Thanks to Badgerlady for rescuing my punctuation.
The house-elf had already brought a coffee pot up to the study on a tray.
"Thanks, Kreacher," Phoebe said, pouring more into her cup.
Severus began taking a surreptitious look around the room as Tim ensconced himself on the settee. The children didn't generally come into Potter's study. They crossed strong wards when they came in; Severus could feel that they were the type to keep things in rather than keep things out. That made sense—there were grimoires on the shelves that could be dangerous in the wrong hands, and magical bric-a-brac that Potter probably used in his work.
It would also be the best room in the house to contain any Dark Magics the child might be carrying around with him.
Phoebe settled herself down in the wing chair as though she had sat there hundreds of times before. "So, sweetheart, wanna tell me what's been going on?" she asked in her slow sweet voice. She propped her chin on one hand, rested the hand that held her coffee on the other arm of the chair: ready to sit there for however long it took for the child to speak.
Tim took a deep breath. He bit his lip. "The Dark Man came back," he said.
"You said that," Phoebe replied patiently. "How come?"
Tim shook his head. "I dunno. He doesn't either. Maybe because my head hurt so bad?"
The healer nodded but didn't speak.
"He keeps worrying about hurting me. He thinks he's supposed to be dead. Well, it's like he really wants to be dead. He's tired of living." Severus didn't realize the boy had picked that up from him. "I think," the child continued, "he sort of expects you to make him go away."
"Why would I do that?" It was difficult to tell, because the healer was so dark, but Severus thought that her face had paled a bit when the child talked of Severus' desire to simply be dead. Certainly her voice was cautious now.
Tim shrugged, looked away.
"You want him to go away? He scaring you?" Phoebe abandoned her casual posture and grasped her cup in both hands, leaning forward in her chair to fix him with an intense stare. The slightest push of Legillimancy drifted over the surface of Tim's mind.
Instinctively, Severus shut his mind to her, distracting himself with minor details. Her nails were painted the same green as her robes, with little gold designs on them. The same designs were repeated on her robes—they weren't European designs of any sort, nor were they Asian. Something South American, perhaps?
Phoebe's mental push met and slid off the images. Her eyebrows contracted in a frown. She set her coffee down on the little side table. Not taking her eyes off the boy, she drew her wand from its pocket in her robe. She pointed it at her cup and muttered a warming spell. When she was done, she laid her wand across her lap, rather than putting it away.
Tim shook his head. "Well, he's scaring me a little, but I really don't want him to go away, and I really don't want him to… you know… die." The child looked down rather than at the healer, plucking at a loose thread in the side seam of his jeans.
The woman took a long breath, seeming to make up her mind. "You think I could talk with him?"
Well? Tim thought at Severus.
Severus thought for a moment. His instinct for hiding was strong, but was there really any other way to sort this mess out? This Phoebe seemed competent enough, at least. She also had a strong magical signature, at least as strong as Minerva's. She should be powerful enough to rid the boy of Severus' presence, especially since he didn't plan to resist her in any way.
There was the child to consider, however.
"He doesn't want to talk to you in front of me," Tim said irritably. "He's going all 'Don't upset the boy' on me." Tim's sneer was worthy of Severus himself. "He does this. He thinks there's things I can't cope with knowing."
"Sounds frustrating," Phoebe agreed. "Well, I'm here and I can help you deal with whatever we find."
If only it could be so easy.
"He's being stubborn about it." Tim sighed, sounding defeated.
Phoebe picked up her wand. "What if you went to sleep for a bit?" she asked. "Would that work for him?"
Severus pondered this. Perhaps she could have him removed before the child woke again.
Tim was not pleased with this idea. "Promise you won't do anything without telling me?" he asked the healer suspiciously.
She nodded soberly. "I won't. Well, not unless something bad's gonna happen."
The child seemed to trust the woman absolutely. "All right," he said reluctantly.
"Why don't you lie down there, honey?" she said kindly.
Tim pulled one of the throw pillows over to lay under his head.
She pointed her wand at him and used a muttered incantation. Tim's eyes slid closed and his mind took on the slow rhythm of a deep sleep.
It was Severus who opened the child's eyes in the next instant. He sat up to look at the woman again.
"Hello?" Phoebe looked at him interestedly.
He inclined his head politely. "Hello." He wondered if she thought this was an elaborate bit of playacting by the child. If that was the case, she was going to be shocked. Unfortunately, he wasn't sure how to start this conversation.
"So, wanna tell me what's going on?" Phoebe asked, going back to her listening pose, with her chin propped on one hand.
"I'm afraid I'm not quite sure," he began. Phoebe's eyes widened as she caught the change in the cadence and pitch of his voice. The child's physicality limited his speaking voice, and Severus felt the lack. His voice was always his best feature, a potent defense and a powerful weapon, one that he'd cultivated assiduously. However, just as he'd learned to project so that his merest whisper carried to the back of his classroom, he could make the child's voice work for him.
