The next morning at breakfast, everyone was feeling tired and out of sorts. Severus drank three cups of coffee before he felt alert enough to speak to either of his students, and it took Harry almost fifteen minutes to quit yawning into his omelet. Hermione was quiet, eating her breakfast quickly and neatly. When everyone was finished, she looked at her teacher and asked, "Professor Snape? Could you please show me how to wash the dishes wandlessly? Harry says that's the first spell he learned how to do that way."
Severus would have preferred going down to his lab and brewing Calming Draughts, since he knew he would need them after the ordeal Hermione had been through. Unknown to the girl, he had laced her cup with one using sleight of hand last night, to ensure she slept well. But he had promised her he would show her the spell, and he did not like going back on his given word.
"Very well. Go over to the sink. Harry, levitate the dishes into it, if you would."
Harry did so with a graceful flick of a hand. Then he snagged the last piece of bacon and munched it happily. He was curious as to how Hermione would perform with wandless magic. It was considered a difficult discipline to master. Severus had told him most wizards couldn't master it at all. But Hermione had always been a strong witch.
Severus explained how you needed to concentrate when using wandless magic. "You must focus your mind, Miss Granger," he began. It sort of amused Harry how Severus returned to his "professor persona" when teaching, even out of school, and called his students by their formal surnames. He wondered if it were deliberate or just out of habit. "You use your wand to focus your power and harness it, you must learn to use your mind the same way. First, summon your magic and place it into a sort of "inkwell" in your mind. Then, picture a quill in your head, and draw the magic up through it. The spell you wish to perform is an elementary cleaning spell, one most witches use as easily as breathing, especially when they are pressed for time and do not own a house elf. The incantation is Scourgify!"
Like Harry, Snape made Hermione speak the incantation aloud several times to be sure she had the inflection right. She did, and then Snape indicated she was to cast the spell.
Hermione lowered her head and focused hard. During her time alone in the attic at Riddle Manor, she had practiced focusing her will, trying to get out of her prison. Most of the time she was injured and tired and so failed, but this time she was rested and determined to master the task. The imagery Severus had suggested she use came easily to her and she visualized what she wished her magic to do and spoke the incantation a bit hesitantly.
The spell began to work, the sink started running and soap to fill it, but just when a dish would have been rinsed and washed, the spell faded.
"Professor? Why did that happen? What did I do wrong?"
"You did not put the full force of your will behind the spell. And you stopped concentrating. Thus, the spell failed. Think of yourself as a faucet that pours magic from your spout. When you cease to focus and concentrate, you are in effect turning off the faucet."
"Oh! Now I see! I'll try again."
Five tries later she had success. "I did it!" she cried, her eyes shining.
"Good job, Miss Granger. You seem to have a knack for this type of magic." Severus praised.
Harry clapped. "Good going, Hermione!" He hadn't seen that look of joy in her eyes in weeks.
Abruptly, Hermione leaned against the counter. "Oh, my head!"
"Do you feel dizzy or faint?" Severus asked, guiding her to a chair immediately.
"I . . .do and my head hurts too. Why?"
"Because wandless magic takes its toll on you until you grow accustomed to using it." He summoned a Headache Remedy and had her drink it and then told her to put her head on the table until the dizziness passed.
"Is she going to be okay?" Harry asked worriedly.
"Yes. I think this occurred because she pushed herself too hard too soon after recovering from whatever torture Bellatrix put her through. And sometimes wandless magic takes a bigger toll on a strong witch because you tend to draw too much at once." Severus explained.
"Oh." Harry's mouth fastened in a grim line. "Bellatrix Crucio'd her, Professor. Until Lucius made her stop."
Severus swore. To put an innocent child under the Torture Curse was one of the worst crimes to a follower of the Moon Lady. Children were sacred, the hope of the future and to harm one was the ultimate shame.
"But she got her back good," Harry said. "She switched Bella's mind with a dog's mind and left her that way, barking and drooling and running on all fours in a black silk nightie!" Harry started to laugh.
To his surprise, Severus joined him. "It's too bad none of you had a camera. What a photo that would have made. The gossip columns would have paid top Galleons for it, among other things."
