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
#13: Medicine Songs
[In which music soothes the savaged breast.]
She was afraid that he would be so unnerved at having unbent to her that he would draw back further, in a little two-steps-forwards-and-one-back waltz of neurosis - but he confounded her expectations by actually becoming more relaxed around her, in an exhausted, slumped sort of a way. Filius Flitwick had written down all the questions which the younger man's torturers had demanded of him, and the answers which he had given them, so that he and Severus could discuss them as neutrally as possible - mere words on parchment. Even so, Severus was grey in the face after every session and Filius guided him to meals, and to his room, like a tugboat buzzing anxiously around a liner which was barely making it into port.
Lynsey for her part felt deeply shaken. Seeing that jagged assortment of images from his torture had left her infested with sorrow and possessed by a furious, restless tenderness she could hardly act on without offending him; and often now she found herself flinching and jerking her head aside in an effort to shake off the naked, bloody ghost of himself which her mind's eye could see smeared across his real-time presence.
His dreams were bad - not surprizing, under the circumstances - and Minerva had been right to make them share a room, Lynsey thought. At least this way, she could watch over Severus in the night without annoying him by appearing to hover. Often, she found, she could head the nightmare off at the pass without even waking him, just by holding his hand and talking to him softly, or singing under her breath: although most of the songs she knew were hardly suitable for a lullaby, and she found herself resorting to the slow, sad music which had been current when they were children - Sally Free and Easy again, with her honeycomb heart, and the dreaming song of departure which had haunted her own formative years:
Ballads of loss and exile were more likely to comfort him than anything too overtly cheerful, she thought, although the old song about San Francisco had that same gentle, mournful flow to it that seemed to soothe him, even though it was really a happy piece. Or perhaps not. All that na´ve, hopeful dream of the Summer of Love had shredded away on a cold wind, after all, and there was as much sorrow and sweetness in it as in any of the others, although she slid past some of the lyrics, blurring them into an embarrassed mumble. It was simply impossible to picture Severus with flowers in his hair - unless perhaps it was some sinister, pale lily which attracted moths.
But as she stared at his white, strained face and tried to sing his terrified shivering and flinching back down to something resembling normal sleep, the song which kept trying to sing itself in her head was one she hardly wished to be reminded of, at this juncture -
The last afternoon before they were due to leave, Remus Lupin walked Severus back to his room and invited himself in for a coffee. They were talking together animatedly about some sort of dispute which had taken place during the meeting, and as he pushed the door to after him Lynsey heard Severus snap "I don't care if he is Dumbledore's friend and one of the founder members of the Order et-bloody-cetera, the bloody bastard is asking for it, and if he isn't careful he's going to get it."
"Actually hexing him in the middle of a meeting would be going a bit far, though," Remus said, in his irritatingly calm voice. He sat down and helped himself to a sugared biscuit. "Why are you so - I know he doesn't really trust you, but neither does Sturgis and he doesn't seem to bother you half as much. What makes Alastor so special?"
Severus, still standing, brought his hands together in front of his chest, jerkily, and the muscles in his jaw tightened like iron. "When I was - before, when the, the Ministry examined me, before Dumbledore convinced them to let me go, when I was - interrogated, he - "
"Alastor actually tortured you?" Remus said sharply, the biscuit poised forgotten halfway to his mouth.
"Not - not as such, he - he just came to question me. After I had been suitably - 'softened up' by his colleagues. But I was - lying on the ground, coughing up blood, and he stepped back away from me with this little sneer on his face and twitched the hem of his robe away, as if I was - like I was dirty. Contaminated." He pushed his hair back from his face with the heels of both hands and pressed them briefly to his temples. "Of course, I was dirty - by that point."
"Oh." A little V of frown-line had appeared between Remus's pale-brown eyebrows. "In that case, I take it back about hexing him - but you still probably shouldn't do it where the others can see." The corners of his lips twitched slightly. "That explains why you pulled rank on him so hard you made his head spin in time with the eye."
The professor flashed him a sudden, tired grin. "I did, didn't I?" He folded down gracefully onto the sofa in a flurry of dark robes. "And bless Minerva for backing me up." Lynsey brought him a hot mug of treacly coffee, and he wrapped his long, white hands around it, feeling the warmth. She herself felt rather too warm, at once hot and chilled. Two wakeful nights spent watching over his troubled rest and the strain of having witnessed those nightmarish vignettes had left her feeling feverish and strange.
"So did youse lot actually reach any useful conclusions, after all that - or shouldn't I ask?"
