Chapter 20 : Smouldering Dangers
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After she had helped get Harry up into his bed and sent Ron off on his way, she retreated to her bedroom suite and crumpled into her chair. She tried to pick up the novel that she had been reading, but could not seem to get into it. Her mind was racing and she found herself feeling incredibly restless.
She had really been hoping that Severus would have come over tonight for dinner as had become the norm. She really hated the way that they had parted ways the other night and felt bad for pressing him like she had.
For reasons quite unknown to her at the moment, Alexis had become quite fond of the man and so was quite disturbed by his tendencies to self-inflict mental anguish for things that others have obviously already forgiven him for. Of course she never would have imagined the depth of the pain that he has carried with him so long.
It had been him that was responsible for the death of Harry’s parents. That is a pretty heavy burden to have carried for so long. But surely having Harry’s forgiveness should have relieved some of the burden lifted for him. Why was he continuing this torture?
Sitting there drinking her tea, her mind drifted to Harry. She could easily remember the guilt and despair that had nearly broken him because he had not been able to save Severus. Hadn’t he said then that Severus hated him? Had he confused the guilt that Severus felt for hatred? Or had Severus’ behavior towards Harry been hostile because of his guilt?
Damn this man was frustrating! Why did she even care so much? If he wanted to play the role of martyr then who was she to stop him? Let him drown in his own self-inflicted misery if he wanted to. The only person he was hurting was himself. And Harry. Double damn. Harry was struggling so much to try to heal from everything that he has been through and she was certain that him seeing how poorly Severus was handling everything would only make things harder for him.
Alexis had noticed a considerable change in Harry’s demeanor towards Severus since his rescue. He was becoming quite dependent on Severus and Alexis had a hunch that when Severus became aware of this he would run as far away as he could.
Suddenly, interrupting her musings, her bedroom door is flung open to reveal an obviously disturbed Harry.
“Alexis!” he exclaimed frantically, “Professor Snape is in trouble! We have to get to his house right away!”
“What in Merlin’s name are you talking about Harry?!” she replied as she jumped to her feet.
“Professor Snape! Fire at his house! He doesn’t know! We have to get there now!” He screeched.
“Are you talking about your dream, Harry?”
Harry shook his head violently. “It’s not a dream! It’s real I know it! Professor Snape’s house is on fire right now and he is trapped!”
“Listen to me. You were just dreaming again. Severus is fine,” she said soothingly. “Besides, how would he get trapped in his own house? He could easily apparate out of there since he-“
“NO!!” Harry screamed. “He is in trouble! Please. You have to believe me! Please. I know I’m right about this.”
Startled by the intensity of his desperation, Alexis relented. “Ok Harry. We can check on him.”
She hurried over to her fireplace threw some powder down and knelt in front on it as she realized that she did not know where Severus lived. Thinking for a moment she realized that she would have to utilize the ministry directory service.
“Wizarding directory office,” she shouted into the flames.
“Thank you!” She said gratefully as she backed out of the fireplace.
She stood up to see an ashen Harry standing there expectantly waiting for her. She truly hoped that Snape would forgive their late night interruption at his home, but she felt that she had to do something to appease Harry.
“Come on. We are going to have to apparate since I’m sure he’d have his fireplace closed to unannounced visitors. Let’s go outside,” she said as she led the way out of her room and down the hall.
Neither spoke until they were outside. Luckily they only had to step out of the house and off the porch. The anti-apparation spell that she had cast upon the house did not apply to residents of the house, for which Alexis was quite thankful for at this late hour of the night. She really didn’t feel like hiking down to the end of the drive. To be honest, she didn’t even feel like going anywhere, but she felt that this needed to be done.
“Spinner’s End,” Alexis told Harry who nodded and then disappeared with a pop. With a sigh Alexis spun and disappeared to join him.
Snape was sleeping peacefully when the window in his bedroom exploded into the room. He grabbed his wand and crept over to the open hole in the wall to peer down into the street below. To his utter amazement he saw Alexis standing in the street waving her arms. He thought that she was screaming something, but for some reason she was drowned out by a loud roaring noise. Staring down at her, trying to focus his still sleepy eyes he realized that she was bathed in an usual reddish/orange flickering light. Only then was he able to focus his eyes enough to realize that the strange glow was the result of a growing fire from somewhere beneath him.
