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“Severus—wake up. You’re dreaming, Severus....”

He rolled over in the darkness. He might have been awake, but didn’t care to explain himself.

“Severus?”

“Sorry,” he finally said, “I never dream. Must’ve been a freak thing. With all the Sensasensi I take, and the Legilimency.”

“You said things,” I ventured uncertainly.

“Ignore them.”

“No—you said—you said ‘Lili.’ Were you dreaming about Lili?”

People can’t control their dreams, I said to myself. It’s not his fault he’s dreaming about your daughter. 

Severus sighed with uncharacteristic hesitation.

“You can’t make a big deal about this,” he said eventually.

“Sorry?”

“Once I tell you this, you can’t make a big deal about it.”

“Right,” I said, filling with dread. It was going to be something bad.

“It’s Lily Potter,” he said. But this was no explanation, so I waited for more. “We grew up together—she…”

I comprehended.

“Lily Potter? And you?”

“No. Nothing ever happened. We kissed once, but she—” he stopped abruptly, “I can’t talk about this. I’m sorry.”

I let it sink in.

“No—it’s fine,” I said, and then, “Goodnight, then.”

“Goodnight.”

But the silence hung there unfinished. I mashed my face into my pillow and breathed into it until I fell asleep.

The next morning, we pretended nothing had happened. And it hadn’t, really.

I spent the whole day at work thinking that maybe if a love ends naturally, it can disperse, but if it ends unfinished, it just sits and rots, or ages like cheese. And the stink is unbearable.

He couldn’t still love her.

My mind went back to cheese again, and I realized that I was more hungry than philosopher. So I went to lunch, but came back still feeling unsatisfied.

That night I received a very interesting letter from Dumbledore, requesting that I apply for a clerk’s position in Knockturn Alley. The shop was a combination shop-and-pub called Morrey’s Finest, and even though I didn’t know it in particular, you can always be assured that anything in Knockturn Alley is buried in a foot of grime and crawling with shady characters.

It made me nervous, yet strangely excited. Finally something I could do, and this sounded like real undercover work, not just playing another pawn in the Ministry’s ranks. I couldn’t wait to tell Severus. Maybe it would bring us closer together, that on different scales we both assorted with the dark side.

Severus will recommend you to him, the letter said, He knows the owner—Poe Lundery. Make an effort to seem like one of them.
But Severus didn’t come home at his normal hour that night.

At seven, Lilianna and I ate supper. Then we sat together in the main room reading. Eight, nine, ten, eleven passed. Lili didn’t seem to notice that Severus was gone, or at least she didn’t mention it. In my head it became a game; who could hold out the longest without mentioning Severus’ blatant absence.

At twelve, Lili went to bed. We still said nothing. I didn’t want to seem paranoid.

One—two o’clock, and the words on the page in front of me became meaningless. I was sleepy, and the room began looking oddly bright, yet faraway at the same time.

I laid down on the couch, not even fooling myself that I wasn’t going to fall right asleep. Severus could take care of himself…

The door crashed open, at goodness knows what time. I was sucked jarringly out of a dream, and I blinked blearily as I watched Severus by the light of one lamp still burning. He didn’t seem to see me.

He stumbled in the door, regained his balance, and steadily walked up the stairs to our room.

I, suddenly wide awake, followed him. When I reached the top landing, he was lying face-down on the bed, motionless.

“Severus?”

I slowly reached over and put my hand on his arm. It was tense and rigid. His whole body was.

I fumbled for my wand and shot flames at two candles.

“Severus, you need to answer me,” I said. I shook him. Still nothing.

I rolled him over onto his back. He was breathing steadily, and his eyes were open, fixed unblinkingly on the ceiling.

“Severus,” I repeated, rummaging under the bed for my potions stores.

“Leave me alone,” he said suddenly, his voice brimming with strained venom, “He gave me Veritaserum. Leave me alone.”

My hands found the ever-useful bottle of Calming Draught, and I used my brisk Healing skills to force some down his throat. He choked and gulped it down unwillingly.

