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
He seemed to have four legs, and not in the sense of Black or Lupin. When he tried to stand, he couldn't work out which pair he was meant to be using, and would have measured his length had Luna not mysteriously already had a hold of his elbow. His portrait-self looked austerely amused by his antics, but he noted that the long white brush-strokes of the man(?)'s fingers had a surreptitious grip on the back of the painted sofa.
He turned down the offer of a second cup of tea, with biscuits: he knew intellectually that hot liquid and a little sugar would be good for him but his head was in a whirl and his eyes kept trying to see the room from two angles at once. All he wanted was to get away somewhere quiet where he could work out which of himselves he thought he was.
Afterwards, Severus wasn't quite sure how he had got from the Headmaster's office back down to the front lawn; everything after his mind had broken away from his portrait's was a disorienting blur. He could remember making a few disjointed remarks to the Headmaster; could remember taking a distracted leave of his doppelgänger, and then leaning heavily on Neville Longbottom's surprisingly muscular arm all the way down the stairs because his brain still didn't seem to know which set of legs it was trying to use; and he thought that he should have been less brusque to Dumbledore's portrait, seeing that they seemed after all to have reached some sort of accommodation within the painted world, but he had been too eager to get outside into the nice fresh air before he threw up.
Not that the air outside was all that fresh, as it happened: the day was humid, and a fine mist was beginning to form over the loch. Perhaps it was a haar, rolling in from the sea beyond the mountains. He took an awkward leave of Hermione and Ron, who were going to Floo down to Devon to collect Hugo from his grandparents' house, and thence to London to meet Rose off the train. He promised - amazingly - to be in touch with Longbottom soon and - even more amazingly - found that he meant it, and then Hagrid brought up the Thestral-drawn carriage and embraced him again, clumsily, and then somehow he was in the dark, leather-clad interior of the cab with Luna Lovegood, bowling down the long, winding driveway towards the gates and towards Luna's sunny, airy flat with its smells of new bread and clean linen. "Going home," he thought, with a pang of longing and of relief, and the realisation was a dull, aching shock.
The warm, muggy air of June in Scotland made his clothes cling to him like a bandage, but as they rolled through the gates and out into the countryside the weather was changing and the wetness was turning to chill. Through the rear window, back up the slope behind them, he could still see the castle which had been his home since he was eleven, where he had been proud to become a teacher among those who had taught him; but it was home no longer, they had driven him out, an exile, a supplicant dependant on his former student's charity. And small wonder, for he was not even the man who had once lived in those scholar-infested halls but a created thing, a mere trinket made of flowers which imagined itself a man, but he was no more truly alive than the chessmen on their ivory and ebony chequerboard (mere paint on canvas, black on white, without life, late-come and little-regarded), while the real him mouldered in the earth unmourned, and the gathering mist rolled in to cover the castle behind him.
There approaching ahead and to their left, above the line of the hedge, he could still make out the small hill crowned by the Shrieking Shack - the house of the wolf, where he had suffered and died, where he had been expendable and expended, and he shuddered in the cold draught which blew to him across the open fields between here and there. He had been prey, only, food for the serpent and the wolf - a toy for the bullies, a pawn to his masters and a worthless discard to Lily's son, the flowers of the forest were a' wede away and it was not after all surprising that his parents, his contemporaries, his colleagues and his students all despised such an awkward, ugly -
He could see Luna's face through the mist which had invaded the carriage with them, there were fog-jewels like points of glass starring her short blond hair and her mouth was opening and closing, telling him something; the hateful whispering which filled his ears drowned her out but he should have known, he did know, bugger it, that from her first day at Hogwarts she had never shown him anything but warmth and a vague abstracted sort of respect, and he clung to that as to an anchor as he began the disciplined process of turning his mind outwards in layers of defensive shell, as the Thestral reared up in his harness and made a harsh, violent noise and Lovegood cast with her wand and sent a great silver hare racing round and round the carriage, facing down the dark.
