Disclaimer: JK Rowling owns Snape & co, but anything
not nailed down is mine (and anything I can pry loose is not nailed down).
Note: This was written a while before OotP came out, so I
threw in the new terms JK uses for magic involving the mind but left my
original descriptions as I had written them. It kinda works.
Lyrics by Metallica.
With thanks to my beta-readers – GorgeousWeasleyBoy and
TrolleyTiger. 50 housepoints each (but
the House Cup still goes to Ravenclaw).
‘All the privilege I
claim for my own sex (it is not a very enviable one, you need not covet it) is
that of loving longest, when existence or when hope is gone’ – J.
On my seventeenth birthday my mother, quite out of the blue,
decided to impart on me the sum of her witch’s wordly wisdom. As I stood looking at myself in the mirror
in my brand new formal robes, she said, ‘Margaret, my dear . . there is a lot
of unrequited love in this world’ (she never was one to wrap things in cotton
wool). I looked rather sadly at the
reflection of the short, brown-haired, unremarkable girl in front of me and
knew at once that her words were true.
For me this discovery hadn’t taken age and wisdom, nor even some
broad-shouldered Hogwarts Quidditch captain, just one dark-eyed Potions master
who didn’t know I was alive.
As a coda she added, ‘And never dance with tall men because
you’ll look ridiculous.’
which there is teenage angst, exam revision and gratuitous mentions of Charlie
I'll tear me open, make you gone
No longer will you hurt anyone
And the fear still shapes me
hold me, until it sleeps . .
course, as a Ravenclaw I could never admit my feelings for the universally
detested Slytherin housemaster to anyone.
Besides, I didn’t go in for those girly chats that kept my dorm-mates
awake long into the night. When pressed
by them as to my preferences I would fall back on a safe choice like Charlie
Weasley. The sighs that followed this
name and discussions of ‘Do you think he’d ever fancy me?’ could always be
relied on to divert their attention from me.
more, if I had ever been foolish enough to confide to anyone the subject of my
silly daydreams I could not have answered their very first question: Why?
Slytherin girls could certainly find a few reasons, but an icy demeanour and
the habit of unfairly punishing students from all the other houses didn’t do a
lot for me.
fact that he was the only male member of staff under fifty might have
contributed to my interested at first, but it would have quickly been
forgotten, especially after I had come to know the underwhelming charms of his
personality, if not for one thing.
things, actually. His eyes. They were like dark pools to his soul - at times so hard and blank, at others so
fathomless they reminded me of the dangerous waters in the slate quarries of my
home - dark depths that tempted the unwary to explore, so cold that you would
freeze before you drowned, sinking down and down into black caverns never to be
and again I’d try to persuade myself to banish all thoughts of him from my
mind. To forget what was after all only
a silly schoolgirl crush. And then he’d
raise his eyes from his desk and I’d be lost once more.
would like to tell you that my confused, guilty feelings went the natural way
of such things, that some handsome seventh year Ravenclaw boy finally noticed
me and after he realised my hidden beauty and passionate nature kissed me to my
senses behind the broomsheds. However,
instead of this pink-hazed eventuality, malicious Fate instead chose to teach
me her own lesson about life.
for our N.E.W.Ts had brought the Ravenclaw seventh-years closer than before and
though we spent many hours crowded around a book-cluttered table in the common
room, groaning as we tried to cram more obscure facts into our heads, we
laughed more that year than any other.
Boys did notice me, though mainly as someone who took the best notes in
class and didn’t mind doing spell-checking charms on their essays.
did not spend Potions class daydreaming over Snape. In seventh year such inattentiveness to the complex and dangerous
mixtures we brewed was extremely ill-advised, as we had weekly unpleasant
proof. Students running from the
dungeon in various states of discomfort was not uncommon. I had of course silently vowed that I would
rather die than draw such embarrassing attention to myself.
the weeks leading up to our final exams the teachers went quite mad – every
class involved tests and mock essay papers.
Every seventh-year had dark circles under their eyes and tempers were
frayed. Into this tense atmosphere
Snape threw his last pre-exam test: to make a Veritaserum Potion. The class groaned as one – we would be lucky
to finish in time for supper, but at least it was doubtful we’d get this
notoriously difficult potion in the actual exam as well – Snape wasn’t that
Ravenclaw boy I was working with picked up the ladle and stirred our shared
cauldron, waiting for me to finish skinning a Doxie before adding it to the
brew. A Beater on the house Quidditch
team, he generally ignored me unless he wanted help with his homework, but had
protected me from his friends’ teasing more than once, so I didn’t much mind
his reliance on my potion-making skills.
small cauldron danced and bubbled with a myriad of changing colours as we added
the long list of ingredients. The
resulting liquid was of course required to be colourless and ours had only just
shimmered and reached that final stage when Snape snapped, ‘Time’s up!’, making
me jump. I felt heat rise into my
cheeks as my sudden movement drew his hard gaze towards our bench. He stalked closer and peered into the
cauldron. I kept my eyes fixed on the
stained wood of the bench.
Miss Hyssop, as yours is at least the right colour you can be the first to test
your creation.’ My stomach flipped over
at being singled out in this way. ‘We
shall hope that you prepared it correctly and won’t suffer any of the
unpleasant side-effects that occur when this is not the case.’
eyes had risen involuntarily as he spoke and were shocked to find his face so
close as he leaned over the workbench towards me. Were his words mocking or a sincere wish? His voice seemed less biting than usual, but
I couldn’t read the message held in his shadowed eyes.
cursed myself inwardly for standing there like a creature transfixed by
oncoming headlights. The rest of the
class looked on, fascinated, and I knew I wasn’t going to get any help from
them. As one of the few who had never
had a potion backfire on me they were clearly waiting to see if this would be
my time to join the brotherhood of the less fortunate.
stood over me, the tall black shadow of Fate. ‘One sip will suffice.’ I could recognise a challenge when I heard
one and some inner well of pride steadied my hand as I lifted the ladleful of
steaming potion to my lips.
ran down my throat like iced water.
held their breath, waiting to see if I would change colour, or form, or
possibly explode. ‘Well,’ his voice cut
through the expectant hush, ‘Someone ask her a question.’ He needn’t sound quite so disappointed that
I was still all in one piece!
blonde Hufflepuff girl who spent most of her life flicking her hair back and
forth in a vacuous manner, opened her mouth first, ‘What’s your middle name,
what does the ‘A’ stand for?’ chipped in one of her cronies.
I had made my disdain for them far too apparent, I sighed. I had never, would never, reveal that
embarrassment of a name to anyone . . a name which was currently rising up my
throat and forcing its way out through my lips in an unstoppable strangled
gulp. ‘Agrimony,’ I gasped and clamped
my mouth shut again in shock.
was a murmur of laughter. The next two
questions came at once, the class obviously warming to the task. Lucy, a
Ravenclaw, asked, ‘Do you really like Charlie Weasley?’ The giggles this produced were cut through
by a Hufflepuff boy calling, ‘What colour knickers are you wearing?’.
looked at him warningly, but it was too late.
‘He’s a great Quidditch player, but I don’t fancy him . . Red,’ I
answered in a rush, turning the same shade as the outed underwear.
the sniggering reaction again ran round the classroom I felt increasingly
trapped amongst a pack of circling wolves.
