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Chapter 1 : Silver Doe
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Severus stood on the lawn a few yards from the fish pond, his feet set firmly upon the earth that he was bound to by blood and magic and the manor's unexpected choice of a half-blood sorcerer raised Muggle for all of his childhood. He concentrated and whispered the incantation for summoning a Patronus, a spell he had never tried until now. It was said that in order to summon a Patronus you had to have a single sustaining memory of true happiness. Such a memory was few and far between in Severus' short twenty years of life. Still, he was determined to master this complex spell, and prove to himself once and for all that his life as a spy had not damaged his spirit beyond all redemption.
He shut his eyes and recalled to mind a certain midsummer's day, when he was sixteen, for that was the year Lily and he had plighted their troth, in secret, but the oath was no less binding because of it . . .
King Richard III's Park
"That was a delicious lunch, Eileen," Lily said appreciatively, licking the last of the sugar-sprinkled donut from her lips. It had been her idea to have a picnic with Severus and his mother, to get them out of their dreary home and from under the thumb of the drunken wastrel Tobias Snape. But though the picnic was Lily's idea, it was Eileen who had cooked for it.
It was a splendid day, cool and filled with sunshine, and they had the prime spot of grassy verge beneath several large spreading aspens and oaks, as they had gotten to the park quite early in the afternoon, before the throngs of children and nannies had begun to fill it up. Butterflies and honeybees fluttered above the sweet grass and the wildflowers that dotted it.
Eileen had brought an old quilt and spread it beneath the trees and then opened the picnic hamper, which contained thick ham and cheese with sweet-spicy mustard sandwiches, cucumber salad, salty crisps, bacon and macaroni salad, and a dozen sugared donuts. Plus a large jug of fizzy fruit punch, a recipe Eileen had learned from her grandmother. Severus, who had learned to cook at Eileen's knee, had made the sandwiches while Eileen had fried the donuts and made the salads and punch.
When they had all eaten their fill, Eileen quietly began to pack away the leftovers, they would be eaten for supper, nothing was ever wasted in the Snape house. All in all, it had been a very pleasant afternoon, a rarity in the life of the apothecary and her son. She smiled happily at the teenagers, who thought they were so discreet, but Eileen had learned long ago to read faces, and the love the two felt for each other shone clear and bright from their eyes for one who knew what to look for.
"I'm going back to the house. I left a potion brewing in the basement. You two have fun now and enjoy the day. It's lovely weather for this time of year." She picked up the basket and tucked it in the crook of her arm, waving gaily as she turned and headed to the park entrance.
Severus would recall the unguarded smile upon his mother's face forever after; it transformed Eileen's careworn expression into something pure and bright, making her look young again, innocent and wise, rather than the world-weary woman she had become beneath Tobias' brutal reign. She was thirty-eight, but looked a decade older due to the life she had lived since marrying Tobias and moving to Spinner's End.
He returned it with a smile of his own, which was as rare as hers, for he was ever serious and had learned through a series of hard knocks to keep his feelings locked away inside a box. But today, in the bright summer sun, it was safe to share a smile with his mother.
They watched until Eileen was out of sight, then Lily turned to him and said, "It's good to see Eileen smile like that. She doesn't get out enough, Sev."
"I know. She needed this as much as I did." He turned and slid an arm about her. "But you didn't suggest this picnic so we could talk about my mother, now did you?"
Lily shook her head, her smile dimpling into a grin of unabashed adoration. She lifted her face to gaze into the dark eyes, her emerald ones glinting with a secret passion. "No." Her arms twined about his neck and she drew his head down until their mouths met.
It was not his first kiss, that had been on his birthday, a single moment of heartstopping fumbling pleasure. But kisses between the two had been few and far between, as tensions built to overwhelming proportions between their respective Houses at school. Neither one wished to risk retaliation from bitter and censorious Housemates upon the other. So they kept their love a secret, and a moment like this was a treasure beyond price.
They were alone for this brief moment in time, and the passion that flared between them was both innocent and wild, a white hot heat that made his heart race and the blood boil in his veins, made him gasp for air even as he kissed her breathless. She made him feel things he had never felt before, never dared to feel, because to give away his heart was to risk having it trampled. But that day, he threw caution to the wind and allowed himself to drink from the river of desire, slake his thirst on the oasis of love, which never ran dry.
The kiss was tentative at first, but soon gentleness turned to passion, and he kissed her with all the fervor of young love, quickly deeply, holding nothing back.
It seemed to last forever, but in reality it was but a moment.
