Chapter 20 : Someone To Come Home To
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She had twisted the truth in that statement, like she always did. That infuriatingly clever, conniving woman and her 'rules be damned' attitude would be the death of him. Severus tried to focus on the homework he was going through but he couldn't help but glance at the clock. It was almost six o'clock in the evening and assuming she had left sometime around eleven last night it seemed more than enough time for her to get her affairs in order and be back here, apologizing for lying to him. Not that she really would apologize and mean it, she never did. In fact Severus believed a sick part of her loved making him worry. A knock at the door directed his attention away from the time.
"Enter." He called, pretending to be completely absorbed in his work, because if it was Valora he didn't want to seem as though he actually cared. He masked his disappointment with annoyed indifference when a third-year Ravenclaw girl walked in. He could practically see her trembling as she walked forward, careful to keep her eyes on the floor.
"Yes?" Severus asked as he waited for the tiny young thing to speak.
"Professor Dumbledore wants to see you, sir." She said quietly. Severus knew this was about Valora, and he was in no mood to discuss her.
"Tell him I'll be up when I've finished grading these." He said waving his hand at a rather large stack of papers. The girl glanced up at the mountain of work, seeing what the coming years of Potions would bring her, before daring to look over at the man behind the desk.
"He said you'd say that, Professor. He also said to tell you that it's urgent, and if that didn't get you to come up to tell you it's about Hamlet's fight scene." She said, clearly confused by the words. Severus fought to keep the alarm from reaching his eyes.
"Get yourself to dinner." Snape snapped, sending the girl scurrying from the room like she was being chased. Severus waited a moment before practically running out the door.
'Damn. What had that woman gotten herself into this time?' he thought as he made his way to the Headmaster's office. Surely she's alive, he'd know if she weren’t. Why didn't she listen to him? No doubt she had gotten herself into a heap of trouble. Please, Merlin let her be all right.
Severus was in such a frenzy that by the time he reached Dumbledore's office he didn't bother knocking, instead he swept right in. Thankfully the Headmaster was alone.
"Where is she? What's happened?" He said, gripping the desk, trying to keep his breathing steady.
"Three Death Eaters found her in Knockturn Alley. She's a little scraped up but otherwise fine. She's staying with Sirius until the holiday is over." Dumbledore said. Severus let out a breath he had been holding and sank into a chair that resembled a corn muffin, hiding his face in his hands.
"What the hell was she doing there?" He asked, looking up.
"I haven't a clue to be honest. She simply said she had things to do that were-"
"-Private and urgent?" Severus finished bitterly. Albus gave a small smile.
"She didn't exactly enlighten you either, I take it?"
"No, she did not." Severus said, standing and beginning to pace as he thought. Dumbledore watched him for a moment.
"I'm sorry, Severus." The older man said quietly. Snape threw an angry glare out the window.
"Don't be. It's not your fault she is the way she is."
"Not directly, but if you were able to tell her the truth, I'm sure she would give you the same respect. You two didn't have secrets before this." Dumbledore said sadly. Snape gave a non-committal shrug.
"I can't tell her what I'm doing for her own good."
"Of course." Dumbledore agreed. "Without Occlumens, she's at an even larger risk."
"I've been telling her she has to re-learn it soon, but she isn't listening, which is typical of her. If I tell her to do something nine times out of ten she will go and do the exact opposite just to spite me."
"Who taught it to her in the first place?" Dumbledore asked, curiosity twinkling in those too blue eyes of his. Severus looked almost sheepish.
"Our sixth year. She didn't want her father to find out about us, or anybody else for that matter." Severus said, his mind wandering to the late nights they had spent practicing. He had seen some of the worst moments of her life, things she hadn't even told her closest friends.
"That takes skill, Severus. I wonder if you could do it again?"
"Teach her Occlumens again? She'd never agree to it." He said, dismissing the idea with a wave of his hand.
