<sunonice> was delighted to have someone show him how to dig through things and make a mess. Here was a wonderful human who was, shockingly, encouraging him to make a mess. Memory was a tricky thing, full of surprises and nasty shocks, but <sunonice> remembered being in this room before... before the warmth of ice, and wanting to make a mess but not being allowed. Strictly tidy had been the rule. One of the rules, anyway. There had been many rules, <sunonice> recalled vaguely, thoughtfully scratching his nose with a talon, and sometimes you only found out what they were after you'd broken them. He definitely remembered that wardrobe. He'd have to do something about that -- <handsonclay> had done a good job of <ripping&tearing> but there were still bad memories about being caged in it for doing... something. Many things, possibly. <sunonice> couldn't remember rules very well but he did remember punishment and flicked his tail with the memory of old anger.
Harry began to be woven into those memories but before he could become too tangled <silkthatcuts> -- Snape -- was there to extricate him. Guided by Snape, Harry found himself skirting the jumble of impulses and jagged ideas that was the mind of <sunonice> -- no; Draco Malfoy, Harry told himself firmly. It was a fascinating glimpse into the psyche of someone else and Harry was tempted to linger, even if it was the twisted psyche of a Malfoy, but Snape dragged him on.
It was impossible to get an idea of the layers of Snape's mind below the superficial. There was the vague sense of a strong, cold intellect, threaded through with dark strands of the taniwha's power. Other than that Snape was keeping any personal clues to a minimum.
They found themselves at the Taniwha's Pool. Snape had his head up, listening for any traces of attention from the Ice Dragon, but apparently Burd Helen was keeping <sunonice> sufficiently occupied. Snape raised one thin finger to his mouth to signal that Harry was to keep silence on this.
Harry frowned. <secret-from-sunonice?> he asked.
Snape nodded. He bent down and picked up a pebble from the bank and threw it into the centre of the gently steaming pond.
Harry watched it fall without a sound into the darkness.
He watched the ripples flow out from the middle, to the bank, then the black water climbed, rushing soundlessly through the ferns, up to lap Harry's feet.
He glimpsed two young men in black cloaks: a young, gawky Snape (it could be no other with that nose) moving as if he wasn't used to his own height, and Lucius Malfoy -- some years older than Snape but definitely not as old as Harry remembered -- trekking through a bitterly cold icescape.
Lucius paused, looking uneasy but trying to hide it behind his usual smoke-screen of arrogance, while Snape disappeared through a barrier so dark that it sucked at Harry's eyeballs like cold air hitting a tooth cavity. Then the young Snape was back again with something bundled in his cloak and the barrier snapped back into a solid wall of ice. Something precious, by the way Lucius' eyes gleamed. Snape's own eyes were wary but hinted at trust in Lucius, and Harry recoiled a little out of instinct. He wanted to tell the young Snape not to be involved with Lucius, that the man would only lead him to disaster, but it was as if Harry was paralysed; when he'd gone through other memories in Dumbledore's pensieve or Tom Riddle's diary he'd been able to move, but now his body was a long way away and Harry moved through this phantom world like a crippled ghost.
All the time he was aware of Snape standing next to him, watching the old memories, his arms folded in his cloak and his expression grim.
The only softening came after he and Lucius returned to a beautiful big old house -- Malfoy Manor, Harry guessed from comparing the style of plaster decoration on the ceiling of the room in the memory and Draco's bedroom. The young Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy were sitting at a table. Lucius looked bored as he stared out a window, but in a studied way that belied the covetous excitement in his eyes. Narcissa's beautiful face was made a little less attractive by her faint expression of revulsion, and she was watching a tall, black clad figure stooping over a crib. Snape.
In the memory Snape was muttering an incantation over -- Harry was floated close enough to see -- a smooth, mottled egg lying in a nest of ice.
A sharp crack echoed through the room and made the Malfoys jump. The shell had split.
That was when memory-Snape put his hands out and Harry saw the black power so intense that it made his teeth itch flow out of them and into the egg.
The shell crackled and fell away to reveal a baby. For a brief moment it scrunched up its face as if some terrible indignity had occurred, then it opened its mouth and let out a loud, angry wail.
The young Snape picked it up from the shards and ice and cradled it against his chest, wiping off a clinging membrane and some egg yolk and continuing to speak the incantation in his low, silken voice until the baby hiccuped once and fell asleep in his arms. Snape looked down at it and his face softened.
Harry was aware that the expression of the real Snape, the one standing next to him, had softened likewise.
"Your son, Lucius," the memory said.
Lucius strutted over to flick the fold of Snape's cloak back so that he could get a good look at the baby. It woke up long enough to give him a filthy look out of grey-blue eyes.
"I suppose it'll do. Well done, Severus. Narcissa -- would you like to hold him?"
Narcissa sighed. "I suppose I'll have to someday," she said petulantly. She took him from Snape, lifting the small, naked body with slightly less warmth than was in the nest. The baby definitely didn't like this, and woke up properly and started wailing furiously. Narcissa flinched and shoved him back into Snape's arms. "Too loud. Are you sure you made him right?" she complained.