Severus was still confused, that was his only excuse for not having realised what was happening at once - he was still confused, when he tried to reach into his mind to shield himself his point of view kept trying to flip back to that painted room on the tower wall. It was tempting to flee into that inner world behind the glass, where no Dementor would ever touch him, and if he did so he suspected the nightmare-eater would find his physical body empty and of no interest: but that would mean leaving Luna alone to face what was clearly a serious attack. However competent she was, she was still out - out-thinged, he thought crazily, not out-manned, surely?
If he'd had his wand he could have flown away, he could have carried Luna with him, but he could not even cast the beloved doe, betrayed and betraying. Fog and damp and bitter cold and Luna's intent face muttering the Patronus spell over and over under her breath, the mist swirling away like tattered sheets as the shining great hare loped past but it couldn't be on all sides of the carriage at once - Minerva might be able to cast eight cats and herself the ninth, but even if Luna likewise was confident or vain enough to be her own Patronus, hares had only the one life, and wherever it passed by the white mist gathered again behind it and began to coalesce into towering darkness, the remembered chill of Azkaban was in his bones, the hopelessness and the hunger and the foul smell and the ache of shattered, half-healed hands and how like him it was to have as his Patronus the symbol of someone who had, quite rightly, cast him off -
But she had been glorious to him, powerful to him, and he hissed in anger at the darkness pressing against his mind and beat it back with the torch of her hair, burning in memory. It did not matter that she had not defended him in life, the hard outer shell of his mind told himself firmly: she was still his shining Lils whose light could drive out the darkness, whether she had done so in practice or not, and he schooled his mind to think of her glory and not of her scorn and it was easier than it had ever been, because the most part of the memory of that scorn was lying in a bowl in Lovegood's flat. Strength came to him easily when he called for it, and damned if it mattered whether all the bad things he thought about himself were true, he might be a phantom made of flowers and moonshine but if he was real enough for a Dementor to feed on he was real enough to give the bastard things a sickener of him -
Bereft of guidance the Thestral screamed again, rearing and flailing - it should be immune to the soul-freezing psychic field of the Dementors but by craning out of the window Severus could see that a hand like a soggy, greying fungus had hold of the bridle, pulling the winged horse-thing physically back to earth. As the moon-hare bounded by with a noise like tearing paper he summoned all his willpower to cast a wandless Patronus; he could feel the soul-projection beginning to form but he could not hear his own voice, chanting the words, and the ripple of silver light was wavering - bone-deep coldness was creeping towards his heart, his brain, slowing his movements even as he struggled against it, Lils was dead, dead and rotting and it was all his fault and then Luna's hand was on his, warm and alive and steady as it pressed the strip of wood up into his palm, and he knew that the lost girl was still real, as he was, she still had a footprint in the world, and he did, even if the bodies of those children had been left behind, and the silver doe sprang up and outwards, and every graceful curve was Lily to him.
[Even as he cast the doe a part of him was outside the moment, watching. Analysis was the key, it always had been - that was the true armour no-one could take from him, though he could feel his jawline turning slightly pink as that cool, measuring part of himself which the Dementors could not touch noted clinically how... ejaculatory it was to use a wand to shoot out a white essence which represented joy, especially when the focus of that joy was a desired girl.]
Several things happened at once. As the doe opened her mouth in a silent shriek and charged, the Thestral lunged too, sharp teeth meeting in nothing as the Dementor which had had hold of him blew away like a dark leaf, and Luna flung the door open, hurled herself out of the carriage and was up and onto the Thestral's back almost without touching the ground, leaving her wand in Severus's startled grasp. He leaned out of the other door, gripping the door-frame with one hand and the wand with the other, and cast and cast as the silver hare faded away and Luna kicked her heels into the Thestral's sides and steered it blindly into the thickest of the mist, the carriage rattling and bouncing behind and the doe-that-was-Lily racing with them, now on this side and now on that, her slender legs glimpsed folding and unfolding through the freezing fog, devouring the distance in great, reaching strides.
