"You said they had found the secret of happiness because they had never heard that love can be a sin."
- - Lavinia Mannon in Homecoming from Mourning Becomes Electra by Eugene O'Neill - -
Part Two: 5th Year
Chapter Nine, In Which I Am (Officially) the Wicked Witch of Calais
The one good thing about owning a law firm is the fact that you have lots of lawyers to do your bidding. Another one is, when you need to make an appointment, they tend to be quite accommodating.
The story thus far? Quite simple. They sent me to Azkaban South and apparently recruited some guards from the main facility, because come the second of August I'm being attacked by two dementors in an alleyway with my whale of a cousin. The Ministry, which seems to have followed Fudge down the well-intentioned paved road, and is denying Voldemort's return with a ferocity that makes one wonder what they really know. This summer's interment has been the worst on record, I think. I've been having nightmares and I can't use silencing charms, and so more shoes then usual have been thrown at me; Dudley's still on his stupid diet and leering at me after I get out of the bath; no one's told me a word about what's going on with Voldemort, and nothing's even on the Muggle news; I couldn't be in France with Fleur, and though she's sending me what information (and French fashion magazines, will the girl ever learn?) she has and talking of getting a job on Diagon; and, to top it all off, I've not heard a thing from or regarding above stated Potions Master that I kissed in the last week of classes and have seriously become worried about. My law firm of Dunn, Hastings, and McGully (established in 1653 by three married sisters) has been doing spin control as best they can, but there's not much they can do without knowing the truth.
That's the sort of thing that requires more then an owl that may be intercepted. Luckily, though, when you've been accused of breaking the RRUW (The Reasonable Restriction for Underage Wizardry) like I have, you tend to need legal counsel. So they break me out of jail one fine morning, Remus coming right up to the door, that fine Friday morning in the wizarding world's version of a tired suit, and taking me out the front door. I considered telling my aunt that he was my boyfriend and was taking me to Paris for the rest of the summer, but he'd already introduced himself as my "uncle" Remus Lupin. They even had a car a everything – they being the woman with vibrant pink hair and an electric blue mini-dress and fingerless driving gloves of blackish dragonhide whom I was later informed was one Nymphadora Tonks, aged twenty-one-and-a-half, and my godfather's cousin's daughter and his third cousin once removed…
Pureblood family ties were so annoying.
In the hour it took us to go up the A24 to London, I decided Tonks was officially the coolest person ever. I mean, she's like totally a metamorphmagus, which is way cool in and of itself, and has great taste in music and I bet I could get her to take me to one of the tattoo shops on the corner of Diagon and Varial… I've always kind of wanted a wicked tattoo, and I think getting a Hungarian Horntail would be an interesting way of getting over last year… The only problem with getting to know Tonks is that it was because Remus wouldn't tell me a thing about, oh, where we were going after, or what was going on in the world outside of French fashion, or what he'd been up to…
"You could have at least told her you were my pimp or something."
"Excuse me?" he said over the sound of Tonks's guffawing.
"I mean, you totally could pass for one, in a sort of aged-professor-who-spends-his-time-on-th
"I think he's confused by the term," Tonks offered, still laughing as she moved the car between a gap in two SUVs that I was sure no self-respecting unicyclist would have dared, let alone a driver of any car. That led to a quite interesting discussion of "more reputable" disreputable things I could tell my jailers about my life for next summer, which seemed delightfully far away…
Now, I'm not sure I own Dunn, Hastings, and McGully per se, but there's something involved with retainers and stocks and Clifford Chance… I don't know, only that I was ushered in and brought straight to one of the firm's managing partners, Mrs. ArietisCauldwell, which was very nicely furnished, even if she did have beetles and butterflies in collector's cases on the walls, and made me feel distinctly underdressed in my mini-skirt. You can't blame me, though, it's like dragon's breath hot and I don't have the ability to cast convenient cooling charms whenever I start to break a sweat, unlike some fully-clothed wizards.
Tonks, I noticed, gave my "uncle" the old hairy eye as she took a chair in the waiting room. Remus, sadly, did not notice.
"Miss Potter, what I pleasure it is to meet you, though I wish it was under better circumstances."
"Please, Mrs. Cauldwell, call me Éléonore."
"I imagine you should call me Ari then – I don't imagine Remus here has told you, but I was Lily's maid-of-honour at her wedding."
