Chapter 25 – Friends Old and New
The fact Potter had promised he'd return was one thing on his mind.
Sex was the other.
The Gryffindor was not as good as Finch-Fletchley, skillwise, but...
Once again, Lucius Malfoy's words infused his thoughts, like poison through water. Snape narrowed his eyes and savagely ground the cigarette butt into the pavement with the heel of his boot. He'd sworn he'd not smoke again, but today was proving to be an exception.
There would very probably be more exceptions too, the way the day was going. Muggle London, of all places, on a rainy afternoon; greasy roads clogged with buses, pavements clogged with greasy people with sharp-jabbing brollies and moronically driven pushchairs... Merlin's balls...he didn't even know why he was here...
Well, he did; Gryffindor's Golden boy. Shock-haired, flare-tempered Mister Potter himself.
The young man in question was currently in a tete a tete with Granger in a coffee shop not twenty yards from where he was loitering.
The snap decision to put a trace on Potter was probably a mistake...though bedamned if he was going to regret doing it...
When Potter had been a boy, the only type of passion he had ever seen burning in his eyes was that of hatred, and as his bitter, guilt-ridden Professor he had done his level best to encourage it. The way the young man had looked at him last night in the corridor could not have been more different; in that moment Severus had found himself rendered speechless, transfixed anew by the sight of his emerald green eyes afire in the torchlight...
He had dreamed, once, that Lily had looked at him in that exact same way. Though of course that dream had never been reality; worse still the woman had been dead a year by then. Last night in the corridor the floor had fallen away from him. His mood fragile, his mind in tatters...His heart...
He had no idea what his heart was doing; truth be told he'd assumed it had shrivelled up from sheer grief decades ago.
His mouth twisted sourly. Blasted dream. Blasted boy; of course Potter knew his secret now, he was playing with him, twisting the knife, he had to be...why would it ever be anything else?
His gaze swept through the drizzle to the opposite side of the street then, and returned to the shape of a person that was oddly familiar, standing still on the pavement, as all others hurried past him. He blinked in surprise: it was the expelled Slytherin; the boy, Avery.
Snape slipped back into a shop doorway. The young Avery was waiting outside a grand Muggle bank, all sandstone and iron railings. He was peering this way and that, and looking distinctly on-edge. Of course Snape could tell that the lad most probably wasn't waiting for his gran to pay in a giro...
Two red buses pulled up then, obscuring his view. Cursing to himself, Snape left the safety of the doorway and jostled his way past a bus queue. A rickshaw creaked by on the road, bell ringing loudly, then a rush of cars and black cabs, splashing and hissing through the puddles. When they had passed, Snape saw the boy had disappeared. His eyes darted.
There. Now he was with a large man in a dark trenchcoat, hood up, and they were crossing the road not ten feet from him. Snape turned his head away and hunched a little, pretending to be in the end of the bus queue. Luckily, the boy didn't spot him.
As they moved away, Snape turned and began to follow, keeping a safe distance. As the coffee shop came up on the right hand side, the man and boy made a turn right into a side street. When he approached the shop, he made sure to walk purposefully in a straight line, eyes forward. If Potter did or did not see him, well, he had an excuse now... but he was hardly going to act like he knew the man was there...
The sign by the door read 'Pansy's Coffee Shop.' By bloody Salazar...
The pair took a left down a narrower street after a short distance. This one Snape knew led directly toward Charing Cross Road. It certainly looked as if they were heading for Diagon Alley...
Hermione came to such an abrupt stop at the end of the street that Harry almost ran into her.
"They've stopped outside the Leaky Cauldron. Snape's in a doorway about three shops up," she hissed, casting a glance back at him.
"Right," said Harry, straightening his glasses and removing his toe from the filthy black puddle he'd just splashed into.
"Now they've gone in. Snape's on the move again."
"What the bloody hell's he doing?" Muttered Harry.