Snape looked highly offended as he re-wrapped the screaming baby in his cloak. "Of course I made him right," he snapped. "It's up to you to make sure he stays right from now on."
Narcissa sniffed. "I'll send for the nurse," she said, and stalked out of the room.
Lucius smiled lazily as he stretched like a Kneazle. "Don't mind her," he said. "She doesn't like children much."
"How about you?"
"Really, Severus. Children are well and good and perfectly necessary. Of course, so are the servants to raise them.... it's a shame Narcissa couldn't have any children for me... but as a Malfoy I can make arrangements for doctors to verify that she gave birth to that one, thanks to some miracle potion you gave her... think of a name for a miracle potion, won't you, old boy? We need something to go on the medical certificate." The baby was still crying and Lucius frowned at it. "I'll go and see where that nurse has got to. Be a good chap and mind the baby for a moment."
As Lucius walked out the door Snape asked, "What's his name?"
Lucius gave him a slight smile. "I thought ‘Draco' would be appropriate."
When the door closed Snape looked down at the baby Draco, who stopped crying. He watched the baby for a long time, waiting for the nurse, and Harry couldn't tell by his expression what he was thinking. Then, "I think I've just made a terrible mistake," Snape whispered to the baby.
The baby yawned and blew a bubble.
Another stone hit the pond and new ripples rocked Harry, jerking him away from Malfoy Manor to somewhere quite different -- cold rooms he had never been before, with a banner on the wall displaying the Dark Mark. Snape's Death Eater days. Harry shivered.
He was alone here.
He felt the anger. He felt the guilt. He felt them as if he were Severus Snape who had just turned twenty two and was yet to grow into his own frame, with the emotions shaking his gangly limbs like a storm in the Forbidden Forest and thrashing through his blood like a tidal wave over a reef. And the anger and guilt wasn't only for what had been done to him in his own, naïve stupidity. He was enraged for what his species had done. What he had been stupid enough to do.
And he would make it right. No-one would repeat his mistake. No-one would kidnap any more babies.
In a voice that wasn't his Harry called out words that weren't his, and felt all the spells of one wing of magic that had ever been made come to him from everywhere in the world.
And then he locked them away where they wouldn't be found.
Harry came out of this memory blinking and with his heart still racing from the overwhelming sick fury. <YOU?> he asked, barely believing that anyone could get that angry and still function enough to suck the world dry of spells.
<?> Harry asked again, wanting to know what the spells were for.
He received a rapid series of images that included Ice Dragons and several other creatures like narwulfs, the K!dug, and kringle-cats that he'd once seen in a History of Magic textbook about all the ortho-elementals wizards had removed after the last goblin rebellion. Hermione had been talking once about how, sometime in '82, all the spells that controlled ortho-elementals were destroyed. It had been mentioned in Hogwarts, a History because some of the valuable items in various cabinets had cracked as the magic drained out of them. It had been posited that a group of wizards -- dark or otherwise -- had been trying to use the spells for Voldemort. Or against Voldemort -- no-one really knew. It had been a minor occurrence when set against the backdrop of horror that had been going on at the time.
But it had been Snape, all by himself, who had done it. Harry shivered, not sure he really wanted to be poking around the memories of a wizard who could do something like this, especially at the time he would have been an active Death Eater.
Snape sneered and sent Harry a picture of himself reporting to Dumbledore. Okay, so Snape'd been spying back then, but Harry still wanted to get out of this place. He reached out, found the silver thread of the Ice Dragon's thoughts, and slipped back into his own body.
He opened his eyes to see Snape blink and focus on him. "Do you understand?" asked Snape softly.
Harry nodded. "Draco was never human."
A loud ripping sound stopped Snape from saying whatever he was going to add and he looked over Harry's shoulder with one eyebrow raised. Harry turned to look behind him.
"That's it," Helen was saying. "Use those shoulder muscles. Careful of your back, though... Get a good grip, and..."
The Ice Dragon was pulling the wardrobe to pieces. Whenever it managed to tear off a piece of wood it would mouth it, tasting it for magic, before spitting it out.
With a happy growl it pushed its head inside the wardrobe and pulled out the old Cleansweep. Harry was about to try telling it not to do anything to the broom, which could be good transport, when --
-- the ortho bit through the handle. The bindings gave way with a few sparks the Ice Dragon snapped at and, as Harry watched, the remaining spells disappeared into Draco's mouth. He spat out the splinters. A few bristles drifted away as the Ice Dragon turned his attention back to the wardrobe. He hooked his claws into the frame and swished his tail to make sure he was balanced, then, muscles sliding like eels in oil under the scaly hide, Draco pulled.
The pieces of the wardrobe flew across the room as it was ripped apart. The Ice Dragon turned to Helen with a hopeful expression on his face. She slapped him on the shoulder proudly.
