This story is a continuation of the story Reflections in the Silver Mist. If you have not read that story, there are major portions of this one that you will not understand. It is thus highly recommended that you read that one first.
Elementary, My Dear Potter
Prologue: There's Never a Dementor Around When You Need One
Friday, July 2, 1999 (halfway between full moon and last quarter)
Auror intern Harry J. Potter rifled through the papers on his desk, trying to look busy in the last few minutes before the end of the work day. His slave-driving supervisor, Mark Savage, had dumped a pile of notices, clippings, memos, and complaints on Harry's desk, none of which was urgent, and Harry was endeavoring to defer the task of sorting and filing them until Monday. It was a hodgepodge jumble of small claims and minor thefts that had been accumulating for four years, ever since the return of the evil wizard who called himself Voldemort.
Now that Voldemort was finally gone (Harry being one of the few in the wizarding world who realized how recent that ultimate departure had been) and, equally important, now that the Ministry of Magic was digging itself out from years of mismanagement, denial, and sloppy record keeping, it fell to the young trainees like Harry to try to retrieve Aunt Agatha's cloisonné pill box or second cousin Buster's collection of cancelled Mallorcan stamps.
Harry himself was more interested in the miniature Scythian gold horse plaque taken from the British Museum in 1995, or the manuscript of certain 'special' pieces from Mozart's The Magic Flute which were only played for wizarding audiences, and which had been on loan in London at the time of its theft in 1997. Savage, however, kept him working on the less notorious crimes, a decision that insured Harry would stay out of the notice of the top levels of the Ministry.
"Hey, Potter!" Cora Withyspindle, from the Duty Solicitor's office, Wizengamot Administration Services, stuck her head through the door into the clerical pool where Harry worked. "Anyone tell you that you had a visitor?"
"No," said Harry, surprised. "Who is it?"
"Hagrid's come down from Hogwarts."
"Merlin!" Harry cried, and rushed out in Withyspindle's wake. Hagrid never liked to come near the Ministry of Magic, and his presence was most likely a sign of trouble.
"There ya are," Hagrid said, rising as Harry walked into the reception room. "I were beginning t' think they'd sent ya out on some important mission."
"Important? Me? No such luck," Harry replied. "Anything wrong at Hogwarts? This isn't exactly where I most expect to see you."
"Wrong at Hogwarts? Nah. Right as rain mostly. No, I come 'bout something else. A certain mutual acquaintance as has experienced a recent change of stature and career, as it were. I wondered if ya'd spoken t' him recent like."
"Me? No." Harry glanced around, but the reception room and the corridor outside were both empty. "I visited him once, about two months ago, right after everything finally settled down. He seemed fine. I haven't heard from him since."
"That there's the problem. Nobody has. I been sending owls – it's got t' near one a day now – but he don't answer. Far 's I can tell, he don't even take the letter off the owl's foot – just sends 'em packing. I was sorta hoping ya could tell me where he was so 's I could pay a call."
Harry felt guilty, but there wasn't much he could do. "I promised him I wouldn't tell anyone the location," he said. "He's got to do that himself. If he hasn't contacted you, it could be because he doesn't want you there." Hagrid's crestfallen look made Harry feel worse. "Maybe he's just been really busy working with the townspeople," he suggested.
"Look, Harry," Hagrid paused and shifted awkwardly, "this ain't something I'm s'posed t' be telling people either, but I worry about him a lot. He has these 'episodes.' Did ya know he… well, he tried t' kill hisself once."
"I know that right after my mum died he told Dumbledore he wished he was dead. I saw that memory."
"Well, he took it a tad farther 'n wishing. He gets 'down.' Really 'down.' If he ain't seeing nobody and he ain't looking at his mail… Well, I get worried."
"I see what you mean," Harry said. "I'm off work now. Let me clear off my desk, and you and I'll go to… Drat! I have to see Ginny first. We were going out to dinner tonight."
"Sorry 'bout that," said Hagrid.
Harry and Ginny had arranged to meet at Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes in Diagon Alley right after he finished work. She recognized the look on his face at once.
"You're standing me up, aren't you?" she said accusingly, looking past him to Hagrid, who stayed out on the street. "Lucky for you it looks like this isn't that solicitor from W.A.S. If it'd been her, I'd have been really angry."
"No, it's Snape," Harry admitted. "Hagrid's just told me that for the past two months he hasn't had any contact with anyone in our world. Hagrid's worried."
"This is silly," Ginny pouted. "You know, he may have just found a lady friend, and you'll be barging into a very private situation."
"I hope it's that simple," Harry said. "But in that case, you'd think he'd at least have said something to someone, even if it was just 'Don't bother me right now.' Hagrid thinks he's depressed."
"Gee," rejoined Ginny, "I get depressed sometimes, too. I wish you paid that much attention to me."
Harry folded her in his arms and kissed her on the forehead. "I don't think that's the kind of depression Hagrid means," he said. "Apparently Professor Snape gets suicidal."
Ginny pulled away from him, drawing a deep breath. "You're joking," she said, and then saw that he wasn't. "Harry, you go with Hagrid, and you go now. I'll wait. You and I, we have all the time in the world." She pushed him towards the door. "You just let me know what I can do. Now go!"
One of the changes that had occurred in the aftermath of Voldemort was that Hagrid's case had been reviewed, and he was once again permitted the use of a wand. He had, by this time, become so fond of the wand the house-elves had repaired and encased in a pink umbrella that he continued to use it. Harry apparated to a spot in Lancashire outside the village where Snape had located, but still a bit of a walk to Snape's cottage, and Hagrid followed his apparation trail. Fortunately the area was deserted, as it was generally supper time. There was no one to remark on Hagrid's unusual appearance.
The sun would not set until well past nine-thirty that night, so it was more like late afternoon than evening. Harry pointed out Snape's cottage as the two approached and noted that it seemed unchanged since the last time he'd visited two months earlier. A closer look told him that cottage and garden had not changed at all. What had been cleared in May was still cleared, what had been planted was growing, and what had been weeded had regained a cover of weeds. It was as if no one had worked in the garden at all in the intervening eight weeks.
Hagrid pushed through the gate and rapped on the door. There was no answer; there was no sound, in fact. The place had the air of being deserted. Hagrid circled the building, trying to peer in through the windows. "Professor," he called a few times. "Ya got visitors."
"Give me a boost," Harry said. "I can look into the upper windows from your back."
Standing on Hagrid's sturdy shoulders, it was easy for Harry to check the upper story windows. The room in the front was empty, bare even of furniture. One of two smaller rooms in the back was furnished, and it was there that Harry spied Snape. He was lying fully clothed on a narrow bed. Since he lay on his left side facing the wall, it was impossible for Harry to see his face. He could not tell if the still figure was breathing or not. Snape had, in any case, not responded to their knocks or calls.
Sliding down from Hagrid's back, Harry led the way back to the front door. "I think we have to go in," he said, explaining to Hagrid what he'd seen. "He may be sick."
"Hope he ain't dead," said Hagrid.
Harry took out his wand, but before he could say a charm, Hagrid reached past him and lifted the door latch. It wasn't locked and swung easily and quietly open. "Wow," Harry breathed, "I'd have thought he'd have it sealed."
"Ya never know in these cases," Hagrid commented wisely. He entered first, then turned to Harry. "Since the door weren't locked, we're not breaking 'n entering."
"It's still illegal trespass," Harry pointed out.
"Maybe. We could make a case o' medical emergency, though." He looked around. "This weren't what I expected."
