Chapter Two: The Supplicant
"Still marking, I see. So, why didn't you tell me that you sent Harry a Lethifold repellent?"
Severus evinced no surprise to see Blaise emerge from his office's fireplace and replied, "You never asked," without looking up from his reading.
"But the only known defence against Lethifolds is the Patronus!"
"Potter wasn't looking for a 'defence'. He wanted to kill the creatures."
"There should be some sort of a reward for this, surely," Blaise said, making himself comfortable in the chair before Severus' desk that was not charmed to pinch.
"No doubt there will be—for someone," Severus replied sourly. "How was your meeting?"
"Harry thinks I'll probably have to strike all the gold-diggers from the Scroll."
"That would leave precious few names."
"He also told me my job shouldn't be that difficult, inasmuch as you're 'tall, dark, and distinguished'. He thinks you're creative, as well, and so do I. Lethifold repellent, that's ama—"
"Potter called me creative?" Severus asked, laying down the parchment.
"And 'tall, dark, and distinguished', as I said," Blaise replied. "He's investigating the names of the potential Eligibles I've compiled even now, I imagine."
"That is not perm—"
"I'm not permitted to investigate the Eligibles. Harry's completely free to do so."
"I see. . . . Did he read the list?"
"And how did he react to that news?"
"He ordered me to remove his name before you found out and hexed him to death."
"No doubt in a creative manner."
"Stop it. You know, when you asked me to include him, I thought you were mad, but now I think—"
"Attempt not to, Blaise. There is very little chance that—"
"He agreed to be your escort readily enough, and he may well be more interested in you than he knows. He's certainly protective of you."
"Life debt," Severus retorted, dismissing the notion out of hand. "In any case, it's to be expected. Weasley's appalling behaviour has no doubt left him feeling at loose ends."
"Harry's not in love with Bill. I think he wanted to be, but . . . . 'In any case', this is progress. I should have the Scroll ready in a week or so, but now we need to discuss Snape Manor."
"No, we don't. I am not spending good money after bad. That house should be torn down."
"You've never spent a Knut on it, so of course there's work to be done, but I've had an assessment made, and—"
"You did what?"
"As your Advocate—"
"I told you that I had no desire to set foot in that damned place!"
"So you did, and I ignored you. It's your Family seat, and you have to step foot in it if you're serious about conducting the Courtship Ritual. The expense shouldn't set you back at all. The vaults of Family Snape are rather full, after all."
"But my personal vault is not so large," Severus said stiffly.
"Which is why you'll be accessing your Family funds. They're yours to use as you see fit."
"I see fit to leave them where they—"
"Right. I'm not going to argue with you about this: either you are Head of Family Snape, or you're not. If you're not, then you don't need heirs, a spouse, or the Courtship Ritual. Let Parkinson gain control of that money and the title you won't exercise. It's your decision. But if I'm going to be your Advocate, I'm going to perform my duties correctly."
Blaise crossed his arms, sat back in his chair, and gazed levelly at Severus as if silently daring him to argue; Severus glared at him.
"My father never touched a Galleon of our fortune."
"No, he was a cruel, Knut-pinching bastard who enjoyed watching his wife and children be as miserable as he was himself. I'm sorry for that, Severus, truly, but that doesn't mean you have to follow in his footsteps."
Which is why I have no wish to touch that mo— "He knew where the gold came from."
"You don't want to."
"Well, wherever your side of the family got its gold, it's yours now. Let's be honest, shall we?"
Let's not, Severus thought in annoyance, although he made no move to stop Blaise from speaking.
"You're a good man who's done his best to hide that fact. You're not charming. You're not conventionally handsome. You're more notorious than famous, and while I'm sure we can get you married to someone because of your blood and fortune, I'd much prefer to see you wed to someone who will respect you—but no one will get near you if you conduct the Courtship Ritual in a manner that ill-befits your station."
Severus sighed, thinking that Blaise had been too generous with him. "Are you quite finished?"
"No. I need to arrange matters properly. I need to make your house a home, a home in which people will feel welcome—a home in which at least one of your Eligibles could see him- or herself living."
"I cannot imagine that all the gold in the world would make that much of a difference."
"It's not the size of the vault, you prat. It's how wide you swing its doors."
"See to it that you do not swing them too wide," Severus replied, in grudging resignation.
"Does that mean you agree to my terms?"
Ignoring Blaise's question, Severus asked, "And I expect that you'll wish me to purchase new robes, as well?"
"Among other things, yes."
Severus sighed again. "Very well. Do what you must. I have little hope that this scheme of yours will work."
"It's not a scheme, and it was your idea. Do remember that."
"I must be mad."
"No, that's the wrong adjective," Blaise said, smirking.
"Perhaps at my advanced age I've forgotten, but isn't the Supplicant traditionally offered more respect from his Advocate than you are displaying towards me?"
"You're not old, just tired, and if I paid you any more respect, I'd have been hexed by Harry myself. He was furious with me there for a moment. Thank Merlin he'd been drinking."
"He was put out by the banns."
"You see? He is in love with Bill Weasley." And I'm mad for even imagining that Har—
"No, he's disgusted with Bill Weasley, and rather tired from his exertions in Anegada, I would imagine."
Severus frowned in concern. "Did he look well?"
"Smashing, actually. I'm a little envious of you."
"Don't let's get ahead of ourselves. He may have only agreed to help because he felt you were in a tight spot. You are, after all, attempting to find a spouse for me."
"So I am, which makes me a very busy wizard," Blaise replied, rising from his chair. "I'm off to Gringotts to release some funds. Have one of the house elves take your measurements and send them on to Madam Malkin's. I've already left instructions for her concerning your new dress robes. Oh! Did you get the package I sent you?"
