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Few students now attending Hogwarts had ever seen their Potions Master truly furious.  Angry, often, sneering and sarcastic enough to strip paint off a wall, a daily occurrence, but truly consumed by fury-never.

Until that night, the night of Harry Potter's disappearance.

Not that there were too many students about in the halls that evening to witness Snape's dissolution from calm cool rational human into something that could have made a Norwegian Ridgeback think twice about flaming, but those who saw immediately offered up heartfelt thanks to whatever Power they worshipped that Snape was unaware of them.  They flattened themselves against the stone walls or behind statues, never thinking twice about the survival reflex, like frightened mice spotting a falcon circling.

It was not that Snape was frothing at the mouth or that the fury was evident upon his features, for the man's face was granite, expressionless, the thin lips compressed into his trademark sneer.  All save for the eyes.  Those dark pools fairly bubbled and burned with fury, and there was an aura of imminent danger surrounding the tall wizard that fairly screamed Run for your life and don't stop until you are buried in a hole so deep no one will find you!

Those students abroad in the halls didn't question that impulse, they just obeyed.

Lucky for them.

Snape strode past them, sensing they were there, but his focus was not upon them, it was all turned inward, seeking the bloody miscreants who had dared to invade his private stores.  It was not the theft alone that caused him to explode, but also the sheer audacity and disregard for his privacy.  Snape was an intensely private man, it was almost requisite in his field, being who and what he was-a double agent.  He held too many secrets to ever be comfortable with anyone dropping by unannounced for a visit, he had been too hurt and scarred by his past to ever trust fully, he had learned well that people often betrayed and hurt you when you least expected it, and so he held himself aloof, guarding what was his jealously.

One of those things was his potions.  As a child, he had never had anything to really call his own, except his wand, his books were secondhand, so were his clothes,  he could never afford a pet or a broom, not that his tyrannical father would have permitted either of those things in his home, and Severus's shabby room had been subject to daily ‘inspections' by Tobias, checking for any hint of forbidden magical apparatus.  His father had poked his abnormally large nose into every nook and cranny, without regard for his son's feelings or common decency, hoping to catch him out, looking for any excuse to have at him for being born a wizard.   

Severus's stomach still twisted as he recalled a memory of Tobias tearing apart his drawer of underpants-picking up a pair and sneering mockingly that his son needed a new hobby or else no girl would ever see what Severus had beneath these, little enough though it was. Severus had thought that was the most humiliating experience he ever endured, until the day when James Potter and Sirus Black had hung him upside down and allowed half the school to see his underpants and mock him, resulting in Lily coming to his rescue, only to be hit with the lash of Snape's tongue as his pride crumbled to dust and humiliation consumed him.

Nothing had been sacred back then, he thought with a bitter twist to his mouth. 

Which was why he valued his privacy above almost all things as an adult.

And now it had been violated.

Even Filch scurried out of Snape's path after one swift glance into the obsidian eyes, though the caretaker did mumble something about bloody students leaving their library books all over, as he had just been cleaning the Owlery and found two books upon the floor.  The gnarled old man hurried to the library and dumped the items into the drop bin where they would be magically reshelved since Madam Pince had retired for the evening. Then he returned to his own quarters, not wishing to discover what idiot had gotten Snape so riled. 

Only a fool or Albus Dumbledore would have dared approach Snape in his current state, and as fate would have it the latter hailed him just as he was descending the staircase into the lower level of the castle.

"Severus! Any sign of Harry?"


Snape did not slow.

"Are you certain?" Dumbledore had to run to keep up with him.


The old man's face fell, disappointment etching its way across the hopeful countenance.  "Ah. I see.  I had hoped . . .we have not found anything either, or heard anything . . .Well, if you think of anything please let me know.  My office is always open," Dumbledore blathered on, totally oblivious to his Potion Master's ire, so focused was he on his missing savior.