Harry joined him and concurred. The front room was sparsely furnished. A small room behind it was clearly intended for a library but the work seemed to have halted in the middle and piles of books held thin layers of dust. Only the kitchen seemed lived in, with dishes on the table and a pan on the stove.
And nowhere, nowhere, was there the least sign that an individual human being with a unique personality lived there. No photos, no pictures, no ornaments, no rugs… Not one single personal item in all three rooms.
Not one single personal item except… On the mantel in the front room stood the two soulstone coffins, green and purple, that Harry and his friends had spent hours repairing. Harry walked over to them. The purple one was empty, but the green one had numerous memory strands floating in it.
"Ain't no pensieve," Hagrid pointed out.
"That's right, Harry replied. "He's not looking at them. He's hiding them."
The stairs were between the front room and the kitchen. Hagrid went first, with Harry behind. The door to the small back bedroom was open, so Hagrid entered without knocking and said quietly, "Are you all right, Professor?"
Snape rolled over to look at them, his eyes at first dull and listless. Then they lit with a fire that shocked Harry with its intensity. "What are you doing in my house?" he shouted as he rose from the bed in one swift motion, wand already slipping from his sleeve into his hand. "You have no permission to be here! Get out!"
"I ain't going," Hagrid replied calmly. "I come t' see if ya was all right, and I'm glad I did, 'cause obviously ya ain't. Now get off yer high horse and…"
A bolt of red shot across the room to hit Hagrid squarely in the chest. The half-giant didn't budge, but Harry outside the room on the stair landing drew his own wand. Hagrid pushed it down. "I don't need yer help, Harry. There ain't nothing he can really do t' me."
Snape responded to this with a series of stunning spells as Hagrid lumbered towards him. The bedroom was small, though, and it took only a few steps before Snape was cornered, his right wrist firmly in Hagrid's grasp, his wand extracted and handed back to Harry.
"You let go of me, you great clumsy oaf," Snape hissed, struggling against Hagrid's grip. "You monstrous half-breed lump of stupidity! Half a giant means a quarter of a brain no matter how much brawn you have! Give me back my wand!"
"Ya ought t' be more polite to guests, lad. Ain't every day people drop in f'r the pleasure o' yer company. I think it might be nice t' go downstairs and make sure ya get somewhat nourishing into ya." Twisting Snape's arm down behind his back so that the smaller wizard was forced to turn and walk in front of him, Hagrid marched Snape past Harry, down the stairs into the little kitchen, and plopped him into one of the chairs. With his hands on Snape's shoulders to keep him from trying to escape, Hagrid said to Harry, "Will ya check around and see what he's got here f'r food?"
Harry's search was punctuated by Snape's vicious comments about Hagrid, which had started on the stairs and continued now in the kitchen. "You deserved to be kicked out of Hogwarts, you mountainous dung heap! Whatever made you think a mongrel like you could be a wizard! The only magic you ever did worth doing was sweeping up troll droppings! Let me go! I'm not eating anything you make! Filthy garbage! No better than poison! Get your hands off me!"
The only food in the house was some coffee and a partial loaf of bread. "Ya'll have t' go into the village t' buy somewhat, Harry," Hagrid said apologetically. "He's lost weight, and there weren't a lot of him t' begin with. Get stuff as is easy f'r a picky stomach. When he's like this…"
"Stop talking about me like I was your pet ferret! You're a vile, ugly, bullying tyrant, and the day you finally leave Hogwarts, everyone will breathe a sigh of relief. You know why they have you stuck out there away from everyone else, don't you? It's because nobody can bear to be near you. Let go of me and get…"
A wave of Hagrid's pink umbrella, and Snape was both silenced and bound. "C'mon Harry," Hagrid said. "I'll walk ya t' the gate."
As they left the cottage and made their way to the road, Harry felt his anger rising. "You can't let him talk to you like that, Hagrid. You're trying to help him, and he treats you like owl dung…"
"Don't ya worry none, lad. It don't bother me. 'Sides, he ain't talking about me. He's talking about hisself. Didn't ya recognize the ugly, bullying tyrant nobody can bear t' be near? We both know, him and me, that that ain't me. And Harry, could ya bring back a pensieve? I'd like t' look at them memories he's putting in that jar."
"They must be pretty unpleasant ones."
"I hope so. But that ain't what I'm afraid of. I'm afraid they're the good ones. I'm afraid he thinks an ugly unloved git like him needs t' be punished.
"I don't understand."
"Ain't that what dementors do? They take all the good 'n leave ya with only bad t' think about. Azkaban ain't got no more dementors, but that don't mean ya can forego the punishment."
"Why would he think he needed to be punished?"
"I'm hoping he'll tell me."
Harry went to the village. It was just a few minutes walk and, as he was certain it must have a market, or at least a small grocery, and as he wanted to get there before closing time – whenever that might be – he tried there first. Food was, after all, the most important thing. The pensieve could wait.
On later reflection, naturally, he realized he could have apparated to Selfridge's for a wider variety of food, gone to his rooms for a pensieve, and have returned to the cottage faster than it took him to walk to the village and back, but that is what hindsight is for. At the moment when it mattered, his first thought was for the village.
Now Harry had been raised in the greater London area, where every home had a garage and a car to go in it, and shopping tended to be done by the week rather than the day in large markets where the clerks never learned your name. He was therefore unaware that in small rural villages seldom visited by travelers – where the occupants of every cottage in a five-mile radius were members of a tight community – the sudden appearance in the evening of a total stranger, and a young one to boot, coming in from the north without a car when everyone knew that neither the Dodsons nor the Roaches were expecting visitors, was bound to excite comment.
In this particular community, knowing as they did who lived in the third cottage to the north, the comment went immediately to the duty constable. It might have been Tom Ridley, or it might have been Nick Cranmer. As it happened, that evening Hugh Latimer was on duty.
Harry was in the local grocery negotiating his way between the conflicting needs of Hagrid and Harry's own pocketbook. While as an auror he always carried a small sum of muggle money, it wasn't much. He was thus debating, under the keen eye of the owner, the relative importance of eggs, butter, bread, milk, chicken, tea, peas, and salad mixings when a calm voice behind him said, "Here now, I know you. You were with your friend looking at the old Prince place back in the spring. What brings you here again?"
Turning, Harry found himself facing a young man in his early to mid twenties with soft gray eyes and equally soft brown hair hidden for the most part under a domed and badged brimmed helmet. The image of authority was lightened by the summer uniform, for the constable was in shirt sleeves and waistcoat rather than a jacket and, being in the countryside, wore only a small billy club as a weapon.
"Oh," Harry said rather stupidly. "Yes. I remember you."
"I presume you're buying for the cottage. Did Mr. Snape tell you he had credit here? Bill, this is a friend of Rick Snape's at the Prince place. I'd be willing to guarantee his credit's good if he needs something."
"The Prince place, eh?" said Bill. "That's good enough for me. Nice to see he's got visitors. Was there anything else you needed, sir?"
"No, thank you. This is fine." Harry counted out the coins he had and let the balance go on account. As he started to pick up his bags and leave the shop, he realized he was going to have company.
"Let me help you, sir," said the young constable, taking one of the two bags. "I need to be checking out that way anyway. It'll give me someone to talk to."
There was nothing Harry could do. He was perfectly aware that 'checking out that way' was a ruse to get him to accept the constable's presence. He was equally aware that the young policeman knew he was a wizard. Still… the man might know something useful about Snape. "Thanks," Harry said. "I'm grateful for the help."
There was no conversation for the first five minutes, then the constable began it. "By the way, my name is Latimer – Hugh Latimer. I share the duty for this area with two others. If you need something, let us know. We like to be sure the outlying cottages are taken care of." He paused for a moment. "Had you heard your friend wasn't well?"
