Chapter Two: The Chance For Farewell
Harry had only mentioned his moments of weakness concerning Sirius to one person he'd spent a day with from the Order, and that had been Mrs Weasley. Molly was like the mother he'd never had, and she was one of the only people he knew would never discuss his problems with anybody. Her advice had been to try and not think about it, to concentrate on other things, calm his breathing, and remember that Sirius wouldn't have wanted him to get upset because of anything anybody else did to him.
It took Harry half an hour to achieve the frame of mind that said he did not care about Snape, or anything he might have to say. When he was calm again, he sat back in his chair, taking the last sip from his water and taking a deep breath that suggested he was approachable again.
"Calmed down, have we?" said Snape, without looking up from whatever he was doing.
"Yes, thankyou," said Harry pleasantly.
"If you're under the impression I was expressing concern, you're wildly mistaken, Potter." Snape slid a piece of paper from the top of his pile, jotting on the one underneath absent-mindedly.
"Nice to know you care," said Harry. He put down his empty glass with a soft clunk. Maybe one more stinging remark at Snape, then he promised himself to stop provoking fights. "So, how's Voldemort?"
Snape looked up at him swiftly, with a hiss of, "Shut up, Potter. If you want to be alive for your meeting with your precious Lupin, don't talk about things you don't understand." He slid off another paper, looknig back down. "I would have thought some sense would have been knocked into you by now. What more do you need to realise what a pathetic, arrogant little idiot you are? And to think, people have died to save you..." He scoffed. "Meaningless."
Harry went a little paler, and he whispered, "Don't talk about that. You know nothing."
Snape raised an eyebrow, looking perfectly cool and scournful. "Oh, I see. Nobody can mention Perfect Potter's hurtful experiences at all, God Forbid anybody should upset poor, traumatised little Potter, but it's perfectly alright for him to attack others in an attempt to get some attention. Well, that seems perfectly reasonable."
Harry shook slightly. "I'm not my dad, okay? Don't blame me for what happened, because it's - not - my - fault."
"What are you talking about, Potter?" Snape sneered into his work, jotting distractedly still.
"You know," said Harry. "I saw."
Snape actually shrugged, and said, "If you're not going to elaborate Potter, you should know that mind games on me rarely succeed and you're not proving anything. Of course, you wouldn't know, as your brain isn't even fit to be pickled in a jar in my office. Easier read than a muggle child's book."
"Maybe it's your washing powder, you know, it makes things go greyer," said Harry, pointedly, staring right at his greasy face. "Or you could try some fake tan, it would make your legs less pale - "
"Shut up, Potter," Snape growled, in a tone of voice that firmly suggested the conversation was over. "You have one... less than pleasant memory of mine. I have hundreds of yours."
"Oh yeah?" Harry sneered.
"Miss Chang," said Snape, smirking suddenly.
Harry fell silent instantly. Damn Snape, he thought. Trust him to go straight for the heart.
"What was it she said?" Snape continued, looking up idly and stroking his chin with the tip of his quill. "Oh, yes... "I really like you, Harry..." How simply sweet..."
"You're lucky Evans was there, Snivellus..." Harry hissed.
"Go on, Ripper, you bark at him boy!" Snape snapped back, in perfect imitation of Aunt Marge's voice.
"Who wants to see me take off Snivelly's pants?" said Harry, and he didn't need to imitate anything, his voice was enough like his father's anyway.
Snape raised his wand absent-mindedly, still marking as though Harry wasn't there. A thrill of horror shot down Harry's spine, and he didn't even have time to move before Snape spoke. "Legilimens," he said, silkily.
Harry's mind was washed into submission as memories began to replay around his head. His eyes widened automatically, and he knew Snape was watching him intently, though he didn't know how he knew. He was too absorbed in memories... the day he had the big fall-out with Cho, about Hermione... the day he turned down Draco Malfoy on the Hogwarts express... the Death Eaters at the World Cup... the day he found himself failing at Occlumency... and then seeing Sirius disappearing back into the veil. That one played again and again and again, over and over until finally -
Harry found himself on all fours on the floor, panting, tears streaming down his face, shaking so much he could hardly see properly. "No," he whispered, sobbing.
