Sometimes I wonder if things could have been different, had I known, had I really understood. I was just a kid back then, barely sixteen. What did I know about the emotional storms of the human heart outside my own?
I'm a fool.
It's not that I take responsibility for his actions—only he is answerable for what he's done in his life. But did I drive him to it in the end? Looking back as an adult, I can only chide myself for my ignorance. Had I seen his hunger for intimacy, understood his aching need for affirmation, maybe...
But that's all in the past.
Perhaps I assume too much about myself and my own importance. Maybe he would have gone astray regardless of what I did to him. It’s hard to say. Still, I can't help but recall that brief acquaintance I had with Severus Snape during the latter part of our Fifth Year. It happened quite by accident, actually.
My favourite class at Hogwarts was Transfiguration, but my best class was Charms. I hated Potions. It wasn't because of the teacher. In fact, I always sort of liked Professor Slughorn, even if he did play favourites with his beloved "star" students. He had this jolly disposition that always lightened the otherwise serious mood of the class, something I appreciated as a so-so potions maker. Most of us just plugged along and brewed our potions and never expected more than E's or A's on anything. We didn't have the raw talent of Lily Evans or the alchemical genius of Severus Snape. We just endured.
My usual partner for the class was Peter Pettigrew. James Potter partnered with Sirius Black, of course, and Lily partnered with Sarah Dawlish. It was a perfect arrangement. Actually, I would rather have partnered with James than with Peter. James fooled around a lot in class and kept us all laughing, but he was a great student all the same. My private theory was that the humour was to show off to the guys but the good marks were to show off to Lily. Wormtail, on the other hand, was a bit unpredictable. Some days he was brilliant, but most days, he struggled to keep up even with me.
Lily didn't always buy James’ antics, though. Lily was as perceptive as she was talented as a witch, and she could see through James' veneer of cockiness on Day One. That was the funniest part of the whole thing, those days when she really put him down.
In the meantime, however, we also shared our Potions class with the Slytherins, something which always made me nervous. I was sure that no one but my closest friends knew about my...condition, and it would have been an unmitigated disaster should anyone in Slytherin find out. The teachers all knew about me—they had to—but they always kept my confidence, including Professor Slughorn. Naturally, he never invited me to his little Slug Club parties. Those were reserved for the brave and the beautiful. I was neither.
The worst part of my condition as a werewolf is the secrecy I must exercise every day. As a boy, I always wished I could just tell the world and have the world embrace me and offer me succor and good wishes. But that was impossible, naturally. My three best friends knew of my situation, even learned how to become Animagi so they could be with me on my worst days when I was so sick and pained and in danger of being discovered. As far as I knew, no one else amongst the students knew what I was.
And then Peter got sick one spring morning. The previous night he had been slightly pale and green, and before bedtime the poor bloke was retching in the bathroom. His temperature soared to 103º and he had to be rushed to the Hospital Wing to recover. Prongs, Padfoot and I promised to visit him after lessons the next day, but that still left me in a bit of a quandary for Potions that day.
From the very start, Severus Snape was someone who preferred to work alone, especially in Potions. He was the only one who outdid Lily in the subject, the only one who outdid Prongs in just about every other subject. Severus was a force of nature—an amazing mind, a sharp wit, an aura of danger about him. Naturally, he and James hated each other from our First Year, though I only learned why some time later. Since then, James had told us over and over that Severus was a dark wizard, someone to be rejected and scorned and harassed, for the sake of the greater good. Personally, I think it had to do with Severus’ hair. But that’s only a private thought.
Severus was not what anyone could call handsome, nor even close. Then again, neither was I, but that’s another matter. He was tall, lanky, angular, gawky, never quite grounded in his body. Then there was the hair, the long, oily hair that looked…well…it was just sad. A lot of people used to laugh at Severus, shoot cruel jokes about oil slicks and such, all of which he would brush off like so much dross. At least I thought that’s what he did.