I looked up at my potions partner, my face pleading for support. He was looking at me as if for the first
time, ‘So who do you like, Meg?’
question was asked with no more than mild curiosity, and as he looked at the
betrayed expression in my eyes he realised his error and shook his head, waving
his hands as if that could take the question back. But it couldn’t and the answer was again trying to vomit itself
out of my throat. My hands flew to my
mouth, clamping down hard, while my eyes darted towards Snape, who’d been
standing apparently completely unconcerned as things got out of hand around
him. I took one look at his
uninterested expression and knew I would rather die than reveal that my answer
was his name.
started into my eyes as I fought the inexorable power of the spell. Strange gulping noises came from my tightly
smothered mouth and my mind whirled crazily around the fact that the answer no
longer seemed true when it was his impassable bulk that was blocking my escape.
looked down at my struggles impassively, ‘Oh, come now, Miss Hyssop. I’m sure nobody’s that interested
anyway.’ I must have turned from red to
purple at his tone as he added sharply, ‘Don’t be stupid, girl! You’ll make
wished very much that I could uncover my mouth and laugh in his face at the
full irony of his words. His casual
insult opened my eyes, breaking my stupid heart in the most brutal way. He was so close I was surprised he didn’t
hear the noise it made as it shattered inside me. However, the pain was so intense it reinforced my free will for a
few last precious seconds and I pushed past him and ran for the door. The sea of surprised faces didn’t register,
nor the burning in my arms as I yanked open the heavy door. My headlong flight continued until I had
reached the furthest end of the dungeon corridor. I stopped then in the flickering torch-lit darkness and leant my
pounding head against the cool wall.
Snape.’ My answer was a whisper against
the uncaring stone.
which there is grown-up and growling angst in the Restricted Section)
Where do I take this pain of mine?
I run, but it stays right by my side
So tear me open, pour me out
There's things inside that scream and shout
And the pain still hates me
So hold me, until it sleeps
is wasted, nothing is ever wasted.’ – Ursula Le Guin
been too quiet recently. It troubles me
. . Oh, I know there are some who think we should be grateful, but we won a
battle only, not the war. The longer
trouble brews, the more trouble it becomes I find.’ Dumbledore was standing behind his desk as he spoke, absently
stroking Fawkes’ beautiful, patient head.
tried to concentrate on his words and not on the fact that the man who had been
at the centre of my adolescent dreams would soon walk into this very room. Never mind that I was now a sensible
twenty-six and had obviously got over it and had some very nice relationships
with some very nice young wizards, thank you very much.
was a noise at the door behind me.
Dumbledore looked up, ‘Ah, come in, Severus. Thank you for answering my summons so promptly.’
could not have turned to look at him even if someone had pointed a curse-loaded
wand at me, but in an instant he was next to me, drawing his black robes around
have no doubt heard that we have a new staff member joining us this term,’
Dumbledore continued. ‘This is Miss
Margaret Hyssop. She will be assisting
both Madam Pomfrey and Professor Sprout.
She comes to us from St Mungo’s.’ Dumbledore looked hard at the
professor from beneath his bushy brows, but the man beside me did not
respond. I glanced at his profile, the
strong nose and firmly set lips made my heart jolt with the shock of the
he continued to stand in silence I addressed the headmaster myself, ‘I believe
Professor Snape is wondering why you are telling him this, Headmaster.’
should not be. I have discussed sending
for a mind healer from St Mungo’s several times.’
don’t remember it being a discussion,’ Snape’s tone was mutinous.
I knew when I sent you back to Voldemort that it would be a difficult and dangerous
path. I did not foresee how long you
would have to bear the burden.’ Snape
made a small movement of denial, but Dumbledore waved a hand, ‘Do not worry,
Severus. Miss Hyssop is to be trusted
with your secrets. She is here to help
that Snape turned his head to stare down at me, dislike and disbelief mixing
unflatteringly with the wariness on his face.
held his gaze, but the icy glitter of his eyes’ tunnel-like depths were rousing
too many foolish memories in me and my eyelids fluttered weakly down.
dismissed me with one look he turned back to Dumbledore, ‘I do not need any
help. My mind is perfectly sound. Thank you, Headmaster.’
last was merely a request to leave and Dumbledore nodded slightly. The Potions Master left in a swirl of black
robes and without a backward glance.
breathed in slowly, only just realising the tension coursing through my
body. I had felt that sharing the same
yard of carpet with the glowering Potions Master was too intimate, and yet to
help him I would have to step under that dark cloud that he carried around with
him. And, more dauntingly, first
convince him to let me do it.
sorry about that, Margaret. I didn’t expect him to be a willing patient, but I
felt I had to call you.’
don’t think the words ‘willing’ and ‘patient’ could ever be applied to
Professor Snape,’ I replied cuttingly, slightly forgetting who I was talking
smile flickered across the headmaster’s serious face. ‘Will you stay and try?’
thought of Snape when I had known him as my teacher and the face I had looked
into a few moments before. He may have
been grim and unsmiling then but the new lines of strain around his mouth told
their own tale and the dark eyes were hollow and haunted. I set my chin and knew my answer, ‘Of
walked down the long dungeon corridor towards the Potions classroom, the chill
from the stone walls and the unmistakable bitter smell bringing memories of
schooldays rushing back.
had left Snape alone during my first week, spending my time getting to know the
greenhouses and sharing duties in the Hospital Wing with Madam Pomfrey. But the delivery of some fresh Dogwood root
now brought me to his door.
door was open and through the arch I could see his head bent over a book on his
desk. I knocked lightly and he glanced
up briefly, his expression wary and unwelcoming.
you, Professor.’ I walked to the bench
at the front of the class and set down the basket. ‘Dogwood. Making a
secrets binding potion this afternoon?’
the reply was rude in its brevity, but then he softened it by adding, ‘Well
remembered.’ He looked up from the
book. ‘But you were always excellent with potions. I can’t understand why you chose to go to St Mungo’s. Healing sick minds is a thankless task. Most serious cases never recover.’
looked at him in surprise, trying to absorb both his praise and his
criticism. Few outside St Mungo’s
understood what I did, fewer still had actually seen the distressing effect a
lost or broken mind had on our long-term patients and their families.
I said, ‘But we have helped many other patients and there is always hope.’ He frowned at me disbelievingly and I found
myself explaining, ‘I went to St Mungo’s to do Potions research originally, but
they discovered I had some talent in Legilimency and Occlumency - their healing
uses, that is - so of course they wished to train me.’
‘Talent? I’d call it a curse,’ he stood up, adding to
the challenge in his voice. ‘Or do you enjoy other people’s nightmares?’
seemed to be no reply to that, so I remained silent, trying to fathom his tone.
Although his question was merely an attempt to get rid of me, his mention of
nightmares at least acknowledged the problem I was here to help him with.
look at me like that, woman!’ he suddenly snapped.
what?’ I asked, genuinely confused.
if you want to save me. I don’t want to
be saved. I can’t be saved. Go back to
your hospital where they want do-gooders like you.’
voice was harsh with dislike, but I refused to retreat. I dealt with irrational patients all the
time and he was quite clearly being irrational. In fact his logic struck me as so absurd that I actually smiled
into his furious face, ‘But, Professor, I wouldn’t be here if you weren’t a
words sounded cold and mocking, but it was too late to reclaim them. They hung hard and heartless in the air between
us for a never-ending moment, then he turned on his heel and walked away.
looked down at my hands, spread unconsciously on the bench for support, and
cursed my insensitive words, my childish reaction to his goading. Where was my professional cool now?
had not imagined that this would be easy, but it was only my sense of humour
that stopped me from screaming with frustration at the man. It certainly would surprise the diners in
the Great Hall, I reflected, as Snape spent another mealtime avoiding looking
at me or any of the air particles within three feet of me. He also avoided meeting me in the staff
room, the Hospital Wing, and the corridors.