The two men looked at each other in wary collusion, and for a moment she felt that she indeed should not have asked: but then the professor shrugged wearily. "I don't see why not. The information is... if it came to Riddle's ear, that might actually be more helpful than not."
"It's about the - the Horcruxes" Remus said, in his soft voice. "Because of the, um, information He-Who managed to extract from Severus" - he shot the other man an apologetic look, and got a snarl for his trouble - "he knows that we know about them, and we're afraid he may make more, to replace the ones we've already destroyed."
"Yes - Severus and Harry told me about it."
"Right. Well, the thing is - the Ministry has ways of tracking certain spells - unauthorized Portkeys, underage magic...."
She was right up there with him. "You think the Ministry could spot it if he makes another Horcrux?"
"That is the idea, yes," the professor interjected smoothly. "Unfortunately we need, in the first instance, access to the Ministry's spell-detection instruments, to which we have no legal right, and in the second instance, an accurate idea of the Horcrux spell, of which we have no bloody knowledge except - except for the little that's in my memory."
Lynsey made an interrogative noise, and he gave her a bleak look, the lines of his face as harsh as if they had been cut there with an axe. "I was there, the night He - He murdered the Potters. I - I had hoped to persuade Him to spare Lily at least, perhaps James as well, even though He was Hell-bent on killing the child. I told - told Him I wanted Lily to - amuse myself with." He grimaced, and Remus winced. "Once again, my own bloody so-called cleverness backfired on me and He decided to take me with Him, I couldn't get clear of Him to send an alert. Pettigrew was there too I think but I didn't realize - I saw a rat, watching us, but I never knew - and then James came boiling out like the bloody feckless idiot he was and - Riddle - killed him before I had any chance to act. If I could have."
"You couldn't have - killed Riddle?" Remus asked quietly. "Even temporarily?"
Severus shook his head. "He was so shielded against magical attack - I suppose I could have hit Him with a coal-scuttle or something but if I'd failed He'd have known I'd betrayed Him and then I - I would have lost the only chance I had to save her." He drew a deep breath. "In any case I - I was not the Secret Keeper, nor had I been admitted by the Secret Keeper. My - so-called bloody 'Lord' knew the secret and took me in at His back but I - it was like walking into your own blind-spot. I could see Lily - "
He stopped and shut his eyes for a moment, not looking at Remus. "I could see Lily," he went on in a low voice, "I could hardly see anything else but I could see her, that hair, burning like a bloody meteor - she knew me, she must have thought - thought I'd come to see her die and she wouldn't take His offer, she wouldn't get out of the way and I - I could barely see, it was all shadows and shapes and He - He killed her. In front of me. He had His back to me, I tried to send a Patronus to summon the Order but I couldn't - couldn't remember anything happy and then He fired on the child and it all went dark. When I came to it was all - rubble, I could hear the child crying but I couldn't see it properly, there were beams and bricks and I still couldn't - see. The Fidelius, you understand - it protected the knowledge that the Potters lived at that address. I couldn't see the child to find it and I was - I had three broken ribs and a smashed shoulder where the flying masonry had caught me in the chest, I was good for damn-all anyway, so I used what strength I had left to Apparate to the Hog's Head and Aberforth alerted Albus."
"Aberforth was - is Albus Dumbledore's brother," Remus Lupin said, and Lynsey nodded. "And Dumbledore sent Hagrid. The Fidelius had been set up from the outset to allow Hagrid access: we always knew that the Order might need to reach James and Lily in an emergency and Hagrid being a half-giant - well, he was the one Order member we knew was definitely immune to the Imperius. He was able to dig Harry out without using magic in front of Muggle bystanders, although Merlin knows what they made of him otherwise."
"I would have got the bloody brat out if I could," Severus said painfully, and Remus inclined his head in acknowledgement. "But in any case, I saw - so far as I could tell He performed no complex spell after He had killed Lily and before attacking - Harry, except that He - " He mimed holding his wand, which was in fact thrust through his belt, and made a quick gesture as of someone untying something, releasing it. "I find it hard to believe the Horcrux process would be so - nearly instantaneous: the very little I have ever heard about it suggests a complex operation. But He had been closeted on His own for over an hour before He singled me out and told me to accompany Him, and He looked strange - more strange than usual, I mean. From which I surmise that the main part of the spell was performed in advance, and that He needed only to complete some final activation before attempting to murder the child."
