Note from the AuthorSometimes if I concentrate hard enough it will all come back. Not clearly, no, memories never come back clearly. They spin, like webs through your mind, like stop motion pictures, flickering rapidly, yellowed with age, startling sometimes in their suddenness. They bring me sorrow and sadness; what else can one feel, after growing up in that big, dark house, where shadows lurked around every corner? And two ghosts, who we called Aunt Jessamine and Aunt Birgitte. And Ananda. Anda and me, very vivid and small. Night and Day, the Aunts called us. Anda and I never laughed at the joke. It wasn't very funny to us.
This story is an Alternate Universe. It stems off from the canon Harry Potter timeline towards the end of Goblet of Fire. In this story, Harry does not go home to the Dursley's. It is decided that he would be safer, now that Voldemort has regained his full power, to stay with a powerful wizard, who can protect him, and who would also be the last person Voldemort would think of: Professor Severus Snape. Snape, however has his own problems...and I invite you to assist me in sorting through them.
I'd like to thank Rhysenn, Manda, newsstand for beta and general encouragement. I'd also like to thank the great and amazing Stephen King for his book On Writing. Not that he'll ever get wind of my incredible gratitude...
Harry Potter belongs to JK Rowling, Scholastic, and now I suppose AOL TimeWarner as well. I have no illusions as to otherwise. The song, "Black-Dove (January)" is by Tori Amos and is copyrighted by her SWORD AND STONE publishing company. The song "Haunted" is by Poe and belongs to her copyright, as well, though I don't know the name. Other songs off of Poe's album, Haunted, are used in this story, as well several ideas expressed in it and in House of Leaves, a novel written by her brother, Mark Z Danielewski. This story also owes an awful lot to Alice Hoffman's Practical Magic, especially the Aunts.
I hope you enjoy the story!
by Shanna Seanachai
"because cowboy, the snakes, they are my kin." Tori Amos, "Black-Dove (January)"
"I'm haunted - by the hallways in this tiny room, the echo there, of me and you..." Poe, "Haunted"
When we first came, it was like passing into another world. An entire part of our lives seemed erased; small, inconsequential, everyday things, just gone. It was like they had simply stopped existing: bubble gum, hula hoops, model kits, football; afternoons spent watching Top of the Pops; 45s, transistor radios, mind rotting comic books (as our mother called them), The Monkees, Donovan, Marc Bolan; all those horror movies I loved. I used to drag Anda to the cinema, bribing her with Twizzlers, and we'd sit through double features: The Masque of the Red Death, Village of the Damned, The Birds - Rosemary's Baby, which we had to sneak in to see.
We left that part of our life forever when we stepped off the train, all the belongings we could bring stuffed in suitcases at our feet. Anda's red hair was twisted into tight braids, and I didn't know if the redness in her eyes was from the headache they were giving her or from crying. I didn't ask. She would have scowled and told me to leave her alone. She'd been in an unapproachable mood since...
It wasn't as if I didn't hurt as much as she did. I missed our parents just as much! Why did she have to act so...scornful? Like just because I wasn't bawling in front of everyone all the time I didn't feel the same way? I did my crying in private. No need to make a show for everyone.
Of course, this wasn't exactly what I was thinking then. What nine year old thinks like that? But that is what I remember feeling. Resentment. I resented Anda even though I loved her, and I resented my parents for dying, and I resented the place we were going, because it was unknown.
We had to get into a little boat to get to the island. I hated traveling on water; it always made me sick. Anda saw me looking a little green and softened a bit, patting my hand. We spoke, a little, in whispers. We wondered what our aunts would be like. We knew nothing about our mother's family; she'd never spoken about them. You could go so far as to say she was close lipped about them. And now, suddenly, to be thrust into this unknown; we were lost. We wanted to be home with our parents and our friends and our pet fish. This sucks, I said, in the clear, pronounced syllables of a nine year old boy saying a forbidden word. It seemed to define our situation perfectly.
