“I want to know everything you’ve got on a magical passage across this hallway.”
The Weasley twins looked at each other. One of them, Arelia had no idea which, smiled and replied, “What’s in it for us?”
“I won’t tell Professor McGonagall about catching you out of bed after curfew every night this week, in possession of every item Filch has ever banned on most of those nights.” She crossed her arms and waited.
“She’s got us, Fred.”
“First off, we’re only doing this to figure out what Professor Snape is up to,” George offered. Arelia made a mental note that he was the one in the blue sweater.
“What a teacher does is also none of your concern or business. However, in this case, I want to know what he’s up to, so spill it.”
George took a deep breath. “It’s a spell, we figured that much out – but we can’t find anything in the library that would do it. It goes from there to there,” he said, pointing. “Not during the week so much, mostly on Friday and Saturday nights.”
“Yeah,” Fred interjected, “and sometimes you can feel it operating for as much as an hour at a time.”
“How’d you figure that out?” Her eyes narrowed.
“On nights when you weren’t patrolling the dungeons, we’ve stood right here and tossed our own spells at it, trying to figure out what it is. Most of the time we get marched off to bed, though, so it might go on longer than an hour sometimes.” Fred shrugged. “On weekends, the Slytherins are in and out through here too much for a real study, but we know the spell is in operation quite a bit during the weekend afternoons.”
“Unless Professor Snape is dealing with detentions,” George added.
“Why are you so certain it’s him casting it?”
“If he’s not about or he’s busy, the spell isn’t operating.” Fred tapped his temple with a fingertip. “Doesn’t take a genius to figure that out.”
“None of the spells you’ve hit it with affect it or detect what it is?”
“Nope,” they both chimed in unison.
Footsteps down the stairs interrupted them, and they all fell silent as the Slytherin prefect strode into view.
“Good evening, lady and gents,” Marcus greeted them. “Back on the case, boys?”
Arelia put her hands on their shoulders and squeezed slightly, a subtle command for silence. “I’ve got it under control, thanks.” To the twins, she added, “Get back to bed and stay there. I’ll discuss your detention options with Professor McGonagall tomorrow.”
Marcus arched an eyebrow and gave her a smirk as they hurried off. “You have a lot of castle to go through, but the dungeons seem to be a favorite.”
She stared back at him and smiled. “I can usually count on finding rule breakers down here.”
“Sure you’re not just hoping to run into Snape?”
“I’m sure. How are you enjoying your new notoriety?”
“New?” His smooth smile was arrogant but fetching. He stepped closer and touched her cheek, leaning in to whisper in her ear. “I’ve been notorious forever, but the win has been entertaining. Unfortunately, I haven’t needed to battle Silas in defense of your honor. He must be aware of your games.” His lips brushed her ear.
Arelia stiffened at the sight of the Potions master at the foot of the stairs. He’d come down them without a sound and paused, an unpleasant smile on his lips as he watched them. Her attitude alerted Marcus and he turned.
“Prefects are allowed up this late for the capture of miscreants, Mr. Marcus, not for the pursuit of liaisons, however financially rewarding.” He approached them and shared a chilly stare with Arelia.
Marcus stepped back from her. “Sir, we were – discussing finding the Weasley twins lurking, again.”
“I do recall the motives of an eighteen-year-old male well enough to know better, even if I had not interrupted your ‘discussion’. Miss Galen, I would like to speak to my prefect in private, if you wouldn’t mind.”
“I was hoping to speak with you myself, sir,” she replied, her tone cold.
“Tomorrow, perhaps – if you don’t have Valentines plans in Hogsmeade. You may come by my office after the noon meal.” His rigid stance didn’t invite argument or compromise.
“Yes, sir. I will see you then. Goodnight, Mr. Marcus.”
Marcus smiled and bowed to her. “I look forward to seeing you in town tomorrow evening, Miss Galen. Dinner at the Three Broomsticks?”
Arelia’s smile didn’t reach her eyes. “Certainly.” She turned and headed up the stairs. They hadn’t had a plan to meet in Hogsmeade, and she couldn’t tell if he’d said that just to stake a claim in front of Snape or for some other nefarious purpose.