"Yes." She was feeling her way through it - but Horcruxes were such obscure magic that the territory was hardly less familiar to her than it was to them. "If it was already - already activated, and all it required then to feed it was a death, you'd have thought the deaths of the father or mother would have already completed the circuit. Either he did something after killing Lily" - both men winced visibly - "and before trying to kill Harry, to prime the process ready to receive Harry's death, or there was something special about the actual way he was planning to kill him."
"As far as I or all of Dumbledore's thaumaturgical instrumentation could tell, it was a simple Killing Curse. Certainly it was green - as green as her eyes," he added, his mouth twisting bitterly.
"Either way, it seems clear you've got a two-step process you've got to detect."
Remus nodded and took a crunching bite of biscuit. "Yes - but it would be sufficient, for our purposes, to detect the first, main spell. At least - "
"Detecting the final stage would give us His actual location at the moment of the kill, and that of His victim," Severus said dourly, "but unless we could scramble to get there in seconds, He would probably still be Apparated and gone before we could catch Him, complete with another bloody Horcrux, and the victim would still be just as bloody dead." He rubbed tiredly at his temples. "We are still undecided whether to simply let the - Him - know that we will know if He creates another Horcrux, in the hopes that this will put Him off from doing so - or keep it dark and see if we can catch Him either during the preliminary process or in the actual act, since He is the only wizard in Britain likely to be using that particular spell - at the risk of His creating another Horcrux, and another corpse, if we fail."
"Either way, it's a bit academic at the moment", Remus said, helping himself to another biscuit. "We're first going to have to get access to the Ministry's surveillance instruments in London and break into the base they've set up at Hogwarts, in order to find the Headmaster's private stash of grimoires."
"Dumbledore," Severus said, gazing glumly into his coffee, "hid some of the more... exciting works away, not wishing to destroy knowledge but believing that nobody in the school but himself had the moral and magical strength to resist the temptations of what was written there. Which, arguably, might have been true, considering that some of those bloody books are sentient and liable to read you back - but right now it's a pain in the arse."
That night when she woke him up whimpering from memory's clammy embrace, and saw the tears running down his cheeks as silver as moonlight, he stared at her in the darkness and muttered: "Lily - Lily begged Him for mercy, did I say that? I keep hearing her beg Him for mercy - but I could have told her it was a fucking waste of time."
The following morning, after breakfast, they took their leave. Lynsey felt queasy and tense without knowing why, and picked at her food even worse than Severus usually did. She was sorry to see the back of most of them, and touched that so many of them - not just Remus, Minerva, Poppy and Filius, which was expected, but Neville, Hagrid, Arthur and Molly, Hermione and even Harry - came to take a special leave of her professor, speaking to him with a concern and kindness which made him bristle like a wet porcupine. Of Horace Slughorn there was no sign - he having returned to his own mysterious purposes.
Harry and Remus in any case came with them as far as the stair door, carrying the cats and the generator - since Severus had his work cut out with the laptop and Lynsey. He spun her around like a dancer and she reeled in with him and round and through blackness and constriction and dizzying speed and out again, into the area at the front of the flat. It was all she could do not to puke on the pavement as Tonks, who had been watching the house, gave them the all-clear. Today, Tonks was going for retro-Punk, with chains.
As much as she had enjoyed her part of their week-long expedition (aside from fretting about the strain it was putting on the professor), Lynsey was as glad as the cats to be back on home ground, though she still felt oddly out of sorts. By evening, it was clear that she was actively ill.
As she came out from the bathroom, fresh (or not) from throwing up, it felt as if a solid wall of heat crashed down on her without warning and she staggered, and met the professor darting forwards to catch her in a billow of black. He grabbed her by the elbows, holding her up as if she weighed almost nothing, and steered her firmly to the settee. "Uurrgh," she said, articulately, and began to slide sideways onto the sofa's padded arm but her friend's arm was there already, holding her up. As a wave of dizziness crashed over her and the room and her stomach surged like a boat on rough water, she felt his cool hand insinuate itself against her forehead.
She forced herself to focus, and found him staring at her at such close quarters that the dagger-like tip of his nose made her go nearly cross-eyed. "Damn," he said, in a precise voice; "you're burning up."
"Not - no's hot's you were," she said fuzzily, remembering their flight through the snow, a little over three months ago. "'S'not - not pneumonia. Jus' 'flu'."
"You're going to bed," the professor replied firmly, and she let herself be drawn to her feet and half steered, half carried to the bedroom. He helped her to undress with a brisk, businesslike despatch (though she saw a tinge of pink colouring his sharp cheekbones), and then commanded her firmly to lie down. She more than half expected him to offer her a peppermint.
