She didn’t want to wake up. The mountains stretched to the heavens. It was the roof of the world, habitat of dragons, and her home. She clenched her eyes shut wanting the images to carry on. She imagined the wind in her nostrils, the air under her wings and that wonderful buoyancy in her center as she soared through the valley toward her home. She saw her beloved valley framed as always by the peaks of the Himalayas. The small green swatch of the fields and the village sitting at the top of gray and forbidding rocks. The flags were waving in the ever-howling wind. She could see the happy eye of the temple. She had nearly reached it, if only she could stay asleep, she’d be there soon.
But the cool stonewalls of Hogwarts castle beckoned her. The sun had risen and it was time to be awake. Her stomach rumbled to be fed. How she hated Hogwarts now. It was unwelcome and cold. Severus hadn’t looked in her direction once in the few days since he’d thrown her from Malfoy Manor. She was still so hurt by his rejection that she hadn’t dared intrude on him.
She opened her eyes and tumbled out of bed stiffly. The rough and hardened pads of her feet slapped loudly on the cool hardness of the stone floor. She scratched the surface with her talons and flapped her wings against the stale dungeon air. For a split second of wickedness, she was tempted to torch her surroundings. If only she could go home. She snaked out her long neck wanting to roar out her misery. The knowledge that she would have to leave Remus behind if she left England could not keep her from wishing it. It wasn’t has if she’d ever be allowed to see him much, she thought petulantly. She was imprisoned and despondent. Severus had rejected her and would keep a constant vigilance against her. She was alone.
She’d not seen the headmaster, either. The castle was an entirely empty and forbidding place for her. Dragons don’t function well in such conditions. They’re social creatures by nature just as humans are. They thrive on love. Her loneliness weighted her down, making her feel ill at ease and nauseous.
She’d also been under siege by the toady patrol as soon as she’d returned to the castle. Umbridge had stepped up her efforts to catch her out, presumably in order to sack her. The moment that she’d begun classes on Monday morning, the evil Inquisitor had been attending her lectures, clipboard in hand. Her only respite was that she wasn’t the only one that the bug-eyed nutcase was after. She had often wished that she could stuff that clipboard down her throat.
Her world was empty and devoid of warmth. Severus never wanted to speak to her again. He’d said it. She felt as if she was withering up. Hogwarts had become an alien place.
At breakfast she picked dully at her food. She no longer cared that Hogwarts fed her so heartily. Though her stomach rumbled to be fed, she tasted little of it and took no pleasure from its taste. She wanted to die.
“You really are pathetic,” said Severus sitting next to her. He crossed his arms and looked at her sideways with a disgusted expression on his face.
She didn’t have the energy to care. “I’m unhappy,” she said poking a sausage with her fork.
“That’s obvious,” he snorted. “You look like a dejected lover. Why don’t you announce to the world that you’re in misery? Haven’t you any pride? Really, Felicity, I’m very surprised at you.”
She looked at him then, her anger rising inside. He smiled smugly at her.
“How dare you be so arrogant!” she hissed.
“Finally, some fire from the dragon woman.”
Her mouth dropped at his manner. “You…” she stumbled for words… “You pompous prick!”
He raised a superior eyebrow. “Language, Miss Wood. There are children present.” He shifted in his chair and faced her. “I had to throw you out of that house, Felicity. You gave me no choice.”
“You may have done it with a little less disgust.”
“I was acting.”
“That was not acting. Don’t forget that I’m able to read you. I know you, Severus, all too well.” She was confused. Was he softening?
“Yes, I’m softening.” A corner of his mouth raised in a half smile. “Two can play at the art of reading images in the mind, Felicity. I’m a Legilimence remember? You’re like an open book at the moment. Your heart is on your sleeve. Frankly, I thought dragons were made of stronger stuff. Are you weakening? People are watching; wizards who are looking for any excuse to be rid of you. You’re endangering yourself and me along with you with this ridiculous show of your emotions.”
Felicity was tongue tied in shock. She looked about the Great Hall. It was early. Few students were about. Not more than twenty were scattered about the house tables. No other teachers were having breakfast.
