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
"It's not impossible, is it Albus? Why, even in my own schooldays there were students who were willing to torture and murder for amusement - as you well know."
"I did tell Harry, as early as first year, that you felt about his father the same way he felt about Draco Malfoy, you know - but he thrust it out of his mind. Or twisted it around, perhaps, and assumed that you had been in Draco's position, and his father in his. He does so hate to think ill of James."
"He's not the only one, is he Albus? You persist in going all dewy-eyed over the bastard and his tragic fate, but he was a snotty, arrogant, spiteful little shit and you know it - a spoilt little pure-blood strutting around the school with his pack of hand-picked bullies, looking for someone to torment. Me, usually."
"Indeed. He was very much like young Mr Malfoy in many ways, and yet you always assure me that that young gentleman has - other qualities, which militate against his faults. If I allow you your predilection for Draco, dear boy, you must surely allow me mine for James."
Between Christmas and New Year, a whole gaggle of his Slytherin geese came back to Hogwarts early, in order to resume guarding him. Snape wasn't sure whether to feel flattered or cringingly embarrassed, as family celebration after family celebration was cut short for his sour sake.
"Severus, my boy, it's ah... to see you" the fat man finished lamely, obviously unable to say what it was. "Albus has assured me that you, ah... that he will probably only need me until the summer." He blinked his watery light-green eyes at the wreckage of what had once been his star pupil, visibly trying not to wince.
"Albus is an over-optimistic old fool, Horace, as you well know. Do I look to you like someone who will be able to resume teaching in September?"
"Well, ah, well, I'm not entirely fit m'self, you know, and Filius tells me - that is - "
"I'll believe it when I see it; all he's done so far is measure me, and mutter to himself in corners. Should I be flattered that you're taking such an interest in my future health - even though I know it's only because you want to know how soon you can sink back into your comfortable retirement?"
"It isn't - only that," the other replied, helping himself to a chocolate liqueur.
"He's - not an unkind man, I suppose, Albus," Snape muttered, leaning against his friend's rather bony side. "He means well, to use a dreadful phrase, and I'm even prepared to believe the old bastard has some genuine fondness for me, as strange as that seems - but let us just say that I based most of my style as Head of House on thinking about what Horace Slughorn would do, and then not doing it."
"He's a competent teacher."
"Oh, on a longish hook. Admit it - you only asked him here because you think you'll be able to pump his brains about - about Riddle. If you can find his brains."
"I'll admit," Dumbledore said with a faint smile, "that it seemed economical to - kill two birds with one stone." And thought, but did not say, three birds - you'll get better so much faster, dear boy, if you think he's not doing a good job with your precious classes....
"And how is dearest Alastor panning out - or shouldn't I ask?"
"Not too well, I'm afraid - the older students who remember the false Moody find him disturbing, and he's never been exactly - well. You know what I mean."
"Not the most rational and balanced of wizards, no. And I always find him disturbing. His relentless and obvious distrust of me is - is mortifying." He shut his eyes, but his face did not relax; hard lines of pain and bitterness still bracketing his mouth. "I note that he's the only member of staff who hasn't been to - to visit me."
His long lips twitched upwards slightly. "Even Mrs Norris came in the other day and pilfered a kipper. I suppose I should be grateful that Alastor's suspicion of me keeps him away, since I really don't want him anywhere near me; but it still - eats at me."
"Not so suspicious since...."
"Since my supposed bloody - Master had me violated and crippled and thrown back like a piece of rubbish."
"If you want to put it that way. It's guilt rather than suspicion which keeps him away, I think - guilt for having doubted you, and for - well."
"Because he connived in my being tortured by his fellow bloody Aurors when I was in Azkaban."
"Yes... you'll understand, under the circumstances, he feels very... disturbed by his own actions."
"Serves the paranoid old bastard right - if he runs out of nightmares, I have a few hundred he can have with my blessing."
"That's as may be, but at least he is an excellent person to have around as far as warding this castle and you from further attacks goes."
"He's an efficiently paranoid old bastard, I'll give him that."