When he had tucked her in she lay on her back and held on to the sides of the mattress, which seemed to be tipping and rolling slightly. He stood staring down at her, looking slightly awkward now that he had come to the end of his flurry of efficiency. "There are potions for this," he said stiffly, "but I cannot brew them at present - I don't have the ingredients, and even if I did they take days to prepare."
"Which time, I'll probably be OK anyway. Tha's all right, pet."
He snorted at that. "Do you want me to send a message to Poppy and see if she can send you some ready-made-up Flew Away Mixture?"
"That'd mean sending a P'tronus or - or finding one of those... teleporting fires?"
"Yes - since I don't have an owl here."
"Better - better no'tract attention. 'S Lemsip - powder you take for 'flu' - in the kitchen."
He found it, for a wonder, and worked out how to make it up from the instructions on the packet, and when she had taken it she felt a little more clear-headed and less likely to drool. But it didn't do much for the nausea. Within half an hour she was kneeling on the tiled floor beside the lavatory again while Severus held her shoulders with that same detached efficiency. She asked him about it, between heaves, and he laughed under his breath and said that he had dealt with more than his fair share of teenage drunks. When she had brought up what felt like everything she had eaten for the last three days, she sat with her forehead pressed against the cool porcelain of the sink, fighting the urge to lie down on the bathroom floor, while Severus poured water for her into the tooth-mug. She didn't have the energy to explain about drinking and non-drinking water supplies, and in any case it hardly seemed worth worrying about when she already had a gastric bug.
And, yes, he gave her a peppermint to suck, saying that it would settle her stomach, although the corners of his mouth quirked in dry amusement as he said it.
Later she woke in near darkness to find him still by her bedside, tired but deft, passing his long hands back and forth over her chest and stomach in a complex pattern and singing under his breath an odd, summery buzz of a spell-song, both like and unlike the one which he had used to heal his own maimed feet on the far side of flight and terror.
In the morning, she woke to find light filtering in through the curtains and the professor's slim hand sliding behind her shoulders. "Sit up, now, and drink this" his smooth voice said and she did so, taking the proffered glass without hesitation. Whatever-it-was was heavy on the ginger, and she could feel it coiling in her stomach, warming away the nausea.
"So trusting," he purred, and she blinked at him.
"Of course I trust you - why wouldn't I? I know you aren't out to hurt me, and I know you know what you're doing. What is it?"
"Just - something I made up. From what was in the kitchen." He sounded suddenly, oddly choked, and when she reached out to draw the back of her hand across the line of his unshaven jaw in drowsy tenderness, he barely flinched.
As a nurse, his bedside manner was decidedly brusque and a little awkward, but he fetched and carried for her with a willingness which, in another man, she would almost have called cheerful; and in her current condition, if he was willing to wait on her hand and foot she was perfectly willing to let him. It occurred to her that he was pleased to feel that he was contributing to the household. He even went out alone to shop, and she sweated with worry for him until he got back, although she knew he had an Order bodyguard with him at all times.
And when he was not actively playing nursemaid, he brought the laptop into her room and worked at the side table, companionable and silent, and she lay and watched his eager, wiry poise as he tracked down some new fact or fallacy - his whole body tensed forwards like a coiled spring in sheer academic excitement, and his hawk face illuminated by the hard glare of the screen.
The following day, she was well enough to get up and eat a little light lunch (prepared by Severus), and then deal with her email. As she answered various friends' enquiries as to her health and whereabouts it occurred to her that if she didn't want to cause offence or arouse suspicion by suddenly refusing to receive visitors, she was either going to have to become a recluse or inform those of her friends who lived locally that she had acquired a bidey-in. Or a flatmate, at any rate, although she had high hopes of eventual bidey-in-ness.
Either way, she supposed that if she told them she had met Severus during the witch moot in London she would not, technically, be lying: and his Gothic appearance certainly fitted the part. She wondered if it would be safe to admit, even to a Muggle, that he was staying with her: but if she continued to keep herself so much to herself May, at least, was soon going to start asking questions - and not taking "Oh, you know...." as an answer.
