Chapter 11 : DUMBLEDORE’S SUPERIORITY
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The students chattered excited and relaxed about the end of the exams and their plans for the summer holiday. Leonor was annoyed. The joyous fuss contradicted her blue mood. It was the last day of the job. The exams were finished, and Lupin had said good-bye with gratitude. He would soon take his drink and sleep in his study while the moon diffused its white shimmering light.
Severus was distant as usual. Hattie had delivered a brief note with a deep bow. The paper was again exclusive.
“We meet at your last day. I will find you.”
“Did Professor Snape say something else?”
“Master said nothing, he only ordered to bring the letter immediately.” Hattie bowed again, and her ears flushed pink.
“Hattie?”, Leonor commanded menacingly.
“Master was very angry. He studied in the restricted section very often and left the school a couple of times. Dumbledore was not pleased. Hattie will punish herself to bespeak Master’s secret, but Mistress must not go to Gringotts.”
Hattie swayed fearfully on her heels, wringing the clean tea towel with the small hands and started to slap herself into the face.
“Master and Hattie don’t want Mistress to be reckless”, screamed the little elf continuing with the painful slaps.
“Stop it, stop it.” Leonor caught the elf’s arms and lifted Hattie to the air.
“I’ll order you to stop punishing yourself. Professor Snape told me already. It’s no secret, you understand?”
The old elf hung motionless for a moment. Leonor let her down and Hattie made a deep relieved curtsey before vanishing with a little plop.
Leonor wandered the castle to say goodbye and to transfer the message to practice soon as healer in Hogsmeade. The idea had transformed from a wish into a solid decision. The marketing progressed whenever meeting witches and wizards.
The treatment for the two girls had also been delivered. She would be in contact with them to see if there was any improvement over the summer holidays. She’d likely need to make amendments, but needed some results and possible side effects to improve the formula. Pauline would be engaged in travelling between the girls and some St. Mungo’s patients to be observed for long term recovery. Leonor was looking forward to some very busy forthcoming month. Everything for the departure from Hogwarts was prepared.
Leonor exited the staff room and passed Lupin’s office. The door was left a little ajar. She walked in to double check. The Wolfsbane Potion was untouched and cold. A yellowed parchment laid unfolded on the desk. Black dots moved in a smart sketch of the castle floors. She could recognize familiar names. Dumbledore was with the minister of magic in his study. Severus was in the hospital wing together with spots labelled Pomfrey, Black, Potter, Granger and Weasley. Leonor was fascinated by the map, took it and followed Severus from the hospital wing to the seventh floor. Severus avoided the main stairs using hidden passages to the west tower. He was slow, as if Black didn’t support the walk, and Leonor arrived via the official way first. She watched Severus to emerge behind a tapestry; Black unconsciously on a stretcher. Dumbledore and Fudge waited at Flitwick’s office door and the four disappeared into the room. Leonor prepared herself to eavesdrop the conversation. She couldn’t explain the longing to do so, but established the well-trained FBI procedure. She circled the area casting a strong ‘Auditas hex’ and hid herself by a disillusionment charm. She held her breath when Fudge and Snape left. Dumbledore stayed behind and started a conversation with Black. Leonor understood every word and followed Dumbledore later veiled, dropping the map back into Lupin’s office. She would have liked to stop and warn the enraged Snape, but she couldn’t, not with Fudge in tow. She watched Potter and Granger leaving and returning to the ward at precise bell chime of the large clock. Her mouth fell open watching Buckbeak flying across the lake. Black must have been on his back. The theory became reality when Serverus and the minister of magic raged into the ward once more. Leonor bit her lips, but she would not intervene. The damage on Severus was done earlier by Dumbledore's words; Black’s escape was only the icing to the cake. Leonor believed Dumbledore would explain it to him later and followed Dumbledore again upstairs. She entrenched herself in good sight of the gargoyle and the corridor waiting to see Severus, but neither Dumbledore left his office, nor anybody came to visit. Waiting felt endless. It was around midnight. She decided to walk to the dungeons. Severus needed to know.
The torches in the dungeons had been extinguished at the late hour. The dark corridor revealed a weak flickering gleam of light below the heavy door. Snape was still in the office. Leonor approached hesitantly. She still bit her lips, but put the wand into her sleeve hoping he would keep his temper.