"I awoke in this body and I have no idea how to leave it or how I came here. I don't belong here, obviously. I'm fairly certain my own body is buried in a crypt."
"Uh-huh." The healer fingered her wand, nodding slowly. "So, you have a name?" Her relaxed attitude abandoned. She was tensed to stand, ready to defend herself. Her eyes were narrowed and watchful. Severus felt her power draw in on itself, coiling like a spring. With some satisfaction, he saw that she was one of those witches who hid her power behind a sweet demeanor and a soft manner. Here was a woman who had dealt with dark forces before.
"I rather think it would be unwise to share that," Severus replied darkly.
"Why? I'm bound by healing oaths. One of them stops me from speaking anything we say outside of this room."
Nervously, Severus stood, pacing back and forth across the floor as Phoebe watched. "Yes, but what about the child?" he asked.
"If I think it's gonna will hurt him, I won't repeat it," she said. "But I happen to think that most secrets are pretty toxic. I mean, he's kinda involved here, don't you think?"
Severus raised one eyebrow at her. He wondered how the expression looked on the face of the blue-eyed, blond-haired child. "I highly doubt that he needs to know that a dark wizard is inhabiting his body," he sneered.
"A dark wizard? So, that's what you are?" She picked up her cooling coffee with her left hand and took another drink. "We gonna play twenty questions here, or you gonna tell me what you want up front?" Her right hand held her wand firmly.
Severus stopped pacing to face her. "What I want, madam, is to be sent beyond the Veil in short order."
"You want to die?" she asked, carefully sipping from her cup. Her voice was perfectly neutral, as though he had announced his intention to Apparate to Hogsmeade. "Why?" her eyes followed him, back and forth, as he resumed his pacing.
"I do not want to die. I am dead. I am a spirit that has lost its way so completely that I haven't even worked out how to find a decent place to haunt. So, your task is to exorcise me as quickly as possible," he snapped.
"Huh." She leveled her wand at him and muttered a long string of syllables that sounded like what Potter had used the night before.
The same light show appeared. Apparently this spell worked on the castor as well as the subject because Phoebe's aura appeared as verdant, shifting green. Severus ceased his pacing to stare at it. "Am I supposed to be able to see this spell too?" His academic interest in spells was piqued.
"What can you see?" she asked.
"Your spirit is green. And…" Severus tried to put his impression into words, "it feels… like a hot summer day somewhere. Like a…" he trailed off, not sure how to describe it.
Phoebe nodded. "Like a swamp," she said wryly. "Lotta 'gators under that green." Her smile was a little wicked, before she sobered. "You can see it because our hearts are connected. I been working with Tim for almost four years now," the healer said, staring at and through him. "This spell shows hearts and relationships. The quality of your soul. It also shows haints." Abruptly she dropped her wand and the spell fell.
"Haints?" Severus asked, not familiar with the word.
"Haints. Lost souls. Possessing entities." She nodded. "Can you see Tim's soul when I do that?" she asked.
Severus was interested enough that he didn't mind the digression. "I can feel it fluoresce and see it in my mind. It's blue—like ocean water somewhere hot."
Phoebe nodded. "So, you can feel it as well as see it. You're good—takes a lot of people a lot of practice to do that. What about you? Can you see yourself?"
He shook his head. "I suppose one can't unless one holds up a mirror."
"Huh," the healer looked thoughtful. "If you did, what d'you think it'd look like?"
What indeed? "A shadow. Darkness and cold."
"That's a little melodramatic, don't you think?"
"Why don't you tell me?" Severus huffed irritably. "Since you saw it."
"I don't know if you'll believe me," Phoebe said softly.
Severus growled to himself. Then, "This is ridiculous. Get on with it, woman."
The witch raised her eyebrows at him. "'S'cuse me? I don't think you're in a position to be making demands." Her voice had gone steely.
He dropped onto the settee with a sigh. "Fine," he said slowly, resentfully, "I respectfully request that you consign the remains of my shattered soul to eternal darkness or damnation or whatever. Otherwise turn me over to someone who can."
"Now, why would you be damned, sir?" She seemed to have finished her coffee and poured more into her cup.
"I have no desire to answer that," he replied coldly.
She sighed deeply. "See, trouble is, that I can't see that there's any souls other than Tim's in there. Maybe if you gave your name, or something else to go on, I'd have something to work with."
Severus looked at her through narrowed eyes. Names conferred great power, which is why the Dark Lord strove to make his name unmentionable. "Severus Tobias Snape," he ground out.
"Sorry?" She looked a trifle confused.
"That is my name," he informed her stiffly. "And as far as I can tell, I have been dead for nearly twenty five years."
She blinked. "The Severus Snape?" she asked.
"If you mean the Severus Snape who was formerly Potions Master and later Headmaster of Hogwarts, then yes," he admitted reluctantly.