Having not eaten for about forty hours, prior to lunch, she still felt a little grey around the edges - lightheaded and still rather hot, and definitely not up to serious work. Severus had an old Steeleye Span album playing in the background - leaning against the wall with his arms folded and his expression hooded and inward-looking, dreaming on the music, even though his mouth tightened perceptibly as Tim Hart's rough voice sang the fate of the shot gamekeeper:
and Lynsey herself winced in sympathy. But for Severus, assistance had come, finally, and there had been an end to crying - or at least an intermission. Restless, she perched on the edge of the table near him, sharing the moment without speaking. Sharing the music.
sang the voice in the speakers, as she almost reached out to him, and he almost reached out to her, and then it was Maddy Prior, singing as no one before, perhaps, had ever sung, nor ever would again, fierce and perfect and unique, the rhythm of it driving, bounding -
And her friend looked at her, suddenly, painfully, and opened his mouth - "I wish - "
"What do you wish?"
"Oh God - I wish - "
purred Prior's inimitable voice as Severus made a desperate gesture of invitation, of drawing in, and Lynsey stepped forwards into his arms and he seized her tight, breathless, shaking -
She slipped her arms round him and held him close, his head was on her shoulder, she could hear his ragged breath; as he clutched her hard against him she could feel him suddenly hard with desire through five combined layers of clothing - but as he felt her feeling it he flamed abruptly scarlet and shoved her violently away, stumbling back against the wall and hyperventilating in panic.
Lynsey caught herself against the table, almost falling, steadied herself and then stepped back further to give him space. "It's all right," she said quietly, remembering with an internal, sympathetic cringe that he had been conditioned to associate being seen to be aroused with being jeered at. "You just have to give yourself time, is all."
He nodded, jerkily. "I do want," he said unsteadily, "to be touched in a - a kind way. It's just - "
"Yes." Somewhere in the background, the song rattled towards a conclusion of grinding labour and weariness.
"Well, we've answered one question," Lynsey said wryly. "You're obviously not going to go all numbly submissive if I make a pass at you."
It was the clawing vicarious panic which woke her, rather than anything more concrete - but she had learned to trust her instincts, especially where Severus was concerned, and she was already stumbling blearily towards his room before she was fully awake. As she pushed the door open she saw his head jerking from side to side and his hands clenching and unclenching spasmodically on the bedclothes. Even as she watched he arched his back, his whole body bowing upwards from the bed like a strychnine victim, threw his head back and opened his mouth to scream; but by then she had hold of him, shaking him, calling his name, and the scream cut off in a choked wail.
"Don't!" she said sharply: "you'll wake the neighbours." The mundanity of that cut through his panic like a knife, as she had known it would, and he collapsed back against the mattress in a tangle of limbs like a dropped puppet, gasping for breath and staring wildly at her as if she'd slapped him.
But he was still panicking - his chest was heaving raggedly even if he wasn't actually screaming, and hammering fear radiated off him in waves. He was too conscious to be soothed by being openly sung to - she knew without having to think about it that if she tried it with him in this raw a state, he would find it patronizing and irritating - but not quite conscious enough to be talked calm.
Not knowing what else to do she folded down onto the floor next to him and clasped his right hand in hers, so that their joined hands rested on his chest - close enough to an embrace to give support without making him feel restricted - and began almost silently to sing to herself, not to him. Snatches of song, wild, fierce, jumbled - pushing that hot misery back and back, out of her mind, out of his, raising power in herself, raising strength so that she could force his emotional state to conform to hers, using her link with him to steady him as she was steadying herself, until she could feel his heaving, labouring ribs beginning to settle. She looked at him then, and found him watching her with intelligent focus, although his eyes were still glittering and dilated.
When she was satisfied that his breathing was near-normal and he was no longer likely to panic himself into convulsions, she got up and padded across the bare boards to the kitchen to fetch him a glass of water, leaving the door open so that he could see what she was doing. When she came back with it he had managed to push himself up to a sitting position, huddled in a snarl of blankets. He accepted the glass without comment and tossed the contents back in one long swallow.
"Do you want to tell me about it?" She more than half expected him to say no, and would have accepted it if he had - but she still made the offer, so that he wouldn't feel he was imposing on her if he chose to speak.
"I was - dreaming about Christmas. Sleigh bells and plum puddings and all that - seasonal fucking cheer" he said, making an attempt at a self-mocking sneer as the sweat beaded on his skin.
"About Christmas?" He gazed at her down his long nose, his lips curling scornfully as her sleep-addled brain dragged itself into gear. "Oh - you mean last Christmas, when they...."
He nodded curtly, trying to appear in control of himself although she could see a muscle jumping in his jaw. "Christmas was, was... so-called bloody Season of Goodwill but Macnair spent Christmas Eve flaying the skin off my feet over several excruciating fucking hours, and then on the day itself they used a Portkey to take me somewhere - it looked like the Riddle House - to be used as entertainment."
