That night was a difficult one for Freedom, who despite the Pain Reliever, was inundated with memories of his former life, memories of a neglected and troubled childhood at a place called Number 4, Privet Drive. The hawk shivered and flicked his wings in his sleep, as the memories that had been suppressed for so long began to return to him.
* * * * * *
"You'll sleep in here from now on, boy," growled the huge fat man with the bristling mustache, who I now knew to be my Uncle Vernon.
"But why?" I asked, I was all of about five.
"So you don't contaminate Dudley with your freakishness," he snapped, jerking open the door to the cupboard under the stairs, where Aunt Petunia kept the bucket to wash the floors and some old rags. "I heard about what you did at school today, ending up on the roof and having to be got down by a teacher. What do you call that, huh?"
"It . . .was an accident, Uncle Vernon!" I sniveled, for I didn't like the looks of the cupboard at all. It was dark and scary and probably full of spiders. "I was scared, Piers and Devon were chasing me and I just wanted to find a place to hide," I babbled, knowing even then not to mention that Dudley had been in on it too. Uncle would never hear a word against his son, nor Aunt either. "I'll never do it again. Promise!"
"That's right, boy. You won't." He poked me with one meaty finger. "Now get your skinny arse in there and stay there till we tell you to come out!"
My eyes filled with tears, I didn't know any better then, how crying never did any good. "No, please, sir! I'll be good! I'm afraid of the dark and it's cold."
"Get used to it. Now quit sniveling and get in . . .there!" Uncle Vernon ordered, then he picked me up by the back of my shirt and tossed me into the cupboard.
I landed hard, barking my shins on the wood floor, and then the door shut and I heard the click of the lock.
I got up, ignoring the stinging pain in my shins, and beat on the door with my fists, crying loudly. "Let me out! Please! I'm sorry! I won't do it again!"
I don't know how long I said that, over and over, till my voice was hoarse and I crouched there by the door, where the faint sliver of light could be seen, shaking and whimpering, like a dog lost in the dark.
Fear had snuffed my tears and I prayed that Aunt Petunia would come let me out, but she must have agreed with Uncle, because she never came, and I finally fell asleep, there in the dark, all alone except for the spiders.
That was when I learned that I was a freak, not fit to associate with decent folks, and I wished with all my heart that I could be normal.
* * * * * *
The cupboard under the stairs became my home for the next six years. I was thrown into it whenever Aunt Petunia or Uncle Vernon wanted me out of the way, like when Vernon had Important People over for dinner, or when Petunia was cross with me for burning dinner or when Dudley lied and said I'd broken something of his. Sometimes being sent to the cupboard was paired with a quick clip across the ear or a smack on the bum, but most times Aunt or Uncle just pointed, and I went there, like a bad dog in a kennel.
Dudley loved it when I was locked in the cupboard, because then he could jump down all the stairs and make dust and spider webs fall on me while I was there. I had grown used to that, though, and no longer fussed over it. The spiders weren't so bad, they didn't hurt me, and I'd managed to sneak a torch into the cupboard with a cracked top, but it lit enough so I could see and snuggle under the old ragged blanket on the thin mattress that was my bed. I read some of Dudley's old comics under the blanket, and the one dog-eared book I owned, given to me by Mrs. Figg next door.
It was called Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss, and I had memorized it a long time ago.
It made me smile, how the silly man refused to eat green eggs and ham and went through all kinds of things to not have to eat them. I would have eaten green eggs, ham, or green liver sometimes. I never had enough to eat, I wasn't allowed to sit at the table with my relatives, and sometimes they forgot to feed me after they'd eaten.
I got used to eating light-a piece of toast, a small sandwich of a single piece of cheese and bread, sometimes a piece of bacon, or a tin of chipped beef when I could get it. I was allowed water and sometimes milk, so my hair wouldn't fall out, Aunt didn't want people knowing what went on at home, so she let me have milk and any vegetables Dudley hated, which was almost all of them.
Once, in the beginning, I asked her when I'd be let out of the cupboard and allowed to sleep on the floor in Dudley's room again. She sniffed and said, "When you stop doing all that freaky nonsense and acting like a normal boy. Then you can come out and be a part of the family again."
But that never happened, for some reason I just couldn't stop doing bad things, like regrowing my hair, or turning Piers's hair blue for a minute, or making the broom sweep by itself. So the cupboard became my home.
They let me out most days, to help clean. By the time I was eight, I could clean anything, and cook a five course meal too. And I knew not to ask questions or to cry anymore. Asking questions got me thrown in the cupboard, smacked, and starved for two days. Aunt and Uncle didn't like it when I asked about my parents.