After a few moments, Hermione lifted her head from the table. "I feel better now, sir."
"Good. Drink some tea and eat a granola bar," Severus told her, pushing a nut and fruit bar at her as well as the teapot of black Bohea. "You need to eat and drink to refuel your body after performing advanced magic like that."
"Really? Nobody ever told me that before." Hermione mused, doing as she had been ordered.
"When a wizard works with a wand, the fatigue of spellcasting is often less than when he works without one. Most students don't study wandless magic till sixth year. Both of you are young to begin mastering it, but you both show strong talent and discipline, which is a key component to mastering wandless magic."
"I've also heard that you can learn how to cast wordlessly as well," Hermione began.
"One thing at a time, Miss Granger." Severus said. "Don't get ahead of yourself. First you must learn to run before you can fly. Mastering silent incantations is even harder than wandless magic."
"Can you do it, professor?"
Severus nodded. "Yes. A few spells. Apparition is one of them."
"May I try again?"
"Not right now. You need to let yourself rest. Why don't you read up on the initiation ceremony in The Path of Mysteries? Since you will both be undergoing that rite at midnight tonight."
"Tonight?" Harry gasped. "But . . .we're not prepared . . .And last time I tried to find information about the ceremony it was very . . .sketchy."
"That's because you did not need to know it then, but you do now," said his guardian enigmatically. "There will be a description of the responses you should learn and a brief overview of a basic ceremony. Really, Harry, there is little to prepare for. The ceremony is mostly to show your devotion to Selene and vow yourself to Her service and become part of the Selenian family."
"You're going to let me participate too?" Hermione squeaked.
"Yes. Do you wish to be initiated into the Mysteries, Hermione?"
She nodded. "Yes. She looked after me when I needed Her most, She makes me feel worthy and at peace and eases my pain. When She is with me I feel . . .like I have a mother again . . .sort of. Does that make any sense?"
"Yes. When I lost my mother, I was around your age, and She comforted me as well. She is a goddess of great compassion and forgiveness. You are never alone, for She is always with you."
"I know." Hermione whispered, tears flooding her eyes. She dabbed them with a napkin. Then she looked directly at Severus. "I'm ready to learn the Mysteries, professor."
"You are certain? You must be utterly sure before I will allow you to take part in the ceremony. There are no half measures when it comes to the initiation. You must agree to all Selene asks willingly and once you have done so, there is no going back. Unless you repudiate your oath, as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named did." Severus said gravely.
Hermione's mouth hung open. "You-Know-Who followed Selene? But he's . . .evil!"
"Now, yes. Once though, he was Hers too. Until his pride and lust for power overwhelmed him and he foreswore his oath and turned to Set the Betrayer. Now he belongs to darkness, but once he carried the crescent. And every Selenian since then has learned the truth of what he became as a cautionary tale."
"Was . . .Bellatrix once Hers too?"
"No. That one has always been Hecate's creature. And so too is Lucius. Not all wizards follow the Lady, and our numbers have dwindled recently as You-Know-Who has made a concentrated effort to hunt us down."
"Is Professor Dumbledore a follower of the Lady?" was Hermione's next question.
Harry had wondered that himself, and was eager to hear the answer.
"No. If anything, I believe Professor Dumbledore is an atheist, one who does not believe that gods exist. He is a consummate skeptic. And She does not appear to those who have no faith or who refuse to believe in anything save their own actions, for they would not see Her. He regards religion as a trap and a crutch and those who embrace it as naïve. But that is not what I wish to discuss with you. I want both of you to read Selene's Book again and think long and hard about the path you wish to take. Even though She has Marked you for Her own, you still have a choice. Choose wisely, as your heart and mind dictate. There is no shame or stigma in not becoming an initiate. Selene will not repudiate you if you choose not to bind yourself to Her service."
"No. Only if you become an oathbreaker, like the Dark Deceiver, will She rise against you."
Hermione seemed relieved by that statement, and Severus waved them away, saying he would be in his lab brewing should they need him.
Harry went over to the library table to get The Path of Mysteries and then he headed out to the paddock, where his favorite tree was, to re-read the book along with Hermione.
