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Chapter Thirty-Nine: Reasoning and Retrospection

With his less than satisfactory reply to the boy, Severus irritably grabbed at his quill, quickly confirmed that he'd completed his last thought and put his previous project to the side in favor of the parchment from the scan. In order to forestall any further interruption, Severus checked the time and growled, "Another ten minutes. Now, do be quiet for that period of time or the effort behind waiting an hour will be a waste."

Thankfully the boy pouted and went back to the chair to sit down, leaving Severus in peace. He could take the time to pull his somewhat tattered shield back around himself and keep from thinking of Albus' deceptions; those thoughts unpleasantly lead to the past. His internal sigh was nearly transformed into an exclamation before he managed to subdue it; what he was reading from the parchment was ... strange. Oh, some of what he could discern for himself was nothing more than what he'd expected, but there were small bits of ... interference is the best description that he could think of, and it was centered around Potter. Shaking his head in puzzlement, Severus noted that section as one of the areas to consult with Vector on later.

Delving into the portions that were somewhat more readable, Severus found the unsurprising existence of a cord-like link between Potter and himself. Seemingly this was the method of the exchange of energies between them on those occasions that one of them healed the other. There were also a few other odd readings from around them, likely the energies they both contained now that these new abilities had been activated.

While the rune room had always been of enormous help to him, this particular issue was clearly something more complicated than the occasional stray hex or tracing charm. Severus decided one of his next areas of research would be to apply his own specialty of potions to the new situation that he and Potter found themselves in. It had been some time since he'd had enough time or necessity to break new boundaries in the field of Potions ... not since he and his father ... His father whose brilliant mind was slowly being destroyed.

The clock on his mantelpiece quietly chimed the hour, startling Severus out of his increasingly distressing thoughts. Time to run the scan, and he had barely been able to gather himself back together before finding additional rents in his armor developing. Severus' jaw was tight with tension as he ordered Potter to follow him back into the room. He would make do. He would maintain control.

Potter walked into the room, casting a glance back at him that seemed to be both curious and troubled, but he remained otherwise silent as he moved into his previous position in the scanning area. What the boy might be seeing was something Severus didn't care to dwell upon as he produced his wand and made the necessary adjustments and spells to activate the room's scanning.

The usual sensations washed over Severus, and he found himself losing some of his control over his emotions. The feeling of washing sunlight and faint spring breezes always brought him to remember their soothing balm across his skin as he stood in Dumbledore's office. Normally he was able to concentrate on other things, but his current state of mind worked against him and he plunged into memory...

//A wafting of fresh air from an unseen open window ... Snape wished he could throw himself through it to plunge to his death on a convenient turret. Or perhaps to drown in the lake. What part of the castle was the Headmaster's office located in? He'd never been able to figure it out; there was something very strange about the room. Unsurprising considering its occupant.

He refocused his attention upon the seated Headmaster who seemed to be involved in the task of summoning forth a late night tea. Snape went over the events of the previous few minutes to see if he'd missed something to warrant the Headmaster's casual behavior. Let's see, he'd gained entry using the special password the Headmaster had given him just after the Shrieking Shack incident in the case he wanted or needed to talk to the Headmaster about it. Snape had never had the urge to take him up on the offer. Until now.

He'd entered the office, half expecting to be struck down by a powerful ward and not being entirely concerned about that apart from the delay to his intended task. Holding his wand by the tip rather than by the handle, he had placed it upon the Headmaster's desk and taken a step back in the formal Wizard gesture of Surrender. The older wizard sitting behind the desk solemnly watched Snape for some moments before beaming a pleased smile at him and exclaiming, "Severus, so good to see you. You look famished. Would you like some tea? And some chocolate covered biscuits, I think. Yes." Having answered himself, the Headmaster had set himself to the task he was just now completing when Snape came back to the present.

"I've come to turn myself in. You've got to help my Father." The latter sentence wasn't a command or even a plea; instead it was couched in a raspy and deadened voice that Snape didn't recognize as his own.

"Now now, there will be enough time for that after you've had a bite to eat," the Headmaster sternly replied. "You look as though you're about to collapse. Sit down."

His desperation surged to the fore as Snape nevertheless found himself sitting at the Headmaster's command despite his best intentions. "There is no time," he choked out, "They've taken him. They'll throw him in Azkaban without a trial. He'll be destroyed." Snape's eyes widened and he felt unshed tears there. "... destroyed. You've got to stop it ... Please. Do anything to me."

Waving one hand, Dumbledore murmured, "I hardly think that will be necessary, my dear boy. We shall see what can be done about your father, but it may be difficult in these dark times. If he bears the Mark, the consequences have been decreed by the Ministry."//

//"Why did you join him, Father?" Severus asked as they diced roots together. It was the summer before his third year at Hogwarts and the day after his birthday. Parcelsis, Severus' father, had made it known to Severus that having reached the age of thirteen, Severus was now mature enough to be told certain things. His father's allegiance to Voldemort being one of them.

The senior Snape furrowed his brow in brooding thought as his knife moved with unerring precision, cutting his root into neat rows of cubes. "It is partially for the knowledge and resources he has afforded me. When it comes to the issue of the furtherance of the knowledge of Wizardkind, not to mention the archiving of our past discoveries- no matter how insignificant or how dark- you cannot always rely on the Ministry to do what is right. They sneer at that which they do not deem suitable for the masses at large and declaim some very important discoveries as Dark magic when it could be used just as easily for the benefit of all. I am of the hopes that you have come to understand this in the lessons I've given you during your youth."

