An Excerpt from the Memoirs of Severus Snape

Memories are funny things. All they are, really, are snapshots in time, taken with no telling what shall remain in the picture and what shall be cut out of the edges. There is no telling what would become trivial and what would end up somehow important. All we know is that we see them perfectly, only in retrospect...

The Lehman house.

Tobias had dropped off young Severus with his aunt and cousin. Severus didn't mind. Tobias didn't know it, but there was magic in the Lehman household; not only was Aunt Lucy a Muggleborn witch, Uncle Alain, her husband, was a pureblood wizard, and their daughter Minstrel was naturally a half-blood; in fact, she attended Hogwarts a year below Severus. In retrospect Severus thought that he ought to have taken to hanging out at the Lehmans' earlier, but he'd never been very comfortable with them - they were a close-knit, well-to-do, religious family - and he'd never found much in common with them, until Minstrel entered Hogwarts.

Old Slughorn was delighted with Minstrel. He had tried to "collect" her during her second week at school, and, for good measure, teamed her up with two of his favorite Slytherins for "Advanced Potions Lessons" under an upperclassman tutor - Severus himself. Forced to work in close contact with his cousin (as well as the aristocratic "young Master" Regulus Black, and the third member of the Potions team, Jade Aelfwynd, a boy so beautiful he ought to have been a girl), Severus found that his cousin was not the straightlaced Ravenclaw he expected; in fact, she was more than a match for her teammates' shenanigans. More than once Severus found himself agreeing with Slughorn that she ought to have been in his own House, or at least in Lily's. But (perhaps because she hung out with Regulus a lot) she hated Gryffindor (read: Black, Potter, Pettigrew and Lupin, in that order) with a vengeance. Score one for Minstrel in Severus's esteem.

In any case, between Potions tutoring, plotting vengeance on the Marauders (as the group of Potter had been heard to call themselves), and the number of times that Severus had been forced to make excuses, cover-ups and alibis for the presence of a female Ravenclaw in the Slytherin Boys' Dormitories, Severus found that he liked his cousin very much indeed.

He first accepted an invitation to their house at the end of Minstrel's first (Severus's second) year. Lily and her family had gone on a ten-day trip and Severus had nothing to look forward to but his father ignoring his presence (on a good day). When Tobias brought home the mail, however, it had included a neat little cream-colored envelope of good heavy card, addressed to Severus, which turned out to contain a formal invitation to tea. At that point Severus would have braved even clothes-shopping just to get out of the house, so he convinced his father to let him go. The invitation to tea was followed by an invitation to supper two days later, and then an invitation to spend the night, and in short order the Lehman house was open to Severus "any time he wanted to come by". He still didn't go there very often, first because he preferred spending alone time with Lily, and secondly because he couldn't quite shake the feeling that he was being a Huckleberry Finn in Aunt Polly's parlor; but he still went over, now and then, whether Tobias would consent to his going or no.

It was the one place Severus felt any sort of welcome.

Memories are funny things. Even when your mind refuses to remember them, flashes of emotion are triggered by the scent of someone's perfume, the sound of an old song, the weight of someone's hand in yours. Sometimes memories aren't stored in the brain, but in the heart.

Afternoon at the Lehman house.

Uncle Alain was teaching Minstrel some kitchen basics; it was his hobby to cook in the Muggle style, and he encouraged his daughter to learn the skills "because food is one of the five exceptions to Gamp's Law of Elementary Transfiguration and anything that escapes good transfiguration is worth learning to do with your own hands." Severus wasn't very sure about his uncle's logic, but there was a certain comfortable camaraderie in the domestic activity that he had not felt in his own house since his mother had died. He was pleased to be included in the little class, and funnelled all his energies into absorbing as much of the afternoon into himself.

The children had been tasked to prepare the ingredients for the day's dish. "The flavor of garlic is in its essential oils," Alain explained to them with an air half like a school-teacher and half like a choosy artist, after he had inspected the chopped onions and pronounced them satisfactory. "That is why, unlike onions, garlic is not generally just sliced or chopped."

Severus, who had been unsuccessfully trying to peel the garlic by picking at the skin with his fingernails, and who had been planning to slice his share just like he had the onions, asked, "Then what are we supposed to do?"

"Crush it," Alain said swiftly, "before slicing, mincing, mashing, or whatever else you want to do. It will also make the job of peeling a lot easier."

Severus looked skeptically at his knife, turned it over to inspect the butt of the handle, then looked back at Alain, who chuckled. "Try using the flat of your blade."

Shrugging, Severus pressed the flat of his knife against the clove, which split apart and came away from the skin. "Harder," prompted Alain, and Severus pressed down even more. The bruised and battered clove began to fill the room with its pungent aroma. Minstrel, who had done the same thing, was smiling. "Rad," she said. "Now, Dad, what was that thing you were doing, that mincing thing? You were really fast."

Evening at the smallest Potions classroom. Severus and his three mentees were working on the Draught of the Living Death, but they were having difficulties with the instructions on line three, which were to cut up sopophorous beans to release their juice.

"This book is dumb," declared Regulus hotly, throwing his copy of Advanced Potion-Making down. "How're you supposed to cut the darn things? They fricking bounce!"

"Borage must know something we don't," Minstrel said huffily. Her hair beginning to come out of its bun, she had pulled at the sides of her head so often.