"Later," Severus bit out, words of one syllable were safer right then.

He quickened his steps, avoiding the hand the Headmaster sought to put on his shoulder.  If anyone touched him right then he could not be responsible for their safety and as Hagrid had reminded him, he did not want to spend the rest of the term in Azkaban. 

Dumbledore turned and walked away, still pondering where in Merlin's name Harry had disappeared to.

He reached the door to his lab and there he paused, gulping several breaths of air, seeking to re-establish his finely honed control.  The control he had perfected long ago, to prevent him from becoming like those he detested-his father, the Dark Lord, James Potter, and Sirius Black.  One hand came up to massage his temples and he chanted a calming mantra under his breath.  Then he counted breaths until he was able to take one without longing to hex those responsible into hell.

Right then, Snape, you've had your little tantrum, now go in there and check on the hawk and find the students and punish them only.

He opened the door.

The first thing that met his eyes was the rather blocky form of Crabbe, pointing a wand at his hawk-his hawk-who was hanging upside down limply, and whispering, "Ennervate!" and then, "Please, please don't be dead, because then I won't live to make it to sixteen even if my birthday's next week."

Severus froze, battling another surge of fury, yet still managing to hear the boy's quiet remorse as he helped the now awake hawk back up on the perch.

"I'm sorry, we just came in here to get ingredients for a prank, not . . .not to hurt you.  Didn't even know you were here, wish I'd kept my trap shut and not said anything to Draco.  Sometimes he can be such an arsehole . . .thinks he knows everything . . .I told him to let you alone, everyone knows hurt animals bite sometimes, my dog bit me good once when I tried to clean out a cut on her paw." The hawk meeped faintly.  "Can't help it, I guess, since you can't cry you bite instead, so we know how much it bloody hurts . . .Sorry, I hope you're all right. I'd better get out before Professor Snape . . ."

He turned around slowly and came face to face with his Head of House.

Crabbe's face turned the color of old whey and he gasped, "Ahhh . . .P-Professor Snape . . ." He stumbled backwards, nearly banging into the hawk's perch, saved only by Severus's hand fastening upon his shoulder and pulling him upright.  "Oh shit! I . . .I . . .mean . . ."

"Mr. Crabbe.  You have two seconds to tell me what you were doing to my bird," Severus said in his silkiest voice, the one that all his Slytherins knew meant doom.

"H-helping it, sir! It . . .it had fallen off its perch and . . .knocked itself out .  . .so I . . .just wanted to help it . . ."

"Indeed? I am curious, Mr. Crabbe, as to how a sleeping hawk became agitated enough to fall off a perch at this time of night, when my lab is off limits to students and no student should be here without my express permission.  Care to enlighten me?"

Snape's eyes, pitiless shards, bored into the scared boy, flaying him down to the bone in a single honed glare.

He knows . . .oh my God, he knows . . . we're all dead. . .Merlin have mercy, but I'm finished . . .Crabbe knew at that instant that it was hopeless, Snape knew everything, he really could read minds, and there was no point in trying to cover up, since expulsion would be the least of his worries.  Da's gonna kill me . . .if Snape leaves him anything, that is . . .

"Well? I'm waiting."

Crabbe felt the temperature in the room plummet a good ten degrees.  He gulped hard.  "Sir, please . . .I can explain . . ."

"Do so.  Quickly!" Severus growled, his eyes pinning the other, though most of his attention was focused on the bird, who was making soft cries and swaying on its perch.  He moved quickly to steady it.

Crabbe opened his mouth, and the whole tale spilled out of him, like a Veritaserum-laced confession. He knew better than to lie, every Slytherin knew you never ever lied to Severus Snape.  Or if you did, it was only once, and never again.

Snape listened dispassionately for five minutes, then determined that he would have to abandon his usual policy of punishing offenders immediately since he could feel the hawk beneath his hands shivering violently.  The three little wretches could wait, the hawk could not. 