Turning from the window, he rushed across his bedroom and flung open his door. He was immediately confronted with the roaring blaze and nearly brought to his knees by the overwhelming heat.
He muttered a quick bobblehead charm and forced his way into the stairwell that was being quickly consumed. He knew that he needed to extinguish the flames and soon or he would lose his entire house. It was only after firing multiple spells and charms at the growing blaze did he realize that this was no ordinary fire. He had to get out of the house quickly.
He rushed back into his bedroom and looked down into the alley where he still saw Alexis standing. He studied the side of the house carefully trying to decide the best way to scale the wall when he faintly heard Alexis yelling up to him. He was unable to make out what she was saying and gestured to her trying to convey as such.
Finally deciding to use a quick Amplifying Charm Alexis was able to shout up to him, “Harry is inside!”
Snape stared down at her in angry shock. Why in the hell would she have allowed Harry to come inside a burning house?! This boy definitely had some kind of sick hero complex that was going to get him killed and it seemed as though Alexis was just going to hold his hand and guide him along until he was successful.
Shaking his head, he ran back out of his bedroom to the stairs, he tried to squint his eyes in hopes to see the boy through the blazing wall of flames that were making their way up the steps. He could see nothing but was able to hear the muffled sound of someone shouting his name.
In an instant Snape decided that he had no other choice that to just push his way down the stairs and through the flames. He cast a quick protection charm around himself, took a deep breath and charged down the stairs. The flames danced around him and he felt the burning heat that penetrated through his charm and began scorching through the sleeves of his nightshirt as he shielded his face with his arms.
He saw Harry as he jumped off the last step and into his flaming foyer. The boy was crouched low and appeared to be attempting to crawl towards the stairs. Snape bent down, grabbed him by the collar of his shirt, stood him up, turned him around and pushed him in the direction of the front door.
He followed behind him until he was sure that he was headed out safely into the street. He saw Harry hesitate and look back at him.
“I’m right behind you,” Snape shouted at him. “There is something I need to grab first!”
He nodded reassuringly at the boy before turning back into the flames. He skirted around the edge of the foyer and down the hall to his library. The room was nearly engulfed and the heat penetrated the bobblehead charm and filled his lungs making him feel like he was being cooked from the inside. Coughing and spluttering he made his way to the desk on the far side of the room. He easily found the small black leather book that he knew that he could never live without and quickly made his way back toward the front door.
Stepping out into the cool of the night he removed the bobblehead charm and took several deep, cleansing breaths before he was nearly knocked over backwards by the force of a body slamming into his. To his immense surprise he found Alexis nearly hanging off his neck and sobbing into his shoulder.
“Lexi,” Snape said awkwardly. “What is the matter? Are you hurt?”
“What?! Me? No! I was so worried about you,” she said with renewed sobs.
“Clearly I am quite well,” Snape said quietly. “I do believe, however, that you are making quite a spectacle of yourself.”
Alexis pulled away from Snape and made a show of looking him over as she tried to pull herself together. When she caught sight of his singed sleeves and the burns on his forearms she was all business in trying to treat him.
Snape grabbed her hands and said softly, “Later. Where is Harry?”
Alexis reluctantly ceased her attempts to heal his burns and pointed to where Harry stood talking to Acting Minister Shacklebolt. Not even attempting to hide his shock, Snape hurried over to the pair of them.
“Minister, what are you doing here?” Alexis asked.
“Unfortunately I’ve had to be pulling double duties until we can get the auror office more appropriately staffed,” Shacklebolt replied gravely. Turning to look at Snape he said, “You all right?”
Snape nodded. “I am not injured. I am quite confused however as to how everyone came to be here,” he confessed.
“Alexis alerted us,” Shacklebolt supplied. “And it’s a good thing she did before the crowds gathered. We were able to put up the anti-muggle charms before they sent their fire brigade over. That always complicates things, especially when the fire is clearly a magical one. Their primitive equipment usually only succeeds in making things worse and creates a bigger job for the Obliviators.”
Snape turned to Alexis wanting to ask her how she got there, but was surprised to see her shaking her head discreetly at him. Her eyes pleaded with him to not question her further so he instead took a step back and surveyed the scene around him.
His watched as several aurors cast spell after spell extinguishing the fire that had by this point completely consumed the only home he had known his entire life. He supposed that he ought to be feeling more distraught at the moment. Perhaps he was in shock? He supposed that he would find himself more upset once things settled down and he could properly process the events of the night. For now, though, he was just confused and irritated.
