A Note from the Author

Haven't seen me in awhile, have you? Sorry. College is hard. Anyway, this chapter is old, but I never published it outside of the mailing lists. Now I finally bring it to you. Will a new follow-up magically appear? That remains to be seen. I won't raise any hopes.
This chapter contains lyrics from the Beatles' song "Blackbird". I have no idea who that belongs to, but it certainly is not me.

Black-Dove/Haunted
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"

Part V

He knew he'd been too hard on her. His anger had surged up in him uncontrollably, as it often did, and he'd spouted flames, feeling justified and guilt-free. Now he sat here, brooding and aching - for her. For his twin.

It was a familiar ache, one which he'd lived with for years. He'd learned to ignore it, to stuff it aside. Now that Ananda had returned, its throb became apparent again. God, how he'd missed her - his opposite, his other half. Those long ago days when they were so close they could nearly read each other's minds. Severus could remember back when the curve of her hand fit perfectly with his; they'd held hands often as children.

Then they'd grown up; gone off to school, separated more and more with each coming year. Their differences, once complementary, became a chasm between them, and before Severus realized he'd lost her, she was gone. Long before she departed on that boat off to unknown parts, she was gone from him, beyond recall. Her physical absence was academic.

Lost, and cut off, and alone.

* * *

Alone.

I was, completely, utterly alone.

How long had it been since they'd put me in here? A few days. It felt like years. It felt like ages.

It was like I was being taken apart, slowly and painfully, bit by bit. Inside, I screamed and cried and grasped at these pieces being pried from me, these well-loved memories, these scant happy memories...

Please, don't take them from me. Please, let me keep them...they're all I have left...

My mother's face, so perfect and white and strangely eerie. Shhh, Severus, she whispered, her hand rubbing my back in small circles. Everything will be fine...

Gone.

Dance with me, Severus, she said, laughing.

(Blackbird, fly
Into the light of the dark black night)

Across the room my father spun Anda around and around in circles. She giggled. Her red pigtails swung around her head.

(Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly)

My mother took my hands in her own and raised my arms above my head. She was smiling...

Gone.

Severus?

(All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise)

Gone.

Severus, it's all right, I'm taking you out of here.

Light came to me slowly, painstakingly, but when I could see again, I was no longer in Azkaban. I didn't recognize where I was, but then, I couldn't really remember too much.

I did, however, know the man who sat near me, holding one of my hands. When I curled my fingers experimentally, Dumbledore looked up at me, surprised.

It's good to have you back, Severus.

Albus, I murmured, remembering in a short, sudden burst him telling me to call him that. We're both adults, Severus, he had told me. We'd been sitting in his office at the time. Just as quickly as the memory rose, it subsided back into insignificance. Funny how you take memories for granted...

How did you get me out? I asked.

I vouched for you, of course, he told me. You had no business being put in there in the first place.

I closed my eyes. Drifted. Remembered the names they'd called me as they dragged me off to prison. One of them had spat on me. Your time has come, he told me.

My time had come.

And then something leapt up in me...I sat up so abruptly I must have scared Albus to death. VOLDEMORT IS DEAD, I said, absolutely stunned.

He smiled.

He's...he's...is he really? Please tell me it's true, Albus, please.

He nodded.

I was speechless for a moment.

Then I started to cry. It was over.

* * *

Anda wasn't there when Harry went to breakfast the next morning.

Harry had taken it upon himself to teach Niamh how to play Wizard's Chess. She had admitted, that, despite being knowledgeable of any number of peculiar things, she didn't know anything about the game at all. After some investigation, they found an old set in the library and decided to bring it out to the porch, where Harry went over each piece and rule as they sat in the dappling, mid-morning sunshine.

Niamh caught on and was busy winning by the time Ananda appeared, trotting up the path from the village with her sunglasses on, cigarette in her mouth, paper bag stuck under her arm.

"Hi," Harry said, relieved. He'd been a little afraid that whatever words had passed between Snape and his sister had chased her off.

