Characters: Severus, Amycus, Poppy, Portrait!Albus
Warning (highlight to view): For issues related to PTSD.
Word Count: 2061
Summary: Severus is troubled by a Slytherin present.
Disclaimer: This work of fan fiction is based on characters and situations created by J. K. Rowling and owned by J. K. Rowling and various publishers, including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books, Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made from (and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended by) the posting of this fan work.
Author's Note: This fic follows A Thoroughly Inappropriate Risk. Thank you, arynwy, for beta'ing.
To Obliviate someone properly, one had not only to cast the charm, which wiped the immediate present from the object's mind, but to replace the missing memory with a false one. Memory modifiers did not always bother with the second part of the procedure for two reasons: it took great skill to implant a false memory, and there wasn't often enough time to bother with one when working a crowd. The simple "forgetfulness" that resulted in employing Obliviatus upon a Muggle had been deemed "satisfactorily humane" by the Ministry, but Severus knew that the Dark Lord would be suspicious of any gaps he might find in one of his servants' memories. With that in mind, he took great care in crafting a replacement memory for Carrow.
"Eh, what? Why am I in here?" Amycus asked, as he came around.
"You summoned me to examine this boy," Severus told him, pointing at Corner.
Amycus blinked at him in confusion. "I did? Oh, right—brought him here. Weak, er, that's right, he collapsed during detention. Thought it best he not die."
"Did you," Severus replied flatly. "He's only a Ravenclaw."
Amycus frowned. "Ain't you always sayin' we've got to go carefully with the pure-blood students?"
"Well, Corner's a pure-blood—an' he deserved what he got, but—"
"Thank you, Carrow. Your caution shows good sense. I'll be sure to mention it to our lord should the moment present itself."
Severus nodded. "Now, as you missed the evening meal, I've taken the liberty of arranging for something to be sent to your quarters."
"That was decent of you, Sna—Headmaster. I'll just be off, then."
Severus slumped forward after Amycus left, grasping the end of Corner's bed to steady himself.
"Are you going to mess about with my memories, as well?"
"There's no need for that, is there?" Severus asked Pomfrey, forcing himself to stand under his own power and trying to forget what he'd seen of Amycus' memories.
His efforts had left him feeling sullied and exhausted, and he didn't believe that Pomfrey would say anything about what he had done.
"I don't approve of that kind of . . . violation, but I suppose it was unavoidable."
Severus turned to regard Pomfrey, hoping that his trust was not misplaced. "Obviously."
"The only thing that's obvious to me, Severus, is that you need your bed. Where did Daphne go? It isn't like her to leave a student in need of care."
"I thought it best she not be here when . . . ."
"Of course, how stupid of me. And you were here."
"Go, do. You need your rest."
Pomfrey was right, but Severus didn't return to his quarters. His mind was too troubled by the present to do that, so disturbed he was by the brutal images he'd seen in Amycus' mind. Shaken and sick, he made his way back to the Headmaster's office, wondering how he'd allowed things to spin so far out of control.
He regained a measure of self-control, however, when he entered his office and spied the bouquet of onion flowers laying atop a neat square of parchment on his desk.
Daphne, he thought, picking up the note.
It was a riddle:
Say my name, and I disappear. What am I?
"Silence," Severus murmured, reaching down to caress the flowers. That's your way of asking not to be Obliviated, isn't it?
It didn't come as any surprise to him that Daphne had guessed his current password; "onion tart" had not been a particularly subtle choice on his part, but then, he hadn't intended it to be.
I wanted her to be able to come to me if she had need. "Oh, yes, 'need'. Is that what we're calling it, these days?"
"Calling what?" one of the portraits asked.
Severus twitched a hand and closed all of the portraits' curtains while he considered Daphne's floriographical code. "Unity," "humility," and "patience"—he wondered which meaning she'd intended her flowers to convey, and at last decided that she'd meant both the first and last ones because he'd never observed anything of humility in her.
Though I suspect she regrets her behaviour and won't repeat it until . . . .
Until when? Daphne might be content to stand with him now, but would they actually ever share the unity that her floral gift implied she desired? Just what sort of unity did she desire? In spite of everything that had passed between them under their present circumstances—perhaps even because of it—he couldn't be sure. He only knew that he was growing sloppy as time wore on, and that had to stop.
I must not deviate from my routine, he told himself, as he sat down and removed a phial from his desk.
He stared at it for a moment before uncorking it and pouring three drops of the amber-coloured fluid it contained under his tongue.
Tastes like complete shite—more so than usual, he thought, as the anti-venin spread itself around in his mouth.
It was a necessary precaution: Nagini's bite would kill if one wasn't prepared for it. Of course, his potion was only protection against her venom; her fangs, well, short of a blood-stanching or shielding charm, there was little else one could do about those, and Severus expected that if she ripped into an artery, even a stanching charm wouldn't be of much use against her.
If I die, let it be clean, by Killing Curse, he prayed, and not for the first time, as he put the phial away.