~ ~ ~
Carine took forever selecting a lollipop before answering Arelia’s question with a predictable answer. “It’s Slytherin business. I couldn’t talk about it with you, so I didn’t – and Marcus shouldn’t be either. As for Kenneth, it’s not proper to discuss that sort of thing outside of the families involved before an official announcement.”
“I’m your best friend – exceptions could be made. Why wouldn’t you want to tell me about getting engaged, officially or not? Marcus told me about it over the holidays. I’ve waited until now to give you a chance to tell me yourself, but obviously you didn’t plan to. After we ‘ganged up on’ your Slytherin gander, I figured you knew you could trust me. For that matter, I would have thought you could tell me about Snape, too. Why did you make me think that was your first time with him?”
“Because I couldn’t talk about the rest,” she repeated, turning away to purchase her candy.
Honeydukes was swamped. Arelia pressed through the crowd after the blonde, moving through the hearts and cupids decorations with disdain. At the counter, she whispered, “Is he hurting you?”
Her friend stiffened. “No. Can’t this wait? It’s a little public in here.”
“I’ll wait outside for you then – and I’ll expect a real answer.”
The blonde looked caught when she finally emerged from the shop. “‘No’ isn’t a real answer?”
“Carine, I was given the impression he might be cruel to you.”
“Given by who? Marcus? Well he’s wrong. What’s he spreading a tale like that to you for, anyway? He’s supposed to be Snape’s darling, keeper of secrets and honor.”
Arelia sighed. “He didn’t malign Snape. He just said he could be cruel if a girl got too personal. You can play the uncaring slut card as much as you like, but I know better. Be sure you mean what you say, too, because I intend to ask Snape about it personally.”
“He’s not mean to me, he doesn’t hurt me. Okay? Should I do lines on it, Miss Prefect?”
“Then why have you been so distraught and unlike yourself since this tutor foolishness started?”
“I can’t tell you why.”
“More Slytherin business? Come on, Carine, it’s me –”
“No! Not Slytherin business – my business, okay?” Glancing around them nervously at a few staring shoppers, she lowered her voice. “Mine. Not yours, not Snape’s – and he’s got nothing to do with it.”
Shocked, Arelia stepped back. “I – I just want to help you…”
“Carine!” a girl’s voice called out.
They both turned to see a redheaded Slytherin. Arelia knew she was a sixth year but couldn’t remember much more about her. Carine’s housemates ritually behaved as if their friendship was offensive and few of them were cordial to her.
“Hi Serena.” Carine hugged her. “We were just going to get a butterbeer. Join us?”
“Thanks,” the girl replied.
Dazed, Arelia followed them. They got a table in the busy pub after Carine used her prefect influence to eject a quartet of Hufflepuff third years. She gave them the task of fetching drinks, too, without giving them money for the mission. Arelia wordlessly paid them back when they brought the bottles over.
Carine smiled and raised her bottle. “A toast – to Slytherin winning the next match.” The other girl looked surprised, and Carine grinned. “She doesn’t care about Quidditch, it’s okay.”
“I’m Arelia Galen,” Arelia introduced herself.
“Oh, yeah,” Carine said, “I forgot you two haven’t really met. This is Serena Kistler.”
“Pleased to meet you,” Kistler responded, shaking the hand Arelia offered.
“Serena and I are the only pure-blood girls in our respective Muggle Studies classes, so we’ve been figuring out the gist of the homework together,” Carine explained.
“Maybe you could help?” Kistler asked. “You’re Muggle-born, aren’t you?”
“Yes.” Arelia frowned. She’d been teased and tormented about it by pure-blood Slytherins her first three years at Hogwarts. The fact that Carine had never cared about her heritage had cemented their friendship, but that trust didn’t extend to her housemates an inch. “I can’t talk now though, I’m sorry. I have an appointment.” She gave Carine a frosty smile. “I’ll see you back here tonight?”
“Sure, if Marcus doesn’t monopolize your attention. He told me about your dinner date. I wasn’t that surprised, though I thought you’d have mentioned it before this morning.” Carine’s answering smile was sweet, warm, and as charming as a Boggart.