It was a loaded question. "We've been concerned," Harry admitted. "We're not sure yet there's a problem."
"It's no secret," said Constable Latimer. "Day to day he keeps to himself. A lot to himself, in fact. If he's needed, though, he comes out. Fred Allsop… his horse came with the colic and the vet in Colne said it had to be put down. Surgery was expensive, immediate, and likely wouldn't succeed. Fred wouldn't listen and went out to Mrs. Prince's house. Mr. Snape came at once and spent the night crooning over the horse. Whatever it was he did, it worked. That horse is fine today."
"So he's working," Harry said.
"He is when he is." Latimer paused. "The trouble is, he's really lonesome. When there's work, he works. He comes out only to work. The local people are afraid… Well, how can the local witch help if the local witch needs help? We're worried, but we're not his people. Is there anything you can do?"
It was a situation that Harry was not expecting to have to deal with. That the local population should be vaguely aware that Snape was a 'witch' was one thing. For them to understand that there was a whole wizarding population was something else entirely. It wasn't as if this place was like Godric's Hollow or Ottery St, Catchpole either, where a muggle community and a wizarding community mingled, mildly aware of each other at all times. No, here only Snape, who had moved in two months ago, was the local witch. It was spooky, and Harry wondered what Snape's grandmother had been like, and what had happened to her.
Hagrid came rushing out of the cottage as soon as he saw Harry and Constable Latimer. "There ya are! Ya took a bit longer 'n I thought ya would. Thanks f'r getting him home in one piece, eh, sir. Well, now that's done, he's got his chores t' do and I 'xpect you got yer duties…"
Harry cringed inside, unable to stop him, but the constable took it in stride. "You're very welcome, sir. Glad to have been of service. If you don't mind, though, I'd be grateful if I could pay my respects to Mr. Snape before I go."
"Snape?" Hagrid exclaimed. "Why, I don't believe I…"
"The owner of the house," said Latimer. "Mr. Richard Snape."
"He… I… well ya see… We've let the place for the month, Harry and me, and…"
Hagrid was thoroughly flustered and looked to Harry for help. Harry merely shook his head, then turned to Latimer. "We're having a little trouble convincing him he needs help. Perhaps you can talk some sense into him."
As they walked through the front door, Hagrid muttered a quick spell. From the kitchen Hagrid's erstwhile prisoner made his newly liberated frustration instantly known.
"You gargantuan pile of giant guts! I'm going to hex you into the next millennium! Truss me up like a chicken, will you? You're going to eat sea slugs! Where's my wand?" Snape appeared suddenly in the kitchen doorway, his face twisted with fury, but paused when he saw the policeman. "Excellent!" He waved a finger at Hagrid and Harry. "Arrest these two villains!"
Latimer immediately pulled a small notebook and a pencil from his waistcoat pocket. "Yes, sir," he said. "What charges are you filing against them?"
"Am I filing? Are you blind? They're trespassing, and they were holding me captive!"
"Excuse me, sir, but I've seen this young gentlemen," Latimer indicted Harry, "before. You and he were both together on this property last April and you seemed to be friendly. Do you wish to file charges that he is on your property today against your will?"
"Yes, you nincompoop! I do!"
"Very good, sir, though I must inform you that insulting a police officer is an offense, and that you are advised against it." As Snape spluttered, Latimer turned to Harry. "Your name, sir."
"Harry James Potter."
Harry gave his address in Avery Row, London. The constable then turned to Hagrid with the same questions.
"Rubeus Hagrid, 'n I live… well, I live at Hogwarts… at a private school."
"And where is that school – Hogwarts, you say – located?"
"Scotland," Harry said quickly. "I can get you the exact location."
"Thank you, sir. Now, Mr. Snape, you say they were holding you against your will. Where was that, sir?"
"Here. In this kitchen."
"But sir, you were not restrained when I came in, and I was talking to these gentlemen by the gate for a few minutes. Why didn't you attempt to leave then?"
"Because," Snape yelled in exasperation, "he didn't release me until you were coming into the house! He didn't want you to see me bound!"
"Sir, he was with me. I did not see him go into the kitchen to release you. How, exactly, were you bound? With ropes?"
"No, imbecile! With magic!"
Latimer closed his notebook. "Sir, you're asking me to file official charges against these two men, charges that will be reviewed by the county authorities, and you're claiming that they used magic against you. Do you really want to do that?"
Snape opened his mouth to snap something at the bland-faced young constable, glowered for a moment, then spun in the doorway and stomped back to the kitchen table where he stood with his back to them. Latimer followed him into the kitchen with Harry and Hagrid right behind. The presence of Hagrid made the room quite crowded.
"We brought the food," Harry said, setting the bags on the table.
"Sir," Latimer pressed, "Do you wish to continue your claim against these gentlemen?" When Snape didn't respond, Latimer asked, "Would you like me to escort them off your property?"
"Yes!" Snape barked over his shoulder. "That at least would be something useful!"
"Very good, sir." Latimer said. He gestured to Harry and Hagrid to leave.
"I'll go," Hagrid said, "but I ain't going far. "There's a rock down the road a ways 'n I'll sit there so 's ya can stick yer head out the door 'n call if ya need me. Now you eat somewhat o' that food. Y're looking too peaked by half. 'N be sure to drink the milk. Them rickets, ya know…" This last was said from the front door as Latimer held it to usher him out.
Snape had come to the kitchen door to watch them leave. His features no longer distorted with anger, he looked very young – almost as young as the boy Harry had seen in the pensieve memory in Snape's office during occlumency lessons. The boy who'd been attacked without warning from behind… No wonder all Hagrid's maternal instincts are coming out. It's like turning the clock back twenty years.
There was a small table a couple of feet away from Harry. Reaching into his jacket, Harry pulled out Snape's wand that he'd been carrying ever since Hagrid handed it to him. Placing it carefully on the table, he said, "We only came because we were worried about you. Maybe if you had an owl so if you needed something…"
Snape didn't respond, and Harry went out after Hagrid, Constable Latimer in the rear to close the door. Together they walked toward the gate.
"Now you can't stay around bothering him if he doesn't want you here," Latimer warned. "I understand you think you have his interests at heart, but he has the right to make that decision without harassment."
"Yes, sir," said Harry. "I'm going back to London now anyway. Hagrid will stay away from the gate and…"
Behind them the front door of the cottage opened again and Snape stuck his head out. "You don't expect me to eat all this food do you?" he yelled at them.
"That wasn't the original idea, no," Harry replied. "We were planning to join you."
"Well you'd better get back here then, because I don't want to have to throw it all out!"
"Am I to understand, sir, that you no longer wished these gentlemen removed?" Latimer seemed quite unruffled by the sudden turn-around. "If that's the case and you no longer need me, I'll be going back to the village."
"You get along, then," said Snape. "I'll be all right as long as Hagrid doesn't do the cooking. If I need you again I'll… Wait. How do I get hold of you if these two hooligans jump me again? I want you to string a telephone line…"
"Have you thought about one of those mobile phones, sir? They operate in most places now."
"Good idea. I'll think about it."
"Then I'll be going now if everything is in order." The constable went out the gate and down the road, glancing back only once to see that Harry and Hagrid were returning to cottage. Snape was no longer visible, having gone back inside but leaving the door ajar for them. Latimer smiled slightly, shook his head, and went home to his own supper.
Back in the kitchen, Snape was complaining. "What kind of shopping is this? No onions. No cheese. No mushrooms. How am I supposed to make a decent omelet with this junk? Honestly, Potter, do you need your hand held for everything? No wonder you were always such a miserable potions brewer. You can't cook either."