Our one crossing of paths on a flight of stairs resulted in him using a
surprised group of third year girls for cover until he could escape. Big brave Severus. Good thing I had absolutely no feelings in this case to be
had resolved not to approach him for a while, hoping that this was professional
wisdom and not cowardice, but his appearance one evening at dinner swept this
plan completely out of my head. He came
in late, black robes neat as ever, but his face was grey and slightly
feverish. The few members of staff who
nodded at him didn’t appear to notice anything amiss, but he pushed the food
around his plate and rose to leave as suddenly as he came in. After a few beats I followed.
hurried tread led to the Library, deserted at this time of the day. I slipped in quietly after him and saw the
back of his robes flick around the corner into the Restricted Section.
stepped softly amongst the high bookcases peering anxiously along the branching
aisles. He was neither reading nor
searching for a book when I found him, but standing motionless, his back
against a row of leather-bound potions texts, eyes closed and head bowed.
spoke at my footfall but did not look up, ‘Go away. Please.’
was taken aback, not at his blunt request, but the raw note in his voice. Perhaps it was wrong to intrude on his few
moments of solitude.
sorry.’ I looked at the pale face
hidden under the falling locks of hair and recalled the obliviousness of his
dinner companions to the distress that was so clear to me. Some solitude was peace, some was
desolation. ‘But I can’t.’
smiled, head still bowed, but it was a smile devoid of joy or humour, ‘I wish
you would. You don’t want to know me,
do,’ my voice was barely a murmur.
you don’t!’ His head snapped sideways and Snape’s eyes flashed as he spoke through
gritted teeth, ‘It’s dangerous to know me.
Don’t you understand?’
was suddenly sick of these games. ‘Don’t treat me like a child, Severus! I know the situation perfectly well,’ I
retorted, stepping closer.
a sudden fluid motion that left me breathless he grabbed me and pulled me
around, pushing my back against the bookcase, his grip bruising my upper
arms. He had never seemed so tall as
this, glowering down at me, his eyes glittering with anger, which I could
stand, and hatred, which I couldn’t.
you won’t listen, there are ways I can make you understand.’ I expected him to
yell at me again, but his voice sunk to a low, dangerous hiss. It was infinitely more frightening, but I
was determined not to show him that.
understand you’re trying to scare me away.’
My voice was almost steady.
right I am.’ He slid his hand up my
arm. A shiver passed through me as his
fingers encircled my throat, the cool touch branding my skin. I was aware of his long legs pressing
against my own through the heavy robes, the hard edges of the shelves cutting
into my back and thighs.
leant down until his lips almost brushed my ear and the world narrowed to the
sound of his low soft voice, ‘You cannot begin to imagine the things I have
done in the service of my Master, Margaret.
What makes you think I would not do similar things to you?’
tried to swallow, but under his hand my throat had gone dry. ‘Because you are a
good man, Severus.’ I cursed the
weakness that made my voice a whisper.
lip curled in mockery. ‘Oh, am I? Are you so sure?’ He tightened his grip until it was a painful pressure on my
windpipe. I willed myself to remain
passive in his arms, but I felt a tremor run through me as I stared up into his
haunted, angry face.
didn’t reply. My hands lay uselessly on
his chest, where I had raised them to push him away. Was I content to dance these same steps again and again? Me advancing, him backing away, until I felt
like a stupid faithful dog forever trailing after him.
took my silence for defeat and released me.
As he turned away I saw disgust written clearly on his features. It hurt me more than his hands could ever do
and suddenly I knew that whatever else he chose to throw at me that was one
thing I would not take.
had reached the end of the aisle and would soon be gone. I took a deep breath and spoke a stilling
spell. He stopped, but remained
stubbornly facing away from me.
broke the pregnant silence. ‘Everything you’ve said is true, Severus,’ I started
in my best calming tone.
once it was not a challenge, merely a question, and I fumbled for a moment, put
off my mental stride, ‘Well . . I can’t remember everything. I- I mean all the shouting and the growling
makes it difficult to concentrate on the words sometimes.’ Had I really just
said that to his face?
He didn’t explode, but seemed to give the problem some serious thought. He turned then and asked in a quiet,
emotionless voice, ‘May I go now?’
There was a pleasurable rush of power as I said the word. Here I have you, Snape, now I’m the one who
is going to make you face the truth. I
lifted my chin as the dark, unworthy thought flickered through my mind and
looked at the man in front of me. Tired
. . he looked so tired. Worn to the
bone with all the lying and the hating and the hiding. Life had been cruel to him and now I was
going to throw more cruelty into his tired face.
muttered a soundproofing charm as I walked forward. The Library was most likely
empty, but I was not so cruel that I would let anyone hear this. My voice was steady. This was my game now,
my dance, my steps.
you want to fall into darkness, Severus?
Because you are falling, I can feel it.
It fills the air around you, follows you wherever you go.’ His eyes were cloaked behind the blackness
of his hair, I couldn’t read them. ‘I may not know where you’ve walked, but I
know what has followed you back.’ He looked up at that. Was that hope in his eyes? It wouldn’t stay there for long.
been wearing too many masks, Severus. Do you know which one is you anymore?’ My
voice was deliberately hard. He had to
understand now. If he didn’t it was
already too late.
about your dreams, Severus? Or are they all nightmares, full of shadows and
whispers? Do you hear the whispers when
you’re awake? Can you hear them now?’
backed away as I fired the questions at him coldly, his face growing greyer at
each word. I gripped my wand. This was the most dangerous time. There was a part of him that belonged to the
Dark Lord and if he lost the struggle to control it he would fight back without
a second thought.
slowed in the narrow space between the ancient books and I saw us as if from a
great height, a small witch and a wizard with darkness coiled round his
heart. This was not my game. The bones had been cast by other, more
powerful hands, I merely watched to see where they would fall.
Fates chose and Snape slumped down against the shelves, shivering and defeated.
looked down at him and shivered too.
The darkness that surrounded him beckoned me in. Break him like he broke you, it said,
make him suffer. His pain slid
sweetly down my throat, filling me with power.
The darkness he had turned from sought to take me in his place. Then the drugging draught hit a cold, hard
lump in my stomach - held there in secret all these years I discovered it
again. It was foolish and hopeless, but
as it chased away the bitter magic that had encircled my mind I knew that in
the end it was not wasted . . I loved him.
black spell crept through me fled in an instant and I was beside him, on my
knees on the cold floor, wrapping my arms around his shoulders not worrying or
caring this time about rejection. I stroked
his back, whispering soothing nonsense in his ear as fierce tremors passed
shook but made no sound, that vestige of his rigid control still functioning
despite his torment. As his inner demons lost this unnervingly silent battle his
body stilled against mine, but he did not draw away.
and embarrassment began to work on my mind once more, but I silenced their
little voices for a moment with a healer’s brisk efficiency: ‘Give me your hands, they’ll be cold.’ They were, like ice. I shifted to face him and rubbed them
between my own, noticing how small mine looked against his long scarred
also watched the light rhythmic touch of my hands on his own and eventually
spoke. ‘All right. You can do whatever it is you do. You can . . help me.’ He was not so defeated that he didn’t
grimace over the word, I noted, and was glad.
looked cautiously into his face, ‘You didn’t answer my first question,’ I said
was that? All the growling made it
difficult to concentrate on the words,’ his tone was teasing, though gruff as
if unused to saying anything lightly.