All I knew was that they had died in an auto accident, killed because my drunken layabout father was driving home late and that was where I'd gotten the lightning scar on my forehead, from a piece of glass. Their names had been James and Lily Potter. Aunt was Mum's older sister.
Uncle Vernon had an older sister too, Aunt Marge. She hated me too, and so did her bulldog Ripper. Once Ripper chased me up a tree and kept me up there for three hours. Finally Aunt noticed I wasn't doing the weeding and came and found me. She told me that I must have done something to make the dog chase me.
I guessed that Ripper didn't like freaks either, though Mrs. Figgs' cats liked me okay.
"Finish the weeding and then come and start on supper," she said.
"Yes, Aunt Petunia." I went back over to the flowerbed in the front close to the walk.
Dudley came out soon after, eating a double-size Choco Crunch bar, and holding another in his hand. "Whatcha doin'?"
"Weeding." I answered, as if he didn't know.
I nodded, I hadn't eaten anything since morning, and then it had been toast with some butter and half a pear.
"Want this?" he held out the other Choco Crunch bar.
"Yeah. Thanks, Dudley!" I reached for the candy, wondering why he was being so nice to me.
"Oops!" he dropped the chocolate on the ground.
Before I could get it, he'd stepped on it, mashing it into the dirt. "Whoops! Accident!" he brayed with laughter. "See ya later, freaky."
I stared at the now flattened chocolate bar.
Then I knelt and picked it up, it was still wrapped, and slowly peeled away the paper and began to eat it.
See, I'm not picky, like that man who wouldn't eat green eggs and ham.
* * * * * *
I was running, I knew if I didn't run fast enough, they would get me.
I could hear them, Dudley, Piers, Devon, and a new kid I didn't know, panting and gasping behind me.
"Where'd he go?"
"He's gotta be around here somewhere."
I crouched lower in the bushes, wishing for once that weird talent of mine would help me hide from my cousin and his gang. But it never worked when I needed it to. So I just stayed real quiet and hoped they'd give up and go and play something else. Or with someone else.
A new kid, Mark Evans, had moved in across the street, and he was shrimp like me and shy, Dudley had pounded on him a few times. I felt bad, but I couldn't do anything, and at least if Dudley were after him it meant he wasn't after me. Terrible thought, isn't it?
But that's what happens when you're Dudley's plaything.
I almost thought I was going to get away with it. But I had to sneeze. Couldn't help it.
They heard and next thing I knew, Piers was dragging me out of the bushes by my hair.
"Gotcha! Now we can finish playing Tower of London."
That was their new game, playing like Dudley was a king, and the rest were noble lords, and one of them was an executioner, about to chop off the head of some traitor.
Guess who the traitor was?
Only today I saw, to my horror, that they'd actually managed to get hold of a garden hoe. "Get down on the ground, idiot!" Piers hissed, shoving me to my knees.
There was no one in the park, no one to see what they were doing, and I was too scared to call out.
Then Dudley came and shoved my head down on the seesaw and held me there. "Off with his head, Sir Piers!"
Piers laughed wildly. "Yes, Your Majesty!"
He brought the garden spade down on the back of my neck, cutting it.
I started to cry, I was too scared to keep the tears in, and all they did was laugh.
"Coward! Beg for pardon!" Dudley bellowed.
He let me go, shoving me so I fell on my back.
"Aww, poor baby!" sneered Devon. "Crying for his dead mummy!"
Then the other boy pointed at me and started laughing. "Look, the freak's wet himself!"
More laughter followed, and I just lay there, wishing I were dead like my parents.
I was nine that summer.
* * * * * *
The hawk called Freedom twitched on his perch, shaking as though with an ague. He did not want to relive these awful dream images, but he was helpless to stop them. He slipped into yet another one, this one was of Dudley's tenth birthday.
* * * * * *
"Blow out the candles, Diddykins!" Aunt Petunia sang, clapping her hands as if Dudley were five again.
He gave her a glare, he hated when she called him that in front of his friends. I watched from the corner of the kitchen and knew I'd pay for that later.
Dudley puffed out his cheeks and blew so hard that some of the candles fell over and the frosting was blown off the cake. Then all his friends and Aunt cheered like he'd done an amazing thing.
Personally, I thought it was pretty amazing he hadn't gotten short of breath blowing out the candles, since that was the most exercise he'd had since hunting for me in the shrubbery two months ago.
Aunt began to cut the cake, Dudley got the largest slice, of course.
Once everyone had a piece, there was still a good deal left, and I began to hope I might get a taste this year. Maybe just a bit of frosting off the side.
Aunt marched into the kitchen, where I was, and snapped, "You-get the rest of the cake and wrap it up. I'm sending it with Vernon tonight for his poker game. And mind you don't touch any of it, you hear?"
