Chapter 9 : Snape's Second-Worst Memory
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He walked as softly as possible, keeping an eye out for Prefects as he turned each corner. Painstakingly, he walked the length of the immense room, stopping when he finally arrived at the gate that marked the Restricted Section. Severus withdrew his wand, whispering an incantation that Lucius Malfoy had taught him when they were both Hogwarts students. To his satisfaction, the lock clicked open soundlessly.
He passed the Potions books and sections on cursed objects, continuing to move in the shadows until he reached the section marked Offensive Spells. Here, his pale and nimble fingers poked through the small collection of books, and he even opened a few only to find them not to his liking. He frowned, trying to remember the name of the book he’d wanted to find. Perhaps he should have risked writing it down.
“Find anything to your taste, Snivellus?”
Severus flinched, unable to believe he’d missed the boy sitting in the corner by steady candlelight, Moste Potente Potions laying open on the table before him. Gritting his teeth, he turned, coming face to face with Sirius Black.
“Perhaps it’s all a bit basic for you these days,” Sirius added, smirking coldly.
“What do you want, Black?” Severus spat.
“Nothing,” Sirius said, glancing back down at the page he had been studying before Severus’s presence had interrupted him. A frightening sketch of a half-man, half-wolf decorated the page, framed by a full moon and sparse clouds. He closed the book, not wanting Snape to get a look at what he’d been researching.
“Why the intrusion, then?” Severus insisted, frowning.
“What brings you to the Restricted Section on this lonely Sunday evening?”
“Stuff for class.”
“I doubt it,” Sirius replied. “Not unless Flitwick has changed a lot in recent weeks.”
Snape looked confused, and Sirius pointed lazily at the label on the bookshelf, after which Severus broke eye contact with him. “It’s not your business,” he said.
“Trying to do something fancy to impress Evans?” Sirius said, and for a moment he thought he saw the little blood running beneath Snape’s pale skin turn to ice.
“I said it’s not your business,” Severus replied, turning to leave for the night.
Sirius smirked, glancing back down at the book. Suddenly, he looked back at Snape, seeing the end of his coat whipping toward the exit. “Wait,” he called quietly.
To his surprise, Snape’s face actually peeked back around the corner, looking angry.
“If you really want to impress her, you should go out to the Shrieking Shack.” Snape narrowed his eyes, but he didn’t leave, so Sirius continued. “Lily’s supposed to meet Remus out there tomorrow night. He didn’t want Pr—James and I to hear about it, but Peter overheard them talking last week. He said that he really wants someone to talk to about what’s been happening, and you know how sweet Evans can be.”
Severus began to feel the ache setting into his heart again. He looked away, considering this, missing the disrespectful grin spreading across Sirius’s face. “What happened? What do you mean?” Was he really about to find out where Lupin went?
“His mother’s been ill—for a few years, I mean. She’s taken a turn for the worst.”
Severus frowned. He couldn’t imagine life without his mother; she was the only buffer between him and his father in their worst arguments, and she had spent long hours with him as a boy, teaching him rudimentary potions while his father worked. He felt a sting of pity for Lupin, and he dreaded the long overdue guilt to come.
“I was trying to figure out something we could try to make to help her, but I’m not coming up with anything. Do you know of anything that Remus could give her?”
Severus sighed. “Yes, I have some ideas.” He didn’t, of course, but Sirius now wore an expression of what looked like real concern. He and Lupin, like the other two, were thick as thieves. If Sirius was willing to involve him, the situation must be difficult.
“I’ll bet Lily would really appreciate you doing something to help Remus.”
“Tomorrow night?” Severus asked, thinking about the Veritaserum brewing secretly in his dormitory closet. This tactic would be much quicker and easier, if it worked.
“Yes, that’s right. You can take a shortcut underneath the Whomping Willow, if you’re careful. Just prod the knot under the tree with a stick, and you’re all set.”
Severus nodded, and then he turned, already beginning to brainstorm.
Sirius smirked, waiting until he heard the lock click shut to re-open his book.
“Prongs, how many school rules are we breaking?”
“Just one,” James said, tossing the Quaffle up and catching it casually with one hand. “Technically, I don’t think we’re supposed to practice on our own – you know, outside of specified team practice times. Wouldn’t want to gain an advantage.”
“They can’t very well protest a natural advantage, can they?”