Leonor’s hand touched the handle and pushed the door slowly open. Severus leaned with his back against the mantelpiece. Parchments, quills and all objects of his desk were scattered on the floor. Cloak and frockcoat lay unorderly at the armchair, both mottled with soil and dry leaves. A broken bottle swam in a pool of liquid.
“Leave!”, said Severus violently.
“No, Severus. I won’t.”
“I’ll curse you to leave.” His temper was flaring. The whiskey glass in his hand burst on the opposite wall.
“I overheard everything of Dumbledore’s words.”
“Leave!” Severus expression was blind fury, a wild fire uncontrollable in the wind.
“I eavesdropped the conversation with Black.”
“Don’t lie. You can’t eavesdrop at the school.” Severus made some long strides and approached Leonor with his wand. She stepped backwards instinctively.
“You want me to keep the information to me?”
“Spit it out. I’ve heard enough nonsense already.”
“I don’t want you to bite my head off for something I’m not responsible for.”
He sniffed the air contemptuously and flicked his wand. The bottle repaired itself and refilled with whiskey. Another snap moved the objects back to the table. Severus regained some composure with the simple charms, but still send menacing glances towards the late intruder. Leonor felt undecided. A part of herself wanted to give Severus all the information she had earwigged. The part made her stand in the dungeons, remembering the man in dress pants and white shirt with the relaxed expression. The stern, mindful and almost caring face would have guaranteed all attention of the female students; everybody waiting to see the first smile. The other part constantly warned to not interfere with political and personal relationships. The things had to be sorted out between Dumbledore, Snape and all the others. The other part despised the man so often unpleasant, mean and generally perceived like a menace. Whatever Severus’ role or job was, she needed to find out or she would never understand the changing temper. Leonor conjured two fresh whiskey cups preparing herself for a longer talk.
“I need a drink.”
She handed the glasses to Severus. He poured the golden liquid over the ice cubes. Both emptied the cups in one go. Leonor transfigured Severus’ desk chair into one with a lower backrest and for herself a stool and placed both in front of the fireplace. Wands were unnecessary now. She put her wand on the desk and requested the same from Severus. He obeyed grudgingly, likely he felt superior. Leonor would never be able to wrestle him down. Leonor took a deep breath before turning very close. They stood face to face and Leonor motioned her hand softly over the buttons of his shirt. The buttons opened by the magical move.
“Take your shirt off.”
Severus hesitated, a mixture of surprise and curiosity gaining the upper hand.
“Take it off and sit backwards into the chair.” Leonor ordered emphatically holding his gaze until he moved to the mantelpiece. Leonor sat on the small stool moving it to a comfortable position. Her hands were cold, but would soon be warm and soothing. She started to work on the lower part of his back moving up to the tense muscles on shoulders and neck. Severus didn’t move nor talk. Leonor’s plan had succeeded; men were thrown off guard easily. She told the eavesdropped facts without interruption.
“Finished. Some things cannot be solved with magic.” Leonor said quietly and handed the shirt back to Severus. His dark eyes soaked up her features, expressing a relaxed state of inner turmoil.
“Don’t look at me like that. I’m a healer. It’s my job. The mind cannot relax if the body is strained. I see, you’ve healed the scratch at your forehead already.” Leonor shrugged and tried to look uncaring, but a little smile turned her lips upwards blowing away the idea she’d do it for everybody.
“Black’s innocent?”, said Severus in disbelief.
Leonor nodded. “Neither Black, nor Lupin betrayed the Potters. Nobody suspected Pettigrew, because of his weakness. Potter and Black had no clue about warlocks and dark mind games. Defeating somebody in a battle is just one way of resistance. The power of will is so important and Potter made the weakest of their group saving the life of his family. Dumbledore volunteered for being secret keeper. I’d never chosen anybody else, if I had the opportunity.”
Severus agreed. He paced the room slowly and stopped to give Leonor a deep searching look.
“Why does he blame me?”
“Of course, he couldn’t explain in presence of Fudge, yet he could have chosen other words to make you stop, something defensive, something fatherly. I’ve been waiting in front of his office before I came down. I thought he would call you for an explanation.” Leonor paused, another thought grew in her mind.