"Don't ya got some o' that out in that garden o' yers?" Hagrid said. "It's pretty wild, but if a witch has ever had a vegetable garden, it usually keeps itself going f'r a while. Where'd yer gram grow her onions?"
Snape stared at Hagrid for a moment, then darted out into the long summer evening. He was back ten minutes later with not only a couple of onions but sage, rosemary, and lovage. With the problem of making supper to solve, most of his bad spirits seemed to have vanished, at least temporarily.
Watching Snape cook was fascinating for Harry, since the only other magical person he'd ever seen prepare food in a kitchen was Molly Weasley. The two were diametrically opposite. Where Mrs. Weasley set the gadgetry of her kitchen into a whirl of peeling, chopping, stirring, and sautéing, Snape approached every facet of the task with the same meticulous care he used brewing a potion.
"Do you ever use a wand?" Harry asked as Snape lit his ancient wood-burning stove with a match and kindling.
"Potter, you never touch food with a wand. Haven't you learned anything!"
"Hey, I know you can't make food with a wand, but what about cutting it up and stuff like that? That part's just mechanical."
"I suppose you could make do with a wand if you were working under time constraints – like having to feed an army. Have you ever eaten army food, Potter."
"Don't get cheeky!"
Harry decided not to answer back. It was, after all, true that Molly Weasley was feeding an army of males, most of them ravenous teenage boys. He changed the subject, switching his attention to Hagrid. "How does it feel to be able to use a wand again?" He was leaning forward, elbows on the table, one arm flat, the other up, his chin propped in his cupped hand. "Legally, I mean."
"Truth told, not much different 'n it felt using it illegal," Hagrid replied. "Most folks as knew me knew I had it, but none of 'em ever said nothing. Guess that's what friends are for."
"Yeah," Harry agreed. "Friends are great with keeping your secrets. I don't think I could've made it without Ron and Hermione."
"I take it," Snape commented sarcastically from the other side of the room, "that the two of you are comparing notes on successful rule-breaking."
"Come off it," Harry said good-naturedly. "It's not like you never broke any rules yourself."
"And who told you that?"
"You and my dad used to hex each other all the time."
Snape turned to face him, leaning back against the kitchen counter, a French chef's knife held loosely in his right hand. "Your father and his cronies used to attack me. I used to defend myself. I committed two heinous crimes that justified my being punished. The first was that I arrived at Hogwarts with a friend who was sorted into Gryffindor while I was sorted into Slytherin, and despite this I still had the unforgivable temerity to continue talking to her. The second was that a highly placed Slytherin pureblood, and later her young cousin, was trying to recruit me into the Dark Lord's ranks because I was good at spells and potions. Both these things made me in your father's eyes a legitimate target for a wide range of attacks, and I retal…"
"That's not true!" Harry was on his feet, his face flushed and his hand going for his wand. "I've sympathized with you these past six months because you were going through a lot and I realize there's a lot I didn't know, but my father opposed you because he opposed everyone who supported dark magic! He was fighting for…"
Harry stopped because Snape had started to laugh. It wasn't loud, boisterous laughter, or a snide, sneering chuckle. It was that soft, uncontrollable laughter that at moments is nearly indistinguishable from crying. Snape turned his back, his shoulders shaking as he tried to master his reactions. "Let me guess," he said after a moment, clearing his throat and taking a deep breath. "I'll bet I can name the person who told you that."
"You're going to say it was Sirius because you always hated Sirius!" Harry cried. "But it wasn't just Sirius! Remus Lupin said the same thing!"
Snape faced the table again, his features now closed and tightly locked, cold and deadly. "Let me tell you a story, Hagrid. It happened at the end of the school year in 1994 – you remember the year we had dementors on the grounds? I was looking for Remus Lupin because he forgot to take his wolfsbane potion, and I happened to pick up an invisibility cloak under the Whomping Willow. With it I managed to overhear part of a conversation in the Shrieking Shack. Do you know, Hagrid, what Remus Lupin told Potter here? He told him that I hated his father because I was jealous… of James's Quidditch ability."
In the silence that followed, Harry felt his own face reddening with anger and shame. A glance told him that Hagrid was looking away, his face a mixture of embarrassment and mirth. Snape merely waited, his arms folded across his chest, a glint of malicious triumph in his eyes.
"Hagrid?" Harry turned to his friend for reassurance.
"Sorry, Harry. As a boy, the lad never did like Quidditch, and when yer mum got him t' go to a match, he cheered f'r the bludgers. It weren't til he were head o' house that he started to appreciate the game, 'n then it were because that were part o' his job." Hagrid shrugged. "Jealous because o' the Quidditch? It just don't make sense."
"Want to hear another?" Snape asked. Harry said, 'No,' but Snape didn't listen; he was talking to Hagrid. "Dumbledore told him that I felt indebted to James for saving my life. I was willing to protect the son in order to fulfill my sense of obligation to the father."
"He didn't!" Hagrid gasped.
"He did," said Harry, suddenly remembering that moment in Dumbledore's office. Remembering also that almost immediately before voicing the falsehood, Dumbledore had assured him, 'I shall not, of course, lie.' But he had lied. And Sirius had lied, and Remus had lied. And Hagrid? Harry thought of all the times when Hagrid had seemed guilty and hesitant, the times when Harry had been sure the half-giant was hiding something from him. "Is there anyone at Hogwarts," he shouted, "who never lied to me?"
"Probably not," Snape said, and returned to sautéing onions and lovage for a bread and sage stuffing for the chicken. The cubed bread had been drying in the oven, and now he took it out and mixed it with the other ingredients and began filling the chicken. "Supper will be rather late, but none of us has to get up early tomorrow, right?"
"Professor," Harry insisted, "did you ever lie to me?"
Snape slipped the stuffed chicken into the oven. "Probably," he said. "I don't recall particulars at the moment except I led you to believe the Dark Lord would really kill you – though as I believed that to be true myself, I don't think it counts as lying." He scrounged at the back of a cupboard and brought out a half bottle of olive oil, salt, and some pepper, and began making a salad dressing. "I did not lie to you about your father, and as you never asked me about your mother, I never had to lie about her."
Harry didn't respond, but instead moved slightly to one side to watch Snape's profile as he finished the salad dressing, then chopped and sliced the things Harry'd bought and the things he'd pulled from the garden for the salad. This was the face Harry's mother had known in her last year at school, after they'd stopped talking in fifth year…
"Professor," he asked. "Do you have the doors back?"
Snape glanced over, incredulous. "Whatever are you talking about?"
"You said before, when you were in the flask, that the doors were gone. You couldn't control what you looked at because the doors were gone. Now you're back in a body. Did you get the doors back?"
Peas now podded and waiting to be blanched, Snape carefully tossed and dressed the salad, serving it as a first course. "We haven't anything but tea to drink," he apologized, "since Potter neglected to buy anything." Nonetheless, they set to with hearty appetites, even Snape, for both socializing and cooking are good therapy for the depressed. Only after the meal had started did he address Harry's question.
"Doors… It's hard to tell. This body is strange. It's as if I'm not really connected with it. I do have fairly normal access to my memories, and I can lock some of them away. It's different from what it was… from what it used to be. I don't have quite as much control."
Hagrid nodded. "Best not t' push too much. Ya never know what can break. Don't want t' be creating more work f'r ourselves, now do we?"
