Chapter Ten: Angel of the House
Narcissa Malfoy was not herself, Severus thought as he stood in front of the tap of the Three Broomsticks. The establishment was closed, but he and Rosmerta had an understanding with regard to his unusual flooing activities. Snape's part of their deal had always been to provide the witch with myriad potion-making ingredients that were operose in their collection--the Ministry did tend to raise its institutional eyebrow when a barkeep visited her local apothecary for deadly extracts. Rosmerta's side business was not exclusively centered around the beautification of young women, and she, and her customers, prized their privacy highly.
"May I fix you a drink?" the witch asked.
"A medicinal draught, then?"
"That will not be necessary, Merta."
"Russ, don't argue with me. You know you won't win," the enigmatic witch said in her somnifacient fashion. "You've never won one of our . . . debates about the state of your health, or your . . . needs, have you?"
She placed a steaming amber-colored mug on a table near the Potions master, and gestured for him to sit down. Severus did so. Rosmerta joined him, but did not speak.
"I'm not thirsty," he told her.
"I don't care."
"I'm not drinking this."
"Yes, you are."
"What is it?"
"Something for shock."
"As you can see, I'm perfectly comp--"
"Composed? No, I think not. You are, my dear Severus, in pain. You are so very shocked that the events of this night have not yet formed a coherent pattern in your head. You are sad. You are angry. You are," she said, leaning close enough to Severus that he could feel her breath warm his lips and her flesh cool his brow, "most thoroughly discomposed."
"I've never particularly liked you," Snape said, turning his cheek to caress Rosmerta's face with it.
"No, you haven't. I've always rather fancied you, though," she responded, breathing in his scent, and then settling slowly back into her chair. "Tell me what happened."
"Lucius Malfoy is dead."
"No, he Marked Draco."
"In more ways than one?"
"And how is dear Narcissa handling her family's crisis?"
"It was better to think her decorative . . . ."
"And what do you think of her now?"
"She is rather more vicious than Lucius ever was."
"Perhaps. Does she need killing?"
"I don't know."
"And that is why you smell of fear, isn't it? Because you don't know what to make of Lucius' silly little bride anymore? And because you cannot help Draco?"
"I have failed him, Rosmerta."
"I disagree. He was never yours to fail."
"But there is another, and I just, I can't."
"'Russ, she's too young for you now. Push her away. Be her teacher. Learn to be her friend. But by all that Merlin cherished, don't yet love her. If you cannot suspend your desire, then come to me."
"I'm here, aren't I?"
"Nox," Rosmerta said, rising from the table.
"Flamma," Severus said in a low voice as he walked into his sitting room several hours later. The soft glow from the candles on the mantle illuminated Harry's sleeping form. She was still dressed in her finery, and, as always when she slept, was wearing a look of disquietude.
Snape had left Rosmerta's and gone immediately to Order headquarters where he had discovered that Harry had refused to allow anyone to touch her when she had become conscious. She had tried to leave the house, screaming that Draco was being tortured and in need of their help, and had been restrained, sedated, and treated. Molly and Hermione had settled her into bed, and left her to rest. When Sirius had gone to check in on her about thirty minutes later, however, he had found a note: "I've gone home. Don't follow me."
Severus could only imagine how much the brief epistle had hurt Black, but he took no pleasure from the knowledge.
"Home," he whispered.
"I said," Severus told Harry as he bent to pick her up, "that I'm home, and you should be resting."
"Draco--tell me what happened to Draco," she said, struggling to look at him.
"He's alive, if not entirely well." Snape said as he laid Harry on her bed, spelled a candle to light, and then sat down next to her. Without thinking, he began to smooth her hair out of her face.
She did not resist.
She trusts you entirely too much. "Lucius Malfoy is dead. He attacked and Marked his son, and Draco killed him. Narcissa Malfoy and Gregory Goyle are blaming Vincent Crabbe for Lucius' murder. Crabbe is dead, as well, at Goyle's hands. I expect that Draco will be sent back to Durmstrang immediately after the funeral rites. Narcissa believes appearances to be vastly important, and she would not wish her son to seem weak."
"What a bloodless bitch," Harry spat.
Severus' hand froze in Harry's hair. After a moment, she reached for it and pressed it reassuringly.
"Are you okay, Professor?"
Professor. "Yes, Harry. Quite. You need your rest," he told her, standing up.
"Wait, please. Isn't there anything that I can do for Draco? He must be so . . . he must need . . . ."
"If you write to him, I'll be certain he receives your letter."
"Merlin's blood--Draco's is spilt, and all I can do is write to him? Draco is raped by that monster of a father, and all you can suggest is that I spill ink across parchment?"
"I would have thought," Snape said, voice icy with the first freezings of anger, "that you'd have been more concerned with Draco's having been forced to take the Mark."
Harry said nothing.
"Draco was always going to take the Mark, Professor Snape."
"I knew he was going to take the Dark Mark. He wrote to me and told me so near the beginning of the term."
"And you saw fit to tell no one of this?" demanded Severus, suddenly quite prepared to strangle the girl where she lay.
"I did," Harry said simply.
"Mr. Zabini hardly counts--"
"I told Professor Dumbledore."
Severus just stared at her, hatred gnawing at his vitals, though perhaps not entirely for her.
"Draco told me that when he took the Mark, he'd be strong enough to stop it."
"To stop Lucius."
"That's probably what he thought he meant," Harry said, ignoring the tears that were sliding down her cheeks. Sexual politics. Oh, gods. "Gods," she said, wrapping her arms around herself and beginning to rock back and forth. "Why did this have to happen to him?"
In the face of her genuine anguish, Snape's rage eased. "You've been injured, too, Harry. That charm was dangerous--deadly, in fact. If I hadn't understood what was happening to you--"
"Please don't tell me that bad things have happened to me, professor. I have friends. I have family. I haven't ever been . . . I'm untouched. Compared to what Draco's life has been, nothing has ever happened to me."
Severus considered again, as he was wont to do from time to time, the idea that Albus Dumbledore needed to be killed. The manipulative old bastard had known things might come to this: one boy tattooed in flesh, one boy Marked by blood, and one "boy" stamped by pain. There she is, finally, your spoiled, selfish, unthinking brat. It never occurred to me that I'd need to protect you from yourself, Harry, he thought. It never occurred to me that you, Draco, and I would share so much amongst us that it would render us utterly unable to comfort each other. "You should sleep now," was all he could think to say.
Harry considered him for a long, unsettling moment. "Yes, I'm certain that's true. I'll write my letter in the morning, Professor Snape."
Good girl. "Nox."
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