I ducked my head. "Yes, Aunt Petunia."
So much for that wish coming true.
I did as I was told, and managed to slip a tiny fingerful off the part where it had been cut a bit crookedly. Mmm! It was delicious.
Now Dudley was opening his presents, he'd gotten forty-five this year, one of them a new game system. He immediately ran upstairs with his friends to play it and left me to clean up all the shredded paper and the empty cups and dishes.
I quietly did so, looking at all the presents my cousin had gotten. He had so much and yet he was never happy.
I'd never understand him. I'd be glad if they even remembered my birthday, much less got me a present. But not Dudley. There was always one more thing he wanted, something else some kid had that he didn't, and he'd whine and complain till he got it.
Me, I knew better. All whining ever got me was a slap and an evening in the cupboard.
I tucked some scraps of paper in my pocket. I'd hang them on the wall of the cupboard, it'd give me something to look at besides the cracks in the wood. And then I could pretend I was somewhere else, a place where I was wanted and safe, and my birthday wasn't forgotten, like always.
* * * * * *
Freedom woke, disorientated, and glanced about. It took a moment for him to adjust his eyes, his hawk sight was so much keener than it had been in the dream, when he was . . .a boy. The hawk fluffed his feathers and began to preen his wings, trying to calm himself down. Such odd dreams he was having lately!
I don't understand. Why am I dreaming of myself as a . . .human? I'm a hawk! At least . . .I think so. What's happening to me? He nibbled sharply upon a talon. In the dreams, I am a boy, and the others in the dream are my . . .family. What am I? Who am I? Agitated, the hawk shook his head. He didn't want to wonder about that. He was content to be Freedom, a red-tailed hawk, and the familiar of Severus Snape. Those other questions frightened him.
Unable to settle, though he was sleepy, freedom spread his wings and flew from his perch.
Severus had left a small lamp lit in the hall, and with it Freedom could see well enough to navigate the suite and slip into the Potion Master's bedroom.
There was just enough light coming in for the hawk to see Snape asleep under the covers and he settled upon the extra pillow Snape had on the other side of the double bed.
The man's soft breathing filled the room and the hawk tucked his head beneath his wing and let it soothe him to sleep. One thing he did know, and that was that he was safe with Snape.
* * * * * *
Freedom was awakened by a soft groan from the man lying next to him. The bird cocked his head worriedly. Snape muttered something unintelligible and whimpered, flinging out a hand, nearly striking the prone hawk. Freedom hopped up, alarmed. Apparently, he was not the only one to suffer from bad dreams this night.
Poor Severus! What are you dreaming of? The Dark Lord again?
Severus's mouth opened again, only this time what he spoke was understandable, though his tone was that of a small scared child. "Don't . . .please . . .don't . . .I'll be good! I won't do magic again . . .promise, Dad . . .!"
The man jerked suddenly, as if struck. Then he went limp, curling up, as if trying to protect himself from a blow.
Freedom stared, horror stealing through him. Snape's words mirrored those he had spoken to his uncle back in the dream. Could Snape have suffered like he did then? Like master, like familiar.
Severus began to whimper again, and Freedom couldn't stand it anymore. He flew onto the sleeping wizard's shoulder and called, Severus, wake up! It's just a dream. That's all. Wake up!
But the hawk's distressed cries could not penetrate the nightmare, and the wizard continued to moan and thrash. "I didn't mean to . . .really, sir! It just happened . . .Not that . . .please!"
Freedom didn't want to know just what Snape's father had done to him, though a part of him feared he knew all too well. The cowering and flinching were clear signs that he was reliving being beaten, and the thought of his master enduring that made him feel both sick to his stomach and furious. Not you too! He chirred, and then he bit Severus hard on the ear, screeching, Severus Snape! Wake the hell up, dammit!
"Huh?" Severus came awake, the sudden stinging pain in his ear and the hawk screaming finally penetrating the awful dream. "Freedom? Did you just bite me?"
Sorry, Sev. I had to. You wouldn't wake up. You were having a nightmare.
Severus rubbed his ear, which was sore, though the hawk had not broken the skin. He frowned and propped himself up on an elbow, speaking a word to activate the lamp on his nightstand. Light flooded the room, revealing an apologetic looking hawk standing beside his head.
"Bloody damn dream . . .I haven't dreamed about my father that way in . . .years."
You were moaning and crying out in your sleep, it frightened me. What did your father do to you?
"Things no father ever should," Severus said hoarsely. He reached out a hand to stroke the hawk, who rubbed his head alongside the lean hand comfortingly. "He was not a nice man . . .nor a particularly good father. He was a Muggle who hated the fact that I could do magic."
