Chapter 8 : Invisible Annoyances
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"You're going to wear a hole in the floor with all that pacing." said a bemused voice from the fireplace. Harry sat down in front of Sirius, frowning.
"Where have you been?" he asked.
"I'm only three minutes late, Harry."
"I meant for the past two weeks. You haven't written me back and I must have sent you five different owls. Then Dumbledore told me you took a 'vacation'? What's going on? Is something wrong?" Harry's worries poured forth and Sirius immediatley regretted his irresponsibilty.
"I'm sorry, Harry. I should have given you some warning. I just went to see an old friend. It wasn't something planned- spur of the moment thing." Sirius explained. It was true, he hadn't planned on seeing Valora he just...he had to see her. He missed her. Sixteen years is a long time to go without seeing your best friend.
"So everything's okay?" Harry checked.
"For now, but the deatheaters are really gaining support. You-Know-Who's getting stronger every day. The prophet is becoming completely unrealiable."
"It feels like we're all screaming and nobody's listening. I can't stand it." Harry said, angrily punching the edge of the couch for emphasis.
Sirius winced, wishing he could help, but he knew the Order was already doing everything they could. They would never be abvle to convince everybody and years from now people would still deny it, even with the evidence right in front of them. Harry and Sirius talked for a little while longer before Sirius had to go (his knees were getting sore) and so they said goodnight.
Valora stretched her arms high above her head and leaned back a little as she walked. The halls were dark and empty except for a few snoozing portraits. With the growing threat of Lord Voldemort, Dumbledore had asked the staff to volunteer for night patrol. Valora had agreed to take it from 10-12. It was now quarter to midnight and she should be meeting the next professor in the entrance hall to switch off shifts. As she walked past the library she thought she heard a slight shuffling but it was faint and could have been in her mind. She was in no mood to re-investigate the library when it was most likely Mrs. Norris poking her feline nose around.
She was too tired to be staying up this late. What the hell had made her agree to do this? Her eyelids fluttered a little as she walked down the stairs. Her body, clumsy and drowsy, fumbled a little on the last stair and sent her stumbling into the figure in front of her. Strong arms wrapped around her in an effort to keep her from hitting the floor. Looking up she saw Severus looking down at her with a worried expression.
"Are you all right?" he asked sincerely. Valora pushed off of him gently.
"I'm fine." She mumbled quietly, her eyes still half closed.
"You should get to bed, Valora."
"That's where I'm going but I have to give you the report first." She told him, struggling to focus on his face. Severus rolled his eyes and motioned for her to continue.
"Okay, well, nothing suspicious. There was a weird noise near the library just now, but it was probably Mrs. Norris. Peeves is floating by the astronomy tower and unless your in a really good mood I'd avoid going near there, because I don't know about you but I just don't have the energy to deal with that little piece of-"
"I think I have it, thank you Professor Nox." he said, cutting her off. Valora glared at him.
"Just call me Valora, Sev. It's not like we don't know each other." she said, her voice thick with sleep. Severus raised an eyebrow at her slightly swaying form.
"Are you alright? You look like you're going to fall over." He said quietly, putting a steadying hand on her shoulder. Valora smiled at the familiar weight and warmth of his hand on her.
"I just haven't been sleeping. Extreme exhaustion. I basically run on tea and adrenaline and right now I'm out of both." Valora admitted. She was too tired to even attempt sarcasm, or pay attention to what she was saying. The entire situation was becoming hazy. Severus looked at her with worry and annoyance clearly etched on his face.
"You shouldn't be pushing your body like this. It's not healthy. You should see Madame Pomfrey in the morning, just to make sure everything's alright. If your not sleeping there could be something wrong-"
"Sev, really, I'm fine. Just nightmares keeping me awake. Nothing big. I was thinking of going and getting some ingredients tomorrow to make my sleeping potion."
"What do you need? I might have it in my private stores." He asked. Valora was surprised at his attitude.
"UIh...I need powdered root of asphodel and an infusion of wormwood."
"The Draft of the Living Dead?"
Valora nodded slowly. Severus scowl was evident even in the dim lighting their wands made.
"I don't think it's safe to be taking that."
"I take small doses."
"Even so. It's dangerous." Severus told her. Valora laughed lightly.
"Well, it's the only thing that works. Nothing else helps me sleep through the memories." She explained.
"I thought you said they were nigthmares."
"Aren't they the same thing?" She asked him. Severus looked at her and for a moment they just stood staring at each other in silence. Valora closed her eyes and bit her lip before wordlessly turning away and walking back to her room. Snape didn't follow.
Once she was safely behind her portrait the tears came rushing forth like a flood. She pounded the wall angrily. She rushed to her desk and angirly threw the papers to the ground, then followed with a crystal vase which shattered. She grabbed the old letters from Sirius and began to tear them into shreds, she reached next for the photo of her and Severus but couldn't bear to tear it. She sank onto the floor, her hand muffling her sobs. She traced her finger over his face, wishing she could do the same in person. Her breathing became labored and she could feel her chest tightening. It was like her body couldn't function without him. Struggling for air, alone, amidst the glass and debris Valora suddenly felt very small.