Salad finished, there was an awkward moment. Harry excused himself and went out of the kitchen to the front door of the cottage. There was so much he wanted to talk about, but tonight he didn't dare. Back in January, when he'd first discovered that Snape's memories had survived from that terrible night at Hogwarts, his hopes of finally learning something about his parents had soared, only to be pushed aside in the hunt for what remained of Voldemort. Harry'd grown to like the tiny pensieve Snape, but this new one was more like the old one – more bitter, more defensive… And yet, theoretically, they were the same person, weren't they?
Harry looked around him. The garden still needed huge amounts of labor to be a real garden again. The house… "Are you going to furnish this place?" he called back to Snape.
"It is furnished," Snape replied from the kitchen. "Table and chairs in the kitchen, a table by the front door, a sofa, a chair, and a table in the front room, and a bed in the bedroom. What else do you need?"
"Lots," said Harry to himself, trying to remember if the few pieces here were ones he'd seen in the pensieve memory of Snape's childhood home. He rather thought they were. He decided to drop the subject for the moment and went back into the kitchen where supper was now ready.
In the village which, by the way, went by the charming name of Weetsmoor, Constable Hugh Latimer and his wife were just rising from their own supper. "That was delicious, Gill," Hugh sighed contentedly, patting his stomach.
"It'd have been better if I hadn't had to keep it warm for you." Gillian Latimer told him, clearing the dishes into the kitchen sink. "I get a chance to fix a nice loin of pork with prices going down like they've been doing, and you rush off to accuse some poor innocent traveler of shoplifting."
"I didn't accuse him of shoplifting. He's staying at the Prince cottage, and it gave me a chance to check out how things are going there without being too obvious."
"The 'Prince cottage.' Oh, Hugh, is that poor young man going to have to live the rest of his life in a home named for a crazy old lady who burnt herself up in a grease fire?" Gillian cut slices of peach pie for the two of them while Hugh poured coffee.
"Glasgow must be a fast-paced town, Miss Ross," replied Hugh, "to change the names of things so quickly. There are older people here who think I'm getting ahead of myself by calling it the Prince cottage. For them it's still the Rossendale place. And I don't think Mr. Snape minds. From what I hear, he must be kin to her. Bill Morley says he's the image of her grandson who used to visit in the summers more than twenty years ago. To judge from Fred Allsop's mare, he certainly has the family talent." He shoveled a piece of pie into his mouth and smiled.
Gill scowled. "You know it upsets me when you talk like that. Silly superstitions."
Hugh was toying with another bite of pie. He wasn't supposed to discuss police business with his wife.
"And I still say you shouldn't burden him with the past of that crazy old…"
"Mrs. Prince didn't start that fire, Gill. It was arson."
Gillian Latimer stared at her husband. "Arson? Out in the quiet countryside like this? No, Hugh, I can't believe that."
"It's in the police files. There are people in this town who went to prison because of it. Sam Logan spent ten years in jail."
"Sam! That sweet man! Why?"
"She was a witch. I was just a tot when it happened, but I remember growing up with the whispers about that night. They went to her for years for little potions and poultices, and for serious problems, too, and then one day the whole village got caught up in some kind of madness and they went out and burned the place down with her in it."
"Oh, God! Hugh, that's horrible!"
"That's what everyone thought. No one could explain it. They even sent experts in to test the water for hallucinogenic chemicals. The ones who went to prison practically begged to be punished. People moved away… When that young man bought the place – with his face… and saving Allsop's mare – well there's a lot of older people who are hoping this means the village has been forgiven. That's why I wanted to go out and check on him. He stays by himself too much. They're worried."
"They should be worried. A young man like him all by himself out there in that house everyone says is haunted. But that doesn't change the fact that there are no such things as witches." Gillian had eaten none of her pie and was clearly not hungry anymore.
"Nick Cranmer has the duty tomorrow. Come out walking with me tomorrow morning and look at the place. Especially if his friends are staying. You have to see the big fellow." Hugh grinned, and Gillian agreed.
The rest of dinner at Snape's home had passed without event. Harry was apparating back to London; Hagrid was spending the night. Snape didn't like the idea and threatened Hagrid with bat bogies if he damaged the upper floor, which he said was not rated for Hagrid's weight. There was a lively dispute as to exactly what Hagrid's weight was, so that Harry did not leave until two in the morning, while Snape and Hagrid did not retire until three.
He had admitted it to neither of the other two, but Snape had for several weeks been suffering from a peculiar type of insomnia where he would fall asleep, sleep for about three hours, and then wake up and be unable to get back to sleep. That morning he awoke at six. Hagrid was snoring thunderously, so Snape went downstairs to fix coffee.
The coffee was ready, morning light was pouring into the front room, and Snape went there to sit for a moment. He had just set the coffee down on the table by the sofa when a stabbing pain shot through his head. He pressed his fingertips to his temples, lost consciousness, and fell forward.
Upstairs, Hagrid continued snoring. Downstairs, Snape lay very still as a small pool of mist gathered around his head. Outside, birds sang territorial threats at each other in a symphony of twitters, peeps, and warbles. No other sound was heard for another two and a half hours.
Hugh and Gillian Latimer strolled up to the gate around nine o'clock. "Mr. Snape?" Hugh called, then lifted the latch on the gate when there was no answer.
"Isn't this trespassing?" Gill teased him.
"I'm following up on an altercation that took place last evening. I'd be remiss in my duty if I didn't make sure that Mr. Snape was all right," Hugh informed her smugly. "Mr. Snape? Richard Snape?"
The front garden had been cleared two months earlier, so the new-grown weeds weren't as thick there as in the back. Hugh approached the front door then, on a whim, glanced into the front window. What he saw alarmed him. "Mr. Snape!" He strode to the door which, thankfully, was not locked, and raced into the front room, cursing himself for having assumed all was well when he'd left the evening before. He knelt by the still, black-clad form. "Mr. Snape!" Behind him Gillian cried, "Oh, Hugh! What happened?"
Quickly, Hugh checked pulse and breathing. Both seemed fine, and the unconscious man might have been sleeping had it not been that Hugh couldn't wake him. He was puzzled by the misty vapor on the floor and started to brush it away, then thought better of it. Pulling out his mobile phone, he dialed the emergency number. The phone didn't work.
"We're in a dead zone," Hugh told Gillian. "I need to find a place where I can get the signal." Outside there was a slightly plosive popping sound that Hugh barely registered as he pulled open the front door. On the doorstep, he ran smack into Harry Potter, who was carrying a briefcase.
"Constable?" Potter exclaimed in obvious surprise. "Is there a problem?"
"Your friend," Hugh cried. "Something's knocked him out!"
Potter rushed past Hugh into the front room, skidding to a halt at the sight of Snape stretched out on the floor. Hugh expected him to kneel by his friend, but Potter did no such thing. Instead he took from his pocket a stick about eleven inches long, and from the briefcase a heavy bowl, like a shallow basin. Gillian was also in the room, yet Hugh had eyes for no one but Potter.
Pointing the stick at the area around Snape's head, Potter cried, "Accio Snape!" The mist coalesced and gathered into his outstretched hand, from which Potter poured the vapor into the basin. There was a moment when the basin was filled with swirling gray tendrils, and then a shape formed on its surface – a shape that looked remarkably like a five-inch-tall Richard Snape.
"There you are, Potter! It's about time you showed up! How long were you going to leave me there, anyway?" The tiny figure folded its arms across its chest and glared at Potter in righteous indignation. "It would have served you right if I had evaporated! What is that horrible boo-hooing?""
The horrible boo-hooing was Gillian, who had the knuckles of both hands thrust into her mouth and was staring at the miniscule Snape wide eyed. Hugh crossed over to her and took her into his arms, gently hushing her. He was sorry, truly sorry, that she was so upset, but the thrill of watching actual witchcraft taking place in front of him took precedence even over her shock. He had, after all, warned her.