“You’re very cruel, Professor Snape,” she said finally. “Or are you just gloating over the inferior half-human?” She wanted to hate him.
“I have my reasons for behaving as I do, Felicity,” he said grimly, his face set. “I have an abhorrence of animals mixed with humans.” He was whispering, barely moving his lips. He was looking about the room making sure that no person was interested in their conversation. His eyes fixed on Draco Malfoy and a few other Slytherins as they strutted through the door. “It is, in point of fact, a very well known part of my personality. There are those who expect me to act in particular ways.” He drew his eyes from watching the Slytherins to stare directly into her gaze. “We are always in danger now, Felicity. Our friends and enemies all want a piece of what we are. My past always haunts me. We walk a tightrope here at Hogwarts.”
She took a moment to think about what he was saying. “We? Severus, are you saying we?”
“Yes, dear dragon.” He fixed his eyes on her. “We.” His lip curled in condescension. “Don’t be a dolt.”
The light dawned suddenly on Felicity. She timidly fished about inside of him for what he was trying to say without saying. Something had happened at Malfoy Manor beyond the obvious. A bargain had been struck, Narcissa had aligned herself with Snape as her protector, Lucius had been fooled and…she saw Voldemort clearly in his mind.
Images that she hadn’t seen before appeared in a stream. She felt his pain and guilt. There was a ransacked room and the body of a woman. She looked like a rag doll flung into a corner.
“He doesn’t know!” she spoke out loud.
“Shhh!” Severus fairly spit at her. “Say nothing.”
Voldemort hadn’t known. He hadn’t trusted Severus because of it. There’d been holes in his memory and he hadn’t been sure about Severus’ part in his past. When Severus had failed to bring him the dragon, he’d begun to wonder what else Severus had failed at…holes in Voldemort’s memory. They’d seen him dead and yet…Voldemort did not know it. What did it mean?
“We don’t know,” said Severus pretending an interest in his toast.
The final chunk of information entered his mind. Voldemort should not be alive. Severus had seen him dead. He’d been there! How had he kept that from her? She saw what he’d seen. A flash of memory filled with strong emotions of loss and guilt centered on the dead in the room. How was it possible for Voldemort to be alive?
“We don’t know,” said Severus again. His eyes patrolled the room again and this time he’d seen Draco looking in his direction. He threw down an offending piece of toast and rose in feigned disgust. “Really, Miss Wood. Your persistent pestering is appalling,” he said in his normal, dry and dismissive tone of voice.
He moved from the table and strode down the aisle past the Slytherin table. He stopped at where Malfoy sat with his idiot friends, Crabbe and Goyle. He hovered above Goyle looking dangerous. “Mr. Goyle,” he said slowly. “You must pay more attention to your attire.” He pointed to a stain down the front of the boy’s robe. “There’s such a thing as house pride.”
Goyle gulped. Malfoy smirked. He’d distracted them nicely. Snape turned and marched out of the hall with a flourish of black robe waving behind him.
Felicity sat in stunned disbelief while in her mind she saw the memory he had kept from her. Did he have a secret Pensieve? She thought of Lucius’ son at Hogwarts watching, Narcissa’s want of his protection, Lucius and his usual self-serving cunning, Bellatrix and her plotting…the werewolf to alarm her…and finally…that Voldemort had been dead. She saw it clearly: the ashes blowing in an unseen wind past the body of a woman, a child’s still form, alive but barely. Had he come upon the scene in aftermath or had he killed them that night? She was sure that he’d killed someone that night. She’d felt his guilt and his triumph. There was remorse in the memory.
Severus had only shared this partial memory to show her that he’d been in a different sort of danger at the Malfoy’s. She’d been a decoy of the subtler political variety. She’d missed the danger entirely and had walked directly into the trap. A trap that had saved him from Voldemort’s prodding suspicions.