Why? Magic is good. At least sometimes it is, the hawk added, recalling the curses Snape had suffered.
"I know. But my father never understood that. All he knew was that by doing magic, I was disobeying him, and he . . .he never took disobedience well . . ." Severus shivered, wrapping his arms about himself.
He hurt you, didn't he?
"Yes. Enough, it was long ago, and I'm not going to think about it anymore tonight. I need to sleep, I have class tomorrow." He yawned, considered summoning some Dreamless Sleep from his potions cabinet, then shook his head. That potion always left him muzzy-headed in the morning. "I'm sorry if I woke you. How are you feeling?"
My head isn't hurting. But I had some strange dreams too, the hawk admitted shyly. About the family I used to live with.
"Mmm. Seems to be the night for it." Severus sat up. "I'm going to ask Twixie for some tea to help me relax. Perhaps there is one you could drink too. Would you like that?"
All right, Freedom agreed, though what he wanted most was to be free of these crazy dreams. I was a boy before I was a hawk. But that's ridiculous. How can I be two things at once? I won't even bother telling Sev that one, he'd think I was totally bonkers. I'm not sure if I'm not. What does going crazy feel like? Do you know it's happening?
Severus called Twixie and told her he wished to have a tea that relaxed and calmed him, so he could fall asleep easily and then he asked her if there was one a hawk might drink too.
Twixie considered. "I shall see what I can come up with, Master Severus. I'll be right back."
Ten minutes later, she was back, a steaming mug of chamomile lavender blend in a cup for Severus and a small bowl with a similar tea in it, though not steaming, for Freedom. "Here you go, sirs! Hope you enjoy it and have pleasant dreams. Good night!"
She popped away before Severus could thank her. He slowly sipped his tea, watching as Freedom drank his as well, perched upon the edge of the tray lying across Severus's knees.
They remained silent then, allowing the tea to work its own brand of magic upon their weary spirits, and once they were finished, tray, cup, and bowl vanished. Snape eyed his familiar. "Do you think you are ready to sleep now?"
Yes. May I stay here?
"You may. You know I don't mind the company." Severus agreed. He pulled the covers over him, and Freedom went back to roost upon the pillow. The Potions Master dimmed the lamp, then buried his head in the pillow and was soon fast asleep.
Freedom soon followed his example, and no more dreams came to plague them that night.
* * * * * *
But over the next few days, as Umbridge tightened her grip on the school, Freedom found himself at the mercy of more dream memories. After watching Umbridge evaluate Snape's potions class, she sneered and interrupted him during the whole lesson, making Freedom want to fly in her face and scratch her, he had an odd flashback to a different potions class, one where he had been a student.
* * * * * *
"But how can we get the boomslang skin for the Polyjuice Potion?" asked a bushy-haired girl, her name was Hermione and she was one of my best friends. "Professor Snape keeps it locked up in his office."
"And the only time his office is open is during class," red-haired Ron Weasley groaned. "What are we going to do?"
I thought quickly. "We'll . . .uh . . .distract him somehow. You know, make a cauldron explode or something. Then, while he's dealing with that, Hermione could sneak into the office and get the boomslang skin."
Hermione looked nervous. "Oh, but if we're caught, we'll be in so much trouble! We could get expelled!"
"I know, but we NEED the ingredients for the potion. Look, if anything happens, I'll say I talked you into it. He'll believe me, he's always happy when he can give me detention."
"Okay. I'll do it. But make sure it's a good distraction." Hermione said.
I did. I took a firework that I'd gotten as a Christmas present from the twins and lobbed it into Malfoy's cauldron when he wasn't looking. It exploded all over him, Crabbe, Goyle, and half my classmates.
We were doing Swelling Solutions and everyone who got splashed with the draft began to swell up immediately.
People began crying, well the girls did.
Snape went to his desk and pulled out a vial of some kind of blue potion and cried, "Settle down! Anyone who was hit, please come here so you can receive the Deflating Draft. And if I ever find out who did this . . ." There was murder in his eyes.
I shrank from his gaze and prayed that Hermione could find what we needed.
Snape was busy with the other students and didn't notice Hermione coming out of his office, a tell tale bulge under her robes. I gave her a thumbs up sign. Mission accomplished. I felt very proud of myself.
* * * * * *
Freedom shook his head abruptly, he was perched on the back of Severus's chair and must have dozed off. Umbridge and her pink clipboard were gone. Severus was scowling though and did not look happy. The hawk huddled upon the chair back, feeling suddenly ashamed.