"What happened to you?" Potter demanded. "Honestly, I can't leave you alone for twelve hours without you going all to pieces!" He now stooped to examine the still body. "He'll be fine," he said as he rose.
"Of course it'll be fine," Snape spat back at him. "It was fine before, wasn't it? It's me that was in danger. Do you have any idea how hard I had to work to maintain elemental integrity? I could have dissolved! Dispersed! Diffused! Disintegrated! Decomposed!"
"And that's just the D's," said Potter sarcastically. "You sound like a thesaurus. Where's Hagrid?"
"The big oaf is still asleep. Can't you hear him?"
"You stay here," Potter ordered, heading for the stairs. "I'm going to get him."
"Right," Snape complained to the ceiling. "Like I'm going somewhere. Idiot pensieve anyway." He glanced around and focused on the Latimers. "What are you doing here? This isn't a public carnival, you know."
Hugh had no opportunity to reply, for at that moment Hagrid roared above them, "He did what! That blame-fool poor excuse for a wizard! I'm gonna sit on him!"
As the sound of Hagrid trying to be gentle to Snape's staircase reached them, Hugh managed to maneuver Gillian onto the chair and stood by her with a hand on her shoulder. It was fortunate he had since, while she was prepared for a 'big fellow,' she was not prepared for Hagrid, who had to duck and squeeze himself through every doorway. Hagrid was carrying a pillow and a blanket from upstairs. Potter went into the kitchen for two more chairs.
"Morning, Constable," Hagrid said politely to Hugh, and "Morning, ma'am," to Gillian. Then he turned his attention not to the miniature Snape in the basin, but to the prone form of 'Richard' lying on the floor. Like Hugh, Hagrid first checked pulse and breathing, then went further to examine him for breaks or bruises. Satisfied, he lifted the body and laid it carefully on the sofa, the pillow under its head and the blanket covering it. "He's gotta stop doing this," Hagrid commented to the room in general. "Someday it's gonna happen on a staircase, 'n then we'll have real trouble. 'N you," he was now addressing the pensieve. "D' ya remember what happened?"
"Remember? Me? It looks as if you have a memory problem, too, Godzilla. How can I 'remember' when it's all locked up in that thing?" Snape gestured with an irritated wave of his hand at the sofa, then noticed Potter. "How come I'm the only one here who doesn't get a chair?"
"It's the nature of the thing," said Potter, sitting down. "All right, you can't remember, but do you know what happened?"
"What's that muggle doing here?" Snape pointed at Hugh, who was holding Gillian's hand. "And the woman. They shouldn't be here!"
"As I understand," Potter told him, "the constable here came by to see if you were all right. He was concerned about you."
"It's about time somebody was. Now put me back, and then you can all leave."
"Not until we find out why it happened. The only other time I know of, it was because I removed you together with a memory. This time seems to have been spontaneous. Could you have gotten back in without help?" Potter leaned back in his chair, crossing his left ankle onto his knee. "You may need us more than you realize."
"You blithering nincompoop! I never had a problem at all until you two starting bothering me, coming over and disturbing my peaceful existence! I finally have a nice place for a home, a garden to work in, and you have to descend on me like a horde of Huns…"
"Excuse me," said Gillian suddenly, rising from her chair, "but would anyone mind if I went into the kitchen to make a pot of tea?"
"What is that muggle doing here!" Snape screamed.
"Not at all," Potter said. "We apologize that things seem a bit inhospitable, but he's been through a bad period. He'll get over it." Then, as Hugh and Gillian edged past Hagrid to the kitchen, Potter added, "Better make coffee, too. He prefers it in the morning." He reached for the cold cup on the table by the sofa and handed it to her. "Thanks."
Once in the kitchen, Gillian ignored Hugh and began opening cupboards. "I don't think you should do that," Hugh said, not really trying to stop her. "Isn't that tea and coffee right out on the table?"
"Shh!" Gillian warned him. "Not that they're paying much attention. Look at this, Hugh. That little… he must be a hologram…"
"He's a witch," said Hugh. "They're all witches."
"That's not the point!" Gillian's voice came out more like a hiss than a whisper. "The point is, he just said he had a nice home and a garden to work in, but he hasn't been working in that garden for over a month. He hasn't been working in the house either. The furniture in that room was thrown in near the door and never moved. I got a glimpse into the side room, and there's a pile of books in the middle of the floor. And look at this kitchen. A few dishes, a couple of pots… There's nothing here, Hugh. If he's really enjoying this cottage, it doesn't show."
The embers in the stove were still warm from when Snape had fixed coffee earlier that morning, so Gillian stoked them and laid on more wood so that she could heat water for tea and coffee. Hugh watched her, admiring how she stepped into the strange surroundings as if born to them. It was lucky, of course, that the kitchen didn't need magic. He doubted she could have coped with that. "What do you think we should do?" he asked.
"Do witches have psychiatrists? That boy needs a psychiatrist. I wonder where his parents are. He should be with his family. Not here all by himself."
"At least he has friends…"
"Some friends! Bullying him like that! They may be part of the problem."
"I don't know, Gill. You weren't here yesterday. The relationship seemed… different."
Gillian humphed and continued making the tea.
From the front room came the sound of more bickering. Hugh and Gillian listened unashamedly. Hugh, of course, had to be alert for the sounds of potential violence, it being part of his job.
"If it weren't for me, you wouldn't be alive right now!" said Potter, a note of irritation now creeping into his voice.
"And that's somehow supposed to make me feel indebted to you? Were you listening to me last night? Let's try it in words of one syllable. The old man lied to you. There is no such thing as a life debt. I did not owe one to your father, you do not owe one to me, and I do not owe one to you. Got it?"
"Father's two syllables," Hagrid pointed out. "Don't you want to be alive?"
"Now that you mention it… No. I should have committed real suicide when I had the chance." At this statement, Gillian looked meaningfully at Hugh.
"Well if you felt that strongly about it, why didn't you?" This was Potter again.
"I was once again watching out for your best interests, so you owe me one."
"Right. Robards and I got reprimanded it for it anyway, so your delicacy was slightly misplaced. Besides, you just said there are no such things as debts."
"Life debts. Merlin, don't you ever stop being cheeky to your elders? This is a stay-out-of-St.-Mungo's debt. I wasn't worried about your standing with the Ministry. I was worried about your conscience. You helped plan it. If I'd really killed myself using your plan, you'd have felt guilty for the rest of your life."
"No I wouldn't have! You're a big boy. You have the right to make your own choices."
"Did it ever occur to you that all your meddling with my psyche may have damaged my ability to choose?"
"Well it would have occurred to you if I'd died. You'd have been all over yourself with guilt, Mr. I-Have-to-Die-For-the-World."
"Now you're just being mean!"
"Surprise. Like you never expected it of me."
"You weren't this mean in January."
"In January I was five inches tall and dependent on you for coffee." ("Y're still five inches tall," Hagrid muttered, but Snape appeared to ignore him.) "So I took out my little tambourine, danced my little dance on the levee, and said, 'Yessuh, Massa Harry, I'se a happy slave.' Now I can make my own coffee and you can leave this house, walk back out that gate and go home!"
Harry let the silence stretch out, then said, "That constable from town says you never socialize with anyone."
Snape paused, and Hugh wished he could see what was happening. "Bunch of countrified muggles," he said at last.
"I thought you weren't blood proud," said Hagrid.
"I got sorted into Slytherin, didn't I?"
"What about my mom?" Potter asked.
