Disclaimer: I'm not muscling in on JK's turf - just gambolling on it, like a spring lamb, having fun working out the literary and psychological puzzles which she is having fun setting us
More Blood-Replenishing Potion: as he swallowed the thick, sickly stuff with a shudder Ronald Weasley gave him an apologetic look. "You're going to have to take that muck every hour or two for days, like my dad did. Until the, uh" - he put his fingers up and touched the side of his own neck - "stop bleeding."
Severus nodded, curtly, feeling a dull flush of misery spreading across his skin. "You shouldn't be so - considerate. You must know that I helped Dumbledore to send your friend Potter to his death." First Lily, and then her son.
To his surprise, instead of looking solemn no-not-Granger smirked at him. "Well, yes. And then again, no."
He raised his brows at her. "It must be one or the other, surely?"
"You would have thought so," Ronald (he was going to have to get used to thinking of them by their given names, since he suspected there were two Weasleys here) said seriously, "but it didn't work out like that."
"Harry did die," Lovegood (no, Luna) said. "He went into the astral realms and met Professor Dumbledore and everything -"
"And what an unexpected pleasure that must have been," Severus muttered under his breath. Ronald snorted inelegantly, and Luna smiled dreamily and impartially at both of them.
"Yes. But then he undied - something about being pure of heart and a willing sacrifice or something. And we thought - well, you were a willing sacrifice too, pretty much, and sort-of pure of heart, so if Harry deserved another chance, so did you. And that - well, maybe me finding out about Blodeuwedd was fate's way of giving it to you."
"That's a Jewish principle," Hermione said, nodding. "My gran taught it to me. God doesn't have to wave Her or His or Its great big magic wand in the sky and create obvious, unnatural miracles: She/He/It usually makes miracles by tweaking mundane events."
"It may be a miracle," Severus ground out, not looking at any of them, "but that doesn't prove it's meant to be a reward and not just another bloody punishment." Please God, merciful God, he was so tired of being punished, even if it was no more than he deserved.
"You'll feel better when you've had a cup of tea and a sandwich and a kip," Ronald said. "I always do."
Severus considered making a scathing remark about little things pleasing little minds, but when he thought about how long it was since he had eaten, even without the intervening twenty years of time/not-time folding down like paper, tucked neatly away in a pocket at the back of his brain and his recent volcanic vomiting-fit, he realized that the boy - man - probably had a point. The hollow sensation in his stomach wasn't only misery and lingering fear. With a sudden unexpected feeling of lightness he realized that he had done his duty and never shirked it, and had somehow managed not to kill Lily's brat in the process, and there was no war and no Tom and no Carrow twins and no cold, hating former colleagues to sicken his stomach, and he was suddenly, ravenously hungry.
"Whereisis anyway?" he asked about a quarter of an hour later around a doorstep-sized slab of bread and cold beef and horseradish, vaguely aware that his mother would have clouted him for talking with his mouth full, and not caring. Having been dead for twenty years must surely excuse a man from the more petty social niceties.
"Hogsmeade," Luna replied with a smile. "This is my flat."
He was amazed it wasn't more bedizened - he would have expected something like Sybill Trelawney's Turkish-bazaar décor, but this was cool and minimalist and overwhelmingly oatmeal-coloured.
When he saw the nightshirt they were proposing to dress him in, his mouth turned down at the corners in no uncertain fashion. "I know it's a bit... orange," Ronald said apologetically. "Lionel was supposed to bring clothes for you but, well, we had to improvise, and since I'm about the same build...."
"Very well," Severus said curtly, trying not to sound too ungracious, and then forced himself to nod politely. Inwardly he cringed as the sheets were folded back to allow him to dress, baring at least part of his torso, even though all three of them had seen him naked less than an hour ago. He knew how he looked - scrawny and scarred and pasty-white - but even so the revulsion on the red-headed man's face made his stomach knot. He dropped his gaze, ashamed, and then realized with a flush of embarrassment that probably what had made the Weasley swallow like that was not his fish-belly pallor, but the trailing scars across his side where his father's belt-buckle had cut into him.
His back he knew to be worse, finished off with the raking gouges of Buckbeak's talons, fixed on the fly as they had been and then left to finish healing by themselves - their weeks-long sting a part of his penance for Charity's upturned, pleading face. With the sharp ears of the hunted he heard Hermione draw in a hissing breath at his shoulder, but Luna made no sound: only pressed the palm of her small hand briefly against his marred skin. The kindness in the touch twisted something inside him so that he jerked away in shock as if she had burned him, but when he opened his mouth on what would have been a stammering, confused apology she gave him an eldritch smile and held the nightshirt out ready for him.