“Right you are, Wormtail,” James said, turning to his friend and grinning. “Besides, that’s why we brought the Map. You keep an eye on it while I practice, and I’ll write the introduction to that Arithmancy essay for you, just like we agreed.”
“Thanks, mate. It’s killing me,” Peter replied.
James took to his broom as soon as he passed under the entryway to the Pitch, attempting to see how quickly he could score a goal and then swoop around to pick up the ball again. Peter sprawled out on the field below him, keeping the Map at his side and opening his Arithmancy book with a sigh. James may be getting the momentum going on the essay, but there would still be two feet left for Peter to write. However, Peter knew that he would have trouble concentrating, just as he did every night when there was a full moon, especially when he was one of the two people selected to be available in case Remus needed help – or merely company. Somewhere in the darkest recesses of his mind, Peter worried that one night Remus would fail to recognize his scent and calmly obliterate him in the space of a second.
He glanced lazily at the map, watching as the dot and footprint set marked ‘Remus Lupin’ paced in its Shrieking Shack-shaped box. Remus’s complex and horrifying transformation, which Peter had now witnessed exactly four times, was simplified beautifully in the framework of the Map. In a moment, as the fading sunset gave way to the overwhelming darkness, Remus’s dot would shudder strangely, and then it would begin to move a bit more erratically, its precisely curvilinear steps becoming jerky and desultory. Then, when the full moon had tucked itself away for another cycle, the chaotic dot would merely evolve back into a normal point on the map.
“How long till the moon rises, Wormtail?” James called.
Peter squinted at the golden sun, which floated in waves of pink and purple hues. “Maybe two hours? Sirius was supposed to check the Astronomy charts.”
“He had a row with Celestine. I think she thinks they’re a serious couple.”
James and Peter had a good laugh at the accidental pun, and they decided together to forgive Sirius for laying down on the job. Then, James returned to his task, trying to calculate his average Quaffle throwing speed, and Peter looked back down at his Arithmancy essay, for which he’d written a grand total of two and a half sentences.
Forty minutes later, James’s tossing arm was growing tired. He thought perhaps he and Peter should wait out Remus’s transformation in Animagus form, especially if they could find the little pond hiding in the forest, which they had first uncovered (and heartily drank from) during their last weekend on duty. As was customary, they would need to stop by and check on Remus before heading out any further, just to ensure that he wasn’t any more depressed than usual or in need of anything. However, as James pointed his broomstick toward the ground, he noticed that Peter had gotten onto his feet and was waving and calling frantically to get his attention.
“What, what?” James said, frowning as he dismounted.
“The Map,” Peter said, and his face had gone quite pale. He handed it to James.
He looked first for Lily out of habit, but she was safely holed up in the library, probably working on N.E.W.T. review with Ellery and trying to ignore Celestine’s complaining about Sirius and his fickle heart. A glance at the Shrieking Shack told his trained eyes that Remus had transformed and settled into a stationary position, hopefully one that allowed for somewhat comfortable sleep. As his gaze traced back toward the castle and his mouth opened to question Peter, he saw the problem.
Severus Snape was heading, in quite a determined fashion, straight toward Remus.
By the time Lily had made it outside to take a break after her grueling study session, she had almost convinced herself that attending Quidditch games when she should be studying for exams needed to be outlawed. She still couldn’t chase thoughts of her deal with Regulus from her mind, and thinking about James Potter and drinking one too many Butterbeers after yet another victory only distracted her further.
She carried her stuffed book bag down to the edge of the lake, where she poked her toes into the water and found it to be much too cold even for soaking her tired feet. Sighing, Lily glanced up at the sunset, watching the colors blithely move from faint pink to darker red, signaling the coming evening. In the span of a few minutes, the moon rose, and several stars joined it to twinkle happily in the night sky.
The roar was what jolted Lily from her reverie.
She turned quickly, knocking her bag over and sending her books tumbling down the hill toward the lake. When she stood up, she could see that the commotion was coming from the direction of the Whomping Willow, a massive tree that was known for getting quite defensive when disturbed. Before her eyes, Severus stumbled out of the tree, nearly being knocked onto his back by an especially vindictive branch. The swinging limbs stopped suddenly, and James and Peter came running out after him.
“No, go back—the door—” James was gesturing wildly to Peter, though he kept his eyes on Snape. The latter boy’s clumsy legs could not carry him away fast enough.