I can't believe I did that. In Snape's class, of all places. I could have harmed students. I acted like . . .like Malfoy. Freedom thought regretfully. But that was not the worst thing. The worst thing was that his dream self didn't even care about that. All his other self had cared about was getting this ingredient for the Polyjuice Potion. And I did the same thing as Malfoy and stole from Severus. Only difference is I didn't get caught. He felt guilty and very confused.
Suddenly, he couldn't bear it in the stuffy classroom any longer and he spread his wings and flew out the door. Through the halls he glided, flying up to the Owlery, where a window was always left open.
He burst into the open sky and sunshine with a soft cry of relief. Here, out in the sun and the wind, no memories or whatever could find him.
He flew and circled for hours, diving at a passing rabbit or duck, but he did not hunt in earnest, he was still too upset to be bothered eating. But gradually, the long flight relaxed him, enough so he could return to Severus for a handout at lunch.
"You're quiet today," observed the professor, when Freedom didn't greet him with his usual bubbly verve. "Are you feeling sick?"
No. I'm just . . .thinking.
"You don't look that well." They were back in the glade, Freedom having suggested they go there. "Perhaps you need a tonic."
No, I'm just tired, Sev. Freedom answered. Tired and confused and ashamed.
"Why don't you take a nap then?" suggested the professor.
Freedom walked up to his wizard's shoulder and decided that it was safe to fall asleep there. But the guilt was lodged in his chest like a piece of bone stuck in his crop and he fluffed and preened, but couldn't sleep. At last he murmured, Severus . . .I'm sorry.
For . . .never mind . . .the bird ducked his head. How can I tell him I'm sorry for something I did in a dream? When I wasn't me, but a boy? He'll think I'm cracked. And he could be right.
"Something is bothering you, if you're apologizing to me over nothing," Severus said, puzzled. "What did you do, flyby Umbridge again?" The hawk did not reply and so Snape assumed that he was correct. "Try and exercise caution, won't you? She's very vindictive, and the last thing I want is to have to send you away in order to protect you. But what's done is done." He ruffled the bird's feathers. "Sleep, foolish bird. I forgive you for whatever it is."
You wouldn't if you ever knew what I'd done. But he did feel somewhat better after hearing that from Snape, enough so the guilt lessened and he could sleep. He dozed away the entire lunch, only waking when Snape had to return to class and said he should go flying.
All right, see you at dinner! Freedom launched himself from Severus's shoulder.
He lived to fly, to feel the wind beneath his wings, and after the round of dreams he had been having, flying made him feel ten times more alive and absolutely wonderful. He made a circuit of the castle and then his eye was caught by black, red, and gold figures on brooms.
Freedom had seen this before and had occasionally flown over to see what was going on. The young wizards used the brooms to fly and chase strange balls about. The hawk glided closer, and found it was Gryffindors practicing today. A rather large teen with dark hair that he knew was called Oliver Wood, was lecturing his teammates.
"You've got to tighten up your line, Bell and Spinnet. That way you can be prepared to catch the Quaffle when I throw it back to you. Fred and George, remember you have to keep the Bludgers away from Finnegan." He turned to Seamus Finnegan. "Seamus, I know you're the replacement Seeker since Harry's missing, but for Merlin's sake, at least try and catch the Snitch! You missed it completely and it was right over your head."
Seamus hung his head. "Sorry, Ollie. I'm trying. But sometimes I get to thinking about what Harry would do if he were here now . . ."
Oliver sighed exasperatedly. "If Harry were here right now, he'd be getting his arse kicked by me, for skylarking off and deserting the team. After I made sure he was okay, that is. Look, mate, I know you're worried about him-we all are. But you've got to put it out of your head now and just concentrate on the game. Focus, Finnegan. Think about what you need to do and then do it. Catch the Snitch and Gryffindor wins. Do it for Harry. Okay?" he clapped the other boy on the shoulder.
"All right. Let's do it again." Oliver ordered. "One more time, and this time, get it right." He flew back up to where three large rings were standing. He was the Keeper, and it was his job to stop the other team from scoring.
Freedom hovered, watching as the children chased the balls. It seemed like fun. His eyes lit upon the small golden winged ball that was fluttering just above the dark-haired Finnegan's head. That one reminded him of a pigeon.
The boy didn't notice it.
Silly human! Look up! Freedom thought, then dove at the fluttering ball.
Fast as the Snitch was, it wasn't fast enough to avoid the strike of a determined red-tailed hawk.
Freedom caught it neatly in his talons.
A surprised Seamus looked up . . .saw the hawk with the Snitch and nearly fell off his broom.
"Hey, Oliver!" called Katie Bell, who had seen the whole thing. "Look at that! The hawk-Snape's familiar-caught the Snitch!"
"He what? Birds don't play sports!"
