Chapter 26 : Chapter 26
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Happy new year. Hope you had a merry Christmas.
It was good to see you and I hope you can come visit again soon. We never did get to go look for the unicorn foal. Probably wouldn’t have found it in all the snow anyway. The mother will have it hidden somewhere safe and warm.
Harry and Ron came down to see me Christmas day. Ron’s twin brothers were laying for them when they left, and threw snowballs at them all the way up the hill. At least with the snow so high, they won’t go poking in the woods so I had some rest for a while.
Christmas dinner was great. Everything you could ever imagine to eat was there and I ate till I was almost fit to burst, and that’s saying something. Dumbledore led us in Christmas carols, but I don’t remember much on account of the eggnog.
I took Fang back some ham and he curled up on my bed to eat it, looking so happy. He loves Christmas as much as the kids do.
Hope to see you again sometime soon.
Letter from Charlie Weasley to Cerridwyn Howard : January 3, 1992
Happy new year. Thanks for the gift -- I forgive you for sending that howler for real this time.
I’m actually enjoying my parents being here. My mother brought enough food to feed an army, which automatically makes her okay in my book. Ah yes…good, old fashioned, Brittish food -- the food of the gods. This Romanian food is really getting old.
My father really loved the batteries you sent him. I’ve never seen a grown man get so happy over a load of rubbish. The rest of us all reckon he’s out of his mind, but at least he’s consistent. He’s been collecting that junk for as long as I can remember.
The snow let up enough that I could take my parents out to see the dragons. It was great timing because with the weather like it was, they’d taken advantage of it and come out to hunt. After that we went to a popular street in town where every shop sells goods made of dragon leather. I sent Bill a very nice pair of boots. This is the place to buy dragon hide because so much is processed right here, making it cheap.
I admire the way the Romanians manage their resources. They don’t hunt dragons to extinction, but they don’t let the population get out of control either. The dragons keep a healthy fear of humans and there hasn’t been an attack here in decades.
I wish you could come visit -- you’d love this place. Ardis, Matthias and Athena are talking about coming in April. Meg may too if she gets time. I guess you’ll probably be gearing up for finals about then, though. If you decide to drop out, you know you’re welcome -- Tonks too.
Letter from Cerridwyn Howard to Severus Snape : January 5, 1992
I’m back in the country and I’d like to have you over for dinner some time before school starts back. Maybe around January ninth? Let me know.
Letter from Severus Snape to Cerridwyn Howard : January 6, 1992
Something suspicious happened here on Christmas night. Someone was wandering the castle, sneaking around the restricted section of the library. I wasn’t below, I was out looking for Quirrel, when Filch came to tell me about it. Sure enough, there was an abandoned lantern and a book that had obviously been disturbed. We searched but did not find a trace of the culprit.
I have removed the book in question for further examination. It may give some clue as to what the prowler had in mind. It is a book on curses, which surprised me as I expected it to be a book that might contain a method for getting past a large cerberus. The curses in the book are tortures, cruciatus and the like. Perhaps Quirell is thinking of trying some of them on me. I do hope he tries.
Naturally I am certain that Quirell is the culprit. No student, no matter how knowledgeable about the secret passages of Hogwarts, could have vanished that quickly. Advanced magic had to have been involved. I have made discreet inquiries among the rest of the staff, and all have assured me that they know nothing about the incident. None have reason to lie, so that leaves only Quirrel. And Hagrid, of course, but I doubt he knows how to read, so why would he have been in the library?
I have a question for you. Do you know how to get past the Cerberus? Give me a yes or no answer -- do not tell me how to do it. I do not want to know. The fewer people who do know, the better.
Now, I would love to have dinner with you, but I am not at all sure it would be prudent. Firstly, I do not feel comfortable leaving the castle with Quirrel on the loose, especially not a Quirrel who sneaks around at night to research curses. Second, it is best that we not be seen together very often. I do not want people deducing that there is a connection between us.