"She might, especially if it meant there wouldn't be any needs for secrecy between you two." Dumbledore said simply.
"I don't understand." Severus admitted, his brow furrowed in confusion.
"I know how much Valora means to you Severus. It must be killing you to hide the truth from her. When the time comes for you to do as I have asked, it wouldn't hurt to have her on your side. Besdies, she could help you where Harry is concerned."
Severus was quiet for a moment as he considered it. Being able to freely confide in her, she would be able to support him in this, and she wouldn't feel so shut out.
"I suppose I can try. It will take some convincing but I'll make sure she agrees to it." Severus said. Dumbledore leaned back in his chair and smiled.
"Excellent. I'll arrange it so you leave tomorrow morning."
"I want you to start with these lessons immediatley. I'll be sending a letter ahead to Headquarters to let them know you'll be staying the holiday. I also want you to keep an eye on her Severus. Few people know how valuable she is to the Order. She needs more protection than she has."
"Sir, why not ask Lupin or Kingsley to watch after her? Don't you think assigning me will make it look suspicious?"
"Nobody will know that you are her guardian, Severus. Besides, you are one of the few people that will put her safety above Harry's, and in a situation as delicate and dangerous as this that is precisely what we need. Harry has the entire Order of the Phoenix protecting him, Valora has you."
Severus nodded. When put into that perspective he realized just how dangerous Valora was to herself. He was glad he was leaving in the morning. The faster Valora learned Occlumens the safer she would be.
Severus left for Headquarters before the students had even woken. A castle elf would be brining his things separately. He walked up to the front door of Grimmauld Place and knocked quickly on the door before mentally composing himself for the task at hand. To act as though this was an inconvenience instead of the most urgent matter at hand. He was desperate to see Valora and they were taking far too long to open the door. Almost ten seconds had passed since he'd knocked. He raised his hand to knock again when the front door swung open to reveal an extremely unhappy Sirius Black.
"Black." Severus said, walking inside. They stood sizing each other up for a moment.
"I don't understand why he sent you. She's perfectly fine."
"Why don't you leave someone with actual skill to decide if she's adequately cared for?” He sneered. Sirius narrowed his eyes.
"She's asleep. You'll have to wait to see her." Sirius said walking off. Severus fought down the urge to strangle him.
"The Headmaster asked me to see her as soon as I came here, but if you would prefer to go against him I'll have no problem owling him."
"Why you greasy-"
"Sirius!" Molly hissed as she walked out of the kitchen. She flicked a dishtowel at him before walking towards Severus, trying to smile.
"Hello Professor Snape."
"Good afternoon. I need to know where Professor Nox's room is." He said quickly but as politely as possible. He pitied Molly Weasley, stuck with those loathsome twins...
"It's on the third floor, on the left." She said smiling and pointing him toward the stairs. He nodded and murmured a thank you.
"I'll show you." Sirius said loudly, attempting to follow Severus up the stairs.
"I'd prefer to examine the woman in private, Black."
"Absolutely not!" Sirius protested.
"Sirius!" Molly hissed yet again, her eyes bulging. Sirius threw her a look before glaring at Snape and retreating down the stairs. At that moment Severus had never been more grateful for Molly.
Severus came to the third floor and turned left, coming to the only door. He didn't knock, just walked right in, making sure to lock the door and cast muffliato as well, so they wouldn't be disturbed. He looked to the bed where Valora lay sleeping. Her hair was down and framing her face which was badly bruised and still swollen in places, although the cuts did look clean. She had no shirt on and was only wearing a dark purple bra. It seemed as though she had torn apart her shirt and used it as bandaging to set her ribs. He managed the tiniest of smiles at that.
'My clever girl.' he thought. Severus walked over and sat beside her kissing her on her forehead gently. Her good eye flickered open while the other remained swollen shut.
"This is a surprise." She croaked and attempted to sit up until Severus gently put his hands on her shoulders, keeping her on her back.