"Mr. Crabbe, you will inform Mr. Goyle and Mr. Malfoy-" here Snape's voice became midnight ice, and Crabbe shook.  "-that all of you are to remain confined to the dormitories until tomorrow morning. At nine o'clock, you shall be present in my office, where you shall reap the folly of your stupidity."

"Huh? Y'mean, you're not gonna expel us tonight?" blurted the boy. "But you always . . ."

Severus bared his teeth at him. "Do not presume to tell me how to discipline, boy!" rasped the Potions Master.  "Do as you're told! Now!"

Crabbe jerked as if he'd been lashed and whimpered, "Yes, sir, right away, sir.  I'm sorry, sir!" Then he fled, moving quicker than a cheetah after an injured antelope.

Now Severus relaxed a fraction.  Time enough later to come up with something suitable to impress upon the three the wrongness of their actions.  Right then he had more important things to worry about.


* * * * * *

Snape pulled on the heavy falconer's glove, which was padded inside and reinforced with charms to prevent the hawk's talons from piercing his skin when it gripped his fist, and then undid the makeshift jesses.  He gently coaxed the hawk onto his hand, and it stood, shivering, in the soft glow of the Lumos globes. 

Kree-uk.  Kree-uk.

"Shhh.  It's all right.  I'm here," he whispered, drawing his wand.

The diagnostic this time showed some head trauma as well as bruising and the bird was running a temperature and had fractured yet another small wing bone.  It was minor thing, yet when taken together with all the other damage the hawk had sustained . . .Severus swore inwardly.  It did not look good.  Not at all.

"All right, fledgling.  Let's see if I can make you comfortable," Severus said, keeping his tone even and soft, since hawks had excellent hearing and loud noises and voices startled and frightened them.

He quickly cast a minor pain relieving spell, since one dose of the potion by the same name would be all the bird's system could tolerate that day.  Then he gently removed the cloth, allowing the bird to see its surroundings. 

The hawk was lethargic, its beautiful eyes clouded, small tremors shook it.  It huddled into itself as if trying to hide. 

"You need a Fever Reducer next, but you'll need food before you can take it.  It's not pleasant on an empty stomach."

He removed the coney from the bag, it was already skinned, and he carefully used a sharp little knife to cut off strips of meat, dice them, then mash them fine in a mortar with a metal pestle, adding a small amount of honey as per Hagrid's instructions.  He then took a small plastic spoon, used for measuring potion ingredients, and put some of the meat mixture on it.

"I know you must be starving, birds have such high metabolisms," he told the hawk.  "So here's dinner." He proffered the spoon to the hawk.

The bird stared at it.

"Come on, try it," Severus encouraged, not caring in the slightest if he sounded rather like a mother trying to encourage her picky toddler to eat. He moved the spoon closer to the hawk's beak.

Still the hawk did not take it.

The apathy frightened the Potions Master.  An animal that refused food was most likely preparing to die. 

"Taste it. Just a bit." Snape encouraged, then, greatly daring, he smeared some paste on his finger and rubbed it on the hawk's beak. 

The hawk blinked.

Then it opened its mouth and swallowed some of the mixture.

Severus felt his heart start to beat hopefully.

"Want some more? That's not enough for a growing fledgling like you.  Come, eat.  You'll never grow strong enough to fly else.  Come on."

The hawk lowered his head and slowly licked up more of the paste.

"Good boy.  Rabbit and honey, very nutritious," Severus said.  Merlin, I must sound utterly cracked, but I don't care.  He's eating, and that's all that matters. 

Once the eyas had finished the whole spoonful, which was not much, since the spoon was about the size of a measured teaspoon, Snape gave the red-tail another one. 

The hawk ate that as well, and then another, until Severus decided it was time for the Fever Reducer.

