Chapter Thirteen: The Stories We Tell Ourselves
Hagrid told her that the young queen had been neglected and was sad, that the hero had saved the heroine and taken her away to "foreign parts" to live "happily ever after."
Harry dunked her rock-like biscuit into her tea and let her friend's roughened voice soothe her. She did not believe in fairy tales.
Hermione told the glorious tale of a handmaiden raised above all others, of a humbled queen living quietly but well, and of quiet love triumphing in the end. She left out no detail.
Sirius and Remus, the young woman was certain, were making up the elaborate battles that were favored parts of the cycle of stories about the Wizarding king and his friend and their loves. In fact, they intimated that the ladies should not have had such a prominent role in the fable at all, as "nothing is known" of the time the heroes went forth into the Lands Beyond.
Professor McGonagall dismissed the entire story--in all its forms--as "rubbish."
But Professor Binns provided Harry with documentation.
"In my chambers, in the dark green desk in the far corner by the window--pardon the dust--you'll find some scrolls. Do be careful with them, Professor Potter. . . . How does this knowledge inform your curriculum, by the way?"
Not wanting to disturb the ghost's old rooms, Harry sent Dobby to retrieve the scrolls, and studied them avidly, poring over all the supplemental materials she could find in the general library and Restricted Section, as well.
Binn's scrolls were not the most exciting version of the tale she had heard, but they did seem the closest to real history:
"In the Very Oldest Days, long before we gathered openly, there lived those with the Crafte, and they were Reviled. In settlements all over the Isles, any found possessing an Evil propensity for Sight or Sign or Saving were put to the Tortures of Purification, as the Rites became known, and then Death befell the Unfortunates. Rarely, a wizard would be born unto to those whose Love for him was such that he would face Banishment, rather than Punishment and Death, at their Merciful Hands. Such a one was he who became known as Salthus, the Mighty King of the Lace Islands, now long Lost under a Near Ocean. It is said by the Foolish that the Great Lord Salthus himself caused the Ruination of his Home, the First Kingdom of Wizarding Folk, but those with Sense will not Credit such Slander.
"Salthus, coming from Another Sea in a boat of stout black wood, chanced upon a fishing village oft beset by Disfigured Raiders. Landing upon the Shore, those Blessed Rocks of our First Home, now forever Sleeping under a near sea, the king called to the fishermen, who fled before him, 'Why do you cower and flee? I am truly Great, though Just. I am not come the Destroyer of you or yours'.
"The lowly fisherfolk, our Wise Ancestors amongst them, came forth to view the Magnificence that was Salthus, the First-King, the Kind One, and were made less afraid by the calmness of his Countenance. They gave their tale of Woe to the Wise One, and he, Salthus, hearing of the Terrible Monsters that oft beset the kindly townsfolk, delivered himself of Counsel to the Affrighted. 'That you and yours should live in Peace, I shall Slay the Plagued Creatures that oft besets you. When I have done this thing, you will Pay me by your Fealty, you and your children and your children's children shall do this thing, and I shall remain to Guide you'. Our Noble Ancestors and their humble neighbors saw that Salthus was Steadfast and Strong, and they did Pledge to deliver their Undying Loyalty to the man that should Deliver them.
"The beasts came upon the village and the villagers and beset them. Salthus saw that they were Fierce, the Plagued Monsters. The monsters came, and the fisherfolk grew fearful. The monsters came, and Salthus slew them with Open Use of the Crafte. And the lowly fisherfolk, the unhappy, the unworthy, the Alarmed fisherfolk became a shrill voice of Fear: 'A devil! A devil has come amongst us and Tricked us'! The Sage Seers and Scryers and Salvers did speak to their brethren, 'the Man is Wise and will Protect us. Do not fear'! but those ill-starred folk of the Lace Islands heard our ancestors not and took up arms against Salthus.
"And the Great One, the Kind One, the Kingly Salthus was saddened deeply by this action, this Ungrateful Rebellion: He slew those fit to fall beneath his feet and Wail without Pain and with Haste, Salthus the Merciful, Salthus the Great. And Peace and a Kingdom and a King came to the Noble Ancestors of you and of me as Salthus, Wizard King.
"It came to pass, that while he dwelt and ruled our Worthy Mothers and our Worthy Fathers, that Salthus heard tell of a young man, a man of Beauty, a man of Courage, and a Man of Many Boasts, in short, King Salthus heard tell of a Hero. 'And what, I ask, has this young, beautiful, brave boaster done to deserve the gift of the name hero? Bring him before me. I would judge his merit in my own way'.