"You should have seen it. It was amazing!"
"Yeah, but how do we get it back?" Seamus wondered.
Freedom released the Snitch then. It wasn't food, so he wasn't interested in keeping it.
The winged ball zipped away and Finnegan followed.
Freedom soared upward and waited for the golden ball to come with range again.
When it did, he stooped and caught it again in his talons, giving a soft victory cry.
Wood whistled. "Merlin! The hawk really does want to play Quidditch! Who would have thought?"
"Should we let him?" asked Alicia Spinnet.
"Let him?" Fred chuckled.
"How would you stop him?" George asked.
And so Freedom spent the rest of the afternoon playing a rather odd game of Quidditch with his former teammates, if he had only known, zigzagging across the sky in pursuit of the Golden Snitch.
Dinner that night was in the Great Hall, but Freedom didn't feel like attending, his head was starting to hurt again, and so he opted to remain at home. Severus fed him before going to dinner, concerned that the hawk was not acting like his usual sassy self. Perhaps I ought to take him to a Magical Creatures vet? Maybe there's something I'm missing?
But all the diagnostics said the hawk was healthy. It made no sense. If Freedom were human, Severus might have suspected the hawk was depressed, but he didn't think depression was an issue with an animal. He left his quarters, still pondering his familiar's sudden change in behavior.
* * * * *
Once again, the hawk dozed, and more memories assaulted him.
I could hear the chanting of my House as I sought the Snitch. "Go, go Gryffindor!" and then I saw it, fluttering just off to the side and caught it to win the game. When I landed my broom, all my teammates were slapping me on the back and carrying me on their shoulders, because it was the first time in over seven years that Gryffindor had ever beat Slytherin . . .
I was running away from a giant spider and all of his relatives, through the trees of the Forbidden Forest . . .
Soaring through the clouds on the back of a hippogriff, laughing, on a flight like none other . . .
A deadly serpent attacked me, fangs dripping with venom, and all I had to defend myself was a sword and my own courage . . .
Severus glowered down at me, scolding me and waving a copy of the paper in my face. "Do you realize what you have done? You risked the exposure of our world! Look at this!" He thrust the paper in my face. Muggles Mystified by Flying Ford Anglia! "Were you in Slytherin, and under my jurisdiction, you would be on the first train home . . .tonight!" he slammed his hand down on his desk so hard a goblet of pumpkin juice spilled and I quivered . . .
A troll dangled me upside down and a girl was screaming, "Ron! Remember, swish and flick!"
Then I was falling off my broom, because some strange dark things had come onto the grounds and filled me with terror . . .
I sat in the office with a handsome blond man, Gilderoy Lockhart, my Defense professor, whom I detested, helping him write fan mail. It was so boring I nearly fell asleep, though it was one of the better detentions I had served . . .
Lockhart and Snape faced off in a duel, and Severus blew Lockhart halfway across the room with a well-timed "Expelliarmus!" I found myself cheering, even though I didn't really care for Snape all that much . . .
Having tea with Hagrid, just sitting quietly and not having to talk, listening to him tell me about all the magical creatures he'd found and treated over the summer. It was pleasant, there in the hut, and I could relax and not have to deal with the endless chatter of my Housemates, asking how my summer was, when it was so awful that I didn't want to talk about it, let alone remember it . . .
Then came one of the oldest and darkest memories, of a time when a red-haired woman, my mother I think, was yelling at a tall hateful man, "Not my baby! Take me instead!"
"Step aside, woman! Step aside, now!"
I heard her scream and then there was a flash of green light . . .
* * * * * *
The hawk awoke with a screech, trembling so violently he nearly fell off his perch.
Severus nearly dropped the mug of tea he'd been holding. "Freedom! What on earth . . .?" He set the mug down and ran over to see what had made the hawk cry out like that. He had a break inbetween classes for the afternoon and had chosen today to spend it relaxing for an hour in his rooms instead of marking papers.
"Are you hurt? What's the matter?"
The bird peered up at him, his amber eyes whirling in consternation. A green light! I dreamed of it again, Severus. A green light . . .a woman screaming . . .I'm scared . . .
Severus reached for the bird immediately, and the hawk came to him, huddling into his chest. He ran his fingers through the brown feathers and murmured, "Easy. It's all right. I'm here. You're safe."
He walked back to the couch, cradling the trembling tiercel, and gradually, with repeated reassurances and stroking, the hawk calmed. "You said you dreamed of it again? You've dreamed of a green light before?"
Yes . . .it killed them, I think . . .a bright green light . . .
