops stroking his beard. "I have asked more than enough of you, my boy, and I regret the weight I have burdened you with. But I must ask you to continue your research."
I snort. "Is that all? I have no intention of stopping the search for a cure up until the moment you take your last breath."
He smiles then, as though warmed by my loyalty. "And I am grateful for it. However, it is my wish that you continue even after that moment. Irrespective of what happens to me, you must not forsake this research."
I do not bother to question him. Likely, he means to have it available should anyone else fall foul of a Horcrux on this hunt. I nod. "Very well." I am relieved that he asks no worse of me.
"Excellent!" he says with a very real smile. "Now, would you care for a sherbet lemon, my boy?"
I shake my head. I wonder if one day I'll regret always refusing those infernal sweets. Perhaps tomorrow I'll accept.