As he shrugged his way into the horrible orange excrescence and then curled down on his side into the comfortable embrace of Luna Lovegood's guest-bed, he reflected that if Ronald Weasley had appeared to view his naked form with pleasure that would have been even more disturbing.
In the dream, he was standing looking out of a large window (?), except that "out" wasn't quite right, there was a darkly comfortable room behind him, half-seen, light glinting softly on shadowy cauldrons and glass jars, and another room in front of him, below him, he was looking down at a prematurely balding man who was scratching away busily at a parchment.... As he watched, the writer's sleeve trailed through the still-damp lettering, smearing it, and the man cursed under his breath and began to clear up the mess with his wand....
There was a dark railing in front of him, the edge of a balcony he thought, but when he put his hands on the rail and tried to lean out to get a better look he was met by some sort of barrier, and he looked up and there were other faces, other balconies, ranged across the curving walls of the inner room like stamps in an album, each one the gateway to another world. A swathe of Slytherin green and silver caught his eye and he glanced at it and saw Phineas Nigellus stroke his pointed beard and smile at him -
He jolted awake, frightened and confused, to find firm, deft fingers replacing the sodden dressing on his neck. A wiry, pointy little man of about sixty, with crinkled eyes and hair that stuck out over his ears like the feathers on a secretary bird, beamed down at him and said "Ah - Professor Snape. Welcome back to the land of the living." He looked as if a gust of wind could blow him away, but the hand which slid behind Snape's shoulders to lift him into a half-sitting position was as strong as iron.
Severus gulped down the proffered Blood-Replenishing Potion, grimacing, and replied "Healer Carver, I presume."
"Indeed, to be sure, most unfortunate I always feel, it sounds more like a Muggle surgeon, doesn't it? So ingenious, how they do that, but it could be worse, the name I mean, one of my predecessors was called Eustace Quack so of course everybody called him 'Useless'...."
His patient lay back again, still feeling weak and achy and slightly dazed, and allowed himself to be manhandled as Carver prattled on relentlessly at the same time as efficiently taking Severus's pulse, his blood-pressure and a variety of more obscure readings. "So, do I pass muster?" he asked after a while, trying to sound as if he didn't much care.
"Mmm, yes, to be sure, your blood-pressure is still very low but that's only to be expected, and your reality reading is ninety-three percent, which - "
"Which means what, precisely?"
"That you probably aren't going to turn back into petals and rocks without warning," the other man replied crisply.
"And with warning?"
"Oh, if it happens with warning we should be able to stabilize the matrix quite easily. Probably."
"I saw - earlier, when they - brought me back. I saw flowers, under my skin."
"Only to be expected, with such an untried team, but Mrs Weasley did a good job: a very good job."
Severus grimaced slightly at the memory of the neurotically eager, frighteningly over-educated schoolgirl. "She generally does."
"Ah, yes, of course, you taught her, didn't you? When you were...."
"When I was alive."
The older man paused in his chattering and gave his shoulder a firm, gentle pat. "You're alive now, you know: just with more... magical input."
"So what happens to me now?" He could feel a sick tremor starting in his gut, as the prospect of a renewed future stretched ahead of him with the usual unending bleakness, only now with no job and no purpose.
"You need to rest for a few weeks until your neck is quite healed and you've recovered from the, um, shock. And I don't want to, ah, go public about your... recovery until I've conducted a few more tests. Don't want to raise any false hopes in case you turn out to be a one-off case, you know? But I don't think you need to worry about - about money. The lecture fees alone...."
Severus nodded abruptly, not trusting himself to speak without retching. The worst of it was, he couldn't even set up shop as a potion-brewer any more, for his knowledge was twenty years out of date.
"Your wand," Hermione said, "I'm afraid it was - well, it was buried with you. If you see what I mean."
He pressed the back of his hand against his mouth, curled up in Luna's guest-bed and Ron's horrible orange nightshirt. He heard her voice, as if from the other end of a tunnel, ask: "Are you all right?"
"Yes - no - it's - disturbing, that's all. To think of myself... decaying. Or having - having two bodies. When I die again I'll have two bodies won't I which is just so - very - they'll have to bury me in two places or will they cremate one of me or, or - "
"Steady on, mate," Ron muttered, but Luna just nodded thoughtfully.
"I can see how that would be," she said seriously. "Disturbing, I mean. But, well, as I understand it this body is perfectly real while you're alive in it but if - when you die again it will go back to flowers and stones. And really it's only the same as if you lose a body part - one that can be regrown - then there's a new live bit and an old dead bit, isn't there? Only this is - bigger."
