Wintersalad │ Disclaimer: I do not own "Harry Potter" nor "Inuyasha." │ Written: 6/20/11 │ Posted: 3/17/12 │ Last Edited: 3/17/12

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[ Q U E E N O F S P A D E S ]

July 29, 1991

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INITIALLY, he had wished to arrive and leave as swiftly as possible.

With or without the girl.

So eager was he not to play Albus's game, he had asked no questions aside from who and where, then proceeded to apparate towards the airport right there in his office- Albus managed to make those terms quite clear and he was all the more sorry to have stayed long enough to have heard them. The slippery headmaster would add more than what he asked for in his answer to where, but would pretend not to have noticed the very blatant why unvoiced during the stretch of silence after he issued the order.

It was not his place to question his masters.

And he had no doubt that Albus was his master in that moment. Not his mentor, friend, or colleague. No, not even as his headmaster. The man had given him a task and expected it to be completed without a question. Oh, Albus gave his reasons of course, those he deemed Severus needed to hear, about owls and unavailable staff, but he strayed from the heart of the question itself. Why fetch the girl at all?

And so he had casted more than a handful of confundus-charms before, during, and after his flight to avoid unnecessary attention and questions about his one-way ticket towards Japan, his magicked papers, and all other tedious flight securities. If he didn't so happen to have been in one of his tempers, he would have had no need of flaunting his magic to muggles. Those sad fools might not appreciate his magic, but the other half, the idiotic, magical half of fools, would.

And they would ask questions for which he had been given no answers to.

And so he worried lightly on his poor hold over temper and judgment whenever Lily, the thought of Lily, was near. Terrible when her memory was everywhere most days.

But not here. Not here in Japan at the Higurashi home and shrine. Here, where everything was as simple, honest, and open as the sacred grounds around them. Where he can bask in solitude and steal a moment of peace if he so desired. There was no trace of Lily here. Not if he was able to let her go. Unfortunately, he had always been a man who took responsibility quite seriously, and she would always come back to haunt him before long. He welcomed both peace and torment equally- with relief and bitterness.

The girl had insisted on waiting until her grandfather's return. Apparently, the older gentleman had been away on a trip to an old friend's and was returning that evening. She claimed that she needed to say a proper good-bye, and though this was probably the truth, Severus detected a hint of anxiety in the girl. It wasn't as if he were stealing her away from her family forever, or at all for that matter, but he could understand the apprehension of leaving what was familiar and being completely alone in a foreign world. The child was only ten and had proven to be remarkably mature for a child her age. During the past few days, he had quietly observed her out of the corner of his eyes as she trailed after him around the shrine, keeping his quiet company and occasionally daring to pose forth a question or two in stuttered English. When she wasn't shadowing him, she was helping around the shrine and tending to her younger brother. The few visitors they had to the shrine all delighted in her presence and though the girl brought laughter to the adults and laughed along with the children, he could very much sense the restrained frustration behind her smiles every time someone made a subtle comment or query about her family and her episodes of what he assumed to be displays of uncontrolled magic. He could see that the girl was very much so a free spirit that was straining against the common sense of muggle society.

And so he wondered about the mystery behind the girl and her late night question. He wondered about Albus's intentions. But most of all, he wondered about his growing desire to bring her back with him to Hogwarts. To watch her grow and to aid her strength. To free her with his magical tutelage at Hogwarts as she had freed him with her blasé acceptance within her home and family. Neither gift was absolute, not by a long shot, but both were what had been previously denied and yearned for without any semblance of hope.

And so he stayed. He stayed to observe and to take in as much warmth as possible before returning to the cold of his own life. He stayed so that he may be given the chance to give.

Because as the young Miss Higurashi had already realized at her tender age, in order to protect something, one must first have the means. And as the young Miss Higurashi also unknowingly reminded him, in order to truly hold the means, one must first have something to protect.

And he had forgotten exactly what that was.

Upon meeting the Higurashi's, Severus had finally learned to accept what the passing of July 31st would bring. He learned to remember that it wasn't just about the boy or James or even Lily. It was about a boy, Lily's boy, and others like and unlike Lily. Like the young Miss Higurashi and her blessed family. Like young Draco. Like even perhaps Reggie and himself. If he had forgotten, he would remember or learn anew.

Together, along with the youngest child, they went to the local station to pick up the grandfather. He would've preferred staying at the shrine to walking around in the sweltering heat, but etiquette demanded that he escorted the family and not stay alone in a stranger's home, no matter how comfortable the Higurashi's were with him. Mrs. Higurashi had also mentioned previously that if her daughter was to transfer during the middle of the term*, they would need to complete the necessary paperwork. He volunteered his services to escort them to school so that they may go through the procedures together while the girl bid her farewells before heading towards the market and station. Upon the mother's voiced concerns, he also agreed to help her daughter buy what supplies they couldn't find here back in England, which pretty much meant everything magical seeing as neither of them knew where or how to get to the Japanese equivalent of Diagon Alley and Severus didn't wish to bother to try on their limited time restraint. If the Japanese ministry had yet to notice their small magical citizen at the Higurashi shrine, he wasn't about to notify them. Japan was known for its strong views on citizenship and nationalism- and he still didn't know what Albus's game was exactly. Glancing at the tired forms of the two females and fussing baby, he quietly muttered a cooling charm and the family slid him their appreciative grins.