"So," said Hermione, nibbling absent-mindedly on the end of her quill, "if we're going to go ahead and celebrate Professor Snape's birthday, what kind of cake should we get him?"
"Not a birthday cake," Luna said firmly; "not the sort you put candles on anyway. You don't want to make him think you're treating him like a child; even though you are."
In the end, and after much consultation with the house-elves, they settled on a slightly alcoholic version of a chocolate fudge cake, laced with Bailey's Irish Cream. The house elves were delighted at the chance to do something nice for Professor Snape, and promised to produce a suitably subdued and adult birthday tea. Nothing ostentatious, they promised Hermione, just something a little nicer than usual.
A birthday present was more difficult. Eventually Hermione referred to her "Ways to Help Professor Snape" list, was reminded that #3 was "provide new reading material" and settled on a book - newly published, so she was sure he wouldn't have it, and it was described as possessing a "bold new interpretation" of several traditional potions, so he'd probably find lots of places to find fault. She agonized for hours over whether to inscribe it, and eventually settled on a card. That way he could ignore who had given him the book, if he wanted to.
Christmas hadn't helped her burgeoning... thing... for him at all. He'd looked so handsome, to her biased eyes, sitting up in his new robes, talking and even smiling a little. (At her! Her heart had pounded for twenty minutes on the strength of that small smile.) He'd even been civil to Harry, and she'd been so proud of both of them that she could have burst. For the first time, it had occurred to her that the two of them were alike, at least insofar as it came to how she felt about them. Prickly, lonely, prone to fits of temper when it was really themselves they were angry with - and they both inspired in her a fierce, exasperated affection and a desire to protect them from the dangers they persisted in courting. The only difference was that Harry was like an annoying, adored younger brother, and her feelings for Severus Snape were about as far from sisterly as it was possible to get.
When he'd collapsed, and again when he had described the ghastly fate which the Death Eaters had planned for him, it had taken all her resolve not to rush to his side, to push Hagrid away so she could hold him herself. The urge to go to him had been so strong that she hadn't dared move, holding onto her seat with a white-knuckled grip until she was sure she could trust herself again. She hadn't been really happy until it was her turn to spend the night again, and she'd been able to spend most of the night holding him and watching him sleep.
Even the most stern talking-to, delivered to herself via the mirror, couldn't dent her feelings for him, even when she'd started doing them daily. Lists had been similarly ineffective. Lately, she hadn't even bothered to try.
Three gifts awaited Snape when he woke on his birthday... a large green tin, a small box and a book, perched on the end of his bed. Seeing them there, he felt momentarily baffled, as if he had blundered into someone else's life, and then a bubble of ridiculous hope lodged itself in his chest. Feeling frivolous and skittish and more than slightly silly, he settled down to examine the first birthday presents he had received for over thirty years.
The tin, when investigated, opened easily with one hand and contained a small mountain of iced fancies decorated in green and silver. He would have recognized Molly's baking even without the card. By way of a pleasant surprise, all the cakes were identical on the outside, but different flavours within; he located an orange cake and a coffee one before putting the rest aside for later.
The box was from Neville Longbottom, according to the card, and contained several blown-glass bottles - which, when opened, turned out to contain distilled essential oils. Lavender, neroli, rose, ginger and thyme - all traditional for use against stress, fear, anxiety and exhaustion. The oils were perfectly and delicately prepared, definitely above the usual standard - where had the boy found them?
The book was new to him. Antipodean Antidotes: Magical Flora of Australia and New Zealand, by Barry Buckley. A small card had been tucked inside it - a rather nice rendition of a flowering thyme plant and a wish for a happy birthday from Hermione Granger. Trite, but not an entirely unwelcome sentiment - unlikely though happiness was, the wish was probably a sincere one.
"I have a present for you too," Luna said cheerfully, when he'd finished examining the unexpected bounty at the foot of his bed. She had been the one to spend the night, that night, and she leaned off the bed to rummage underneath it. "Here!"
Snape stared at the string of large, brilliantly blue glass beads she was holding out to him. "What are they for?" he asked, taking them politely.