“I only found out about it last night myself,” Arelia replied, her tone casual. She resisted the temptation to mention that it was Slytherin business – and therefore secret.
Leaving Carine with her new friend, she headed back up to the castle, her thoughts whirling. The new rift between them was confusing and hurt her more than she wanted to admit.
Is it just the issue of Marcus that turned her cold to me? Perhaps that’s just an excuse and the prying into ‘Slytherin business’ and her dealings with Snape is the real offense? Whatever the cause, it left her bewildered and aching.
Arelia tried to cling to her suspicious anger at Snape; it had been a welcome distraction since the holidays. Yet even that had faded under the growing coldness of her best friend until only the confusion remained strong.
The return trip to the school was a blur and she barely noticed when it ended at the Potions master’s office door. Her knock broke the silence in the hall, emphasizing how deserted the dungeon appeared to be.
Hearing his invitation, she opened the door. The professor wasn’t alone and his company was surprising. The Bloody Baron said something she couldn’t hear to the attentive teacher, and then disappeared through the wall into the classroom beyond.
She watched the place thoughtfully, wondering what the ghost had been saying. She’d never noticed him around the professor before, let alone deep in a conversation quickly broken off at an interruption.
“You did ask for this meeting, Miss Galen. I have to see to a detention shortly.”
Arelia faced him, her expression calm and cold, her hands at her sides. She ignored the twirling black wand in his hand. Instinct made her stick to her planned questions, but now that she stood before him, her emotions coiled and crested – and anger wasn’t among them. All she had left to focus on was a vague offense at his arrogance.
“I know the truth about the Slytherin Tutor. Considering the way Carine has been acting since the start of school, I assume you haven’t been entirely cordial. I understand her reason for lying, and I can’t pretend surprise that you were. I hope you haven’t gotten into the habit of hurting her.”
“My manner, cordial or not, is my business, Miss Galen. I advise against interference in the matter.”
His black eyes studied her as if she were a fascinating specimen in a murky jar. Arelia knew the look well and remembered too late that a threatening attitude would get her nowhere with him. Attempting to control both offense and concern for her friend, she tried another approach.
Moving up to his desk, she leaned her hands on it, positioning her low-cut sweater at eye-level. When the wand went still, she smiled. “Now do I have your attention?”
“I’ve been worried for her, Severus. Tell me you haven’t been cruel to her.”
His smile was smug. “I have not, by my standards. If you want the truth, your friend has had a conflict of interests since winning her post as Tutor. She feels for Shaw and this infatuation has distracted her.”
“I shouldn’t trust you.”
He reached out with his wand slowly, set the chilled wood in the point of her V-neck and pulled it down an extra inch. “Few would recommend it, on principle, though I assure you I intend no harm to Miss Lachlan – or to yourself.”
Arelia curled her fingers around the wand and slid them suggestively up and down it. “Just what I wanted to hear and therefore not likely the truth – except that Carine insists you aren’t hurting her. Frankly, I’m not sure what to believe anymore where she’s concerned, either.”
He withdrew the wand and rose, pocketing it as he moved from behind the desk with the grace of a hunting cat.
Watching him, she felt her body respond to desires it had learned to crave, inspired even more hotly by her upset. Before she could straighten, he had leaned over her, pressing himself into her body, his hands cupping her shoulders.
“Truth can be a matter of semantics, Arelia. I will give you my truth – I intend to protect Miss Lachlan, even from herself. She is one of mine, and Slytherins take care of their own.”
She felt his lips at her ear and shuddered. “Protect her from what, besides yourself?”
“You don’t know either, then. I thought she might confess to you or to Shaw. I’m not at liberty to get quite as close to him, of course – but you could.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She gasped when his hands dropped and gathered her wool skirt into a bunch at her waist. The cold air in the office made her shiver.
Snape didn’t answer as his fingers caressed the goose bumps on her bare skin briefly around the lace of her garter stays. His sharp intake of breath curled her lips into a wicked smile as he realized she was wearing the garter belt without panties. He let the breath out again as a hiss and then his touch left her.