"Hey, mates," she replied sitting down on the porch steps. "What are you - oh, my God."

"What?" Niamh asked, blinking.

Ananda took off her sunglasses and peered at the chess set. "Christ, I haven't seen that thing since... It was Severus's."

Harry shot a look at the set. It had been very used, but covered in a thick layer of dust when they found it.

"He used to beat the pants off me," Anda continued. She grinned and poked Niamh in the arm, nodding towards her row of captured men. "I see you take after your father..."

A small, sly smile crept over Niamh's mouth.

They cleared up the game and went inside, while Anda started to make some tea. Harry pointed to the paper bag. "What's in there?"

"Oh, just some stuff I picked up from the shop in town."

"You went into the village?" Niamh asked, her eyes wide.

"Yeah." She left the stove and picked up the bag, beginning to unload it. "Cigarettes - yes, I know, bring on the cancer - Coke, a Muggle newspaper, etc. You know. Boring stuff." She grinned.

Harry turned the newspaper towards him slightly to read the cover. It was a national Irish paper. Anda picked it up and leafed through it, pulling out the comics in the middle. "Morning reading. Very important." Harry snickered.

Ten minutes later, Snape descended downstairs like bad weather. Unlike the day before, however, he said nothing, barely sparing them a glance as he headed directly to the stove to make himself a cup of tea from Anda's pot of water. Anda didn't look at him, but lit a cigarette and bit her lip.

Harry was surprised when Snape sat down with his tea; he'd thought he would disappear back upstairs again. Still, he said nothing. It was very quiet for a few moments, except for the rustle of newspaper as Anda turned the page, and then Niamh broke the silence.

"Harry's teaching me how to play chess."

Snape looked at her. Then he looked at Harry.

"I - I wouldn't say that. She's already better at it than I'll ever be."

Snape smirked, just noticeably, and then turned and raised his eyebrow approvingly to Niamh. He pulled over one of the sections of the newspaper over to his side of the table and flipped it open. Niamh shot a grateful look at Harry.

Harry's attention drifted outside. The Aunts were in the back garden. He had grown used to their eccentricities by now, and once their initial introductions, they didn't pay much notice to him.

Across the table, Snape made a funny noise that made Harry jump and look over to him. He was staring at an article in the paper, his face terribly pale.

"Severus - ?" Anda asked.

Snape stood up. Harry got only a quick glimpse of his eyes, but they looked empty to him. He turned and left the room; Harry heard him climbing the stairs.

Anda bent over the paper, scanning it; then abruptly she stopped and sucked in a breath through her teeth. Without a word, she followed Severus upstairs.

Harry and Niamh shared a look and descended upon the paper.

The article that dominated the page was accompanied by a large, color photograph of an old man.

"Why isn't he moving?" Niamh asked.

"This is a Muggle paper," Harry told her. "Muggles don't have movable photographs."

The headline read: "NATION MOURNS GORDON WILSON: Politicians unite to pay tribute to man of peace." Niamh began to read the article softly aloud.

"The country was in mourning today following the sudden death of Senator Gordon Wilson, the Enniskillen man who was catapulted into the nation's consciousness after the death of his daughter Marie in the horrific Remembrance Day Bombing.

"Senator Wilson's humanity and Christianity, despite the heartbreak of losing his daughter in the terrorist carnage which killed 11 people on Poppy Day in 1987, marked him out as a unique spokesman for the new Ireland being forged in the aftermath of the peace process..."

Niamh trailed off, looking away, her brow furrowed. Harry continued to skim the article. Most of it was about other politicians reacting to Wilson's death. "The Progressive Democrats leader, Ms. Mary Harney, said Senator Wilson's death was heartbreaking. 'From the bleak morning in 1987 when people heard his extraordinarily poignant account of the death of his daughter Marie as they both lay in the rubble of the Enniskillen Remembrance Day atrocity, Gordon Wilson has been both a living symbol of the tragedy in Northern Ireland and an inspirational example of how we must put the past behind us if we are to build a lasting peace.'," it concluded.

