Chapter 7 : Memories
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On their return to Madam Pomfrey's office for the second round of vaccinations, Harry still needed to hold onto Severus while the shots were administered, gripping the Unspeakable's leg in white knuckled fists and biting his lip till it bled trying not to yell. It wasn't that the shots hurt terribly, but the mere fear that they might caused Harry to overreact and tense up, making the ordeal worse. He had refused the Calming Draught the second time, and regretted it, for he found he couldn't remain calm enough and went rigid in fear, despite Snape telling him to relax. So the second round hurt more than the first, but once it was over, Severus asked Harry if he wanted to visit Godric's Hollow, as a reward for bravely facing his fears.
"Yes, I'd like that," Harry said, rubbing his backside and wincing.
"Are you up to flying there, or would you rather Apparate?"
Harry considered. He loved flying, and couldn't seem to get enough of it. Even with a stinging bum, which should have kept him off a broom, he couldn't resist. "Fly."
"If you're sure . . ."
"I am, sir. Flying is the best thing in the world."
"Your father thought so too," Snape replied, with just a hint of sarcasm, since he had always considered James Potter to be an arrogant show-off.
But the sarcasm went right over Harry's head and he couldn't wait to get his broom and fly to the small village of Godric's Hollow.
Severus was less than enthusiastic about the trip, because Godric's Hollow held memories he would rather not recall. It had been there that Lily had broken up with him when they were seventeen and proposed to James, though not at the same time. They had lived in the cottage as newlyweds on their honeymoon, before moving into Potter Manor. Harry had been born in that house and it was there Lily and James had died. Severus had Seen their deaths, but had arrived too late to prevent them. It was something he would regret till his dying day. No, he did not want to return to the sleepy hamlet and recall the last time Lily had kissed him farewell, or the terrible anguish he had felt when he held her lifeless body in his arms for the last time. But he had promised her son, and Severus prided himself on keeping his word.
Godric's Hollow was located in the West Country, close beside the wild moors, such as Exmoor, and was both a Muggle village and a wizarding one. It was famous for being the birthplace of Godric Gryffindor as well as the home of several noted wizard families, such as Bathilda Bagshot, the Peverells, Bowman Wright, inventor of the Golden Snitch, the Dumbledores, and of course the Potters. It had achieved even more fame for being the place where Voldemort died at Harry's hands.
"There are several memorials to your parents there, as well as their graves. The cottage still stands, though part of it has been blown apart as a result of the rebounded Killing Curse," Severus told Harry as they flew towards the town, which was over a thousand years old. He had them under a very tight Notice Me Not charm, so they could fly without fear of Muggle discovery.
"Do people know about them?"
"No, of course not. Non-wizards cannot even see the memorials or the cottage. All evidence of that night has been strictly concealed and if any Muggle did witness something, their memories have been altered."
Soon they were circling over the tiny village and then landing right in front of a war memorial in the center of the town green. There was a post office, a few shops, a church with the graveyard behind it, and a pub as well.
At first glance, Harry saw the memorial as a huge slab of gray stone, polished and with the names of several dead soldiers from World War I and II upon it. But then Severus beckoned him closer and had him rest a hand upon the gray marble slab.
Suddenly, the gray marble shuddered and wavered—and then Harry could see the huge statue carved of his family, Lily, holding him in her arms, and smiling down at him, and James standing behind Lily, a hand resting on her shoulder, looking into the distance. For the first time he could put a face with their names and he gazed upon the marble effigy , rapt.
Severus looked at it too and his heart constricted. "Forgive me, Lily," he murmured, so softly that not even Harry heard him. "I tried. It wasn't enough, always too little too late. But at least your son survived." He placed a hand upon the statue touching Lily gently. "You will never be forgotten."
After a few moments, Severus led Harry away from the memorial and down a long twisty path to the cottage the Potters had occupied. Before it was a handsome wrought iron gate. Severus touched the gate and a memorial plaque arose, saying that the cottage had been deliberately left in disrepair to honor the sacrifice made by James and Lily.
He pushed open the gate and they went inside, walking about the half a cottage. Harry peered into every nook and cranny, wondering if the cottage was haunted. "Are there ghosts around here?"
Severus looked at him sharply. "Not that I know of. Despite the violent way their lives ended, I think your parents went to heaven and are at peace. Or so I would hope."