* * *
"We have to make a decision," Dumbledore said. "That is, where will Harry be spending the summer?"
It was pretty obvious to everyone that he could not stay at the Dursley's; he needed protection, with Voldemort on the loose. Yes, that point was moot. No one needed it brought up.
"A place where there are several adult wizards who are capable of defending him; a place that would still be overlooked by Voldemort. A place where he could still have a normal summer, or almost. With...other children." McGonagall pursed her lips. She looked at Dumbledore. Then she turned her head, and her eyes fell on the solemn figure of Severus Snape. She looked at Dumbledore again.
He got the message. "Severus."
Snape, who had been lost in his own thoughts (unusual, the others must have noted - but then, he had much to think about - perhaps more than they could even surmise), looked up, blinking. "Headmaster?"
Dumbledore smiled a little. "How are Jessa and Birgitte, as of late?"
Snape looked taken aback. "The Aunts are...fine," he murmured. "They never change. Why do you ask?"
Dumbledore nodded. He'd become quite taken with the idea, all ready. "Do you think they would mind it?"
"Mind what?" Snape seemed to realize he had missed something.
"If you brought Harry with you to Argat this summer?"
Oh. A look of trepidation overcame Snape's features. "Surely there are better hiding places for Potter than Argat Island, Headmaster."
Dumbledore smiled expansively. "I think it seems quite the solution, Severus - why, don't you?"
Snape blinked. "Surely, sir, considering my present - position - it would not be wise."
Snape narrowed his eyes. "Dumbledore. You must be aware -"
Dumbledore smiled. "I think this would cause no difficulties in conjunction with the duties I have given you. If you feel at any given time that Potter may be in peril, I can be reached easily and the situation amended. Meanwhile, Harry will be well protected, in obscurity. I'm sure the Aunts would not mind."
"And," McGonagall chimed in, "wouldn't Niamh be pleased? It must be lonely, up there all the time."
Snape was silent. It was the worst possible solution. Not that he and the Aunts weren't capable of protecting Potter. As for Niamh...he just didn't like the idea. Still, he was silent.
"Well, then." Dumbledore looked resolved. "Perhaps you should notify the Aunts through owl post, Severus?" It was his last chance to protest.
Snape sighed. "Yes, Headmaster."
* * *
We spent our time learning to live in that house. It was a house that demanded intensity; everything had to be explored in the same excruciating detail. The Aunts largely ignored us, and so we ignored them. They set no rules, except that we did not wander into their 'work room' and touch things. We didn't care. We had that whole big house to explore, and the rest of the island. We found old books in the parlor that were written in languages we didn't understand. We noticed that you could see out of the glass windows but you could not see in. We spent hours staring at the paintings on the stairs; ancient things, of ancient people we didn't know. On sunny days, we roamed outside, down at the rocky beach or, occasionally, in the village. But we did not often there. The people didn't like us. The adults stared at us and whispered behind their hands at us. The children wouldn't play with us.
On rainy days (and it rained much there) we stayed in. We often spent time in the attic. It was on one of these days that Anda made her interesting discovery.
It was books Anda found, old school books. But we were never taught subjects like this at school. We pored over them, hardly understanding what we reading. We didn't really care about that. We cared about the name printed in the cover: Deirdre Argat, our mother. Written in a careful child's hand, and underneath it was written: Ravenclaw, Third Year. Or, Ravenclaw, Fifth Year. It varied.
After careful consideration, we gathered some of the most intriguing of these books in our arms and trooped downstairs to confront the terrible Aunts. They were in their work room, and we had to knock.
It's Severus and Ananda, we said. We want to ask you some questions. Can we come in please?
They let us in, shooting out warnings to touch nothing around us and be quick.
Anda held up a book. We found these in the attic, she said. They were our mother's, weren't they?