Severus was puzzled. "A green light? Surely not . . .the Killing Curse . . .?" But what else could it be? Nothing but that kills so quickly and it does give off a green glow. But how could Freedom know of it, unless . . .he witnessed it. Perhaps his former owners were Muggles and they were victims of an attack by Death Eaters? The Dark Lord has been sending out more patrols of late . . .and who but a Death Eater would cast an Unforgivable?
"Freedom . . .the family you lived with before . . .could they do magic, like me?"
No. They didn't have magic at all. They didn't believe in it. The hawk was still trying to rid himself of the awful scream he had heard in his head. He buried his head in the familiar black robes and reminded himself that there were no green lights here, only Severus, whose hand was rubbing him and whose voice was slowly erasing the scream in his memory.
"Ah. I see. And did you see . . .when the green light came, who cast the spell?"
It was . . .a man . . .a dark man . . .Please, Sev, I don't want to talk anymore . . .please!
"All right. Relax. You're safe." Severus continued to whisper, for his voice was getting hoarse as he had just brewed and drank a new batch of Hawk Speak. He scratched lightly at his arm, where faint bits of white down had appeared, and thanked Merlin that no one would notice because he always wore long sleeves.
He decided not to question the agitated familiar further, for he could picture what had happened on his own. Whoever had owned Freedom before had died, the victim of a Death Eater raid, most likely. That was how the hawk had ended up flying away and coming here.
The hawk had seen and it had obviously made an impression, if he were still dreaming of it weeks later. No wonder he was having bad dreams.
Eventually, Freedom's tremors died and he sat up on Severus's wrist and asked cheekily, Do you have anything to eat in this place? Because all of a sudden, I'm starving.
"One minute, Mr. Impatience," Snape admonished gently, then summoned the game bag to him, it had a preserving spell upon it, and removed a large wing and thigh of a duck. "Here. Eat that. It should tide you over until supper."
Duck! So greasy, but it tastes wonderful! The hawk seized the treat in his talons and flew back over to his perch to eat it.
Severus cast a cleaning charm over the hawk's perch, scouring away the old mutes and castings, which all looked normal, so there was nothing wrong with the hawk's digestive tract. And he was eating hungrily, another good sign.
Still, he wondered whether or not to make the appointment with the vet Hagrid had named. And how will I explain that my hawk is nervous because he's been having nightmares? I would be lucky if the vet didn't lock me away and call in some Mind Healers to evaluate me. Still . . .if he starts going off his food again, I will bring him and let the vet examine him . . .
* * * * * *
That night the memories were pleasant, mostly about Quidditch, though there were a few with Ron and Hermione, studying and playing chess together, laughing over some silly prank the twins had played.
I remembered the first Christmas at Hogwarts, the first time I'd ever gotten real presents, from Ron and Hermione and Mrs. Weasley and the Invisibility Cloak from Dumbledore . . .that had once been my dad's. . . .
Snowball fights with my friends after class . . .though once I missed throwing it at Hermione and instead it hit Snape, who was out walking . . .I was sure we were all in for it, detention for a week . . .He looked up, glared at me, and sneered, "Was that meant for me, or do you just have terrible aim?" he brushed himself off.
"No, sir . . .it was an accident . . .I meant to hit Hermione . . ."
"I ought to give the lot of you detention, you know . . ." His eyes glinted strangely. "But perhaps this will be a better lesson."
And all of a sudden, the air was filled with snowballs, and we ended up getting hit in the face and the chest. When we finally brushed ourselves off, the snarky professor was gone and we just looked at each other and Ron said, "That was weird. Wonder what's up with him?"
"Maybe he took a Happy Potion?" suggested Hermione, and we all cracked up, because the only way Snape ever looked happy was when he was taking points from Gryffindor. . .
Going to Hogsmeade and drinking butterbeer and eating toffee at the Three Broomsticks, shopping at Zonkos with the twins and Ron . . .
* * * * *
Freedom seemed much more his usual self that next morning, and left after breakfast on his morning flight, bidding Severus goodbye cheerily. He spent the day chasing sunbeams and gliding on updrafts, chasing small flocks of starlings playfully and catching several mice for lunch.
He was still puzzled over the fact that he had been at one time a human, but was now a hawk. How had it happened? That was a mystery, all right. Then he flipped his tail and decided it didn't matter much right then. He loved being a hawk, and his relatives as a human clearly didn't want or need him. He was far better off being Severus's familiar.
Though he did wonder who he had been and why it was that the only people who cared for him were his friends?
That night, the dreams were particularly bad.
He relived the death of someone named Cedric, killed by yet another of those green flash curses, he was forced to watch as Wormtail resurrected the Dark Lord once again and he tried to fight the twisted dark wizard, only to find their wands conjoined and no duel was possible . . .