"Godrixibus was brought before the Mighty One in fanfare befitting such a Paragon as he, and settled at the feet of the King. Salthus, in his Wisdom, saw that the young man was indeed Beautiful, with a Courageous Bearing, and a Boasting Tongue. 'Tell me of your exploits, young wizard', the First King commanded. 'You would hear a tale of Godrixibus'? asked the young man, who did seem almost too Merry before the Greatness of our king. 'I shall speak to you of the black furred clawed beasts of my homeland, those same alarming creatures from which I saved my Thankless village'.
"And Godrixibus spoke for many long moments that did not displease the ear, and the king knew that he spoke the Truth, this youth with bright red hair, with a bright smile of teeth, with a bright countenance. Yes, Salthus the Wise was aware that the same creatures slain by Godrixibus were the creatures from whom he, the Greatest King of our Kind, had stopped from destroying our fishing hamlet. 'We must go forth, we must discover the source of the Plague, we must Destroy the Evil Vermin. You and I, Godrixibus, Friend of the King, you and I must do this'. The subjects of the Lace Island ing Salthus knew Gladness then, for they saw that their Beloved king had found a Worthy Compatriot.
"Nothing, my children, is known of the Journey into the Wild Places beyond our Islands of Origin, the First Place in which Safely we Gathered, we Wizards, but it is known that Salthus and Godrixibus, Noble, True, Honest, Great, and Beautiful, did return from their voyage, and when they returned, having slaughtered the Beasts, they each bore with them a Woman.
"For the king had taken a most Beauteous and Accomplished Bride, Rosantha of the fair hair, Rosantha of the fair skin, Rosantha of the fair figure, Rosantha of the fair fortune, for Fortune she had as our Fair Queen, Wife to Salthus, Rosantha the Queen of the Wizarding folk who did come to dwell on the Lace Islands, now forever lost under a Near Sea, then the most Beloved Haven of our First King and Kingdom. Rosantha the Fair had wed Salthus the Great, the Wise, and the Bountiful.
"The Happy Burden of Godrixibus was a Lady of Nobility and Secrets, for unto us she came with but one name. Papavera was the name of this lady, and she was Kind. Papavera was the name of this lady, and she was Good. Papavera was the name of this Lady, and she was known to Queen Rosantha, though how we knew not. And Godixibus did her the Service of Bearing her by her Lady, Godrixibus did carry the Kind and Good Papavera of the Unknown Lands beyond our village next to her Lady and Queen, Rosantha the Fair.
"The Ladies Two were housed in Resplendence, Rosantha, Queen, going out to see her Subjects, and to Display her own Magics, for fair Rosantha was a Witch of Power, a witch of the Brewing kind. Rosantha, Fair Queen of the Lace Islands could brew life in tiny bottles, she could give love to the loveless, she brought children by the sip, and in so doing, the Beauteous and Noble Queen of the Wizarding Folk did ensnare the love of every Heart.
"Her Goodly Maiden Papavera shared the Art of the Queen, yet not her Degree. A good Handmaiden, Papavera made Friends among the sick and Dawn found them Better, Healed, or Resting. And she did ply her Healing Art while the Queen did Bestow her Elaborate Favors on those whom could not find Solace from any other Source. These Wise Ladies did bring many Happinesses to the People of our Land, to the Visitors from the Near Seas, and to the King.
"But it came to pass that Happiness was not the only Gift brought to the Wizarding Folk of the Lace Islands by the Queen, Rosantha the Fair, for she possessed a Sweet Tongue and could Sway the Lords of other Realms to put Down their Arms. Petitions were made for her, and Salthus the Wise, Trusting, and Besotted, did give his Lady Leave to Go Forth on a Errand of Peace. With the Fair Queen went Godrixibus, [translation lost].
"Working hard at the Task set her by Great King Salthus, Papavera of the Unknown Lands became as a helpmeet to the King . . . [fire damage]. 'But you spake of your love for me, and I would know how to return it Best to you, my [untranslatable]'. And so it came to pass that Papavera Loved in Secret that Great King Salthus, Savior of the Lace Islands, Protector of our Noble Ancestors, yet the Lady Spake of it Not, such was also her devotion to her Friend, the Queen, the most [translation lost].
"It was not a quarter season after the much heralded return of our Virtuous and Noble Queen Rosantha that Ugliness of Speech regarding that Mighty Lady and her Devoted Friend Godrixibus Poisoned our Ears. [Translation lost.] 'Of this, I shall not speak again, of this, I will never speak. There is no dignity in such Speech'. And the King, Noble, Just, and Betrayed, refused to see Reason, but soon [translation lost]. The Greatest and Mightiest, King Salthus did see how he was Wronged, by his Friend [translation lost], and then he did call upon the Power he held Secret within him. And it was Terrible, and it was Just, and Rosantha, Mean of Spirit, Ignoble, Unworthy, Rosantha the Once-Queen was struck an Enchanted Blow from the Gleaming Wand of her King.