Snape's feet were in front of him, his cloak swaying gently. "I have something important to say to you, and show you. But before that, this is a direly serious warning Potter. Never, ever provoke me again." Snape grabbed his arm, pulling him roughly to his feet. "Lupin!" he shouted.
Harry was shaking too hard to even realise that next second, Professor Lupin had hurried into the room, with a disapproving, "That was far too harsh, Severus, Dumbledore told you - "
"Do not call me Severus," Snape hissed at Lupin. He was trying to push Harry in the direction of the door, but Harry was having none of it.
"Leave me alone!" he shouted, lashing out at Snape.
The potions master grasped his hand before it hit and snapped, "Help me!" at Lupin. "Don't just stand there on the sidelines for once!"
"Stop shouting," said Lupin, calmly, putting an arm around Harry's shoulders in a very fatherly way. "This isn't an attack on Harry. I don't know why you had to suddenly order me to jump out of nowhere and grab him."
Harry saw Snape shoot a withering, loathing look at Lupin, though thankfully, the potions master said nothing. Harry tried desperately to wipe away the tears on his face. "What's going on?" he said in a choked voice to Lupin.
"Dumbledore wants us to talk to you about what happened," he said kindly.
"I don't want to," Harry mumbled, rubbing his eyes frantically. The fact that Snape was seeing him cry was worst of all. He hated Snape, and the last thing he ever wanted was to show weakness in front of the slimy, cold potions master. Especially about Sirius...
"You do," said Lupin. "We promise it will help you to talk to us... we've also got something to show you. Don't worry Harry, nothing that happens today will go further than you, me and Professor Snape."
"I don't want it to go further than me," said Harry, shaking still. "You don't understand... you never will..." He wasn't speaking to Professor Lupin - he was staring at Snape, loathing him so much it physically hurt. "Especially YOU," he hissed at the potions master, surprised by the venom in his own voice, though he knew Snape definitely deserved it. "I HATE YOU."
"Harry," said Lupin, warningly, though still kind and quiet. "Come with me, and try not to get upset... Professor Snape is here to help you, no matter what you or he might think." Lupin shot Snape a quick look, as though telling him to stay back and keep his mouth closed, as he lead Harry out of the lounge and through into the corridor.
Harry had no idea where they were going, too busy trying to dry his tears on his sleeve and get a grip on himself. It was his birthday too, and Snape's idea of a present was to torture him with memories of... of...
Lupin opened the door of another room off the hall, leading him through and to Harry's gratitude, holding out an arm to stop Snape getting too close. It was dark and warm, the same sort of humidity as in a greenhouse, and in the middle of the room was a large black cauldron, bubbling with boiling water, pleasant plumes of steam occasionally curling off the rippling surface. For one wild moment, Harry had visions of Hansel and Grettle, thinking that perhaps Snape was going to boil him alive and eat him.
"What temperature have you got this set at?" Snape said impatiently to Lupin, bending down to cool the fire with a swish of his wand that he pulled from his sleeve. "I distinctly told you to let it simmer rather than boil."
"My apologies," said Lupin, with a slight incline of his head. "I can argue about potions with you later, Severus. Harry deserves to know what's going on."
"Well, tell him then," Snape snapped, distractedly, starting to sort through bottles on the shelf-top behind him. "But make it quick, Lupin, the potion will not keep forever."
Lupin nodded, turning to Harry, and handing him a tissue with a kind sort of smile. "Professor Dumbledore wanted us to talk to you about... about what happened, Harry. And you might not want to," he added, seeing Harry start to argue, "but he knows you've been keeping things bottled up, and it's not good. You've had nobody to talk to all holiday and Sirius's death was important to all of us... yes, even Professor Snape."
"Sirius would still be here," said Harry, sadly, wiping his face all the more frantically, "if HE hadn't been mocking him constantly about having to stay in the headquarters whilst everybody else was out doing something. He made Sirius feel useless. That's why he came to... to save me..."
Snape frowned. "Potter, your godfather - "
Harry opened his mouth to shout something at Snape, anything, something that would make him pay for even daring to mention Sirius, but Lupin said, quietly, "Harry... if you don't want to talk, there's something we have to show you instead. Professor Snape has spent a long time on this, so - "
"Get rid of it," Harry snarled.
