The Sugar Quill
Author: Sweeney Agonistes (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Dreamscapes  Chapter: Chapter Two
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Vignette 2

Snape stared at what remained of the house with Albus Dumbledore standing behind him.

It wasn’t the first attack since Voldemort’s return, and it wouldn’t be the last. But it was the first one that he’d seen so soon after it was all over. The Mark was still hanging over the house. The face of the Mark seemed to be laughing at him.

Alastor Moody stumped up and said, “Dumbledore – there’s something you ought to see inside.”

Dumbledore removed his impervious gaze from the crumbled bricks and said, “All right, Alastor.” He followed the Auror, beckoning Severus to come along behind him. Snape followed; he was there to observe, after all.

Moody led them through the doorframe and turned down what remained of the hall. He paused outside another doorway at the back of the house and said, “In there.”

Dumbledore entered; Severus followed.

It was a little girl’s room, done in soft, unobtrusive pink. The walls were adorned with a child’s cheerful drawings of people and houses. A Victorian wall sconce illuminated the room softly. A small white wooden table was set for tea, and three of the four matching chairs were occupied with a stuffed rabbit, a stuffed bear, and a stuffed kneazle. In the corner by the bay window rested a canopy bed with a single occupant, only distinguishable from the bedclothes by the long, intensely red hair that was in sharp contrast to the white blankets.

The strangest thing about that room was the fact that it was intact, while the rest of the house had suffered major amounts of damage. A very strange thing, indeed. Why leave the child, and – presumably – kill the parents?

Snape turned to look at the door; Moody was staring at the two of them. Dumbledore was standing over the bed, watching the girl. Moody cleared his throat. “Albus.”

Dumbledore turned. He still had that stern, closed look on his face – it made Severus feel unsettled. Better any emotion than none at all. Moody said, “The bodies are in the other room.”

Dumbledore rose and followed Moody out of the room, not looking at Severus. He took that as an unspoken command to stay where he was. That suited him just fine – he had no desire to look at dead bodies just now.

He took Dumbledore’s spot by the bed and stood there for a moment, looking down at the small creature lying there. All he could see was the lump under the blankets – except, of course, for the hair. The flame-red hair.

He sat down on the edge of the bed, feeling very old and tired.

All he could do was look at that hair. It was flames; it drew him as a moth was drawn to a flame. Before he knew it, he had reached out and touched the hair that had spilled on the pillow. He drew back quickly, as if the strands had burned him.

The little girl did not move. He gained courage from that, and reached out again.

Such an innocent thing. Why hadn’t the Death Eaters done anything to her? The rest of the house was in ruins; this room was an island. An idyllic sort of island.

No man is an island, Severus. Her hair was soft under his hand. He gently lifted a strand, scrutinizing it haphazardly, marveling at the texture created by a few simple, soft threads.

He looked down at her, at the girl he did not know, the girl who had inexplicably survived a vicious, unmerited attack, and he thanked whatever gods there were that he had never had children. Would never have children.

For looking at her was painful. She had survived the Death Eaters, but what would happen to her now? Did she have relatives who would take her in? Would she end up like Potter, shoved in a cupboard under the stairs? Would something happen to her to make her like those craven bastards who had killed her parents?

He did not know. He knew that he could not know. And he wasn’t sure that he wanted to know, even if he could.

There was something that he could do, though.

And as he sat on the edge of the little-girl bed, stroking the soft, smooth hair of its occupant, he offered up his thoughts to whatever higher authority might be listening.

Are you up there? Are you anywhere?

I still haven’t decided what I think of you all – or if you even exist, as I don’t understand how you could exist and let someone do things like this. You obviously didn’t care much about this little one, or you would have, at the worst, let her be killed along with her parents. It would have been kinder than having her awaken, as she no doubt will in a few hours, and find that the collective center of her universe has disappeared forever.

If you don’t care about her, do it for me. Not, of course, that I deserve any favors – but it’s supposed to make a difference if someone else asks for her, right? The more good thoughts, the merrier? Isn’t that how it’s supposed to work?

Let her know that her parents loved her. It’s obvious enough from this room – even someone like me can tell that. Let this be a lesson for her; let her realize and value her moments of happiness more because of this night. Don’t let her be angry and try to channel her anger into any extreme. The Aurors are, in their own way, almost as bad as the Death Eaters. Extremists, all of them.

Don’t let her go to relatives like Potter’s. As much as I detest the boy, he didn’t deserve a cupboard under the stairs. That aunt and uncle of his are what sometimes makes me think that the Dark Lord’s ideas weren’t all out of place. And this little girl – she deserves better. She’s had enough hurt. Potter doesn’t remember his parents; she will.

Let her grow up. Let her be Sorted into a good House. Let her grow old with someone who loves her. Let her be happy, despite this night and all the events that will happen because of it.

Let her know the peace that I never had.

Movement came from underneath his fingers. He withdrew his hand quickly. The little girl slowly came awake. She yawned and turned towards him; he could see a light dusting of freckles in the soft light from the wall sconce. Her eyes blinked once, twice; she saw him and froze.

He sat, reserved, on the edge of her bed.

They regarded each other for a moment. He noted that she did not seem to find him threatening – a first.

“Hello,” she said to him. It was almost an inquiry.

“Hello,” he said. It was almost an affirmation.

And with those particulars settled, she disentangled herself from the covers, sat in his lap, and hugged him.

He was shocked, but recovered enough to reciprocate the gesture. So this is what a child of mine would have felt like. He held her.

And she started to cry.

He stroked her hair.

And then his own tears came.

And that was how Albus Dumbledore found them a few minutes later – the dark man and the light child, entangled in a quiet, gently empathetic, oddly peaceful deluge.

The abstract, colorful drawings on the walls were a testimony to what had been; the fact of the man and the girl was a testimony to what was; the pinched, worried, and yet serene look on the observant face of Albus Dumbledore was the testimony to what would be.

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