Now that you’re home, set up your chessboard and make a move. You play white -- white is not my color -- and prepare to be slaughtered. All in good fun, of course.
Your brother, Severus
Letter from Cerridwyn Howard to Severus Snape : January 6, 1992
Be at my house at 6pm on Jan. 9th. It isn’t a request. I’m going to have dinner waiting and I won’t answer any of the questions you asked in your last letter unless I see you in person.
Don’t worry about being seen -- my roommate is away still. I think you can trust Dumbledore to hold down the fort without you for a couple hours.
See you soon, Kerri
Letter from Severus Snape to Cerridwyn Howard : January 7, 1992
Dumbledore is such an insufferable meddler. He told you when my birthday is, didn’t he? If you’re so determined, I shall meet you at the appointed time.
It occurred to me that Severus might not show up. He’s always saying that he doesn’t like people pulling things over on him. He’s stubborn and proud, and in hindsight, I wondered if being forceful had been the right tactic. I always think of things like that just as the owl carrying my letter gets out of crossbow range. Just kidding --- I wouldn’t do that.
However, Severus does seem to have a soft spot where I’m concerned, and I think it pleased him that someone took the trouble to recognize his birthday. I really am starting to see a side of him that I’d never have thought existed. I guess no one can be a total creep all the time. You have to let your guard down a bit to someone.
I opened the front door to find Severus there, fine white snowflakes dusting his black cloak as it swirled around him in an icy wind coming in off the ocean. “Happy birthday.” I said as he came inside and peeled off his damp cloak. The robes underneath were green -- I don’t think I’ve ever seen him wear anything other than black before.
“So…how old are you?” I asked teasingly.
He shot me a wry look. “I am not one of those people who are ashamed of their years and experience and hope I never will be. I am thirty two. Something smells good.”
“I baked a chicken. And I’ll have you know that I made everything by hand since that’s how my mother taught me to cook.”
“Working with one’s hands….what a concept.” came the dry reply. “I haven’t eaten since breakfast. Some idiotic second year Gryffindor blew up a cauldron full of glow in the dark solution in my class this morning.”
“What happened?” I asked, trying not to laugh.
“Ten glow in the dark Gryffindors and an equal number of glow in the dark Slytherins.”
“What about you?”
“It splashed me too.” he admitted, not looking at all amused. “I sorted everyone out but the culprit. I let her glow in the dark until she’d scrubbed down the dungeon. Idiot. She was at it all day and I had to supervise so that’s why I’m half starved to death.”
“You did give the kid the antidote, didn’t you?”
“Of course. How cruel do you think I am?”
I laughed and so did he. “At least I didn’t force feed her poison.” he added. “I seriously considered it once or twice. This is a fairly decent little place.”
“Thanks.” I said, glancing around the room. “I like it. Sit down and I’ll get dinner on the table.”
“You’ve had a letter from Quirrel.” he said as he pulled out a chair. It wasn’t a question.
“Actually, I have. It came this morning. He hasn’t asked how to get past the Cerberus though.”
“He will. Do you know how to get past that blasted animal?”
“Yes. Hagrid told me in a letter way back when he first adopted Fluffy.” I said as I set the platter of chicken on the table. “Could you do the carving while I get the rest?”
“Certainly.” he said, reaching for the utensils I handed him. “Does anyone other than yourself and Hagrid know?”
“Not….not that I know of.” I answered. I wondered if I ought to tell him what Ron and Harry are up to. I decided to wait until I was sure he was in a good mood and then make him swear not to do them bodily harm. As I watched the precise, methodical ay he took the chicken apart joint by joint, I felt a bit sorry for Aedennan. “I’ll show you Aedennan’s letter later. More of the same ranting but with a calmer, more persuasive feel. He kept citing famous wizards and scholars to prove his point. I’m pretty sure he’s read ‘The Writings of Salazar Slytherin’ too.”
“Done.” said Severus, as he finished the chicken. He pulled out a chair for me and asked, “Did you read the book?”