"Well, honestly if you don't know, how would I...?" Hermione shrugged. At Harry's hurt look she blustered, "Well, whatever it is I'm sure we'll find out in a minute...that is if we don't lose him...!"
The Gryffindor pair slipped in to the pub a short while after Snape, and did not find him inside. He, like his quarry had slipped quickly out the back of the pub into Diagon Alley.
The wizarding alley wasn't actually so busy this afternoon, but the lessened footfall did not make finding three wizards any easier. They had already disappeared.
"I'm sure they aren't far," said Hermione briskly, scanning the cobbled street and every person on it.
It was then they heard a terrible shout from some way further up the alley.
"Oh God...!" said Harry. Pulling his wand out of his pocket, he set off at a sprint.
The man and boy had stopped for a moment outside the entrance to Knockturn Alley, the man had then bent down to whisper a few words to the boy. Then the man had walked on...but the boy had hung back. Once the elder realised he was not being followed, he had turned, and Snape caught the first proper look at his face.
In that same moment the man strode forward and with a snarl of "insolent brat!" He struck the boy to the ground with his hand.
Snape's insides coiled. He aimed a curse, but to his horror, the great hooded man had seen him, or known he was being followed somehow, and was half a second faster. Snape felt himself being blasted backwards in a flash of silver light. His wand flew out of his hand.
A hellish pain bloomed in his right thigh, and he couldn't help but let out an anguished howl. Dazed, he felt himself being pulled up roughly by his robes, shoved against a wall, and a wand being held to his throat.
"Well well well...I thought I left you for dead, boy..." The big man rasped. The deep-set, mocking eyes and receding brown hair were unmistakeable, as was the too-familiar evil grin.
So HE was the Deatheater responsible...he should have guessed...
"Impotence strikes many a man in middle age, Mathos," hissed Snape.
Mathos Avery snarled and jammed his wand even more firmly under Snape's chin. "Interested in exploring what that word means, poof?" He spat. "Shame that curse wasn't quite on target... I could show you another one that would make your cock rot and drop off, not painlessly neither. Pretty boy or not, no witch...sorry...wizard...would come near you again."
"Sorry to be a bore, but I'm already familiar with the Vietus curse," returned Snape with a twisted leer. "I happen to know the Dark Lord used it on you...not that you ever had much there to brag about, anyway..."
At this Avery looked shocked, then his face turned blood red with rage. He balled his other fist to let fly with a punch. It was at that point he heard a shout behind him, then everything happened at once.
Avery looked round at Potter, his fist still raised. Snape saw his chance and stamped as hard as he could on Avery's foot. The Deatheater let out a yowl of anguish and released the pressure on Snape's throat. Meanwhile, Potter had let fly with an Impediment curse, sending the big man flying flat on his back.
Snape dived to the ground, grabbed his wand, and pointed it at his old schoolfriend, and friend no more. "At last," he hissed. In a moment he and Harry had the man bound and petrified.
"Who is he?" Asked Harry, offering Snape a hand up, which he did not take.
Snape struggled to his feet by himself, wincing. "Mathos Avery, a Deatheater the Ministry would be very interested in speaking to. Additionally...my torturer."
And the beginning of my path into oblivion, he thought to himself.
Harry seemed to piece it all together and gave him a solemn nod. "What do you want to do with him?"
The Slytherin's lip curled. "Well... I happen to know that extreme genital torture would unfortunately be out of the question..."
Harry looked bewildered. "Er..."
Snape did not offer him an explanation. Instead, he took a small phial from his pocket and swallowed it. It seemed to give him a little more strength standing.
A small but curious crowd was beginning to gather around them now, and people were peering out of shop doors and windows. Harry heard someone running behind him and turned.
"Harry...!" Hermione approached, her eyes wide. "What happened?"
The Gryffindor nodded down toward the petrified man and smiled. "we finally have Pucey's torturer."