“Lily!” Snape shouted, his eyes widening. “He’s a werewolf! You aren’t safe!”
“What?” Lily asked. “Who? What are you talking about?” She glanced at James.
“Lupin—werewolf,” Snape breathed heavily, almost collapsing before her.
“Remus?” Lily felt something cold overtake her heart. “He’s a werewolf?”
James looked down guiltily, the sound of Severus’s ragged gasps hanging between him and Lily. When she finally looked back at him, there were tears in her eyes.
“Severus, don’t lie to me,” she said, trying to direct her anger onto him instead.
“I’m not!” he cried desperately. “Lily, please, I just want to protect you.”
“It’s true,” James said quietly. “He is a werewolf.”
Lily looked down, frowning. “Is he in there now?” She pointed to the tree.
“Yeah,” James confirmed.
“Severus, we have to take you to the hospital wing.” He had blood on his face.
“I’m fine,” he said quickly. “It’s—he was eating a rabbit or something when I came in. He threw it at me when he noticed me. I—I was looking for you. I wanted to help.”
“Help with what?”
“His mother was supposed to be dying,” Severus spat coldly.
Lily sighed. “Come on, Madam Pomfrey should have a look at you.”
“No.” He got to his feet. “I’m going straight to Professor Dumbledore.” Suddenly, he fell backwards, landing hard on his back. Lily’s eyes snapped to James, whose wand was held tightly in his outstretched arm. Snape’s eyes had rolled back in his head.
“He can’t just go tell the whole school,” James said. “Besides, Dumbledore knows.”
“He’s been really decent about it, actually.”
“Well, that’s Dumbledore,” Lily said softly. She bit her lip, unable to believe that once again she was looking at an unconscious Severus on the ground. “Come on, help me get him to the Hospital Wing. We have to see if you’ve inflicted brain damage.”
“Peter!” James called, and the smaller boy headed away from the tree. “Is he—”
“Yeah,” Peter said quickly, looking from James to Lily. “He went to sleep.”
“Good. Help us take Snivellus—” He glanced at Lily, who frowned at the use of the nickname. “We need to take Snape up to the Hospital Wing to get checked out.”
The three of them cast Levicorpus, helping to carry Severus into the castle. They were stopped by two professors and Filch on the way to the Hospital Wing, but James quickly showed them his broomstick and made up a story about Snape stealing it to try to impress Lily and falling off, knocking himself out cold. By the time Madam Pomfrey rushed out to meet them at the Hospital Wing entrance, he had adjusted his expression enough to make the story seem almost convincing.
“Poor thing just doesn’t know what’s good for him,” Madam Pomfrey sighed, motioning to her house elves to prepare a bed. “He’ll need to stay the night.”
As they exited, Lily gently grabbed James’s arm, and he motioned for Peter to go ahead. “Look, Lily, I’m sorry,” he said. “We only barely caught him in time…”
“Why didn’t Remus tell me he was a werewolf?” she said defiantly.
“Well, it’s not the sort of thing you drop into polite conversation.”
“Don’t,” she chided. “Remus and I became friends long before I could even have a civilized conversation with you. We must have spent thousands of hours together, between classes, homework, studying, and doing Prefect rounds. I just don’t understand why he wouldn’t trust me enough…” She paused. “I mean, am I—?”
“What?” James asked, his brow furrowing.
“I don’t seem like a blabbermouth, do I?”
“Of course not!” James laughed. “I don’t even know how you and Celestine are friends, really, when you think of it. You’re completely different from her.”
Lily cracked a tiny smile. “Is he going to be upset that I know?”
“Personally, I think he’ll be relieved not to have to hide it from you,” James said. “Especially after I tell him that we stopped Snape from telling the whole school.”
“How do you think Severus found out, anyway?”
“Well, there are only four of us who know, and guess who wasn’t there?”
Lily grimaced. “Sirius does stupid things, I guess, but this—”
“—Is too far,” James finished. “Trust me, I’m off to give him a piece of my mind.” He glanced back toward the Hospital Wing. “Do you… do you want to stay with him?”
Lily’s mouth opened slightly, surprised at his show of graciousness. “No, um…” She swallowed. “It sounded like Madam Pomfrey wanted him to be left alone tonight.”
“Yeah, you’re probably right,” James replied, a touch of relief in his voice.
