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What Lies in The Hearts of Men by IrisLaRue
Chapter 1 : Part I
 
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*What Lies in the Hearts of Men*


Cold, bitter wind,
What do you say of man’s mortal soul?
It is your brother, you tell me,
Borne of your breath,
Blown to sunset, into flurries
Then to die at waning light
Full of life’s redemption
And of its regrets.
Yet, also --

“Miss LaRue…”

empty in its toils,
Like the hollow wind itself
That blows the snow along the
Window panes…

“Miss LaRue…”

Strange that our ashes are as snow,
White and flighty, fleeting,
Watched by the black eyes of men

“Miss LaRue!”

“What!” Iris jumped in her seat, quill flying from her hand and landing onto the floor with a soft click.

“Could you please be so kind as to pay attention when I am speaking -- that is, unless you know exactly what it is I am attempting to teach,”

“Um…”

“In which case I would greatly appreciate you taking over this lecture.”

“No, no, I ah, no,” she quickly stooped and retrieved her quill, “I’m sorry,” closing her notebook with as much fluidity as possible in hopes of not catching the Professor’s eye.

No such luck.

In a flurry of black fabric Severus Snape snatched up the notebook and proceeded to open it to the very page she’d previously been scribbling upon.

“Ah. Verse.” He just as quickly snapped it shut. “Miss LaRue, I’m sure this is far more fascinating to you than the knowledge of potions, but unfortunately, this is neither the time nor place to be daydreaming. See me after class, if you would like to have your notebook back.”

Iris shrunk into her seat. ‘Why must it always be the dreamers who are picked upon?’ she wondered. ‘Since the beginning of time this is how it’s been…he’s nothing but a vulture, an oil slick personified, a smooth bellied, black eyed snake here to prey upon those who are superior in some way he yearns to be gifted.’

“…and so, your homework will be three separate technical essays on chapters 28 through 39, due on Monday. You are dismissed.”

Reflexively, Iris went to stand, but was promptly reseated by a violent downward wave of Snape’s hand. One by one the other students filed out of the room, thankfully courteous enough to look in every possible direction but hers.

Iris sighed loudly and heavily, closed her eyes, waited for the imminent lecture on paying attention to be so eloquently executed by the deep, smooth voice that could sometimes be so dull.

“Miss LaRue,” he silkily began, “I will not waste our time with a lecture.” Iris raised an eyebrow in surprise. She could not see his face, only the solid black of his robes and hair against the bright white, snow encrusted light filtering in through the grimy, half buried dungeon window. The contrast was almost inspiring.

“I know that you are perfectly capable of understanding your error. If you were any younger, I would give you proper punishment…but, you are one of the more mature members of your class, and so I simply ask you to respect our time during lessons. Value it.” He tossed the notebook onto her table without fully turning around. “You may leave.”

Iris snatched up her notebook and made to leave when Snape casually lifted his hand to stop her.

“I trust you are leaving for Christmas Holiday.”

The statement made her veins freeze. Taking her notebook, embarrassing her, lashing her with sarcasm, those were day to day events she had become numb to during the few months she’d known him. But this, oh, this was exceptionally cruel.

Despite the fact that he was not facing her, Iris gave Snape a glare that reflected the ice she felt in her heart. “You, of all people, should know that I have nowhere to go and no one to see.” The bitterness in her voice more than matched his acid sarcasm.

Iris stormed out of the room, making only the sound of her angry, dully echoing footsteps.


**********************************************************************


“It’s the last day a school before break, y’know. What’ll ye be doin’ here for so long a time, Iris?”

“Oh, I don’t know, Morey, sit here, stare at the fire, read, write, draw, live on my pathetic little insignificant and meaningless life.”

Morey gave his friend a worried look, but knew better than to be really worried. “Alright, if you’re sure ya don’ wanna come with me. My mum likes ya ‘nough ta invite ya, an’ ya don’ even wanna have fun durin’ Christmas, of all times. Suit yerself. I’ll see ya sometime later, then.”