A razor chill developed between Severus's shoulder-blades and something picked hopefully at the edges of his soul, reminding him that he had driven Lily away with his disgraceful prejudices, with his stupidity, he had it on the best authority that he was disgusting and Lily had been right to reject everything he was or would ever- whirling, he saw the mouldering hands, reaching for him, heard the rattling breath that stank of the grave and pressed himself back against the door as he realised that the thing was inside the carriage with him, filling the space from floor to ceiling; its shoulders were at the roof and its head was craning down to greet him. What little blood he had froze in his veins; its moist sucking mouth was searching for his and he dared not call the doe back to defend him and leave Luna alone and wandless; he was trapped and helpless as he had been in Azkaban, waiting for that ultimate, intimate slobbering kiss -
Shoving the thing away with his mind and aiming a hefty kick at it for good measure, he knew with an iron certainty that if he was too disgusting and dark for even Lily's light to dispel him, then he was far too dark and too powerful for this scabby apology for an Anthropomorphic Personification to handle.... "Fuck you!" he sneered as the Dementor billowed back away from him, wariness and doubt in every clammy lineament, and then there was a bang and a flash like fireworks and a river of silver poured through the carriage in a glittering rush of hooves and horns and wings, and swept the monster away through the door opposite.
Severus fell to his knees, gasping and giddy and shuddering with desperate cold, knocked sideways out of the world. With remote detachment he saw his own hands braced against the floor of the carriage, the spread fingers as translucent as porcelain and a pattern of bellflowers pulsing in and out under the whiteness, and beyond that he could see out and down into the Head's office, ninety degrees rotated from where his inner ear told him it ought to be, and Quincy Dobson talking urgently to someone whose face was wavering in the Floo. He hung his own head, trying not to heave, as the Thestral jangled to a snorting halt and the suspension dipped and rose under him as someone scrambled in through the open door.
He recognised the knees which folded down on the floor beside him, the robes - hauled himself upright, wheezing, trying to clear the fog from his lungs. Luna was on the floor next to him - she had come, he realized, to make sure he was all right but the cold sweat was rolling off her and her pale skin was whiter than his own. Making an unsteady grab for her shoulder he used her as a prop to stabilize himself as he lurched to his feet, and then grabbed her by the upper arms and hauled her upright before gravity caught up with him, and they both folded untidily down onto one of the seats.
"All right in here?" said a cheerful voice, and Severus raised his head, carefully, to see one of the Aurors who had - he belatedly realized - rescued them, leaning in through the door. Outside, he could hear crisp voices giving orders and casting spells, mopping up the remainder of the Dementors. He nodded, cautiously, and out of the corner of his eye he saw Luna flash the uniformed witch a wobbly smile.
"Aalll righ'" he slurred, blurring his words, but it was better than the stammer he had to lock his jaw to prevent. The Auror ducked aside for a moment and came back holding out a thick slab of chocolate, which Severus snatched and broke in trembling hands, pressing the lion's share on Luna who was, he realized numbly, huddled against his side, shivering convulsively. He was frozen himself, he could scarcely even imagine warmth, but his continuing physical weakness meant that he at least had been sent out well-wrapped and he shifted enough to fold his heavy travelling cloak around both of them, conserving what little body-heat they might both have left as they wolfed down the dark, bitter squares.
As the theobromine hit his blood-stream Severus could feel his panic-constricted blood-vessels beginning to relax, and he saw that a touch of colour had returned to Luna's cheeks. "How - how many?" he asked and the Auror, understanding, replied: "Well over twenty, at least. They're getting cleverer: seems like they realized we'd be guarding the Express so they waited until it was away and we'd all started to relax and disperse, and then made a two-pronged attack on Hogsmeade and the staff at the castle." She grimaced. "We didn't realize there was a carriage on the road as well until Mr Hagrid warned us. It was lucky you were able to outrun most of them, or we might not have got to you before - well."
"It wasn't luck," Luna said severely, shaking herself into some sort of order and wrapping the end of Severus's cloak more firmly about herself. "It was knowing how to ride and Mr... Partridge keeping them mostly off me while I was doing it." She proffered most of the remaining chocolate to the Auror. "Give this to the Thestral, please. I presume you can see him? I don't think Dementors can affect his mind, but they can still make him cold, so he'll need the extra energy."