"Stay still while I-"
A frenzied knocking on the door interrupted him. He quickly released the muffliato charm and unlocked the door with a wave of his wand.
"Enter." He called. Sirius came in practically steaming from his ears. He stared for a moment at Valora's hand, which was dangerously close to Snape's knee.
"What the hell is going on?" He asked. Valora raised an eyebrow.
"I'm being examined, Sirius. It's not a difficult concept to grasp." She said sarcastically. Snape fought the urge to smile. Sirius crossed his arms in front of his chest.
"We could have had almost anyone else in the Order do that. Why did Dumbledore send him?" He asked bitterly.
"Merlin, Sirius, who cares?" Valora said rolling her eyes at his ridiculous attitude. He was just being plain annoying now.
"He sent me because I'm also supposed to teach you Occlumens." Severus said indifferently. The eyes of both Sirius and Valora bugged at that.
"I beg your pardon?" Valora asked, still slightly stunned. Sirius tried to compose himself.
"Did he tell you why she has to learn that?"
"No. Should he have?" Severus asked, giving Sirius an annoyed glare before beginning to unwind the bandages around Valora's middle. While the one hand unraveled the fabric the other hand was touching flesh, holding her hips steady.
"Get your hands off her!" Sirius yelled, pointing his wand at Severus who gave an exasperated sigh before looking up. He was about to say something when Valora's voice came from his right.
"SIRIUS BLACK, YOU GET OUT OF MY ROOM THIS INSTANT!" She screamed, the remaining areas of face that weren't covered with bruises turned bright red. For a moment even Severus was worried.
"But, 'Lora-" he said sadly.
"Don't you but 'Lora me! You're being ridiculous and I'm in no mood to deal with it. Now get out!" She said, still angry. Sirius glared for a moment at Severus before closing the door. Valora angrily snatched up her wand from the beside table and locked the door before re-casting the muffliato spell, that Severus had invented. She looked at him and shook her head.
"Unbelievable." she said.
"Not really. Black never liked me-"
"Not him! You!" She said, wincing a bit as she struggled to sit up. Severus tried to get her to stay put but she batted his hands away. He stood and walked to the other side of the room and they stared at each other for a moment.
"What exactly have I done now? Because last I checked you were the one who lied and almost got herself killed!" He spat. Valora rolled her eyes.
"Yeah, well, I'm not dead yet. You on the other hand may get me caught! Occlumens, Severus? It's not like riding a bike, you know! It takes a lot of effort."
"Yes, I know. I use it everyday!" He said caustically. Valora let out an angry breath and reached into the pocket of her jacket, which lay on the floor. She pulled out a pack of cigarettes and a lighter.
"I thought you quit that." Severus said quietly.
"You thought wrong." she mumbled with the cigarette between her lips as she clicked the lighter a few times before the flame caught. She took a long drag before exhaling and looking at him, tossing the pack and the lighter back onto the floor.
"I only do it when I'm really nervous, or in this case angry." She said, using a half-finished mug of coffee as her ashtray. “So exactly whose bright idea was this?"
"Dumbledore's. He doesn't think you're protected well enough."
"Harry's the one that needs protecting-"
"-Harry's got the entire order looking out for him. You are the one I'm worried about." Severus said crossing back to sit beside her. He resumed taking the bandaging off and as he did so Valora put out her cigarette and ran a hand through her hair. Severus looked at her face and grimaced.
"That bad?" She said with a small smile. He said nothing but conjured a small ice pack for her to put on her face. She laughed a little and put it over her black eye. Severus felt along her newly repaired ribs, making sure they had set in the right way. She let her hand slide over his and he looked up at her.
"What were you thinking?" He asked quietly. Valora shrugged and took a deep breath.
"What do you mean?" She asked, tilting her head to the side. Severus's eyes narrowed.