"Huh." She sipped at her coffee some more. She used her cup as a prop to buy her time. She looked him square in the eye and when her spell brushed his mental barriers, he allowed her in this time. He could feel her start to rummage around, images from his life tumbling through his mind. With practiced ease she seized on the most thorny, painful memory. His upraised wand, a shaft of green light, a falling body. If she wanted to know why he was damned, he may as well let her know.
"Hoo," she gasped, pulling away from the image. "What was that?" Her eyes were wide and she looked frightened. He could see her hand was tight on the wand in her lap.
The wizard jumped up again, his agitation demanding motion. It was disconcerting to be so short, to take such small steps, to be dressed in Muggle clothes that did not flow and billow, did not hide him.
"That was…" he shut his mouth against the words because this body he wore was much more easily moved to tears than his own, and he would not weep in front of this stranger. He paced, measuring the floor with his repeated steps.
"Too hard to talk about right now?" supplied the healer gently, her serene façade restored. Here was a woman well accustomed to controlling her emotions in the face of other's trauma.
Severus had had little use for mind healers in his life. Most of them were insipid little snots who wanted to spend far too much time talking about one's troubles with their family. He always imagined that most of them would faint dead way if he told them about his days enslaved to the Dark Lord. Clearly, this witch was made of sterner stuff.
"Yes," he grunted. "Getting back to the matter at hand: now that you have my name, can you separate myself and the child?"
"I'm not sure I can," Phoebe said quietly after a minute.
"Well, surely there's someone at the Auror's office, then?" Severus snarled.
"Maybe…" she sounded hesitant, "But let me ask you: What's the last thing you remember before waking up here?"
Severus stopped moving and closed his eyes. "Poppy…she gave me a potion." He paused, then continued in a pained whisper, "I suppose that's what killed me."
"When was this?"
"Christmas Eve. Nineteen ninety seven."
"You know, I know there's a copy of the biography Neville wrote knocking around here somewhere. Have you read it?"
He shook his head. It was sitting in Tim's room, but after his first attempt to read it, his courage had failed.
"Let me ask you another question: Tim's talked about you since I first saw him. Where've you been all this time?"
"He is mistaken," Severus ground out. "I woke up in this body when the child hit his head. In all likelihood I was bound to that wretched wand."
"Who'd'a done that?"
His eyes still closed, Severus replied, "The Dark Lord, obviously."
"No. I don't think so," the woman said flatly. "See, I know that Severus Snape died in May 1998. And Voldemort wasn't in any shape to be binding anyone to anything."
Severus snapped his eyes open. "Then how do you explain my presence here?" he growled.
"Well…I'm kinda thinking that you're a part of him." Phoebe was watching his face intently to see how he'd react.
"Don't be stupid," he told her in a low voice, "I am clearly not an eleven-year-old child."
"No," she conceded serenely, "but you're not any kind of lost soul either. There is only one soul in that body."
"Perhaps someone more skilled should perform a diagnostic spell, in that case," Severus told her frostily.
"Sorry, honey, Mamaw's been gone for a few years now, and she was the best conjure woman I ever met. If Harry and me aren't good enough, she's the only one I could think of who'd be any better. The only soul in there is the same one that's always been there."
Wonderful, they were all incompetent.
Phoebe read the clear disbelief on his face. "I'm thinking we're about to get into some philosophy here." Her smile was a trifle rueful, although her hand still white knuckled her wand. "Is someone's mind the same as their soul?"
Severus remembered the conversation he'd had with Dumbledore before the old man had died. "Minds?" he'd asked. "We were talking of souls."
Numbly, Severus shook his head.
She nodded. "So, maybe your soul is wherever it's supposed to be?"
"Then why would the rest of me be here?" he demanded.
For a millisecond, Severus saw the woman's true expression under her unruffled exterior; fear. She was truly afraid for the child and feeling out of her depth. "I'm really not sure," she said softly.
They stared at one another.
Finally Phoebe said, "I gotta ask." She swallowed as if her mouth had gone dry, "Seems like it'll take a little time to untangle this mess. Are you safe to leave alone?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"I mean, are you gonna hurt Tim?" She seemed to consider this a real possibility.
"Madam, rest assured," Severus replied somberly, "I have no intention of harming the child."
She leaned forward in her chair to meet his eyes. "But you understand that if you hurt that body, you'll hurt him, right?" Another brush of Legillimancy to verify his next words.
"I do understand that," he said quietly. He wanted to snap that he wasn't so stupid, but he was unable to put the Dark Lord's victims from his mind. The wrecked shells they would become when he was finished with them.
She nodded. "I…uh…I think I better talk to Tim for a bit."
Severus nodded and quickly retreated to the back of the child's mind to contemplate their conversation. He didn't listen at all to what the woman spoke to the child about. It was enough that the child felt reassured that the adults in his life were taking action on his part.
Severus considered that the adults in Tim's life were far more useful than the adults in his own childhood had been.
Sometime later, the healer and the child finshed their talk. Phoebe insisted that the child attempt to eat something afterwards.
Phoebe's parting words to a troubled Ginny were, "I'll be back tomorrow."