smiled, happy for once to be mocked by him and regretted having to bring the
tension back into his relaxing body. But I had to ask it again.
you want the darkness?’
knew the answer, but would he let himself admit it?
looked at me, old pain carved deep into his face, ‘No. Yes. Maybe.’
which there is angst and gratuitous chocolate mousse)
Just like the curse, just like the stray
You feed it once, and now it stays
So tear me open, but beware
There’s things inside without a care
And the dirt still stains me
So wash me, until I'm clean
sharp sense of falling left me dizzy and slightly sick as it always did. Snape was still breathing heavily, more used
to shutting out others from his mind than opening it so completely. The fire in his study had burned low in its
grate and I shivered, rubbing my arms, willing the nausea to pass.
stirred and moved to stoke up the fire a little, but did not speak. It was best to leave him to regain his
privacy, his sense of self that could feel violated after a mind walking.
minds were like houses with a hundred rooms needing tidied; patients who had
suffered the Unforgivable Curses could have minds like an unravelled tapestry,
pieces of patterns with the connections all lost, disorienting and
heart-rending for the healer; Snape’s mind had been hard to walk, harder to
return from. A mind like a dark tower,
where guilt and regret filled the air making it difficult to breathe and each
memory was a cell, a trap bereft of hope.
Duty drove him, never love.
Though there was love there, for Dumbledore, one of the twin masters of
his fate. But he hoped for nothing,
neither expecting nor looking for a bright end to the darkness and
torment. The man was his own Dementor.
there was an idea, I thought, as the sickness receded and I held my chilled
fingers towards the fresh bright flames.
I rang the little bell on the table beside me and a house-elf appeared.
may I serve you, Mistress Margaret?’ he squeaked.
sorry to disturb you so late, um, Lani, is it?’ The elf nodded enthusiastically. ‘But could we have some tea and
something with chocolate in it, if you have anything.’ I looked at Snape in case he wanted to add
anything, but he shook his head.
elf vanished with a pop and reappeared a moment later with a large tray. There was a pot of tea and plate of
chocolate muffins, and two large dishes of chocolate mousse.
you shouldn’t have . .’ I began to the elf, but he bowed happily and
disappeared again. To Snape I said,
‘Have some chocolate, you’ll feel better.’
looked at the over-sweet collection in disgust and strode off to rummage in a
corner cupboard. I shrugged mentally
and poured myself some tea. He returned
with a bottle of amber liquid and a glass and remained standing, staring into
the fire while I nibbled meditatively on a small piece of muffin.
a while he cleared his throat. ‘My head feels . . better.’ He glanced over and
his gaze was unsettled, wondering. My
breath caught at seeing such naked emotion on his face, then, as if a shutter
had fallen, his expression hardened, ‘Though no doubt your head feels
worse. Did my mind shock you, Miss
words were spoken mockingly, but I also understood their challenge. He wanted me to admit that I was disgusted
by the bitter darkness I had seen in him, by the wicked follies of his past,
the dark magics he had used, the violent acts.
Would cold triumph light his eyes if I agreed that the fight was lost,
that he was lost?
I said stubbornly.
was quiet for a moment, then said in a different voice, ‘I feel . . odd’
right, you do feel odd.’
attempt at levity irritated him and he continued sharply, ‘Why are you helping
you’re very important to the work of the Order.’
what you know and with your gift . . if V- my Master - should ever get his
hands on you . .’ he clenched his fist where it rested on the mantelpiece and
did not continue the thought.
bridled at his implication that I was a danger to the Order, ‘I’ve been trained
to withstand the Imperius Curse.’
looked at me closely then, studying my resolute little face, the teacup held so
primly between my small hands. It was
ridiculous to say such things when one was sitting in a comfy chair in the
impregnable safety of Hogwarts, I knew, but he finished his inspection and
nodded, ‘Yes, perhaps you could. I’d
never seen anyone withstand the effects of Veritaserum for as long as you did,
nearly choked on my tea and put the cup down quickly, but he barely
noticed. He had downed his drink and
poured another, staring at the flames and rubbing his forehead in an
unconscious circling motion as if trying to still a humming in his mind.
he slammed the glass down on the mantel, shoved one hand back through his hair
and swore softly. I jumped at the loud
bang and catching the movement he turned and glowered down at me. ‘Don’t sit there cowering as if I were a
Boggart, woman. You made my brain itch
– do something about it!’
noticed with wilful amusement that he crossed and uncrossed his arms several
times while he spoke, then, unable to remain still, he began to pace back and
forth on the dark rug.
some chocolate,’ I repeated.
the sum total of your medical advice?’ he asked scathingly.
I snapped, irritated that my professional qualifications were still being
called into question. ‘Now sit down and
eat something, or I’ll tie you to that chair and force-feed you chocolate
happened to reach the end of his carpet furrow and turn back to towards me just
as I said this. He immediately stilled,
eyes widening in surprise. A strange
heat sparked in their depths and was gone so quickly I thought I’d imagined it.
or you can just stick to the alcohol.
Alcohol’s also good in these cases,’ I backtracked hurriedly.
dragged his interested gaze away from my blushing face, looked at the bottle
still in his hand and then came over to the tray. Like a small boy considering his first cockroach cluster he looked
down at the mousse, dipped one finger into the frothy dessert then carefully
licked at it. He immediately grimaced
and took a swig from the bottle to wash away the taste. ‘Too sweet’ he grunted, looking down at
mouth was hanging open. I couldn’t help
it. Maybe the twitching restlessness
that had infected him was also affecting me, for the sight of his lips closing
around the chocolaty mess on his finger had set off fireworks in intimate parts
of my body.
held my breath as the silence lengthened, then wetted my lips with my tongue to
speak. This time the black fire in his
gaze could not be mistaken as it immediately focussed on my mouth. The room suddenly seemed very small.
leant forward to set down the bottle and steadied himself with one hand on the
arm of my chair. As my eyes travelled
up the tailored black cloth to the hard planes of his face his other arm came
down, trapping me in a Snape-made cage.
I watched transfixed as his face descended ever closer. Under the shadow of his hair his face held
an awful tension. I fought to breathe
through the fluttering of fear and desire in my chest. Our eyes met and the surface of his mind
surged and broke against my own in a dreadful static roar. Startled, I quickly closed off the contact,
but his features still showed the battle inside, the continuous unravelling and
re-ravelling of the will that held the beasts inside him in check. What animal
of anger or pain had stalked me across the room? It looked at me now, it dared me to run. But something held me. Snape cupped my head and his mouth descended
like a bird of prey diving on its frozen victim.
shivered as his warm breath touched my face and his lips met mine with a
bruising pressure, their full, curved strength moving, claiming. He tasted of whisky and chocolate, dimly I
felt a strand of his hair brush my cheek, sweet with the smell of woodsmoke. As I responded to his kiss he made a sound
low in his throat. I found my hands
closing around his wrists as if holding onto the only anchor that now existed.
he lifted his head and stepped back my overloaded senses reeled with loss. He looked down at my flushed face and said
coolly, cruelly, ‘Did they teach that at St Mungo’s?’
controlled quality of his voice confused me more than the words. Wasn’t he feeling how I was feeling? Of course not. Reality washed over me with the icy taste of a truth serum. I had seen his mind. Others had already taken what he was, what
he had to give, and left him with little.