Arriving in Hogsmeade, they were ushered into the Post Office, which had been turned into a temporary office for the Aurors; leaving the Thestral to rattle the carriage away down the cobbles of the high street on his own, taking it back to the coachyard to be put away until it was needed again. The clerk from the Aurory took them briskly through a series of questions about the attack, but his glance kept straying back to Severus and his expression was thoughtful.
At least they had only to go out into the street and up the side-stair next door. As they stepped outside a shadow passed over them, much too large to be an owl: Severus jerked his head up in fright to see the Thestral sail overhead in a leathery clap of wings. Hard behind it came a bang and a flash and he threw his hand up, too late, to cover his face - no-not-an-attack, not a wand but what was almost worse: a photographer wearing the sash of the Daily Prophet and an annoyingly cheerful smile.
The sofa almost seemed to exert a sucking force, pulling him down with its own personal gravity as he collapsed back onto its yielding bulk. He felt fragile as paper, almost too weak to move; the cold still seemed to have embedded itself in his bones and he was absurdly grateful when Luna fussed a thick, warm throw-cover around him, covering him from shoulders to toes, and lit the fire with a flick of her wand.
"You stay there," she said serenely, "and I'll make us some hot chocolate."
It sounded wonderful, Severus thought hazily; right now he could think of nothing he wanted more than to sink back into the cushions, and warm the bitter remembered chill of Azkaban away with a long hot drink and the kindness of a friend. But Lovegood was - had been - his student and she too had been exposed to the Dementors; she must just have had to relive the death of her mother and who knew what horrors suffered while she was in the hands of the Dark Lord, and it was his place to look after and protect her, not vice versa.
"I should - I should" he muttered, attempting to struggle to his feet, but Luna placed her small firm hand against his chest and pushed him back down onto the sofa with embarrassingly little effort.
"I'm only a year younger than you, now," she said, nodding to herself, "and besides, you've been ill."
"I've been dead!" he snarled in sudden anger, impatient with euphemism, and the blonde woman pursed her lips.
"Yes, well," she said, and raised her almost-invisible, ash-pale eyebrows at him. "I'd say that counted as pretty ill, wouldn't you?"
Breakfast the next morning was interrupted by an urgent Floo-call from Hermione, who had seen that morning's Prophet and could not rest until she had proved with her own eyes that they were both relatively undamaged. The newsagent's owl chose that moment to soar through the open window and deposit the paper in question into the butter.
Severus paused open-mouthed, his toast and marmalade halfway to his lips. Even from this angle he could see the headline: "DEMENTORS RAID HOGSMEADE, 3 KISSED", and then below that in slightly less screaming letters, "P. 3 - who is Mystery Man with" - he fished the paper out of the butter and wiped it down with a corner of the tablecloth before reading past the fold - "eccentric heiress?"
"...should have told me," Hermione's voice complained, and Luna said something emollient in reply, but he was too preoccupied to pay them much attention. The main report was, fittingly, about the raid on Hogsmeade itself -
"...while the great majority of the Aurors stationed in the village were overseeing the safe departure of the Hogwarts Express, at a point when they had begun to disperse from Hogsmeade train-station but had not yet resumed their regular posts in the village, some 70 Dementors attacked in force... Aurors rushed to defend the village and the school.... Two passengers in a carriage on the Hogwarts-Hogsmeade road had a narrow escape...."
- but altogether too much prominence, in his personal opinion, had been given to the side-story, which was headed: "Severus Snape's secret son?"
"Eccentric newspaper heiress Luna Scamander, née Lovegood (37), was one of two passengers who narrowly escaped with their souls after becoming trapped by Dementors in a Thestral-drawn carriage on the Hogwarts-Hogsmeade road. The panic-stricken pair were escorted to safety after Mrs Scamander made a failed attempt to escape on Thestral-back, leaving her companion (pictured, right) to face the Dementors alone.