The top half of the cottage had been blasted away, leaving the ruin open to the sky and the jagged timbers exposed, burnt and blackened at the tips. Harry tried to imagine what it had been like to live here, the cottage was not very big, and the outside still had some rose bushes around it and a large apple tree with a wooden swing on it. Did my mum sit in that swing? Did she hold me and swing back and forth when it was sunny? He could almost recall the motion and the smell of honeysuckle and apples.
He turned to look at Snape, who was silent and brooding beside him. "Did you come here a lot?"
"Once or twice," replied the other. His lips were compressed tightly and his demeanor did not invite more questions.
Harry couldn't recall anything more about the cottage and tried to see if he could feel a ghostly presence in the air. In spite of what Snape had said, he hoped to feel something otherworldly, something that connected him with the parents he hardly remembered. He closed his eyes and stood still, listening, waiting, hoping . . .
"It's not fair," he mumbled angrily. "I can't remember them."
"Sometimes that is a blessing," Severus said, rather sharply, for it was at moments like these that he wished he could retreat into the numbness of memory loss.
"Not to me." Harry retorted.
"Do you wish to visit their graves? Perhaps put a flower or two on them?"
"Okay." Harry followed Severus out of the yard and back towards the village square.
The square was quiet, not many people were about, they were all indoors working or in school. There was a kissing bough above the gate leading into the cemetery and when Harry pushed on the wrought iron gates, they gave without a squeak. Harry was surprised to see how many graves there were, though the wizard ones were on the opposite side from the Muggle families and hidden from view by magic.
"There," Severus pointed to two marble headstones with two entwined cherry trees spreading their boughs over the gravesite. The headstones were carved of fine Florentine white marble, simple but elegant. They bore the inscriptions of James Potter (March 27, 1960-October 31, 1981) and Lily Evans Potter (January 30th 1960-October 31, 1981) and beneath their names was the quote, "The last enemy to be destroyed is death".
Harry mouthed the quote silently and then asked, "What does that mean?"
Severus answered, in a wooden voice, utterly lacking in warmth, "It is a quote from the Bible, Corinthians 15:26, and it speaks about the resurrection of souls. On the last Day of Judgment, when all other foes are defeated, God shall resurrect the souls of the dead, and destroy death in doing so. Or at least, that is how some interpret it."
Harry frowned. "Is that how you interpret it?"
"Death is the final obstacle, or so it would seem. But I have seen things, learned things, in my research that indicate that death is not the end, but the beginning of a new awareness, it is a gateway to the power of the spirit, a transmutation of the soul. Magic in its purest form is spirit, and not tied permanently to flesh. It is why some wizards can return as ghosts, though others walk the Celestial Path to its end and choose to dwell in Paradise. They can also choose to be reborn, and thus will never die. The former Headmaster of Hogwarts, Albus Dumbledore, stated that "death was the next great adventure", since the soul began a new journey, beyond the confines of the earth and sky."
"Do you think you get to choose what you come back as?"
"No. I believe you are sent back and whatever vessel you are placed in you have to live with. The purpose of reincarnation is to learn from the mistakes of your previous lives so you can earn salvation."
"Then you remember who you were?"
"No. Not usually."
"Then how do you learn?"
"By living a good life and trying to follow your conscience. I am not particularly good at theology, Harry, you'd do better to ask a priest or a vicar."
"Would you mind if I flew back to the cottage and picked some roses?" Harry asked then, sensing instinctively that Severus wished to be alone.
"No. But return quickly, within ten minutes."
Harry mounted his broom and kicked off. Within moments he was shooting across the sky and back towards the cottage, which used to be called Rosewood Cottage.
Severus knelt in the soft ground and bowed his head, his guilt overwhelming him. "Please . . ." he whispered, the words like acid on his tongue, drawn bleeding from his tormented heart. "Lily, forgive me . . . I came too late . . . too late to warn you, too late to save you . . . death claimed you, in spite of my vision . . . forgive my arrogance, I thought my Sight made me all-knowing . . . but I knew nothing . . . I was a fool . . . and you paid for it." Silent tears slipped down his face to fall on the grassy mound. "You told me to forget you . . . that all you could give me was your friendship . . . but I never could. My heart belonged to you, then and now. Always. I am sorry I failed you . . . and failed your son. You meant to name me as his godfather . . . yet you never did. When did you change your mind?"