She’d inadvertently saved Severus by instinctually turning into her dragon self. Voldemort considered her a threat now and had surely given the order for her extinction. While her Professor Snape was safe, she was most likely marked for sport. He was warning her to be more careful. It was only a matter of time before a Death Eater would come after her. She smiled smugly confident. Let them try it.
Her eyes wandered the room searching as Severus had for any adversary. A new energy gripped her. She’d been a fool to think that Hogwarts was just a safe and stale prison while the war waged outside. There was danger here from Voldemort. Umbridge’s political moves for power were the least of her worries. Her gaze settled on a pair of green eyes looking at her with a questioning look. How long had Harry Potter been watching her?
She suddenly realized with dread why Dumbledore had warned her to stay away from him, why Snape was… yes, it was true…why Severus Snape was afraid of him. The boy was dangerous, though he certainly didn’t know it. The young man was oblivious of his own potential. He was the boy that had lived. He’d been a witness to what had happened that night. Voldemort didn’t know that Severus had been there, but Harry did.
Albus Dumbledore would tell her what she must do.
Felicity rose distracted. Harry watched as she rushed away from the head table. He wondered idly what had spooked her. She’d suddenly jumped up and run like a scared rabbit. Snape had most likely been his usual mean and vindictive self.
Harry went back to thinking of his own problems. Things were going well enough if he discounted the dreams. He’d call a meeting of the D.A. soon. They were nearly able to perform their Patronus charms. It was quite exciting. His head hurt a little. He wished that Ron would just get over it. He’d been whinging constantly over Quidditch and Harry resented that he’d never be able to play again. It just wasn’t fair.
He didn’t notice as Felicity nearly tripped and fell over the threshold out of the Great Hall in her hurry to reach Dumbledore’s stairwell as fast as she was able. He had turned his thoughts already to his own many dilemmas.
The headmaster had not been there. Her efforts to gain access were denied. She wouldn’t see him for another week. Instead of being able to act on her new knowledge, she was forced to be patient and wait. That first week in March seemed like four weeks. Her classes bored her rigid. She’d come very close to murdering Theodore Nott. Only the fact that she’d be caught kept her from squashing him like a bug. The Slytherins had taken on an air of bullying belligerence even toward their professors. They’d become swaggering and flippant. She began to wish that she’d been sorted into Hufflepuff.
It was a war zone with Dolores Umbridge always underfoot. The cow seemed to take constant delight in disarming and disrupting. Felicity couldn’t believe it was only March. She felt as if the school year had been in session for many years. It seemed to go on and on without end.
Severus still avoided her. She was barred from his classroom, his room. She felt alone, adrift again and miserable, but this time, she didn’t show it. She had taken Severus’ warning seriously. She knew that he avoided her to protect them both. There was danger everywhere and could come from anyone.
The war zone exploded the second week in March with a woman’s screaming that rang through the halls and up the great stairwell. Felicity had been in her office, well into the dinner hour with two of her students from Ravenclaw. They’d gone running in the direction of the sound, ending up in the entrance hall. The balconies and stairs surrounding had begun to fill with others who’d heard the screaming and come running. Professor Trelawney stood screaming on the stair. She was hysterical and blubbering incomprehensibly. Minerva and another teacher were trying to console her. Then Felicity saw the pink toad.
A pulsating feeling of dread came upon her as she watched and began to understand what was happening. Dolores Umbridge stood in conquest as she taunted Trelawney. She asked her why she hadn’t been able to predict her expulsion with that syrupy sweet voice that Felicity so hated. The woman was loathsome to the extreme and actually acted thrilled at the poor terrified Trelawney. Felicity was weeping in sympathy for the poor woman, though she’d hardly seen her all year and didn’t know much about her. She’d always thought her strange. Whenever Trelawney had gotten near her, the woman had scurried away as if spooked.
Then, as she watched from the balcony over the great entrance hall, Albus Dumbledore appeared from nowhere at the front entryway. The great oak doors opened dramatically and he walked casually forward as if he’d been out for an evening stroll. She hadn’t seen hide nor hair of the man in two weeks and yet there he was looking calm and in control. It gave her pause. He was a great and powerful wizard. She was in awe of his power.
