“Severus! A pleasure to see you so well these days.” Voldemort’s voice echoed silkily in the gloomy, and nearly empty room of the abandoned building. His magic wand bent slightly below the soft pressure of the long pale fingers. The Dark Lord circled clad in contrasting white linen-like robes and raised the dust with every step.
Severus bowed nearly impassive, just enough to admit approval to the given statement. The dark fireplace grimaced to the kneeling Death Eater like a hole of more horrific news. As if Dumbledore did not already overachieve the task of spreading home truth this summer!
Except that, the term break had been almost boring. Neither Dumbledore nor Voldemort paid him much attention; only Wormtail and the consistent strain of uncertainty got on Severus’ nerves. At least brewing potions for Slughorn’s advanced classes gave Severus something to do while Peter watched his very steps. Thankfully, the ‘rat’ understood nothing about potions and overlooked that Severus brewed more important potions in between. The order to appear at Voldemort’s secluded manor came unfortunate; a summons was never welcome and even less after a long time. It predicted danger.
“Stand up!” commanded Voldemort. Severus scented a hard interrogation. The mood swings of the Dark Lord were rather foul. Severus looked up straight into the red, snake-like eyes while returning to an upright position. He offered willingly eye contact; a gift for every Legilimens.
Pettigrew sneaked out of Spinners End the day before. He returned subdued and caressed nervously the metal hand received by the Dark Lord for the ‘services’ supporting the rebirth of the evil master. It was a sign of a conscience, if something of it was left in the will-less servant. The presentiment, that the traitor calumniated Severus, prepared the spy enough to sustain the coming.
“Peter is upset if you leave him behind. Have you got any explanation?” purred the snake-like master with false sweetness.
“Peter arouses even transfigured into a rat suspicion with certain informants. I propose taking no risk exposing our purpose by a clumsy fellow,” replied Severus demurely; the mind blank and cleared of unsafe sentiments. Voldemort broke the surface of it and slid through Severus that it resonated in every edge of the skull. Voldemort regarded the completely blank expression with outside amusement.
“And what is the information that Peter cannot know?”
Severus felt a piercing pain in the muscles, not enough to make him fall and still too much to go unnoticed. The floorboards creaked threateningly. An unintentional sound of anxiety escaped, and the Dark Lord acknowledged it with a satisfactory grimace of power. Severus bent under the slightest curse!
“Remus Lupin joins the werewolves. Dumbledore sends him to find new followers. It paralyses Nymphadora Tonks. She’s not able to transform anymore; a Metamorphmagus without the core of its camouflage abilities! When term starts, Tonks will guard Hogwarts supported by few other handpicked Aurors. Scrimgeour made the assignments already. It will be the Order of the Phoenix, Kingsley, Tonks and a few others.”
“Dumbledore is a fool. The werewolves follow Greyback, and he follows me.”
“The Order of the Phoenix is frail. Dumbledore is tired. He undergoes a certain helplessness and acknowledges your success, my Lord. The biological age is against him.” The last sentence anguished Severus because it was an understatement. But he couldn’t show a bit of it. Dumbledore was fatally cursed and waiting for Severus’ return to control the damage of foolishness and ease the resulting pain. Severus closed his mind even more than ever. The Dark Lord mustn’t know!
“Haven’t you got anything better, Severus?” Another playful flick of the wand brought the subject back to the dusty floor.
“Nothing other than I told you already. Dumbledore is less forthcoming on occasional visits than within semesters. He confirmed my position as the new teacher of ‘Defence against the Dark Arts’. Horace Slughorn hides — still, although taking his former post of the potions master. May I suggest returning to Hogwarts early? Brewing Slughorn’s potions at the school might be beneficial to get more out of the old man and to watch his moves.”
The Dark Lord waved his wand and it swished through the air bringing more pervasive pain.
“I’m disappointed, Severus. You remain in your house as instructed! I may require your services elsewhere.”
When the shooting sting left, Severus continued remorsefully, “As you wish, my Lord!”
“Your information is unsatisfyingly. What do you think you deserve for nothing?” asked the brisk unsentimental voice.
Severus bowed without being intimidated and said firmly, “The healers of St. Mungo’s hospital returned. The ministry managed the installation of the port key after many abnormal occurrences. I suppose the growing network of supporters at the ministry did a good job.”
Voldemort’s look gloried with insidiousness. It proved that Severus was the first to tell him. “Bring that witch to me, if you don’t want her threatened by Greyback,” hissed the Dark Lord. “I need evidence of your ‘good taste’. Peter will assist to fetch the healer, no excuses this time!”
Severus prepared mentally for the next Crutiatus before telling the full truth. It helped to see the curse coming and brave it. That Leonor was not amongst the overseas returners was a relief and that feeling survived whatever the curse destroyed.
“Scott did not return. There is no information about her whereabouts.”
“Who’s the informant?” hissed Voldemort, the wand at the ready, but the unforgivable curse did not yet strike.
“The smuggler!” spat Voldemort.
“Are you sure the witch is not foothold to take more refugees to Brazil?”
“Jennings is outraged about Scott’s disappearance.” Severus cooked the downright lie and was right that it pleased the Dark Lord.
