Characters: Severus, a princely portrait, Blaise, implied others
Word Count: 1686
Summary: Severus is troubled by a Slytherin tale.
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 Sacrifice. Thank you, arynwy, for beta'ing.
The light was disorientating, and Severus blinked rapidly as his surroundings came into focus. He was lying in a narrow, soft bed propped up against even softer pillows and covered by a light, white coverlet. The Pensieve in his lap was not like the one in the Headmaster's office; it was nothing but a simple silver bowl, currently swirling with Zabini's memories. Severus looked up, and the sunlight streaming into the room from the window behind him shone on a wall of bleached wooden drawers before him; apparently, Pince's flat was small, and she'd done what she could to expand its storage capacity. To his left, a tiny wooden table, squeezed between the bed and the wall, held a decanter of water, a glass, and his wand. To his right, upon which his clothing lay folded, was a tall upholstered chair, behind which there was just enough room to squeeze into what Severus had assumed, upon first waking, was a closet. At the end of that wall, separated by a large portrait, was the door to the room; when it opened, it hit the end of the bed. Presently, it was closed.
"And did you find the answers you were seeking?" asked the gentleman in the portrait.
"Some of them," Severus replied, shaking his head. He examined the portrait more clearly, noting the wizard's strong resemblance to Pince. "Who are you?"
"Ah, forgive me. I would have introduced myself to you before, but . . . ."
Severus grunted. He didn't want to think about what his state of mind had been upon first awakening.
"In any case, I am Everard Prince, at your service."
"You've heard of me." Prince seemed pleased.
"Are you any relation to Madam Pince?"
"So Madam Irma tells me, and as she keeps terribly thorough records of her family tree, I wouldn't dare doubt her. Second drawer from the left, three drawers up—it's really quite astonishing, how much she can fit into those draw—ah, but I must not be rude. With whom do I have the pleasure of conversing?"
There didn't seem to be a reason to prevaricate, so Severus replied simply, "I'm Severus Snape."
"Isn't this extraordinary!" Prince exclaimed, as if he hadn't already known Severus' identity. "Well met, Headmaster! I'm quite gratified to make the acquaintance of one of Hogwarts' hero—"
"How is Miss Greengrass?" Severus interrupted, in no mood for accolades as he pushed the Pensieve off to one side and prepared to rise.
"Perhaps you shouldn't do that," Prince said. "I'm given to understand that you're still too weak for ambulation."
Finding this true, Severus sank back into his pillows and snapped, "And what have you been given to understand about Miss Greengrass? Mr Zabini refused to—"
"Madam Irma is tending to her in the front room, and the young lady continues to sleep. Would you like to see her?"
"Yes, but how can I?"
"There's a small portrait of me hanging above the door to this room. I can see everything in the front one from it, and if you but give me a moment," Prince told him, moving farther into his portrait, "ah, there we are."
Prince's portrait shifted and changed, and then Severus found himself looking into another tiny room, one that held a sofa, two chairs—in which sat sleeping Pince and the Healer who'd earlier attended Severus—a table covered with newspapers, and little else save bookshelves. Daphne was lying on the sofa, pale and still.
"Why doesn't she m—move?" asked Severus. "Why aren't they doing anything for her?"
Prince's voice filtered into the room as if from far away. "I believe that Healer Waters has done much for the comfort of Miss Greengrass. He hasn't left her side in three days except to attend you—and Mr Zabini, of course."
Severus sighed. "I shouldn't have hit him, but he wouldn't tell me anything."
"Do not become exercised about that trifling argument," Prince said roundly. "Mr Zabini would not have provided you with his memories if he felt any remaining bitterness about it. I was, however, speaking of your friend's more serious wounds, those to which Healer Waters attended upon first arriving here. You slept for almost three full days before awakening in fear for Miss Greengrass, and it is my belief that Mr Zabini restrained you solely to protect the young lady."
"What do you mean?"
"That you must be patient, for Healer Waters appears to require your separation from her for a particular reason," Prince said, his portrait righting itself. "Do you care very much for her?"
"What business is that of yours?"
"Oh, dear. Perhaps that was an impertinence. It's just that your arrival brought with it the most excitement I've had in years. Madam Irma has not spoken much of the recent unpleasantness, and now I find myself in the midst of several people who were a part of the fight against it."
"Yes, well, forgive me if I don't wish to speak of it. It was, as you say, unpleasant."
"Perhaps Mr Zabini will be able to distract you with good news."
"He's back?" Severus asked.
"Sorry. It's hard to remember how small this place is," said Zabini, entering the room. "I've brought some food."