His hands were busy behind her as their bodies held the skirt out of the way. Arelia touched her own wand in its pocket on her sleeve and cast the Contraceptive Spell nonverbally, surprised at how eager she was for this act.
She let out a low groan when he entered her, his hands at her hips. Her palms steadied her against his desk and all thoughts melted away with his insistent thrusts.
The door to the office was behind them and the empty silence of the dungeon level was easily disturbed by heavy footsteps chased by echoes. The fear and thrill of being caught fired her lust and Arelia had to bite her bottom lip to stop herself from crying out.
They both climaxed quickly, almost desperately, mere moments later and Severus moved away from her so swiftly she almost lost her footing. She heard the knock of his detention victim and hurriedly straightened her clothing.
The Potions master was already seated again, with only the smirk on his lips left over from their encounter. “Enter,” he announced.
Xander stepped through the door and stared at Arelia, a stunned look on his face. She knew her skin was flushed and devoutly hoped she didn’t look too disheveled.
“You’re late, Mr. Silas.” Turning his attention to her, he added, “That will be all, Miss Galen – you needn’t become so upset over these mere behavioral trifles. If you notice any further problems of a more heinous nature, don’t hesitate to bring them to my attention.”
Leaning on the door after her escape, Arelia tried to control her breathing. Whatever Snape had wanted Carine to confess was beyond her, but clearly the Slytherin Tutor wasn’t the only secret her friend was keeping.
Had Xander guessed what had happened? Students always looked trapped and cagey in that office, but he had seemed genuinely disturbed. Perhaps Snape’s secret wasn’t as carefully guarded as he thought.
Gritting her teeth at the near miss, she cast a nonverbal cleansing charm. Her grip on her wand made her fist tremble. Forcing herself to slip it back into its sleeve pocket, she moved away from the office door as quietly as she could manage.
Shaking her head at the insanity of it all, she headed upstairs to the prefect’s bathroom, unsure if she should meet Marcus for dinner or not. Weighing options, it might be worth it – if she could lure him into discussing Snape.
Arelia waited for a sense of guilt or shame to overtake her for allowing that coarse coupling with the Potions master, but try as she might, all she felt was a release of tension and a renewed curiosity.
The younger girl had walked with her down to the fence where they stood staring out at the Shrieking Shack. Carine stuffed her hands in the pockets of her coat and pushed away the wish that she could have spent the day with Kenneth.
It had felt dishonest talking with Serena about the engagement and not Arelia, but knowing their mothers would talk, she hadn’t tried to deny it when she’d asked. Since Serena knew all about the Slytherin Tutor, too, it had been a guilty pleasure confiding in her over the last month about some of her meetings with Snape behind closed doors.
She knew she was talking to her probable successor; Serena Kistler had been angling to catch the Potions master’s eye since Rowan held the job. Rumor stated she was top pick these days, too, fueled by the knowledge that she’d been in detention with the professor at least twice. Snape didn’t give a Slytherin detention without ulterior motives.
Kistler broke in on her thoughts. “I’ve never heard the ghost, have you?”
“Huh? Oh – no, I haven’t.”
“Hamish claimed to. He used to try and scare me, bragging about sneaking inside and battling evil forces. Pure rubbish.”
“A natural assumption, with him.”
“I miss him.” She held herself and smiled at Carine’s stare. “I know you don’t – but he was nice to me. I wasn’t his cousin, able to do no wrong.”
Carine’s laugh was bitter. “I could do no wrong with him breathing down my neck. I was trying, though.”
“Richter said they’re going to try some of his signature moves against Ravenclaw. Arelia really doesn’t mind drinking to her own team’s defeat?”
“No, I told you, Quidditch isn’t her thing. If she cares about it for the sake of her house’s honor, I’ve never heard her say so. She thinks Wizard’s Chess is the only worthwhile team effort at school, including who is top house by graduation.”
“That feels like years away for me. My seventh year might be boring after you lot leave. I haven’t got many friends in my own year.”
“Keep after Snape. He won’t let you get bored – or let you have any time for friends.”
“Can I ask you something, Carine? It’s sort of a secret, but I guess it’s not so vital now.”