Together they read the part about the initiation ceremony aloud, and both halted when they read that sometimes the goddess Herself chose to come to the ceremony and personally welcome Her initiate.
"Do you think that might happen to us?" Hermione wondered.
"I don't know. I guess it could. You never can tell." Harry said. "It would be an honor to see Her."
"One we would never forget. But the book says that happens very rarely, so we shouldn't count on it."
They continued reading until they came to the end of the book, and by that time several hours had passed and they were hungry, thirsty, and needed the bathroom. So they headed inside for refreshments.
They found Severus inside, making a light salad with tuna fish mixed in with the greens. As they all sat down to eat, Severus once more reassured Hermione that she was welcome to stay with him for as long as she wished. "I can file permanent guardianship papers if you wish, as I have done with Harry here. That is up to you. However, whether or not I am your guardian, I do have several rules you need to follow as long as you live here. I shall provide you with a room of your own and all necessities and in return all I ask is that you respect me and follow the simple rules I have . . .the first being your conduct with Harry. I am aware that you have formed an . . .attachment to him, Miss Granger, and I do not object to it as long as you do not engage in . . .carnal activities with him until you are of age. I have no wish to raise a pregnant teenager. Am I understood?"
Hermione flushed but she said gamely, "Understood, sir. Harry and I . . .well, we would never . . .not till we finished school at least . . ."
"That is good to know," Severus said, obviously relieved that she had answered so forthrightly. "Harry?"
"I agree with what she said, sir. I really don't want to be a father at fourteen."
"Good. You will also have small chores to do, for I don't believe in idle adolescents, since a bored fourteen-year-old gets into trouble, in my experience." He gave Harry a pointed look. He went on to detail the few chores she would perform and also the consequences of misbehavior. "Is this agreeable to you, Hermione?"
"Yes, sir. It's almost like what I had to do at home. My parents thought chores teach responsibility and they didn't believe in spankings for misbehavior after I was out of primary school. Not like Lucius." Her eyes darkened. "I really hope Draco doesn't have to live with him anymore. No father should ever do that to his son."
"No. And since Lucius has disowned him, I don't think he will be returning to Malfoy Manor. If I were Narcissa, I would leave and relocate as soon as I could. And take my son with me." Severus said. "Barring that, he is safest with Andromeda, who will put up wards against Lucius now, I would think."
"Horrid man!" spat the brown-eyed witch. "I'm glad you did what you did to him, Harry. He deserves every whack."
"Actually, that was more Draco's idea than mine." Harry admitted.
Just then, a gray owl flew into the kitchen bearing a letter for Hermione. It was from Professor McGonagall, answering the question she had asked before being captured. In it the professor apologized for answering so late, but the originally letter had gotten misplaced upon her desk, buried under mounds of paperwork until she had finally found it yesterday.
She told Hermione that Memory Charms were an advanced study topic and not to be researched without a mentor, most Memory Charms were banned by the Ministry because they could damage a person permanently, though they were not in the same class as an Unforgivable. She also added that an Animagus with a lost memory was very unpredictable and most times the wizard or witch never regained what had been lost, and remained trapped in their second form forever.
"Who's that from?" asked Harry.
"Professor McGonagall. I wrote to her before we were kidnapped." Hermione explained. "I asked her about Memory Charms and an Animagus who had lost his memory. Here's what she wrote." She pushed the parchment across the table.
Harry read it and said, "Interesting. I guess she doesn't know that love is memory."
"That's because Minerva does not follow Selene, but her sister Neave, the goddess of balance." Severus said. "Sometimes Neave is also known as Ma'at. A stern but fair goddess."
Harry thought that fit McGonagall very well. His Head of House was strict but scrupulously fair almost always. Though she did have a weakness for Quidditch.
"When will we be doing the initiation, Professor Snape?" Hermione queried.
"At midnight, when the moon is at its zenith. Tonight shall be an auspicious blue moon, or so says my lunar almanac. I have placed robes on your bed, Harry, white ones, that you must wear to the ceremony, and yours are on the sofa, Hermione. As soon as I have time, I shall clean out a room for you, there is one next to mine that I was using as storage which should suit you."