Nothing seemed to phase Severus, emotionally or intellectually. I thought he had the inner strength of ten wizards. I was always secretly impressed by his reserve, his ability to remain a tough stoic in the face of scores of immature wizards and witches, all of whom looked a hundred times better yet didn’t possess a fraction of the academic gravitas that he held within his mind and soul.
When I walked into the Dungeons for Potions that afternoon after lunch, I sensed trouble. With the absence of Peter, I had no idea with whom Professor Slughorn would partner me—I had a sense of dread that he would put me with Severus, the very last thing I wanted. Sure, I wanted to reap the benefits of Severus’ vast knowledge of the subject and lean on him in order to boost my own performance. On the other hand, I had to contend with the presence of James and Sirius, who I knew would give me no end of hell for such a partnership, especially if I dared to speak well of Severus in the least. That would have been the Unforgivable Sin.
“Ah,” Slughorn said as he set us to our task, “I see that we are short one Gryffindor this morning, and one Slytherin! Very well, very well, not to worry. Uh, Mr. Lupin there, I see your partner is indisposed today, oh yes, and Mr. Snape is equally without a partner…”
James came to the rescue. Well, he tried. “Professor, sir, Remus can work with me and Sirius today. Can we have a group of three?”
“Thank you, thank you, Mr. Potter, but no. This project today is strictly for pairs, not trios. Mr. Lupin, I’d like you to gather your things and move over to Mr. Snape’s work station.”
A few sniggers echoed throughout the room. Sirius made a gag-me face behind Slughorn’s back, which made me laugh. I rolled my eyes and moved to Severus’ table. Slughorn tapped the blackboard with his wand, producing the ingredients and directions for the day’s potion.
“Alright, Lupin,” Severus said authoritatively, “you prepare the cauldron and the instruments whilst I get the ingredients from the storeroom.”
“I can help you with…”
“I am very particular about my choice of ingredients, Lupin, and I don’t wish you to cock it up by unearthing the very worst sopophorous bean in the entire castle.”
Fine. I decided to put up with his snide attitude mainly because I knew that working with him would guarantee me a rare O for the day. Severus took much less time than I thought he would. I barely had time to light the cauldron and get it to what was supposed to be a medium flame. His face soured as he returned, looking with disgust at the flame I had produced. He officiously poked at the flame, adjusting it to what he supposed was the right temperature.
“Now it’s perfect,” he grunted. Severus thrust asphodel root at me. “Here, cut this into half-inch lengths.”
In the meantime, he went to work measuring the blue and the brown liquids that would form the base of the potion. I watched with fascination as he poured each carefully into the cauldron, half neglecting my cutting.
Severus frowned. “Aren’t you done with the asphodel root yet?” he asked impatiently. I wondered if he had done this potion before. At a distance, James made a face at me. I laughed and returned to my cutting, that is, until Severus stopped me.
“Don’t you see what you’re doing?” he asked impatiently.
“What? You said half-inch lengths!”
“Do you even know what a half inch looks like? Those have to be at least three quarters of an inch!”
“Never mind. Just take care of the sopophorous bean, alright?” In the meantime, he placed a few more ingredients into the potion and then stirred—clockwise three times, counterclockwise once, and so on.
I cut away at the bean until, once again, Severus stopped me.
“Crush it,” he sneered.
“With the side of the knife. Crush it. You’ll get a lot more juice that way. It’s the juice you want, not the flesh of the bean.”
So I crushed it. Severus was absolutely correct, as always. Pretty soon, Slughorn began circulating through the class, looking at everyone’s progress. I glanced over at James and Sirius, whose potion was letting off a sort of green steam that smelled faintly of grass. Sirius stuck his tongue out at me and made a gagging face. I sniggered and returned to crushing the sopophorous bean.
“Hey Moony,” James whispered, “make sure the oil drippings don’t mess up your potion! Sluggy’s coming!”
Severus threw him a fierce glare but quickly returned to the potion. I attempted a grin, but was distracted by the approaching figure of Professor Slughorn. I got straight back to the potion. I gathered the juice and moved to pour it into the cauldron, but just then, Severus placed a thin, cold hand on my wrist to stop me.
“What?” I asked, dumbfounded. “The juice is the next ingredient.”
