Myrrh is mine: Its bitter perfume
Breathes a life of gathering gloom.
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding dying,
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb.
-from "We Three Kings of Orient
John H. Hopkins, Jr.
I did not think; I simply acted. If I had stopped to think, I
would have reconsidered my actions - think of it, a young man being
by an old woman twice his age! - but I did not. Severus was injured,
gravely, and I was the only person in a position to help him. There
certainly no time for modesty. Thus, I unbuttoned his shirt, peeled
carefully away where the blood had coagulated and affixed the fabric
his skin - Severus twitched - and placed it neatly on the floor
me. Performing a quick Cauterizing Charm on him, I started a fire
my wand, warmed some water and added soap, sat down on a stool, and
to sponge the blood off of his chest.
Severus reminded me a great deal of my nephew. Meleagrant was
and dark, like Severus. However, Meleagrant had a lighter side - he
rather like young Percy Weasley in that aspect. He was stiff, but
capable of relaxing and having a good time like young people should
Meleagrant had a wicked sense of dry humor and a penchant for card
and he was an excellent Quidditch player. In general, he was what I
that Severus could be like if he was only given the chance.
I remembered Severus as a first-year: quiet, bright, and
He wasn't dark then - no, Severus enjoyed life, he had friends, he
all right. And then he got older. I saw how he looked at Lily Evans
I'd had my share of unrequited love and I could certainly recognize
signs. I saw how James Potter and Sirius Black - lighthearted though
were - tortured him. And then, when given the opportunity to strike
he did. That polite young man with the world ahead of him became a
I looked on my students as my children. A parent should not
her children, as I had outlasted Potter and Evans. A parent should
stand idly by while her children are miserable, either, as I
- no, knew - that Severus was. Meleagrant, for all his dark
and stiff nature, was never like this. Meleagrant had been raised
shaped in much the same environs as Severus, Slytherin and all.
had caused Severus to go in another direction, and that something
likely explain what Severus was doing drunk in Hogsmeade on
I rinsed the sponge out in the basin and went to the bathroom.
poured the red-tinged water down the sink, opened the cabinet, and
out two flasks. One contained a hangover treatment, and the other
a common analgesic potion. I kept the hangover treatment there for
- he was of age, and he did not have a very good head for alcohol.
the cabinet, I took the flasks back into the living room, stopping
the small kitchenette on my way to get a cup. I set my load down on
floor, retrieved his cloak, spread it over him, pulled out my wand,
said clearly, "Ennervate."
His hooded, guarded eyes blinked open, and with a gasp, he sat
The cloak fell away from his chest, and he clasped it to him like a
with a stuffed animal. He looked at me blankly for a moment, and
his face was contorted into a mixture of fear and fury.
I reached down for the flask containing the hangover
poured some into a cup, and handed it to him. "Drink this. It's
Severus scowled, one hand reaching up to massage his temple.
want some answers first."
"I give you nothing until you drink this," I said
He snatched the cup from me and bolted down its contents,
a horrible face. "This is served best - if that's possible -
warm. I would think that even a Transfiguration teacher would know
My voice was icy. "And I should think that even a Potions
would know better than to roam the streets of Hogsmeade during a
'drunk as a Muggle', as Madam Rosmerta put it."
He had the decency to look abashed, but only briefly.
"Give me a question," I said.
"Where is this?"
"This is my flat in Hogsmeade."
He seemed incredulous. "You keep a flat in
I said curtly, "Yes, I do." A change of subject was
order. "Do you feel pain anywhere?"
"My chest hurts - " His voice cut off abruptly, and
dropped the cloak in order to examine his torso, where the
Charm had repaired the dreadful gash in his chest. He traced a
down the still-inflamed skin where a scar would soon form. He paled,
I took the cup and filled it with the analgesic. "Drink
He did. "Better?"
"Somewhat." He eyed me as a cornered fox did its
"You found me?"
"Oh, yes. To be precise, I stepped on you. You were passed
in the snow. I imagine the blood loss, combined with the cold and
empty bottle of Ogden's Old Firewhisky you had in your hand, was
to make you pass out. I moved you here, cleaned you up some, and
you are." I couldn't keep a hint of sarcasm out of my voice,
He stared down at his hands, speaking quietly and without a
of acid in his voice. "I suppose that I am in your
"And you owe me some explanations," I said.
if I'm not going to go to Albus about this." That last phrase
me as much as it did Severus - I was infamous for enforcing rules
propriety for a reason.
Severus stared at a spot behind my head - I was well aware it
at the picture of Medea, her husband Finn, my brother Maimonides,
wife Demetria, and Meleagrant. He said quietly, "I ran into an
colleague. We argued."
"I'm correct in assuming that this old colleague is
I didn't want to say it. However, he said it for me.