He pressed his hands against his face, feeling the sharp jaw and the narrow prow of a nose, imagining those same bones stripped bare and mouldering somewhere under the earth, and wondered if he still had human DNA and human seed. If, through some unexpected opportunity, he were to get a woman pregnant, now, would she give birth to a son of his line, or to a green-man grotesque made of leaves and briars? "I cut - cut your brother's ear off, I think", he murmured to Ron. "With Sectumsempra."
"Yes. But he knows now that it was, um, friendly fire."
"It was an accident, yes. I was afraid Lupin was going to be killed" - and he had never had much of a head for heights, and the sting of Buckbeak's talons had stiffened his back like a board. "Did he - " forgive me, he wanted to say, but there was so much more that he needed to be forgiven for.
Hermione coughed gently.
She gave him an apologetic look, although the corners of her mouth were quirking. "Well, uhm, as I recall, he said you were an, uhm, a clumsy bastard who couldn't hit a barn door at twenty paces, and you had - had had - a bloody nerve criticizing his technique for dicing newt eyes. He meant it nicely, though. I think."
"He felt really bad about you being dead," Ronald said seriously, "or he might have been nasty about it. But I wanted to ask you, si- Severus...." He gave the older man a pleading look. "What were you doing, with such a horrible spell? I mean, Harry and me, we really liked the Prince, he seemed like a great guy, I would have died if it hadn't been for the Prince and his bezoar, and then, and then Harry used one of his - your - spells on Malfoy because Malfoy was trying to Cruciate him, and it carved him up!"
Severus blinked at him, trying to process the twin revelations that Potter had been acting in self-defence when he half-killed Severus's godson, and that Potter - or indeed anybody - had actually liked the sour, prickly, nervy boy he remembered himself to have been. His lips thinned at the memory. "I don't know if you can comprehend this, Weasley, but after your friend Potter's charming godfather tried to feed me to a werewolf, I thought I needed all the protection I could get and it made me feel - safer, knowing that I had a weapon. And weres - well, there aren't that many spells that work on them at all, but that was one of them."
He sighed and rubbed tiredly at the bridge of his nose. "Also, I was vain and silly enough that I was attracted to the name - it means 'Sever Forever', did you realize? If you'd found a spell that meant 'Red Weasels Rule' I'm sure you'd have felt the same."
"Not if it - not if it was really dangerous."
"Really? Well, in that case you must be more responsible than your brothers. And I was - I was careful with Sectumsempra, at school. If you use it to create simple cuts they are just simple cuts, it's only if you cut something actually off with it... which, well, it's rigged not to cut bone so you can't take off an arm or anything even if - even if you still have to be careful about the soft bits. Itís safer than Diffindo, in fact, if you need a weapon, and it had some more mundane practical uses. If you dice something sticky with it - like newt eyes - it stops the bits clumping back together. And I didn't expect some feckless bloody idiot to get hold of the book and use the spell without even finding out what the Latin meant."
"Yeah, well, Harry's never been very good with languages, except Parseltongue when he was a Horcrux, and that sort of came naturally. Or un-naturally, depending on how you look at it." He helped Severus to sit up, carefully avoiding touching any areas of bare flesh.
"So what's the - Potter doing now? Making a living signing his autograph, is he?" The suggestion that he himself might live off the proceeds of lectures had rankled rather.
"He's head of the Aurory," Hermione replied rather frostily. "He revolutionized the department."
"Merlin help us. And Lupin?" The silence stretched on uncomfortably, and he felt what little blood there was left in him drain out of his face.
"Remus died," Hermione said gently. "And Tonks. During the battle."
"Oh, Christ." He wanted to be sick. "He had a child didn't he I tried to - did he ever - did he know that I tried to save him?"
"I'm sorry. Harry told everybody what you did - he told Riddle and everybody there how you were always loyal to the Order, even to the last - but Remus was already dead."
"Oh Christ." The knowledge that the werewolf had gone to his death still believing that Geeky-Greasy-Snivellus had been a traitor hurt more than he would have believed possible, even when the folded thing at the back of his mind eased open a little and showed him a blurred image of Lupin, looking mortally embarrassed, surprisingly healthy and a little translucent, saying "I never expected you to turn traitor, whatever Sirius thought, but we didn't know Dumbledore was dying and we all thought -" And poor Muggle-born Ted Tonks, for whose sake Drommie Black had scandalized all of Slytherin, had been killed in January - leaving her quite literally holding the baby, from the sound of it.
"Who else? Who else?"