"I'd have been happier if I'd never met her. No. Edit that. I'd have been less miserable if I'd never met her."
"I thought you loved her."
"There may have been a time when I thought I did. Self-deception… Such a dependable human trait."
Quite suddenly the teakettle began to sing, and Gillian hurried to fix the tea. There was silence in the front room except for Hagrid saying, "Ya don't think they heard us, do ya?" Then Gillian had the pot warmed, the tea in it, and boiling water for the steeping. She carried the teapot and the coffee pot into the front room, Hugh behind her with five cups and saucers.
"At least," said Snape, counting the crockery, "they got that part right."
There was an awkward silence as Gillian set out the things on the table, and then Snape cleared his throat a little. "Dear lady, I fear you have not caught me at my best. My name is Richard Severus Snape, and I should like to welcome you to my home, humble as it is, and thank you for being so gracious as to prepare something for us. I regret that I am not, as you can see, in a position to show you around. The gentleman on your right is Rubeus Hagrid, and the young rascal sitting by the door…" – both men rose as they were introduced, both blushing slightly – "is Harry James Potter. They are, I am forced to confess, acquaintances of mine. I have already met our stalwart young constable. Latimer, would you mind…?"
"Yes, sir. Of course, sir. Gentlemen, I'd like to introduce you to my wife, Gillian."
"Pleased to meet you, Mrs. Latimer," said Snape as Potter and Hagrid murmured a greeting. "Potter, would you do the honors?"
Potter began asking 'tea or coffee,' pouring, and handing round the cups. When he got to Snape, he said, "Coffee, I presume," and poured a cup. "How are we supposed to do this?"
"That is a bit tricky," Snape admitted. "I don't suppose you could snag one out of him… No?"
"You've got some in the flask."
Snape was on a short fuse. "You sneak! You've been poking about in my things! I ought to trounce you! If I had my wand…!"
"You haven't got a wand? You did before. And I just glanced in; I didn't look at any of them."
"The stupid fool," said Snape, pointing at his unconscious body, "left the wand in the kitchen last night. If I'd had it and a pensieve, I wouldn't have spent nearly three hours puddling on the floor."
"I'll get it," said Hagrid, who was up and halfway to the kitchen door already. "On the counter, weren't it?"
"The question of your wand and your pensieve isn't the point at the moment," Potter continued. "The point is coffee. If you let me get one of the memories from the flask, I can bring you a cup of coffee."
"All right. Just don't hang around gawking. I put those memories there for a reason."
Potter walked over to the mantel where two oddly shaped, colored crystal flasks stood and unstoppered the green one. From it he took a thread of silver vapor and carried it over to the basin where Snape was. He dropped it in, and Snape immediately disappeared, apparently turning to vapor, too.
Potter then did a very strange thing. He picked up the cup of coffee in his right hand, stood beside the table, and bent over so that his face touched the floating mists in the basin. Hagrid, coming from the kitchen with another stick, slipped it into Potter's left hand and stepped beside him to steady the cup as Potter appeared to go rigid. It was, thought Hugh, an amusing sight. Beside him, Gillian pressed her lips together to suppress laughter.
The tableau lasted but a moment, and then Potter was with them again. Just as quickly, Snape, too, rematerialized, only this time with the cup in his hands, sipping at the coffee. The wand was sticking out of his jacket pocket.
"I don't understand," Hugh gasped. "How can he have the coffee when you're still holding the cup?"
"That's easy," said Hagrid, taking the wand from Potter and putting it into the pocket of the slumbering Richard. "We've got the form, 'n he's got the essence. Pretty simple when ya think about it."
"How Aristotelian," said Gillian.
"I wouldn't know," Hagrid admitted. "I just know it works."
"What does the form of coffee taste like without its essence?" Hugh asked, and Potter handed him the cup. Tentatively raising it to his lips, Hugh took a sip. It tasted like warm water. He let Gillian try it.
"I'll have to go back into the pensieve to get the cup back, otherwise this one won't hold anything whole again, but the coffee we can just toss out. That was, by the way, a very nice memory. I didn't know you and my mum went stargazing when you were in school."
"Moongazing, more like," Hagrid offered.
"How would you know?" asked Potter.
"They had t' go by the lake, didn't they? You think I didn't notice two students sneaking out after hours with a telescope?"
"How could that be?" Gillian asked. "Him and your mother, I mean. He's younger than you are."
Smiling and cocking his head to one side, Snape turned to Potter. "Ah, yes," he smirked as Hagrid looked up at the ceiling, whistling off key. "Just how were you planning to explain that?"
"Why do I have to explain it?" Potter demanded.
"You brought it up. We could have gone all day without mentioning me and your mother together in the same sentence, but no…" Snape raised both hands in a gesture of defeat, managing not to spill any of his coffee as he did so.
Potter took a deep breath and addressed the Latimers. "Would you mind sitting down? It will make this easier to take." Gillian sat in the wing backed chair she used earlier, while Hugh pulled over one of the kitchen chairs. Potter paced nervously for a bit and then started. "How much, actually, do you know about us? That includes rumors, of course."
"Actually," said Hugh, not glancing at Gillian, "rather a lot. I was three when the cottage burned down, but the village struggled with the memory of that day for a long time. The men found guilty of the deed spent time in jail…"
"Wait a minute!" Snape cried. "There was a trial? People were convicted for that? Why wasn't I told? I would have wanted to know!"
"You weren't born yet," Gillian pointed out, which sent Snape diving back into the mists of his basin.
"Is he going to be all right?" Hugh asked, then continued with his account. "Several people tried buying and living on the property, and every time they did, the stories were retold, so I grew up knowing it for a local legend. This was for several generations the home of the Rossendale family, who were widely known in the area as witches – good witches, healers and brewers of medicines. Everybody went to them before the National Health Service came in, and they were respected. They kept to themselves for the most part, but they were respected. The last of the Rossendales was a woman who married and became Mrs. Prince. They had a daughter, the husband died, and the daughter left, first to go to school and then to marry in a town a few miles from here. Her son, Mrs. Prince's grandson, would visit from time to time. They say he was a healer and a witch, too."
"Wizard," said Potter. "We use the word wizard."
"I thought a male witch was a warlock," Gillian said.
"Only if ya want t' be insulting," said Hagrid.
"Or demonstrate ignorance," added Snape, who chose this moment to reappear. The other two ignored him.
"That's about it," finished Hugh. "The neighborhood knows the place to be haunted, which is why no buyers ever stay. Local women come here when someone at home is sick. They say the fruit, vegetables, and herbs that grow here have curative properties. Certainly no one has another explanation for why they continue to grow untended after twenty years. Everyone assumes it's magic. The reason everyone knows about you," he nodded to Snape, "is because of Bill Morley. He nearly died of a fall back in the seventies, and old Mrs. Prince and her grandson healed him. He was driving by back in the spring when you and Mr. Potter were looking at the place and nearly had a heart attack. Thought he'd seen a ghost and came rushing to tell me. That's how we all knew, when you moved in, that you were family."
"Okay," Potter said. "you know about the magic. You were prepared for us. What you don't know is that our world has been at war for the last several years. Do you remember the Brockdale Bridge disaster three years ago? That was part of it. Anyway, last year we finally defeated the evil wizard who was causing all the problems, but in the fighting Mrs. Prince's grandson – by then he was a professor at that school you mentioned – well, he was killed. We managed to collect his thoughts and personality and store them in a magical container."
"That sounds wonderful!" Gillian's laugh was a touch on the hysterical side. "Do you do that for everyone?"
