Chapter Four: Someone with Whom to Share It
The sudden assuagement of worry afforded by Ree's awakening purchased for Sirius and Remus a kind of manic euphoria; they could not stop doing for her, and their solicitude was causing the witch increasing distress.
"I don't know them, Madame Pomfrey. I can't understand half the things they talk to me about, and it hurts to see how sad their eyes become when they realize it. . . . Every time they visit, I feel horribly guilty. What should I do?"
Poppy pressed one of the girl's hands, and said, "Don't worry, my dear. The boys know it's going to take you some time, and if you would prefer to be . . . alone for awhile, I'm certain they would understand."
"But how can I tell my . . . my parents to go away?"
"I'll do it for you."
And that was that. Poppy told a fairly convincing tale about how the information Ree was learning from her visitors had begun to overload her nerves, and that she, as Ree's caretaker, was insisting on a period of quiet.
"Not even Albus will be allowed to see her for the time being, I'm afraid. It's what Tongish Oddfish from St. Mungo's suggested, and I concur. Ree needs a few weeks to become used to herself again."
After a moment, Remus asked, "Won't that be difficult here? Should we find a place for her to go that's private?"
"I can't think of many places more secure than the school, dear."
Sirius spoke. "Perhaps she could move back into--"
"The dungeons?" asked a quiet feminine voice from the door to the Infirmary proper.
"Ree," Sirius said, rising to greet her and pulling his goddaughter into a hug. "I'm so happy to see you."
Remus also embraced the girl, but then stepped back, uncertain. "I didn't think you wanted to see us."
"I'm sorry. I'm just feeling overwhelmed, and I'm tired of disappointing everyone."
"You've never disappointed any of us, love. Don't allow yourself to think such rot," Remus insisted.
"Would you mind terribly if I went off on my own for awhile?"
"Of course not," both men responded at once.
Ree giggled. "You'd better stop that," she said, conspiratorially. "Someone might think you're lovers."
Some weeks later when Hermione found Ree, her "new" friend was leaning against Severus Snape's chest as he helped her adjust the lens of the telescope at the top of the Astronomy tower.
"There, can you see it now?" the man asked in quite the most gentle tone the haruspex had ever heard him employ.
"Hmm, I think so. Yes! I do see it, and you're right. That is the star from my dream." Ree turned to look at Snape and smiled delightedly. "How did you know?"
Hermione heard how the Potion master's breath caught as he stared down at Ree. She wondered if he would kiss her.
Oh, by all the gods! This is too surreal.
"When you were a ch--a student--you often dreamt of Isarat's Eye," he explained, casually smoothing a stray tress back in place behind Ree's ear. "I found you up here on more than one occasion breaking curfew and stargazing."
"Is that the polite name for it?"
"Miss Potter, you are a dreadful flirt."
Ree pretended to pout, forming her lips into a moue.
And then the professor did something Hermione never thought he knew how to do: he laughed. It was a rich, subtle sound, his laugh, and the action of it altered his face completely.
Who knew you were handsome?
"I've been teaching far too long for feminine wiles to have any manipulative affect on me," Snape said lightly, stepping back a bit.
"That is most unfortunate, Professor. Especially when you consider just how I intended to--"
In response to Hermione's shocked gasp, Snape said, "Good evening, Miss Granger."
"Oh, I'm so sorry to interrupt your . . . conversation, Professor Snape, but Ree's . . . guest has arrived."
"Ah," he responded in a tone suddenly clipped and distant. "Harry, you'll want to see this person, I assure you."
The young witch cast Snape a doubtful glance. "Are you certain you won't come with me?"
"You'll have Miss Granger with you for the . . . introduction, and after that, I don't think you'll require anyone's company."
"Thank you for showing me how to use the telescope, Professor," Harry responded after a moment in which Hermione thought her friend might be preparing to say something completely different. "I'll see you later this evening, then."
"As you wish," Snape said, returning his attention to the telescope.
Training it on the star also known as the Wizard's Light, he found himself wishing that he could see what was coming.
"Merlin knows," people said, and he did. As a boy, when the sounds and images had come to him, his tribe had thought he was mad. For this, he had been stoned out of their settlement. It had not been too difficult to survive alone; without others around him, it was easier to bear the "gift" given him by the gods. It was this period in his life that had taught him that the soul required a source of vexation to shape it toward usefulness, and he had been grateful for the lesson. Long centuries later, he was not now certain if the gods were responsible for his powers. That was just as well, as he was no longer able to remember the gods to which he had been wont to pray in younger days.
But I could certainly use the support of a deity now, he thought, though his "now" was a memory of battle, his young king meeting deadly enemies under the flag of a dragon, carrying a sword that his paramour had bestowed upon him that he might give it to Britain's young king. Ah, Ro, those of your kind were never understood--not even by we who have loved you.
But that had come after, had it not? His Ro had held a different name when first he had approached her, and she had been the wife of his friend. Salthus had not cared for the dalliance between his beloved and his best friend, so he had transformed Rosantha into something that would never bear children again.
But not before she had borne Godrixibus a son, a boy who had grown strong, married, and had children of his own.