“Severus, Dumbledore plays a strategic game. He fought Grindelwald and the Dark Lord. Black’s important to get all information about the Death Eaters in Azkaban. He’s an Animagus. What animal is better to spy or transmit secret information than a trustworthy dog? Lupin was important to get a teacher at all. He never told Lupin about the death end after one year. Lupin’s full of hope to return. You’ve crossed the old man’s plan to save an already lost ally. You didn’t knuckle under. In the eyes of Potter, you ordered to kill his innocent god father. Tomorrow you’ll be blamed getting Lupin sacked. I hope I am wrong, but Dumbledore uses his pawns in a chess game very well.”
“The headmaster trusts me.”
“Maybe, if you are useful.”
“I spread the message to dock points from Slytherin if they don’t find the beast in the castle by tomorrow morning.” Severus locked eyes with Leonor again. She felt Severus’ regret for the rash action and shrugged with a little moan.
“It’s not your fault. You could stop the Slytherins, couldn’t you? They would keep quiet if you would award some points, but Dumbledore wants Gryffindor to win. Anyway, it doesn’t matter, you deliver the natural explanation for Lupin to quit. The position is cursed and if it’s not you, something else will happen. It is the ideal situation to blame it on you and the Slytherins without divulging the real reason.”
“What makes you so sure about it?”
“The recent history “, stated Leonor bluntly, “… it would have been so important to the Dark Lord to get control of the school. I heard rumours in Knockturn Alley. He bragged of ‘infiltrating’ Dumbledore’s ‘dome’ a few years before his downfall at a ‘get together’ with faithful followers in low ranks. It’s also been gossiped about an ‘unsuccessful’ visit of the Dark Lord at Hogwarts in the year before the teachers started to change frequently. But I don’t understand why you are beside yourself if Potter is involved? His parents made a mistake and he’s orphaned. You didn’t even like his father’s friends. There are more children with a similar fate. Personally, I think Longbottom suffers more than Potter.”
Severus became awkward, an unmeasurable pain in his eyes. Leonor didn’t understand, but her treatment had been effective to keep his temper. Severus turned without a threat and said indifferently: “You cannot finish the Gringotts assignment, cancel it.” The conversation about Black was finished.
“You’ve to explain it, if you cannot say ‘please’. I’ll stay tonight. Flitwick caught me on the floor and told me something had happened to Lupin. I’m not officially dismissed. Tomorrow is Saturday. I suppose you have time.” The last sentence was a statement. She left with a brief ‘good night’; tired and positive to fall soon into a deep relaxed sleep.
Severus felt tortured by the present and the past. He could not place Leonor’s behaviour. The touch paralyzed him. It was easy to wind down, to sort out all thoughts while she was close. She had reported free of any judgment and without any bias. Lupin should have warned Dumbledore about possible ways to infiltrate the castle and the Animagus. Lupin chose to keep the Marauder’s secrets against the safety of the children. Severus had been right, but it didn’t do him any good. The old scar was bleeding again. He missed Lily, but knew his own fault had driven her away into Potter’s arms. The humiliation felt fresh and strong like eighteen years before. The personal risk working as double agent had not been enough either. Potter believed himself above Dumbledore’s suggestion and made a ‘rat’ to safe his family. It was close to dawn when Severus fell into a troubled sleep. Pictures emerged and dissolved showing an angry red-haired teenager mixed with a slender dark-haired woman caressing him tenderly through the confused dreams.
Leonor woke by a message for an early visit in the headmaster’s study. Dumbledore had apologized for the early call, but explained Flitwick’s concern unnecessary. The students would enjoy the beautiful summer instead and the defence classes were cancelled. The worries about Lupin had been explained by an ‘unexpected event’ leading to the painful transformation into a werewolf last night. Lupin would recover over the weekend.
Leonor did not mind. She preferred some days off before the exam period at St. Mungo’s to finish the Gringotts assignment. Dumbledore engaged her in various questions about her internships in France and Romania, an interest he had never shown in the past month. Leonor left his office with a peculiar feeling and stopped at a window in the seventh floor. The lake stretched like a mirror between the Scottish mountains. The light so bright dipping the bluish grey into various reflections of the sun. Owls circled the sky before heading into different directions delivering the news to families and friends.
“The letters of the parents will arrive soon. The headmaster will need to find a new teacher for the next year”, said a drawling voice behind Leonor.
“Good morning. Have the news already spread?”