"No, ma'am. Even among wizards that's a unique occurrence. He existed like that, in a container, until this last February when we… sort of cloned a new body. That's also a unique occurrence, and that's why he's having trouble with it. The thoughts and the body don't exactly work together."
"Like rejecting grafted tissue, I suppose," mused Gillian. "How old is he really?"
"Thirty-nine," said Potter.
"Thirty-eight!" objected Snape from the pensieve. "Just remember, you don't age after you die. I am so looking forward to the day you'll be older than I am! By sunrise, November 21, 2018, you will officially be older than me!"
"Are you," Gillian asked next, "going to put him back in his… in the body."
"I'd do it now," Potter said. "All he has to do is tell me he's ready."
"I'm ready," Snape announced. "Just be sure it doesn't forget my wand again."
"Stop!" cried Potter. "We need to get one thing straight. You're the only conscious mind in there, so if he forgets anything, it's because you forgot it. Are we clear?"
"It's grafted tissue," Snape replied. "I can't be held entirely accountable."
"Get back in that memory so I can retrieve the cup, you infuriating midget, before I change my mind and leave you there."
Snape obeyed, and once again Potter leaned over with his face in the mist. When he emerged, he picked up the memory thread and replaced it in the green flask. This left a little gray cloud in the basin, which presumably was Snape. Potter carried the basin closer to the sleeping figure on the sofa, fished the cloud out with his wand, and held it against 'Richard's' head. The cloud seeped through skin and skull and disappeared. On the sofa, Snape sneezed.
"Are you feeling all right, lad?" asked Hagrid, bending over him in all solicitousness. "Ya gave us quite a turn."
"I'm fine," Snape snapped at him. "Get this blanket off me and let me fix breakfast. I'm starving. Are those muggles still here?" He swung his legs off the sofa and sat up.
"You know," cooed Gillian with a soft voice and a sweet smile, "Hugh is a dab hand at breakfast. I was wondering if you could show me around the garden. I've been dying to see it, and we could let them work for a change."
Snape peered at her suspiciously, then concurred. "It's about time someone else did some of the work. I'm going to show her the garden. You fix breakfast – and it had better be good!"
"Steady on," warned Hagrid. "First we got t' see if ya can stand without falling over."
"That's idiotic," said Snape, practically jumping to his feet, swaying dizzily, and sitting down again. "What happened?"
"Ya got t' go slow. Ya got t' get used t' the changes."
"Changes? There are no changes." Snape staggered to his feet again. "You see? Everything fine. This delightful lady wishes to see my garden. You will ensure that breakfast is ready when we return." He held out his arm for Gillian, to escort her into the garden.
"Don't worry," said Potter as he and Hagrid took Hugh into the kitchen to show him what food they had, "she'll be all right."
"I'm not worried about her," replied Hugh.
It was, in fact, Hagrid who spent the whole time watching out the kitchen window while Hugh checked the food supply. At first Hugh was a bit worried when he realized that there was no refrigerator, but the kitchen seemed cool in spite of the stove, things looked and smelled fine, he was going to cook them anyway, and these were wizards. He checked the stove for the temperature, then looked over what he had for ingredients.
"It's pretty late in the morning," he commented to Potter. "How would you like a Spanish potato omelet?" That suited everyone fine, and Hugh started slicing potatoes. "Why does Mr. Snape keep calling us muggles?" he asked after a moment.
"It's our word for non-magical people," said Potter. "Technically it's illegal to perform magic around you or even to let you know that we're different from you. We could potentially get into a lot of trouble for what happened this morning. I don't think Snape's worried about it; he just wants to be troublesome. Actually, his father was non-magical."
"It sounds like he's troublesome quite frequently."
"Don't go speaking ill o' the professor, now," said Hagrid without turning his attention from the window. "He ain't had the best o' things in his life, an troublesome's his way o' dealing with it." There was a small pause, and then Hagrid added, "Maybe ya ought t' be a mite worried there, Constable. She's got him smiling. I ain't never knowed him to smile much, not even as a lad."
The potatoes were cooking together with chopped onions, so Hugh took a moment to join Hagrid at the window. Gillian and Snape were at the upper end of the garden by a peach tree, and he was pointing out some of the overgrown area as if it were a rose garden. Both were talking like old friends. "Looks normal to me," said Hugh, and went back to cooking.
Breakfast went rather well, though it seemed a bit formal as all present did their best to be exquisitely polite with the occasional exception of Snape who, having nothing regarding Hugh's cooking to complain about, took advantage of the opportunity to point out the deficiencies in Hagrid's until Potter bluntly told him to 'lay off.'
"I beg your pardon," exclaimed Snape. "I was not laying on."
"Yes you were, and a heavy-handed job you were doing of it, too."
"Tha's all right, Harry," muttered Hagrid. "I don't mind."
"Well you should mind. He treats you like dirt."
"The question is not," pronounced Snape in an offended tone, "whether I treat Hagrid like dirt, but whether you have ever seen me treat anyone else any better."
"Isn't that 'My Fair Lady?' asked Gillian suddenly. "Henry Higgins, I think."
"It is indeed," said Snape, ignoring Potter and Hagrid. "Don't you think it was a shame they didn't let her sing that part? She'd sung in movies before. It cost her a shot at an Academy Award."
"Oh, are you a classic movie fan?" cried Gillian. "What do you think about…" and the argument about Hagrid's cooking was lost in a discussion about the cinema, a discussion that Hugh joined until Gillian lead it around to fantasy, and strange creatures, and then Hagrid chimed in, too. Hugh loved watching Gillian do this – it was a talent he didn't really have. Eventually the meal was over, and then he and Gillian took their leave of the odd trio.
"What do you think?" Hugh asked as they strolled home.
Gillian laughed. "Are you hoping I've been converted to believing in witches? Not yet, Hugh Latimer. You're going to have to do a lot better than this for that to happen. I wish I knew where the projector was for the hologram, though."
Hugh shook his head. "There's still too much of Glasgow in you Miss Ross. Whatever possessed you into marrying a country bumpkin like me?"
"It gave me that feeling of intellectual superiority I needed. Besides, you're a cute bumpkin."
Constable Latimer checked forward, backward, and on both sides for the presence of loiterers and, seeing none, slipped an arm around his missus and kissed her. "You'd do well," he said after a moment, "to cooperate with the law, or I'll have to take you in for questioning."
"Aren't you supposed to inform me of my rights first?" she countered. "I know what's what, and you can't deny me my rights."
"I wasn't thinking of denying you anything."
"What time do you take over the duty?"
"Not until six o'clock."
"Good. Let's get home, and you can consider me under arrest."
They continued down the road, hand in hand, and Hugh asked again, "What do you think?"
This time Gillian was more serious. "I think we have a few very disturbed people in that cottage."
"Not enough to be sure, but I did ask Mr. Snape about Mr. Potter's comment that he was being mean. He said Mr. Potter was a molly-coddle, and then he volunteered the information that in seventeen years of teaching, under great provocation, he had never struck anyone. I told him he showed admirable restraint, and that Potter obviously didn't know what truly 'mean' was. He thanked me for my insight."
"Interesting," said Hugh. "And you interpreted this as…?"
"I took the seventeen years of teaching as part of the act they're putting on for us. I wonder if the verbal sparring is the same, or not. It has that nasty edge to it, though… I wouldn't be surprised if both of them hadn't been abused as children, though I rather think that for Mr. Snape the abuse was more… physical. I couldn't say for certain without more observation, though. Take it as a preliminary hypothesis."
"And Mr. Hagrid?"
"A strange one, that, but on the whole gentler and better balanced. If I had to choose which one to send into analysis, I'd go for Mr. Snape."