"No," Lupin said, firmly. He sat Harry down in a chair, hands gripping his shoulders. "Just watch. You have two minutes only... please use them wisely. You can argue with anybody you like once the two minutes are over, but this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and every second you waste is a second you'll regret."
Snape pressed a small, crystal-topped vial in Lupin's hand and left the room, frowning still, shutting the door with a snap and leaving the professor and Harry in complete darkness.
"What is it? What's going to happen?" said Harry, worriedly. "Why - "
"Shhh," said Lupin, uncorking the phial. "You have two minutes..." Through the darkness, Harry just managed to pick out the form of Lupin pouring the bottle's contents into the simmering heat of the water.
Harry gasped, and at first, he thought that a huge sparkling pastel-coloured firework had gone off in the cauldron, lighting the room in soft green, pink and orange sparks. He held up his hands to shield his eyes at the brightness of the reaction - but a voice from the cauldron made him look. A voice he'd wanted to hear for so long now. The voice of somebody he thought he'd never hear ever again.
Was it a ghost? A shadow? Perhaps like Cedric, and his parents, and Bertha Jorkins, and Frank Brice... Harry didn't care what it was... all he knew was that it was real...
"Sirius," he choked. There were tears in his eyes. His godfather's ghostly silhouette smiled down at him from the cauldron he stood in, hidden from the waist down. He was just the way Harry remembered. So alive, so happy, so energetic... so real...
"I thought Snape would try something like this," he said, laughing slightly. "Thank him for me..."
"Why - how can - are you - ?" Harry couldn't choose a question to ask first, and so he chose a statement, dropping to his knees before the cauldron, his hands pressing flat on the metal belly, as though he wanted to slip through it and be with Sirius. "You're alive..."
"No," said Sirius, shaking his head. "I'm not. All you need to know is that I'm here... Harry... did you get out of the Department of Mysteries okay?"
Harry nodded, still pushing at the metal of the cauldron. Maybe if he pressed hard enough, it would vanish. He could join Sirius. They could talk as much as they liked, play chess, complain about Snape... forever. "Yeah... we all did..." he choked. "Sirius, I... you died to... to come and help me..."
Sirius smiled paternally, gazing down at his godson, with just the same longing look in his eyes as Harry thought would be in his own. "You would have done the same for me, right?"
Harry nodded frantically. "Of course I would... Sirius, when will I see you again? When will you come back?"
Sirius's smile was now sad, distant, full of hollow realisation. "Never... I'm gone, Harry, you have to accept that..."
"No," said Harry, shaking his head, tears now rolling down his face. "You're alive, you're right here... you'll always be here... you'll always live..."
"One minute," said Lupin, quietly, putting a hand on Harry's shoulder soothingly.
"Listen to me, Harry," said Sirius. There was such a serious tone in his voice that Harry looked up, pierced by his dead godfather's gaze, longing for things to be different. "There are a few things you need to know... so many things... things I've found out, being here, but there are too many to tell you. And most of it makes no sense to me, but they might help you understand the Order better..." He thought, quickly, ticking things off on his fingers. "There are a couple of other Order members here, they say that Dumbledore has more spies in Voldemort's ranks than just Snape. Specific people that nobody would ever suspect. I don't know any names, but nobody but Dumbledore knows that they're spies." Another thought came to his head, and he rushed, "Something about somebody's wife... one of the Death Eater's... she might be a spy, I don't know. I can hardly remember..."
"Thirty seconds, Sirius," Lupin warned.
Sirius gave up with the information, and looked so desperate to have just a few moments more, staring down at Harry with the look of a man heading to the gallows. "Harry... look after yourself. I'll always be there for you. And so will Ron... you'll understand later. And... you'll be getting a letter soon... look after the place for me, will you?"
"I will," Harry choked, even though he didn't understand. "Sirius, I... I don't want you to go..."
"I have to," said Sirius, sadly. "Take care, Harry... I'll see you again someday... I promise."
"Ten seconds," said Lupin. He turned to his lost friend, trying to stay calm and collected. "Goodbye, Sirius. Until next time."