“Yeah…sometime later. Tell your mother I regret not coming.” Iris gave him a wan smile.

“Just feel better by the time I get back, right?” Morey left the Slytherin common room, trunks in tow, with a quick glance back before disappearing out of sight.

“I promise…I’ll try.”


Iris ate her meals in the dining hall as alone as possible, and only took two a day, skipping lunch to allow herself time to study and waste time wandering the halls of Hogwarts. Sometimes she would stare at the impossible amounts of snow falling from the heavens and think of the strikingly contrasted image of Snape against the window… ‘Like black India ink and white, creamy cheeses…’

Other times, the little demons of memory would tug at her conscious, forcing up undesirable mental images; her past, her mother, her time in America and at the Salem Academy, her whole life changed again and again, never constant. She remembered, most vividly because of its recentness, her first day at Hogwarts.

The first person she’d noticed as she stepped into the private office of Albus Dumbledore was Snape. He had been, in fact, staring up at the window, his back turned, a blotch of flat, depthless dusty black against a field of sunlight. Like a dead rose in a summer garden, she’d thought. While Dumbledore and McGonnagal had been open and welcoming, Snape had simply nodded to her in acknowledgment of her presence.

When her situation had been explained by Dumbledore to the other professors: that her mother was “ill”, her father had no money, there were no other living relatives besides distant removed cousins living in Scotland and France, neither of them seemed too concerned. McGonagall simply placed the sorting hat on Iris's head -- “Slytherin,” it said automatically, to the apparent dismay of Snape -- gave her the uniform sets and books, and showed her to her bed.

Iris also remembered her childhood. Oh, how gloriously normal it had been. How very, very simple it had all been. Why was she destined to live this horrid lifestyle? What, in this terribly twisted personal universe, had cosmically collided to toss her into a wicked warped hell such as this? All she wanted was peace, ignorance. She didn’t want to know that basilisks and chimeras and dragons and demons really were real, she wanted to imagine them in her mind and think they hid under her bed at night.

The snow fell lazily beyond the glass as all these thoughts ran through Iris’s mind, then gradually sifted away back into her subconscious. Her glazed green eyes stared motionless out beyond the snow at the distant hilly lands, unnoticing of the silent swirl of black that came round the corner and froze.

“Miss LaRue.”

‘The last voice on Earth I wanted to hear.’ Iris turned her head in Snape’s direction. “Yes, Professor,” she said flatly.

Severus paused for the tiniest of moments, seemingly unsure.

“I’ve decided to reevaluate my decision of earlier this week. Come with me.” Snape swirled away down the hall once Iris had risen, his black boots clicking softly on the stone floor. Once they reached his office and classroom, courteously opening the door for Iris to go in first, he asked her to be seated.

More nervous than anything, Iris clenched her sweating palms together on the table as tightly as she could, hoping Snape would not notice her obvious tension.

“I have a task for you, Miss LaRue.” Iris looked “thrilled” about the prospect of “tasking”.

“I need assistance in calculating my grades for this semester. Normally, I strictly forbid any student to view others’ grades. However, I feel I can…trust you,” the word “trust” seemed especially hard for him to mumble, “ with such information, since you are a final year student, and since you have had experience dealing with such things. Am I correct?”

“Yes…I aided for a teacher during my fifth year.” She was surprised he was asking her to do something that didn’t involve blood or dust. Iris had heard many a horror story about Snape’s creativity in punishments from other unfortunate students.

Snape nodded. “Good. Start immediately. The grade book is on my desk.” He pointed to a barren desk, void of any parchment save the leather bound book that would keep Iris occupied during Christmas break. “If you have a question, I will be in the student storeroom.” With that, he disappeared into the dark storeroom, leaving Iris to the task at hand.