"Who is the Mystery Man in Slytherin colours seen with Mrs Scamander? Eye-witnesses say that he bore a remarkable resemblance to the late Death Eater turned war hero Severus Snape, who was supposedly killed in the final hours of the Battle of Hogwarts (May 1998). Did Snape have a secret son? Was Mrs Scamander's clandestine lover Polyjuiced to resemble the plain-featured yet striking Slytherin hero?
"Or, most intriguing of all, did Snape somehow survive, to return to wizarding Britain years later? Marks on the Mystery Man's neck (circled, right) resemble wounds left by...."
To the right of the article an enlarged detail showed his own pale, scrawny neck, the twin pink smudges of new scars just visible above the green and silver scarf, alongside a sample image of himself in teaching robes, taken (he thought) during the preparations for the Triwizard Tournament. Himself scowled at himself in mirrored disdain. Above that, he and Luna emerged out of the shadowed doorway into the light and flung their heads up to watch the Thestral soar overhead, over and over in an endless loop. His own face, he supposed, was ageless: thin and drawn, he could as easily have been fifty-eight as thirty-eight, aside from the ink-black hair, and he wouldn't be the first wizard to use artifice in that regard: so he could see why the Prophet might think that he was, indeed, himself.
He had not realized until now that as he and Luna stepped out of the comparative darkness of the Post Office and into the street, they had been holding hands.
"So it's true," the face in the flames said, and it took Severus an effort of will to recognise the lined, deflated features as Horace Slughorn's, twenty years on. Even the moustache was losing the struggle with gravity. "I wondered if the Prophet was inventing again, but you are... who, exactly?"
"I..." and he couldn't think what to answer, any simple reply would be misleading and he could neither deny being Snape, nor fully lay claim to him. "Ask Lionel Carver," he finished flatly. "I know you know him, I remember he was..." in the Slug Club two years above me, but he couldn't make his mouth say it.
"Ah." The name obviously meant something significant to the old man, for he huffed the 'tache out and let it deflate, thoughtfully. "Not Polyjuice, then?"
"No. I am...."
"Healer Carver's theory was proved correct," Luna said firmly, coming to stand beside him, "at least on this occasion, but he has chosen not to go public about it yet in case - well, Professor Snape may be a special case."
"So...." Slughorn looked uneasy; embarrassed even. "May I - er...?" At Luna's nod, he moved up and forwards as the fireplace first magically expanded to accommodate him, and then shrank back down again behind him as he stepped into the room. He gave Luna a rather watery smile and then held out his hand to Severus, who shook it warily and without conviction.
Horace harrumphed through his moustache. "So...." he said again. "Do you find that you are...?"
"Yes, I find that I am" Snape said sharply, "which is - bloody unexpected, but as to what I am... God knows. I certainly don't."
"But you are... well, you certainly sound like Severus."
"Waspish and bad-tempered," Luna agreed happily. "It's great, isn't it? - to have him back, I mean."
Severus grimaced, not sure how to take either fondness or what was clearly well-meant teasing. "Sit down Horace, do."
The old man huffed his moustache again and limped to the sofa, where he lowered himself stiffly and with caution. His sea-coloured eyes watched Severus unhappily over the cup of tea which Luna poured for him.
"What?" Severus asked uneasily.
"He's still not sure you're you," Luna said brightly, "and if you're not you then seeing you being nearly you upsets him because he misses the you-you, and if you are you he doesn't know how to be happy to see you because he's got so used to mourning you."
"Ah - quite," Horace mumbled, spraying tea. "In a manner of speaking, don'cha know." He reached absentmindedly for a biscuit and dunked it in his cup.
"It's all right," Severus said, taking pity on him. "I - ah - caught up on the memories that my portrait has accumulated, so we don't have to go through it again." In his recollection of his portrait's recollection the old man he had last seen bustling up the corridor as Minerva drove him into outer darkness wept, out there in the solid world beyond the frame, declaring that he himself would never have joined in in attacking him, and he nearly believed it.
[Once, long ago, a scrawny little half-blood brat had listened to his mother's stories about the Hogwarts Potions master who was sure to advance the careers of clever little boys, and he had set his heart on Slytherin and on a new sort of father who would encourage rather than clout him: and if the old walrus hadn't quite been all that he had hoped, he'd certainly been a vast improvement on Tobias.]