"[Fire damage.] '. . . but you shall not find Blame at my Table, Godrixibus', called the Mightiest of All. [Translation lost.] Then did the Good Papavera see that she might Speak, yet she remained Silent. The Grief of her King she lessened by a Draught of Almost-Oblivion, a small amount of the Virtuous Potion was all that she did give her Beloved King. 'And this is my Gift to you, oh Salthus, the Gift of a Subject'.
"And it came to pass that Godrixibus did Return most Rudely to the Table of his Friend, Lord, and King, carrying the Birth Water of the Once-Queen and the Brine of a Near Sea, the very sea from whence our Mighty King arrived to our Shores, the admixture of the waters to Fling at [fire damage].
"[Scroll lost.] For such was the love of Papavera that she would not cause harm to befall any whom she had cared [translation lost]. But the Seers and the Scryers and the Salvers of our kind do say that such patterns, they come again, they come again and do Repeat and are oft-relived. The Unconsummated Marriage of Salthus, Wizarding King, and Papavera, Beloved Helpmeet, will not be remembered at their final Meeting. [Fire damaged scroll.]"
Harry put down the last of the dusty translation scrolls and wondered what kind of fire had harmed them and the original parchment with which they had once been housed. Professor Binns had told her he had procured the documents from a Ministry auction as a boy, and that even then the shimmering essence of an ancient protection spell clung still to the aged scrolls that held the first telling of the tale.
"Eldritch fire wouldn't have caused the partial damage, you know, and I have never been able to think of any compounds that might have caused such incomplete destruction," Binns had explained. "And of course, nobody from the Ministry would discuss the matter with me, as I was only a boy being humored by his father. I've often wondered about it, though, indeed I've spent many sleepless nights troubling over it."
Harry tapped her quill against her mouth and ran a hand over the translation scroll. "I wonder if Sev--" she began, before rolling over on her back in her new bed and thinking, No, best not to ask Professor Snape anything.
Since moving into her rooms as an official Hogwarts professor, Harry had been very careful to avoid Snape without being obvious about it. She didn't realize how unsuccessful she had been, but she was not to be blamed for that.
One does get rather used to being the center of attention and become forgetful about it.
Harry had found it a bit difficult to get used to her new quarters at first, but was settling in by degrees. She now understood what Professor McGonagall had meant when that lady had told her, "You will have the sunrise from that window," meaning the eastern panes, "and the moonrise from that one," meaning the western ones. The sun and moon both rose in the eastern part of the sky, but Harry knew that should she desire sunlight at night, or moonlight during the day, she had only to activate the requisite charmed window on either side of her large main room to provide whatever light she wished. What she did not know was whether Professor Snape had been aware of this romantic feature of the chambers before arranging that they be given to her.
She rather doubted it.
Her current fascination with Wizarding history, which she could trace to Hagrid's story-telling the night Severus had sent her away, was also helping the witch to adjust to her new situation. Harry did not understand why Severus had rejected her so unexpectedly, so she threw herself into understanding the old story. Everyone knew it, everyone had his or her own way of telling it, but it had been first offered to Harry when she was sixteen-years-old and returning to Severus after an absence of many months.
Yawning, the witch stretched into the soft coverlet of her bed, being careful not to disturb the old scroll, and looked up at the bed canopy. It was made of a rich, darkly green netting that featured silver crocheted eyelets in a random pattern over the material. Star-like, aren't they?
On a whim, Harry whispered, "Stellaris."
A field of stars suddenly shone down upon her, burning and winking, and saying what Severus could not.
Harry immediately recognized the pattern of the stars in the field above her: it was the one you might see in the late-Autumn sky if your vantage point was the Astronomy tower.
It was a date!
Severus did not understand why Sirius Black had not yet hounded him out onto the grounds to be devoured by his wolf under the full moon. Ree Potter had been prevailed upon by Albus to leave her lonely existence at Grimmauld Place and return with her family to Hogwarts as the new Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor after Christmas, Bill Weasley having grown restless in that position almost at once, and desirous of rejoining his sister and fellow curse-breaker, Virginia, in the Orkneys.
It was difficult, seeing Miss Potter at staff meetings, difficult, watching her graceful movements during meetings of the Dueling Club, just this side of impossible, falling inadvertently astride of her in the corridors--devastating, raising his head in passing to find her regarding him as she glided to a stop before him.
"May I be of assistance, Professor Potter?"