I wanted to find out more – I'd never run across someone who'd known my mother so closely, which is quite odd considering how everyone tells me the world revolved around her, people liked her so much – but I didn't then. On the drive to our as-yet-unnamed destination I learned that Arietis – known as Ari Gamp then – had been a Ravenclaw, the Head Girl the year after my parents' graduated. Her mother had never shared the identity of Ari's father with anyone, and so it'd been quite the scandal for a while, but not enough for either to be blasted from the Gamp family tree. In the years after Mum and Dad died, she'd joined Dunn, Hastings, and McGully, married the half-blood Ephraim Cauldwell (which had gotten her blasted off the family tree), and had two children: Owen, a Hufflepuff who'd started last year, and Alcyone, a daughter, would be starting this September. She'd been named partner just last year and in part because of this (and that she was the third cousin twice removed on his father's side or something of Sirius – how does anyone not marry their cousin in the wizarding world? Let me just say, yuck. I'd kill myself before marrying Dudley. I think I need a shower after even thinking that thought) she'd been willing to take our cases.
Ari dived right in, updating me on the legal doings she'd been doing for me through Sirius by Remus…
1. The case of Sirius Black v. The Department of Magical Justice, which is going to trial in the next few weeks. She's reasonably sure she can win that – after all, no trial equals violation of habeas corpus (which, it turns out, wizards do have) and his freedom. The real problem is going to be proving him innocent of a fourteen year old crime, but that's something she can keep in court forever until we catch the rat bastard.
2. The case of Sirius Black v. Rita Skeeter, which, like Black v. The Daily Prophet News Network, is going less well, probably because the Daily Prophet has better lawyers then the Ministry. However, as I'm not spending the summer in Kent as the reporter and the paper reported last week, it should be interesting to see how it turns out.
3. The case of Black v. The Department of Magical Games and Sports, for my forced participation in the tournament, which is harder 'cause I won said tournament…
And the rest just kind of blurred into one. Basically, she's trying, but law takes time. Who knew?
There was one thing, though, so she could bring charges of slander and libel against Mr. Cornelius Fudge, Esq. I had to tell her about the resurrection ceremony, my duel with Voldemort (baring the strange connection of our wands), my escape – everything right up to Junior's confession and Fudge's outright denial – but I got it out. Remus, with his werewolf strength, held my hand the whole time. I wish I could have grown up with him or Sirius. Maybe just 'cause they're adults or something, they have this feeling of security that I'd gladly cling to all my days. Telling her about the dementors coming after me at Azkaban South was easier. It hurt less. Even if that trial was only a week away.
I've got to say, though, it's at times like this I feel like my life is something somebody else has dreamed up. I hope they're enjoying it, 'cause Merlin knows I'm not. Well, the part where I kissed Severus was nice – very nice, actually – but the bastards not said a word to me since, nor have I heard word that he's not been killed or brought truly back into the fold or… I worry all the time. About me. About him. I know he can take care of himself. That he's thirty-five and has been doing this for a lot longer than I've been alive…
Merlin, I hope he's okay.
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I'm under house arrest again. Enough said.
Well, no, maybe not. Because this house is old and stuffy and evil-looking with elf-heads on the walls and this portrait of Sirius's mum that keeps on screaming (I told Sirius just to tell her that he'd secretly been Voldemort's right hand the entire time, like everyone thought while he was in jail, to see if that would keep her quiet, but he wouldn't go for it as I was ushered upstairs) every time anyone passes and dust everywhere and is, by the way, housing an underground movement to rid the world of the monster I've unleashed. And all the Weasleys and Hermione have been here for who knows how long, because no one will tell me, despite the fact that I've seen Sirius's will this morning and know it'll be mine if anything happens to him and, rightly I feel, deserve to know what's going on in property I might one day own. It's all just so annoying. I mean, if they really wanted me to know something they could have told me somehow. I mean, hello, phones people? I doubt Death Eaters have the know-how to tap phone lines…
Calmly, I tried to explain this too them, "So you haven't been in the meetings, big deal! You've still been here, haven't you? You've still be together! Me, I've been stuck at Azkaban South for a month! Who had to get past dragons and sphinxes and every other foul thing last year? Who saw him come back? Who had to escape from him? Who ended up cursing Edward Rosier to bits? Me! But why should I know what's going on? Why should anyone bother to tell me what's been happening?" I tried again. "I just want to know that something is going on to deal with my stupid, senseless mistake, alright?"
It, of course, wasn't alright. Hermione got all weepy and Ron all defensive, then Ginny and The Twins had to offer their two Knuts, and, Merlin, it's like my life is everybody else's business but those whose I want it to be. I'm going to have to get a shrink one of these days if I have to keep dealing with my friends. Too bad that'd probably ruin my case against Fudge. Damn bowler-hat-wearing ministers.