What comfort I could give him would be received without warmth and
probably with the same grimace as he swallowed the chocolate.
willed myself to my feet. I had made it
to the door on shaky legs and was fumbling with the catch, when a hand covered
mine. His right arm framed my shoulder,
holding the door shut, trapping me against the hard surface. I felt the length of his body inches from my
back. His breath stirred my hair as he bent
away?’ he murmured softly. I shivered
again. His voice was like dark silk in
my ear. ‘I thought you were trying to save me.’
was mocking me again, but his fingers were communicating their own message,
drawing warm circles around my wrist.
His grip closed and, obeying the inexorable pressure he was exerting on
my arm, I turned slowly to face him.
second kiss was a battle. His lips were hard and angry on mine, demanding that
I fear him, that I reject him - but I gripped the front of his robes, leaning
into the embrace. He tasted of grief.
a time he raised his head and said, his voice tight, ‘My Master will summon me
again tomorrow night.’
knew what he was asking and replied steadily, ‘If you wish to come to me after,
I will be in my rooms.’
nodded and released me at once. I
lifted the latch, escaped into the cool corridor and heard the door close
behind me. For a moment I stood frozen,
staring at the rough stones under my hand, reflecting that this was not the
first time I had stood between these cold and ancient walls with secrets I
could tell no one. Well, the walls
would keep my secrets as they had before, I thought, and headed back to the
warm castle above with purpose in my step.
which Margaret learns something about Snape’s loyalties and her own)
So tell me why you've chosen me
Don't want your grip, don't want your greed
I'll tear me open, make you gone
No more can you hurt anyone
And the fear still shakes me
hold me, until it sleeps
stood at the entrance to the Hospital Wing, leaning wearily against the stone
archway and looking into the quiet ward.
A few candles burned to stave off the inky blackness of the winter night
outside the high windows which was occasionally punctuated by a flurry of icy
was thinking of Snape and our last meeting.
The weeks had passed and I had watched him go to the Dark Lord and take
his place in the Death Eater circle again and again, reading his summonings and
returnings by the lines around his mouth, the angle of his bent neck. His return would bring the knock on my door
and again I would walk the corridors of his mind, walk amongst the things that
tormented him, and try to restore to him the clarity he needed. To give him peace was beyond even my
skill. Perhaps it was something he had
never had. It was also something that
he stole from me every time he kissed me in the warm darkness of my study,
taking back the control he lost when I walked amongst his secrets.
dragged my mind back to our last meeting and the worry that was holding me here
in the dark - I had found a locked door in Snape’s mind.
was so well hidden I could have passed it several times before and not realised
he was keeping something from me. This
was serious. I was less surprised that
Snape had the ability to conceal such a thing, he was, after all, a skilled
Occlumens, than that my personal feelings had apparently begun to cloud my
judgment. What did that locked and
secret place contain? It was the
unpleasant answers to that question that currently held my heart in an icy grip
of fear. What if that closed door
concealed where his true loyalties lay?
I knew I should have gone to Dumbledore the moment I made my discovery,
but something held me back. To turn
accusing eyes on the man who had struggled so hard, at such personal risk, to
protect us, would be a cruel betrayal if my suspicions were nothing. Or was I more afraid of the other
possibility – that Snape’s true Master was the Dark Lord, that I had not
prevented his fall into darkness - that the hands which had touched me would
soon be turned against us? That he
would soon be gone from Hogwarts . . or would be dead.
I would climb the winding stairs to the headmaster’s study and obediently share
my fears, though guilt would weight my every step as I broke the confessor’s
ancient bond of secrecy. But now I
stood frozen, wretched and alone, watching the peaceful sleeping faces of Madam
Pomfrey’s patients, wishing futilely for another choice, a different path. A peaceful life without He Who Must Not Be
Named, even if that meant I would never have felt Snape’s arms around me, his cool
lips on my neck, his eyes speaking to me alone – even if they only spoke of
pain and hunger.
jumped at the low voice in my ear and stumbled back against his chest. His hand came up to my arm to steady me and
I wondered vaguely how he had materialised so silently behind me. My name sounded odd on his lips and I
realised he had never used it before. I
turned to face him, heart thudding in my chest.
wore a great black travelling cloak over his robes and his face looked menacing
in the dim light. My previous concerns
rushed through my mind as he towered over me, grim and silent, his grip
tightening painfully. The usual
awareness of him coursing through my blood was joined by a sudden jolt of fear.
sound behind us made me glance back into the ward. Madam Pomfrey had come out of her office to check on her
patients. She looked at us with faint
surprise. I could speak to her, I
thought, think of an excuse to escape into her office, but I did nothing. Snape nodded at her politely, slid his hand
down to my wrist and lead me unresistingly away.
pulled me through the empty passageways at his usual swift stride. I had to half-run behind him to keep up and
prevent him yanking my arm off, his fingers an iron manacle around my wrist. At the entrance to the dungeon levels panic
kicked usefully into my numb brain and I hung back. He dragged me on a few more paces before realising my resistance.
turned impatiently, ‘What is the matter?’
I saw him peer at me. My fear
was clear on my face and his impatience turned to surprise, then an expression
of crushing defeat. When he spoke again
his voice was dull, ‘So. You finally realised what I am.’
stomach turned over. I gaped stupidly
at him unsure of what he meant. Did his
words confirm my suspicious? Had he
betrayed us? Yet he looked as if I had
smiled humourlessly at my lack of reply.
my hand as if it scalded him, he began to roll up his sleeve. I stared at him in confusion and he took me
by the shoulder, pulling me over to the circle of torchlight at the Library
door. I looked down. On the pale skin
of his forearm dark lines moved and flickered.
‘Look!’ he demanded roughly, almost shaking me, ‘My Master is summoning
me. I wear his mark. I belong to
him. How could you let me touch you?’
eyes burned with fevered pain. It came
to me with a surge of shame that it did not matter to me anyway to which master
he belonged. The urge to comfort him,
to hold him, was too strong within me to care.
Without hesitation I closed the narrow gap between us, running my hands
up to his shoulders. I leant into him,
wrapping my arms around his tense frame - determined to show him just how
little he disgusted me. Standing on
tiptoes I pressed a kiss to the hollow of his throat, unable to reach
pulse hammered wildly there, belying the rigid control of his body, and he made
a small sound as my lips caressed the warm skin over the telling beat. He bent his head and let me run my
fingertips slowly over one pale cheekbone as his eyes bored intensely into mine. Then he caught my hand, staring at the
bruises already showing on my wrist.
Lifting the marks to his mouth he did not kiss as much as swear softly
against my skin, but my eyes fluttered closed at the cool delicious touch.
heard him curse louder and he pulled me with him through the Library door. In a shadowy corner of the Restricted
Section he stopped and pulled me towards him. Tangling one hand in my hair he
pulled back my head to roughly capture my mouth. As he stamped his kiss upon me I tasted blood, sweet and coppery,
but didn’t draw back. He folded me more
securely into his arms but I flinched as something brushed my skin with a
freezing touch – the Dark Mark on his forearm.
lifted his head at my shudder. There was
shame in his eyes, shame and guilt and self-loathing. I was afraid he would push me away, but instead he gripped me
tighter for a moment, ‘Margaret,’ he growled against my hair, ‘I must go.’
drew back, but in the darkness and musty quiet of the books the distance that
always existed between us, that he retreated to after all our meetings, did not
seem so great. My hands rested easily
on his forearms as his rested on my waist.