The Aunts were silent for a moment. Jessamine took the book from her hand and looked through it. A small smile stretched across her mouth. It was an odd expression on her.
How old are you two? she asked. Almost ten years old, are you?
We nodded. We turned ten on September 1st. We were twins.
Aunt Jessamine turned to Aunt Birgitte. A year, she said to her. I'm not even entirely sure if they'll get a letter, with their Muggle father and all, but if they do, we've only a year to teach them.
Anda and I surveyed all these goings on with annoyed curiosity. We hated to be talked over. Like...like children!
Could you please tell us what this is all about? Anda asked.
And they did.
* * *
Dear Aunts, I just needed to tell you that when I come home in June I won't be alone. Dumbledore's instructed me to bring Harry Potter with me. So we'll be doing baby-sitting all summer. I will be away much, as you can guess, on business for Dumbledore, so I suppose you two will have to put up with him. Tell Niamh. Perhaps she will keep him out of your way. By the way, has Anda contacted you lately? I haven't heard from her for weeks. She's probably moving again.
Severus sighed and leaned his head against his hand. He hated the summer. He hated going back 'home'. Anda had gotten the right idea. As soon as she graduated she took off. Never came back again. Did he blame her? No. Sometimes she frustrated him, though. She could at least stay in one place for more than a few months. What was wrong with her?
Of course he realized he would probably never understand her. The Aunts had aptly named them Night and Day. He could laugh at that now, although Anda probably still wouldn't. It was a sign for the worse for him, he supposed. Anda had told him he should leave. Get out of that rotting house, she told him. Get away from those two old bitches or you'll end up just like them, Severus. And then, years later: You act so much like those two, it frightens me, Severus. What happened to you? She looked so sad. And he'd been so angry! At least I have a permanent job. At least I'm not running around the world like I'm afraid, like I'm being chased. By the Aunts. By this house.
And she said, maybe you are running, Severus, and you're just afraid to admit it.
He and Anda didn't get on well anymore.
He sighed, and finished the letter (he hated writing letters - he could never write what he truly meant to say). He was not looking forward to this summer at all. He dreaded it. Lately he'd had many nightmares - nightmares he hadn't had in years, not since he was a child. Circles had grown under his eyes and he was forgetting things. Forgetting. It was very quiet right now, at this time of day, and empty, and it was all right to do a little remembering, instead. If he closed his eyes hard enough he could see it all. He could remember, if he tried hard enough.
* * *
Remember working in the afternoons with Aunt Jessa? Hazy summer afternoons, out from school for these months, but my education didn't stop then. The Aunts made us tackle books, the biggest, and watch them in the work room. Mixing and measuring and experimenting, Aunt Birgitte, what happens if I put this in? Don't do that! You'll burn the whole house down. Anda making faces behind their backs. The Aunts showed us a lot of things, but they didn't show us everything. Sometimes we would sneak down to peak through crack under the door. Learned a lot that way. Anda hated them. What they did to that bird, remember? Anda didn't eat meat again after she saw that. Well, the Aunts didn't practice black magic, at least. They just did some more...unconventional things. For money. They didn't have any other way to get it. We must have been a burden to them...how relieved they must have been when I got my first job, while I was still in school. No more hexes in exchange for gold rings or watches. Those people in the village, really, those Muggles. Snubbed their noses at us when we walked down the street but there they came, scratching at our back door when they wanted something done. Make him fall in love with me. Don't let my wife find out I cheated on her. Help me find this, I lost it. Do you have anything that will bring down his fever?
Anda told me she thought Aunt Jessa had taken a shine to me. It's because you're in Slytherin, like she was, she told me. Also you're good in Potions. Maybe she was right. Jessa used to call me her black-dove, her perfect misfit. I don't know if you would call that affection. If you do, it is a pathetic sort of affection, and the only kind the Aunts were able to give, I think. And maybe all I can give. Maybe Anda is right. Maybe I have become just like them.
* * *
to be continued...