And so they told him, a litany of the dead, an ample honour-guard for Charity, who would never have a grave - Remus and Nymphadora; Fred Weasley, his grinning-devil of a face frozen into stillness; brave Dobby and poor stupid Vincent Crabbe, whom he had tried to protect for seven years, taught by the Carrows to summon a magic fire he hadn't the wit to control: but at least there were few Slytherin dead. Driven out by Minerva they had sought to find him, to be guided by him, and failing to do so most had either regrouped behind Horace Slughorn and returned to defend the castle with the safety-in-numbers provided by a mixed rabble of parents and older siblings of all houses, or attached themselves rather half-heartedly to Tom's forces and then stayed well at the back, or simply drifted away, unsure of where their loyalties did or should lie. Even Lucius had survived, damn him, though Bellatrix was safely dead. Zacharias Smith, sneering to the last, cornered at bay and rather grudgingly defending a group of other underage students who had been trying to Floo away; Madam Puddifoot in her pink cardigan; dozens of others, more than they could name - but it was the death of Colin Creevey which made him tear up, shaken by grief. How he had fought for these children and tried to defend them, he had thought that at least the Muggle-borns he had helped to banish were safely out of it; but the stupid boy had crept back in, hunting for death or glory, and had found both.
He covered his face, overwhelmed by sorrow but too embarrassed to admit to the tears, and Hermione said gently "It was all a long time ago, sir."
"Not to him," her husband's voice replied. "To him it's still all like, last night."
"But wouldn't he...?" Luna's voice began, puzzled. "He was dead, so why would he think it was so terrible that they were dead? Wouldn't he already know?"
Severus drew his hands away from his face, shakily, feeling a part of the folded memory rustle and unfurl. "When you're on the side of the dead, when they're coming towards you, then it's just - how things are and you're there and they're there and it's not - not tragic. Just how it is. But when you're here, on the side they've been leaving, then you can still feel the - the vacancy. Absence. The world is still diminished by their loss."
"Are you sorry that we brought you back?" Luna asked gently.
"I don't know - yes, no, I don't know. It was - when I was dead it all didn't hurt so much. But that's like being - being numb, it doesn't mean you've solved the problem, only that you can't feel it. And maybe I should hurt."
"You have nothing to punish yourself for," Hermione said seriously, "but we thought that you - well, that you might think you ought to punish yourself. And that it might help you to have the chance to learn that you really shouldn't."
"But why - why me? Why this - worthless - and not - " Colin-Charity-Remus-Ted-Nymphadora-Fred and he knew the answer, of course, mere coincidence, no-one would have chosen to save him if they could have had one of the others.
"You were the only one we could save, of course," Hermione replied, and his stomach cringed at that of course, even though of course he had known. "But even if we'd had a memory-at-death for someone else we would still probably have picked you - because we were able to consult your portrait in advance, of course, but also because we felt that, well, that you'd been treated very shabbily, especially by Professor Dumbledore, and had died with a lot of, uhm, unresolved stuff you might want to sort out, and plus you don't seem to have many relations or, uhm, friends so you might not be too badly... disturbed by finding that everybody you knew was suddenly twenty years older and you weren't."
"Most of the people I know will be improved by being twenty years older," he muttered, thinking about an untamed furze-bush of hair and a desperately waving hand. "And how do you imagine that you know what I have to be punished for, or how Dumbledore treated me?"
"From your portrait - you ought to meet him, you know, he'd be able to fill you in on a lot of what's been happening..." Severus stared at her, wondering if she had any idea how disturbing that idea was, especially since - jarring/discontinuity/one consciousness overlaid over another/looking down from a balcony into the round room - "and from your memories, of course," her voice concluded.
"From my...?" He gaped at her, winded with shock. "Shit! That was supposed to be for Potter, for Potter, not for a bunch of prurient bloody sightseers - " He could hardly draw breath, his stomach knotting with pain and with burning shame at the thought of other people's dirty fingers dabbling through his memories of Lily.
"We haven't actually seen them, as such," Luna's dreamy voice assured him, "but, well, several people from the Wizengamot did look at them - in order to formally clear your name, you know? They still weren't entirely sure that Harry wasn't just making things up, especially after he - well, saying you were dead and then you got resurrected is bound to worry people a bit. And one of them talked to Rita Skeeter and she, uh, wrote a book, which Harry said was surprisingly accurate considering the source and, well, everybody thinks you're terribly romantic...."
"Damn' straight, mate," Ronald said with a grin. "If you do decide to meet your adoring public, you're going to be beating the wimmin off with a stick."