“On the flight and over the holiday. I did learn a few things.” We had a long literary discussion then which seemed to put him in a very good mood. I decided that the time to tell him about Ron and Harry was then or never.
“Severus? If I tell you something, will you promise not to get angry at the people involved and harass them?”
A half curious, half wary expression came into his eyes. “I don’t like making blind promises.”
“It’s something about some students that I think you should know for their own safety. I don’t want you to make their lives miserable.”
He seemed to relax a bit. “As long as you aren’t going to ask me not to make Quirrel’s life miserable.”
“No, we were friends, but that’s beyond repair. If he is trying to reinstate…Him…then he deserves to be miserable. He makes me sick. This is related though.”
“I promise not to poison any students.” said Severus wryly.
I decided it would have to do. “It’s about Ron Weasley and Harry Potter.”
“Somehow that doesn’t surprise me. They’re meddlesome little brats, the pair of them. But how are they involved?”
“They know about Fluffy. And they know about Flamel.” I explained the whole thing to him, watching with apprehension as his dark eyes went blacker and his pale face went whiter. I knew that for all of his recent skulking around, this had taken him by surprise.
“Well that’s just what I don’t need. Probably they’re deluding themselves that they’ve stumbled onto some grand adventure. Like his father, who was an insufferable showoff and always sticking his nose where it didn’t belong, young Master Potter seems to be equally determined to cause trouble. I should have the pair of them expelled.”
“Don’t you dare!” I exclaimed. “You promised.”
“I promised not to poison them, I said nothing at all about having them expelled.”
Something in his eyes suggested that he might possibly be teasing. I hoped so. “I thought you ought to know.”
“I appreciate it. How did they find out about that dog? Clearly they have some Ogden’s stashed away in the Gryffindor dormitory. How else would they have gotten Hagrid to talk?”
“Severus Snape! Will you stop that? If you want to make fun of someone for drinking then make fun of Trelawney.”
“She didn’t come down to dinner this year --- thank God.” he said, and this time he was actually smiling.
I relaxed a bit. “Don’t you go harassing those kids.”
“I won’t harass them any more than usual.”
“And don’t harass Hagrid either. You know how he is. It was probably a slip of the tongue or something. If you do, I’ll never speak to you again.”
“And then who would celebrate birthdays with me?” he asked sarcastically.
“And save room for dessert. I have lemon pound cake.”
“Good God. Did Dumbledore tell you my entire life’s history?”
“You’re thirty two, Severus. He didn’t have that much time.” I teased.
“I refuse to dignify that with a response.”
I decided to steer the conversation to safer topics so I told him about Gargantua and the flesh eating slugs. He laughed harder than I’ve ever seen him laugh in my life -- and it wasn’t that bitter, evil sounding one either.
“But I do feel slightly guilty.” I told him.
“Why should you? He deserved it. The law wouldn’t have done anything to protect you from harassment. Were you supposed to just lie down and take it? Just because a thing is legal, that does not mean it is right. Conversely, just because a thing is illegal, it doesn’t mean it isn’t right…or just. Circumstances change sometimes. The world needs people like you and I who can keep things in balance. Who aren’t afraid to even the score now and then. Don’t worry about it -- you aren’t revealing latent, violent tendencies. That’s what you’re afraid of, isn’t it?”
“When the Dark Lord was your age he had already taken several lives. Flesh eating slugs are child’s play. Trust me.”
I wondered for a moment what sort of things Severus had done at my age, but decided I didn’t want to know. After dinner we sat down on the sofa and I brought him the scrapbook I’d put together for him. I felt like it was a very cheap present but he didn’t seem to mind.
“So that is your mother? I’ve never seen her before. I don’t even know her name. I was only twelve when you were born and had no knowledge of your existence until adulthood. No one knew of it anyway. You were born overseas?”
“I take it that you’re still an American citizen?”
“Good.” he said firmly. “Whatever you do, don’t become an English citizen. If your parentage ever becomes commonly known, I wouldn’t put it above the Ministry to have you arrested for it. Fudge likes to give the impression that he’s actually doing something useful If you’re still an American citizen, you might receive help from the embassy.”