“Leave me alone!” he growled, and pushed me forcefully away from him before I knew what was happening. I fell to the floor, and the bottle thudded on the hard wood and rolled away.

“Severus, you need help,” I said.

“I need help,” he repeated distantly.

“Let me help you.”

He looked a bit milder, though his muscles were still as rigid as ever.

“I resisted…Truth Serum…” he said.

“Shh…”

But every time I approached him with a potion, he would find the strength to force me away again. It was only lucky that he didn’t seem to remember his wand.

On the fourth rebuke, I broke down and Stunned him. I could only hope that the Veritaserum hadn’t addled his brains.

I proceeded to pump his veins with muscle relaxants and stress relievers. I gave him more than the recommended dose, but then again, I had never heard of anyone resisting Veritaserum before.

When I felt it safe to wake him up, I receded a good five feet away. His eyes opened immediately, and he glared at me.

“How are you feeling?” I asked nervously.

“I resisted Truth Serum,” he said immediately.

“I know. But how?”

“I don’t know. I think it almost killed me.”

“I think it did,” I agreed. I was still unsettled. He was talking strangely. “How did you…do it?”

His voice almost sounded normal again. He spoke with academic precision, “At first I kept it in my esophagus—held it there magically. But it was hard to focus, and some of it—some of it must have absorbed into me, and gone up to my brain. Just traces. So I pushed away the truth, forgot the truth, told half-truths, and…Hestia—it was—impossible…”

I sat down beside him, distractedly rubbing his arm.

He gave a laugh that sounded more like a cough, and said, “It never would have worked if I had made the potion.”

But I could barely smile. “Are you going to be alright?”

“I always am,” he said dully, “Except…”

“Except what?” I asked, all too quickly.

“Except sometimes I can’t remember what the truth is anymore.”

“What the truth is…” I repeated blandly. How could he not remember what the truth is?

“But I will always be on this side. The Order’s side.” He said it jerkily, and all too seriously.

“Of course you will,” I found his hand with mine, but he pushed it away.

“You don’t understand.” He was angry. “I will always be good—always right. Always. No matter what—I do.”

I wiggled down next to him and put my arms around him.

“I trust you.”

Though of course I didn’t know if I did.


It was not difficult to obtain the job at Morrey’s Finest, since I was the girlfriend of Severus Snape, and Severus was now a Veritaserum-tested Death Eater. Together we invented an unnecessary, yet somehow appealing story that I was an escaped convict from America on the run, using a fake name and identity, mostly to cover my Muggle-born tracks. I’m still amazed Old Poe Lundery fell for it, considering I’m a terrible liar with the face of a chronic goody-two-shoes. But he ate it right up, and then always gave me all the shifts that I passive-aggressively requested.

The store consisted of a one-room shop, filled floor to ceiling with questionable, mostly broken objects, connected to a greasy little pub, which led into a back room for shady dealings, and then a back room behind the first back room for, I assume, even shadier dealings. I was never allowed into this backmost room.

My escaped-convict persona helped me, mentally, to face even the most disturbing of customers. I had expected creeps and criminals from Knockturn Alley, but the number of times I had to draw my wand on customers surprised even Severus, a veteran of this underworld atmosphere. And both of us were equally surprised that they almost always still tipped me afterwards.

I always tried to act as jaded as possible—an easy act now that September 1st, the date when both Severus and Lilianna would leave me for bright-and-shiny Hogwarts, was fast approaching. I did not want to live alone. I did not want that sort of time within my own head.

But the date came anyway. I took Lili, with her trunk and broom, to King’s Cross, and saw her off, waving at her white-faced and wide-eyed form through the grimy window as the train chugged away…It was not how I’d imagined my children’s departure to Hogwarts to be. I Disapparated home, and felt in an instant more lonely than I’d ever felt in my entire life.