"I seem to remember asking you not to go into London." He said throwing the ruined shirt/bandage to the floor. Valora crossed her arms and sat up a bit more so they were eye level.
"No. You asked me not to go yesterday. I left the night before." She said defensively.
"What was so important it couldn't wait then?" He demanded angrily. Valora looked away and pursed her lips, refusing to tell him. Severus groaned reached into his robes for a vial of clear liquid: Veritaserum.
"You wouldn't dare." She whispered, her eyes wide, flickering from the vial to Severus's face. He frowned.
"No, I wouldn't. This isn't what I meant to bring but in my rush I must have brought the wrong vial. Although getting the truth out of you doesn't seem like such a bad idea." He said with a mischievous look in his eye. Valora frowned at him and he sighed.
"I'll go and get the proper potions and some books on Occlumens-"
"I'm not re-learning my Occlumens with you!" She said, her eyes showing a new emotion: fear. Severus stood and fought to remain in control of his anger.
"Are you hiding something?"
"Of course I am! Merlin, Sev. You think I showed you everything in those memories? You think I want you seeing my lowest points all over again? You think I want you to see how pathetic and weak I was? Well, I don't!" she said bitterly, tears tightening her voice. Severus laid gentle hands on her bare shoulders and kissed the top of her head.
"You don't have to hide that from me Valora. I love you, and whatever happened in the past will never happen again because I'm never letting you go again." He whispered, feeling guilty for bringing this down on her.
"I'm sorry. I know I'm being ridiculous, it's just...for fourteen years I've been this shell of a person and you managed to go on living like everything was fine. I hate it when you're better than me at anything, you know that." she said with the smallest of smiles.
"That only means I'm a better actor. The world meant nothing without you in it." He said, resting his cheek against the top of her head. Valora sighed.
"The apartment, from my memories. I still own it. That's where I was yesterday, cleaning it, but I didn't finish. I planned on going back today, finishing it and selling it. There's some rather incriminating things there. Letters, well, attempted letters, mostly to you." Valora paused and locked her tawny eyes with his dark grey ones. "He can't find them."
For a terrible moment Severus wasn't sure if she meant Voldemort or Sirius then he pushed the jealousy from his mind and saw what she was asking.
"I'll handle it." He said kissing her once more, this time even more softly, on her swollen lips. Valora reached up to touch his face, she had missed him, even though they had only been apart for a day. He began to walk towards the door when Valora's voice stopped him.
"Wait! What's my diagnosis?" She asked with a smile.
"It seems you've suffered a serious beating." He said dryly.
"Thank you Doctor Snape." She said with a sarcastic eye roll.
"I'll get you something to fix your face while I'm out as well."
"Don't bother. I like looking tough." Valora said, winking with her good eye. Severus raised an eyebrow.
"You don't look tough, Valora. You look like you had the shit kicked out of you." He said flatly. Valora crossed her arms again and pouted.
"Sod off." she said bitterly. Severus laughed quietly before removing the spells and walking out the door. Valora looked up and saw her trunk at the foot of the bed. Dumbledore must have sent an elf over with it sometime in the night. She reached in and pulled out fresh clothes when she saw something surprising. The framed picture of her and Severus, hidden beneath a bulky black sweater. She smiled. The house elves truly were the most adorable things ever. She wasn't worried, they were forbidden to discuss what they found in the faculties private rooms, and thank Merlin. Valora had no desire to know what Trelawney kept beneath her mattress. She ran her hands over the picture where she smiled up at the camera and Severus smirked, but just barely. That man hated to smile unless he was laughing at her. A knock on the door made her shove the picture back into her trunk.
"Yes?" Valora called.
"Valora dear, we're leaving to pick up the children, did you want me to bring you something back?" Molly's voice came from the other side of the closed door.
"I'm fine, I'll be down in a minute and make myself lunch. I just need to change." She said. Valora made sure to lock both her trunk and the door to her room before she left.
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