“I’d never thought of that.”
His finger pointed to a picture of me that was taken at a county fair. I was nine years old and posing in a booth decorated with fake palm trees with a python around my neck. “I’ve never thought to ask this before…are you a parselmouth?”
“Actually, I am.”
He gave a sharp intake of breath but his expression was triumphant. “Good. I didn’t inherit it and it would be a shame for it to die out altogether. Hopefully you will pass it on to your own children one day.”
Which brought another recent concern to my mind. “About that….I’ve been thinking lately…there’s this guy…”
“Whoever he is, he isn’t good enough for you.” said Severus flatly.
“Well actually, I think it’s the other way around. That’s what’s been bothering me. Don’t you really think that the line ought to end with us? I mean…okay….even if you exclude Slytherin himself, just look at the state of the family. Violent, inbred freaks. You never got married.”
“No…but that isn’t the reason why.” said Severus, looking faintly disapproving. “I was looking to you to carry on the line. You don’t have a disease you know.”
“Well it feels like it sometimes.”
“You think about it too much. Just live your life as normally as possible and don’t worry about it. However, I would advise caution before you get involved with anyone. Even marriage doesn’t necessarily guarantee loyalty. Being abandoned by some faithless Romeo aware of your secret would be very dangerous.
First, let me remind you that you have time on your side. There is no need to rush into any romantic relationship. Men will try to push you into things; try to impart you with a sense of urgency. Do not believe it. You have time. My second piece of advice is do not give your heart easily.” He said this last sentence with a particularly bitter edge to his voice.
“What was her name?”
He hesitated for a moment and then said, “Lily.”
There was a horrible torture in his eyes that was hard to look at. I dropped my gaze.
“I do not want you to end up like myself.” he said, his voice carefully emotionless. “I do not want you to live your life miserable and alone.”
“You’re not old. There’s plenty of time.”
“No. It’s too late.”
“How long were you together?” I asked.
Severus laughed bitterly. “Never. We were never together. We were friends as children. I admired her. She married someone else, got on the Dark Lord’s bad side, and ended up dead. It’s too late.”
“Did she know you were fond of her?”
“I was stupid. It wouldn’t have worked anyway.” came the cryptic answer. “Don’t let the Dark Lord run your life, even from a distance. If you find someone who makes you happy, don’t deny yourself happiness out of some misguided, noble belief that you are protecting him from the disgrace of being associated with the family. This man…does he know you’re fond of him?”
“No. I’m not sure I want him to. I’m not miserable in my life as it is right now. I’m happy enough….maybe just not completely content.”
“Which is good. If you were fully content there would be nothing left to strive for. Has this man shown interest in you?”
He seemed more interested in the subject than I was completely comfortable with. “You aren’t going to be one of those overprotective brothers, are you?”
“If he makes unwanted advances, point your wand between his legs, say ‘sectumsempra’ and the problem will be cut off at the source.”
“I’ll remember that for the next time I see Lockhart.” I laughed.
“In that case, aim for his wrists. If he can’t hold a quill then he can’t write any more books.” said Severus with that evil smile that I know all too well. “Now…before I forget, I have something to tell you.”
“I put a blood seal on my office door and the door to my chambers. If you ever need to see me in a hurry and don’t have the password, just prick your finger enough to draw a drop of blood and touch the door. It will recognize you and unlock. It will only work for descendents of Slytherin…you and I.”
“What about….” I let my voice trail off significantly.
“The headmaster believes he has no body, and therefore has no blood. I plan to secure the door to my home as well so you can get in if you ever need to. I learned long ago that it is not wise to have too many keys in circulation. Never trust a fidelius charm either. Blood may tell, but it does not lie or betray.”
“I wish I could have your pride in it.”
“That’s one thing I hope to teach you. And by the way…the chess game…I can beat you in four moves.”