“Put it in two drops at a time, then stir three times counterclockwise in between.”
“Why can’t I just…” I began. But it was fruitless to argue.
“Just do it, Lupin!”
I followed his instructions to the letter, and to my astonishment, the potion turned a gentle shade of peach, exactly as the directions indicated. Just then, Professor Slughorn approached and looked into our cauldron. He beamed with pride.
“Well well well! My goodness!” he chortled. “Brilliant, boys! Simply brilliant! I was going to give full marks to Miss Evans and Miss Dawlish, but well! I think this is by far the best work I have seen in a very long time. Well done, boys, very well done!”
I sighed with relief, but Severus only raised an eyebrow and smugly placed a sample of our potion into a phial to be graded.
“I’m glad that’s over,” I said, cleaning up our station.
Severus looked slightly affronted. “Back to the rabble with you, then.”
“Oh, no, I didn’t mean,” I stammered. “I just meant the potion was pretty tricky to make.”
Severus nodded dispassionately. “Whatever. It’s not so hard if you understand how the ingredients work.”
“I suppose you’re right.”
Severus slung his schoolbag over his thin, broad shoulders and slumped out of the room, without saying another word. I could only stare after him in disbelief. James and Sirius came to my side, laughing at my expense.
“Survived Snivellus, thank the gods,” Sirius joked.
James conjured a towel and pretended to dry me off. “We don’t want you to slip on the oil slick Snivelly left behind,” he said, laughing.
“Cut it out, Prongs,” I said, jerking myself away from him.
“Hey, at least you finally got a good mark in Potions,” Sirius said. “About bloody time, Moony!”
“Too bad you had to snivel around for it,” James quipped.
“If Wormtail gets sick again, remind me to kick his arse,” I droned. It was a terrible thing to say, and in reality, I didn’t really mean it. In fact, I almost enjoyed working with someone who was a true Potions Master. I was an OK Potions maker, but Peter was far worse, and it was usually I who was telling him what to do and how to prepare the ingredients.
We all laughed at Severus’ and Peter’s expense, though they did more so than I. I couldn’t understand myself at that moment. Everything I knew told me I should be glad to see the back of Severus, that I should be relieved to be far away from his greasy-haired, pale, spotty countenance. Severus had a very dodgy reputation after all. When he was a Second Year, he was often seen in the company of much older, very dangerous Slytherin students such as Lucius Malfoy and Narcissa Black and their coterie of associates. I often wondered why such elite, self-important people would allow such a scrawny little urchin be in their presence.
There were rumours, of course, that Severus was something of an expert in dark magic, that he had been practicing dark spells before he ever arrived at Hogwarts, and that older, power-hungry Slytherins such as Lucius and Narcissa were willing to keep him around—to use him, actually—in order to learn what he knew. In fact, I felt a little like that as I worked with Severus that day in Potions. It wasn’t that I wanted to learn dark magic, because I didn’t. All the same, there was something amazing about him that I couldn’t deny. He just seemed to know…everything.
Therefore, when he approached me the following day, I was more than a bit stunned. I was sitting at the Gryffindor table having lunch with our usual gang, telling our same old, tired jokes and taking our usual pot-shots at the Slytherins. James had a way of reserving his most piercing comments for Severus. He had all sorts of insults for him: greaseball, oil jockey, slimewad, slick, on and on like that. Most of the time it was pretty funny stuff, mainly because James would accompany his tirade with goofy voices and faces. Then Sirius would chime in, and before we knew it we were all shrieking with hysterical laughter. I figured it wasn’t so bad, I mean, these were not bad guys at all. In spite of his rather rough treatment of Severus, James could be incredibly kind and thoughtful. Sometimes. Mostly he was just a comedian.
I never thought beyond the gang. Not then, anyway.
So when Severus approached in his usual slouching manner, I could see James salivating with anticipation. This would be fun. Sirius was already in hysterics before Severus even arrived at our table.
James sniffed the air. “What’s that smell? Is that vomit? Dung?” He comically slapped his forehead. “Oh! Severus! It’s you! Sorry about the mix-up. I’m sure you understand.”
