The Sugar Quill
Author: Sigune (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Mirror Mirror  Chapter: Prologue: The Boy Again
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The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

A/N: The usual disclaimers apply: I have not created Severus Snape, Alastor Moody, Barty Crouch or, for that matter, the Potte

A/N: The usual disclaimers apply: I have not created Severus Snape, Alastor Moody, Barty Crouch or, for that matter, the Potterverse – all have sprung from the genius of J. K. Rowling and belong to her, Bloomsbury and Scholastic Books, and Warner Brothers. The ‘Proem’ is Philip Larkin’s; its title is “This Be The Verse”. But neither Larkin nor Rowling can be held responsible for the fictional existence of Stephen Snape and Septimia De Quincey, though they did inspire them.

This fic has been rigorously beta-read by no less than four unselfish souls: Charybdis, Elfie, Lucretia Cassia, and Ada Kensington. Thank you very, very much, ladies!

 

This story is rated PG-13. If you are under 13 years of age and read it, I doubt you will be struck down by lightning, but chances are that you just won’t enjoy this fic.

The Larkin poem contains vocabulary that some might consider offensive. Feel free to skip it if you must. Its language is not representative of the story’s style; its content is.

 

 

 

 

Mirror Mirror

 

 

 

 

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.

They may not mean to, but they do.

They fill you with the faults they had

And add some extra, just for you.

 

But they were fucked up in their turn

By fools in old-style hats and coats,

Who half the time were soppy-stern

And half at one another’s throats.

 

Man hands on misery to man.

It deepens like a coastal shelf.

Get out as early as you can,

And don’t have any kids yourself.

- Philip Larkin

 

 

 

Prologue: The Boy Again

 

 

Ministry of Magic, London, January 1982

 

“Would you kindly not sit on my desk? That chair is not there for ornamental purposes,” Stephen said, without any attempt at hiding his irritation. But Alastor Moody stayed where he was and quietly surveyed the room. Stephen had always found him irksome; Moody reminded him of everything he had wanted to be but could not. He had not passed the exams.

Muggles in your family?” the Auror asked suddenly.

“How, pray, is that relevant to the matter at hand?”

“Just curious,” Moody said. He gestured towards the office with its bare white walls, its simple bookshelves filled with painstakingly ordered and labelled file cases, and the neat desk, empty but for a large sheet of green blotting paper encased in leather and a plain rectangular box with three identical ball points and a fountain pen in it. The Chief Hit Wizard was probably the only Ministry employee not to use quill and ink pot; he found them impractical.

“It struck me when we searched his rooms,” Moody continued. “Very clean for a wizard. Very orderly. Just like yours, in fact.” He eyed the man in the office chair beadily.

“The Snapes have always been in trade,” Stephen replied, distractedly stroking his jaw, his gaze focused on infinity. “Tailors. In close contact with Muggles, buying cloth from them and such – much cheaper than wizard-made textiles, and better quality. There were intermarriages, and I suppose we took over some of the more sensible Muggle habits. We have proved ourselves adaptable.”

“Adaptable. Yes...” Moody seemed to savour the word’s meaning. “And convenient it is, too,” he growled. “A man as tidy as he is would not be so careless as to leave any evidence of his unsavoury activities, so the search of his apartment was entirely without results. It’s only fair to tell you that we have no direct evidence against him. We set our Legilimens on him. Nothing. Cursed him. Still nothing. But my gut tells me – well, you’ll see for yourself. That is, if you feel up to the confrontation.”

“Of course I do,” the Chief Hit Wizard snapped. “I know how to conduct an interrogation, thank you very much.” He glared, and added, with some vehemence, “It is about time you Aurors stop belittling us. I told Crouch-”

“Hold your hippogriffs, Steve – I’m doing you a favour, remember? No need to bite off what’s left of my nose.” Moody put down the thin file he had been holding, slipped off the tabletop and walked towards the door. “We would be grateful if you could get him to name some others. I’m desperate to nail young Malfoy, but that one keeps claiming he was under the Imperius curse. I don’t believe him, but I have no proof. If your young man knows anything, I count on you to squeeze it out of him.”

When no reaction came, the Auror cocked his head.

“Stephen?”

“Hmm.”

“If you don’t feel like it, that’s all right with me. The truth is, we’ve run out of Veritaserum, what with the unexpected sudden increase in our number of … acquisitions … recently. We’re through our other options as far as interrogation techniques go, so it would be a month’s visit to Azkaban for him until the next potion batch is ready. Of course, the Dementors tend to make their charges a bit funny in the head… permanently… which renders later questioning annoyingly complicated. And he’s young. Well, they’re all just dirty criminals to me, but I figured you might take a different view in this particular case. So when he asked for you I thought I’d give you a try, but if you say no, I won’t lose any sleep over it.”

The Chief Hit Wizard’s right hand wandered towards the box that kept the writing utensils; he rearranged them without any visibly different effect. He then crossed his arms and slowly shook his head. He felt tired. “I don’t know what good my involvement will do,” he said, “– none, probably. But if there is by any chance a trace of decency left in him, he might…” He halted and ran his fingers through his short, fair hair, a troubled expression on his face.

Dammit!” he said suddenly, from the bottom of his heart. Then, “Is this going to affect my position, Alastor?”

“I doubt it. There’ll be some gossip, I suppose; but your record of service doesn’t lie, nor,” he pointed a gnarled finger at the medal pinned on Stephen’s dark blue uniform robes, “does that Order of Merlin.”

Stephen nodded without much enthusiasm, and Moody stalked out of the room, leaving him to his own thoughts.

Alone in his office, the Chief Hit Wizard slowly rubbed his eyes, then his whole face, with both hands. What had gone wrong? Was there something he had neglected to do? Could this catastrophe have been avoided if –  … Should he have taken another approach? Sent the boy abroad, perhaps, away from bad influences? Guarded him more closely? Punished him more severely? Or – tried to talk to him?

No, that would have been no use. By the time he had noticed that something was amiss, the child had already been corrupted to the core. It was too late for talking then; they no longer understood each other. He remembered the feeling of utter powerlessness at the realisation that the boy was beyond his control, beyond reason. The worst was that he should have sensed it coming, that he had understood how damning her influence might be – but should he have deprived the boy of his mother?

And to what extent had the choice been his?

It was her doing, all of it. She – she had bewitched his mind and ensnared his senses with her Dark arts. He had behaved unlike himself in all his dealings with her. He was not the kind of man to lose his head over a woman. There must have been magic involved – a treacherous potion slipped into his drink, a subtle spell cast when he had his back turned. Only, and this was unsettling, he could not think of a reason why.

 

 

 

 

 

Next: Reminiscences. Stephen marries a dark lady, and raises objections to the name of Severus.

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