Severus grinned smugly, and Leonor couldn’t hide a small grin as well.
“I leave soon”, whispered Leonor. She considered the tired man’s eyes, deep tunnels, unfathomable as always. It didn’t unnerve her anymore and she suddenly knew all what mattered was there; deep inside and would swim to the surface if it was necessary. Leonor liked teaching the children. The job at Hogwarts had been pleasant. The contacts interesting and promising, but it had been Severus to make a difference coming out of the shallow small talks. Their acquaintance had retreated from publicity into a more profound relationship. Severus would solve the issue with the treasure chest. There was no doubt, she trusted in him. In a loss of words, she walked to her private room; busying herself to keep the focus. The ancient rusty key from Filch lay on the table. Leonor attached an already prepared note to it and hexed it to Filch’s dungeon with a lazy wave.
“He still hands out keys?” Severus filled the doorframe glancing into the room.
“Yes, he gave me a key, but I assume most teachers prefer their own wards in a house full of sorcerers, so do I.”
Leonor placed a disillusionment charm over her bag and vanished it as well.
“Will you find the invisible suitcase or need some help?”
“Yeah, it took me a while to send it precisely to the drawer in the bedroom. I used to trip over it in the hall, but I improved”, responded Leonor with a half-grin, “… the muggles notice flying objects very suspiciously and neighbours are often very observant meddling with the business of others.”
“Will you have breakfast?”
“No. I’ve said all my goodbyes yesterday and don’t want to repeat myself.”
“Would you join me for a morning walk?”, said Severus in a low voice. Leonor focused her favourite professor swiftly. His gaze had wandered from curious observation of the room to the floor. It had been Leonor’s wish to walk round the lake and she had silently hoped to not walk alone.
“Why not …”, answered Leonor reassuringly.
Leonor followed Severus down the moving staircases into the fresh morning. They almost collided with some Gryffindors rounding a corner in the third floor. Severus shot them a contemptuous look. The students looked anxious after the billowing cloaks until the swishing of fabric melted into silence.
Leonor and Severus were alone at the lake. The wind was asleep, and nobody could tell if the Merpeople were awake or not. The branches of the aged trees hung deep over the shoreline. The water shone in the golden sunlight of the rising day.
“Dumbledore asked me this morning about my travel through Europe. Does he plan a language class? He was interested in my French and the skills of Slavic languages,” said Leonor conversationally.
Severus frowned, but said nothing. He continued briskly along the banks and ducked supple under the low branches; as if already being late for an appointment.
Leonor tried again to catch a glimpse of the beautiful view and to savour the bright morning. She walked deliberately slow and called jokingly: “You should have mentioned to bring my jogging pants. I thought we go for a stroll and not for a run.”
Severus stopped at least fifteen yards away. He turned to face the entrance of the castle carefully. Leonor followed his view. Students stood in the courtyard and Severus vanished quickly into the trees at the boundary of the Hogwarts Grounds.
“You like to make a mystery out of things, don’t you?”
“No, but I don’t want to be seen with you!” Severus emphasised the last word with a sneer, waiting for Leonor to catch up with him. They walked through the undergrowth of the thicket until the mountains reached the lake and created a natural borderline.
Leonor panted for breath and felt the blood rush through the veins. Severus showed some colour on his cheeks too, but grinned at her.
“We are leaving Hogwarts Grounds.” Severus turned and walked along the stone. He stopped at a ledge covered in ivy and started to remove the plants without cutting them off to free a gap in between the rocks. He lit his wand and entered cautiously to call Leonor only moments later.
“May I ask you to follow?”
Leonor lit her wand as well and entered through the entrance into a sparse lit passageway. The little light came from above through the crack in the rocks. The crunching pebbles echoed loudly between the walls. The passage was winding and after a while neither entrance nor exit visible. Leonor felt slightly apprehensive and sighed in relief when Severus said:
“We are almost there, give me your hand and stay close to the wall.”
Water was trickling down the rock; the ground slippery and wet. The passage became once more very narrow and then opened into a small sunlit bay. The cove was lined by the mountains. Coarse-grained sand and polished pebbles at the shore changed into a short velvety green towards the rocks. A single birch tree stood majestic in the middle. The sun enthroned above the Forbidden Forest and the opposite side of the lake. The bay was sheltered from wind and the temperature comfortable warm.