"Bye, Remus... keep up the good work..." Sirius looked down at Harry, reaching out to him. "Goodbye Harry... never forget me..."
Harry reached out too, his fingers slipping straight through Sirius's smokey hand. "I won't," he said, shaking. "Goodbye... you... you mean a lot to me..."
"Remember me," said Sirius, one last time, his voice echoing out slowly, as though getting lost in time. "Never forget..."
And then he was gone, the pastel sparks sizzling out into the darkness, silence conquering the frantic goodbyes of the second's before. Harry felt nothing around his fingers, and saw nothing before him, heard no sounds at all. As though he no longer existed for a moment...
Lupin looked down at Harry, his hand still gripping his shoulder gently. For a moment, he wondered whether he should say something or not. Harry had just said goodbye to somebody, goodbye until the end of life itself, and even then, there was no definite promise that they would meet again then. Lupin knew how much Sirius had cared for Harry, and how much Harry idolised his godfather... goodbye would be the hardest thing...
But to his great surprise, when Harry looked up, past the tears in his eyes - there was a smile. Of joy, of relief, of happiness? Lupin understood almost immediately as he looked into the joyful, brimming tears in Harry's eyes. The boy had never had a chance to say goodbye and put things to rest, but now... now, he'd had that chance and he wouldn't regret not giving that final farewell.
"Thankyou," Harry said. The look on his face said he'd never meant anything so much in his life.
"My pleasure." Snape's voice spoke from behind Lupin, quietly, and it was only then that Harry noticed he was there at all. He'd managed to slip in without a sound. "Though, in truth, Dumbledore had the idea, and I despise taking credit for somebody else's mess."
"Not a mess," said Harry, wiping away his tears, still grinning in a lopsided kind of way. "Tidiest mess I've ever seen." He took a deep breath, managing to console himself enough to get a grip, adopting a slightly more serious expression. "Thankyou, I appreciated that."
"As I believe I said, it was my pleasure," Snape mused.
Harry wiped away the last of his tears, his heart feeling lighter than it had in months and months, getting to his feet, gazing longingly but joyfully at the spot where his godfather had been moments before. He grinned. Maybe this wasn't such a bad birthday after all.
"Something wrong, Harry?"
Harry and Lupin had left Snape's house shortly after the farewell from Sirius, strolled through the town for a while sharing memories of Harry's godfather, and now had found a rather nice little bridge overlooking the river. Lupin had bought Harry an ice cream, chocolate and mint, which he was slurping thoughtfully as they gazed out over the river.
"Sort of," Harry admitted. "I was thinking, Professor, and - "
"Remus," said Lupin. "There's no reason to stick to formalities out of school, Harry."
"Well, I was thinking." Harry took a lick of his ice-cream, thinking, trying to sum up what the problem was. "About that day... with my dad, and hanging Snape upside down by his ankles... you remember..."
"Yes, I do. Is it still bothering you?"
Harry swallowed his mouthful of ice cream, nodded and continued. "I guess I just don't like admitting that Snape was right about my dad... he was arrogant, wasn't he?"
"James?" Lupin pulled the chocolate flake from his cone, munching it for a second. "I suppose he was, in a way. Though really, his arrogance made him who he was. He was still a good person, Harry."
Harry nodded. He was still thinking. Today had been the first time that the subject of that day had been breached with Snape, and the potions master hadn't reacted too kindly at all. It must have affected him more than Harry thought. "But why though?" he wondered aloud.
"Why? Why did that one day affect Snape so much? Why's he so touchy about it?"
Lupin smiled slightly. "Several things, I suppose. That day was most likely the final straw for Severus. Years and years of being ridiculed by James, and it caught up on him. There was another thing though... only something we had a vague idea about... or at least I did."
Harry gave him an imploring look, prompting him to go on. Lupin smiled again, and after a further lick from his ice cream, he said,
"I think that perhaps Severus was jealous of your father for a different reason. Not just Quidditch or popularity... your mother, Harry. Lily was incredibly beautiful, and everybody saw her as James's property, even though, admittedly, she despised him for quite sometime. Lily was indeed in Gryffindor, but she had several of the qualities favoured by Slytherin house. She was vivacious, ambitious, quite cunning at times. I think Severus probably liked her."