He summoned the leather hood from the bag Hagrid had given him and gently worked it over the bird.  The hawk hissed slightly in displeasure.  "Hush.  I know you want to see, but I don't want you to fight me when I give you this potion. You won't like it, but you need to have it."

Hooded, the young hawk remained still, allowing the Potions Master to pry open his beak once again and give him a dose of Fever Reducer.

The hawk shook his head afterwards, making a disgusted noise.

"Awful, isn't it? But it'll help.  How about some water?" He filled the syringe with fresh water and let the hawk drink slowly.

Once the hawk had drunk his fill, Severus pulled on the glove and encouraged the bird to step up on his wrist.  Then he gently walked back to his quarters with the hooded hawk, the bag with the falconry equipment and the rest of the rabbit and the bowl of food floating beside him. 

No student and only three staff members knew exactly where Snape's quarters were.  It was how he preferred it.  Only Hagrid, Dumbledore, and Poppy knew where the ward was that revealed his quarters and the password to allow them entry.  Severus did not need a password, the wards were keyed to his magical signature and would let him pass without a problem.

Once inside his rooms, which consisted of a rather cozy lounge area, a bedroom, and a small bath, Severus waved his wand and caused the perch Hagrid had loaned him to set itself up near the fireplace, atop an old copy of the Prophet Severus happened to have lying about. He affixed the cup with the meat mixture at one end along with another cup of water.  Then he stoked up the fire, knowing the hawk would need the warmth. 

"There! Welcome to your new home.  It's sure to be an improvement over your last one," Severus remarked dryly. 

The eyas was still trembling.  Severus gently stroked its breast and the back of its neck until it settled. 

"All right, step up here." Snape placed the bird on the perch and then fastened the jesses to the eyas's ankles, also attaching a creance line to the swivel the jesses were tied to.  The line would allow the hawk to reach the floor if he happened to fall off the perch, thus preventing an accidental hanging upside down again. 

The eyas huddled wearily upon the perch, tucking his hooded head down, and Severus decided that there was little else he could do for the bird then save leave it to sleep. 

He caressed the soft feathers on the hawk's breast, which were a cream with deep reddish brown speckles.  "Sleep.  You need it.  You also need a name, but . . .I'm too tired to think of one right now.  Maybe tomorrow." If you survive the night, the pragmatic part of his brain whispered.  Rationally, Severus knew that the hawk could die, the bird was badly injured, and could easily develop an infection and that would finish it.  But a part of him, the optimistic little boy part, hoped that the hawk would live. 

He looked up at the clock on his mantle.


It read 8:00.

Sighing, the Potions Master removed his professor's robes, hanging them upon a hook beside the door and also his boots.  Then, clad only in shirtsleeves and trousers, he sank onto the couch.  "Twixie," he called.

A female house-elf popped into the room.  "You called, Master Severus?"

"Yes, please fix me a cup of double strength Black Bohea tea and bring me some soup and a sandwich. Oh, and a large glass of ice water."

"Right away, Master." Twixie bowed, then vanished.

She returned promptly with all he had requested as well as a small plate of blueberry scones slathered with sweet butter. 

Severus raised an eyebrow at the unexpected treat.  "What's this?"

"Your favorite dessert, Master Severus," the elf answered with a mischievous twinkle in her huge blue eyes.  "To sweeten your temper some."

Severus snorted.  "Who says my temper needs to be sweetened?"

"No one, sir. Except . . .we had heard that something valuable was stolen from your lab, sir, and I thought . . .this might help you feel better."

"Figures.  Bloody house elf grapevine," muttered the professor, then he said, seeing the elf flinch, "Thank you, Twixie.  That was . . .unexpected." The last thing he needed was a house elf bashing herself into a table in a fit of remorse.

"Master Snape is most welcome. Enjoy your dinner, sir." She eyed him sternly.  "And mind you eat it all, sir.  You are too thin." Then she vanished with a pop before Severus could say anything else.