****************************************************************************************


Christmas Break comprised of grading, sitting at Snape’s desk idly, scribbling on loose pieces of parchment, occasionally listening to Snape grumble about this or that, eating, sleeping, showering, wasting time, and waiting for the snow to go away, though the latter wouldn’t happen for months yet. Though Iris finished grading and re-checking the grading three days before break ended, she still came into Snape’s classroom in the afternoon, pretending to still be rechecking her work. He didn’t seem to notice she was finished (hadn’t he even glanced at his book yet?). All he ever seemed to do was mess around in the storeroom, apparently reorganizing everything multiple times.

On the last day of break, Iris dared to venture into the storeroom to let Snape know she had finished.

“Um, Professor? I’ve finished.”

Snape remained hunched over a lower shelf containing many small boxes with faded yellow labels.

“I believe, Miss LaRue, you had finished several days ago.”

Heat flooded her cheeks as Snape continued to shuffle boxes around.

“Ah, well…yes, I suppose I did. I simply wanted to make sure…”

“You are quite finished. Leave now.”

She wanted to leave, desperately, but something stuck her fast to the spot. Was it the embarrassment? Was it the tension she felt inside her chest and hands from simple nervousness?

“Thanks for letting me…”

No other words would come out to complete the sentence. Iris finally forced her legs to carry her out of his room, away from his heavy presence. She had wanted to say “Thanks for letting me assist you,” but he had let her do more than that. He had given her someplace to go, and someone to be with -- though she hadn’t really been with him at all. Still, the simple presence of another human being in the same room, even in the next room, had put her at ease. Even though she loathed that person…

Iris thought of this with some confusion as she quickly traveled the dungeon halls toward the Common. ‘Could he have regretted what he’d said?’ she thought as she entered the Common, passed through, and entered the dormitory. Three of her roommates were on the floor, casting bizarre charms on a cockroach.

"Heehee! Sylvia, make it pink!"

"No, that's dumb. Make it something useful."

"Shut up, Mordena. I say pink!"

"Useful!"

The two girls commenced pulling at each other's hair and biting, while the other continued to torture the cockroach.

"You're all sick," mumbled Iris disgustedly.

"Ya think we're sick? What's with you and ol' oilbags?"

This made the other girls stop fighting and stare at Iris with dull interest.

"Shut up, Sylvia. I'm warning you..."

"You an' Snape! You serious, Sylv?”

“So that’s where you’ve been all holiday! Smooching on Snape!”

Iris violently pulled her emerald velveteen bedcurtains shut as the girls laughed like rabid hyenas.

"Forget her! The first duel of the year is tomorrow. Everyone will be back from vacation. We should prepare."

"I'm not going! It's too damn cold!"

"I second that."

The duel! Iris loved to duel, especially since she usually won -- if she decided to compete. She only dueled to show off, though, never realy to represent her house like Morey did.

Poor Morey...he never won.


*************************************************************************************

Morey watched smugly as his opponent stepped up, a Gryffindor 7th year boy with large front teeth and messy yellow hair. In a cacophony of shouting and jeering they had been chosen by their peers to duel each other in the secret forest clearing set up by the seventh year students of each house. If there was anything all the houses agreed upon, it was this bi-weekly gathering. Slytherins and Gryffindors, Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs, it was mutually agreed that none let word leak out to professors or lesser students. It was the one event that brought rivals together as equals, with only one purpose: to hone their skills.

"Hey there, Slytherin slime," chuckled the Gryffindor boy, "if I remeber correctly, you lost to a Hufflepuff girl in your first round last time."

Morey only smirked. "Sad ta say, but Hufflepuffs are tougher than Gryffindors any day."

Each raised their wands in stances reflective of their teachings: Morey raised his wand above his head, like a snake ready for the strike, while the Gryffindor boy wielded his wand like a knight handles a sword. The shouting became more frantic.

"Go Ferren! Give 'im what for!"

A Ravenclaw girl held up her hand. Steam billowed upward from the animated mouths of the audience.

"Remember, no dispels, no deaths! Ready! Three, two, one, go!"

Ferren was fast, but Morey was faster. With careful, quick pronunciation and a sweep of his wand he shouted, "Cleptum Armorum!"