"I don't want food. I want to know how Daphne is."
Zabini ignored him and placed the hamper he was carrying at the foot of Pince's bed. "The best I could do was sandwiches, crisps, fruit, and tea," he said, partially unpacking the hamper.
"Mr Zabini. What's happened?"
Zabini sighed and drew his wand, flicking it first at the Pensieve and then the hamper. They levitated from the room, and then he quietly closed the door and took the chair by the bed while the foodstuffs arranged themselves within in an easy reach of both of them.
Transfiguring two plastic cups into china ones, Zabini poured tea for himself and then for Severus. "If you're going to strike me again, would you at least wait until I've had a cup of tea?"
"I should not have done that," Severus said, accepting a cup, "particularly given . . . all you've done for me."
"I think we should get something straight between us right now, Headmaster," Zabini inexplicably snarled. "What I did, I did for Daphne, for Daphne and Th—Theo."
"I saw your memories. That was you telling Nott they'd kill me if I was found. You protected me. You showed great loyalty to—"
"Binding Balm, sir, really? Binding Balm?" Zabini rose to his feet, gripping his cup so hard that it shattered. "Fuck."
"I had no part of tha—"
"Don't bother pretending with me," Zabini hissed, thrusting his face inches away from Severus'. "You may not have made it, but Daphne couldn't have created it without the one very necessary ingredient—and that," he said angrily, pulling himself up to his full height, "isn't one she could have got without your 'consent'."
"Merlin's balls, man! Were you . . . intimate with a student?" Prince asked.
Severus' wand flew into his hand as he exclaimed, "I don't know what you're talking about!"
"How can you not?" Zabini demanded, his fists clenching and unclenching.
"What ingredient?" Severus demanded, casting a blood-stanching charm on Zabini's cuts.
His action startled Zabini, and he stilled.
Prince cleared his throat. "I believe that Mr Zabini is referring to a wizard's . . . essence."
Severus was so shocked that his fingers slackened on his wand. "What?"
"Do you really mean to tell me that you didn't give Daphne your—"
"I most certainly did not!"
"Then how did she—"
Prince's embarrassed chuckle stopped Blaise from completing his thought to Severus' profound relief. "Goodness, how resourceful your Miss Greengrass must be. Was she involved in the laundering of—"
His face flaming, Severus ordered, "Not. Another. Word."
"Er, right," Zabini murmured, taking his seat and busying himself with repairing his cup and pouring more tea. "Terribly thirsty."
Severus did likewise, for he'd spilled his tea during the altercation, and his throat was now throbbing painfully. Drinking the hot, weak tea did nothing for his pain, which admittedly, wasn't as bad as he'd expected it to be, but it least it kept him from having to speak.
They ate in silence, but once they'd finished the sandwiches, chips, fruit, and tea, Zabini said, "I tried to tell you when you first woke up, but you were too concerned about . . . ."
Severus merely looked at him.
"Right, so the Dark Lord's dead. Potter's alive and well, and you're being hailed a hero."
"And Mr Nott?" Severus asked, unwilling to hear anything anyone might be saying about him along those lines.
"I sent word to Madam Pomfrey. Of course I didn't tell her everything—she thinks Theo was in the infirmary gathering Healing supplies—but I wanted her to know, for someone to know, where to f—find him."
"That was good of you," Severus replied, hoarsely. "I'm glad you did that."
Zabini wiped his eyes impatiently with the back of one hand. "But there's something more I think you should know, sir."
"Before the end, while they were duelling, Potter apparently told everyone the truth about you."
"How you spied on him, for Professor Dumbledore, sir, and about how, er," Zabini said, averting his eyes and lowering his voice, "you loved his mother."
"Oh, how terribly sad for Miss Greengrass," remarked Prince.
Severus swallowed and closed his eyes. "Bugger. Double bugger fuck."
"She's . . . she's so very much in love with you, sir."
Severus turned to regard Zabini levelly. "I never touched her."
"I know. I see that, now. I'm sorry about—"
"You never need apologise to me for anything," Severus said, his lips trembling slightly. "You kept her safe."
Zabini's eyes widened. "Oh."
"'Oh'," Severus replied, "and that's all I wish to say to you on the subject. Now be good enough to collect those papers from the other room. When she wakes . . . ."
"Yes, sir. Of course."
"Oh, but this is most excellent," Prince murmured, after Zabini had gone, "most excellent, indeed."
Severus shot him a sharp look.
"But don't you see?" Prince asked. "No great tale of heroism is ever complete without its lovebirds."