Notes: Before I offered up for auction GSM's completion date, I had ten extant, unedited chapters of the fic; I'm going to post them as I edit them. Any new chapters of GSM will be posted as they're written and beta'd if my auction is won for $150 or more. fodirteg and lalaith_niniel were good enough to beta this chapter. Did you miss Chapter Thirty-Five?
Chapter Thirty-Six: The Revelations of Sons
"—may be right. The child has always been rash in her decision-making," Narcissa Malfoy's voice could be heard to say bitterly through the open window on the now-calm Anegadan evening.
"You're thinking of how she scorned your son," replied another voice, one that the wizard eavesdropping upon the two witches recognised as belonging to Evessa Parkinson.
"Among other things."
"Even before she went on the Aurors' Watch List, Pansy had cause to break her engagement to your son, did she not?"
"She was angry at Draco for leaving her, but—look! It seems that our missing hostess has been indulging in a bit of creative spell-casting."
"The biscuits? Yes, I noticed those, but I think it more likely that she used a potion. Pansy was never particularly good with charms."
"Perhaps, but Bella's always had a knack for them."
"I don't know that it was Bellatrix. She has never liked leaving Aries for long—"
Aries? Has Parkinson given Bellatrix a child?
"—and we know that Draco hasn't visited the castle in some time. She would never have consented to leave the boy alone with John. She doesn't trust my husband."
I suppose it's possible that Lestrange got his wife with child before his death, but—
"Then which of them was it, Evessa? If what you suspect is true, one of them had to be minding those dreadful creatures."
How much do you know?
"And one of them, Harry."
"But it makes no sense!" Narcissa exclaimed. "No sense at all! We know that Lucius is gone. Llewellyn told us so."
"My dear," Evessa responded, as calmly as if she and Narcissa were merely taking tea, "one Unforgivable cannot transform a curse-breaker into an Auror. You directed the man to observe, not to investigate. Llewellyn saw Hermione and Blaise enter your husband's room. He didn't see them emerge from it before he was compelled to return and report his observations to you. Lucius could yet be at St Mungo's. I'm certain that Severus must have sent the children there to guard him while he went after Harry."
"No. They took him."
"If they did, isn't that better than your sister or my granddaughter having done so? Do calm yourself. We must think."
The witches' observer saw how Narcissa snapped her head around to glare at Evessa when the other woman referred to Pansy Parkinson as her 'granddaughter' and wondered at it.
"I should return home. What if Bellatrix should decide to look for me there? How will I explain my absence?"
You're in contact with her. I might have known. I should have known.
"Easily," Evessa said, somewhat impatiently. "You will tell her that you were a guest at Snape Manor, that you went there to press Severus on the matter of 'curing' Lucius. The whore believes you to be certain of Severus, even if she isn't—though why the two of you felt it necessary to abandon Lucius to torture, rather than kill him outright, I will never understand."
"Says the woman who knows something about abandonment and torture," Narcissa spat.
After everything, the woman still loves her sister, thought the eavesdropper, realising that Narcissa had taken umbrage against hearing Bellatrix referred to as a whore. I will never understand witches.
"What are you talking about?" demanded Evessa.
"Oh, it was very good of you to remain at home and look after Severus for the first three years of his life, despite the fact that you were wanted elsewhere. Bellatrix has it from John that he did everything he could to persuade you to run away with him."
"If you know that much, then you know Father refused to allow—"
"You to leave? Oh, I think that he did want you near him. He gave himself in service to the Dark Lord—as he did you, his only daughter—to secure you for himself. Lucius told me that."
Evessa said nothing in response to this accusation, and the unnoticed listener went rigid as he stood next to the open window, his heart beating hard. What is she saying?
"I don't fault you for wishing to retain your magic against the day your father died and you could be released, you understand. I married Lucius for much the same reason after Andromeda's defection. But I do think that you might have found a way, once your marriage was made, to have brought your eldest son away with you. Tobias Snape was a monster, and his wife, too weak to care for—to protect—his child!"
Her child, thought the wizard. Her child!
"Her child, you mean!" Evessa's voice rang out shrilly.
"No, I don't. Severus couldn't have been Eileen's child because Eileen wasn't at home to become with child when she would have had to have been!"
"You're wrong, Narcissa."
"I'm not. Eileen Snape was a guest in my mother's home at the time, staying there in order to see Healers at St Mungo's so that they might . . . correct the damage Tobias had done to her during one of his fits of temper."
"But how can you know that?"
"Because my mother told me so. She told me so when she realised that Severus and I were involved. She was superstitious about incestuous bastards and wished to stop me from 'soiling' myself with one of them."
The listener flinched and gripped the outer sill of the window, straining to hear more without being observed.