"Anything is fine, sir. I'm just glad to have somewhere to call home." She said and then sniffled. "Sorry, I'm just . . .I can't seem to help turning into a waterfall every time I think about . . ."
"That is only natural. But in time, I hope you will come to consider my house a second home. Tomorrow I shall take you back to your old house and see if any personal belongings are still inside it."
"Thank you. I don't mean to be trouble—"
"You are not. Memories are precious, but sometimes it's also good to have a picture or a favorite object to help you remember." He glanced at the wall clock and said, "It's almost time for me to start supper, time does fly when you are discussing important issues, doesn't it? But first I must check on my drafts."
He made his way to the basement and Hermione dutifully started setting the table while Harry fixed a salad, which was a staple at the Snape home.
The ruined temple:
Harry and Hermione stood inside the ruins of the marble temple which the Roman mages had once built to worship and honor Selene. It was the same temple that Titania and Amicus had used to open the moonpaths and also the same temple he had seen in his dreams a few times. The roof had crumbled and was now open to the sky, and as Harry gazed upward, he could see the stars and the brilliant disk of the blue tinged moon. A blue moon was very rare, hence the expression, but tonight there was one, and Severus said it portended great good fortune and a blue moon was also linked to workings of powerful magic.
The temple had once had friezes and a huge statue painted in Her likeness, but these had long since faded and crumbled to dust. Only the altar remained standing and the four walls. A crescent moon had been etched into the altar. Atop it, Severus had placed a white sheet, a silver goblet inlaid with amethysts, a bowl of plums and figs, and two candles.
Harry and Hermione both wore the white robes of the petitioner, which were all of one piece without buttons or ties. They also wore soft white slippers, since a petitioner must not come before Selene wearing anything that tied or bound. The robes signified purity and free will.
They had ridden here upon Moon Fire, arriving at the temple just as the moon crested its zenith. Severus had told them to wait outside until he set everything up and then come in when he called.
They had done so, and then Severus had slipped away behind the altar into a small room where he donned his own robes. They were midnight blue with the phases of the moon embroidered in silver thread on the hem and sleeves. His crescent pendant was worn proudly over them. He returned a few moments later and intoned, "Selene, be with us now. I call upon you, Mistress of Magic, to give your blessing to these candidates who wish to join the Mysteries." He gestured to Harry and Hermione.
He stretched out his hands and the candles upon the altar lit.
"Selene, Lady of Mysteries, Mother of Magic, I ask you to look upon these two here and accept them into your heart, for they are true believers. I ask that you fill their hearts with love and their minds with knowledge and guard their bodies as you see fit. By Your mercy we are healed, by Your wisdom we are humbled, by Your magic we are gifted, for now and forever." He picked up the chalice, and then spoke to his two candidates.
"Did you come here freely, without coercion of any kind, magical or otherwise?"
"I did." Harry said, and Hermione echoed him.
"Do you swear to uphold the tenets of the goddess—to fight evil wherever you find it, to give aid to those in need, especially women and children, to be honorable and truthful in your dealings with your fellow man? Will you be Her Hands and Eyes and Ears if so required?"
This time, they both answered using the ritual words written in The Path of Mysteries. "I shall bind my blood and my magic, if need be, at Your command. I shall dedicate my life to upholding Your laws and values, for knowledge is power, and I shall dedicate my knowledge of all things, arcane and not, to Your service . . ."
Suddenly Harry felt a familiar warmth spread through him and he took a deep breath. He could feel Her there, suffused with power, a smile upon Her face. He peered at Hermione to see if she felt it also. She too seemed to sense the goddess.
Severus handed him the chalice, it was filled with pure water. When he drank it felt icy cold upon his tongue but it also soothed his nerves and any lingering soreness he had developed from the ride. "I welcome you to our company. May you walk always in moonlight, my brother."
Severus handed the cup to Hermione. Again the ritual was repeated. "Selene, watch over Your children always," he said after the chalice was empty. He then picked up the bowl of fruit.
"Bright One, grant these two Your blessing, as You bless the first fruits of the harvest, and protect them always."
"In Your light we are sheltered, by Your magic protected," Hermione chanted. "Great Mother give me now Your bounty, as I, like a dutiful daughter, give You my obedience." She took a plum from the bowl and bit into it. The juice ran clear and tinged with silver down her chin.