"A Death Eater?" He smiled wryly, deprecatingly,
straight into my eyes. "Oh, yes. He was a Death
I decided not to comment on his pointed use of the past tense.
"And then I made it to the Three Broomsticks, where the
was kind enough to give me that bottle of Ogden's Old Firewhisky. I
for a while, rather dazed, and drank the contents. Madam Rosmerta
the main room, saw me, and insisted on booting me out. I remember
up the street for a while, and then everything blanks out." His
returned to the picture. "And that is what happened."
After a moment, I said calmly, "It's not good enough,
His dark eyes bored into me, blazing with the added light of
fire. It was a task not to shrink from that look, but I kept eye
"Not good enough?"
"Not good enough. You had words with your - your former
I noticed him wince slightly; he had recognized the unintended
entendre. "I want to know what those words were."
Severus stared at me. "You - you can't know. You
"Severus, as young Lavender Brown would put it, I have
on you. Don't make me use it." And he knew I would. That was
He shook his head. I tried another tactic. By this time, I was
"Severus, I know that Albus is your mentor, your confessor. But
is not here. By the time we'd get back to Hogwarts, he'll be up at
Ministry, dining with Fudge. You can't tell him what's gone on
And Severus, don't forget that I've been teaching a good deal longer
you have. I know when a student of mine needs to talk about
Just - just try." I did not smile, for I knew he would see that
Severus did not speak for a long while. Then he said, "I
the Dark Mark this morning, Professor. It burned worse than it has
a long time. So much that I left the school - I knew one or another
the Death Eaters would be coming for me, and I did not want to put
school at risk. It never burned that horribly unless there was
urgent…" He swallowed heavily. "I came here, and indeed,
came. I met him in an alley. We fought. I - I killed him." I
to keep my face impassive, but I didn't succeed. "Professor, I
want to kill him. It was self-defense." He looked at me
from behind that iron wall of self-reliance, seemingly asking me -
- for clemency.
It broke my heart. The old first-year was still there. Was this
Albus saw when he looked at Severus? The scared young man who had
bad choices and regretted it? The young man resigned to his fate,
it was, figuring that whatever happened to him was a product of his
In that instant, I realized two things about Severus. The first
why Albus trusted him with running interference between the Order
the Death Eaters. Underneath that well-crafted, impenetrable
he had erected, there was that polite, brilliant young man - a young
who was integrally good and integrally trustworthy. The second thing
I realized was how much work Albus had put into Severus. All the
Severus had been teaching at Hogwarts - and likely a few years
that - Albus had been a combination of a therapist and a Muggle
for him. After Severus had left the Death Eaters, he'd needed
His own parents were dead. He had no siblings. Due to the nature of
relationship with James Potter and Sirius Black, he came in contact
his headmaster a good deal. Albus would have cultivated a
with young Severus, encouraged him, told him that he was worth
despite anything that his Slytherin brethren and my own Gryffindors
have him believe. Severus remembered that, and turned to Albus when
was in danger. I remembered him coming to Hogwarts as sort of an
the summer before He Who Must Not Be Named's initial defeat. Albus
told me that he needed a place to stay for a while, and he would
over Professor Buckminster's Potions job at the beginning of the
But couldn't he have just as easily been on the run from the Death
Albus had always kept a spot in his world for Severus - a spot
Severus needed. I had not. Was this, then, an opportunity for me to
him the support that I should have given him years ago when he
away from his solid upbringing, when he joined the Death Eaters, and
Lily Evans died? I could not shake the idea.
"Severus…Severus, I - " Even if I knew what I was
to say, I couldn't have said it at that moment. Instead, I simply
out for his hand and squeezed it firmly, trying to compose my
And to my surprise, Severus squeezed back, closing his eyes,
dancing malevolently over his face. "Professor, I knew they'd
back eventually. I was alone and unprotected, Professor Dumbledore
going up to London, it was Christmas Eve. I didn't have anything to
for. I had just killed a man. Nobody…nobody would have missed me. So
went into the Three Broomsticks, convinced the bartender to give me
bottle of Ogden's, and went outside. The wind had picked up. I
down the street, drinking as I went, hoping it would - hoping it
dull some of the pain." If what I thought was coming next truly
coming, I didn't want to hear it. "And - I took out the knife I
in class and - "
I couldn't let him say it. "I know, Severus."
"No - let me say it…I must…" He kept his eyes shut,
quickly. "I stabbed myself with it. And then I made it about
feet before I fell. It felt good to fall in the snow…a soft pillow…a
place to die. I remember thinking that I was making a grand
surprise for whoever found me, and then after that, I don't remember
What could I say to that? I couldn't condemn him. It wasn't as
I hadn't felt the same way at least once in my life. It wasn't as
I hadn't tried to achieve the same ends, either. I didn't know if
anything would help, but I would try.