Severus could only sneer at the laughing James and Sirius. “I need a word, Lupin,” he mumbled, barely looking at me.
Sirius snorted derisively. “I need a word, Lupin!” he aped, slurring his words.
“You need a bath, Snivellus,” James sniped.
Severus rolled his eyes and tried to ignore them. “You need a brain, Potter,” he shot back.
Everyone at the table laughed.
“That’s telling him, Snape!” Sirius sniggered. “You really know how to dish out the insults.”
“I can dish out a lot worse than your puerile slurs, Black,” Severus retorted stiffly. I cringed, knowing what would follow.
“Yeah, I’ve gone in the bathroom after you’re done in there, Snape,” James said, waving his hand in front of his nose. “You sure can do some damage!”
More laughter. Severus should have seen it coming. Perhaps he did.
At any rate, I stood up, figuring that I could use my role as Prefect to get away from the very uncomfortable scene. “What it is, Severus?” I asked.
He motioned for me to follow, which I did, in spite of the jeering that rang in our ears as we left the Great Hall and made our way outside, toward the Forbidden Forest. The moment he was entirely sure we were alone, he stopped in his tracks and turned to face me.
“I know about you,” he said, looking into my eyes.
I looked askance at him, unsure of what he meant but dreading what I was sure he was about to say. “Know what?” I asked uncomfortably.
“I know what you are,” he said, almost whispering.
I frowned. “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” I said as dismissively as I could.
“I can help you, Lupin,” Severus said. “I know how to brew Wolfsbane.”
I was shocked, outraged. How could he have found out? How? “Why would I…”
“Look, if you don’t want my help, then forget it,” Severus said with disgust. He turned to walk off in a huff, but I stopped him.
“It’s not that, Severus,” I said. “Why do you think I need Wolfsbane?”
“Can’t tell you that,” he said, looking at his shoe. The shoe was worn at the toe, almost separating from the sole. Most of what he wore was like that, in various stages of shabbiness. “Look, if you want it, I can get it for you.”
Wait a second. There had to be an angle. Why would Severus Snape suddenly be generous to me? I was friends with his worst enemies at school. I routinely joined in the daily abuses against him, though I took a much smaller role in it all. But still…
“Why would you want to do me a favour?” I asked, my voice cold and unbelieving.
“If it were Potter or Black, I wouldn’t make the gesture. In fact, if it were they, I’d broadcast it all over the school. And plus…” Here is came, the conditions. “…there’s a greater need for someone like you.” Huh? “You’re a Prefect, after all, and…you can…do something about those apes you call friends.”
OK, I knew it. There was the angle. “So you give me Wolfsbane, I make my friends lay off you?”
“Something like that.”
“Listen, Severus, I don’t know if I can do that, I mean, if they’re not breaking any school rules, there’s not much I can do about it.”
He shifted uncomfortably on his feet, wringing his hands nervously. “Yeah, well, OK, never mind.”
“Severus, I think you should take their treatment of you to Professor Slughorn or Professor McGonagall. They can do a lot more damage to them than I can. And they can make it official.”
“You mean be a rat fink? I’d rather die.”
I had no idea what to say to him. I could hear James’ voice in my head, telling me to do a full body bind on Severus and push him into the lake, but I balked. I really wasn’t interested in abusing Severus just then. He looked so…sad, so lonely. My heart broke for him, and I didn’t know what to do except to…
“Look, Severus, maybe we could just talk a bit.”
Severus looked unsure. “Talk?”
“Talk. You know, have a conversation. Actually, I did want to know how you know so much about Potions.”
“You think I’m into dark magic?”
“No, that’s not what I meant. I just meant that working with you yesterday was really great, I mean, you really know your stuff.”
Severus shrugged. “I just read a lot. The books are all in the Library, you know,” he said, a tone of disgust in his voice. But then his features softened just a bit. “I’ll show you a couple, if you want.”
“Yeah! Hey, why not show me about Wolfsbane?”
Severus thought a moment, then nodded. “Yeah, alright.”