Of course, he did not want to die, did he? That issue had, in spite of the depression under which he'd been labouring since Potter's arrival at Hogwarts, long been sorted, and it felt good to again know that he wanted to live—free of any master—to live a second life which none of his past mistakes could poison. He'd been planning for that life, albeit not with a view towards spending it with anyone, for a long time. Ever since his first year as Dumbledore's "Potions" master, he'd been publishing under the name of Everett Blake. He'd had to keep busy to avoid running mad in those early days and had always kept rigorous accounts of his experimentation, but he'd known that no one would give a damn about what Severus Snape had to say with regard to the "subtle science and exact art of potionmaking." People seemed to like what Blake had to contribute, though, so much so that the Most Extraordinary Society of Potioneers had made the git a Distinguished Fellow. Blake had even managed to persuade the editors of The Practical Potioneer to accept his contributions to the journal once Severus had eventually decided it was safe to publish under his own name again. Not long after that, he'd been invited to contribute to other journals, and forgiven to some extent, for his "youthful flirtation with matters dangerous and Dark."
How quickly people want to bury scandal after a brief, savage period of keeping it alive, Severus thought, remembering the article about him which had appeared in Magical Brewing and Brewers' July 1985 edition. He rolled his eyes. I hate people.
His attitude would have to be "corrected" if he did survive; Severus knew that, although he couldn't think why he was considering such a thing at the moment.
Can't you? It's better than dwelling upon what Amycus has—on the present, he told himself, as his future hopes and past mistakes continued to roll through his mind.
There were times when he could barely tolerate his own company, and the only things that had kept him from turning his wand on himself over the years—apart from his promise, of course—were the company of his Slytherins, his pride in their achievements, and the occasional, discreet favours of their mothers.
Ah, the mothers. None of them has sought my company for some time.
Of course, he well understood why that was. Slytherins loved Quidditch, and their mothers loved them more when they won the Quidditch Cup—their fathers, too, but Severus had only ever accepted the gratitude of their mothers. He'd considered it a perquisite of being Head of his house without having even once considered the witches with whom he'd shared "victory" as partners in any relationship with him. After all, his tender feelings had not been involved in those encounters, not as they had been with Lily and Nymphadora, no matter how badly he'd cocked things up with both of them.
He looked again at the flowers upon his desk and thought, And now there's Daphne.
Had he already ruined things with her? He didn't know, and he didn't truly want to think about it, but calmer, now, he couldn't help but press two fingers to his mouth as he remembered the kiss they'd shared. It had been nothing like the awkward, experimental kisses he'd shared with Lily before they'd entered their fifth year of school, or the practised, knowing ones he'd shared with Nymphadora after she'd left her seventh one. It had held none of the cold passion that he'd experienced in the arms of his Slytherins' mothers. No, it had been . . . different. Severus had felt utterly bound to Daphne when their mouths had met. The sensation, however hard to describe, lingered yet in the memory of his flesh.
Well, of course it does, you idiot. She only kissed you a little over an hour ago.
It wouldn't do for him to romanticise the moment; of that, Severus was well aware, but he couldn't help but wonder what it meant that a brief kiss shared with an obvious innocent had moved him so profoundly.
Whenever I've fancied myself in love, it's never turned out well for anyone. I don't want to hurt Daphne.
He didn't want to hurt himself, either; Severus knew that, too, but any future he might make for himself couldn't be lived alone. What would be the point in that?
That said, when he'd dreamed of his future in the past few years, it had never included marriage; his parents' had been too miserable for him to ever have seriously considered it for himself. No, the goal he'd set for himself was to find a lover who might tolerate him long enough to decide that it was easier to stay rather than go once they'd settled into a comfortable routine—and he'd always hoped that she'd laugh at his jokes.
Like Charity did, he thought, quite without meaning to.
It was as if his mind exploded, then, and he barely had time to lean over the bin by his desk before he was violently ill—and then before things could spin too far out of control, he was scrambling for the potions drawer of his desk in search of a calming draught. Finding one, he choked it down at once.
"Fuck," he muttered, hating himself for his sudden weakness and utterly at a loss to explain what had brought on another one of his "fits." So what if Carrow had cursed him instead of merely hexed him? "Got the shield up in time, didn't I?"
"Are you quite well, Severus?"
"Leave me alone, damn you!"
After Severus' heart stopped pounding alarmingly fast and he felt he could stand, he thought, I'm a bloody wreck. There's no way I could make a future with Daphne.
It surprised him to realise that he'd been working up to imagining that very thing, but it was just as well that he couldn't. The likes of "Everett Blake" had no hope where Daphne Greengrass was concerned. Blake was a wizard of insufficient income, background, and blood, and women like Daphne didn't marry men like him.
"Men like me."
"Are more valuable than any words have the power to convey. You sound tired, Severus. Perhaps you should go to bed."
"Oh, yes," Severus retorted bitterly, "it wouldn't do for me to allow exhaustion to lessen my value, would it, Headmaster?"
"Must I remind you, again, that you're the present Headmaster? In light of that fact, you really should be taking better care of—"
"Sod off, you interfering old—"
"Goodnight to you, too."
Right. I'm master here, Severus thought grimly.
He pulled himself up to his feet so that he could leave before giving in to his desire to take turpentine to Albus' portrait.
When at last Severus did dream that night, it was not of marriage.