Chapter 3 : III: The Pain of the Heart
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The meeting of their minds was brief but intense. Severus saw five years of sleepless nights, five years of longing and sorrow. And he also saw the birch tree burst into flames and sensed the will to go on as well as the need to let go. Then Severus withdrew and looked at Morgaine. From what he had seen in her mind, he had expected her eyes to be red-rimmed, filled with a desperate pleading for freedom. But there wasn’t a trace of emotion in those heavenly blue eyes, and they were empty even of tears. And Severus wondered if Morgaine had ever cried or if she had been stupidly fighting the liberating tears, just as he had been fighting his for so many years.
Morgaine blinked and turned away, and a flick of her wand was all it took for the dust to rise from the two armchairs in front of the fireplace. A second flick started a fire in the grate. And as Morgaine settled in the armchair that had become hers already when she had been his student, Severus felt a warmth flow through his ghostly body which he had not experienced for years. He had missed Morgaine dearly, but it had never been so clear to him as it was now.
‘How have you been?’ he enquired as he took to hover over the chair opposite Morgaine.
‘Busy,’ she replied, her voice just as soft and warm as Severus remembered it. And he wished that she would say his name and tell him that she had missed him, too. He also wished that she would look at him. But she kept her eyes firmly on the fire that was slowly growing in the grate. The flames were reflecting in her eyes and gave her hair a warm, fiery colour. Severus would gladly have sold his soul to be able to run his hand through her hair. And he wondered if it still smelled of sandalwood and honey.
‘There are still people coming to the village all year round to study herb lore or just to take a time-out from their busy lives,’ Morgaine went on. ‘There is a lot to do. My grandmother is getting old, but she refuses to hand over her responsibilities to anyone else. It’s quite a task to take away work from her without her noticing.’
‘I can imagine that your grandmother would not let anyone tell her to slow down,’ Severus stated. ‘Stubbornness runs in the family.’
‘You’re one to talk about stubbornness, Severus Snape.’
Severus gasped as Morgaine said his name, and when a short laughter escaped her lips, he could only stare at her. Her laughter was the loveliest sound he could imagine, and it spread through his study just as the light of a newly lit candle lights a dark room. But unfortunately, it died away far too quickly.
‘These walls have not heard laughter for years,’ Severus said, once more trying to catch Morgaine’s eyes. ‘And neither have I. I have missed your laughter.’
And I have missed you, he added in his thoughts. But he did not dare say it out loud. If Morgaine had really been unable to get over his death, if she were still mourning him, he would have to help her to let go. And if that meant keeping his distance, he would do that, even if it hurt.
When Morgaine finally turned to look at him, Severus felt a shudder go through his ghostly body. Nothing in her face suggested that she had been laughing moments ago. In fact, her face resembled a mask. And there was a questioning, almost calculating look in her eyes.
‘Why are you still here?’
Her question staggered Severus almost as much as the matter-of-fact tone in her voice. ‘I do not know, Morgaine,’ he lied. ‘The other ghosts think that I have some sort of unfinished business that prevents me from passing on.’
‘Do you know what it is?’
‘No, I do not.’ Again, this was a lie. He had a pretty good idea, but he did not dare tell her.
He had understood the moment she had entered his study and he had seen her empty eyes. His unfinished business must be her. His task was to re-kindle the light in her eyes and to help her mend her broken heart. She had stood by his side for so many years. The least he could do for her was to make sure that she could smile again. But he had no idea about how he was supposed to do any of this. If he told her about his task, she would surely blame herself for being the reason for him not finding peace. And that would hurt her even more than his death had. Therefore, Severus decided to hold his peace.
Morgaine nodded slowly with her teeth gnawing at her lip and her eyes slightly narrowed. She did not believe a word he had said, Severus was well aware of that. But she didn’t say anything.
Instead, she got up and straightened her robes. ‘I was planning to use your old classroom for Potions, if that’s alright with you. It’s by far the most suitable room in the castle.’
‘Of course I do not mind,’ Severus replied, somehow relieved that Morgaine had changed subjects, and at the same time disappointed that she was about to leave. ‘You are welcome to use the study as well.’
‘No. No, that’s alright. This ... this is your study. I ... I would not want to intrude.’
Severus frowned. Stammering was not a trait he attributed to Morgaine, neither was nervousness. But he could clearly see that her pupils were dilated and that her breathing had quickened. She reminded him of a trapped animal. And for some reason, she seemed to want to leave his study as quickly as possible.