He showed me not just a couple, but an entire section of the Library dedicated entirely to Potions and their ingredients. OK, it wasn’t as if I didn’t know about this section of books. I just didn’t delve into them all that much, preferring to rely on the prowess of Lily Evans or the good scholarship of James. Between the two of them, I actually learned quite a lot—well, at least enough to get halfway decent grades. Then again, this was our O.W.L year, so my usual grades weren’t good enough. Therefore, anything that Severus could tell me at this point was like gold to me.
Naturally, I had to keep this acquaintance a very deep secret, knowing that James and Sirius simply wouldn’t understand it at all. They saw absolutely no redeeming qualities in Severus whatsoever, but I did. As snide and sullen as he was, I found that Severus as also quick-witted and sarcastic. Most people around school, myself, James, and Sirius included, believed Severus to be almost entirely detached from the daily life of the school, preferring to remain deeply entrenched in his dark and mysterious magical studies. We couldn’t have been more mistaken. Severus, in fact, was deeply in tune with what went on at all levels of life at Hogwarts. He was thoroughly emotionally invested in every aspect of the school and knew things about the castle and about other students and staff that few others did.
Every now and then during our little friendship, I felt tempted to invite him to sit with us—I never did, of course. Then again, he never invited me to sit with his Slytherin associates, so we were even on that score. But between classes and after lessons, Severus and I often found reason to walk together near the lake or in empty corridors, just talking about academics or things like that. He never shared his personal life with me, and I never offered details about mine. While he knew I was a werewolf, Severus never asked how it happened, nor did he seem to judge me for being one. He would on occasion ask how I was feeling physically, especially around the full moon, but that was about it. I assumed he was actually concerned for my welfare.
Finally, the big week arrived for us Fifth Years—I remember having a sick feeling in my stomach as I watched the O.W.L proctors arrive to give us our exams. It was such a nerve wracking experience! James and Sirius kept their cool, as usual, but I knew their insides were probably turning cartwheels, just like mine were. I didn’t see much of Severus during the two weeks before exams, mostly because I was so busy revising and agonising and asking James and Lily all sorts of annoying Transfiguration questions. But the morning of our first exam, I happened to run into Severus in the corridor just outside the Great Hall.
“Hey, Severus,” I said more brightly than I felt.
“Lupin,” he replied stiffly. It was nearly impossible to tell whether he was nervous. Even back then, Severus had this talent for being entirely inscrutable. I really admired his reserve at times. “Ready?” he asked. I could hear just a fleeting touch of boyish nerves in his voice.
I nodded. “No,” I said. We laughed. That felt good, to laugh like that just before such an arduous task ahead of us. “You?”
He shrugged. “Ready as I’ll ever be,” he admitted. But then he frowned at the sight of an approaching Peter Pettigrew. “See you in the first exam,” he said, slumping off to get his breakfast.
The fact that I managed to keep from sicking up all my meals during O.W.Ls was a true miracle. I found that all the little things I had talked about with Severus over the last several weeks really came in handy, as if he were surreptitiously helping me to prepare for the exams. Potions theories, historical facts, spells and laws of Charms he and I discussed all were on the exams in one way or another. By the time we got to our Defence Against the Dark Arts exam, I was ready to collapse and never open another book again in my life—naturally that was impossible, as the next exam was Transfiguration. As I sat through the exam, I realised that one thing after the other on the exam were things that, again, Severus and I had talked over. When I say we talked them over, I mean that I asked a lot of questions and he answered them. He was the best tutor I had ever had—better than Lily, better than James, better than anyone I knew.
At the end of the exam, I wanted to take time to ask Severus how he had done, but that became impossible. I was quickly swept from the room by James, Sirius and Peter—we all peppered each other with questions about the exam, and we all had a good laugh over the werewolf question. That one was a bit of a no-brainer for me. As we all walked out onto the quad, laughing and chattering all the way, I noticed that Severus was following us at a near distance. I was desperate to talk to him and ask him how he did—I know he wanted to ask me the same.
But something awful happened.