‘Will you return?’ I asked quietly to his chest, unwilling to look up.
do not know.’
nodded. There was nothing else to be
ghost of a kiss brushed across my forehead and he was gone, his strong tread
echoing across the empty room, silenced by the quiet closing of the Library
sank to the floor, wrapping my arms around my waist to hoard the warmth he had
left in me against the cold night.
things happen, good things happen, gratuitous use is made of Dumbledore’s
It grips you, so hold me
It stains you, so hold me
It hates you, so hold me
It holds you, so hold me
Until it sleeps ...
I stood in Greenhouse Two the next evening, gazing
absently at the plant I was handling and in very great danger of having my
fingers snapped off by it. Outside the
snow had ceased falling and a full moon shone on the white expanses of the
castle grounds. Dinner would soon be
over, but I hadn’t wanted to sit in the bright hall surrounded by rowdy
children. I could not blame them for
their cheer, when it was to guard that safety and happiness that the few fought
in secrecy and danger. In the land of happily ever after live those who
sighed, wondering where that grim thought had come from, and gathered up my
basket to return to the castle.
I drew up the hood of my cloak against the chill
night air and trudged through the thick snow up to a small door. The staff entrance lead into the dungeon
passages and saved a long, wet journey around the outer walls. Letting myself in with a word of unlocking I
noticed another set of footprints in the crisp snow, large and quite
recent. I knew that Severus often used
this entrance in his comings and goings, but damped down the sudden jump in my
heartbeat, refusing to read too much into a few marks in the snow. It could be any member of staff using the
I stamped my feet, dusting the flagstones with white
crystals, and headed along the passageway.
As I turned the corner I caught a familiar flick of black robes ahead
and this time the pounding in my chest could not be denied. He had come back to
us! He was safe!
I hurried up the steps after him and found the
Entrance Hall crowded with students coming out of dinner. Weaving my way through the throng I caught
up with the tall dark figure just as he met Dumbledore, who was good-humouredly
shooing the last Hufflepuffs out of the great doorway.
‘Headmaster,’ he said, his voice sounding harsh and
rather urgent, ‘I must speak with you privately.’
Dumbledore’s expression became grave and he nodded. He was about to move away when he spotted me
hovering anxiously in the background, ‘Ah, Margaret. Severus, why don’t you accompany Miss Hyssop to the, er, Hospital
Wing and I will see you later in my study.’
I suspected him of twinkling his eyes at us rather meaningfully and
wondered whether Madam Pomfrey had said anything to him. Although he was embarrassingly good at
knowing everything that went on in the school, however well-guarded pupils or
teachers thought their secrets were. I
smiled gratefully at him as Snape turned towards me and he left us together.
The first thing I noticed was that he looked
extremely irritated. He looked down his
nose at me for a moment. ‘The Hospital
Wing,’ he said rather coldly, as if reminding me of my task.
‘Yes,’ I said, rather confused at his manner, ‘let’s
walk through the courtyard.’ It would
give us some privacy to talk on the way.
He walked beside me in silence as students trailed
off to their common rooms around us.
When we reached the cloister door he held it open for me and we stepped
out into the sweet cold air.
I glanced sideways at his face, painted silver and
black in the moonlight. Why did he
suddenly seem a stranger to me once more?
I pressed my lips together in irritation – why had I expected anything
A rustle and a sharp squeal broke the strained
silence and I started with fright, clutching at his sleeve, then laughed at my
foolishness. It was just a hunting owl
catching its unlucky dinner. He had glanced
sharply round as I touched him, and I looked up at him, embarrassed, ‘I’m
sorry.’ I searched his blank
expression. Was it just my imagination
or was something wrong . . more wrong than the usual, that was. ‘Severus . .’ I began, wondering what to
say, then my voice caught in my throat.
Something was missing from his eyes as he looked at me. The tiny burning light that was always there
whether he was mocking me, or yelling at me, or, well, . . kissing me.
This was not my imagination. This was not Snape.
The realisation came so quickly I could not mask the
discovery. Whoever this man was, he
read it in my face and black anger rushed across his borrowed features.
‘Damn you, you stupid little chit! You should have left me with
Dumbledore. Now I’ll have to leave my
task undone.’ A hand curled round my
neck and slammed down on my mouth before I could cry out, while the other waved
a dark sign in the air. A broom descended
in a rush of cold air. He pulled me
onto it in front of him and kicked off.
A heartbeat later we were high above the silvered roofs.
As soon as we were out of shouting distance he
uncovered my mouth and his hand searched obscenely through my robes for my
wand, ‘I’m going to make you very sorry.’
His voice was silky in my ear and Snape’s no longer. I turned my head and saw the black hair turn
to silver, the dark familiar eyes and brows pale, and I was looking into a
cruel face I had only ever seen from a distance.
Lucius Malfoy smiled as he let my wand fall from his
hand and it tumbled away to the icy lake far far below.
stumbled as we Apparated in a rush and hard boards met my feet, but Lucius held
me upright, his fingers biting cruelly into my upper arm. We seemed to be in a great hall lit by flaming
torches along the walls. In the centre,
black evil-smelling smoke rose from a huge verdigris incense burner that stood
on legs like tortured snakes. I blinked
as the acrid smoke clouded my vision.
voice spoke from the shadows, ‘Welcome.’
shivered. The voice sounded like dry
bones scraping against stone. My eyes
adjusting to the dim light, I could make out a semi-circle of dark-robed
figures flanking a throne around which the shadows seemed to gather more
knew who this was, of course, though until now he had been nothing more to me
than a whispered threat, an echoing memory, an icy touch in the minds I had
walked. But the dread of this hidden
figure was nothing to the surge of fear I felt when I saw the figure who stood
bound before him.
robes and shirt hung open. My eyes
widened at the marks across his bare chest, burn-blackened and edged with dried
blood, their regular pattern viciously deliberate. As Lucius brought me to his side I could see his face in the
gloom, he looked paler than usual and across one cheek was another ugly
burn. Yet despite the fiery green
threads that held his wrists behind him he stood tall and proud, his hair was
drawn back like Lucius’ with a black ribbon, his expression a Death Eater mask
of cold disdain. Snape didn’t spare me
dry voice spoke from the shadows once more, ‘So, Lucius, you have failed to
kill Dumbledore. Yet you doubted my
trusted spy’s loyalty for the very same failure.’ His words made me realise, with a small sting of relief amongst
the over-setting fear, that I had interrupted Lucius not in an attempt to learn
of the headmaster’s intentions, but in an attempt on his life. I would thank the Fates later for
Dumbledore’s romantic fancies if they also deigned to get me out of this mess.
bowed low, ‘Snape has had many opportunities, my Master,’ he said, at once
accusing and obsequious, ‘yet he has still not proved his loyalty with this one
small task. However . . I have brought back this . . girl . . from
Hogwarts. Perhaps she will be useful in
thrust me forward as he spoke.
‘Indeed. Such . . entertainments bore me,
Lucius. And Snape, as you know, has
already passed my tests of loyalty,’ the voice rasped coldly and my eyes were
drawn again to Snape’s wounds.
Master. But I believe she may be his.’
He took my chin between thumb and finger and searched my frightened
thought of the small acts with which I had betrayed myself – the touch on his
arm, the emotion in my voice. And now
they would use me against him. ‘I am nothing to him,’ I said, my voice almost
really?’ Lucius drew his wand and waved
it at Snape’s bonds which fell away.
Then he pushed me towards him.
shuttered eyelids flickered, ‘Master?’ he said, directing the question to the
dark throne, ‘She has mind walking skills.