Severus flushed. "I am a Potions master. I have no need of some fancy—"
"I'm not fighting about the shampoo, either. It's a special formulation that will keep your hair from wilting under the potion fumes that layer it each day. One wash, and you'll go a week with fresh-looking hair."
"A . . . a week?"
"Yes, a week. Granger said—"
"You've not been discussing me with her!"
"No. Well, not directly," Blaise said, leaping into the hearth after the handful of Floo powder he'd pulled from his pocket before answering Severus' question.
Severus drew his wand and shouted, "An Advocate is supposed to be discreet!" as he cast a Freezing Charm in Blaise's direction, one calculated to just miss.
It was quiet for a moment, and then Blaise reappeared unexpectedly in the fireplace.
Holding up his hands as if in surrender, he said, "I almost forgot to mention it, but Harry says that he won't escort you anywhere without your written request that he do so."
"What?" Severus demanded, rising abruptly from his chair.
"He didn't believe me when I told him you wouldn't mind. He said something about your taxing him with wanting to be famous, and also that you wouldn't want to trade on his fame—and I think he seriously believes you may hex him, so you'll have to write him a letter of approval. Can you do that on your own, or do I—"
Severus raised his wand again, and Blaise Floo'd away at once.
"Wonderful, now I must beg Potter's assistance," Severus muttered, throwing himself into his chair and his wand onto the desk. Much as I am now forced to do in order to wed. Damn it!
He picked up the parchment that he had been reading when Blaise had arrived and scanned it again. It was, in fact, a letter, one of several he had received from Potter over the years. It read:
Dear Professor Snape,
I hope this letter reaches you soon because I'm in real trouble here. The infestation of Lethifolds is worse than I'd been led to believe. No one goes out at night anymore on Anegada, and everyone seals their doors and windows. A little girl went missing this morning. No trace of her was left, and her mother had slept next to her all night. I'm not sure what to do, sir.
The Patronus Charm only goes so far. These people need help. They need me to kill the creatures, but I don't know how to do it. I'm hoping that you might know something, anything, that can help me get rid of the Lethifolds. I've patrolled every night, all night, since I arrived, but I can't be everywhere at once.
There is a witch here called Mary Millblossom, originally from Oxford. She was a Spellcraftre before retiring to the island. She's working to develop a "remedy" as she calls it, and I've included her notes. She says that we need a Potions master to assist us because potions can be more readily transmuted into spells than spells can be created. I don't know anything about that, of course, but I know that you do.
If it means stopping the Lethifolds, sir, I'll promise you right now to make sure any children I may have can brew basic potions without exploding their cauldrons before they attend Hogwarts. I'll even agree to send them to another school entirely if you prefer. I mean it.
"Oh, your children will be attending Hogwarts, Mr Potter," Severus whispered, "and they'll know more than their basic potions." Now, what to write? he asked himself, pulling a sheet of parchment out of a drawer in his desk and composing:
Dear Har Mr Potter,
I was pleased to understand that my assistance in the matter of the Lethifolds was
"No, too formal," Severus murmured, pulling out a fresh sheet and beginning again:
It is gratifying to learn that the matter of the Lethifolds has been resolved. I am very interested in learning the direction of this Ms Millblossom. She sounds a most impressive
"No, too far off topic," he chastised himself, pulling out another sheet of parchment and writing:
I'm more relieved than I can express that you were not harmed during
"No! Too ridiculous, Severus!" he raged, crumpling the used sheets and tossing them into the fire before taking yet another one out of his drawer and restarting the letter:
Congratulations on remaining alive long enough to complete your mission in Anegada. Send me Millblossom's direction. I wish to know more about her transmutation of my potion into this Lethifold-killing spell. Mr Zabini informs me that you believe I'm crea
"Damn it!" he shouted, knocking most of the contents of his desk onto the floor.
Taking a deep breath, a new quill, and a fresh sheet of parchment, he tried again:
Dear Mr Potter,
Be good enough to send me Ms Millblossom's direction, and accept my assurances that your assistance to me during the Courtship Ritual will not be repaid with hexes of any kind.
The note did not contain an eighth of what Severus wished to convey to Potter. But it will have to do, he told himself, folding the parchment, sealing it, and taking it to the Owlery, where he stood thinking long after his letter had been accepted for delivery.
Severus had been surprised to receive his first letter from Potter several years previously when he and his squad had been assigned to Durmstrang to interview the staff there about their knowledge of the Dark Lord. One of Potter's fellows had been poisoned on the first day, and Potter wisely had not trusted the school's nurse's assessment of the Auror's condition. Based on the described symptoms, Severus had diagnosed what agent had been administered to the Auror and how, and he had sent an antidote and instructions to Potter telling him that he and his squad were to use cleaning spells, rather than Durmstrang's loo rolls, for the duration of their tenure at the school.
Severus had been certain that Potter would not live to see the end of his first year as an Auror.
I'm . . . pleased that I was mistaken.
Severus had eventually grown used, and then had grown to look forward, to Potter's letters, and the two of them had formed a friendship of sorts—a formal, reserved, correct friendship, of course—but the correspondence had eased some of the loneliness within him. When Potter had returned two Christmases ago to visit Hogwarts, Severus had been surprised to find himself responding to the boy as if he were a man, a grown man—a compelling and attractive grown man.
"But I'm just being an idiot. Potter would never—he could never—why am I even bothering with this charade?" If I can't have Harry, I don't wish to have anyone, Severus thought, feeling excessively disgruntled as he made his way back to his chambers. But then, I don't have a choice, do I? Not in light of my duty.
Duty did not care about preference. It never had where Severus was concerned.
"I must marry, and soon—be it Potter, or not." Be Harry. Please.