When the fit passed she wiped the remaining tears from her eyes. It wasn't fair. To feel all this love, and all this longing for someone who didn't care. She hated herself for feeling weak, for years of mistakes, and for leaving him. Why had she thrown it away? These and similiar thoughts tormented her. Unable to move further she curled up on the wooden floor and cried herself to sleep.
The next morning Valora woke up in her bed, with her room spotless and her picture returned to it's previous position on her bedside table. For a moment she thought she dreamt the previous night but then she saw the remainder of her torn letters placed carefully on her desk. One of the house elves must have cleaned everything up and put her into bed last night. Valora smiled softly at their kindness.
She showered and dressed in a haze, her mind not really focusing on anything. As she walked down to breakfast her thoughts traveled to the noise she thought she heard in the library. Conspiracy theories raced through her mind as she took her seat beside Severus who was eyeing her carefully, as though waiting for her to tip over. She looked thinner than usual, less sturdy. He didn't like it.
"How was your shift last night?" She asked quietly, not looking at him as she sipped her pumpkin juice.
"Fine." He lied. It had been torturous and drawn-out. He spent a good portion near the library simply because she had mentioned it as a point of interest. Severus had paced about the castle, all thoughts on Valora.
"How did you sleep?" He asked innocently, taking a bit of his breakfast.
"Fine." Valora lied. She looked down at her plate and pushed it away having suddenly lost her appetite at the memory of what had occurred last night. Severus raised an eyebrow at her untouched food but said nothing.
"Did you find anything by the library?" She asked, looking at him in profile. Severus didn't turn to face her, instead keeping his gaze straight ahead.
"Oh." She said softly. Valora took another sip of her juice before pushing back her chair and going off to class. Severus watched her walk out and a tiny smirk made the corner of his mouth twitch upward. He wished he could follow her, pull her into an empty classroom, just hold her to him. He wanted to assuage her every fear, kiss her nightmares away, create better memories. Who was he kidding? She couldn't stand him.
After her last class Valora decided to take a walk along the grounds. She grabbed her cloak and fastened it securely about her shoulders before stepping outside. The late november air bit at her cheeks as she walked but it was a welcomed pain. It reminded her that she could still feel. She circled the lake and as she came back around walked along the forests edge until she saw Hagrid's hut with smoke puffing happily from the chimney. She hadn't talked to Hagrid in what seemed like ages.
She knocked ont he big wooden door and could hear Fang bark excitedly from behind it. She thought she also heard a shuffle and some whispering but she realized Hagrid must have been muttering himself because when he opened the door the cottage was empty, except for the slobbering dog.
"Hello 'Lora." Hagrid said smiling down at her, his dark eyes crinkling with the familiar expression.
"Hi Hagrid. How've you been?" She asked, giving the first genuine smile she'd had in weeks. He shrugged lightly.
"Bin a'right. Would'ya like ter come in fer a bit o' tea?" He asked.
"I'd love to." She said following him inside. Fang jumped up on her and she scratched him affectionately behind the ears.
"He's certainley grown since I saw him last." she said quietly.
"Still acts like a big baby tho'. Get down Fang." Hagrid said as he placed a cup of tea on the table in front of Valora. She sipped it carefully and to her surprise enjoyed it immensely. She grinned at Hagrid as he sat across form her.
"Wasn't sure if it was still yer favorite."
"It is! I'm just surpised you remembered." she said, taking another sip. She had just run out herself and placed another order but it hadn't come in yet.
"I remember everythin' I'm told. I keep track of those people I care 'bout." He said quietly, staring at his tea. "Alot of people have missed you 'Lora."
Valora hung her head. "I'm so sorry, Hagrid. I just- I'm trying to fix what I can."
"Ye haven' told 'Arry who you are yet though." Hagrid stated simply.
"I'm not ready to admit my mistakes to him, or anybody really. Not even Dumbledore knows the whole story." Valora admitted. They drank the rest of their tea in a contemplative silence, the only sounds were the crackling of the fire and Fang panting happily. Valora took a deep breath when her cup was empty and looked out the window.
"The forest looks pretty at twilight." She said thoughtfully. Hagrid joined her gaze and stared out at the trees for a moment.
"Too quiet lately. Sumfin just seems...off." he said quietly then when he saw Valora's concerned expression added a smile and said " S'probly just my nature to be suspicious nowadays though."
Valora smiled and nodded, but didn't entirely believe him. Hagrid knew the Forbidden Forest better than most, and if he said something seemed wrong, then something was most definelty wrong.