“So, I take it that it is safe to assume that this was the result of a malicious attack?” Snape sneered.
“It looks that way, Severus,” Shacklebolt said. “I don’t suppose you have any ideas of where to start looking for the person responsible?”
“Heh. As you may well know, Kingsley, I have quite the extensive list of individuals that would love to be rid of me. Not all of them Death Eaters, I’m sure,” Severus said bitterly.
“Minister,” said a breathless individual who had been fighting the blaze, “it appears that a charm had been cast upon the upstairs bedroom to prevent the inhabitant from hearing anything outside of the room.”
“I assumed as such,” Shacklebolt replied sullenly. “Thank you, Bodley.”
“Are you saying that someone cast a charm around Severus’s bedroom so that he couldn’t hear the fire?” Alexis whispered in horror.
Shacklebolt nodded and looked at Snape. “It looks that way. It seems as though they were intended this to be as lethal as possible.”
“A typical plan of attack utilized by Death Eaters,” Snape supplied. “At least we can pinpoint a motive and lessen the suspect list.”
“Right. Unfortunately with our staffing issues we have been most unable to conduct any hunts for the remaining Death Eaters. We’ve barely been able to stay on top of the calls coming in. I have been trying to push up the election for Minister so that I can return to the force, but there is way too much damn red tape to get through. I can’t even tell you how much I hate politics!” Shacklebolt said in frustration.
“No worries, Kingsley. I will not be caught unaware again,” Snape assured him menacingly.
“I believe you,” the minister said with a small smile. “Do you have someplace to stay? I’m sure we can put you up at the Leaky Cauldron until you get back on your feet.”
“He’ll be staying with me, Minister,” Alexis cut in determinedly. “There is more than enough room at the Manor.”
Snape stared at her surprised by her bold declaration that left him no room to refuse. He exchanged a look with Shacklebolt who looked as though he was trying not to laugh. With a sigh he realized that he had no other options at the moment. He shrugged his shoulders in resignation and caught sight of Harry still standing quietly just behind Alexis. He had a haunted look in his eyes and seemed to be focused on a place far away from where they were currently standing.
“Well…I think you can be getting on your way then,” Shacklebolt said finally. “Unless there is something that you what to try to retrieve from the house, although I admit that there probably is not much left. We will be placing a concealment charm on the house to keep muggles from seeing it. We can make sure that it is left up should you wish to rebuild it.”
“No,” Snape said immediately. “You can level it for all I care. I have no desire to come back here. I have all I need out of there right here with me,” he said holding up the book that he had recovered.
Shacklebolt nodded at the trio, said his farewells and headed over to join the aurors that were working on securing the scene and casting the last of the charms. He turned to Alexis who was looking nearly dead on her feet and Harry who was still looking quite ill.
“Shall we get going?” he asked quietly. “I think we all could use some sleep. Then in the morning you both can start answering some questions for me. Especially concerning what in the world you both are doing here and why Mr. Potter seems determined to get himself killed by his continued foolish and reckless behaviors.”
Harry looked up and met Snape’s eyes in an open gesture that was nearly impossible for Snape not to read. Mystified Snape cautiously accepted the invitation into the boy’s mind and was astonished to see the disturbing images he was holding open for his viewing.
He saw a much different version of the recent events playing out in his mind in which Harry stood screaming at the foot of the burning stairs as he watched the closed bedroom consumed by flames and reaching the sleeping and unaware target inside. He felt the extreme desperation and despair that consumed Harry as he realized what he was seeing. This had been the nightmare that had been keeping him up at night. Harry had foreseen this and had been the reason that he & Alexis had come to his rescue.
Snape took a step backward as he forced himself out of Harry’s mind. The intensity of Harry’s emotions was almost inconceivable to him. Had the boy truly become to rely on him that much? How could he have allowed this to happen? And how in the world was he ever going to break him of this ridiculous attachment?
For a moment, Snape allowed himself to dwell on the bizarre image that had sprung to mind of a haphazardly thrown together little family structure before mentally scolding himself for his own foolishness that could only be the result of the strong reaction from the boy and his own extreme fatigue.
He met Alexis’s concerned eyes and only nodded at her briefly he turned away from his destroyed home with not even a backward glance and disappeared from Spinner’s End for the very last time.
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