She put her hand up to her mouth. "Oh, gods, I can imagine - "
"Can you? Do you really bloody think so?" He wrapped his arms round his knees and began to sway, muttering, fast and desperate. "Everybody amused themselves with me as they pleased, it was a fucking feast and I was so thirsty, hungry, the smell of the food made me want to vomit but I had nothing left to vomit with and I could hardly even understand who was doing what - it was just a blur of pain and voices, jeering at me, baying - they set the unconsuming fire on me, Gubraithian fire, and made me burn like a bloody candle." Shivers chased themselves across his skin. "By the time Lucius cast the Racking Curse on me and then m-mounted me while my joints were tearing out of their sockets it was almost a fucking relief, it hurt less than the burning, but then when he was finished Bellatrix made some crude remark and she pushed the, the tip of a wand, my bloody wand, inside me and cast Cruciatus I couldn't believe how painful - "
Lynsey made a sick noise in her throat and he stared at her blindly, his teeth chattering with fright, rocking back and forth on the bed like a madman as he tried to distract himself from the memory of pain. "Crucio - Crucio is always supposed to be the worst agony you can have, I thought I knew what Crucio felt like - thought I was a fucking expert - but this was s-so much more; and again, again, I thought my bones were going to shatter like glass and she kept on and on until they did, they did break, until the convulsions started to snap my bones - and then He healed the breaks and my, my joints so that He could send me back to the white room and start again - hanging me up by my wrists the way you found me and letting my own weight rip my shoulders out of their sockets all over again. All alone. He said, said, in that horrible whistle of a voice, 'My poor Severus, do the crowds disturb you?' and hung me up to suffer all alone, nothing but white light and pain and freezing cold, and never any rest from it."
"From a purely practical viewpoint," Lynsey muttered, trying in her turn to distract herself from her own choking queasiness, "one can only say thank the gods you were alone. I really doubt that I could have taken down more than maybe one of the bastards. Crabbe, maybe - he didn't strike me as entirely bright, so if one was going to have to bash his brains out with a rock you were already halfway there."
Severus made a choking laugh which tried to turn into a sob, but the pleasure of shared bitchiness was enough to interrupt his frantic swaying. "He's thicker than a yard of lard, always has been. But what he lacks in intellect, he makes up for in brutality - I know. One of Lucius's little tools. And thank God - thank God Lucius wasn't there, that he didn't catch you, or he would have had as much bloody fun with you as he did with me."
"Hum. Or vice versa, possibly." A technical problem to solve was always steadying - whether it was a problem in code or in tactics. "Given his, um, implied predilections, kneeling down is a really good position from which to find out whether it's actually possible to punch someone's diaphragm out through their spine.... Don't look like that. That's what I meant about women being better at fighting dirty - gods know, that bastard's done you so much injury, but you're still just that wee bit - squeamish, just because you're a bloke."
"It's not that, exactly." He eyed her warily, his eyes still dilated and pitch-black; but at least he had stopped rocking. "You just sound so - cheerful about it. As if you'd really enjoy doing it."
"Damn' straight I would! Look, I wouldn't descend to his bloody level - I wouldn't do anything - lingering. But when it comes to humanely ripping the bastard apart I'm up for it. Him and that creepy Bellatrix bint. After what they did to you...."
"Yes." He smiled his flinching smile. "And then the, the charming bloody Ministry shut me up on my own again with the white light and the freezing cold and the memories, until I nearly went mad with memory." He sounded perfectly calm and rational again, if a little wobbly, but he was sheet-white and sunken in on himself with exhaustion; sitting up in bed leaning against the wall, with his arms clenched across his chest as if he were freezing, and his hair straggling across his eyes as it always did when he wasn't paying it attention.
Lynsey reached out, consciously moving her hand in the same slow, careful, unthreatening way she would do when reassuring a scared horse, and gently fussed the long strands off his face for him. He gave her a watery but genuine little smile at that, and murmured "It's not as if I was ever very keen on Christmas at the best of times. At home it just meant shouting and blows, and knowing that boys in other families got presents while I only got bruises - and Christmas at Hogwarts was all forced cheer and artificial twinkle and still no bloody presents. But this was - oh, God, I was in so much pain and they were all sitting round me eating and laughing, and I was crying because I should, I should have been to Midnight Mass and I hurt so much and I was so bloody hungry and always, always p-punishment instead of presents, and all the warmth and the joy in the world was for other people and none of it was for me."