As the drama of Trelawney’s predicament unfolded before her, Felicity searched the crowd of students and teachers for Severus. She found him at the top of the stair from the dungeons. He was standing on the landing with Harry Potter. He didn’t look in her direction but was absorbed in the spectacle of the Madame Inquisitor making her play for power at Trelawney’s expense. His face looked stone cold and impassive. Even at this distance, though, she could tell that he was disturbed by what was happening.
Dumbledore then brought the centaur named Firenze forward and announced that he’d already employed him to take Professor Trelawney’s place. She’d searched out Severus’ face again and found him looking directly at her with a small crooked smile.
His look of amusement at Dumbledore’s surprise trump caused her to celebrate. His raised eyebrow in her direction at the irony of yet another half human creature coming into the fold made her chuckle. It gave her hope. She didn’t feel so alone any longer suddenly. No matter how often he avoided her, he was still with her. They were bound. He smirked at her grin. She loved him, still.
As he leaned toward Harry Potter, dismissing the boy with a sneer, he looked again at her before turning back toward the dungeon. His look was grim, serious and then perhaps she’d been mistaken, but she could swear that she’d seen him wink.
March, the month crawled along and nothing seemed on the horizon. Emptiness surrounded her again. There was no news from Remus. No word of feral werewolves or Voldemort, who must have invaded Wolvin. She had seen no one from the Order of the Phoenix. Dumbledore had again become unreachable. The world had gone strangely quiet. It was eerily like a calm before a storm.
Much of her time, when she was not in class, was given to meditation. She spent larger and larger amounts of it in her dragon form while locked in her rooms. She was isolated, but aware and ever watching. She began to understand the pattern of the danger that she felt all around her. Umbridge was looking for the perfect moment to take over, to turn the tides of power to her favor. Dumbledore was invisible while Umbridge was seen everywhere and into everyone’s business. Poor, loveable Hagrid was taking the brunt of her wrath. The unfortunate man avoided the castle entirely in an effort to keep away from Umbridge. The devil of a woman had come to almost every one of her own classes, as well. Felicity began to see a real pattern to the woman’s plan. She was afraid of Firenze, had been blocked by Dumbledore in her attack on Trelawney, so she was going for broke with Hagrid. Felicity was merely her next victim. She would follow Hagrid onto the Inquisitor’s chopping block.
Severus would still not speak to her. He’d shunned her entirely. Often, she had felt him leave the castle entirely. She envied him his ability to escape unnoticed. She would love to see Remus, if only for a moment. She would give anything to feel his touch and gaze into his eyes. She was calcifying in her loneliness.
Then on the last night of the month of March as she’d just returned to her rooms, she felt Severus’ presence hovering at her door. There was no knock, no sound, but she knew it was he.
She took out her wand, doused the candles throughout the room and opened the door soundlessly. A shadow slipped inside.
“Severus?” she whispered.
“Shhhhh,” he said silencing her with his hand to her lips. She breathed in his essence. She’d missed his touch.
They waited a few minutes in the dark as his eyes adjusted. He moved her to the sofa. She could feel his heart pounding; feel the rhythm of his thoughts. She gave herself to his unspoken images. He’d received a message from Narcissa. Lucius had been traveling frequently for short periods of time. The Death Eaters were gaining strength and had come closer to their goal at the Department of Mysteries. Severus had been called and had traveled to meet again with Voldemort.
Felicity felt what Severus felt. In the dark, with no words spoken, her melding with him was somehow more profound and she was aware of not only his thoughts but also his senses, even the touch of Narcissa in his touch. It was thrilling…then she smelled the danger and her dragon senses reeled. She saw the place that Voldemort was in, that Severus had been to more than once. She gripped Severus’ hand in instant terror. Voldemort was in Wolvin, as they’d feared he would be. The community was under imminent attack. Remus…he was there.
Severus held her hand and brought it up tenderly to his lips willing her not to panic. Without a word spoken he was commanding her to constrict her feelings and listen to him. There was much to do.
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