The girl faced the distant haunted building. “I used to have a crush on Hamish … but all he ever did was joke around like I was a kid.” Her head turned abruptly, the red hair flashing in the weak sun that tried to warm the day. Meeting Carine’s eyes, she whispered, “Did he ever mention me? Maybe notice that I liked him? I know he wasn’t into doe-eyed little girls, but I always hoped…”
~ ~ ~
Lying in bed in the dim light of the fire, Carine stroked Latimer’s sleek fur, her tears drying on her face. She hadn’t met Arelia after lunch that day. The thought of seeing her with Marcus left her cold and she’d felt guilty about fighting with her, too. Walking back up to the castle with Serena, she had dodged questions about Hamish and allowed her friend to do most of the talking.
She had gone to bed early only to receive a visit from Snape. He didn’t remain long, and although Carine had tried to be attentive, he was probably unimpressed with her performance. If she couldn’t pull herself together, she wouldn’t have to worry about him finding out her secret shame – her housemates would lynch her for making their Head of House irritable. Some of them were already giving her long looks and baleful stares. The real reason she had spent so much time with Serena Kistler lately was that she seemed to be the only one who wasn’t offended at her behavior.
Carine had slept after Snape disappeared, but the old nightmares had jolted her awake again. The rat snuggled under her chin.
“Only a few months left, Latimer,” she whispered. “Then I graduate, and as soon as I can manage it, we’re going to go live with Kenneth.” Her best friend’s face haunted her thoughts. “Why did Arelia have to get mixed up with Raegan ‘Decker’ Marcus, the Hound of Hell?” she asked the rat. “He’s in Snape’s pocket more than the rest of them – and she expects me to tell her everything while she’s sharing a pillow with him?”
With a sigh, she got up and fetched the decanter of firewhiskey that was always full on the mantle. Maybe the nightmares wouldn’t come back if she was drunk enough to pass out?
Several glasses later, she was sure of only one thing – her Occlumency lessons over the holidays had paid off. She had felt Snape trying to pry the entire time he’d been with her, but he hadn’t broken through.
“Should I warn Serena about his brain-snooping habit?” she asked her pet as he curled up again against her shoulder. “I should.” Carine sighed. “If I didn’t have her to relax around I’d probably go crazy.”
Even as she thought it, she felt the longing for her old closeness with Arelia – but the fleeting idea of fully confiding in her came and went quickly. The Ravenclaw prefect wouldn’t understand. To her, everything was black and white, right and wrong. The desperate act of a scared child wouldn’t be excused, even if the horror of it was understood.
She held herself tightly and fell into a fitful sleep. The scent of peppermint dogged her dreaming mind and rosebuds failed to bloom, no matter how much blood nourished their greedy roots.
~ ~ ~
Carine sat between Serena Kistler and Professor Snape, but Quidditch practice was still an ordeal in the strong, cold wind of March. She struggled to keep her mind as closed as she could, but the team was working out some very signature moves, and every time Richter or Vaughn mimed her deceased cousin’s tricks, she twitched or winced.
Their side of the bleachers was populated solely by Slytherins but she had spied Kenneth across the field, newly healed from his injury in the last game. He was sitting with Arelia and her Hufflepuff, Silas. Hagrid was over there, too. Were they all watching her more than the practice between them?
“Ah, there,” Snape said, cutting into her thoughts. “If they tighten up, they’ll have that one down.”
“Hamish could do that in his sleep,” Serena bragged.
“Give them time,” Snape admonished. “Vaughn may barely classify as a mammal, but Richter will master the technique before much longer.”
Mastered or not, Richter had used that technique to shatter Kenneth’s left arm. Snape had insisted it was an accident, of course. Holding back threatening tears, Carine tried not to keep staring at Kenneth, but it wasn’t any easier to meet the eyes of Arelia or Hagrid. She shivered.
Snape turned to her. “Are you cold, Miss Lachlan? We could go inside, if you like.”
Looking into his black eyes and feeling her stomach drop, she nodded.
They would end up in bed, and though she fought it inside, she would cling to him as she always did these days. The more she wanted nothing to do with him, the more intensely they copulated. It seemed to please him, but then the memories would unhinge her again and she would begin to cry. The constant switching angered him. Yet when she could match his desire, his skill became a drug, the only thing that seemed to keep the memories at bay. The muddled confusion of it left her feeling empty and she would end up turning to Snape again in order to feel anything at all.