"Damn nosy elf! Thinks she's my mother or something," he grumbled, though he knew Twixie meant well.  She was one of the few elves at the school who was not intimidated by his sarcastic manner, she was good friends with Hagrid as well.  There were times Snape suspected Hagrid had ordered her to keep watch over him, for despite the fact that Severus was grown and capable of looking after himself, Hagrid occasionally tended to fuss over him as though he were sixteen again. 

He began to eat hungrily, he rarely ate much in the hall, the antics of the students and the inane chatter of some of his colleagues often made him lose what appetite he had.  He much preferred to eat in peace in his quarters, small light meals, not the heavily sauced affairs they tended to serve in the hall.

Tonight there was wild mushroom soup in a light wine broth and a sandwich of toasted cheese with tomato and bacon.  The Potions Master devoured it and the scones and the tea.

Twixie returned at 8:45 for the tray and the empty dishes, giving him a nod of approval, he was curled up on the green leather couch, reading the falconry book, which was titled The Care and Training of Hawks by Altair Peregrine

He looked up when he felt a green afghan settle about him.  "Twixie, what on earth?"

"Damp down here, Master Severus.  Keep warm."

"Did Hagrid tell you to do this?" he demanded.

"No, sir.  Don't need him to tell me what I already know. Good night, sir."

Then she was gone.

Severus groaned softly.  What the hell was going on? First bloody Potter went missing, Malfoy stole ingredients from his personal stores, and now the house elf decided to treat him like a little child.  Snape rubbed his eyes.  Maybe this was a bizarre nightmare and he would wake up the next morning to discover everything had been a dream.

He glanced over at the sleeping raptor and abruptly decided he didn't want that to happen.  Not if it meant losing the red-tailed hawk.  Sev, you maudlin idiot, you've barely had that animal a few hours and you're already attached, Merlin help you!

The book he'd been reading had mentioned that sometimes young birds imprinted on humans, if a human were taking care of one instead of its mother.  He wondered if it worked in reverse as well, because the mere thought of losing the hawk made him feel ill. 

Sleep deprivation.  That's why you're going all soft, Snape.  You need a decent night's sleep, so you can wake up fresh and punish those little brats like they deserve.  He yawned, it had been a long day and he was tired.  He shut the book and drifted off to sleep just as the clock on the mantle struck 9:30.


* * * * *

12:00 AM


Severus woke up abruptly, his throat aching and dry.  He rolled over and reached for the glass of water he had placed upon the walnut coffee table and drank thirstily.  Then he rose to check upon the hawk, hoping it was beginning to recover from its ordeal.

To his horror, the hawk looked half-dead, drooping and shivering violently.

"Oh, Merlin! No!" he cried, feeling his heart plummet to his feet. 

His diagnostic revealed that the hawk's fever had returned, which meant something was wrong with the bird's immune system, perhaps all the trauma had compromised it or something. 

He removed the bird from the perch, the eyas was so weak he could barely stand, and Snape cradled the bird against him.  He undid the hood, the hawk was too weak to fight him and he sensed that the bird wished to look about. 

The bright yellow irises were dull with fever and the bird made a soft trilling noise.  Severus scratched the hawk gently behind the head and the hawk leaned trustingly into his hand.  That would have pleased him if the bird wasn't so sick, and probably desperate for any kind of tactile contact.

"It's all right.  You need water and some more potions.  Damn it all, you're shaking like the Whomping Willow."

He summoned the syringe and filled it with water, the hawk was so sick it didn't fight when he opened the beak and gave the water to the eyas.  Severus followed the water with a bit of food, just enough to keep the hawk from getting an upset stomach when he gave the raptor another dose of Fever Reducer.  Medicine over with, Severus sat down, the hawk still on his arm, and just stared at the critically ill bird.

There was nothing else he could do, save wait and see how the hawk responded to his potions.