It can't be. It's not possible!
"You're wrong! John came to me in secret. He is—"
"—not Severus' father. He did not come to you in secret. Bellatrix knows of his every movement, now and in the past, for she's read him, and she told me that John Parkinson was never able to see you alone while you were at home—not once—and further, that it was his horror at the discovery of your sullied state upon entering the married one that ultimately led to your estrangement."
"Stop it," Evessa begged. "Please."
His fingers slipping from the sill, the man outside the window staggered against the wall of the house and slid down it, but neither witch heard his movement.
"For—forgive me," he heard Narcissa say, somewhat calmer in the face of the other woman's obvious despair. "I shouldn't have been so cruel."
No. No, you shouldn't have been. Dear gods.
"I know . . . I know, Evessa, that it could not have been easy, living under the thumb of that man—but I will not be taxed by you for my behaviour in removing myself from the power of my own tormentor. I did what I had to do to preserve the life of my child, just as I have done what I could to safeguard my nephew. If Lucius had died, Bellatrix's wrath would have been . . . ."
"Impossible to control. I know that. I can even understand it, but I will not subject myself to your chastisements on the matter of . . . Severus."
"Can you truly blame me? And have you no remorse? Ever since I learnt of Severus' origins, I've been unable to forgive you for leaving him with his father. When I think of what I've had to do to protect my own son from his, your behaviour sickens me. He's your son, Evessa. How could you have abandoned him?"
The wizard outside was wondering that very thing.
"Tobias would have murdered Severus in his crib had I attempted it. He made that perfectly clear to me after Mother insisted I be released."
"What could he have done that wouldn't have embarrassed himself? He would never have wished anyone to know that he'd sired his own grandson!"
"Oh, he did wish to avoid that, and he did—by murdering my mother not a day after I left Snape Manor!"
"What?" Narcissa gasped.
The eavesdropper, who had only just managed to stand, found that his legs would no longer bear his weight, and he fell again.
"So you don't know everything. How charming," he heard Evessa say, her voice empty. "Father sent me the memory of his . . . . He sent the memory of his act as a wedding gift."
A Pensieve. Dear gods, he sent her a Pensieve—and Narcissa Malfoy believes Evessa Parkinson knows something about torture.
"He . . . he sent you a Pensieve?"
"He did, and I assure you that reliving my mother's murder just the once was sufficient inducement to leave Severus in his care. I understood his threat perfectly."
The distraught listener closed his eyes against the pain he heard in Evessa's voice. He was truly shocked by what he'd heard, but he thought that he, too, understood—most of it—and this gave him the strength to stand.
"No wonder the Dark Lord had Tobias Snape murdered," Narcissa said faintly.
"So Lucius told me."
"Ah. I hope it hurt."
So do I.
"I'm sure it did, Evessa," Narcissa replied, almost kindly. "I'm very sorry for having—"
"No, you're not, girl, and I don't want your apologies. I want to cease this argument and deal with the matter at hand. We've much to do."
Finding himself much recovered, the wizard moved from the window to the front door as Narcissa said, "We must discover where Lucius is being kept."
"Yes, and we must find out where Pansy and Bellatrix are," replied Evessa, "and do what we can to ensure that Aries remains unharmed. I think, perhaps, it's time that I returned home."
"Before you do that," said the wizard levelly, as he entered the room in which the witches stood, "perhaps you'd be good enough to tell me exactly who this Aries is?"
"I don't think this will help us find out who 'Mary' is," Harry said to Albus nervously. "I don't see what good this will do, at all. I told you: I don't remember anything about the time before I woke up in that room at the Ministry. I woke up, broke the restraining charms, and headed for the roof. You know everything that happened after."
"Harry, that we do, but I feel it important to know what Bellatrix Lestrange might have done to you while you were her captive. You were missing for three days before the battle at the Ministry, and that is a great deal of time for anyone to be in the thrall of a Dark witch."
"If this was so important, then why didn't you talk to me about it before?"
"I didn't wish to burden you with memories that will no doubt be unpleasant," Albus said, his voice sad, but his eyes determined. "But Rabastan Lestrange assured me that you were at the heart of Bellatrix's plan for the third rise of Voldemort. It's quite probable that she said something to you of her plan before she Obliviated you, and I think you understand that we must know if she did."
"So you want me to pour memories I don't have into the Pensieve?" Harry asked incredulously. "How will that help?"
"The mind is a complicated thing. It does not, in fact, forget. However Bellatrix interfered with your memory, there are ways to uncover it. Together, we'll be able to find those memories that she pushed down too deeply for you to access. I shall then assist you in extracting them, and when you view them in the Pensieve, it should help you reintegrate them into your consciousness."