Ferren's wand shot from his hand and neatly landed in Morey's palm. Slytherins laughed with delight as Gryffindors shouted "Unfair! Unfair!" Morey smiled and shook a lock of bright red hair from his eye.

"Heh! Here, I'll give ye a fair try." He tossed the wand back. Each took their stances again. To Morey's surprise, Ferren quickly pointed the wand at his own chest.

"Occaceare!"

Ferren melded into the snow encrusted trees until nothing was left of him. Morey looked forward calmly, but inside he was panicking. He'd never seen an invisibility charm used as a defensive tactic.

"Can't get to what you can't see, Slytherin," came a disembodied voice from everywhere all at once.

"Alright, two ken play at this game. Defectus!"

The clearing was plunged into darkness. Yells of confusion sounded as people blindly ran into one another.

"Morey, you idiot!" shouted a familiar voice from the Slytherin side of the audience. It was Iris. "Now no one can see! Ouch! Get the hell of my foot!"

"I'll call this match a draw if neither opponent strikes at three! One, two, three -- "

"Solarum!"

Light flooded back into the clearing, revealing a pile of audience members intertwined in rather awkward ways. Morey and Ferren were visible once again.

"Thought ye were smart!" said Morey, raising his wand again. "This ends now! Cladesis Multifariam!"

"Referio!"

Red light burst forth from Morey's wand in a blinding dazzle, only to meet with a sizzling white shot from Ferren. The beams bounced off one another; the red hit Morey full blast, while the white simply fizzled away before it hit Ferren. Morey flew back as if hit by a semi truck.

"Slytherin has been hit out of bounds! Match goes to Gryffindor!"

Cheers came from the Gryffindors; the Slytherins hissed and claimed foul play. Iris stepped forth, silent.

"Well well, what have we here? American white trash? Don't make me laugh!" Ferren laughed anyway.

"Don't underestimate me, you pompous ass!"

The Ravenclaw girl attempted to be official, but no one listened.

"Three, two --"

"Anima Aqua!"

A torrent of water shot straight up from either side of the ring and rushed forth, slamming Ferren with the force of a hurricane. When the water subsided, Ferren was left shivering and spluttering outside the ring, soaked to the bone and red in the face. The Slytherins roared with laughter.

"You're all wet, *Fairy*! It must be awfully cold!"

Iris only smiled.

"I've never seen anythin' like that!" exclaimed Morey, whose face was beginning to show multiple bruises. "Did ye make that up?"

"No. My grandmother taught me."


**************************************************************************************

“Hey, here ye are! Y’know, everyone is talkin’ about that spell ye used against that arse Ferren. No one’s seen anythin’ like it before!”

Iris sighed heavily and sank lower into the black leather common room sofa. She should have never used anything so powerful against a fellow student, though she hadn’t even used its full potential.

“You know I’m no magical genius, Morey. I just read a lot. I just pay attention and remember what I’m taught…”

Morey threw his hands outward in frustration. “Iris, ye’ve got power over the elements. None of us have that. Not even any of the professors. I mean, ye can make a tidal wave appear outa nowhere!” He lowered himself onto the dark leather couch next to her. “It’s an amazin’ gift, Iris. It really is.”

“I don’t want to hear anything more about it,” she whispered, giving Morey a hollow look. He understood immediately why.

“Oh, yer Granmum…I’m sorry…I feel like such an idiot now.”

“It’s not that, it’s this.” Iris pulled back her left sleeve, revealing a turquoise tattoo. “My Grandmother told me what this was before I went to the Salem Academy in America, when I was eleven. It’s the mark of the Aquarians, a cult of witches who are devout followers of the East, of Air and its divinity in nature. Aquarius is the motion of Air over Water. On my mother’s side of the family, every other generation of daughters is born an Aquarian, and is given this mark on her third birthday.”

Morey timidly traced the inked outlines with his finger, noticing a blue vein coursed through the triangle like a muted bolt of lightning. “Did it hurt?”