Lynsey put her hand on his knee, meaning nothing by it except a little sympathy and support, but he suddenly caught her hand, raised it to his lips and kissed it. "But I was wrong, wasn't I?" he said, making an odd shrugging gesture with his head and shoulders, half wry and half flippant, and sitting up straighter. "God or the angels or the land or whatever you want to call it sent me some presents this year all right - just a few days late. Within a few days of that - ghastly revel they sent me my life back again, through you, and much more than my life: companionship and conversation; a new Patronus and a whole new field of magic to learn and study; music and laughter and a very strange puppy - and what was possibly the first uncomplicatedly happy experience of my life that didn't involve potions!"
"Sitting by a fire in the middle of a wood in the middle of Wales in the middle of winter, eating trout sandwiches!"
"Which tasted better than any Christmas dinner ever would or ever could" she agreed, smiling: "especially as they were the fruits of your own labour."
He smiled back at her gravely from his considerable height. "And eaten in such good company, too. Even though I was - even though I was exhausted and in pain, the whole thing was somehow - perfect. A holiday from all care."
"You used to sing with me," she said, quietly. "You used to sing with me, then - not just me singing to you. Or spells."
He looked at her for a moment, her hand still held slackly in his, and then looked away restlessly. "But then we were - nowhere. Usual rules need not apply, and so forth."
"And which of the usual rules says you're not allowed to sing?"
"Do you want me to write you a bloody list?" he snapped.
"You make me think of - " Diffidently, feeling embarrassed and awkward, she herself began to sing: "Oh dear me, the warld's ill-divided // Them as works the hardest are the least-provided...."
Severus laughed softly, recognizing the piece. "My father would have been glad of the chance to, but the mills in our town were all closed by the time I was five. All right. Years ago - years ago I heard a snatch of a song on a Muggle radio, it was about a woman going to the mill, about how heavy her work was, but - " He shut his eyes and swallowed. Drew breath. Began.
Even dry-throated and at four am, his voice was as lovely and as heart-rending as she remembered it. He gave her a glittering look, self-mocking and sad. "I tried for years to find the rest of it, but I never could. And I was never one for silver linings anyway, even though - " He took a sharp breath and then gestured widely at the room around him, Lynsey included. "Even though fate seems to have forced one on me, even so," he muttered, embarrassment spreading across his skin in a dull flush.
Lynsey wrestled briefly with the ethics of taking advantage of his vulnerable state to encourage him to do something which, in fact, he wished to be encouraged to do, and then disengaged her hand from his and raised it, as carefully as if she were trying not to startle a wild bird, to cup his stubbly cheek. His breath caught for a moment in nervousness and she saw him make a conscious effort to force himself to breathe more calmly.
Holding her gaze with his own, he rubbed the side of his jaw against her hand and she responded carefully by tracing his lips with her thumb, her own breath catching in her throat. When he put his hand up to clasp her wrist she leaned towards him; so she was already halfway there when his other hand snaked around her ribs and drew her into a tight embrace, his lips pressing against hers awkwardly, suddenly and hard.
Even so, his action was so abrupt that she yelped in surprize and he drew back almost at once, turning his head aside from her and looking confused and ashamed. But her hand was still against his jaw, his long fingers wrapped around her wrist; and when she pressed firmly against his cheek to turn him back to face her and then leaned in for another kiss, he stared at her wildly for a moment and then seized her to him again, his mouth searching for hers with as much enthusiasm as she could have wished.
At the end of Mood Music, Lynsey sang Severus to sleep with the song Sally Free and Easy, a modern British folk song written by Cyril Tawney in 1958. A popular cover version of this song was released in 1972 by the folk-rock band Pentangle on their album Solomon's Seal, when Severus was twelve years old and Lynsey fifteen or sixteen.
The plaintive song 500 Miles was sung by the American folk/pop band Peter, Paul & Mary on their first, eponymous album, released in 1962 when Severus was two and Lynsey five or six.
San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair) is a gentle, dreamy hippy anthem, written by John Phillips to promote the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, and sung by Scott McKenzie.
The Bonny Light Horseman is a traditional ballad of the Napoleonic wars, which exists in numerous variants. This one is from the singing of John Tams.
For the benefit of American readers, treacle is very similar to what you call molasses, except it can be obtained from either sugar cane or sugar beet (a type of turnip), and according to Delia Smith the flavour of treacle isn't as rich as molasses (I've never eaten molasses so I can't comment). It's near-black and not nearly as sweet or as runny as golden syrup (which you don't have either, and which is a pale gold form of molasses obtained when sugar-cane is first refined), but not as bitter or as stiff as black-strap molasses.