When they had said their goodbyes Valora began her walk up to the castle. The sun had almost completely dissapeared behind the mountains but some orange rays still peaked out onto the horizon. As she walked she thought she heard heavy breathing behind her but when she turned she saw nothing.
She must be going crazy, first she heard someone in the library, then again last night and now she could have sworn she heard someone following her. It was utterly ridiculous. Hearing things was never a good thing. First thing tomorrow she would go to Madame Pomfrey.
A twig snapped behind her.
On instinct Valora spun around and cast the first hex that came to mind. She heard a yelp of pain and then spots of blood falling on the ground. She followed the trail until it stopped and waved her hands out in front of her until they came into contact with something that felt oddly familiar. She ripped the cloak off of her stalker and was shocked by who she saw beneath it.
"HARRY!" she cried, watching as her godson tried to stem the flow of blood from his nose.
"Oh, Merlin! I didn't realize- We had better get you to the hospital wing. C'mon." She said, steering him towards the castle.
As they walked through the doors Valora was unhappy to find Severus walking through the corridor at that exact moment. He saw the blood and walked toward her as she rushed Harry across the marble floors.
"What happened to Potter?" He asked, walking beside her with a slight grin on his face at her distressed expression.
"I hexed him." she admitted sheepishly. Severus raised his eyebrows and nodded in approval.
"About time someone did."
Valora shoved him away roughly while he just smiled smugly.
"Really, Severus!" she said, happy to see him fall back as she continued with Harry to the hospital wing.
After Poppy had fixed Harry's nose she walked back into her office, Valora sat on the cot across from him, watching as he tested the tender area with his hand.
"What have you been doing, Harry?" she asked quietly, even though nobody was in the room. Harry looked up at her.
"What do you mean?" He asked innocently. Her eyes narrowed at him.
"If I had realized your father left you his cloak I would have discovered it was you in the library sooner. Have you actually been following me?" She asked, sounding shocked, which she was.
"How do you know about my Dad's cloak?" Harry said, his brows pulling together.
"I asked you a question first...and...I'm the professor here. I'll ask the questions." She said. This whole being in a postion of authority thing certaintly came in handy when it came to avoiding the past.
"I wanted to find out why you're lying to me." Harry said bluntly.
"Look, I'm not stupid. I know you knew my parents, and Sirius. What I don't get is why you're telling me you never even spoke to them when there's a picture of the three of you in the trophy cases." Harry said with a very serious expresion on his face. Valora let out a long breath and looked her godson square in the eye before glancing around to make sure they were alone and leaning forward. Harry leaned in too, eager for an explanation.
"Alright, yes, I knew them, but that was a long time ago - things were very different. I was very young when I was friends with the marauders. I don't even know that girl anymore. So I would appreciate it if you stop poking around my past because I can tell you now, Harry, you won't like what you may find." Valora told him sternly. She didn't wait for a response and quickly strode out of the room, leaving Harry to stare after her.
Valora was walking so fast she didn't even realize where she was going. Her mind and her heart were both racing at lightening speed. Someone reached out to tap her shoulder and she whipped around with her wand pointed at them. Severus frowned and pushed the wand down and out of his face.
"What are you doing here?" Valora asked sounding almost annoyed that he had interrupted her walking. Severus looked around.
"It's a hallway."
"I know it's a hallway. What I meant is what do you want?" she asked quickly. Severus handed her a vial of thick blue liquid.
"Sleeping draught. It's the same one I use. Alot safer than Draft of the Living Dead." He said quietly.Valora looked at it for a moment before glancing up at him.
"Why?" she asked, looking up at him.
"Weren't you just saying last night that you were having trouble sleeping?"
"Well, yes, but I - " she squeezed the glass bottle and gave a little smile. "Thank you, Severus."
"You're welcome." He told her. "How's Potter?"
"Madame Pomfrey fixed him up; he's fine." she said bitterly. Severus raised an eyebrow at her tone.
"You don't sound pleased with that. Would you prefer him with a broken nose? I'm sure I could arrange it."
Valora laughed lightly at his humor and he gave her a small smile.
"No, that won't be nessacery. I'm just a little...stressed, is all." she said running a hand through her hair.
"I see, well, perhaps a good nights sleep will help with that." He said, his dark grey eyes locking with hers.
"Maybe, but I doubt it will be strong enough to suppress the memories entirely." She said. Valora bit the inside of her cheek. That was probably more than she should have divulged.
"I assure you. You'll sleep soundly." He told her. Now it was Valora's turn to raise a brow.
"You sound like you're speaking from experiance."
"Yes." Severus told her, looking down at her. She stared up at him. Was this his way of telling her he dreamt about them as well? She wanted to ask so desperatley, but Severus quickly filled the silence.
"Well, I suppose I'll see you tomorrow morning. Goodnight, Pr- Valora." He said, quickly striding off towards the dungeons leaving Valora to stare after him. Valora went to her room and climbed into bed. Severus's potion worked like a charm. She didn't dream at all.
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