"I wanted to ap--"
"Mr. Finch-Fletchley, do not wave your wand in that manner. Forgive me, you were saying?" Severus had asked the woman just that morning. She still looks pale, he thought, feeling the heaviness of guilt settle over his chest, and ignoring it. I will have a professional relationship with Miss Potter, and nothing more. It is the only appropriate option, given the circumstances.
"Would you have a moment to--"
"Jada Monroe, do not dare to do that again."
"Perhaps this isn't a good--"
"Nonsense. What do you--William Lestrange, why--"
The hallway had dissolved from the interclass chaos to silence.
"That's better," Potter said.
"What did you do, Harry?" Damn!
Ignoring the Potions master, she replied quickly, "I apologize."
"I apologize for how . . . awkward it's been since I came to teach. I wanted to know what I could do to make it . . . less awkward."
"You might begin by ceasing to hijack me by time-turner, Professor."
Harry neither confirmed nor denied Snape's attempt to understand how she had moved them out of their previous moment.
"You grow more like Albus every day."
"I know that's not a compliment, sir."
"Perhaps it is."
Harry hung her head abruptly. "Then why won't you, why--"
The soft pad of a finger startled her as it brushed away the single tear threatening to slide down her left cheek. She looked up and the anger that she had found in Severus' eyes the last time they spoke was not present. Its absence gave her the courage to speak.
"I didn't mean it. I didn't mean to move us back like that, or to be a burden, or to upset--"
"Stop," Severus' voice resonated off of the quiet stones of the corridor, its power lying in the timbre and quality of the sounds produced, rather than in any working of magic threaded though its tone.
Harry's expression changed from uncertain to something undecipherable.
"You . . . ," the Potions master began, finding himself unable to finish his thought.
Her tear still quivering on his finger, Severus fought the absurd urge to touch it to his lips and suck it into his mouth. Why not? I never told her that version of the story, he thought selfishly.
"You should not be so careless of your charms, Dark Arts mistress," he mocked gently. "I could do you a damage with such bounty."
"That isn't what you were going to say."
"Why 'stop'? Isn't my apology good enough for you?"
Coldly, he said, "It is acceptable."
"Fine then, if you'll excuse me--"
"I keep interrupting you."
"Yes. Why is that?"
"Because I do not wish you to walk away."
"But I didn't do that, Professor Snape."
"No, you ran."
Harry's eyes filled with ire--which Severus felt was a vast improvement--and she made to utter an angry retort.
"Please, I am not mocking you, Miss Potter. I behaved badly. I apologize."
"I . . . I accept you--your apology."
You would accept me, wouldn't you? But that cannot be. "And I do not accept yours, as it was quite unnecessary."
A smile threatened to overspread the witch's features, and Severus could not permit that. If Harry were to smile at him, he would not be able to . . . continue.
"Well, Professor Potter, if that is all, I have duties to which I'd like to attend. I expect we will meet next Thursday for the practice. Until then, good day to you," the man said, his right hand still carefully holding Harry's tear.
Disappointment crumpled the girl's features, and Severus could hear her unshed tears when she wished him a good week before turning on her heel and rushing down the corridor, which was once again a-bustle with activity.
Her final thought burned in his mind, "But the stars, you gave me the sun, the moon, and the stars. Why would you do that if you didn't--"
"Good afternoon, Professor Snape," Remus Lupin called to him, casually reaching for the other man's hand and absorbing his heart-child's tear. "See you at the staff meeting?"
Severus had seen no judgment in Lupin's eyes, but was in no fit state to contemplate its absence. He tried to focus on the other man's figure as he hurried toward Transfiguration with the Fourth-Year Hufflepuffs and Gryffindors. Severus knew that Remus and Sirius had been sharing teaching duties since the beginning of the year when Minerva had retired, and Albus had found that he required their assistance with . . . various tasks.
Severus did not miss his spying days in the slightest.
But he did often wish that his new freedom had not given him so much time to fail to devote to his family. Returning to his chambers, he found that his mother had owled him again, and burnt the letter as a matter of course. He would not dignify that woman's attempts to raise their fortunes and their collapsing ancestral pile by contemplating a marriage into a wealthy Wizarding family. The Snapes were possessed of old blood but little fortune, a situation that had not troubled him much in recent years.
One didn't need money to live alone, after all, and Severus could see little reason to become the pater familias of his clan. He could not imagine being a father.
And he willed any thoughts of being a husband firmly out of his mind, knowing as he did that he was not fit to love the only woman he ever would.
<< Back | Story Index | Next Chapter >>
Back to Top | VVC Index | Stories by Author | Stories by Title | Main Page