Harry repeated the same words, except he substituted the word "son" for daughter. He chose a fig and bit into it, and the sweetness exploded upon his tongue. It was like no other fig he had ever eaten, and he could not even describe the ambrosial taste.
The blue moon haloed them all and Harry could feel the power of Her magic wash over him like a tidal wave. He gasped at the majesty of it, as it mingled with his own, filling him to the brim, and then it faded.
Severus wove a complex pattern in the air, his wand trailing blue and silver sparks. "Keeper of Secrets, I ask a third time to bless these children, who are Your Chosen, and hold them close to Your heart, and share with them Your Mystery, of the magic of the ages. In Your Name, I initiate them into the Path. If this be Your will, send me a sign of Your favor."
This was the part of the ritual where the Book had said that Selene could choose to appear if She so wished, to give special Gifts and to bless Her initiates.
Severus waited the required four minutes to see if She chose to honor Harry and Hermione that way.
Abruptly, there came a flash of brilliant blue-white light from the entrance of the temple. Harry turned his head and saw a small figure step from the light and approach them. She still wore her long violet tunic and her hair was still that strange spun silver. Her bare feet danced lightly over the marble paving stones. And her eyes . . .her eyes shone with ageless timeless wisdom and compassion.
"We meet once again, Harry Potter."
He opened and shut his mouth. His voice seemed to have deserted him. It cannot be. She was just a little girl . . .How can she be . . .the Lady?
Severus was kneeling, head bowed, and so was Hermione. But all he could do was gape like a halfwit.
"Titania!" he blurted. "I . . .I thought you were a queen of the forest!"
She laughed then, the gay tinkling of silver bells. "And so I am. Sherwood is my domain too. I came to you in this guise because you were not yet ready to see me in my other form, and in this one you learned to trust me as a friend. For I have ever been your friend, dear one. And more."
She approached, and held out a silver crescent upon a chain. "Here is my blessing, my beloved son. Wear it always."
Reverently, Harry took the pendant and put it on. Then he kneeled and She bent and kissed his forehead.
He felt such love and compassion fill him that he could not help the tears that ran down his cheeks.
Then She turned to Hermione, and lifted her to her feet. "Rise, beloved daughter. You grieve now for what is lost, but know this. What was lost shall someday be regained, have faith and hope and your heart shall be healed. Here is my blessing, which shall be with you wherever you go. Wear it always." She handed Hermione a crescent too and gave her a kiss as well.
Hermione too wept, unsure if her tears were from joy or sorrow or some odd blending of the two. "Thank you, Bright One."
There was a flicker of silver light and suddenly Selene was no longer the child, but a tall regal woman with hair that fell to her feet entwined with amethysts and other crystals, wearing a robe whose train trailed comets and stars in its wake. She reached out a hand and cupped Severus' chin, her violet eyes shining. "Rise, my Endymion. You have endured much in My service, and soon I shall reward you for it, if you will have me, but first you have one last task to perform for me, Severus."
"Your will be done, Lady," Severus murmured, stunned. Had his goddess just . . . proposed to him? There has not been an Endymion chosen for over a thousand years . . .The touch of her hand on his face stole his breath away and sent a rush of desire spiraling through him so strong that he trembled. He could never remember feeling such overwhelming need, such brilliant love, such admiration for anyone woman, witch, or immortal. Even Lily had not aroused him in that way. He ached to touch her, burned to kiss her, longed to make love to her the way he never had any other in his life . . .He sucked in a breath and tamped down the fiery longing fiercely. Now was not the time. But someday, when She Called him to Her . . .he would at last fulfill his heart's desire.
"You must be my Spear of Vengeance and hunt down the Oathbreaker. I Call you to battle, Severus Snape. You must drive the renegade from the earth, for his hour has come! And I include your wards in this, for they will follow you whether or not they are forbidden, and so I shall not waste my breath doing so. But first . . .I shall bestow upon you all a few gifts . . ."
Hope you all enjoyed this and next will come the special gifts and some revelations about Harry's past.
What do you think the goddess will bestow?
How did you like her choosing Severus as the next Endymion?