They were talking about a way to listen in on the meetings, and how they'd recently been found out. "Shame. I really fancied find out what old Snape's been up to," Twin A said.
"Snape?" I jump to my feet and started towards the door, totally forgetting whatever it was I'd been thinking of a moment before. That meant he was still alive. Which meant Voldemort hadn't done anything bad enough where he might get killed yet. Which meant- "Is he here?"
"Yeah. Giving a report. Top secret."
Well that settled it. My hand was on the knob when Hermione asked – no, more of demanded – "What's going on between you and Snape?"
"Licentious sex," I told her, turning the knob and finding my elbows grasped, pulling me back into the room and forcing me to sit down, having been pulled me onto one of the creaky beds therein by The Twins, who were currently demanding that I, and I quote, "dish."
"Like, tell us, like, totally everything-" said Twin A in a girly squeal.
"-is he open to foursomes?" asked the other. I looked at him funny before the other continued:
"-is it true he eats small children for breakfast, or does he always kick you out before then?"
"-boxers or briefs?" Well, that one I could answer, but only because I'd crashed in his room those three days waiting for him to return. Not that I'd tell them that.
"-and, truly, is it the size of his inflated ego, or the technique?"
"No. No. Briefs, and technique, defiantly," I shared, doing my best to answer in the same high-pitched squeal The Twins had asked with.
Hermione, now resembling spaghetti sauce and apparently having believed everything I said, "You- you didn't-?"
"Oh God no, 'Mione." I've only just kissed the man. Once. There's an order you do these things in. If he doesn't get himself killed first…
"Still, you seemed to spend a lot of time with him last year."
"Yeah, so? I spent a lot of time with Remus when he was teaching too."
Ron, now no longer quite so apoplectic beside Hermione on the other bed, "Why'd you want to spend so much time with that git anyway?"
"He's not so bad-"
As if I was a very small child with a mental issue, "He's a Death Eater, Harry – he's killed people."
"So? So have I, or were you not listening a second ago?"
"That's not the same-"
"Isn't it? And please, I've asked you not to call me Harry. It's a stupid name. My name's Éléonore and I'd like to be called by it for once."
Ginny chose to break the resultant tension a moment later by adding that "suspected" Death Eater Walden Macnair was walking around short one arm, supposedly the result of an injury obtained during the annual Running of the Manticores in Greece.
"Why'd anyone want to be chased by a Manticore," I ask, forgetting about Snape and Voldemort for a moment, "let alone annually?"
"It's something the Ottoman Ministry does with their high-security prisoners, but they let some people do it for sport if they sign a waver."
"People do it for sport?" I ask again, but no one seems to get my outrage, too outraged as they are by the whole Potter-Snape issue that almost makes me wish I'd never taken my outer robe off that day in Potions. Almost. It's not like I'm, I dunno, making-out with all our teachers. I really fail to see what their problem is.
"So, I may-or-may-not have been responsible for the transhumeral amputation of Macnair and most assuredly cursed Edward Rosier into matchbox-sized pieces," even saying this vaguely sickened me. "You don't have a problem with me."
"That's not the point."
"Isn't it?" I was getting seriously confused now as to what the point here might be and was considering asking them to wait while I got a quill and parchment and wrote a map to this conversation.
"The point is you've been frenching the git and we're worried about you, okay."
Laughing wasn't the smartest thing to have done at that point, I admit, but I couldn't help it. "I've never once frenched Snape," I told Ron truthfully and wondered where my friends got these ideas from. Okay, so maybe I had kissed the man, so it wasn't so outlandish, but still. Friends of little faith! They didn't understand that you can't help who you fall in love with. I could try to explain, to quantify things that can't be explained – like the power of his voice, how safe I feel with him or the fact that he's nice to me and lets me yell at him without giving me the third through (I discreetly counted the occupants in the room) eighth degree – but that would only belittle the emotion. And calling him a git is totally out of line – Ron himself hasn't been exactly the most well-mannered, easy-to-get-along-with wizard either.
Our argument was interrupted by Mrs. Weasley coming in and telling us to wash up for dinner. Glad to be rid of the questionings (which I largely ignored), I made my morose way down the stairs. A gaggle of wizards and witches in the oddest mixture of clothing I've ever seen – wizarding, Medieval, and modern – was on its way past Mrs. Black's screaming portrait and out the front door, so I leaned between the leering heads of dead house elves waiting for them patiently to pass. A few I recognized, but most I didn't. I tried to memorize their faces, but failed utterly, for shortly Severus came into view.
