Chapter 7 : The Department of Mysteries
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Author’s Note: In which the author has a little too much fun with Dark magic…
The Department of Mysteries
“I told you I’m on official Hogwarts business.”
Albert Sterritt closed the Daily Prophet. “Professor Snape, you know the regulations.”
Glossy black tiles edged in impossibly smooth white mortar covered every surface of the corridor leading to the Department of Mysteries. From the corners of his eyes, Severus noted his own motions reflected in the walls and floors. His dark voice dropped to a confidential register as he leaned across the polished ebony desk.
“Listen, Mr. Sterritt, I could make this absolutely worth your while.”
The Unspeakable chuckled. “That’s real nice, Professor. There is one thing you could tell me that might change my mind... the location of the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix.”
“The Doge residence, Rowan Lane, Bexton, Cheshire.”
The older man flicked at the edges of the newspaper, sending pink rabbit-shaped sparkles wafting from inside the front cover. Clearly a few Easter promotions had yet to conclude in Diagon Alley. “You’ve overlooked a rather important detail, Professor; when someone leaves the Order, the Headquarters change.”
“Professor Dumbledore sent me!” Unperturbed, Albert Sterritt returned to his lazy perusal of the Home and Garden section, turning to an article about dirigible plums. Severus ripped the Visitor’s tag from his coat and trod on it as he stalked toward the lift.
Leaving the Order was childish.
It was my only choice. I couldn’t have stayed with her otherwise.
Is that where you are now? Dunderhead.
Lily sent me away.
She didn’t send you away; you chose to go. She had sensible objections – she was thinking clearly and you were not.
A rueful snort escaped him at the very idea of Lily exhibiting logical behavior when he himself was hopelessly clouded with feeling – the one failing he had always chided her for. Her breath still warmed the side of his throat just below his ear: the angle of her shoulders rose above him in the moonlight. If he stood before her door again, would she be careful and courteous, removed? Would she shout at him, or would she dissolve once more in his embrace?
Severus spent the remainder of the morning in the Restricted Section of the Hogwarts library, ostensibly searching ancient scrolls for references to possession. Try as he might to concentrate, most of his attention lay fixed on what Lily might be doing at that moment. Black was almost surely with her by now.
“You are a vain and ridiculous person.”
“I beg your pardon!” said Irma Pince, bundling her pink crocheted wrap around her shoulders.
Severus backtracked. “I must have been reading aloud.”
The librarian eyed the illuminated margins of the medieval scroll in Severus’s hands. Her squint indicated her opinion of Severus’s excuse. “This isn’t the treatise you need.”
“Do you have a better suggestion?”
His blunt colleague had already moved halfway down the tall stacks in the Restricted Section. She tapped her wand against the edge of a rack holding a thousand tightly rolled scrolls. A tattered specimen slowly descended into her outstretched palm.
“This is extremely rare…”
“I can’t possibly let it leave the library.”
“May I make a copy?”
“It’s charmed against copying. You’ll see why when you get to the end. Do be careful.”
Irma Pince retreated from the Restricted Section with no further offers of assistance. Severus unrolled the crumbling scroll with such reverence, he missed the clicking sound as the librarian locked the spelled cage in which he studied.
The document had to be at least seven hundred years old and of French origin, judging from the rounded script. The scroll was more than a speculative treatise: it was a step-by-step instruction manual on separating a portion of the soul from the body and sending it within another living awareness. This was the kind of magic he had dreamed of as a student, desperate to impress Malfoy into recommending him to the Dark Lord. (In his mind, Malfoy fell to the leaf-strewn forest floor, Bellatrix screaming behind him.) It was the kind of magic his mother had whispered of at his bedside while his father thought he was saying his prayers.
His memory returned to those candlelit evenings in Spinner’s End when even the full moon lay shrouded behind coal-dust clouds. Mother knelt by the bedside and clasped his sallow hands in her own.
“Don’t let the Evans girl upset you... she’s beneath you. You have a gift... the Prince bloodline reaches back to the warrior kings of Ireland. Come here, darling.” His mother set aside the cracked beaker and wiped her mouth, her lips purplish-red with wine.
Eleven years old, Severus allowed his mother’s kiss. He didn’t like to hear his mother talk that way about Lily’s sister. Her breath nearly burned his nose as he inhaled. Both his parents smelled that way, like rotten apples lying under the spreading tree by the playground.
“I don’t want to leave you,” said Severus awkwardly.