"Averting the Evil Eye." Luna gave him her brightest and dottiest smile. "And they hold protective charms quite well, too." The beads were, in fact, carefully engraved with protective runes, which must have taken hours. Oddly touched, Snape allowed her to hang them over the head of his bed... down the back and out of sight, though.
She was relieved by Albus Dumbledore, who brought a small wrapped package himself. "Sometimes," he observed, watching Snape cut the string, "the most useful gift is one which is entirely useless."
"That's a particularly incoherent piece of wisdom, even from you," Snape muttered, tearing the paper off to expose a small, spidery silver mechanism. "This is one of the pieces from your office, isn't it?"
"Oh yes," Albus said happily. "And not, I fear, one of the most useful. I have so far successfully used it to calculate the precise number of my nose hairs, the exact level of my taste for sherbet lemons, and the number of socks which I have lost over the last hundred years. It may have other uses, but I doubt they are any more practical. It is amusing to tinker with, however... and I'm sure that if it has any practical application, you will be able to find it."
After spending some time fiddling with the machine given to him by Albus (it really was fascinating - there were several parts that only existed some of the time), he was presented with another surprise. A birthday tea, complete with an apparently alcoholic chocolate cake. Snape privately thought that it reminded him of Bellatrix - rich, dark and thick. Poppy dropped in, bringing her own gift - a nightshirt of cotton woven with silk, soft and light and very comfortable. Most of his regular caretakers appeared, and several of the other teachers dropped in at least briefly. Neville hovered rather protectively over him, while Hermione (Granger) presided over the tea things, giving him fond, approving looks when she thought he wasn't looking.
Later, Minerva came in from her last Friday afternoon class with a dark bundle in her arms, which she unfurled across the bed in a heavy fall of soft wool: a warm over-blanket in a tartan woven all of soft blues and greens, shot through with narrow lines of red. "Mackinley Ancient," she said, seeing him run his thumb along the lines. "My mother's clan."
Snape quirked an eyebrow at her. "Not McGonagall?"
"There is no McGonagall tartan, I'm afraid. My mother comes from a long line of Scottish wizards and witches who can trace their ancestry back to the days of Michael Scott, but the McGonagalls are from Donegal - though my father's family have been in Scotland since the 1820s."
"I'm sure it will keep me just as warm, either way. I - thank you. Not just for..." Minerva nodded tightly, looking slightly sniffly, and put her hand over his where it lay against the dark pattern of the weave. Reassured by the human contact which he still needed so badly, Snape clasped her hand loosely and lay back against the pillows, idly watching Horace Slughorn scarfing Molly's iced fancies in the corner. It felt strange, when so many people in his life had told him that his mere existence was a crime - when he more than half thought that they were right to do so - to find that so many people seemed to want to celebrate the fact that he had made it through another year without dying. He couldn't make up his mind whether to be slavishly grateful to them, or despise them as fools. Thirty-eight years, and what had he to show for it?
And later still, Adrian came, bearing a memorable wine which had the taste of kindness and humanity about it, and Snape relaxed into the moment, finally, feeling all the hard knots of misery and self-disgust unravelling, just a little. Tomorrow they would be back as tight as ever, he knew it as he knew the sun would rise, but for tonight he could drink red wine and talk about Adrian's wedding plans, and make believe that he was a normal, worthwhile person with friends and a place in the world.
"Please, please, I'm so tired, oh please, let me sleep...."
"You are asleep, sir," Neville said gently. "Asleep, but you're dreaming. Come on now - it's just a dream...."
He put his hand on the man's shoulder, carefully, trying to establish a steadying contact, but his old nemesis flinched away as if the touch burned him, and began to twitch and jerk in the grip of some remembered torment. "Ah don't, don't, no, please - "
He twisted and retched, vomit spewing over the clean pillow, his sides heaving convulsively. Frowning, Neville performed a cleansing charm with a composure and competence which would have amazed the man, if he had been in any state to appreciate it.
"That's all right, now. I'm not going to hurt you. Come on now, come on...." Gradually, steadily, he talked Snape through the fit and back towards what passed for normality, though he could feel the man's heart hammering in his chest, and his skin was sheet-white and clammy with sweat.