"Well done!" exclaimed Helen. "Brilliant! There -- that wasn't too hard, was it?" She beamed at her top student.
Draco gave one of his happy yelps, sneezed in satisfaction, and looked around for something else to demolish.
"I think that's enough for now," said Snape smoothly, pointedly eyeing the splinter that had embedded itself in the back of the couch by his shoulder. "Come here, Draco."
The Ice Dragon may not have understood the words, but the way Snape waved his hand was unmistakable to any Hogwarts student. There were probably wizards who hadn't been at Hogwarts in years who would have responded automatically to Snape crooking a finger, possibly by wetting their pants, Harry reflected sourly.
Unlike most ex-students, Draco did not go pale and shaky with remembered terror, but sighed a little and moved away from the interesting bed canopy to settle by the couch at Snape's feet where he snuffled out the Crucio fragment and ate it. Apparently it wasn't very nice, because Harry smelt the Ice Dragon's disgusted thoughts of something that based on rotting fish. It was like a swear-word.
Either Snape didn't sense it or he didn't care.
"Let me see that wing."
Harry immediately sent Draco a thought-picture, and the Ice Dragon stretched out the damaged wing obediently, if a little reluctantly, eyeing Harry as if Draco were relying on Harry's judgement in this matter.
Harry didn't catch Draco's eye. He couldn't look at this... at Draco. Not without it -- him -- getting some inkling of how Harry really felt.
Snape ran his fingers over the tears in the wing membrane. "Hush," he murmured absently as Draco growled. Harry wondered if Draco was somehow associating Snape with the warders who had tried to cripple him, and tried to send out reassuring thoughts.
Draco turned his head a little, pinning Harry with a steel-blue gaze.
For the tiniest fraction of a moment Harry considered looking away, but then felt shame creep up on him. He thought back to when he'd first met the Ice Dragon. He held that picture in his mind, of Draco standing four-square on the ice, wings still ready to carry him away, the Ice Dragon drawn to Harry out of curiosity rather than malice or hunger. He remembered how he had felt in that moment -- the sheer awe of being close to such a creature and the joy he'd found in watching it fly.
The Ice Dragon countered with another memory, and this one Harry knew was some sort of test. In the Ice Dragon's memory Harry was standing in front of Draco, and Draco had his hand stretched out, offering friendship.
A chill ran down Harry's spine.
That had been the pivotal moment in his entire Hogwarts career: the time when he had turned down the friendship of Draco Malfoy. Probably it had saved his life, but how else would things have been different if he'd chosen to take that hand? Would he have ended up in Slytherin? Would he have had Snape on his side instead of against him?
He almost certainly wouldn't have had the friendship of Ron and Hermione -- the two most important people in the world.
This was the Ice Dragon, who had dredged that memory up from who-knew-where (and Harry felt the slight bewilderment of <sunonice> at the memory because the Ice Dragon knew less about the motives of Draco Malfoy in that long-ago moment than Harry did). And it was <sunonice> the Ice Dragon -- not Draco Malfoy -- who was offering friendship.
Harry stilled, frozen under that icy stare, and time slowed to a crawl in the milky morning light.
It had been the first, best decision of his life to snub Malfoy. Just yesterday Harry had thought about Malfoy, and how he hoped Draco was doing okay wherever he was, preferably staying out of trouble. But to his dismay all those good thoughts had evaporated as soon as he realised just what and where Draco was; it was so easy to remember the hate when Malfoy was in the room. Good wishes evaporated like fairy gold in the morning sun.
A friendship always cost you something. No matter what you gained, there was always something you had to give in return. Maybe it was time, maybe it was love, maybe it was a taking-on of pain to help ease a friend's burden. Maybe it was just learningto cope with their moods. That was the price of friendship, and one Harry was glad to pay for Ron and Hermione. The price of friendship with Helen was running the risk of seeing Snape outside of class time. He could even cope with that.
What would be the price of friendship with the ex-Draco Malfoy?
He had taken too long deciding.
<sunonice> pulled his head back slightly, raising those spines along the back of his neck in a chilly way that went beyond normal temperature.
Harry felt the Ice Dragon withdraw the touch of his mind, too. It was like losing a sense he'd never known he had.
In a desperate, last attempt before the Ice Dragon shut him out completely, Harry closed his eyes and pushed his hands over them to block out everything but the memory of the two of them standing on the train to Hogwarts. He held the picture of Malfoy holding out his hand firm in the forefront of his mind until he was sure that <sunonice> was seeing it too.
And then he changed the memory.
This time Harry reached out his hand to take Draco's.
Draco's smile was like sunlight, and now the shark-like rows of teeth weren't threatening at all. Harry blinked, and found himself sitting on the couch next to Snape with his hand on the ortho's nose.
"That," said Snape slowly, "was a decision I hope none of us regret."
<< Back | Story Index | Next Chapter >>
Back to Top | Stories by Author | Stories by Title | Main Page