Harry sighed. "I have . . . nightmares about her, about that day. They're never very clear. I never really remember them. . . . I'm not sure I want to."
"I know what I'm asking you is a very personal thing, Harry. You know that I wouldn't ask it now if I didn't believe it was of the utmost importance."
"I do, but—maybe she just hit me on the head too hard. Who's to say she didn't just knock me out and get me in the building somehow? I mean, we've always assumed that Voldemort sent Bellatrix to kill me so that I wouldn't interfere with his getting into the Chamber of Secrets."
"Perhaps that's true, but we won't know for certain unless you agree to what I've proposed."
Harry swallowed. He had no desire to do what Albus asked. But I already know I'm going to do it. "I never say no to you," he said, suddenly angry. "Why is that?"
"Because you trust me?" Albus asked, his mouth curving in an ironic half-smile.
"On the face of it, I'm not sure I have any reason to."
"On the face of it, perhaps you don't. . . . Harry, when you were a child, I withheld things from you for your own good—and the good of others, of course—but you're a man now. . . . I shall leave the decision up to you, but were I to find myself in your position, I would want to know."
That's just great, you manipulative bastard, Harry thought, taking a deep breath and saying, "I do. I do want to know. I'm just . . . afraid."
Albus reached across his desk and took Harry's hand. "I'll be with you the entire time, and if the process becomes too much for you, I'll end it at once. You have my word."
"I trusted you!" exclaimed Evessa, flinging out an arm at Narcissa, who yelped as a bleeding slash appeared athwart one cheek. "You brought him here!"
Severus crossed the room and grabbed Evessa's arm. "She didn't. I came on my own from Hogwarts to retrieve Harry's invisibility cloak."
"You were here?" Narcissa demanded, holding her cheek. "Was Bella?"
Restraining Evessa and ignoring Narcissa's second question, Severus replied, "I was. This is where Harry came after overhearing our earlier conversation."
"And what did you hear?"
Severus turned to Evessa, seeing her for what she was for the first time, and said shakily, "Everything . . . Mother."
He was alarmed when she dissolved into tears, and surprised by what happened next.
Narcissa strode forward and wrapped her arms around Evessa, pulling her from Severus. "Can't you see she's upset?" she snapped, drawing Evessa down to the sofa and rocking her gently.
Astonished, Severus could think of nothing to say. He had too many questions to ask only one. All he could do, as he stood and stared at the bizarre scene before him, was to reflect upon the fact that his understanding of witches was weaker than he'd ever imagined it to be.
If this moment is anything by which to judge, it will never be sound.
After many long moments, Narcissa pulled away from Evessa and asked, "Shall I give you a moment alone with your—with him?"
"Perhaps that would be for the best."
Narcissa rose and made to exit the room, but Evessa stopped her for long enough to heal the wound she'd inflicted. The two women exchanged brittle smiles, and then Narcissa fixed Severus with a sharp gaze.
"I'll be just outside the door," she told him, her eyes hard but her tone soft, as if her words were meant for Evessa's reassurance rather than a warning to him.
Severus knew better.
No. I will never understand witches, he thought, sitting down on the sofa next to Evessa. "I don't know what to say."
"You may begin by blaming me if you like."
"I don't want—"
"Come now, boy. I abandoned you to hell. Surely you wish to—"
"Eve—Mother," Severus said softly, "my life, my 'hell', was nothing compared to yours. I can't blame you for doing what you felt was right by me. I hardly yet believe . . . what I have learnt, but there isn't time for us to discuss it now. Who's Aries? Is he connected to Slytherin's locket? What do you and Narcissa know of Bellatrix's plan? Albus is helping Harry even now to understand what happened to him after she—"
"No!" Evessa exclaimed. "He can't!"
"What did you say to her?" demanded Narcissa, returning to the room.
"That old fool Dumbledore is meddling with Harry's memories!"
"What?" asked Narcissa, clearly disturbed. "But the shock of it will—"
"The shock of WHAT?" Severus thundered, his own receding against the tide of his anger as he rose from the sofa and rounded on Narcissa.
"We can't tell you that, Severus," Evessa declared. "The boy shouldn't be burdened—"
"BY ENDLESS LIES!"
"Calm down," Narcissa urged, moving forward, her hands outstretched placatingly.
Severus jerked back from her. "What did Bellatrix do to Harry?"
Harry watched himself choke to consciousness as Bellatrix Lestrange poured a brackish-looking potion down his throat. "Wha—"
Her slap shut his mouth, and Albus had to restrain Harry from moving forward to help himself.
"This isn't happening. Wait."
His jaw tightening so hard he thought he might break his teeth for grinding them, Harry waited. Bellatrix struck his Pensieve self again, and, for a moment, his rage was such that it obscured the memory in which he found himself.
