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.
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,
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.
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.
They fuck you up, your mum
They may not mean to, but
They fill you with the
faults they had
And add some extra, just
But they were fucked up in
By fools in old-style hats
Who half the time were
And half at one another’s
Man hands on misery to
It deepens like a coastal
Get out as early as you
And don’t have any kids
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
“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
“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.
“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
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.