Even now, she was caught between eagerness and dread. Looking across the field, her guilt crowded in. Kenneth would watch them leave together, alone, and he’d know why.
Snape rose and offered his hand. Catching Serena’s eye, she startled at the girl’s wink as her hand was clasped by their teacher’s.
“Should I report on their progress later, Professor?” the redhead asked.
“No need,” he answered as Carine followed him. “I will be in the common room this evening to discuss the practice. Please pass on to Richter that I will expect to see the entire team there.”
Carine turned once to look at her and found the younger girl watching them as the practice continued. She shivered again, the sense of dread tightening in her stomach.
Her Occlumency remained strong in his presence, probably because she was on her guard against him. From Kistler’s reports, he knew there was much the blonde tried to hide concerning her cousin’s death. He was almost certain she had killed him herself … but why?
Severus couldn’t pretend to care in general about Hamish Ketch’s fate. The self-styled Bludger God had been worthless off the Quidditch field and less than successful at keeping the secrets of his Head of House. Kistler had already learned by snooping in Shaw’s company that the Ravenclaw Seeker knew exactly what the Slytherin Tutor was because Ketch had bragged about it to him years before.
The girl who held all the remaining pieces of the puzzle lay panting underneath him. He brushed sweaty locks of hair from her eyes and stared into their emerald depths. Echoes of memory nudged at his thoughts and he turned away, lying on his back.
“What do you see when you look at me like that?” Lachlan whispered.
Severus closed his eyes. In memory, he saw a pale hand slipping through his black hair and tucking it behind his ear, baring his face to searching emerald eyes.
“Nothing that concerns you.”
Chastised by his cold tone, she fell silent. He dozed for a time but woke with a start, breaking the old nightmare of the explosion of green light, the woman’s scream. The girl beside him watched him in surprise. Frowning, he turned her onto her stomach.
He knew she was always afraid in this position, though he never hurt her. The reason for the fear had to be significant, so he initiated it as the only way to break into her Occlumency shields. The images his Legilimency could extract were limited and confusing. Eventually, he gave it up and simply pleasured himself, free at least from his own ghosts while her eyes couldn’t watch him.
Withdrawing himself when he finished, he rose immediately and donned his bathrobe again. The time before speaking to the Quidditch team would be best spent in a hot bath in his chambers.
The spelled doorway in the arch waited, but then a sob behind him made him pause. For a moment, compassion bloomed – but it brought with it a pain he couldn’t risk showing to anyone, least of all to a foolish girl. With a vague anger kindling, he turned to face her.
Sultry curves in firelight, sheets bunched across the smooth backs of her thighs – the image tugged at him. For a moment the blonde hair was almost a dark red, the skin pale. Shaking his head, he allowed the anger to kill the hurt.
“Why do you persist in this foolishness?”
She muttered something, her face buried in her arms. Severus strode back to the bedside, grabbed her shoulders, and flipped her to her back. She cried out, her arms up to protect her face.
“Do you think I would strike you?”
His hands had curled into fists. Glancing at them, his stomach lurched as the memory of other fists intruded. He spread the fingers slowly, forced the hands to relax.
“Miss Lachlan, look at me.” She did, and the sight of the wet green eyes stabbed into him. “I have not harmed you. This response is unnecessary. Control yourself.”
“I’m sorry,” she gasped.
He turned away and poured firewhiskey for them both. Handing her a glass, he sat near her and gulped half the liquor in his.
“Drink it,” he commanded.
She did, holding the glass in trembling fingers. Severus ran his free hand through his long hair, allowing the curtain of it to fall back into his eyes like a mask.
“I tire of this game, Miss Lachlan. Perhaps you should be relieved of your obligations to me.”
She turned to him with an expression of dread. “Sir, please, don’t…”
Severus frowned as one eyebrow arched in surprise. “Your behavior has led me to believe you would welcome this.”
“The others … would make my life a living hell.”