Horace fished out a large silk handkerchief and blew his nose resoundingly. "Yes, well. I was all ready to share my great moment of triumph with you - me! Duelling the Dark Lord! - and then he said that he had killed... and it was all too late. It was too late forever."
"And now it's not," Luna said serenely. "Of course, it never was - you could always have talked to him again when you died."
"I'm never sure whether I believe...?"
"It certainly seems so," Severus replied carefully. "If I am - who I feel to myself to be, and my recollections are genuine, then there has been...." The obscure sheaf of images in the back of his head rustled like wings, spreading a little and then folding down again. "I do not have a clear memory of what passed between my death and my... reflorescence, but I am able to know that this is because my memory of events is clouded, rather than because there were no events to recall." Without thinking about it, he made an automatic grab, born of a year's shared experience in the staff room before his dual rôles of headmaster and scapegoat had exiled him to his high cold tower, and snaffled the last biscuit before Horace could hoover it up. "Did you really duel with...?"
"Oh yes," the older man said happily. "In m' jimjams, y'know. Green silk!"
"How very... Gryffindor of you." With a sharp pang he thought that it wasn't fair that even Horace had got to strike a physical blow against Lily's killer whilst he himself had not: but he knew that he had struck other and greater blows, and Horace had loved her too.
"Hah - no, it was an um, a family thing, you know we - mmm - pure-bloods have our ah, traditions and the Slughorns are - were - well, famous warriors. Traditionally."
"It's in the name, isn't it?" Luna said brightly, and when Severus raised his eyebrows at her she nodded. "Yes - Slughorn - it's an old way of spelling 'slogan' as in an, um, battle-cry. Of course," she added, still more perkily, "many people think that Slytherin's original war-trumpet was made from the horn of the Giant Man-Eating Madagascan Slug but I don't believe that myself. I mean, it would have to be a sort of tanned leather, wouldn't it, and I don't think it would produce a very good note...." Severus and Horace exchanged eye-contact, shiftily.
"Yes, well." Horace cleared his throat noisily, and gave the younger man a measuring look. "I would be delighted if you - both of you, that is, m'dear," with a nod to Luna, "would join me for dinner soon when you are... feeling better."
"Eager to show off your latest curio, are we?" Severus said cattily. "Just us and few dozen well-connected sight-seers?" God, he must look bad if even Horace thought he looked too ill to be put on display yet.
"I won't deny the thought has crossed my mind," Horace replied blandly. "It wouldn't hurt you to... socialize yourself with the right people, especially since you are twenty years out of touch. But I do, sincerely want to - to see more of you, without distractions at the moment. I have...." To Severus's embarrassment, the grey-green eyes misted over visibly. "I really have missed you, m'boy, and besides, if Healer Carver isn't ready to go public yet...."
He frowned and looked away, breaking eye-contact. "Severus..." he said softly, "do you, ah, have your wand back yet?"
"No it -" Severus broke off, gripped by a sudden deep shudder, then forced himself to go on. "...buried with me," he ground out, trying to keep his teeth from chattering, "and I don't think, after twenty years in the ground, that it would be in a fit state - why?"
"Thanks to - to Potter and the Skeeter woman, the whole world knows what you did for us, m'boy, but not everybody is, ah, grateful. Not all of Tom's followers were, ah, rehabilitated or, um, contained, as well as the... Dementor problem."
"Ah. And now, thanks to the Prophet, they know where - and that - I live...."
"Quite. If, ah, money is an issue, I'd be happy to finance...."
"That's very kind of you, Professor," Luna said seriously, "but Sandy - Mr Ollivander - has offered to provide Severus with a wand free of charge. In recognition of his services to the free world, also because I asked him to. We're going to see him tomorrow."
"Most impressive," the old wandmaker murmured, his moon-like silver eyes peering at Severus through a spidery lorgnette, and from an uncomfortably close range. "Most impressive...." Severus had last glimpsed Ollivander six subjective months ago: a torn and bloodied skeleton, sobbing and pleading in agony in the basement of Malfoy Manor and he had wished desperately that he could have helped the man, or put an end to his pain - but it was difficult to maintain that gut-deep, flinching guilt and compassion when he had the uneasy feeling that he was being examined for visible seams.