Hermione stared at the man's face, which was locked in an angry scowl by the spell. "Oh! You know...He does look kind of familiar..."
"He left Hogwarts in 1978." Offered Snape, but Hermione wasn't listening.
"I've read so much archive stuff though, it could be from anywhere..."
Snape looked irked. "Trust me girl, class of '78...Slytherin House...Wanted for ten murders, rape, countless tortures, two counts of poisoning...and the bloody rest..."
"Oh," Hermione finally heard him. "Sorry, I momentarily forgot..." She peered more closely. "...Are you hurt?"
"Nothing a few potions won't fix," returned Snape stiffly.
"But you're pale, and you're barely putting any weight on that leg...!"
"Enough of your ministrations, Granger!" He hissed back through gritted teeth. "I shall deal with it when I get back."
Harry looked away awkwardly, and spotted the young Avery then; Felix had taken shelter and was crouching in a doorway, and was looking at the scene with a mixture of fear and grief.
"Oh Merlin...What are we going to do with the lad?"
"Take him back to school, obviously," replied Snape. "Have a firm word with McGonagall...supervise the students a little more closely..."
"And this brute?" Harry kicked hard at Mathos' shin with the point of his boot. The Deatheater's eyes bulged.
Snape regarded the man on the ground as if he stank of hippogriff piss. "Yourself and Granger will have to take him in, Potter, obviously, I cannot do it."
Harry nodded. He cast an eye about him again and caught sight of a black robe decorated with a gold clasp in the shape of an eagle claw. But as soon as he had glimpsed it, it was lost in the crowd.
"We should get going," he said quietly to the others. "We have company...and it's not good company..."
Snape's eyes fixed on him, he raised an eyebrow. "Unsurprising, considering the scene. An additional thing to inform the Office about, when you go..."
The young Gryffindor knew what he was referring to. This little public scene, with Potter coming to the rescue of Pucey, then having a little chat with him, was obviously irreparably bad for their undercover work at the PBA. Then again, Malefice's group wasn't exactly illegal as it stood...they had not killed, maimed or broken any rules as far as they could see. Regardless, The Department of Magical Law Enforcement would probably appreciate a few tip offs regarding certain of the members' whereabouts.
Even though their cover was blown, inwardly, Harry was actually glad he did not have to pretend to be András Sike again.
The three of them apparated a short while later, Harry and Hermione taking the petrified Death Eater with them. They went directly to the Ministery, and before long they had their first leads to the PBA, and Mathos Avery had taken his first, long overdue step toward being thrown into Azkaban.
Snape, meanwhile, had taken it upon himself to transport the young Avery back to Hogwarts. On the way the boy surprisingly poured his heart out to him. He found out that the boy's parents had both fallen sick and he had been sent to live with his grandmother. Mathos had also been in hiding there, nephew of the grandmother as he was, she couldn't bear to give him up. Since he had been expelled, the boy had found himself at the beck and call of the man ever since...
After Snape had left the boy with Minerva he turned wearily to his dungeon rooms. His leg was sending out burning hot stabs of fire with every step. He felt distinctly feverish...
When he got in, he examined his thigh – the skin on top was horribly shrivelled and the veins were dark grey. He took two potions, then murmured a charm repeatedly until the skin began to tighten and smooth out again. It would likely leave a scar – Flitwick could probably do a better job but he was hardly bothering him today.
Shame Potter didn't have Lily's skills with charms...
Snape paused, then sneered for allowing himself to think such a thing. Potter was not here now, after all...
He had been a fool... led on by false green eyes...
Ending the charm, Snape took himself off to his bedroom; he felt drained and the fever had not abated much at all, even following the maximum dosages. He felt jittery, upset and exhausted. It was likely sleep that was needed now; especially as last night had contained so little of it.
He lay down atop the covers and stared at the ceiling. One hour. Two hours.
Sleep did not come to him.
Neither did Potter.