Chapter 17

Trade off: Part one

Rapping on the door frame, Silverbane waited. Passing time between coming and acknowledgement by reading the titles of the five –six counting the one clutched in those pallid hands- books in the room. Sure he'd been seen –for though it was a screen there was a glimpse of green above book's edge, enough of one to confirm the act he suspected- the Seventh year sauntered in. It was with a sense of bemusement he took his seat, his place, on the edge of the bed. No consent given, but it was empty, that span.

So he indulged presumption among other things.

Eyes riveted with down, Silverbane counted ticks in his head.


How small the room seemed! The beds were so huge –so he'd remembered them- but now if he spread out he wouldn't have been able to lie down. Or sit, really…


How times had changed.

And he'd lost it, that exact moment between growing up and moving out, he'd lost some perspective it seemed.


A page flipped, just one time. Green eyes which had been the give away didn't even go up this time. So much for catching the Snakeling twice. Still, he waited, spying banners and posters here and there… Who'd of thought Tad was a Quiddich fan? But really, the Cannons, they didn't have a prayer…


A glimpse from the edge of his eyes, he watched green vividly, they weren't' tracing anything, were staying statue still, as was the rest of the boy, save his hands. He wasn't reading a word.

Enough was enough.

"Are you done yet?"

Silverbane's query was the only sound for five beats, then another page was turned.

"Sev, stop."

Though bereft of heat and steel it was an order. Obey, disobey, both lingered before the boy, each with its own temptations and stipulations. Then, one hand that snapped out, splayed and twitchy, arrested the move of disobedience before it was completed. With that, the choice was taken.

Looking up, eyes wide (and wounded, so wounded) green met blue, water conjoined to weakness, unable to tell where one met the other they blurred. As did the boy's vision. Severus dropped his head with a whimper. Using the hand, Silverbane guided himself to his Snakeling, wrapped slender arms about the shuddering frame.


The last was only uttered when those shudders looked to turn into an effort for flight. Recalling how the last had turned out, recalled being told off for letting it get to that point, Snake comforted Snakeling wordlessly for the longest of times.

"Now-" Now the moment was here, not right, but needed. The shudders and the shakes were on the decline. "-what happened?"

Silence, one beat, a two but in those spans many a heartbeat occurred, frantic, furious, arms tensed as the youngers hands clenched.

"Da… Dad… He doesn't'… He doesn't write much… and James… he… he just…"

Paper to ashes, ashes to dust. A simple jinx so simple it had more names than needed. A few syllables, a flick of the wrist, was all it had taken to destroy the only contact between father and son that had occurred in almost two months.

The silence, he'd almost had commented upon it before this. The elder was scraping up advice and will and strength to confront the boy on his relative's chronic silence.

This boy received no howlers for his detentions, and that wasn't half the blessing it seemed.

Because, on the other hand he received no treats, no letters, no "hope all's well notes" no… anything.

Except now, today, for some odd reason the trend had been broken.

Yet the exception had been destroyed before being read. Under the guise of house rivalry, driven by the bigoted pretense of culling bad blood and the punishing the wrong with a shady act of right. As if the crimson housed in the veins could sweeten with an act of cruelty.

"Is there… could you…"

Killing hope wasn't his thing. Didn't even rank as a passing past time of his darkest nightmare. Father'd called it cowardice, his older brother who'd taken him in since Father was in Azkaban knew it wasn't but had lost the right words during the trial called growing up. Experience taught Silverbane it was better this way. The boy didn't look up, too tuckered, nestled close after a rough crying jag. Having finally relaxed into the offered hug after… well everything Silverbane's sight caused black hair to stir. Chin on the younger's head, Silverbane said nothing, didn't have to. Needn't have to.

"I'm sorry."

Though not strictly necessary the most important things went like that sometimes. Not needed, but needed. It was one of those.

One of those days, among other things.

"Why… Why'd he-"

"I don't know, trust me Snake, if I knew I'd of stopped him, I'd of given him hell and back for thinking of it before he had a chance to learn the jinx I'd of…"

Well, innocent ears were spared what he would have done, perhaps it was better that way. The anger swelled his throat like a misplaced heart, a warning of sorts. Not wanting another fit so soon after the first –the poor Snakeling would have a heart attack if he had to sit and watch one of those on top of everything else- Silverbane settled for rubbing circles across the child's back and trying to breathe.

Wheezes shook him, soft rasps, and though the child surely felt them he didn't say anything. Except to look up, to squirm back, look up, and mutely ask through his pain if he was alright. Trying a smile, more of a grimace really, Silverbane nodded. He was fine, would be, eventually.

Once sure, once his voice was back for good, Silverbane cleared his throat. Not all pompous like, but because if he didn't he wouldn't of been able to talk.

That's just how it went.

"Sev." Insert cough here. Silverbane scowled at the unwelcome reminder. "House Head wan's t' talk t' you."

Because, to quote the dead man almost verbatim, there were some things that children should have to handle. And though he had nothing more than lines and pigment to his name, he was real, dead but a real adult. And this thing that'd happened to Severus smacked of things beyond schoolboy grudge.

"Now?" The boy's voice wobbled, perhaps he was thinking about… well the other less than pleasant encounters with the man. "Callow wants to talk to me now?"

Or perhaps he could completely misunderstand altogether. Smiling, because with children such ignorance could be endearing form time to time, Silverbane chuckled. The tension in his throat warned that he didn't dare a laugh, so he didn't. Shaking his head, Silverbane kept his grip loose but there, then on impulse reached up and ruffled the younger Snakes hair.

No response, save a grimace at gesture's end.

He didn't know to take hope or despair from that.

"Salazar wan's you, wants to talk. You're 'Scused from classes, he won't rat you out, or rag at you." Voice tightening, Silverbane cut off the rest. About what "Salazar" wanted to talk about. About how he, well both of them really, said the painting wouldn't show it, was worried, cared, and all that. He didn't dare speak, so he didn't, only smiled, and preyed the Snakeling would get it.

The gaze that looked up, both fearful and resigned informed one and all that the boy didn't get it, or much of anything at the moment.

"Go." He mouthed the last, voice good as gone for now.

A nod, a hesitant withdrawal, such were the motions the boy indulged before he obliged. He wasn't one for looking back, his (their) Snakeling. Not one for it at all. Falling back, half in half out legs mainly dangling over the edge, Silverbane wheezed out a resigned sigh.

And had to wonder, alone now in the the once big now small room… where the tradeoff was going to come in. In his favor that was.