For that was the puzzle he had been unable to solve, the hurt he had been unable to heal. Before Harry was born, Lily had written him, asked if he would stand as her baby's godfather. He had agreed, and waited to be invited to the christening ceremony once the baby was born. But it had never happened. He had learned of the birth after the fact, and also that Black had stood as godfather to the infant. Black, that no-good, pretentious, sly mutt! Who was Potter's best mate, and a pureblood to boot. Lily had always insisted that didn't matter, but it had been Black who stood up with Harry and not the half-blood Severus Snape, Slytherin alumni. Hurt and betrayed, Severus had returned all her letters unopened and buried himself in his work. Until nearly a year later, when Lily had come and delivered a letter personally to Tobias, making the elder Snape promise to have Severus read it. Tobias had convinced his son to read it after a long discussion, and in the letter Lily had apologized to him, saying that James had been adamant that Severus not be named Harry's godfather, insisting that he couldn't be trusted.
"I could not convince him otherwise, and since traditionally the choice of godfather is the father's, I had to accept his choice. But I never felt right, and I wanted you to know that I still consider you the better choice. So I am going to add a codicil to my will, that should anything happen to me, or James, or Sirius, that you assume custody of Harry. I know you shall raise him right, and far better you do so than my sister."
But she had never done so, because after her death, Dumbledore had brought Harry to the Dursleys and left him there, as there was no mention of Severus in the Potters' will, and Sirius was in Azkaban. Severus had been so grief-stricken and full of guilt that he had not protested the ruling, and even if he had, there was no legal proof that he could use to gain custody. The years had passed and Severus had managed to pick up the pieces of his life and go on, making his name as a top magical researcher in the Department, working on top-secret projects. He had nearly forgotten about Harry until the visions, assuming all was well with him.
He stood up, his knees had begun to ache and Harry was not back yet. He checked his watch, it was half-past three, Harry had been gone longer than ten minutes. Where had the boy gotten to? It didn't take that long to gather some roses and wildflowers. Panicking, Severus mounted his broom and flew hell for leather towards Rosewood Cottage.
Only to find no sign of Harry anywhere. Severus felt his stomach plummet. Had Harry met with someone on the way to the cottage? Had he been kidnapped by Death Eaters? Severus had had no warning of danger. Still, the boy was missing. "Harry? Harry, where are you?"
Snape landed his broom, and started to search about and in the cottage. Until a voice hailed him from the front gate.
"Severus! Fancy meeting you here. Come to pay your respects to old friends?"
Severus turned. It was Rookwood, his Department Head. Augustus Rookwood was slender, and tended to stoop because he spent most of his time bent over a table, conducting experiments upon plants and small mammals. He had pockmarks on the side of his face from a bout of dragon pox as a child, before the invention of the vaccine. He was wearing the smoky gray robe and tasseled hood of the Department of Mysteries.
"Mr. Rookwood," he said, giving his Head a quick nod of respect. "Are you here to visit a deceased relative?"
"As a matter of fact, I am. My mother lies here, just south of the Potters' plot. I always come once a month to make sure she is being tended to properly, and to put some jasmine and jonquils on her grave. Mother always did love them. But I also have some interesting news to share with you."
"Oh?" Severus forced himself to focus on Rookwood, though he really wanted to take his leave and search for Harry.
"Yes. I have just learned from a reliable source at Azkaban that Sirius Black attempted to escape this morning."
"Escape? But no one ever escapes from Azkaban."
"Yes, well, he didn't succeed. The Dementors caught him trying to swim away in his dog form. They attacked and killed him."
"Black is dead?"
Rookwood nodded. "So they tell me."
"Did they find a body?"
"Yes. Why? What do you suspect?"
"It just seems odd that after all these years, Black would be so stupid as to try and break out of Azkaban. He never struck me as that idiotic."
Rookwood shrugged. "Well, you know they all go mad after awhile. He lasted longer than most. Although . . . they say towards the end he kept babbling about "The other one . . . and have to find my godson . . ." The wardens thought he was having flashbacks about the Boy Who Lived and maybe he intended to go and find him. But the point's moot now."
Severus frowned. " The other one? What could he have meant? Perhaps he knew something." Could Black have known about Lily's intention to name him as second godfather?
"Whatever he knew, it died with him. I just thought you should know."
"Thank you, Augustus," Severus said, but inwardly his gut was churning. What Rookwood said was true, but Severus was suspicious. Black might have been mad, but he had never attempted to escape before now. What might he have learned that made him so reckless? One thing Snape was certain of was that such information was not something someone had wanted to be known. Perhaps Black had learned something he shouldn't, and had been set up to take a fall. The question was, what secret was so deadly that Black had to die for it?