Severus left Leonor surprised at the mouth of the passageway striding purposefully to the single tree. Leonor walked to the water. The castle was not visible from here, the high rock shielded the view. The water nudged invitingly at her feet. Leonor threw a flat stone across the water, but it skipped only twice before it sunk making circles on the still water. Leonor turned after a while towards the shadows of the birch. Severus leaned against the specked trunk with drawn-in knees, playing with some blades of grass. He did not look up when Leonor joined. Leonor sat down in a reasonable distance and whispered:
“Thanks, it’s a wonderful place. Do you come here often?”
Severus answered with a shake of his head.
“Does anybody else know it? It doesn’t look like, there are no tracks.”
Severus shrugged. A deep line appeared between his brows. He looked much older than minutes before with the lightly reddened cheeks.
“I discovered it at the end of my third year and never met anybody. The first years drive past with the boats, but it’s dark and nobody can see it. Hagrid goes fishing from time to time, maybe he stopped here with a boat to help some creature. We’ve got to talk, Leonor, about Gringotts. What have you found out, you haven’t agreed anything with them yet, have you?”
“No, I’ve agreed nothing, and the goblins didn’t push either. I heard about Catherine Isabella Greengrass and her tragic love story. Per the legend, she fell in love with a wizard disdained by her family. She died doomed after the end of their relationship.”
“Right, I think she was Cathy. Where did you hear the story?”
“From Ollivander, I had my wand checked, but this was all he knew.”
“It has been passed on that the wizard was an ancestor of the Ollivander family. Greengrass and Ollivander despise each other since that time. They never liked each other much. Catherine has been characterized as a gifted witch, well-known at Hogwarts, a fair and beautiful woman with all possibilities of a great future. She rejected her family’s wish to meet other young men and was stubborn to only marry Ollivander. Her family agreed finally to meet the guy, but Ollivander decided differently. He left Catherine behind pregnant and relocated to America together with Catherine’s childhood friend. The child was never born. A couple of years after her death a brother of Catherine published a book.”
Severus handed a thin booklet to Leonor. The author was Armandus Greengrass and it was dedicated to his beloved sister. Leonor leafed it through.
“She has invented curses?”
“Yes, so called empathic-curses. It’s a rare branch of the Dark Arts. Breaking the curse means to life through the memories and pain of the enchanter. The curses are usually tremendous, physically or mentally. The creators are sensitive and past hope to solve their issues; often used by ill-fated wizards feeling unjust about an incurable disease. The book reads like written by a female. I assume Armandus is not the real author, only the publisher.”
“Where did you find it? It’s not from the Hogwarts library.”
“The origin does not matter. Read the bookmarks.” Severus continued to play reflectively with the blades of grass and stared across the lake. From time to time he watched Leonor preoccupied with the book. Their eyes met when Leonor finished reading.
“You understand, don’t you? It’s not worth the money.” Severus gave her a haunted look.
Leonor spoke quietly: “I’ve to do the seventh trial, it’s in the contract. I’m only free after I tried seven times. It’s in the fine print for private clients; I refused to believe initially. Severus, the last spell I tried was ‘Alohomora’. I was angry, because nothing was successful before and I was tempted with something very easy. It set the curse to work and I fainted with the painful memory of Cathy Greengrass. Not every life is an eternal love story with many smart kids. I’ve accepted it for myself. I will never have or wish for anything what the blond woman couldn’t bear to have lost. I’m prepared to go through.”
Severus groaned. “You have to convince the Goblins to bring the treasure chest to a place where the cursed souls of Catherine and the unborn child can escape and release their pain. The Greengrass family lives in Yorkshire and Cathy was found death between rocks in the sea below some cliffs. Go alone; don’t allow the Goblins to follow you.”
“Severus, I don’t need magical ability to do this. I must brave the grief of the woman and replace it with my own strength. Either I die by enduring the pain or the box will open. Will I be free after it or will her soul haunt me for ever?”
“You may be free, even stronger if you survive, or you never sleep again. Nobody can know. Will you risk it?”
Leonor nodded sheepishly.
“Do you know how to use a Patronus charm for messaging?”, asked Severus boring into Leonor’s eyes.
“Yes, I think so.”
“Send the grey fox to me and let me know where to find you before starting. Keep the Goblins away, do you get that? The Greengrass manor house is near Withby, but I cannot say for sure Catherine died there as well.”