“I don’t remember getting it.”

“I still say it’s a gift. Imagine what you could do with that power!”

“I don’t want to do anything with it!” She snatched her wrist away. “”Don’t you get it, Morey? I hate having powers, and I hate being at this school. I hate my life.”

“So I suppose you hate me, then?” He gave her a knowing smile. He was used to her bouts of unreasonable negativity by now, and knew she never meant anything serious by them. She smiled weakly back.

“You know I don’t hate you…”

*************************************************************************************

*Hey you, out there in the cold always doin’ what you’re told can you help me…*

“TURN THAT MUGGLE PIECE OF SHIT OFF!”

Iris clicked off her radio alarm clock with a sneer. “Just because you don’t appreciate your own culture shouldn’t mean I have to be deprived of my music! I bet you don’t even know who Pink Floyd is.”

“And you’d better shut up before I turn you off,” snapped Sylvia. Tiffany and Mordena giggled.

“You’d better watch it. She might make you wet your pants.”

**************************************************************************************


‘January, the month of my birth. Only a few days 'till my birthday…thank God no one knows…’

taptaptaptaptaptaptap

‘I hate parties. Especially birthday parties. I think I’ve had maybe three good ones.’

taptaptaptaptap

“Iris, quit that.” Morey gave her a sharp nudge with his elbow. “Y’know tappin’ that quill drives me nuts.”

“Sorry.”

“Quiet!” shouted Snape from his desk. Saliva visibly took flight from his mouth as he exaggerated the “t”.

Iris attempted to concentrate on the work before her: a twenty-question quiz on sleeping draughts. It was all review, and yet…

taptaptaptaptap

Morey gave her a sharper nudge that unfortunately placed her left index finger directly beneath the sharp, whittled quill point, descending with just enough force to puncture the skin and draw blood.

“OW!”

Every student in the classroom jumped an inch off their seats, as did Snape, at the sudden noise.

A tiny, crimson drop of blood pattered onto the table, all eyes upon the wound Iris held up to examine. It formed a rivulet that slowly traversed its way to her palm, running into the cracks and fissures in her skin. The thick, warm liquid mesmerized her with its color, its smell…slowly, she brought her finger to her lips --

“STOP!”

The students jumped a second time as Snape’s deep voice reverberated through the room like a blast of thunder.

He instantly rose from his desk and crossed the room in two strides. “Miss LaRue,” he grabbed her wrist, “come with me. Immediately. The rest of you continue with your work.”

The class simply stared dumbly.

“NOW!”

Thirty heads simultaneously lowered and thirty hands began scribbling furiously, as if the quiz was suddenly something incredibly engrossing. The only pair of eyes that dared watch Snape drag Iris into the Private Quarters were those of Morey.

With a pronounced slam, Severus shut the door to the Private Storeroom adjacent to his quarters, still roughly holding Iris by the wrist. He hadn’t noticed her expression until then -- one of absolute fear.

For a moment, he simply stared at her, then regained his senses and released her wrist.

“Here. I have something for that. Don’t put your finger in your mouth.” He quickly produced an opaque white bottle with a decaying cork stopper from one of the many dusty, ancient wooden shelves.

“What is it?” asked Iris as he took her finger and poured what seemed to be nothing but pure water over her wound.

“Something that will heal you, and keep you from...” Snape’s face became paler than usual. “…from becoming infected.” As he poured the last of the water, Iris’s hand became rigid and tense, the blood beginning to dissolve and bubble, vaporizing into nothingness. She tried to pull away, but he held her shaking hand firmly.

It was then that he noticed the mark on her wrist. A crudely rendered tattoo of faded greenish-blue ink, of two wave-shaped outlines and a downward pointing triangle. There was a single word below the symbol in Roman style letters:

AQVIS

"Aquis," he murmured, finding a peculiar familiarity in the word, but his thoughts were disrupted by the task at hand.