"Well, I must be off. Left my spliced snapdragon-mandragora cross and need to see how it's doing. " Rookwood said, then bid Snape goodbye and Apparated away.
Severus looked about before taking to the air again.
He flew about the whole village before finally spotting Harry down by the gravesite. Spitting mad, filled with relief and a burning desire to take the brat by the shoulders and give him a good shaking, Severus arrowed down and landed right behind Harry, who had just finished placing a vase filled with flowers on his parents' grave.
"Harry James Potter, where in blazes have you been?" Severus demanded.
Harry turned. "I . . . was getting some flowers."
"Don't lie to me! I went to the cottage, you weren't there. Now where were you?"
Harry stood up. Fear was starting to congeal in the pit of his stomach, but so was indignation. Why did adults always assume he was lying when he was telling the truth? "I'm not lying, sir. I was getting some flowers, but the roses were too thick for me to break, so I went to see if anyone had some shears. I met an old lady, Bathilda Bagshot, and she lent me some and gave me a vase too."
"And it took you over twenty minutes to get back here?" snapped Severus.
"She gave me some tea and cake too."
"Didn't anyone ever teach you not to accept food from strangers?"
"She was just an old lady. How much harm could she do?"
"That old lady was a witch, and she could have done you plenty of harm, had she been one of the bad kind." Severus scolded. "Next time you ask my permission before running off. I thought you had been taken away."
"Taken away?" Harry repeated. "By what? A ghost?" he joked.
But Severus was not amused. "Stop being cheeky! Anything could have happened to you."
Harry rolled his eyes. "I'm fine."
"Need I remind you about what happened to your relatives? The same could happen to you. Next time do as I tell you."
Harry stiffened. He thought the wizard was overreacting majorly. He nodded and turned about to take one last look at his parents' final resting place, muttering under his breath about how Severus was freaking out over nothing. It was something he did often with the Dursleys. They had never heard what he muttered about them. But Severus was keen eared and heard what he said.
"That'll be enough out of you, young man! If you can't follow my orders, you might as well go home. Get on your broom."
"What?" Harry stared at him. "But . . .but . . ."
Severus glowered at him. "This isn't a debate, Mr. Potter. What are you waiting for?"
Harry hopped on his broom, feeling apprehensive, resentful, and angry. Severus was treating him like a baby and he hated it. He hadn't been in any danger at all.
They flew back to Spinner's End, Harry sulking the entire time. Severus ignored him.
When they arrived, it was nearly supper. Tobias had come home and was grilling some steak and baking some potatoes. Normally Harry would have been salivating over the aroma of sizzling meat and roasting potatoes. But he had lost his appetite.
"Go and wash up for supper," Severus ordered.
"I'm not hungry," Harry muttered.
"Fine. Then go to your room."
Harry stomped up the stairs.
Tobias looked up. "Something happen between you two?"
Severus told him about going to Godric's Hollow and visiting the graves and Rookwood's news. Then he told his father about Harry's sudden disappearance and attitude. "I don't understand . . . all of a sudden he's giving me an attitude and telling me not to worry about strange witches."
"Sev, he's testing you. He might not think so, but that's what he's doing. It happens to all new parents sooner or later. Let him cool off and then go talk to him. Explain why you were so angry, I don't think he realizes how much he scared you."
Severus looked doubtful. How could Harry not know how frightened he had been when he discovered Harry was missing? He sighed. "All right. Do you need a hand with anything?"
"No, I've got it under control. Sit down and have a glass of white wine."
Severus obeyed, finding that the wine soothed and calmed him. Soon the meal was ready and they both devoured the steak and potatoes, as well as a green salad.
Meanwhile, upstairs, Harry was pacing about his room, sulky and scared. He couldn't believe he had answered Snape back that way. He wondered what would happen to him now. A smart mouth had always gotten him a clip round the ear or locked in the cupboard or occasionally a smacking. Feeling very frightened now, he curled up in the corner of the room, certain that he was in for it now.
So . . . what did you think about the trip to Godric's Hollow? If you think it odd there's been no contact yet from the Ministry, that's because many things are happening in the wizarding world right now but the Ministry will make its feelings known, have no fear. Oh and there seems to be a bit of confusion about Albus. Dumbledore is DEAD. He got blown up by a curse, it happened in the first chapter towards the end, so that's why he's not in the story.
What will happen next?
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