Dobby deliberately dropped the cake on the Masons, and of course I was blamed and locked in my room for weeks . . .until the twins and Ron came to get me in their Dad's flying car . . .
Snape, walking around in class, his robe billowing, looking at my solution and sneering, "Clearly, fame isn't everything."
Sneaking back into the school, after Malfoy had seen my head at the Shrieking Shack and getting dragged down to Snape's office by my ear. "I should have known, you are just like your father, strutting around, breaking rules left and right, typical arrogant Gryffindor!"
I shouted at him then, terrified he would find the map, and not caring that I was being disrespectful, because for some reason he hated me and I didn't like him either . . .
The Shrieking Shack, where Snape was about to hex Sirius Black, before we could hear the whole explanation of how he had been framed, and Ron, Hermione, and I disarmed him and knocked him out. Served him right, the greasy git . . .
Potions class again, where it seemed I could do nothing right, and Severus was always on my arse . . .
Scrubbing cauldrons and pickling rat livers in the dungeons, while Snape hovered like a bloody bat, watching me in disapproval, always sneering . . .
* * * * * * *
Blinking, Freedom awoke, the first pale hints of dawn streaked the sky through the casement in the bedroom, Snape had charmed the wall to always reflect the weather outside that day. The hawk stretched and looked at the man sleeping beside him and for the first time felt . . .conflicted, bewildered, and confused.
How could the man sleeping here, the one who had found him and splinted his wings, healed him and saved his life, be the same as the one who had sneered and belittled him? How was it that the wizard who spoke so gently to him and soothed him with his voice and hands be the same one who had grabbed and shaken him and shouted at him?
How can I . . .care and . . .love this Severus? He wondered frantically. And yet hate the Snape that used to be my teacher? No, I don't hate him . . .how can I? He's my friend . . .my protector . . .but once I was a Gryffindor and he hated me for it . . .or hated my father, I'm not sure which . . .Ah, Merlin help me! I'm so confused!
The sharp comments, the detentions, some of them unfairly given . . .and yet, he also remembered how he had shivered with fever and Severus had been there, holding him in a warmed towel, sick and dizzy as he had been, he remembered that. Severus's smile when he returned to him for the first time after being allowed to fly free . . .Hell, I didn't even think he knew how to smile, he never did before, especially not at me. I don't understand. Who was I that he disliked me so as a boy? And how could he love me as a hawk without realizing who I was? Well, I mean, I still don't know who I am, but . . .am I so different as a hawk?
He gazed down at his wizard, the man who had been at once savior and unfair disciplinarian, and felt torn and broken again. He didn't want to lose the feeling of closeness he had with the professor, the first time he had ever felt such with anyone. He realized with a jolt that he actually liked the man, his sharp wit was amusing and he could be gentle when he chose, and he suffered terribly at the hands of a monster, all for the sake of love and a promise.
Damn you, Snape! Damn you for making me like you and . . .dislike you at the same time! I can't take this anymore! I need to fly, to clear my head . . .
Freedom cast off, flying into the lounge area, and towards the door.
Twixie! he called.
The house elf appeared immediately. "What's wrong, Freedom? Is Master Severus hurt again?"
No, he's asleep. I just need to be let out of here. I need to fly. So could you just . . .open the door for me?
"But of course. I will tell Master Severus where you have gone, so he shan't worry." Twixie said, and with a wave of her hand, the door to Severus's quarters swung open.
Thank you, Twixie! The hawk called and flew away down the corridor. Tell Severus so he won't worry. Would he worry if he knew who I was? Who am I? I don't want to remember . . .I don't . . .but I think maybe I have to . . .so I can understand why I feel the way I do about Severus . . .
The hawk flew on and through the open window of the Owlery. The owls were mostly asleep and didn't mind him coming and going, as long as he was quiet.
Freedom emerged into a gentle dawn, his heart heavy within him, and circled the tower, trying to remember who he had been, when he spotted two small shapes below him, walking slowly down the path to Hagrid's hut.
Huh? What students would be awake at this hour of the morning?
He flew down for a closer look and nearly stalled in midair.
For they were his friends from his dream-memories.
Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger.
Silently, he followed them, hoping to learn more about his past and perhaps at last figure out his name, the name he had wished forgotten, the name that Snape detested, yet that now he must remember.
Chapter End Notes:
Hope you all liked it!
Next: Freedom learns some interesting things from Ron, Hermione, and Hagrid
Some of you have been asking when Ron and Hermione were going to appear in this story . . .well, here they are!
Next: Freedom learns some interesting things from Ron, Hermione, and Hagrid
Some of you have been asking when Ron and Hermione were going to appear in this story . . .well, here they are!
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