Tonks and I helped each other through it. (In one of his more decisive fits of anguish and self-loathing, Remus had dumped Tonks “for her own good…for good,” and she had not seen him for weeks.) We made quite a pair, each pitying the other only slightly more than we pitied ourselves.

We began to sleep over each other’s houses (Tonks found sleeping in Snape’s house hilarious), eating every meal together, and visiting each other at work. It was a bit like being married, honestly. Without her, I don’t know what I would’ve done. Probably blown up the store and founded a religious colony in a desert somewhere.

Severus and Lilianna both wrote me. Lili was unsurprisingly Sorted into Ravenclaw, and even less surprisingly already having a great time at her new school. Severus, on the other hand, barely wrote half a page, and failed to invite me to visit him. I don’t even know why I had expected it, when I knew full well that general consideration was beyond him.

It was not the last time I would wonder if he had stopped taking the potion.

Tonks took initiative for me, however, and wrote on the back of his terse and unsatisfying letter:

Yes thanks, I will visit you this weekend. Sweet of you. As you suggested, I’ll meet you at the gate Saturday at 8PM.
—H 


I laughed and only halfheartedly tried to grab the letter out of her hand as she tied it to the owl.

So, though Severus did not reply, I went to Hogwarts that weekend. And there he was with a lantern, in between the winged boars that flanked the gates.

“Sorry about that letter,” I said instantly, “Tonks wrote it.”

“Obviously,” he said, and turned abruptly on his heel. I followed him like a puppy, with my metaphorical tail between my legs.

“How are you?” I asked.

“Adequate,” he replied, without reciprocating the question.

“Students haven’t driven over the edge yet?”

He did not even deign to answer.

“Severus?”

“What?”

“You’re doing that question thing you do. Where I ask you a direct question, and you don’t answer.”

He sighed. “No, the students have only caused me moderate grief as of yet.”

I stared at him.

“Severus?”

“What?”

“Are you still even taking the potion?”

We had reached the castle steps, and he stopped on the first stair to look at me.

“I am a very meticulous person,” he said, “I do not forget.”

“Oh,” I said, “Then why are you acting like I…” (I grasped for the right comparison), “…like I killed your grandmother?”

Severus sighed again and continued to walk. I had to jog up the steps to keep up with his longer strides.

“I am not good at these things. Greeting and goodbyes and girlfriends.”

“Right,” I said, still feeling the chill of his coldness. “Well how am I supposed to know if you’re actually angry with me, then?”

“I will most likely take it out on your loved ones,” he said.

I took a second to look around the Entrance Hall. Even with no students about, Hogwarts looked exactly the same.

Severus hurried me down a side corridor.

“I was joking,” he said irritably.

“I know.”

We were already getting on each other’s nerves. This is not how I had wanted things to go.

“So you’re the new Slughorn? In the dungeons?” I asked. I couldn’t picture Severus filling Slughorn’s overlarge shoes.

“We have dissimilar teaching styles,” he said, “But yes, Potions is still in the dungeons.”

“Wait, do you think you sleep in Slughorn’s old rooms? Doesn’t that freak you out?”

“I’ve never thought about it,” he said, dismissing my disturbing thoughts that Slughorn had slept and eaten and thought, and had a life outside the classroom.

We went deeper into the dungeons in silence.

He unlocked the door which I remembered as Slughorn’s office. Perhaps it was the dark, but it was spookier than I remembered. He walked behind his desk and pushed at a seemingly sturdy bookshelf. It swung like a door, and revealed a room behind.

“That’s your signature move, is it?” I said, following him inside.

It was a tiny room, boring and book-strewn. The only inviting item in the chilled little dungeon was his bed, which was wide and covered by a silky green bedspread (and taking up most of the space in the room). Outside the window, rain splashed down on the bright green trees, shining and sparkling with the water.

“It’s raining,” I commented, and then rapidly executed a comedic double-take, “But aren’t we underground? And isn’t it dark out?”