She could be useful if put under the Imperius Curse.’
voice held no more interest than mild query, but Lucius’ lip curled in vicious
triumph, ‘You see, My Lord, he wishes to save her.’
drew his wand, icy anger on his face as he looked over my head at Lucius. My head was spinning a little with the dark
fumes and I wondered wildly if I should get out of the way before they started
the voice croaked with authority, ‘Let this be done with and Snape will be ours
without doubt. . . Imperio!’
Snape’s head snapped round to look at the throne. ‘Now, kill the girl.’
took my elbow and drew me to him. I
looked down. His wand was held to my
heart. I wondered if I would see the
green light of the darkest curse before I died. Perhaps he held me close so I wouldn’t feel it. I knew that even if he was not being
controlled by the curse he would have to do this. It would be death to both of us if he did not. I hoped he could forgive himself when it was
done. Yet who would be there to comfort
him if he ever went back to Dumbledore?
thought all this and also only of the warm weight of his hand on my arm. His lips opened to form the words. I looked up into his eyes and the world went
(In which monsters lurk)
I'll tear me open, make you gone
No longer will you hurt anyone
And the fear still shapes me
hold me, until it sleeps . .
cold and painful lifetime later the darkness rolled back. I slowly opened my eyes and closed them
again quickly when the bright gleam from too many candles jolted my aching
head. I could hear a muttered but
obviously animated exchange occurring somewhere near my feet. I opened my eyes
wide enough to establish that I was alive and I was in the Hospital Wing.
Hyssop,’ said Dumbledore, for it was he who had been arguing with Professor
McGonagall at the foot of my bed, ‘I am very glad to see that you are awake.’
sat up slowly, my mouth dry as dust. My
mind whirled stupidly, then cold dread settled in my stomach. If I was back at Hogwarts apparently safe
and sound, then Severus . . ? I could
not think the question, could not ask it.
Let me live in ignorance, I pleaded silently, however terrified and sick
it may be making me feel it is better than knowing that he is gone forever.
must have seen some of my distress for she moved to my side, ‘Margaret, you are
quite safe now. Do not worry.’
looked up and the warm concern in her eyes made tears I had held back for so
long cloud my vision. I had to know.
‘S-Severus?’ I asked, unable to say more.
my dear, he’s . . .’ her eyes slid away from my face, ‘You must have Apparated
in the Forest, you were both quite frozen.
He carried you up to the castle, but . .’ she trailed off and I saw she
was looking at a dark heap on the next bed.
lay sprawled across it, pale and unmoving, the livid burn dark on his cheek,
his chest now wrapped in bandages. I
crossed the space on unsteady legs and sank to my knees beside him. ‘Severus . . Oh, please no.’ His hand was
cold as ice as I caught it between my own.
I stared down at his beautiful familiar face, unconsciousness relaxing
its lines of pain. I wanted to touch
his cheek, summon back warm life into that pale stillness.
won’t wake?’ I asked, knowing that they must have already tried. Madam Pomfrey shook her head, her face
troubled. I knew what I must do. I took
a deep breath and dropped my forehead against his cold hand. Through the vague rushing blur I heard
Dumbledore bark, ‘No, Margaret!’
. . I opened my eyes to darkness.
There were rough-hewn stones under my hand, slimy with moisture. I concentrated hard, willing a little light
to show my surroundings – no spell would work in here. A dim glow grew around me and I saw I was in
a cold, airless passageway which stretched, straight and doorless. Well, I would follow it.
pulled out as I walked, the air steadily growing colder, hurting my throat and
lungs more with each breath. The walls
seemed to press closer. Clearly I was
not welcome here. My feet
hesitated. Perhaps it was not right to
invade his mind like this when he was not aware of my presence. Yet how could I leave and return to the
physical world where he lay motionless on that bed, his body living, but his
I paused I heard a sound, low and half-formed, barely even an echo, but in an
instant I was hurrying towards it, further along the featureless passage. At last I came to a low archway where steps
twisted down into a deeper darkness.
The low grunting sound came again, rising like a broken sob from the
depths. My feet flew down the steps and
I stumbled, scraping my leg on the rough stone. Dizzy, I reached the bottom tread and my hands fell against an
iron door, pulling away with a gasp, my fingers ice-burnt by the
frost-blossomed metal. Something
lurched in my stomach as the brief contact sent the door swinging open. Doors as thick as that one were usually put
there for a reason. Again I
hesitated. Then through the widening gap I saw a ragged figure crouched in a
corner, its dark head bowed in pain.
stepped forward without thinking. I
would have run straight to him, but the moment I stepped through the
doorway I was gasping with cold and my eyes blurred with stinging tears. I felt as if my very bones were locked in
ice. It washed over me and through me,
sapping all my hope and purpose. The
fear that had carried me to this place, fear for Severus, fear of what the Dark
Lord might have done to his mind, sank away - replaced by a more selfish
emotion: terror for myself. I looked
around the room I had so unthinkingly entered.
It was a tiny box, a stone cell where dull chains hung from iron
rings. They rattled as the figure in
the corner looked up at me and growled.
Behind matted, dirty hair its eyes gleamed with a feral light. I knew I must turn and run, but the room’s
cold despair gripped me and I watched frozen as the thing launched itself at
me, howling. I fell back underneath it,
my shoulders pinned to the hard floor, and staring up at its face I saw Snape’s
face, ugly and deformed with hate and rage.
The twisted lips opened and he shouted through the growing noise in my
head, ‘I killed you. I killed you. Now leave me alone!’
fingers felt like claws on my neck. ‘No, Severus, please, no . .’ I gasped, but
I could barely hear myself. Then there
was only whirling, roiling blackness. I
could see nothing, understand nothing.
There was only this storm that filled the world, filled my eyes and ears
and mouth with fear and grief. The
Snape/beast thing dissolved into the darkness.
I opened my mouth to shout, but the storm threw the words back down my
throat and they only called through my mind, ‘Where are you? Where are you?’ .
felt a sickening jolt and was back in myself.
voice spoke huskily near my head, ‘Where- ?’
are in the Hospital Wing, Professor Snape,’ Madam Pomfrey’s voice was warm with
managed to return both yourself and Miss Hyssop safely to Hogwarts,’ Dumbledore
stirred and looked down, finding himself impeded by a small witch who clung
uninvited to his side. His brows drew
together and he shrank away from me, hastily disentangling his hand from my
grasp. I wondered whether he remembered
my intrusion into his unconscious mind.
struggled to sit up and Dumbledore moved to touch him soothingly on the shoulder,
‘There, there, Severus. You’ve had a
busy time. Get some rest now. You
sank back, closing his eyes. ‘Deserve
it!’ he repeated quietly, as if mocking himself.
his eyes still closed he spoke again, his tone neutral, ‘Miss Hyssop is well?’
question seemed to ignore the fact that I was mere inches away, still kneeling
by his side, but the others looked at me to answer. ‘Quite well, Severus,’ I managed in a soft voice that barely
belonged to me.
half-opened his eyes at that and said, ‘Margaret,’ making my name a growl in
his throat, but then turned his head away as if willing me to disappear. If I had any strength in my legs I might
have, but my whole body felt numb. I
couldn’t understand his reaction to me.
At least the anger I had seen in his mind made sense – it was
well-deserved for my stupidity in allowing Lucius to take me so easily, to try
and use me against him. My foolishness
that had meant he had to . . that he .