"I'll say he does," Regulus muttered, while Jade groused, "Thing is why doesn't he tell us?" He stabbed his knife at his book for emphasis as he continued, "I mean if it's so essential that we get the juice from the beans -"

Severus had been having the same difficulties, but now inspiration struck. "Essence," he murmured. "The juice is the bean's essence..."

The three younger students stopped what they were doing and watched in confused fascination as their mentor took several beans and lined them up in a neat row. He then took his silver knife, placed the blade over the line of beans, and pressed -

"I get it!" Minstrel exclaimed with a little clap-dance-jump sort of complicated motion, as juice began to flow in copious amounts out of the shriveled beans. "You don't chop, you crush - just like garlic!"

Severus was feeling very smug in the admiring gaze of Regulus and Jade, so he reached over and ruffled his cousin's hair. "Yes, thank you for that, Captain Obvious," he said. "Now what comes next?"

Memories are funny things. Except, to some, they're not really funny - not funny at all.

Evening at the Great Hall, where tonight Jade was wearing the Captain Obvious pirate's hat that Severus's three mentees had devised as a sort of punishment game for whoever said something stupid and, well, obvious. Nobody else had taken up the fad, thankfully, but the three of them often sat through meals looking inordinately pleased or at the very least completely unabashed at their odd appearance. Well, perhaps Jade was used to it, because people stared at him regardless of what he wore, but one might think that Regulus or Minstrel might have shown some sensible modicum of shame.

Minstrel was eating at the Ravenclaw table as usual, chattering with her Housemates; her best friends might be in Slytherin, but she was a Ravenclaw to the core and was completely at ease with her fellows. She hardly looked up as the evening mail arrived, until a tawny landed in front of her and held out a letter. She took it, nonplussed; scanned its contents; and then, without a word, stood up and strode out of the Great Hall.

Severus stood up also. Glancing behind him, he saw Regulus and Jade exchange glances; neither of them stood up, but Severus felt that they would do so as soon as it wasn't so obvious. No matter. He forged after his cousin, who was already disappearing around a corner.

The first classroom he tried was actually locked. As if that would stop a wizard. A simple Alohomora undid the latch and Severus went in; as he expected, his cousin was inside. She was re-reading the letter and seemed to have just finished crying.

"What does it say?"

The soft words brought Minstrel's attention to Severus, framed like a shadow against the dim light of the hallway. "My father is dead," she said in a wavering voice.

Severus shrugged. He wasn't very big on fathers.

"I think I need to repeat that," Minstrel said, her voice now gaining an edge. "My father is dead. He was murdered. My. Father."

The repetition finally got through Severus's natural disdain of father-figures. Her father was dead. Her father.

Uncle Alain, who was teaching them to cook. Uncle Alain, with the purple eyes that were even more vivid than his daughter's, who never turned Severus away when he had questions, who Severus sometimes wished was his own father.



"Mother says..." She glanced down at the letter, although Severus guessed that she already knew every word by heart. "She says nobody knows. But she thinks it was - them."

"The Death Eaters?"

The name was a whisper now; it had been nothing more than a rumor before, but now it was true, and it had gone very wrong. The Death Eaters: a group of pureblood elitists, who were followers of a dark wizard who called himself by the name of Voldemort. According to the rumors, Voldemort was shaping up to be even more powerful than Gellert Grindelwald, and building an army on top of it - but so far, all that could be substantiated was that he and some "friends" were approaching different people, talking to them, sometimes inviting them to join them for "a drink or two" and some exchanges of "political views". What these drinks and talks actually came to, nobody knew or would tell.

Minstrel nodded.

"But he was a pureblood... Why?" Severus asked, confused.

"They had asked him to join them. He had refused. Because of Mother..."

"O-of course..." Severus said. "He wouldn't want to leave her..."

Minstrel gave a mirthless laugh. "Leave her? No. They wanted him to kill her. But he wouldn't, so - they killed him."

Severus half expected her to collapse now, from the shock at the very least; after all, she was only twelve, her birthday wasn't for several months yet. But she didn't. Instead she looked at Severus, and it frightened him to see the wild anger that suffused her face.

"I'm going to kill them for that, Sev."

What was he supposed to say to that? "Don't be daft, you're only twelve"? He was hardly any older than she. "Keep calm and think about it"? Her father had just been murdered for loving his wife. "It will be okay"? That was just wrong. It wasn't that he wasn't angry, too, but -

"We won't let you do it alone," said the voice of Jade Aelfwynd.

Suddenly Regulus and Jade were beside Minstrel, and Jade had his arms around her, petting her head. The fury that had so chilled Severus began to fade, and Minstrel's tears began to return. "Now, now, that's silly, don't start crying again when you were all done," Jade clucked. Regulus nodded fervently as he took one of Minstrel's hands and squeezed it between his. "We'll help you get your revenge," he said firmly, making it a promise.

Severus nodded. Somehow these kids had known the right things to say and do. He went to Minstrel's other side and took her remaining hand, the one holding the grievous letter. "I'll do everything I can," he told her solemnly. "I swear this to you."

Only now, saying the words, did he realize something. He owed it to his uncle, this revenge. To his cousin, who trusted him. And to himself, because the Death Eaters had taken something important away from him.

He would do everything he could, if it took him years. Let those Death Eaters beware.

Memories are funny things, the way they come and go. Sometimes they're buried so deeply they can't be found, except in sleep. Sometimes they're buried so much that even if they're there we think they're not. But all it takes is a good hard look, in the boxes at the very backs of our minds, and then we see what we shall see. (2,255 words)