Once more, Severus tried to touch her mind, but ran headlong into a solid brick wall. And he did not need asking. He knew what that meant. It had been him who had taught Morgaine that technique in the first place. She had shut him out, and he figured that she had a good reason for it.
‘I’ll be using my old study on the first floor,’ Morgaine declared, already heading for the door. And Severus almost didn’t hear it when she silently added that he was welcome to visit at any time.
He found it hard to take his eyes off the door once it had fallen close behind Morgaine, and he hated the sound of her heels against the stones in the corridor beyond. She was walking away far too quickly. It seemed almost as if she wererunning away.
This was not how he had hoped their first meeting would be. Minerva had prepared him that Morgaine had changed, but he had not expected this. She had always been his light in the dark, and her calm voice and kind eyes had warmed him during those nights when his very soul had seemed to be frozen to ice. But now, Morgaine seemed distant, even cold. And she had even denied him access to her mind.
The voice of Albus Dumbledore made Severus spin around, and he glared at the old wizard who had appeared in a so far empty picture frame in the back of the study.
‘What do you want, Dumbledore?’ he snarled.
‘There, there, dear boy,’ Dumbledore replied with a kind voice, and his eyes were twinkling behind his glasses. ‘After five years, I would at least have expected a Hello, Albus. How are you doing?’
Severus sneered. It had been even more than five years since he had last spoken to Albus Dumbledore, and most words in their last conversation had been drenched with hatred. And after his death, when he had learned how to materialise and move around in the castle, Severus had had no desire to speak to the old man.
‘What do you want?’ he repeated.
‘I came to see if my great-granddaughter has safely arrived.’
‘In that case, Dumbledore, visiting Morgaine in her own quarters would have been a much brighter idea.’
‘I don’t think I would be welcomed, dear boy.’
Dumbledore sighed, and for a moment, just the tiniest of moments, Severus thought that he had seen a shadow of regret flicker over the old man’s face.
And he might just be right. The days when Morgaine had seen her great-grandfather as a hero had long since passed. As far as Severus knew, she had never spoken to the portrait during their last year in the castle. He himself had kept her away when he had realised that Dumbledore had used his own flesh and blood as a pawn in the war against Voldemort. Now he wondered if keeping Morgaine away from Dumbledore’s portrait had even been necessary. Maybe she would not even have wanted to talk to him at all.
‘Morgaine has changed, has she not?’
To that, Severus could only nod. Of course, he had noticed that himself. And it pained him so much that he could almost feel a physical pain, despite him being a ghost. And he did not know what to do.
‘Don’t let her fool you, Severus,’ Dumbledore continued. ‘The smiling girl you once knew is still there. So is the woman who loved you. Don’t let them hide, Severus. And don’t let Morgaine forget them.’
And then the old man left his frame, once more leaving Severus Snape with a task that seemed impossible to carry out, and which only Severus Snape could handle.
Morgaine’s hands were still shaking when she arrived in her quarters, and she flung open the window, inhaling the warm summer air. Still, she felt as if she were suffocating, and there were treacherous tears burning in her eyes.
It had been him alright. Her Severus, the man she had loved since her school years and whom she had missed dearly for five long years. His voice was the same and so were his eyes, even though they had lost their beetle-black colour. They still were bottomless, unfathomable and seemed to be able to see into her very soul. And she had almost drowned in their infinite depths.
She had managed to escape just in time. Had she stayed just one minute longer, she would have broken. She would not have been able to keep her mental barriers up any longer. She would have sunk to her knees and cried and released all the pain she had held in her heart for so many years. But Severus mustn’t know. Not yet anyway.
‘You are welcome to use the study,’ he had said. His study. How could he suggest such a thing? How dare he?
But Morgaine could not blame him. Severus had certainly meant well. He had of course no idea how many memories that study and the adjoining quarters held for her. Far too many. She had fallen in love in those rooms. She had cried bitter tears which he had never seen. And now that study was heaven and hell at the same time.
It had taken Morgaine all her strength to keep her mind closed. She had not wanted Severus to know how much she was hurting. If her suspicions were right, if Severus was unable to pass on because of her, because they had not had a chance to take farewell, then she must not show him. If he knew that his death had split her heart and soul in two, he would never find peace.
But how would she ever find peace, Morgaine wondered. She was keeping so many secrets, and the burden seemed to slowly break her.
When Severus had died, she had been endlessly sorry for not having told him about his daughter. Maybe, just maybe, the little witch would have given him some comfort. He had always struggled with his Dark side, and some days he had believed that he truly was a Dark wizard. Seeing his daughter – a little innocent child, a White witch – would have shown him that he was good at heart, even if his outer shell were stained with blood. But they had never met. Morgaine had never told him about their child while he had been alive, and now she did not dare tell him.