Eventually, he was able to coax Snape to drink a little water, to clear away the taste of sickness. A while after that, Neville lay back down again, his hand resting on Snape's upper arm, and looked at the lines of strain etched around the man's eyes. Unfathomably black eyes - much too dark to see well in the low light of the dungeons, and so made all the blacker by the compensatory dilation of the pupils. Piercing eyes which had struck terror into him, once, but now they were wandering and distracted. It was so quiet that he could hear the faint, ragged edge to Snape's breathing, and Trevor rustling about under the bed, hoping for flies, and a little whistle of wind across the water.
A sudden gust rattled the window-panes, and Snape started slightly and came more into focus. He clutched at Neville's elbow and whispered hoarsely "Talk to me."
"What about, sir?"
The older man made a cracked, irritable noise, half scoff and half sob. "Whatever you usually talk about - how should I know? Anything, just - keep me focussed." His gaze started to wander again, restless and frightened-looking. "I can't - can't find me - "
"What I usually talk about, sir, if anyone wants to listen, is plants." He settled down happily, realizing that he had a captive audience. "I've got this theory, see, that plants which are sui generis, like Equisetum, or the last of their kind, like the Wollemi Pine, contain in themselves all the magical force which originally belonged to their whole line...."
"You mean - mean like a, an old, noble family which is dying out, and the family's titles become progressively more concentrated into the surviving scions?"
"Just like that, sir, yes...."
"You do realize, Longbottom, that it is 5 a.m. and we've been talking about plants for the last two hours?"
"Oh, I can talk about plants for a lot longer than that, sir - sorry, sir."
"Don't apologize, it was - surprizingly stimulating. I'll admit that I am impressed."
Neville beamed at him. "Thank you! That's - well. Coming from you... if you know what I mean, sir."
"Yes, well, Longbottom, that's all very well; but if you actually have a mind, however well-hidden, how come you've never applied it to Potions?"
"If there's such a thing as a brown thumb for Potions I think I must have it - I understand the theory, but the practice somehow goes all over, and it doesn't help if you shout at me. Really."
"If you didn't cringe so, I wouldn't shout so much."
"That's not very nice, then - sir. If seeing me scared makes you want to scare me more...."
"It's not that. Idiot. I have to - as a spy I have to pretend to be the Dark Lord's man, I have to, to hurt people for him, and they cringe from me and I just want to run but if I run it will be me on the slab - it was me in the end - and I don't want to hurt them but I have to hurt them or I'm no good as a spy and the Dark Lord is breathing down my neck to see if I'm bloody-well evil enough for him and if I'm not I'll be dead, I'll wish I was bloody dead, and I just want to, to - when you cringe from me half of me wants to attack you, because that's what I'm conditioned to do, and the other half just wants to panic and run and neither of those things, believe me, is conducive to a calm and forgiving frame of mind."
"Oh. I'll... try not to then, shall I?"
"That would be helpful, yes."
"At least - you don't have to do they things any more."
"No." He leaned his head back and shut his eyes. "I have my freedom," he said, with a bitter twist to his mouth, "after a fashion - at the cost of every scrap of dignity and pride and bodily integrity I ever had. Not to mention being shut in this fucking - crippled - "
Neville patted him on the arm, gently. "Don't take on so, lad. Professor."
Snape opened his eyes again and gave the boy a sly, considering look. "You'll be a northerner yourself, then, Longbottom? I suppose with a name like that, you'd have to be."
"Oh yes, sir - proper Dalesman, me!"
"You're not a man of any kind quite yet, but you're getting there - provided you can manage not to blow yourself up in the interim."
"I'll do me best, then."
"It's your worst that worries me, Longbottom."
"Poppy tells me that you've been feeling... distressed about your injuries?"