My mood brightened instantly. He looked healthy enough, if a little tired around the edges. Rather then head straight out the door as I feared he would do, the Potions Master ducked through one of the small side doors. When the crowd was clear enough, I did the same.
The room had once been a parlour, I think. All the furniture in the room was covered with white dust cloth, but fancy wooden feet poked out from under most. A tarnished silver tea set sat upon a glass table greyed-over with age. Several china figures rested on the mantle of the large fireplace; china cabinets all around showed off not Dark wares but dishes. It was a very feminine room, probably belonging to a Mrs. Black of some time back, kept like this for Grey officials from the Ministry and their spouses.
He was standing, facing the dark fireplace. The room was black, but he was a darker figure in the shadows, utterly Byronic as he leaned an arm against the mantelpiece, dark eyes studying imaginary flames within. Instantly a thousand imagining's of a love-sick schoolgirl were crushed by the sheer immensity of his presence, pained as it was. I knew he would not turn around, take me up in his arms, and kiss me with maddening intensity. I knew he would never confess love to me on bended knee, or tell me how god-damn much he missed me. I knew I would never do he same. I simply closed the door behind me, turned the lock, and took a single step deeper into the room. "You're still alive," I said slowly, trying to stay calm.
"Yes," he answered. There was a strange, strained quality to his voice. I couldn't place the emotion it might betray, or if it was merely a conglomeration of exhaustion, torture, and emotional numbness.
I moved a step closer. "I was worried about you."
Even he doesn't sound convinced by his words when he says, "I wish you hadn't been."
Again, a step nearer. "Don't say that."
"Do you know what Legilimency is, Éléonore?"
I thought back to the little Latin I'd picked up in school. "Something to send a mind away?" Maybe it was some kind of torture.
He chuckled as if I'd said something funny; perhaps I had. It was a weary chuckle. I wanted to ask him so badly how long since he'd had a proper meal, slept in a proper bed. He'd only get angry if I asked, though, so I didn't. "You're thinking of legare; it comes from legere. It's a form of what can loosely be called 'mind-reading.'" He seemed to find the idea of mind-reading distasteful, but it might have only been the term. Very few things, I'd observed, did the man actually think of as in bad taste.
"Voldemort knows legil-" the word caught on my tongue. I settled for, "it," to keep myself from sounding like a fool.
"You're worried that if… if we ever… amount to anything, he'll find out about it."
I was suddenly very, inexplicably cold. "There have to be other spies-"
"None who have been with him since, well, not the beginning, but close enough to matter. None in the Inner Circle save me."
"I know where you're going with this," I knew very well. He was going to give some speech more noble then I'd ever expect from any of his house and tell me that, for my own protection, we couldn't ever let ourselves amount to anything. I wasn't having it, "but it's not going to work. He already wants me dead and, if he finds out what you are, he'll be out for your blood too. There's no additional risk-"
"I don't think you quite understand." He was quite studiously looking away from me.
"Then explain it to me, Severus." I was still separated from him by the grubby length of coffee table. This was not how I expected our reunion to go. Granted, I'd not imagined it would be a field of tulips or anything, but I'd expected him to be glad I was safe and to kiss me some. Nothing much. I knew I was recently fifteen and he was still my professor. I knew it wasn't like we were going to elope together or anything. But I'd expected to get more then one (wonderful) kiss before the affair ended.
He turned and looked at me then, taking a step away from that dark fireplace. A light from somewhere – the crack under the door perhaps, or the thick, doxy-infested curtains – was enough to illuminate his features for me to make out the pain it took him to speak next. Snape would never be beautiful, but he was handsome in his own way. Like… well, I can't think of a good example, but I don't expect him to be. So his nose may have been broken once or twice and he'd more then passing resemblance to a bat (I expect this last bit was contrived intentionally), I don't care. I realize I'm no great beauty either. "There – there is a way, to keep a Legilimens from seeing your thoughts, a practice called Occlumency, and I am quite a talented Occlumens."
I refused to let the happiness I felt at the thought his mind's contents wouldn't be ripped from his head anytime soon overwhelm me. "I'm failing to see the problem here."
"The problem, Éléonore, is that I can hide my hatred of Voldemort quite easily. I can hide my allegiance to this Order with little more difficulty. However, what- what I feel for you has a strength that I cannot hide well, even now, and I fear that if we let it progress…"
I felt the pedestal of hope I'd built myself crumble away at this most wonderful thing anyone's ever said to me. "Don't you owe it to yourself to be happy? I know it's my own stupid fault Voldemort returned and everyone is just trying to clean up my mistake-"
"The Dark Lord would have found a way to return with or without you; it's always only been a matter of time."