"Yes, Father," young Severus solemnly replied. His own roots weren't of the exactitude of his elder, but for his age they were done with a startling ease from years of practice. Pausing politely before continuing, Severus placed his root cubes in with the others that were done and reached for another. "You said that that was part of the reason?"

Leaving Severus to finish the remaining two roots, Parcelsis cleaned his knife and board before starting on the next ingredient, slicing open stewed snails with a single swift movement and depositing each prepared snail into another bowl. "Quite. The other reason is due to a Wizard's debt." Father and son both valued communication in as few wasted words as possible, so rather than requiring his son to inquire as to the nature of the debt, he answered the unasked question. "The elder Mr. Malfoy, Cassius, and I were housemates as you and his son Lucius were, only Mr. Malfoy is my senior by two years...

"There had been a ... terrible incident when your mother and I were out in Muggle London- you were staying with the Malfoys for the evening, and we were on our way from the restaurant to collect you before returning home." It was rare that Severus' father showed any discomfort or allowed grief to slip past the bonds of logic, but at that moment it seemed difficult for him to fully restrain them. His hands trembled slightly as he deposited the diced roots into the quietly steaming potion they were working on, stirring the mixture carefully. "... One of those Muggle cars swerved from the road when it was turning the corner. The Ministry later told me it was a drunk Muggle, but that didn't stop the driver from speeding away without further issue. I was barely able to stay conscious long enough to send a message to Malfoy Manor through the device I always carried with me when you stayed there...

"When I'd ... regained consciousness ... Cassius saved my life. And the Ministry... they never found who killed your mother, Severus. The Ministry of Magic and all of their departments couldn't see their way to finding the culprit. Eventually the case was dropped altogether."

Severus wanted to protest against what had happened- the injustice of it. But he couldn't speak the words past the horrified anger that stopped his throat. His knife was poised over another of the many ingredients to be prepared and added to their potion, all movement aborted. It was when his logic-trained mind realized that protest would avail him of nothing that he found himself able to move again. He put his knife down and pressed his hands down flat upon the surface of the table, fingers becoming stained with the juices of what he'd just been cutting. Eventually he looked back up at his Father who took that as his prompting to go on.

"Cassius took further steps to get what he could from the Ministry, but there was only so much they would do, even with his influence. Eventually he decided to take me to someone who could help. He knew and was willing to use the spells necessary to track down the Muggle who was responsible. He brought him before me ... and he killed him." Severus shivered at the words, unable to tear his gaze from the unusually grim figure of his Father who was staring intently at the snail he was now preparing. "He carried out my honor, and so I thusly owe it to him. As I owe Cassius my life. It is a Wizard's Bond, Severus- something I take quite seriously, and so should you. Your word is something to be kept, and thusly to be valued by others."

"Yes, Father." Severus was thankful for the opportunity to respond to something familiar rather than this new knowledge that gnawed at his stomach.//

//The special box that Severus' Father gave him the summer before his sixth year was carefully hidden in his trunk, covered by a notice-me-not charm he'd learned for such things years ago. When he woke to get an early start on the first day of school, Severus promptly delved into the trunk past the charm to take out the vial of potion that his Father's spell had delivered.

As he snuck into the shower to make use of the hair potion, Severus remembered with warmth the complexity of the arrangement his Father had made for him, and the brilliant intellect necessary for its discovery; it was at times like this that he was most proud to be his Father's son.

The box was specially crafted for its purpose; it was for all intents a new type of portkey for the receipt of the vials of potion that his Father sent. This was only half of the invention, however. His Father's cauldron itself was a craft of masterwork, layered with spells of his own making. Those potions that did not need special methods of preservation or highly uncommon ingredients could literally be summoned from the cauldron. All it took was the replenishing of the basic materials needed- a task he'd trained his house elves to do with great efficiency. The final touch was a timed and recurring spell to summon forth and stopper the potion in a vial for delivery. In this way, Severus was assured of the delivery of his hair potion even on those days that his Father might be called away by The Dark Lord.

Severus smiled with certainty as he massaged the potion into his darkening hair. There was no way he was going to be caught out by the Marauders by using his own hair against him again.//

When the scan started, Harry was met with the sight of Severus standing firmly poised to spring into action as was his wont, and then suddenly his expression crumpled into one of grief and anger as he sank to the floor, seemingly unaware of his surroundings. Quickly Harry went to support Severus, trying to call him back from where he had gone. The aura surrounding the older wizard showed evidence of the shards of self-loathing piercing the thinned layers of his detachment.

As Harry called to Severus, he ran his hands over the areas of Severus' aura that was wounded by the shards. While he watched, those areas became gradually soothed and the pain in Severus' expression slowly became a grief born of sadness and not anger. Continuing his efforts at soothing seemed to do good although Severus didn't immediately return to awareness. The coolness that Harry felt he used to channel through to Severus in the hopes it would be of help. Once the scan had completed and the room had grown more quiet, Severus stirred. Dark eyes blinked open, clouded with confusion, and a roughened voice murmured, "What happened?"

"I was just about to ask you that," Harry gently replied.


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