Another thing Morgaine had been unspeakably sorry about was the fact the she had never told Severus just how much she loved him. She had shown him, of course. She had been right by his side when no one else had trusted him. She had claimed that he was innocent when the whole Wizarding world had seen him as a ruthless killer. And she had whispered words of love into his ear during those nights when he had hated himself so much that she sometimes had wondered how he found to strength to rise in the morning. But she had never told him that her whole heart belonged to him, even her very soul. And if she ever wanted him to find peace, she could not tell him now either.
With a sigh and a heavy heart, Morgaine closed the window and the curtains, shutting out the sunlight and the warm breeze. She longed for darkness, she longed for sleep. She wanted to close her eyes and forget about everything that made her heart ache, just for a while.
She ignored Minerva’s knocking on the door and crept into bed, wrapping the blanket tightly around her. And for the first time in five years, she did not fight the tears that slowly rolled down her cheeks.
Severus felt like he shouldn’t be there when he drifted through the wall into Morgaine’s quarters. She had told him to come and visit at any time, but still he felt like he was intruding, like he should at least have knocked.
Morgaine had decorated her quarters in much the same way she had when she had been teaching at Hogwarts for the first time. The furniture looked comfortable and inviting, and the bookshelves were well filled: Potions books to the left, followed by Defence Against the Dark Arts, then Herbology. Severus smiled at the tidiness. Even when Morgaine had been a student, her bookshelf had resembled his own. He had taught her well.
He should not be here, he thought once more as he drifted through the room. He should have waited to be officially invited. He should not intrude on her privacy like this. But still, he felt unable to leave.
Their short meeting had troubled him immensely. Morgaine had seemed so cold and at the same time so terribly forlorn. And when he had tried to touch her mind and she had pushed him away, Severus had understood that something was terribly wrong.
He had not held her back when she had left his study. How could he have? Instead he had hoped that she would change her mind and come back. When she had not, he had gone looking for her in the Potions classroom and in the staff room, but in vain. And when she had not come to the Great Hall for dinner, he had grown worried and decided to visit her quarters.
The shutters were closed and the fire in the grate extinguished, and for a terrifying moment, Severus feared that once more, Morgaine had fled. But she could not have. He could still sense her.
He drifted towards the bedroom and found Morgaine tightly wrapped up in her bed, fast asleep despite the early hour. There was a candle burning on the bedside table, and the faint light was enough to make her hair resemble dancing flames and her cheeks look slightly flushed. She looked peaceful, and Severus did not dare wake her, so he started to retreat.
‘Please, stay, Severus. Please, don’t leave me alone.’
Severus froze. Morgaine’s soul was crying out for him, and in her sleep the walls behind which she had been hiding earlier that day did not exist. Her mind lay open before him, and Severus lowered his own mental barriers.
‘I have never left you, Morgaine,’ he replied, caressing her soul in the same tender way he wished that his fingers could caress her face. ‘I was right behind you when you left the Shrieking Shack. I followed you to the edge of the Forbidden Forest and back to the castle. I was by your side until the day you left the castle. I was always there.’
‘I didn’t know,’ her mind whispered. ‘I didn’t sense you. I thought I had lost you.’
Morgaine’s eyes snapped open, and Severus felt himself being pushed from her mind. And he felt guilty for having been nosey, guilty for having intruded upon her most private thoughts. But the look in Morgaine’s eyes was soft, and as she sat up in her bed, Severus could have sworn that he had seen a fleeting smile.
He floated towards her and came to hover beside her, so close that he could have embraced her had he been made of flesh and blood. Once more, their eyes locked. And this time, Morgaine did not turn away.
‘Why did you leave, Morgaine?’ Severus asked. He had pondered that question for five years. And now he wanted an answer.
‘After your death ... after you had gone, I felt so alone, Severus,’ Morgaine started hesitantly. ‘I didn’t feel like I belonged here anymore. I had to leave.’
‘Not belong?’ Severus couldn’t believe it. ‘Morgaine, you are a powerful witch by your own right. You are the great-granddaughter of Albus Dumbledore. You do not need me to maintain your position in the Wizarding world.’
‘You have always been there, Severus,’ Morgaine said. ‘From the very day I came to Hogwarts, you were there. Our minds touched before I even knew your first name. You took care of me, you guided me. And over the years you became my best friend and the love of my life. I do not know a Wizarding world without you, Severus. And I do not want to either.’
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