A moment that echoed into eternity. A moment that remained imprinted upon his memory, never to be forgotten. It was the moment when the love he bore for Lily stopped being a maybe and turned into a will be, must be, even destined to be. It was a moment of joy and passion and hope, coalesced into a single rapturous instant. . .
A mother's smile, a lover's kiss. Different shades of meaning, but in the end both memories entwined and Severus spoke the incantation firmly.
A silvery mist shot out of his wand, swirling and coiling, before becoming a hazy silver doe.
He had not expected that, as he opened his eyes to view the Patronus. He had expected to see a snake or some other symbol of his House, of the life he had been forced to lead as an agent. Not this graceful elegant creature, shining brilliant silver, unearthly innocence and steadfast love, his dreams and hopes made visible.
The doe turned and gazed at him, then all at once bounded away, vanishing in the flicker of an instant as he ceased to concentrate. Had there been a boggart or Dementor around, he knew the Patronus would have banished it. But since there wasn't . . . He smiled, a quiet smile of triumph. Very few could conjure a Patronus, much less make it assume a form other than silver and shadow. That he had done so, after all he had been and done, was proof that his soul was still his own. No Death Eater could conjure a Patronus.
Then again, he was never really one of them, that had always been a façade, even if he bore the dark mark upon his arm.
Someday soon, he would be reunited with Lily, and then they could marry and live the life he had always wished for.
Of course, that dream was never realized, though even after her death, Severus clung to the memory of that long ago day in the park, using that first blush of innocent passion and a mother's enduring love to give himself hope and enable him to conjure a Patronus when he had need.
Now, however, when he conjured the silver doe, Lily's kiss and Eileen's smile were joined by other, more recent memories of hope, light, and joy. Memories of Sarai, who had been tutor, lover, and his equal in war, whose steadfast love and loyalty had mended the heart he had thought forever broken. Green eyes filled with the wisdom of ages and enduring love, that charming crooked grin, another impossible love that had flown in the face of every convention, mortal and fae. What the heart loved once, it can love again. Theirs had been a love of second chances, and still he marveled at the mysterious workings of fate, which had given him true love twice. Proposing to Sarai on Christmas Day, his heart overflowing with a joy so great he had almost wept, as she had accepted, loving him despite his mortal failings, and the red-haired witch that had come before.
Mingled with that was the love of his family, deep and forgiving, a love for all seasons. He recalled Harry, who looked so much like him, finally accepting him as his father, his heart swelling with love as the boy called him "Dad"; then Draco, blond and elegant, a Malfoy by blood, rejecting his dark heritage, and clinging to him after the trial, "You're my real father, not Lucius". His hedgehog princess, Nesmay, yet another with a dark past to live down, trusting him enough to come down from a tree and hug him, she who had never known her father, choosing him as her role model. Last but not least was the all-consuming protective love for his baby daughter, Toria; He gazed into his daughter's bright eyes, eyes that reminded him of two women who had loved him unconditionally, eyes that were innocent and knowing, and suddenly feelings of awe, tenderness, and love washed over him in a wave, drenching him with fierce clarity and inescapable truth. It smothered all the doubts and the fears he had harbored, sweeping them away beneath its inexorable tide, shattering them into bits and pieces. All of them were the hope of the future, further proof that the sacrifices of his youth had not been in vain. He cherished them all, and they cascaded through his mind, memory upon memory.
His family, that most precious gift, whose love surrounded him and gave him hope, all these things he used to conjure his Patronus once again. "Expecto Patronum!"
Once again, the silver doe burst from his wand and stood gracefully upon the lawn, hooves paused for a split second, elegance and power in motion, rippling with eldritch energy.
Severus lowered his wand a fraction, and thought about how a true Patronus was not a single memory, but several, filled with pure emotion-joy, innocence, and hope. The stronger the emotion, the stronger the Patronus. This time, the silver doe was luminous as a falling star, throwing off silvery sparks in the gathering twilight.
The doe tossed her head, then sprang away to run across the grass and beyond to the woodland where the runespoors dwelled, vanishing into the trees like a wraith, trailing silver light like stardust in her wake. Severus smiled. He tucked his wand up his sleeve and turned about, rejoining his family, who were picnicking on the lawn.
Draco, Harry, and Nesmay were flying and Sarai was relaxing upon a blanket, great with child, while Toria raced about waving a wooden sword and beheading the enemy dandelions. Severus crept up on the small child like a cat, stealthy and sly, then picked her up and clutched her to him. Toria yelled, but her shrieks soon turned to squeals of laughter as Severus tickled her, then settled in the grass beside his wife. It was true, what they said—love, hope, and memory were eternal, outlasting death itself, and it was why a Patronus could banish a Dementor, for the dark was no match for such devotion, nor ever would be.
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