"I . . . I know."
"You think you'll win," hissed Bellatrix, running her wand over Pensieve Harry's chest and causing his shirt to tear open.
Both Harrys winced.
"You think that you know the truth," she spat, ripping the shreds of cloth away from Pensieve Harry's body. "Well, you're wrong. You're wrong!" She laughed, looking at the furious Pensieve Harry before her. "Feeling better? Like the breeze?" she asked, as Pensieve Harry moaned and his eyes began to lose focus.
"No," Harry whispered, feeling Albus lift his restraining hand from his arm. "What's she—"
Pensieve Harry struggled against his bonds, demanding, though his voice was somewhat slurred, "Wha's that? What'd you give me?"
"Just something to help me get what I need from you," Bellatrix told him, kneeling before his prone form and clawing at his belt buckle.
"Get off me!"
"Give it time, my little half-blood. Soon you won't care who touches you."
"No!" both Harrys yelled.
"G—go!" Harry demanded, turning to Albus. "Just go."
Albus was no longer beside him.
Harry turned his horror-filled eyes back to his Pensieve self and saw that he was now sweating profusely. Oh, God. She's not going to—she didn't . . . .
"B—but why?" he heard himself ask. "Why are you—"
Bellatrix rucked up her robes and straddled him. "Don't think it gives me any pleasure, Potter. But you—you told me!" she yelled, slapping him again. "You said it that day, didn't you? And didn't you like it?" she hissed, leaning down to his neck and licking it. "Didn't you like telling me your ugly truth about my perfect lord."
Harry thought he might vomit as his Pensieve self's hips bucked. No!
"What did I—"
"HE'S NOT A Pure-blood!" Bellatrix screamed, putting her hands around Pensieve Harry's neck and beginning to throttle him. "AND YOU KNEW!"
"Leave him alone!" Harry yelled. "Stop it!"
Bellatrix was suddenly sobbing. "He's not pure, he's not pure," she continued, pulling down Pensieve Harry's trousers, "and his flesh is weak."
"Please," Harry heard himself beg. "I want—"
"DON'T YOU ASK FOR ANYTHING!" Bellatrix screeched, striking Pensieve Harry's chest with her fists. "This isn't for you. It's for HIM!"
Harry flinched as his Pensieve self appeared to realise what was happening to him and began to struggle harder against the glowing ropes restraining him.
"Oh, yes, Potter! Yes. I have you now, and there's nothing you can do," Bellatrix said, her voice rising in a sing-song as she shifted in his lap.
Pensieve Harry groaned and went utterly still, and Harry could see how hard he was fighting not to move.
"You won't last. It's Pansy's potion. She's very good at brewing, you see—good at a lot of things," Bellatrix sniggered. "Good at planning. Good at obeying. Good at hiding. So. Many. Good. Things," she said, moving against Pensieve Harry in a determined rhythm. "She helped me with my plan, you see, did good little Pansy."
Pensieve Harry whimpered.
"This way is best. You won't remember, and you will die. I'll . . . oh . . . I'll probably never need your seed, you foul, unworthy . . . you disgusting—but I'll have it! Yes, have it—just in case he fails. But oh, but oh, but HE WON'T FAIL!"
Harry could no longer to stand to watch himself being violated by the woman who'd killed Sirius. He wasn't even angry. He was simply too stunned to be angry, but not so shocked to realise that he was gripping a warm hand even as the sensation of the others crawling over his skin pushed his rage from his mind as he found himself flying upward and then out of the memory, out of the Pensieve—only to find himself lying on the floor of Albus' office.
"No," he sobbed, before retching horribly. "No . . . no . . . no."
He knew that he had the memory now, that it had followed him out of the Pensieve, and the hands didn't stop moving over him until Albus said, "Drink this. It's a calming potion. Harry, drink."
Wiping the sick off of his mouth with the back of one hand, Harry felt Albus cradle him as he pressed the phial to his lips. Harry's mind cleared as he drank, which was as close to calmness as he could come under the circumstances.
"Oh, God. Albus, she . . . ."
He couldn't say what Bellatrix had done to him. He couldn't yet believe it, let alone speak of it.
"I know, dear boy. I saw. Forgive me. I should have pulled you out sooner."
"You didn't leave me."
"No. No, Harry. I didn't—but I should have pulled you out sooner," Albus repeated, almost as if to himself.
"Not your fault. Oh, God. She—"
"Shh, shh. Don't think about it. Rest now."
Harry found Albus' suggestion difficult to ignore, so he allowed himself to be held, and he waited for whatever it was the Headmaster had given him to make him sleep.
The last thing he heard before consciousness left him was Albus' sorrowful voice telling him, "I didn't leave you, Harry. I didn't leave you."