Admittedly the description of Voldemort coming to the Potters' house, as seen through his own viewpoint in Deathly Hallows, does not mention either a person accompanying him or any kind of spellwork. But we do not actually see whether anyone is behind him, and it seems unlikely he would have gone alone when he couldn't know that the Potters would be unarmed and unguarded. Dumbledore knew so much of what happened that night - enough to decide almost immediately, before he even sent Hagrid to rescue the child, that Harry needed to be placed with his mother's bloodline - that it strongly suggests he had an eye-witness. And Voldemort must have done something to turn Harry's intended death into a Horcrux.
Dumbledore said in HBP that he was sure Tom intended to make a Horcrux out of Harry's death, and it seems unlikely that he was wrong about that, because we know Tom was intending to make another Horcrux - he later made Nagini into one - and the death of the prophesied vanquisher would be too significant a death to waste. It can't be enough just to kill somebody and, bingo, the nearest suitable object becomes a Horcrux, or it would happen all the time. It can't depend on something Tom was going to do after Harry's intended death, because if so he never got to do it, and Harry wouldn't have become a Horcrux. And he can't simply have set the process in motion before he came to the house and given it no further input, because in that case the Horcrux would have been created when he killed James or Lily. He must have done something after killing Lily and before attempting to kill Harry, to ensure that Harry's death would feed into the Horcrux - even though we don't see him do it.
An "area" in this sense is a sort of sunken front yard: a strip of paving the width of the house, about six feet deep and a storey below street-level, which allows a basement-flat to have proper windows. There is usually a door from the flat onto the area, and a steep stair up to street level, where there will be an iron railing.
Lemsip is a powder of dried lemon or blackcurrant, paracetamol and a decongestant. You make it up with hot water and sweeten it to taste - very pleasant and warming, and it soothes away your aches, clears your head and to a limited extent settles your stomach.
I gather from the comments of an American friend that Americans (some, anyway), don't have that distinction between drinking- and non-drinking water. Direct mains water, such as you would get in a kitchen sink, is considered drinkable. The water that feeds the bathroom basin may be from the mains, which is OK, or it may be coming from a cold-water tank, in which case it's not considered drinkable because of the risk that there may be things growing in it. [At my secondary school we used to drink water which came from a cold-water tank, and then somebody went up in the roof and found that the lid was off and there was a very dead pigeon floating in it.]
"Bidey-in" is a Scots term for a live-in lover - a sexual partner to whom you are not actually married, but who "bides" with you.
"He on the ground lay crying" - from The Bold Poachers; "We rode on, and we sped on" - from The Wee Wee Man; "I'm a hand weaver to me trade" - from The Weaver and the Factory Maid; three traditional songs which appear on the Steeleye Span album Parcel of Rogues. You can hear samples of all three on eMusic.com.
The "very strange puppy" to whom Severus refers is of course Remus Lupin, who decided at the end of Mood Music that Severus was now his alpha male.
"Oh, dear me, the warld is ill-divided" - from The Jute Mill Song, written in 1964 by Mary Brooksbank who was herself a mill-worker in Dundee, although the song really refers to conditions and wages which were current before the First World War.
When I first wrote this, I really didn't know where the fragment "There are many gardens" came from. However, I managed to identify it some weeks later, after almost twenty years of searching. I had misremembered it, and therefore so did Severus - or perhaps the singer I/he heard on the radio had changed the words a little - for the chorus properly begins not "Monday to Friday", as I remembered it, but "For days' work and weeks' work". Its title is To People Who Have Gardens. The words are by the novelist and historian Agnes Mure MacKenzie of Stornoway and the tune is by Marion Macleod of Eigg. It was arranged for voice and piano by Marjory Kennedy-Fraser for her early 20th C collection Songs of the Hebrides. It must have been in Volume II, published in 1917, or in Volume III, published in 1921, because I own a copy of Volume I and it isn't in it.
When I originally wrote Mood Music I didn't actually intend there ever to be anything more than a mild flirtation between Lynsey and Severus; but having committed myself to Lynsey's single viewpoint, I needed them to be together long-term in order for her to continue to witness the events of his life: and specifically, to be together at night, so that she could witness his unguarded sleep. And as it's turned out, she does seem to be rather good with and for him.
I imagine btw that Snape is exaggerating for effect when he says he never got presents, even at Hogwarts.
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