"Donít I have a right to be bloody distressed? I mean, Christ, look at me - what there is bloody left of me." He shut his eyes and tilted his head back - not against the pillows but against the couch where he was sitting, fully clothed, with the Lovegood girl at his side and Minerva's warm tartan blanket to keep out the January chill, Poppy having decided that he was now well enough to get out of bed for an hour or two each day. It was a great innovation, but.... "The, the stronger I feel, the more - able I become, in some ways, the more I want to do things, and the more I realize that I - can't."
"Loss of limb is always a tragedy, of course," Adrian said seriously, "but it needn't be the end of life as we know it. Muggles lose limbs all the time, and it doesn't slow them down much."
Snape's eyes snapped open again. "How? What are they doing - juggling axes?"
"Transport accidents, mostly. It's fairly common."
"Good grief - I've heard of splinching yourself, but that's ridiculous."
"What you have to understand, my boy," said Albus with his trademark twinkle, "is that most Muggle means of transportation are basically a tin-can propelled by explosives."
Snape stared at Adrian accusingly, trying to decide whether they were having him on. "Is this true?"
"Well, yeah. Broadly."
"I am never, ever getting into a car ever again."
"That's probably very wise of you."
"Don't fuss, Poppy - I'll be all right in a minute."
"I know you will, Severus dear - I have every confidence in you. I just - don't like to see you upset."
"You'd be 'upset' if you had to see - !" he snarled. After a sharp, splintering pause he dragged his ragged breathing back into line by main force of will, though his muscles were still rigid and shuddering.
"I'm quite upset enough to see what it's done to you, without seeing how it was done. Loosen that nightshirt and roll over, now" she said firmly.
"What are you going to do?"
"Calming Draughts may not work on you any more, but I know what will." Spreading a little warming and soothing oil on her hands, she began to press her strong thumbs into the angle between his neck and shoulders. "Besides, you need to work these muscles more, if you're going to be able to cope with Filius's prosthetics when they're ready." She leaned firmly into the task at hand, and after a minute or two Snape hissed gently and relaxed under her touch, flopped limply across the bed on his belly.
"Is that one of Longbottom's oils?" he asked with interest, recognizing the clean, delicate scent.
"Yes. I thought we might as well put them to work; they're very good, aren't they?"
"They're superb, I have to admit - I must ask him where he got them."
"Oh, didn't he tell you?" She paused, smiling, and gave his hair a gentle tug. "He made them himself - I know because he borrowed some of the equipment off me. I believe he even blew the glass himself. He'll be so pleased when I tell him what you said - and you can't possibly pretend you were just being polite, because you didn't know they were his own work. Quite apart from the fact that nobody would believe in you being polite."
"Gah." He arched his neck as her hands resumed their steady rhythm, loosening tightened muscle and tendons. "It isn't all - bad, you know," he said drowsily.
"What isn't, dear?"
"The - the dreams. That is - the dreams are - lacerating, terrifying, but when I wake from them it's such a sheer bloody relief to find that I am - that I am in a bed, and warm, and may sleep... oh, God. That I have water and may drink it. That I'm not - not crying with hunger any more, and that somebody is with me who isn't there to hurt me. I was - so tired, there. So very tired."
"You rest now, dear," the nurse replied, wiping her eyes surreptitiously. "You rest as much as you need."
When Hermione woke it was still quite dark outside. The water stood high against the windows, and above it a hard January hail was whimpering and scratching against the glass like a stray dog; but the room was comfortably warm by firelight and Snape was curled at her side, solidly real and male. She turned her head and looked at him. His face was on the pillow only inches from hers, his eyes still shut and his expression peaceful although as she stirred the lines bracketing his thin mouth tightened and relaxed again, suggesting that he was partially awake. Fighting an embarrassing urge to lean over and kiss him, right there and then, she shifted again, getting herself more comfortable. His hand was draped loosely across her ribs, his single knee - what there was of it - touching the side of hers, but as she settled down against him she suddenly felt something... extra prodding her in the hip.
For a moment she blinked at him stupidly, too fuzzy with sleep to work it out. He half opened his eyes, made a soft dreamy "Auhmm...." noise and began to arch his back, pushing against her... then his eyes flew open all the way and he flamed abruptly scarlet and jerked away from her, heaving and thrashing and tangling himself in the bedclothes in his haste to turn his back on her.