“Yes, I’ll do.”
There was a long silence; Leonor and Severus were both indulged in their own thoughts until Leonor asked suddenly and with a sad look: “Do you have to go back to the castle now?”
Severus startled a little, snatched from picturing a lethally cursed Leonor and a victorious Potter boy and feeling himself as the fool once again. Severus had met Dumbledore early at breakfast before the first Slytherins showed up. The headmaster praised his relaxed night and had left soon with the words about every man forging his own destiny. The words still echoed in Severus ears, but there was no reason to return to the castle. Minerva and Pomona were in charge today and he would come up with an excuse in case of any questions. He shrugged glancing doubtfully at Leonor.
“You’d like to stay another while?”
Leonor smiled at him and relocated herself to the sun, removing cloak, shoes and rolling up the sleeves. She laid flat on her back with closed eyes absorbing the sun. It had been worthwhile to bring her here, she was happy at least.
“Severus …”, Leonor called, “… what did Black do to get you killed?”
“Does it matter?”
“I was just wondering why you are so nasty to Harry Potter.”
Severus watched her sprawled in the sunlight. It was hard to remove his eyes from the slender body. He tried to concentrate on a buzzard circling above the lake and responded gruffly: “How is this any of your business?”
Severus hoped to shake Leonor’s questions off with the answer, but she stalked unexpectedly into his direction. She cowered in front of his knees, nailing him with an intensive look. Leonor’s eyes were brown, almost black like the hair. Severus saw his own reflection in it. He tilted his head avoiding her eyes deliberately, but started to talk without being aware why he trusted her.
“I knew Lupin was a Werewolf. He transformed every month in the Shrieking Shack safely lead there by Madam Pomfrey. I suspected it even before we read the chapter in the book, but I wanted the proof to be right. Black and Potter hated me from our first ride in the school train; the heroic Gryffindor’s and odd ‘Snivellus’! I cannot explain it, but I believe Potter was jealous about my friendship with Lily. It was not just the common house rivalry. Potter was always rude to Lily, but he fancied her and pushed for a date. Potter and his gang hexed students out of poor fun. Lucius Malfoy paid attention over the younger Slytherins if he was in school. It was fun to Lucius seeing them in detention and watching a seething McGonagall docking points from Gryffindor. In our fifth year Lupin became prefect sanctioning all their deeds. It was always four to one and did not end until after school. Black told me how to pass the Whomping Willow and I was stupid enough to follow the instructions. I hoped to persuade Lily having final proof of the real reason for Lupin’s monthly suffering. Potter pulled me out of the passage to the Shrieking Shack, but I glimpsed the werewolf before. He saved all his friends and their little secrets till date – the unregistered Animagi, his invisibility cloak inherited to the boy, the map.”
“Lupin was prefect?”
“Yes, Lupin and Lily. Potter became Head Boy later.”
“What happened after the prank; I mean did any teacher notice?”
“Dumbledore was waiting after returning from the Whomping Willow. Dumbledore made me swear to keep Lupin’s secret or I would be expelled from the school. I served a rather pleasant detention with Slughorn brewing the potions for his next class. I don’t know what Dumbledore told Black and Potter, likely they got one more of the countless detentions. Lupin’s secret was saved, but Potter was celebrated by everybody for saving a Slytherin. Lily scolded me ‘ungrateful’ and defended Potter. I don’t know when she understood to have a werewolf in the dormitory and that Potter saved his friends more than me.”
“You talk about Lily Potter? But McGonagall was praising her as one of the brightest witches, how could she overlook it?”
Severus shrugged. “Gryffindors tend to be blind on both eyes about their friends.”
“And what happened to your friendship with smart Lily?”
“It was over after our fifth year. She strictly refused any contact with me and everything involved with the Dark Arts; the rising war, Dark Magic and Slytherin was all the same to her. I hoped she would see the fake greatness of Potter and his friends, but instead she married him.” The low voice was filled with bitterness and contempt.
“You fancied her too, didn’t you?” Severus didn’t answer.
“What’s your job, saving Potter?”
Severus looked up into Leonor’s eyes, surprised. “How did you know?”
“I don’t know. You unlikely became a teacher saving Harry before the Potters had been killed. I guess Dumbledore ‘needed a favour’? You don’t like teaching the unexceptional, mediocre kids, do you?”