The bird shivered, and Severus summoned a towel and cast a Warmth Charm upon it, then swathed the bird in its folds.  "Better now? My mother used to do that to me when I was sick with the flu and had chills.  I hope it helps you as much as it did me."

The hawk looked up at him with its uncanny intelligent eyes and meeped. 

Severus's lips quirked in a faint half-smile.  "If I didn't know better, I'd say that translated as a thank you." He shook his head.  "Ah, I'm losing it." He leaned back into the cushions, the bird resting securely against his chest. 

Has it come to this then? This hawk, whom I fought so hard to save, is going to die on me like everything else I've ever cared about? He shut his eyes.  In his mind's eye, he saw the hawk flying free in the sky, climbing up an updraft and soaring with the wind, freedom incarnate.  He had hoped he could rehabilitate the hawk, help it regain flight status and perhaps train it to hunt for him, or even just be a companion.  Hagrid had often said the best thing about an animal was that they loved you no matter what and they would never betray you.  Though he would rather be Crucio-ed than admit it, he was lonely, and having a pet filled the void considerably. 

He placed a hand inside the towel and felt the hawk's heartbeat beneath his palm. It was steady, yet he wondered if it would continue to be so.

His eyes stared into the raptor's amber orbs, and he could see the bird was frightened.  Help me.  Save me.

"I'm trying. I am."

The hawk nestled against his hand, and the teacher whispered soft words of reassurance.  "I'm here, silly bird.  Always.  Don't be afraid."

The bird seemed to heave a sigh, then it drifted off to sleep while Severus kept watch.

1:00 AM

Golden eyes blinked, then focused. The hawk lifted his head and looked about.  He had stopped trembling so violently and felt a tiny bit better than he had an hour ago.  An hour ago he had felt so awful that he wished he could die.  The only sound in the room was the gentle ticking of the clock and the soft breathing of the sleeping wizard.  Everything hurt, he ached inside and out, yet somehow being held in the arms of the Black Protector made him feel better. 

He liked the way the towel oozed warmth through his freezing body, and the way the long fingered hand scratched him in just the right places.  He couldn't ever recall enjoying being touched that way before, the other hand that had touched him had hurt him, bad enough so he had bitten it.  But this hand . . .it soothed and preened and he loved when it ruffled his feathers.

It was the same with the voice.  He found normal human voices to be grating upon his sensitive eardrums, they were too loud and shrill, but the Black Protector's voice was unlike the others he had heard. 

The Protector's voice was like velvet and silk, deep, and it had an almost hypnotic quality to it.  It flowed over his ears smoothly and it was not shrill or loud at all.  Listening to that voice soothed his agitated nerves, made him feel warm and safe and that he belonged somewhere. 

And it had been a long time since he had felt that way.  A very long time, if ever.

The eyas put his head down, leaning against the hand resting on his chest.  He still felt ruddy awful,  he was still frightened, but at least he wasn't alone.  This was where he belonged. The hawk's eyes closed and he slept.


2:00 AM:

Snape dozed, but his dreams were unpleasant.  He woke, and immediately looked at the hawk resting on his lap.  The hawk looked a little better, now it only hovered at the entrance to the Underworld instead of being halfway through the door. 

He fed the hawk more water from the syringe, relieved that the bird was still breathing.  Perhaps, just perhaps . . .

Don't get your hopes up too soon, Snape.  You've sat vigil like this before, remember? That night . . .the night when Mum died.  Do you remember? Taunted his conscience.

He remembered. That night, it had been cold, one of the coldest nights anyone in north Yorkshire could recall.  The temperature had plunged below freezing and any sheep not penned or safe inside a barn or shed froze to death.  Such a night stole the breath from your lungs before you had even breathed it, and though Eileen Prince Snape was inside four walls swathed in nearly every blanket Severus could find, the night still entered and stole her breath away, early on a Tuesday morning.