Hermione blushed just as hard, shifting away as well as she could with him pulling on the sheet they were both tangled in. "Er... good morning," she said, then took a moment to kick herself with a bare foot. Of all the bloody silly things to say! If only she'd had her eyes shut and could have pretended to be asleep!
Snape drew a deep, steadying breath and dared to look at her out of the corner of his eye. Could it possibly be that she hadn't noticed anything? But he should have known that was too much to hope for in his bloody nightmare-farce of a bloody life: the blasted girl was as red as a beetroot. He wrapped his arm across his face and pulled his head down between his shoulders like a tortoise in sheer mortification. Took another deep breath. "Miss Granger - " he began in a rather choked voice, and then stopped, not knowing what the Hell else to say.
"Um...." Hermione stared up at the ceiling. She too had no idea what to say. Something soothing was certainly called for. Something reassuring and respectful of his dignity. Indicating that she had actively wished to incite that sort of response almost certainly wasn't it. "Did you sleep well?"
That wasn't it either. Damn. How on earth did one say "Look, I couldn't help but notice your involuntary physical reaction, but it's quite all right really" in a tactful way?
Snape mumbled something indistinct, which Hermione was quite unable to make out.
"I'm sorry, I...."
"I said," he snarled, twisting his head and upper body round to half face her, whilst keeping his pelvis resolutely turned away, "all except for the last five bloody minutes, all bloody right? I should have thought that was bloody self-evident."
"Well, yes," Hermione admitted, blushing harder than ever. "I just... uhm... wasn't sure what to say. Er. I know it's a quite involuntary physical reaction, it's all right, honestly...."
"And you're such a bloody expert, of course Granger," he snapped. "You always bloody are." He hesitated, and thought about that one for a moment, curiosity warring with embarrassment. "Are you an expert? I know Addy said Harry said he was the only virgin - um...." He blushed again, and winced slightly, uncertain which was worse at this point: the idea of Hermione (Granger!) being a virgin, or the idea of her not being.
"Er... no...." Hermione confessed in a tiny voice. "I didn't even hear them asking about that, I was trying to talk on the 'phone at The Burrow through the fire in the infirmary." She continued staring firmly at the ceiling. "I've not had the heart to tell Harry that he wasn't the only one, though, after he got so embarrassed about it in front of everyone."
"I shouldn't laugh," Snape said, laughing, "but it's the only part of my own bloody - immolation that I'm sorry I missed. Addy said Albus actually asked him whether he had 'indulged in the pleasures of the flesh - in company.'" And wasn't that a stupid thing to have thought about - but he had an excuse for being stupid, since all his blood seemed to have migrated south and left his head full of cotton-wool. He gritted his teeth. "Look Granger I really - need to be on my own for a bit, all right? Not - not for long, just - a few minutes." A few seconds, possibly. At least his magic should be up to cleaning up after - oh, God. He clenched his teeth again, trying not to whimper.
"I'll - ah - go and take a shower then, shall I?"
"You do that." He burrowed his face down into the pillows, going even redder if possible. The mental image of Hermione Granger stark naked and covered in soap really wasn't helping matters.
"It may be a 'good sign' in principle," he said morosely, "but I sincerely hope it won't become a regular occurrence. Poppy would be brisk and clinical about it, which would be just about tolerable - but after months of needing someone with me round the clock if I have to tell Albus that suddenly I want to be on my own for ten minutes first thing in the morning he's going to twinkle horribly."
"Ouch. And telling Professor McGonagall would be even worse."
"It would - but probably not for the reasons you're thinking. She'd be roguish about it. You have no idea what an... active girl she was when she was your age, if half her stories are to be believed. It was 1954, she was eighteen, Britain was full of Teddy Boys and so, according to her, was she. And Longbottom will be aggravatingly placid and knowing about it, and Lovegood will lecture me about the necessity of maintaining the health of my basal chakra. Whatever that is."