Knowing I sounded petulant, "Then what's the problem?" I wanted no one to take away this happiness I'd found.
"The problem is I need to you to be safe!"
"I'll never be safe again, Severus."
"Which is why we should part ways and then, once this is all done, maybe…" he started around the table, moving towards the door and passing very close to me.
"We could be dead by then."
"We both had to know this could never work – if The Ministry or the Governors find out, it'd be the end for both of us – that it was impractical."
"Screw the Ministry and the Governors."
I grabbed his shirt, spinning him to face me, "Why don't you understand it yet? I. Don't. Care. I want you." I pressed my lips to his violently this time, and he responded in kind, plundering my mouth in a way Ron would have turned green to think of, and forcing me to a place past breathless. I released one hand from his shirt to tangle into his hair, another to clutch him closer to me, acting only on instincts and my gleanings from four years of sleeping in the same dorm as Lavender and Parvati, devourers of the Harlequin romance.
Severus didn't seem to care any longer either, for the next instant I felt myself pulled off my feet as he lifted me to him – and what could I do but wrap my legs around his waist and feel the powerful muscles under his black robes? – our hips meeting at a very nice place. His mouth was warm and I don't even know words to describe it, only that it was wonderful and when a moment later I felt my back pressed against that cold marble mantle and heard the chinking of china, that this left a hand free for him to cup my backside underneath the feeble cover of my miniskirt.
My hands got carried away with themselves, one slipping under his shirt, feeling the scarred, impossibly warm skin. I felt myself gasp for air as he halted his attack on my mouth to kiss my jaw, my neck, the curve of my shoulder… and I whispered into his ear, "I love you," as I tried to lift his shirt higher.
He released me to my feet then and, with an unbelievable amount of mustered dignity, told me in no uncertain terms, "Don't love me," and walked out of the room, leaving it somehow both brighter then before and unbearably empty, ghosts of his touches burning on my skin.
"Merlin!" I shouted, punching my hand ineffectually into the mantle, feeling far from sated and confused and wishing for a mother or someone to talk to about my bizarre romantic entanglement.
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"Don't know what you're complaining about. Personally, Éléonore, I'd have welcomed a dementor attack. A deadly struggle for my soul would have broken the monotony nicely."
I gave him a glare that said, "You-know-what-I-hear-every-time-one-com
"Oh yeah," he said sarcastically. "Listening to Snape's reports, having to take all his snide hints that he's been out there risking his life while I'm sat on my backside here having a nice comfortable time… asking me how the cleaning's going-"
Ginny chose that moment to interrupt, slipping a plate between Sirius's elbows, "I'd not insult Snape in front of Harry; Hermione thinks she's got a thing for him," she handed me a plate with a wink and walked off to get silverware. Why do I have to have friends who take an active interest in my life? Why?
"What?" he howled.
Why can't we all just get along? "Sirius-"
"Is that greasy-haired bastard still here? I'm going to-"
"No, he's not and please don't-"
The last scion of The Ancient and Most Noble House of Black examined me closely as if looking for evidence of what I'd just been doing, "I know you've been through a lot, but by Merlin's baggy Y-fronts-"
"If you'll just calm down-"
"Alexandrie-Margaux Éléonore Henriette Black Potter, we're talking about Snivellus," he slammed his hand upon the table, appeared pleased when it cracked, and continued, "and I forbid you from thinking thoughts of that – gross and unspeakable – nature about him."
"He's not that bad-" Thank you, Ginny. Thank you very much. See if I don't fill your bed with tapioca tonight why don't you.
"Are we talking about the same Snape here?" he asked incredulous.
"There's not a 'Black' in my name," I point out, trying to think of a way out.
"Consider yourself adopted. But, really, please tell me this is somebody's idea of a sick joke."
For a moment he looked hopeful. Then, as my silence stretched on and I became aware the gang from upstairs was listening in, I deflected, "So, what's this Order been up to?"
"I think I'm the adult here, Éléonore. What's the deal?"
This left me with only a limited number of options: the truth or an all out lie. I chose the third: "Did you know Tonks likes Remus?"
I heard my former professor cough into his butterbeer and, feeling only slightly guilty as Sirius turned towards his cousin, ran out of the room, thinking how, even if I manage to get rid of our Voldemort problem, I'm still probably joining him in Hell.