“Oh, darling. I know… it’s nearly September, but Hogwarts is the best place for you. Don’t think I didn’t see you hexing those houseflies yesterday.”
Severus giggled. “Sorry, Mum.”
“Don’t be sorry. Just be careful. You know what your father will do if he catches you.”
At the age of five, Severus’s first expression of magic had unfortunately come while his mother was at the market. Severus and Toby Snape were in the weedy back garden enjoying the watery June sunshine despite a blustery wind. A thin branch snapped from the willow tree and dropped toward the little boy’s glossy black head. Toby Snape cried out in horror as the twig simply dissolved in mid-air and fell in harmless flakes.
“What did you do?” Severus’s father shouted, grabbing the little boy by the shoulders. Dusty bits of bark and splinters of wood shook from the child’s hair.
“Nothing! I promise!”
“Fat lot of nothing! You… made… something… disappear!”
Little Severus drew back and wrapped his arms around himself, wishing for the first time with all his heart and soul that he could make his father disappear, too.
His parents’ memory flared to sudden life, mixed treacherously with the incantations on the page before him. Severus felt his eyes closing, but only with the barest tendril of awareness did he realize something had gone wrong.
Severus’s face and hands twitched as if he were falling into a dream. In his mind, Eileen Prince’s voice subtly shifted and lightened. Lily Potter read the dark incantations, detailing how best to subdue a living subject, how to seamlessly enter his or her mind without detection. A fragment of his mind cried out against the juxtaposition.
Lily’s bright directness, her self-possession even while she was in pain or distress, her refusal to admit defeat – Severus threw up a shield between his conception of Lily and the malignant scroll. It fought back. Incredible pain wrenched inside his head. He brought his hands to his ears, blocking out a groaning like a dungeon gate grating against a stone floor. Too late, he realized he himself was making the sound.
Frantic, Irma Pince waved her wand outside the spelled wrought-iron cage, releasing the locking spell and banging the gate closed behind her. “Did you damage the scroll?”
Severus trembled where he sat. “Why didn’t you warn me?”
“You’re a Professor. My job is to help you find what you need to know, not to shield you from the dangers.”
“I don’t think I appreciated you enough as a student.”
Madam Pince chuckled. Even as he shook with violent chills, Severus’s wide mouth twisted sideways with black humor. “I don’t know why I didn’t think to protect myself. I’ve never worried since I mastered Occlumency.”
“That’s called hubris, Professor.”
Severus left the scroll on the table, imagining it pulsing with stolen life. If what he had gleaned from the scroll matched with what had befallen Melora, he had to warn Dumbledore immediately. He jogged down the broad staircase from the library to the entrance hall, nodding quickly down at a perplexed Professor Flitwick who stood holding a pressed-sugar Easter egg the size of his own head. As soon as he cleared the wards on the castle he Apparated away.
The girl’s body weakened steadily. Each attempt at taking control sapped her strength. He could never hope to make contact with the faithful from this fragile vessel, and yet he was trapped in this shallow female mind.
The girl’s memories resembled the brightly colored pages of a tabloid newspaper. Over and over again came the face of the half-blood, lit from the side like the marble statue of a saint. She’d certainly chosen a poor target to idolize: the deceiving bastard, besotted with a Mudblood. Foolish child.
In the privacy of his mind – all he had since he was blasted from his body – Lord Voldemort knew he had underestimated Severus Snape. A wave of rage vibrated outward from the core of his being. The Druid girl made a deep sound in her lungs. The Dark Lord pulled back cautiously. It would not do to be detected.
Witches and wizards bustled in and out of the sickroom, trying to soothe his living host. Snape’s little Mudblood did most of the nursing herself; not at all surprising, she would ingratiate herself to Dumbledore in any way possible.
“I really think you need to move her to St. Mungo’s,” an arrogant voice insisted… the blood traitor, Black.
“Sirius,” said the Potter wench in a warning tone.
“You don’t even know for sure who else is in there. Damn it, Lily, this is too dangerous.”
The Mudblood spoke up in sharp defense. “Melora’s just a girl.”
Softhearted woman. Why else do you think I latched onto this pretty thing? You’ll protect this girl to your dying breath.
“No, Lily, not anymore.”
She pushed Black out of the way and left the sickroom. He felt his human host crying out for her inside, unable to lift her weakened limbs in pleading.
This body was failing. Shortly he would need to find another.
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