Ollivander sighed happily, evidently satisfied with the quality of the work before him. "My dear sir! A living, breathing, walking revenant - the wand that will suit you now will have to be... extraordinary!"
Since Luna's good friend Sandy looked like an extremely spry and agile mummy himself, Severus thought sourly that he was a fine one to talk about other people being walking-dead. "I've never known," he said uncomfortably, "why it isn't possible to make statues of the dead that walk and talk like portraits - since we can make statues of fictional subjects and give them some kind of life. But it's not really my field, despite...."
"Ah, yes," the other man said, tucking the lorgnette away and steepling his fingers; "the resurrection of the dead has always been a great interest of mine." [Amazing, Severus muttered under his breath; I never would have guessed.] "You see that the, ah, the world which is accessed through the portraits seems to be a special case of what I believe Muggles call the Astral, or of Death's Kingdom, if you will. A portion of the subject's soul is called into the border-realm defined by the painting and confined there, so that they can interact with the living, but they remain in Death's Kingdom and not in ours. Whereas an animated statue is a creature wholly of our world, and it is not normally possible to cross the boundary between here and there. That is what makes your own case... unique."
He gazed at Severus with the ecstatic expression of a bird-watcher spotting a rare Andean finch on Bodmin Moor, and Luna smiled indulgently at both of them. Severus, who was more used to creeping other people out than to being the creepee, retreated behind his hair and glowered.
"Yes, well," Ollivander said fussily, "About that wand... now let me see, your last was, I believe, a - 'legacy' wand, am I right?"
"If you mean that it was second-hand, yes." But there had been no legacies involved, he remembered glumly: his mother had bought it for four Sickles off a stall in Knockturn Alley, like it or lump it.
"As I thought... now, hawthorn I think, to start...."
The experience should have been a significant milestone: finally he was getting to choose his own shiny mint-new wand in Ollivander's famous shop, like normal boys and girls, even if he had had to pass through the far side of death to do so. The bright, dusty little room with its floor-to-ceiling shelves piled high with wands had been the gateway to the wizarding world for Lily and Granger and who-knew-how-many other Muggle-borns and Muggle-raised half-bloods, although for him it had been as marvellous and unattainable as the shop-front at Hamleys. But as wand after wand failed to respond to him even as well as Luna's had done, Severus became progressively more despondent.
Finally he flung up his hands in despair. "It can't be that I can't do magic at all in this - this new form, because I cast a Patronus during the Dementor attack. But perhaps the Dementors sucked out what little power was left."
"I do not believe so, no, although there might be a... temporary disablement. But I think that it is rather...." He pursed his lips thoughtfully. "Having become accustomed, perhaps, to using a wand that had been used by another wizard before you... and I did say, something out of the ordinary...."
He padded away down a passage into the mysterious depths behind the front shop, leaving Severus to slouch in the corner, hoping that the thin, translucent blue curtain at the window was enough to keep him out of sight of the few early-morning passers-by in the street outside. "You should sit," Luna said quietly, standing up and offering him the one rather rickety chair, but Severus shook his head.
"I'm all right."
A minute or two later Ollivander returned, bearing in reverent hands a wooden, brass-bound cylinder of the kind which might be used to house a telescope. Pulling a small, fold-down counter out from under one of the lower shelves, he laid the cylinder down and carefully unscrewed the cap, to reveal a velvet-padded interior the deep green of a yew tree.
"Cherry, thirteen inches, with a core of twisted Thestral tail-hairs," he murmured, drawing out the wand at the core of the sturdy case. "This belonged to Meraud Cadwallader, the Cornish witch who in 1632 almost single-handedly defended Tinworth from a raiding party of Barbary slavers mounted on dragon-back. It wasn't buried with her in the traditional manner because there wasn't, ahem, anything to actually bury...." he finished delicately.