"My mum?" said Harry, horror-struck. "He can't like my mum! That's horrible! How dare he?"
"Don't worry," said Lupin, with a smile at the expression on Harry's face. "Severus started to despise her after that day by the lake. You've probably guessed that he wasn't exactly the most popular student in the school. He was occasionally in the company of Lucius Malfoy, but apart from that, he was a rather lonesome character."
"I'm never going to feel sorry for him, no matter what you say," said Harry, grinning slightly.
"Never say never," Lupin concurred, wisely. "However, it if makes you feel any happier, Severus no longer cared in the slightest about your mother. The rumour was that he'd found a girl out of school he was happy with, but nobody was quite sure how true that was."
"Bet it wasn't," said Harry. At the raised eyebrow from Lupin, he added, "It's not like Snape though, is it? He just... doesn't socialise. That's the thing."
"He might," said Lupin.
Harry shrugged, munching the last part of his cone and sprinkling the crumbs between his fingers. They fluttered to the dark waters of the river below and vanished out of sight, washed away in the flow. A metaphor for life, perhaps? Such petty little problems, washed away in the tide of luck and fortune bestowed upon him. Glancing further up the river, he was the flow held back by a large log, lodged in one of the sewage pipes filling the beautiful river with poison. Maybe that was Snape. Held back by one thing.
"Harry?" said Lupin.
Harry glanced up. "Sorry. Got lost for a moment."
Lupin smiled. "I noticed. It's five o' clock, Harry, you must be hungry... let's find somewhere to eat before I have to start thinking about getting you home to your aunt and uncle."
Despite the happiness inside him, Harry felt a momentary flush of realisation and disappointment as he remembered that at seven o' clock, he'd be back home with Dudley treating him like dirt. Lupin saw the expression on his face.
"Don't want to go... back," he said. He had nearly said 'home', then realised that the Dursley's house was no more home than this bridge was.
"Only a month to go," said Lupin, kindly.
"A month too long." Harry sighed, leant out and snapped a twig away from a branch overlooking the river. He gazed at it morosely for a moment, then dropped it gently. It spiralled through the air, blown back into the tree by the wind - but to Harry's complete amazement, the movement of that one little twig was so great that the tree branches slipped loose from under the blocked log, and with a great crash, it sloshed down into the waters below. The river started to flow properly again with a relieved splash, the sewage was washing away...
"Impressive," said Lupin, smiling. "Even though I doubt you did that on purpose."
Harry smiled slightly, not really paying attention, too amazed at why nature was pelting him with so many metaphors. One little thing to solve all the problems at once. A coincidence with a log and a stick had him thinking the most deep things he'd thought in a good long time.
"Prof- Remus?" he said, wanting to ask something he never thought he'd ask.
"Professor Snape isn't happy at all, is he?" Harry looked up at Lupin, wondering how much he knew, how much he would tell, and how much he would hide.
Lupin looked back at him, considering his expression, then saying, "I don't think he is, Harry. Not at all. Severus has been alone most of his life, because of one thing or another. Mostly, it was your father who caused him to be alone." Lupin sighed. "James got the girl, the friends, the money, the looks, the talent... though don't think your father was nothing but arrogance." He pulled his jacket closer around his shoulders, and then said, "It's getting cold, Harry... I have a story to tell you, about the day your father knew he'd gone too far, but only if we can go somewhere warm. I have a big meeting tomorrow and it won't do me any good to have a frostbitten nose."
Harry nodded, glancing out over the town. "There's a McDonalds over there, by the cathedral."
"There's a what?"
"A McDonalds, it sells food. Trust me on this one, Pr- Remus."
"Very well. Anything that isn't as bad as the motorway cafe I stopped at one the way here... you don't even want to know." Lupin smiled slightly. "Lead the way then, Harry. Oh, one thing." Harry jumped as Lupin scooped into his back pocket, pulling out a now mouldy handful of the bread that just refused to die. "What on earth is this?" said Lupin, slightly worried.
"Rye bread," said Harry. Seeing the look on Lupin's face, he smiled and added, "Long story."
<< Back | Story Index | Next Chapter >>
Back to Top | Stories by Author | Stories by Title | Main Page