Keeping her face straight was NOT easy, at that last thought. "If you want me to, I can always retreat to the loo for ten minutes," she offered. "Or help you do the same. It's... very flattering, actually. I don't get that response often." She paused, and went pink. "And in the spirit of honesty, I do sometimes have to... er... have ten private minutes after spending the night snuggled up to you. It's just less obvious on me."
Snape coughed and went equally pink. "Now that is rather flattering - I mean men tend to um in any case, not that - not that your presence wasn't a very major contributory factor, but often it's just a circulatory thing - at least it shows my blood pressure is getting back to normal! - and even when it's associated with real, ah, interest men do tend to dream about things they associate with being... well, aroused. I'm terrified I might start waking up like that because I was dreaming about - about being used - that way - but waking up feeling interested because a pretty girl is cuddled up to me with her hair all over the pillow is rather - nice. If embarrassing. And it's nice to know you feel the same."
"I do. Believe me. Although if the hair is bothering you, I can plait it or something. And... I'm glad I help, with the being interested, and... I'm going to be quiet now."
"I like your hair the way it is. It smells nice, and waking up in a cloud of coconut-scented brown fuzz is - reassuring. If a bit tickly."
The writer duj has written a poem called Attribute/A Tribute, to accompany the previous chapter, What Hermione Did Next. It is based around the structure of Emily Dickinson's poem Pain (but IMO is more powerful) and shows Snape struggling to deal with the weight of memory. The court referred to in the poem is his own self-judgement.
"...family celebration after family celebration was cut short for his sour sake" - to do something for somebody's sweet sake is a traditional British expression, but Snape doesn't have a "sweet" sake....
Chocolate fudge cake, in case anybody doesn't know, is a rich moist chocolate sponge-cake, with a half-inch thick layer of mega-rich chocolate cream filling and another ditto on top.
Michael Scott was a famous Scottish philosopher, alchemist and astronomer of the early 13th Century, traditionally believed to have been a powerful wizard.
Equisetum or Horsetail is any one of a group of sixteen related species of weird looking, ancient ferns of the once-flourishing class Sphenopsida (the sole member of the subdivision Sphenophytina), which dates back over 350 million years to the late Devonian period but is now confined to a single Order (Equisetales), a single family (Equisetaceae) and a single genus (Equisetum). Although Horsetails are in a sense "living fossils" there's nothing fragile or endangered about them - they are virulent, vigorous and nearly indestructible.
The Wollemi Pine or Chocolate Pine is Wollemia nobilis, a species of conifer related to the monkey-puzzle tree. It closely resembles trees known to have been abundant in the Jurassic about 150-200 million years ago, but which disappeared from the fossil record around 90 million years ago - although samples of pollen ranging from the Cretaceous up to 2 million years ago are now thought to have come from the Wollemi Pine, or a close relative. In 1994, a small stand of this tree was found still living in New South Wales. It is the only member of its genus. There are thought to be less than a hundred mature trees surviving in the wild, split between three stands, and they are all genetically identical clones of a single plant. In genetic terms, therefore, there is in effect just one surviving tree - but saplings are now being cultivated and sold to gardeners all over the world, so the Wollemi Pine will soon be very common again (although you'd need a really big garden - they grow up to 130 feet tall).
It is very common for men to wake up with an erection, occasionally due to erotic dreams but far more commonly believed to be due either to circulatory changes during sleep, or a full bladder, or both. Opinions seem to vary as to whether they experience this as actual sexual arousal or not; basically some do and some don't. I thought that Snape, who at this point has been remembering suffering a great deal of unwanted sexual stimulation without any positive outlet, and has then woken up to find himself in bed snuggled up to a personable eighteen-year-old girl, probably would.
Chakras are a chain of seven energy foci spaced out along the spine from the tailbone to the crown of the head, originating in Far Eastern medical theory and philosophy and supposedly seen/sensed by reiki practitioners and other psychics. The basal chakra, the one at the tailbone, is said to be linked to the sexual organs.
Snape's age has been reduced from thirty-nine to thirty-eight, to comply with the new canon backstory revealed in Deathly Hallows.
If you are seeing this text, your browser does not support inline frames: to select a chapter you will have to return to the title-page