Severus had been sitting beside her bed, holding her hand, which seemed absurdly small all of a sudden in his own long one. His mother's dark eyes met his, bright with a strange flame, an otherworldly shimmer, and he had known then that all his prayers and hopes were in vain.

All of his potions weren't enough to keep death at bay. 

It was here, in the room, its icy chill permeating through the layers of blankets and the Warming Charm he'd cast. 

Go away! You can't have her! He challenged the silent specter angrily.  It's not time for her to go.  I don't want to be alone.  Come back later!

But death remained, oblivious to the taunts and pleas of the boy beside the bed. 

Eileen began to cough, and Severus whispered, "Mum . . .here, sit up . . ." He eased her to a sitting position, wishing there were something else he could do.

"Thank you.  Severus . . ." she trailed off and squeezed his hand.  "There are so many things I wanted to show you . . .to teach you . . .but there wasn't time . . . I'm sorry . . ."

"Don't, Mum.  Please.  You should never be sorry."

"No? Ah, Sev . . .I have so many regrets . . .but one thing I never regretted is you, my son . . .remember that . . ."

"I promise."

Eileen smiled, and one pale hand came up to caress her son's cheek.  "So little time . . .and yet time is endless. . . .I'm so tired, Sev.  All I want is to rest . . ."

"Not yet."

"Let me go, Sev.  You knew this day would come, I told you it would when I first learned the test results."

"I can't . . ." he stared at her anguish screwing up his face.

"You must," she insisted. 

"No! I love you! Please stay! Please!"

"I wish I could . . .but they're calling me . . .calling me home . . .Love you, Severus . . .remember . . ."

She slipped away even as he watched, clutching her hand in a desperate attempt to stave off the inevitable.  But the night had come anyway and taken her and he could do nothing . . .except remember that love brought pain and that lesson stuck, until he was afraid to love anything, lest it be snatched away by death's embrace.

That had been one lesson he had learned all too well.

He cradled the injured hawk to his chest and stared down at it with the same expression he had worn when he was sixteen.  "Don't go . . .Stay with me . . ."

Those same words, echoing down the years, holding in them the same desperate plea.

Would it ever be answered?

Severus closed his eyes.  He had seen too much death since that long ago night.  He should be used to it.  Yet a part of him never was.  "Live," he said hoarsely.  "Damn you, live! Just once, let there be something that does not turn to dust in my hands.  Live.  I will heal your wings, and you'll fly again. Together, we shall hunt and fly.  I will never cage you, never hurt you.  You will be as free as I can make you. I promise you that.  Just keep breathing."

Amber and obsidian met.

The hawk trilled a soft lullaby.  I will try.  For you, I will. Because now I know . . . that someone cares.

And it was enough.  This time.




Severus didn't recall falling asleep, but he knew he must have, because here he was, opening his eyes.

The towel was no longer radiating warmth and for a terrible instant he froze, unable to make himself look down.  He did not want to see it-lying so still, cold and lifeless, gone to wherever good hawks go.  It wasn't fair, it had barely begun to live, and now it never would, he thought bitterly.  But that was typical of his luck, just when he thought he had found a familiar he lost it. 

His fingers brushed feathers.

Still warm.

His hand stilled.

And felt the fluttering of a heartbeat as he laid his palm against the red-tail's breast. 

It took him an endless instant to comprehend what he was feeling.

The hawk had survived. 

It was no longer shivering with fever. 

He looked down and saw the hawk nestled against him, curled up for warmth.

He stared, only this time his vision was blurry.

But it didn't matter.  All that mattered was that the hawk was alive.

For some reason that pleased him immensely. 

He smiled down at the sleeping avian, and for the first time in fourteen years, allowed himself to hope that this one would stay. 


Chapter End Notes:

Yes, utter mush at the end, but that was how I felt after nursing my very sick beagle back to health, he was ill with pneumonia and the vet wasn't sure if he'd make it. So I sat up all night and held him and I think it really did make a difference, since he's still here with me.

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