And they are good children, aren't they? They're possessed of hardy souls and have bred a strong line, the wizard thought.
For he never tired of recognizing the shades of his family reincarnating into his life again with their red hair, freckles, and friendliness--the same things he used to see reflected in his own mirror.
His vision shifted, and a saw himself as a much younger man being befriended by the woman who he had once felt could kill him with a harsh comment. He chuckled. He could not imagine her ever growing tired of life, as he lately found himself; the desire to serve the Land, that soil and its people which had sustained him for so long, was ebbing low in his soul. He wondered if she would allow him to go. For one needs such permission from one's friends, he had decided, though to receive it from a woman because one longed for another was a tricksome business. Taking a deep breath, he willed himself to be someplace else.
"Good evening, Albus," Rosmerta greeted him.
"Would you care for something to drink?"
Hospitality. It had always been important.
"I would, indeed," he replied, stilling the memories of what was to come, what had been, and what was currently from plaguing his thoughts.
He was used to seeing the world in layers, of finding those in whom he had an interest with the merest turn in his attention, but he wanted to be truly present in this moment. He wanted the linearity of the now; indeed, more and more, he could only shift through time in one direction.
Rowena set a tankard before him.
"And that scares you sometimes, doesn't it, leman?"
"Yes," he admitted freely.
"You're beginning to let it all go."
"Well, there are yet other Guardians in the world."
"And some half-way in, half-way out of it."
"Son of your blood."
"Son of our blood."
Rosmerta reached her hand across the bar and squeezed Albus'. "I haven't forgotten."
"He will be needed again, that one. But I don't know that I can wait until it is time. I don't know when her time will come."
Rosmerta had been expecting this conversation, though she had not been looking forward to it. She did not care for Minerva.
But that is to be expected, and I do care for Go.
Without thinking about it much more deeply than that, Rowena drew her finger through the air to trace a silver sigil.
"[By this sign I do pledge to bring our lad out of the Edge. By this sign I do pledge to see to the continuance of our line at your death]."
This the witch pledged in a language that had not been spoken in Britain since long before the founding of Hogwarts' School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. But four friends had known it once, before history was recorded on paper, and they used it yet.
Albus drew his own sigil through Rosmerta's, and the two signs became as one before dissipating with a hiss.
"It is done. . . . Thank you," Albus said, extending his hand to cradle his old love's face.
She turned her cheek into her hand in a caress.
I shall not cry for you, friend, "but I shall miss you when you go."
In his mind's eye, the unbidden image of Blaise Zabini rising from a bed in which Albus had never slept interrupted the moment. The older wizard sighed. Ro had never forgiven him for allowing Hogsmeade to burn, that first time, and when she had rebuilt her inn, he had not been welcome for . . . uncounted memories.
Ah, but see how easily she's making new ones, he thought with a rueful inner smile.
"I should return to Merva."
"Yes, your time is short."
Is it ridiculous of me to be disappointed in her lack of jealousy? he asked himself, willing himself away.
At that very instant, Blaise was rushing into the tap of the Three Broomsticks, wand drawn, to discover the source of the sound of the smashing.
Rosmerta laughed when she saw his frightened face.
"I was feeling the need for a change," she explained, and with a wave of her hand, the inn found itself in possession of new plate.
Blaise considered his lover a moment before responding.
"I've always liked hammered pewter for its . . . durability."
"Excellent. Come back to bed," the publican said casually, while fervently thinking, This one is going to love me more than life.
Spending time with Charlie Weasley had not illuminated Ree's perspective on her life, though she had found him terribly handsome, quite witty, and tremendous fun. But more than that, he had not moved her.
"Well," Harry said, sitting next to Hermione on a bench in front of the novitiate, "that isn't quite true. When he smiled at me, I could feel it in my knees. He is a dish, isn't he?"
"I've a fondness for Weasleys, so you'll have no argument from me."
"And how is your little red-head?"
"Very well. Percy is almost over the Wizarding Wheezes. When he is, I'll bring him up to meet you."
"I'm not the one who hibernated in the dungeons for weeks and wouldn't see anyone--except Severus," Hermione added boldly.
Harry blushed. She and Granger got along smashingly, and it was easy for her to imagine that they had been friends for ages. So far, however, she had no memory of the other woman, or of Ron, or of any of the people who had been so important to her. Despite the easy rapport she'd developed with the other witch, the only person to whom Ree felt drawn was Snape. And drawn was putting it mildly.
"He's been very . . . accommodating."
"What does that mean?"
"Nothing nearly so interesting as what you must be imagining."
"And just what are you thinking about, lately?"
Abruptly, Harry stilled. She remembered sitting with Charlie only an hour previously in the back of a pub. He had not pestered her with questions, but had investigated the geography of her face as if he intended to find something in her expression that would prove his connection to her. It had not taken much time to decipher that they had been lovers. Oddly enough, however, she did not believe that she and Mr. Weasley were the great loves of each other's lives.
Severus, what has kept us apart?
"Oh, I apologize. I . . . ."
"Need to get home."
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