"What is it?" he asked Niamh, who still had that peculiar, thoughtful expression on her face.

"I don't know," she said. "But..." She frowned deeper.

"But?"

She looked down at the paper again, and laid a hand on the man's picture. "My...my mother was from Enniskillen."

* * *

It wasn't really over, of course.

First there was the whole story, which Albus told me in due time - the death of James and Lily Potter, and the curious matter of Voldemort's apparent destruction by their baby, Harry. It didn't make any sense. Nothing really made any sense anymore - and what few innocent ideas I had left to me about the apparent order of the world were finally stamped out once my trial began.

It was difficult - the questions they had, the accusations they made, the images they put into my mind. The night after my first day of questioning I cried myself to sleep. It was the shock, really - after years of surviving those shark-infested waters, hardening myself to what I saw in order to get on and do what I had to do - to suddenly have it thrown in my face, graphically and violently. It hurt. It was painful. I didn't want to remember it. I didn't want to see it anymore.

I got through it. Albus got me through it. And in the end, I was free, vouched for, safe. And completely adrift.

What was there for me?

I entertained the idea of going to Europe and looking for Ananda, whom I had lost touch with in the last year or so of Voldemort's reign. I had been too busy to keep up with her ever-changing addresses, and too miserable to read about how much fun she was having.

I didn't go to Europe, though. I don't know why. Perhaps I was too scared. I didn't want a burst of new experience, to be surrounded by strange and different places and people. I didn't want to see how much Ananda had changed and grown. I had grown too, but I didn't feel more sophisticated or learned. I just felt old.

In the end, I just went home. Back to Argat Island... that tiny dot in the Irish sea, where nothing ever seems to change. I went home to hide, pretend that the last few years of my life had never happened.

I managed admirably. The Aunts were old and they didn't care much for practical things - like broken windows and sunken roofs. Most of the house was run-down, and in my first few months home I began to magically repair things. No one could ever conquer that old house - it would always look shabby and slightly odd - but at least there weren't flecks of plaster falling from the ceiling anymore, or mice running rampant in the cellar.

The Aunts still on occasion did their old business which I had despised as a child, the selling of potions and charms to Muggles. They didn't need that much money, but when they did, that was usually how they got it. Now, however, I wasn't a curious, nervous thirteen year-old sneaking glimpses through a keyhole when I should have been in bed. I watched them openly as they worked on whatever they were being paid for. On the rare occasions they had an audience - though usually the Muggles didn't want to stick around to see their dirty work being performed, oddly enough - they would make a big show out of it, with puffs of smoke and strange noises. More than once in the middle of this silliness I broke out laughing, which, needless to say, ruined the effect, and annoyed Jessa and Birgitte to no end. After one of these times, when I was helping them clean up, Jessa said to me: You may laugh all you like, but I don't see you trying to get any kind of job, Severus Snape. (I could always tell when one of the Aunts were annoyed with Anda or me when they used our last name. They had looked down on our father, Muggle that he was, and our surname was a source of distaste to them.)

Her comment stuck in my mind. I supposed I should get a job of some sort. That's what people did, didn't they? I didn't know what normal people did. I'd never been normal, I decided. Not really.

I wanted to be normal.

I eventually contented myself to pitching in with the Aunts's work. It disgusted me at first, just as it had when I was a child - these two-faced people who said things about us behind our back and then came pawing at our doorstep when they needed help. But after awhile, they only made me feel sad. After all, wasn't that what I had done? Scorned the world around me, the values that had been presented me at Hogwarts, and then gone running to Albus Dumbledore for help? It was human, I decided. We were alike, these silly, helpless Muggles who feared and hated but relied on us, to heal this one's heart and this other one's mind.

I settled into this life, season bleeding into season, until late one spring night when I was twenty-three, there was a knock at our door - on our FRONT door, not the back door, where Muggle customers usually came to.