We had some time to kill before Transfiguration, and unfortunately, James spotted Severus near us. Before I could say or do anything, James started in on him. It was hard to say who attacked first. Severus had his wand out first, but James fired the first shot. Then again, had James kept his mouth shut and let Severus alone, nothing would have happened. But James just had to start something, all for a laugh.
The whole thing went from bad to worse. First, James put an impedimenta curse on Severus so he couldn’t move, then made soap bubbles come out of his mouth. All Severus could do was lie there on his stomach and choke on the suds whilst everyone stood around and laughed. My safety was in my neutrality, and so, rather than standing up to James, I sat there on the grass and kept my nose firmly in my Transfiguration book, pretending not to notice a thing. But I noticed…everything. My face felt hot with embarrassment.
I glanced up just long enough to see a shamed, humiliated Severus hanging upside down, looking directly, desperately into my eyes. I know what I should have done, and I didn’t do it. I was a Prefect for goodness sake, and I did nothing, even when James had torn off Severus’ sad, pathetic grey underpants and banished them to the Black Lake. I sat there like a frozen Stoic when James made Severus sprout pink bunny ears and a fluffy cotton tail before he let him tumble in a heap on the grass in the centre of the jeering, hooting crowd. It was Lily, not me, who drove everyone away, even after Severus had insulted her. It was Lily, not me, who shouted at James and berated him for his cruelty. All I did was sit there like a prat, my nose still resolutely in my book.
I left him, in fact, all alone on the quad to get to his feet. I didn’t escort him to the Hospital Wing to get the ears and tail removed before the next exam. And when we all gathered in the Great Hall later on for Transfiguration, I kept my eyes conveniently on my notes, pretending to revise one last time. I never asked him if he was alright, and I never expressed any sorrow or regret for what had happened. I just left him there to recover from this humiliation alone.
* * * * *
Time heals all wounds, or so says the cliché. In some respects I think it’s true, but I have my doubts, too. Time hasn’t been overly kind to me in my years since Hogwarts. That’s just part of the burden of my condition, so I can’t afford to be resentful of how life has treated me. But at Hogwarts, there was a certain safety that gave me a modicum of empowerment and allowed me to enter the world with my head held high.
I cannot say that Severus experienced such support as a student.
So when I heard that he was working at Hogwarts teaching Potions, I was curious. I wondered how it must have felt for him to be back there. Hogwarts couldn’t have been a very happy place for him as a boy, considering the treatment he endured. And after I met James’ son on the train to the school, I wondered whether Severus would give Harry the benefit of a doubt, considering the strong physical resemblance between father and son. I hoped.
I knew that I would have to face Severus the moment I entered the castle once again after so many years, which filled me with dread. I hadn’t spoken to him since that event in our Fifth Year, nor he to me. I heard stories about his involvement with You-Know-Who after we all left school, but to my knowledge, Severus had never killed anyone. I liked to preserve a somewhat untainted image of him, perhaps to relieve the guilt and remorse that haunted my conscience after the incident on the quad. It allows me to place him on a slightly higher level than I, which I find necessary to do, for my own sense of rightness. It’s hard to explain.
But I wondered just how much my betrayal might have pushed him into You-Know-Who’s arms. Had we been nicer to him or even just ignored him, would he have become a Death Eater? I’ve read studies and articles about the long-term effects of bullying at school. Sometimes the victims of bullies end up turning to violence and revenge. Sometimes they commit terrible acts even against themselves. It raised a series of horrible questions in my mind regarding Severus, and I could only hope that now that he was no longer a Death Eater, he might have learned to channel his frustrations in a more constructive manner.
As I walked into the castle, I could feel his presence, like a ghost whispering into my ears. At first blush he was nowhere to be found—I figured he was getting Slytherin House ready for its new students. Head Boy Percy Weasley showed me to my rooms before he had to rush back to the Great Hall to help with the arriving First Years. I stood there in the middle of the floor, looking at nothing in particular. The big start-of-term feast would begin very soon, and as a new professor, I was expected to show up. He would be there, too, sitting right up there at the staff table, possibly next to me. I took a deep breath and made my way out to the Great Hall, to face Severus Snape for the first time in over twenty years.