Severus stared at the wand dubiously. It was a rich light brown that was almost pink - the last thing he would consciously have chosen - fairly chunky for its length, and marred by a long, blackened scorch. His first feeling towards it was unease, antipathy - when he picked it up and held it gently in his hand his palm itched almost as if he were holding a nettle. But when he closed his fingers and bore against it with his will, the itch turned to a jolt of power and wild force which lashed across the room and scored a deep gouge across the inside of the door. He embarrassed himself by yelping in shock, and then tried to disguise it as a cough.
"Marvellous!" Ollivander exclaimed, heedless of the damage to his property, and Luna clapped her hands like the audience at a play. Severus pushed again, cautiously and with control, willing a silent Reparo, and the score across the woodwork smoothed itself away.
"That, ah, seems to be satisfactory," he muttered, still feeling that electric itch in his palm. "But surely this must be... too valuable, I couldn't -"
"It is priceless - in both senses. To whom would I sell it? The wand has chosen you, and I insist that you let her do so. It is the least that I could do - some small recompense for the sacrifice that you made for all of us."
"It's very - good of you," Severus said awkwardly, "to do this, especially as... as I wasn't able to help you - before."
Ollivander nodded soberly. "It was - very bad," he said huskily, "but I know that you had - more pressing considerations. And after this wonderful girl here" - he clapped his bony hand down heavily on Luna's shoulder - "after this wonderful girl came to join me, then my circumstances improved... immeasurably."
"I suppose that to have company...."
"Not that only. She was actually able to prevent them from torturing me further."
"How?!" Severus exclaimed, startled out of composure, and Luna smiled a strange, inwards smile, the corners of her mouth tucking in in quiet amusement.
"I just looked at them," she said. "Like this." She transfixed him with a level, measuring regard, simultaneously penetrating and detached, as if he were a biological specimen of only moderate interest. After a few seconds, he could feel his mouth start to go uncomfortably dry. "And then they stopped; even Mr Riddle. It seemed to make them forget what they'd been going to do."
"It's extraordinary," he said, turning the new/old wand over in his hands and examining it in the light of Luna's big, Hogwarts-facing window. "I suppose that in reality, the wand I had before never was truly suited to me, and so without realising it I was exerting an unusual amount of force to make it work. Now I shall have to be careful not to blow my own boots off by mistake - or Transfigure my feet, like that chap in the play. It's probably just as well I'm still a bit below par."
"When you're well," Luna said, smiling, "you can teach me to fly. We can fly all the way to the Owl Tower, and talk to Blodeuwedd's grand-chicks."
"It's more of a glide," he said honestly. "The - Mr Riddle could fly with real control, he could soar as high as he liked, create his own wind - and I don't mean he farted it! At least, I don't think so.... But I never did manage to get much lift. What I do - it's more like controlled falling, and never quite hitting the ground until you're ready to."
"Then you can teach me how to not hit the ground," she said gravely. "Until I'm ready to."
To "measure your length" is to fall full-length onto the floor.
Doppelgänger (double goer) is a German word for a ghost-like double of a living person; in modern terms probably an astral projection, or what is called in Scotland a "fetch". It's moot whether the portrait is flower-revenant!Severus's doppelgänger, or vice versa.
"Haar" is a Scots word for fog, usually for fog that rolls in off the sea.
"The Floo'ers o' the Forest are a' wede away" - 18th C Scots song, based on an earlier original, lamenting the loss of life at the battle of Flodden Field in 1513.
The phrase "Anthropomorphic Personification" was invented, or at least popularised, by Terry Pratchett to describe the Death of the Discworld, and any other mythological being which personifies a natural force or condition in human form. The Dementors are loosely human-shaped personifications of depression.
Jimjams is a slang term for pyjamas.
Hamleys is a massive, famous multi-storey toy-shop in central London.
It's a little-known historical fact that as well as being involved in taking slaves in central and southern Africa in the 17th and 18th centuries, from the late 16th to the early 18th centuries Britain was actually a target for slave-raiders from North Africa, and many sailors and coastal villagers from Cornwall and Ireland were captured and carried away.
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