“Besides, I want to see this,” Lily said with a smirk. As she followed him toward the common room, she had the wild notion that she should plant a kiss on his cheek, amazed as she was by his display of maturity. Thankfully, they rounded the corner and came face-to-face with the Fat Lady, and she just exhaled pleasantly instead.
He inspected his work, holding it up to the sunlight that streamed in through the window by his bed. Yes, the word rolled lightly off his tongue, and the incantation he’d designed for it would leave the unfortunate victim with no anticipation of what was to come – pain, suffering, and lasting scars. For a moment, he contemplated a counter-curse; for now, he would simply revel in his most deadly creation to date.
Careful not to touch his wand, he practiced saying it under his breath quietly.
His head snapped up, and he could see Lily leaning against the doorway, a few first years passing in the corridor behind her. He closed the aged Potions textbook, setting it down on his bed. She took this as a sign that it was okay to approach him.
“How are you feeling?”
“Head hurts,” he remarked, turning his dark eyes on her coldly. “Wonder why?”
“You fell,” she replied.
“Nonsense,” he hissed. “Be sure to compliment Potter on his Charms skills for me.”
“Severus, please,” she said, sighing. “He was only trying to help his friend.”
“Are you listening to yourself?” he said, spitefully mocking her words from their interaction during the last Hogsmeade visit. “He must have fed you a fairly powerful love potion, Lily. I never thought I’d hear you defending that soulless, arrogant—”
“I don’t even know you anymore,” Lily spat, turning on her heel.
“Were you hurt?” he asked, and the minute change in tone caught her attention.
“No.” She stopped, uncrossing her arms and looking back at him. “Just so you know, I’m glad you weren’t either. It was stupid of you to come in there looking for me.”
“I meant what I said. I just wanted to help you… by helping him.”
“I know,” she replied softly. “Your intentions—what you did was sweet, too.”
“Sweet,” he remarked icily, his thin lips becoming a hard line.
“Do you actually miss me?” she asked. “You don’t act like it.”
“You know I do,” he said flatly. “I’d like to know when the real you will be back.”
“This is the real me. I’m not the one who changed.”
“You never used to hang around with them, and your moronic friends…”
Lily felt the knife in her heart. “You mean Celestine and Ellery? You know, the girls I introduced you to in our first year, and then again every year after that because you never bothered to learn their names?” she said accusingly. “I could say the same thing about your friends. I know their names, at least, though I typically find it easier to refer to them as Satan and Lucifer…”
“Don’t be so dramatic.”
“I can’t be your friend if you’re going to hang around with them.”
Severus frowned, needing a moment to let the finality of her statement sink in. Inwardly, he felt very angry at himself for thinking of using dark magic to impress her. “Likewise,” he admitted. “But to be honest, mine are the only friends I have.”
“I miss you, too,” she said, not entirely sure if she believed it. After all, though her old friend had always been pale and underfed, he had never looked so cruel as the young man folded up on the bed before her. “Just think about that, will you, Sev?”
“Yeah,” Severus said, thinking instead of the freshly inked spell tucked safely away somewhere in the eighteenth chapter of his textbook. He had been planning to find James Potter somewhere alone and use it, preferably the same day he was released from the Hospital Wing. He would have to find a way for this to fit with her request.
“I’m still going to tell Dumbledore,” he said quietly. “It’s for your own good, Lily.”
She nodded, leaving without another word. As she re-entered the crowded corridor, Lily felt distinctly claustrophobic, like she wanted to vomit. She was glad to put the Hospital Wing and her old almost-friend behind her, but she was worried about running into James in the common room, in the Great Hall, in her next class… She couldn’t handle having so many feelings at once. No one could. It was impossible.
She stopped, trying not to cry. All those years as a little girl, wanting to get out and explore the world, and now all she wanted was to curl up in her bed and be alone.
Hi! Hopefully you enjoyed this latest chapter, and I hope you’ll leave me some comments on my interpretation of a very important canon event and the other little details that I put into this part of the plot. I know there wasn’t much Regulus here, but don’t worry, he’ll be back soon! I always say this, but only because I mean it – I really appreciate you all for continuing to R&R faithfully!
Everything you recognize from canon, including characters, events, and details, obviously belongs to JKR. I also took the title of this chapter from “Snape’s Worst Memory,” which is the title of the 28th chapter of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (written by J.K. Rowling and published in 2003).
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