Severus was torn between wincing - even a joking reference to violence against women brought up a slew of unpleasant associations, beginning with his father's raised hand - and a suddenly intrigued curiosity, which warmed parts of him he had almost forgotten existed. "Really?" He coughed, blushing a bit.
"Yeah, really. And if, um, you know, if you do decide to stay and you don't have anything lined up you know, work-wise, you could always come and work with George and me at Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes."
"You're offering me a - a job?" Severus replied blankly.
"Well - if you wanted it. We can always use a good spellwright and brewer, and you seemed to have the right, um, mindset, to judge from your - the Prince's - book. We were glad when they found that in your quarters, by the way - we were afraid it had been burnt."
"Yes I - I saw from Potter's memories that it had ended up in the Come-and-Go Room, so I got one of the house-elves... but I, I don't even have a wand, and my knowledge - twenty years out of date, twenty years - " He clamped his mouth shut, flushing in shame to hear his own voice sound so close to a wail of despair.
"Yes, well," Luna said, "that was what I was going to say, earlier. I already spoke to Sandy - Mr Ollivander, that is - and he said he'd arrange a private session for you so you could choose a new wand without any - 'unwanted gawpers' was the way he put it."
"Oh! - oh God. I was so - I would have helped him if I could, I could hear him - " screaming, screaming in the cellars under the house, the old man twisting in agony and he could do nothing, another shame to add to his account, to go with Charity's tear-stained, desperate terror....
"He knows," she said gently. "He said you showed great fortitude and cunning, which are things he admires, and I was able to help him a bit, after they locked me in with him. Probably not before, of course."
"As for being twenty years out of date," Hermione added, "I thought of that, of course, and Neville says if you don't want to be in the library where everyone can see you you can camp out in his quarters while you catch up on all the journals. He's Herbology Professor," she added, forestalling the obvious question which she could see rising to his lips, "and he set himself up some rooms right out by the greenhouses. It's very nice - and private."
"Was Pomona...?" Her name hadn't been listed among the dead, but he had to be sure: the thought of losing another colleague turned his stomach, even if they had turned him out into the dark to die.
"She took a lot of curse-damage in the battle," Hermione replied seriously. "Her health never really recovered, so she took early retirement and went to live with her sister in Mevagissey."
"It was Neville who grew all the flowers we needed make your new body," Luna added. "He felt really bad about you dying, you know."
"I thought - thought he'd hate me. I was never kind to him."
"No, you weren't," she agreed calmly. "But you protected him, even from the Carrows, and he said - after Harry confirmed that what was in Rita's book was mostly almost nearly true, he said he thought you'd never been kind because nobody had ever been kind to you, and somebody ought to have tried it. So he thought - even if you decided not to stay, it would be good for you to come back just for a little while. So people could be kind to you."
Arthur was actually cured rapidly once St Mungo's developed an antidote to Nagini's poison, but the hospital had been treating him with other, less effective potions for about two and a half weeks at that point, and I'm assuming that that made a difference to the speed of his recovery, and that even if they'd had the correct antidote from the outset, a cure would still have taken some days.
The Flowers of the Forest is a famous Scottish lament for the Scots dead at Flodden Field.
Although we never see Hermione observing anything like dietary laws, she also never goes home for Easter and only twice for Christmas during the whole time that we see her, and on one occasion she ducks out of going on a skiing holiday at Christmas. It seems pretty clear that her family are, at the least, not any sort of practising Christian, so I felt free to include a bit of not-very-observant Jewish background there - especially as a high proportion of British dentists have traditionally been Jews (see e.g. The Jones Dental Dynasty).
Because Sectumsempra translates as "Sever Forever", and because when he is fleeing at the end of HBP Snape accuses Harry of using "my own spells", plural, I had always assumed that Snape invented Sectumsempra. But now that we know that Lupin refers to it by name as if he knows it well, I'm more inclined to believe Harry's first thought - that the Prince had simply copied the spell, which, after all, we do not see worked out in the margins of his book the way his other spells were.
It seems clear that transformed werewolves are immune to most magic - otherwise why would James have needed to rescue Severus at all? Remus turns into a thing with paws which cannot hold a wand or, presumably, do magic, so unless he was immune to magic young Severus ought simply to have been able to Stupefy him.
It is also pretty clear, from the cave scene in HBP where Harry uses Sectumsempra to hack at the Inferi, that the spell either cuts quite shallowly or cannot cut bone. The blade it generates is clearly very sharp - it easily cuts through the Inferi's soggy, rotting clothes - but hack as he might, Harry can only inflict flesh-wounds on them.
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