. What had he done? I remembered
the words. I had heard him speak them
in that dark thick air, felt their breath warm against my cheek . . Avada .
must have turned his head back towards me while I stared blankly, the moment
replaying in my head. I said without
meaning to, ‘I remember . .’
grimaced, his eyes meeting mine in a dead smile of understanding, ‘Yes,’ he
said. Then he looked away, denying me
once more. He spoke to the others, ‘You
see, Headmaster, I did not try to save her.
I tried to kill her.’
Pomfrey and Professor McGonagall looked shocked, but Dumbledore replied
quietly, ‘Yet she is still here, Severus.’
all right. I know you had to do it,’ I
said, willing him to listen, wanting to make the others understand.
wasn’t the Imperius Curse, Margaret. I
can fight that.’
know that, Severus. You had to do it to
show them you were loyal . . for the sake of the Order . . for everyone. I know.
I shouldn’t have been there. I’m
just a silly little witch who got caught in the wrong place and time.’ It seemed that this truth could apply to my
situation in more ways than one.
Dumbledore said gravely, ‘Am I to understand that Voldemort now knows that your
true loyalty is to the Order?’
I did exactly what he wanted.’ As
he answered the headmaster grimly, his eyes strayed back to me. He looked unsure of what he saw. ‘Lucius.
When he took you. . . He didn’t . . hurt you, did he?’
seemed a crazy question considering what he himself had done, but I knew what
he meant. ‘No.’
God,’ he said. My heart swelled at the
sudden vicious relief in his voice and its possessive tone, but his next words
were bleak, ‘But I said those words. I
can’t unsay them.’
do not quite understand, Severus,’ Dumbledore interrupted our private trade of
misery, ‘What spell did you cast?’
spell. The curse. I tried to think of some other way. There was nothing. So I said it. I said it,’
he repeated and I suddenly realised he spoke in grief. His eyes slid from me in fear as if I were a
ghost, as if despite my survival his guilt made me dead to him.
I was not dead. I was alive and here
and angry. Angry at the waste of all
our energy in fighting the ever-encroaching darkness, the time we must spend
merely surviving and not living, and angry, finally, at the waste of emotion I
had spent on this stubborn man.
caught my impatient gesture as I opened my mouth to say - I never knew what.
you say you uttered the most unforgivable of curses? You directed it at Miss Hyssop?’ he queried rather urgently.
could hardly have missed.’ His eyes
flicked to me as I involuntarily touched the spot on my breast where his wand
had pressed. We both looked away
I know of only one reason for the failure of the curse,’ Dumbledore said
slowly, watching our two pale faces turn towards him to avoid looking at each
other. Despite his serious expression
his eyes twinkled with some private joke. ‘By the laws of nature you cannot
wish the destruction of one you love.’
was a breathless silence.
half sat up, frowning. When his mouth
opened I knew his lips were forming a denial.
I would not wait to hear it. I
was too confused, felt too exposed to Dumbledore’s knowing eyes and the
interested gazes of Professor McGonagall and Madam Pomfrey. Snape didn’t love me, he didn’t love
anybody. His heart was a dark cell
where a monster sat in chains. I hated
him for making me feel this way, for having the power to hurt me so much.
brought me to my feet at last, but before I could turn from the bed a hand shot
out and gripped my wrist.
me go,’ I ordered brokenly.
can’t,’ he didn’t sound very happy about it.
eyes met then. His dark gaze burnt into
I turned my face away, only wanting to escape, but he drew me to him, an arm
around my waist, until his bandaged chest was pressed against my resisting
thought you’d gone . .‘ he said quietly into my shoulder. The pain in his voice made me instinctively
turn to him. My hand reached for his
cheek of its own accord, then stopped, remembering that I hated him.
thought you’d gone too. I mean, I
thought maybe you were hiding your true loyalty to Voldemort.’ I said it
without apology, barely stumbling over the last word as I concentrated on the
bitterness that made me feel hard and strong inside.
you still – kissed me.’ His voice was
strained. ‘I held on to that. When Voldemort - tried to take my mind -
tried to break me - I held on to that.
I buried it deep.’
realised he was talking about that locked and secret part of his mind and my
body tensed in panic. Suddenly I didn’t
want to hear whatever he was telling me in that dry, bitter voice that mocked
his words even as he spoke them.
found something to hold on to there. A
light. I could take it into the darkest
places, into Voldemort’s very presence and it wouldn’t go out. As long as I kept it secret. And while I held it there wasn’t only . .
looked up, straight into my wide eyes and I believe I stopped breathing.
tried to drive you away, Margaret.’ I
shook my head. ‘I did! I took your help and then I pushed you away
again. I didn’t understand that it was
you.’ I must have gazed back at him
blankly, for he repeated, ‘The light . . was you.’
stared at him for a long moment, unable to speak. Then the luminous glow that had lit his eyes as he spoke began to
fade and he drew back, his hair closing over his face like a curtain hiding the
sun. He gave a short, bitter laugh,
‘It’s too late, isn’t it?’
was ironic. Once, I had fought against a powerful spell to keep my feelings for
him hidden, yet now, when he looked at me with hope in his eyes I was gripped
in fear and silence. Perhaps it was too
late. The ghost of his bitter voice
whispered in my ears, ‘Don’t be stupid, girl . . It’s dangerous to know
me. Don’t you understand? . . I don’t
want to be saved. I can’t be saved’. Perhaps at last I did understand - some
things can never be healed. I thought
of the thing that had attacked me and said, ‘I found that room in your
mind. It was cold there – so cold. And you were there . . at least, it looked
like you . . you tried to hurt me.’
put a finger under my chin, tipping my head back so we had to look at each
other. ‘Margaret, I thought you were dead.
I picked up your body and I brought it back here. I couldn’t leave you for them. I couldn’t . .’ he stopped, swallowed, then
continued slowly, quietly, looking into my wide eyes and making me accept each
word he said: ‘I don’t know what you saw in my head. I don’t remember where I was.
Everything had gone.
Everything. Did you bring me
back?’ There it was again – the hope in
his eyes that was killing me. I didn’t
answer, but he continued anyway, ‘I’ll have to go back. Voldemort still trusts me. I’ll have to continue my work for the
Order. Will you help me?’
turned my head aside. ‘Margaret?’ he
sounded uncertain again. ‘Please. I need your help. I need . . you.’ The last
word was a low, hopeless murmur.
was afraid of him, for him, I didn’t know anymore. I willed myself not to look at him again. If I didn’t then maybe I could go - go and
never come back.
when I looked up it was to meet his dark, despair-filled eyes, and I was sucked
into those dangerous, treacherous pools, lost, drowned – just as I had foreseen
a long time ago.
I took his face between my hands and kissed
him. He was still and tense under my
lips for a moment, then, with a long sigh, he drew me against him and buried
his face in the sheltering curve of my neck.
As I held him I felt myself sinking, sinking, into warm, embracing depths
where a sweet peaceful darkness held us safe . . alone . . together.
long while later I heard a noise behind us and suddenly remembered where we
were. ‘The headmaster!’
looked over my shoulder, not letting me draw away, ‘They went away a long time
ago. I think Dumbledore knew.’
-’ his mouth captured mine in a kiss that spoke of things to come, then we lay back,
my head tucked against his chest.
Outside the windows the winter storm still raged, but in our small
circle of candlelight for a moment there was peace.
the fear still shapes me
hold me, until it sleeps . .
to the reader on Margaret’s name:
Agrimony and Hyssop are herbs – the first is used to aid psychic healing
and aura cleansing, the second in spells of protection, particularly of the
home. Margaret means ‘pearl’, thus a
light in the darkness. )