He took her glass and put it down with his on the nightstand. Grasping her shoulders, he forced her to look at him.
“They will obey me. You are one of mine. Others might not approve of my habits, but those in our house know I will protect my own. You refuse to say why this role that you pursued so intently has been a problem from the start.” His fingers tightened. “I will only ask you directly once, Miss Lachlan, but I will learn the truth. What is troubling you?”
Lachlan shook her head as fresh tears fell. “I can’t… Please sir … let me stay?”
Her words shook him. ‘Let me stay.’ How many years ago had another said that, with tears in her eyes? Pain threatened to rise, to overwhelm, until he crushed it without mercy.
Severus held his expression perfectly still, a pale mask, as fresh threads of anger twined through the fog of useless emotions he could never purge. He reached for those threads in his mind, twisting them into a brittle lifeline.
All at once, desperate to escape those eyes, he released her and stood. “If you remain in this room, you will learn to obey me, too. These fits of yours weary me.”
The girl slipped from the bed to her knees at his feet. Her fingers touched the cold hard stones as her body began to tremble. “I will, I’m sorry… I promise, I will…”
Silent, he backed away. Ignoring her beseeching stare, he entered his spell and retreated to his own chambers.
Drawing the tapestry over the arch, he stopped the spell and stared at the faded words of the poem, the lines of it echoing in his memory.
Whispers in the library … she had found it ribald, a poem urging them to misbehave, while he had always sensed in it a waiting dread, dwelling on gathered roses doomed to wither.
Her voice, her eyes – housed in this impossible young woman, clouding my judgment. I should leave her to the tightening noose others have prepared for her. Yet can I cast away one of mine merely because she calls up ghosts? My house is all that is left to me; their honor and success is all I have.
Severus turned away from the tapestry to pace before it. The candles flickered as he passed.
If rumors from old friends and allies are to be trusted, there could be worse to come than a mixed up tutor. Can I allow Falchion to threaten her and lose one of my most brilliant students for the sake of a dead braggart, a useless fool? Lucius said Falchion is near to bringing a case against Lachlan officially.
He stopped pacing and stared up at the ancient Slytherin tapestry over his bed. All that the crest symbolized to him crowded into his heart, and in that moment, he saw through the Ravenclaw Auror’s machinations.
No, I cannot allow that. If she succeeds, she will use it as a stepping stone to accuse others. Perhaps that is the reason for her investigation, from the beginning – to strike a spark in the heart of our secrets, merely to see what may catch fire. The memories of the rabble are shallow, but their fear has never faded. There is no better fuel to create a blaze.
Severus moved to the wall, lifted his hand and touched the edge of the green and silver tapestry. It was worn and old, but still vibrant, standing the test of time and adversity.
Can those who wear its colors in this modern age do the same, if the bureaucrats wake and remember their fear – their hate? The names they could gather now would be merely the children and grandchildren of those whom they once hunted and caged. Would reason stop them from believing that these innocents ought to share a similar fate?
Turning away from the crest, his fists slowly clenched. Striding stiffly to the bedroom doorway, he stared across the dim chamber beyond at a simple scrollcase waiting, forgotten, in the shadows.
Inside it, rolled and stored for years, were spells that could bring a hideous death instantly – as well as provide his enemies with all the proof they would ever need. After all, many of them had been created by him in his youth – at an age younger than most of his students could now claim.
Shaking his head, he stepped into the room and drew his wand. Starting the fire, he sat abruptly on the couch, set his wand on the coffee table, and allowed his face to sink into his hands.
Lachlan is merely the tinder required to begin. There are more tempting targets for those in power and with Falchion tending the blaze, how far down the docket will my name appear?
Lifting his head, he stared into the flames which he had created with a mere flick of a wand, barely having to think the required word for the charm to work. Between the desire and the result, so little effort was needed.
Even now, after all the intervening years, it will be as simple to spark this conflagration, to burn us all, as this.
Author’s Note: Snape fans who have read the books know who his main green-eyed ghost is in this story. He’s still grieving for her (Always…) and she is the reason he guards his heart so viciously. Thanks for reading! – AnonGrimm (@MET_Fic) (anongrimm.tumblr.com)