“That many?” I laughed. “I’m surprised it isn’t less. Let me go get Aedennan’s letter to show you.”
I retrieved the letter and sat quietly while he perused it. “Could I keep this?” he asked.
“Sure. I don’t want it. There’s something else about it that bothers me -- the handwriting. It seems sort of mixed up. Look at how it falls on the page. I know his handwriting. This looks familiar, but different somehow.”
“Perhaps its his nerves.” Severus smirked. “It would save me a great deal of trouble if he’d just pack up and leave. But then what would I do for amusement? String up Potter and Weasely from their toes in the dungeons?”
“Ha-ha. Why do you have it in for that Potter kid so bad?”
“I don’t ‘have it in for him’. I simple recognize him for what he is.”
“People I’ve talked to seem to like him.” I ventured.
“I can guess who that is. Someone who drinks Ogden’s for dinner and washes it down with dog biscuits that he shares with…”
He laughed. “That was a joke. Can you not tell when I’m kidding?”
“You have a mean sense of humor.”
“I know. It exasperates the headmaster to no end.”
“But I met Harry. He seemed like a nice little boy.” I insisted.
“Not you too. That’s how he operates. He charms people until they’re willing to bend over backwards for him. Minerva McGonagall bought him a Nimbus 2000 so he could be on the team.”
“McGonagall did that? You mentioned something in a letter once, but I didn’t think you were serious. She must be really desperate to get that Quidditch cup.”
“Oh she is.” said Severus in a highly satisfied tone.
“How is your team doing?”
“Quite well since that initial defeat. I’m not worried.”
“She actually brought him a broom?” I simply couldn’t believe that strict Professor McGonagall had gone that far to give her team an edge.
“Blatant favoritism.” Severus confirmed. “Typical. His father was just like that. He was able to charm his way into getting anything he wanted. I couldn’t stand him.”
His words were especially vehement which I thought was slightly indelicate under the circumstances. “If Voldemort was against him then he couldn’t have been that bad.” I gently scolded. “I take it that you weren’t overly unhappy to hear the news.”
“I’m not going to profess emotion that I never felt. No. I’m not sorry that he was killed. He was gone…the Dark Lord was gone…life would have been perfect if not for certain extenuating circumstances.” He clutched the letter in his hand a bit tighter and looked at it intensely as though willing it to yield more than it did. “He must not be allowed to rise again.”
“And if he does?”
“I want you to leave the country. He will get close to you over my dead body…which is a highly likely scenario if he comes back and finds me this close to Dumbledore. Still…I fooled him once. I do have a gift with cunning words when necessary. At any rate…I should be getting back. Thank you for the dinner and the scrapbook. I shall put it with the others. I’ll be sure to save room for a new one from your time at Merlin as well. A few more letters about you being at the top of the school would be a nice addition, so do study hard.”
“Professor Quirrel will be wondering where his spare shadow has gone.” said Severus, standing up.
I followed him to the door. He paused, and for a moment there I thought he might be about to give me a hug good bye. If so, he must have decided that such a show of affection was beneath his dignity. “Good night.” he said, nodding to me.
His dark form melted into the swirling white snow and was gone. I shut the door quickly, but far from being chilled, I felt overheated. Sometimes talking to my brother is like walking over hidden landmines. Like the Hogwarts school motto says. “Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus.” Never tickle a sleeping dragon.
Author's Note : You all know I appreciate reviews, but I'll tell you again anyway. I appreciate the reviews.
Next Chapter : Kerri suggests Remus become her partner at a new job and announces her intention to buy wands for the boys despite their recent bad behavior....
“Yestin Plunkett is on the warpath again.”
Royal’s chest heaved with silent laughter. “ Brand, Mel and Streak put a sack full of droppings outside his door, set it on fire, yelled ‘fire’ and well…you know. Brand set the fire by magic, by the way.”
“I’m glad to see that our teaching has been put to such good use.’ said Remus dryly, but he looked amused. “Thanks for the warning, Royal.”
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