“I asked Dumbledore to keep the Potters save. The Dark Lord targeted on Lily to kill the boy. I overheard the prophecy of Trelawney about the ‘Chosen One’. Dumbledore bound me to spy on the Dark Lord. I was already high in the Death Eater’s ranks and moved further up into the inner circle after Dumbledore’s offer to replace Slughorn. The Dark Lord succeeded to get somebody into a teaching post.” Severus took a deep breath and said almost pleadingly: “Leonor, you are adept in Occlumency. You’ve to keep it secret, for your own safety. Nobody can know.”
“You are a double agent? You have been cheating the Dark Lord?”
“… and his followers”, added Severus calmly.
“You’ll be death first if I blab.” Leonor took a deep breath as well.
“You keep Potter save while the Dark Lord’s supporters believe you loyal to their purpose. Dumbledore’s allies despise you, because you’ve escaped Azkaban and cannot keep your temper with Potter? Even worse, Potter has no clue of your motives, Dumbledore keeps your cover by feeding Potters resentment. You are going to save a person that doesn’t trust you at all. You are committing suicide, aren’t you?”
Severus leaned his head back against the trunk swallowing the truth. Leonor jumped up, unexplainable rage flushed her face. His deep voice resonated in Leonor’s ears.
“I need to cool off.” She started running towards the water and removed the long gown with a few trained moves. She left every handicap behind at the lonely shore. The lake was cold. It would never be much warmer. Leonor shivered before she dived and swam forcefully without caring about the direction. The icy water tweaked her skin. The effort cleared the irritated mind little by little until an unknown force dragged legs and body downwards. Her head was soon under water, she was already breathless and couldn’t see into the darkness of the depth, silence fell. A flash missed her nearly, but Leonor still felt like a stone dropping to the ground constantly and without return. Another flash stopped the enchaining powers and strong arms lifted her from behind above the surface. Leonor gasped for breath. Severus was furious, but regained his composure first. He pulled Leonor closer with an amused smile and a low bittersweet voice before letting go of her waist.
“I suppose you don’t want to be drowned by Grindylows?”
They glared at each other confused. Leonor shot him another angry look. He was still in his pants and shirt. Only the frock coat laid abandoned in the sand. They both returned with long strokes to the shore and Leonor realized the danger of swimming without a wand in a lake full of magical creatures. It was a near miss. She should be grateful, but the shame of being rescued in underwear was overwhelming. She couldn’t look at Severus at all.
Severus had already dried himself and removed the dust from the coat. Leonor stood still shivering in the sun. She embraced herself blocking the cold and the weight of the terrible news. The dancing waves had disappeared, and the surface was smooth and bright again. Severus sighed ill-tempered. He didn’t want to be accountable for any injury or even worse. Why could she not just take her wand, get dressed and leave? She was smart enough to keep herself out of trouble. Severus transfigured Leonor’s gown into a blanket. He turned Leonor away from the lake slowly. She looked wretched. Severus considered the shocked eyes while his hands motioned over her body without touching it. The silent magical warmth vanished the goose bumps on Leonor’s skin. The blanket covered her shoulders and the sun would do the rest.
“We need to go”, said Severus matter-of-factly.
Leonor took her wand, restored the gown and slipped into it quickly. She dried the damp hair and a transfigured wooden stick served as a comb. The serious casual self was back and followed Severus through the rocks. They turned towards Hogsmeade and ended soon on the wide road from the country side into the wizarding village. The beautiful day displayed the small houses in an unmistakable gleam of light. Jackson’s was surrounded by dark green hedges; the desolate state of the cottage invisible from outside.
“You can apparate from here”, said Severus impassively.
“How could you cross the Hogwarts security enchantments in your third year?” Leonor couldn’t hide the curiosity.
“No ‘unauthorized’ wizards or muggles can get in. All students can get out any time; most just never try it, they would be expelled if caught”, Severus answered flatly.
“Thanks, Severus, I’d like to keep in touch. I cannot give much in return or guarantee the information you eavesdrop will always be pleasant, but the incantation is not eliminated from Hogwarts. Circle your wand and cast ‘Omnino Audio ‘. It’s an unspoken spell.” Leonor spun on the spot and was gone without a shade of noise.
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