“It burns,” she hissed, her hand shaking more and more violently as her fingers tried reflexively to curl away from the pain. An audible sizzling sounded from the wound.

“I know it burns.” It was a curt statement, not reassurance, though his steady grip was. Gradually, the burning subsided, the hand relaxed, the wound was dry and bloodless. Iris sighed in relief -- then snatched her hand away angrily.

“I don’t see why I couldn’t have gone to the nurse. Actually,” she held up her finger and shook it, “I don’t see why a tiny little insignificant scratch such as this deserves such attention, if any at all!”

Surprise, then annoyance, then anger flashed in Snape’s black eyes. He promptly stood to his full height -- a generous eight inches taller than Iris -- glaring down at his unthankful pupil with his most withering stare. Iris automatically shrunk three inches.

“You do not know what consequences could have come of such a ‘scratch!’”

Regret instantly darkened his expression.

“What do you mean?” Iris stared him straight in the eyes, which caused him to promptly glance away.

“…return to class.”

“But what -- “

“I said go.”


*****************************************************************************************


“I thought you were to inform her of her situation so that she knew the risks of her...disease.”

Albus Dumbledore watched his loyal friend of years pace like an unsettled panther before him, black robes swishing furiously in his nervous motion. Yes, perhaps he had been foolish in his decision to be secretive, to be discreet…

“Severus, I ask you, how does one wisely decide anything when such a delicate issue is at hand?”

“The girl is a danger to this school and its students -- I’ve told you that from the start. What happened today is only evidence to further that point. If she would have tasted that blood -- ”

“If, Severus. If is our barrier between peace and disaster. You handled today’s situation beautifully, if not with particular concern and care. As long as she is closely monitored for the remainder of her time here, as she has been so far, everything should be fine.”

“No. There’s no room for error.”

“Please, be reasonable -- ”

“How can I be reasonable when we are allowing a vampire to attend this school!”

Severus quickly spun away from Albus, shocked at his own rash behavior. Never, ever had he shown such disrespect to the one man he truly respected. Embarrassment and regret flushed his cheeks

“Well...I suppose now I know your true feelings.” Albus slowly sunk into his high-backed chair, lacing his fingers together to rest upon the desk . Severus remained drawn into himself.

“Perhaps I should remind you that she is not a true vampire. Miss LaRue is more human than vampire. She can enjoy the sun’s light, eat normal food, sleep during the night just as you and I do. Her only disadvantage is her instinctual craving to drink the blood of humans -- which has, until today, remained dormant. In general she is a normal, well-behaved young woman who has simply gone through a sometimes-difficult life. She is not a monster.”

Through his burning discomfiture curiosity tugged at Severus’s mind, pushing back the thought of his previous insubordination.

“Tell me…how did she come to be this way?”

Albus was taken aback by the question. “I suppose you would like to further defend your point against my decision with that knowledge.”

Severus decided not to respond to this, in fear he might again say something rash. He instead allowed Albus to continue.

“Alright. I suppose letting you know will bring no harm.

I am not clear on the exact details of your pupils’ story, but I do know that there have been similar past cases from centuries ago, almost lost to the history books simply because it is a bizarre and extremely rare incident…

As we know, a human becomes a vampire through exchange of blood, or perhaps saliva, though the specific device of this transformation is still not entirely clear. Due to regulations set by The Ministry of Magic, vampires now rarely feed on humans, though disobedient individuals tend to keep with tradition. However, vampires have their own set of rules. One of them is to never feed on a pregnant human.”

A look of utter disgust cinched up Snape’s nose at hearing this, as though the words “feed on pregnant human” were simply too grotesque.

“Because they know the consequences of this. If the unborn child is developed enough, and ingests some of the transferred blood or saliva, it will be born at that very instant, still mortal, but with all the traits of a vampire.”

“A halfling.”

“Yes. I assume this is what happened to Iris’s mother. The wound inflicted by the vampire must not have been fatal, or she received immediate treatment, since she is still alive -- an invalid, but living.”

“Hardly.”


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