“Enchanted windows,” Severus explained. The bed looked so comfortable that I threw myself down on it. I just laid there for a second, dangling my hair down the side of the bed and staring out the window upside-down.

I sighed.

“Severus, why do you teach?”

He said nothing, and I couldn’t see his face. He only walked to another part of the room. So I continued:

“Lilianna just owled me her first letter from school.”

“Does she know you’re here?”

“No one knows I’m here—I’m not even here, really.” I sat up quickly and wiggled under the green covers. “Are the teachers allowed to have girlfriends, anyway? I’ve always wondered. Are any of them even married?”

“It’s not encouraged,” he answered briskly, shooting me a nasty look, “It’s never really come up before.” He hesitated, then perched on the bed, sitting stock straight—almost gracefully—and pretending not to care. Of course he didn’t have a chair in the room—nothing but the bed and books—because no one ever came in there but him.

“Dumbledore was married once.”

“He was?” I was fascinated.

“But most married people wouldn’t take the job. Too much time away. We’re required to live in the school and do all sorts of terrible night duties and student activities.”

But I wouldn’t let him move on:

“Who was he married to? Is she alive? What happened?”

But he didn’t know, and didn’t seem to care (the subject of Dumbledore never was a good one with Severus), so I reverted back to my original topic.

“Anyway, Lili mentioned you. In her letter.”

“Really.”

“She said you scared children.”

“Did she.” He looked quite pleased with himself.

I laughed, abandoned the covers, and squirmed up next to him, “You like scaring kiddies, don’t you, you sick little bastard?”

“I believe that being stern is often the only method of—“

“You’re so full of shit,” I giggled, and snuggled closer to him. I felt his arm slip quietly around my back.

“You wouldn’t frighten Lilianna, though, would you?”

“Ravenclaws rarely give me trouble,” he said, “She—“ he hesitated, “She’s very bright. But of course I think it necessary to treat her like any other student.”

“And what—traumatize her into submission? She told me about the daisy incident, you know.”

Now he smiled a real smile (though he never smiled with teeth, only a thin-lipped, close-mouthed smile), “I must say that remains the highlight of the school year. Did she appreciate my humour?”

“No,” I said, “But I did.”

His enthusiasm suddenly disappeared, and he glared at the floor beneath us.

“I wasn’t meant for this job.”

“Well it’s not like you have to do it, do you?”

He gave a sarcastic little laugh and spat, “That’s what you think.”

“Well, quit if it makes you happy.”

“Dumbledore won’t let me out of his sight,” he said, his face distorted with disgust, “I tried. He doesn’t trust me worth a damn, even for all his ‘love and trust’ sermons.”

“Of course he trusts you. He wouldn’t let you in the Order if he didn’t. He wouldn’t let you…you know…”

“Yes he would,” he said, darkly, sullenly.

“What?”

A long pause. And then:

“There are some things you can’t understand, Hestia.”

“And, believe it or not, there are some things you can’t understand, Severus.” I moved away from him and walked over to the window. The rain beat down on the imaginary trees. “I wish I could be out there.”

“I didn’t mean to offend,” he said eventually, in his cold, everyday voice—the one he used with colleagues and students and strangers. “It’s just—I’m so good at lying that sometimes I think I don’t know the truth. And I’m so capable at hiding emotion that sometimes I think I just don’t have any.

“Well sometimes I do,” he said, looking at me sort of fondly, “But often—at any given moment—I can believe anything, understand anything, be anything, do anything. And I don’t intend that in the positive sense, Hestia, I—.”

Something in his profound discomfort brought me closer to him. Though I didn’t pretend to fully understand his meaning.

“I only mean,” he continued, as though on trial, “that a reformed man can never forget his old ways, much as he condemns them.” I watched him as he sat there for a moment, staring at his hands, in a rare moment of vulnerability. He seemed to give up on something, “Hestia, you’re just a little girl sometimes, in my mind.”

“Well,” I said, pushing him gently onto his back, “This little girl wants to know how you stay warm in such a frigid, cold dungeon…”

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