Mr. Higurashi, senior, for Severus never saw the father and knew little about the secrecy surrounding the man, was a strange individual that may just very well be even crazier than Dumbledore. But like Albus, there were moments of lucidness where he detected much cunning and wit. The first thing the grandfather did upon laying eyes on him was to attempt to exorcise him.

Pity he didn't succeed.

Mrs. Higurashi admonished the man before apologizing to the potions master with a soft giggle, explaining that the grandfather fancied himself a Shinto priest with extraordinary powers and judgment of good and evil. He said nothing but noted the magical signature lingering in the air suspiciously as the older man played along indignantly. There was some truth to the old grandfather's claims- on both counts, he noted glumly.

He startled when a small cool hand suddenly slid into his. Peering down at the girl who was looking up at him with an upturned face, he frowned at her audacity and wondered if she had ever glanced meekly at him from beneath her bangs. Her straightforward eyes and concerned demeanor momentarily distracted him from her family's antics. Satisfied she held his attention, she led him away from the station ahead of her family.

The silly child held firmly all the way home.

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GRAMPA was terrible!

Biting her lips in worry, she sneaked another glance at Snape-sensei as he stared placidly in front of them, his hand loose in her tight grasp. She feared if she let go, he'd lose his way and disappear.

Leading the way, Kagome gave his hand a squeeze and ignored his sidelong glance down towards her in question. They both kept their gaze ahead as they walked back home, her guardians' voices soft behind them. She determinedly quickened her pace as she registered her grandfather interrogating her mother about their guest, voicing his concerns and suspicions of the man beside her. Surely, if she could hear him, then the dark man besides her most definitely did as well. And though he may not understand all, he'll understand enough.

"Kagome!"

She stiffened, her feet frozen on the first step of their shrine grounds. Sensei paused half a step behind her, patiently leaving his person within her gasp. It was the first physical contact initiated between them and at first she worried if such intimacy would be scorned by him. Snape-sensei appeared as a man who was private to the extreme. Over the weekend, they learned little of Hogwarts and learned even less of the professor himself- at least very little from the direct source. He kept to himself, usually finding a secluded corner of their home with a tome that appeared out of nowhere in hand (he didn't bring any luggage that she knew of) or meditating somewhere out on their shrine grounds. She dared only to venture into his private moments when it appeared he was taking a break between chapters or transitioning his mind to a new thought, and even then he spared her few words. He even guarded his expressions and body language jealously!

"Kagome, wait and let me have a talk with our guest before returning home."

But even though Snape-sensei never made clear how he felt about being made to linger around for her grandfather's return, he had stayed just the same. And even though he never sought their company, whenever they sought his, he always gave them his full attention. And though his answers were often brief and vague, they were always true and ready.

And so even though it was risk, she dared. She dared because he looked in desperate need of being grounded.

And grampa was currently being horrendously unfair and unkind in return!

Tilting her head back to gauge her sensei's reaction, knowing it would neigh be there, she sought his face for how she should respond to her grandfather's request. Tightening her grip, she decided to ignore her overprotective grandfather when she noticed him looking off towards the distance, refusing to meet anyone's eyes. It was unlike him, he who was ever so terribly polite, sometimes even to the point of rudeness. For someone with magic, a purification charm, faulty as it may be, may not be as much of a joke as it may be for others. And to sensei, she reflected, it may hold truer than to most of anyone else- because even now she recalled her first impression of him on her doorsteps and the despair and darkness that clung to him still at this very moment.

Blocking out the repeated calls of her name (he didn't even bother to address sensei by his name!), she half-walked and half-marched them towards the Sacred Tree.

Without speaking, she brought them to a stop at the base of the tree. Still holding his hand and urging his attention away from her person but not away from her, they both looked up into the Tree of Ages, basking in the magic of life and time. This was her favorite place. Here, where she sometimes wished she had all to herself, she came to find peace.

With the world of reality and common sense.

With her family and neighbors.

With herself.

She felt his gaze upon her again, her eyes closed to further her other senses, and she smiled a soft smile towards the filtered sky. Eventually, he relented and the both of them passed the afternoon by, standing beneath the shaded foliage, listening and soaking in the magic all around them. And never had either of them felt more at peace than with the other besides them in quite a long time.

Because magic was real. And hopefully, here, sensei would be able to find his peace as she had often found hers. Hopefully, here, the most sacred of sacred grounds, the magic she had always felt but never truly recognized would soak away his burdens and channel life into his weary soul. Hopefully, here, he would finally find his roots.

Because to Kagome, sensei was magic as magic had never been. He was the first to truly seem to understand her, to share a similar hidden darkness, anger, and despair. He was the first who cared and dared to try. He was the first to truly never lie to her in any way, be it hollow reassurances or polite falsehoods. He either gave the truth or gave nothing at all. He was in just a few days what she felt could be her first true friend.

And she was not about to let him go.

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A/N:

* In Japan, the school term begins in April and ends in March. Summer vacation is usually around the middle of July and ends in August. Kagome is actually attending summer school during this time, though Severus may or may not know of this.

Next up, Hogwarts!

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