I went to answer it. The caller was a woman - a very familiar woman. She had long brown hair and when she saw my face she smiled slightly, her eyes squinting up.

Severus? she asked, her voice a ghost out of my past.

It was Muireen.

* * *

"Tell me everything you know about her," Harry said.

They'd gone outside to talk. The day had started out sunny but in the western sky Harry could see a front of storm clouds battling towards them. The light was growing dim, despite the fact that it was only early afternoon, and a breeze, cool for late June, was stirring the leaves in the trees.

"I don't know much of anything. Only that she and my father never married - the Aunts told me that - and that she died. I don't even know how old I was. I don't even know what her name was. I don't even know what she looked like!" She put her face in her hands. Harry clenched his fists and looked at the sky again, at the impending storm.

"Doesn't your father ever talk about her? Haven't you ever asked him anything?"

Niamh shook her head. "When I was younger I used to ask. He never said anything. Besides..." and then she sighed, looking sad. "He's never around, anyway. He's always away at school. I...I don't really know him."

They were quiet for a few moments. Harry touched her arm.

Niamh drew in a breath. "And the Aunts - well, I don't they liked her very much." She looked at him. "Your parents are both dead, right?"

He nodded.

"Well, I might as well be an orphan, too." She looked at him, smiling at his bemused expression. "I don't have a mother. I might as well not have a father, either." She laughed, eerily. "You look so shocked, Harry."

"It's nothing," he said. "It's just - well, I've never heard you talk about him like this before."

Niamh looked down her hands, face falling. "It's not that I don't respect him. Or that I - I hate him. But I don't know if I love him, either. I mean..."

She broke away from him and lay down on the grass. "Damn him," she whispered vehemently, relishing the curse. "Damn him."

* * *

She came to me that night asking for help. Her grandfather was sick, dying slowly. She asked me to come to him.

I'm not a doctor, Muireen. I don't know if I can heal him.

I don't want you to heal him, Severus. He's old; he's tired. His time has come. But he's in a lot of pain. Can you make it easier for him?

That I could do, and after I had packed some supplies, I followed her down the path to the village, to her grandfather's cottage near the sea.

The old man had pneumonia, complicated by weak lungs from a bout of tuberculosis he'd had when he was young, and simple old age. I stayed with them after I treated him, stayed through the whole night, until the very early morning when he peacefully passed.

They had the funeral a few days later; I walked down to the tiny cemetery and watched the burial from a distance, hidden by the shade of a huge oak tree. Muireen's light brown hair looked almost golden in the sunlight. She wore a long black dress and dropped a red rose into the grave.

She saw me as they were leaving; her eyes seemed to seek me out. The others left. She stayed. After awhile she walked over to me and took my arm.

Take me home, she said. I need a drink.

I took her to her grandfather's cottage and we sat, side by side, in the small, dusty sitting room. Muireen took off her high heels. I felt stiff and unsure.

When are you going back? I asked finally.

She rested her chin in her hand. I don't know, she said. I was thinking of...staying here.

I blinked, surprised.

The house was left to me, she explained. Granddad knew how I loved the island. And I don't really have much holding me back in Enniskillen.

I swallowed, trying to get used to this information. For a few moments, no one said anything. A magpie chirped outside the window.

Thank you, she whispered.

Looking down, I whispered, It's no trouble.

She put a hand on my cheek. You've grown up so.

You look exactly the same, I told her.

She laughed: I don't feel the same.

I took her hand from my cheek and held it. For a moment there, it didn't feel like any time had passed between us at all. We'd had a short friendship, lifetimes ago; so many things had changed since then, but that didn't seem to matter. I felt like I knew her completely. Which was ridiculous; I barely knew her at all. But the inherent closeness between us was unmatched by anything I'd ever felt before - except when I was young, with my sister. And this was...different.

She leaned her head against my shoulder. Would you want me to stay here, Severus?

I paused. I couldn't seem to make my voice work. Finally, I managed a whisper.

Yes.

* * *

to be continued...