Severus had grown up into an impressive figure, still tall, lanky, and angular. He looked harder, weathered by tough experience, and yet there was an energy and wit about him reminiscent of his younger days. But when he took one look at me, I knew this would be a rough year. It wasn’t just annoyance or dislike that distorted his gaunt features—this was a look of pure loathing. I wished I could have disapparated at that moment, just to get away from that harsh judgement. And to my utter shame, I found that once again, I could not look at him.
Fortunately, I didn’t have to cross his path for quite some time those first couple of weeks. I was too busy with lessons, grading papers, learning how to comport myself in the classroom. By the end of each day I was absolutely exhausted. I had no idea how the other teachers could do this day after day for so many years. The students were wonderful, to be honest. Generally speaking, they conducted themselves in a cooperative manner and seemed open to learning. But the huge responsibility of educating them properly daunted me.
Harry Potter confused me utterly. It was so hard to look at him without feeling the pain of loss of his father. I had loved James so much as a friend, and when he died so horribly, I took it very badly, especially when Sirius of all people was accused of having a hand in it. It all seemed so unbelievable, like an unending nightmare, and as the years passed, I worried about how all the terror of the past would have an impact on Harry. He seemed healthy and well-adjusted enough, but on the other hand, the resemblance to James stopped at his appearance. There was a seriousness about Harry that James lacked. Harry had little of James’ sense of play and joy—but who could blame him?
I know it must have been just as hard for Severus to look at Harry, perhaps harder for him than for myself. Thus, I had to forgive his look of hatred toward me our first night at Hogwarts. After all, he had suffered terribly under James, especially that awful day during our O.W.Ls. I wanted to mend the rift somehow, say something to him that would bring an end to the antipathy. But what could I possibly say? So much time had passed since those days, and in truth, neither of us was the same, thank the gods.
By the end of the third week of school, I needed a break. The full moon was on its way in a matter of days, and I was already feeling the ill effects of another inevitable and painful transformation. I agonised over what excuse I could offer to my students to explain my upcoming absence. Furthermore, I feeling foolish for never resolving my long-ago conflict with Severus. As I walked toward the lakeside, I felt tempted to keep on walking, through the forest and far away from Hogwarts. But I didn’t.
Finally, I came to a stop at the same old spot where Severus and I had spent so much time as students. The same log was there, still half covered with moss, still a bit rickety when I sat down to rest my tired legs. I sat there a very long time, watching the calm waters and the setting sun in the far horizon. For the first time in weeks, I was able to breathe freely, gather my thoughts.
“So you came back.”
I started at Severus’ resonant voice. He stood in the shadows, a haunting figure in black towering over me.
“I always liked this spot,” I replied.
Severus nodded. “Nice and near the forest. Convenient.”
I chuckled at his sarcasm. I wanted to say something, but words failed me. And then, Severus reached into the pocket of his robes. I was sure he was reaching for his wand, but instead, he produced a small green bottle and handed it to me.
“Four drops every six hours should do it for you,” he said casually.
I was dumbfounded. All I could do was utter a mumbled “thank you, Severus.”
With a grunt and a nod, he turned on his heel and walked back to the castle for dinner. I watched him as he went, noting with a little bit of awe the strength in his posture and the majesty of his sweeping stride. Severus had never walked like that in school. He was usually hunched over, as if he were trying to make himself as small and inconspicuous as possible. And now he stood so tall, carried himself with such confidence. I felt miniscule by comparison.
I stood up and followed him at a distance, suddenly realising how hungry I was. As I walked in his looming shadow, I could feel my spirits rise. If Severus could survive the worst troubles that life has to assault us with, then it was time for me to grow up and move on, too.
It’s not that I’ve put the past entirely in the past—that would be inhuman—but what I have learned from that brief acquaintance with Severus Snape is that the troubled soul can always transcend its darkest hours and, though scarred and a little worse for wear, still make its way through the world with a modicum of pride in tact.
What more can you wish for?
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