“She’s wiser than I thought — a Slytherin trait? Watch her house; a healer in our ranks will convince more witches and wizards to join our cause! You are dismissed.”
Severus left with a bow and a steady pace; even though he wanted to run. The Dark Lord noticed nothing of it; he got side-tracked enough with the news and continued to form strategies in the evil mind.
Severus downed the flask of Crutiatus Potion unnoticed before spinning on the spot to leave the old manor and residence of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named behind. He had been lucky to suffer only short maltreatments today and the potion helped well to disguise the painful tremor.
Severus entered Hogwarts in a rush and hurried down to the dungeons to fetch the golden shimmering potion. Dumbledore felt worse and his owl arrived minutes after the Dark Mark burned on Severus’ forearm. The headmaster needed Severus’ help to reduce the unbearable pain of a lethal curse; the private medicine cabinet needed a refill.
Albus summoned his teacher merely days after Severus settled in Spinner’s End. The headmaster had been cursed by an immense black malediction and the painful after-effects of curse and counter-curse became stronger. Severus limited the curse in Dumbledore’s hand and arm. Nevertheless, the headmaster did not tell about the origin of the fatal injury, but Severus knew that the darkness vanquished the greatest wizard of all times inevitably. Severus’ skills were only a temporary stopper of death. If Dumbledore was lucky, he had another year to pull some strings and to find leaders for the Order of the Phoenix. Instead, Severus was asked to kill Dumbledore — to ‘save’ him the pain of an extended suffering. Severus was again the one to do him the favour without getting any insight to Albus’ plans. The old man was calm as if he did it on purpose and it was a happenstance.
A spy was only the puppet of two masters and none of the leaders told him more than necessary — Severus hated it as much as he was proud to survive the double-dealing each time again and again. His mission had not ended yet, though it became more difficult without Dumbledore and once he executed the ‘contract killing’ he was a doomed man when the good won over the evil. It was a curious irony to fight for the right side while knowing that Severus’ actions stimulated the very side to kill him. There was no light at the end of the way.
The golden potion simmered in a special copper cauldron. Severus concentrated on a monotonous incantation. He stirred the brew and added different powdered ingredients in an iterative procedure. He did not even stop when the door creaked slightly. Albus Dumbledore walked into the potion master’s study and gazed into white vapour rising above the cauldron. He spoke only when Severus started to fill the golden liquid into several vials and cleared the workbench with a flick of his wand.
“You do that very well, Severus. It should be enough until term starts.” Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled when he downed a goblet filled by the dark clad younger man. “I don’t know what I would do without your skills.”
Severus frowned upon the praise. “You never valued potions and black magic highly, yet it’s unavoidable right now. It’s the only way to stop that curse from vast expansion.”
Dumbledore raised his hand to stop Severus from ranting and continued to speak lightly, “You look overtired. Is there anything I should know?”
Severus moved his long black hair out of the face and spoke quietly, “The Dark Lord summoned me first, and I had to find an excuse for excluding Pettigrew from several visits. Voldemort is displeased with the provided information. He was rather lenient with me when I told him that Scott did not return with the other healers. He wants her to pay a fleeting visit once she returned. I hope Leonor stays in the foreign.”
“Have you got a plan on how to keep her safe? I wonder how much you care,” mused the headmaster. “Your role jeopardized her in the past.”
“And what do you suggest doing?” snapped Severus furiously.
Dumbledore shrugged and summoned the vials of golden potion to an invisible tray. “You need to tell her the truth, whatever that means, Severus.”
Mía pouted. Leonor smiled apologetic at her.
“I’m sorry, but I cannot play with you right now. I want to clear up the mess before your mother visits with your youngest sibling.”
“Why have you made that mess?” outbraved Mía.
“I packed when I was angry and in a haste. There’s stuff in that trunk I didn’t even know that I have it.” Leonor spoke another ‘Evanesco’ at some obsolete medical files.
“Can you show me that spell?”
“I’m convinced you will learn it at Castelobruxo; it is only one more week to wait. By the way, it’s bedtime, Mía. Get yourself ready,” replied Leonor with an amused smile, and Mía surrendered to stroll slowly into the direction of the main building.
Leonor focused on arranging the last items in the garden house when Martina knocked against the open door. The baby slept soundly in her arms.
“Mía told me that I was not welcome here because you clear your mess!” grinned Martina.
“I’m ready, or do you see any chaos?” retorted Leonor and stacked up some last periodicals on the window seat.
“Another object struggles to escape from your empty trunk. I bring it to you.” Martina waved her elegant magic wand with an unspoken ‘Accio’ and a thin cardboard box flew into her hands.
“What is it? Am I not ready?” asked Leonor turning around curiously.
“Oh!” exclaimed Martina when she opened the lid. She held a dried out white rose in her hand. The appearance of the rose changed like in fast motion. It burst into bloom and shrivelled away, and the process repeated. Martina watched the spectacle with amazement. The process came to a halt after minutes and the flower was spotless, pure and beautiful. Leonor stared at the flower as if it was a spook.
“No need to be shocked! You are the expert for dangerous magic and that’s perfectly harmless,” grinned Martina.
“I thought I burned it before I left England,” pressed Leonor through her lips. She exited the small house to sit on the swinging seat outside. That box was like a slap across the face. Leonor needed air.
Martina came outside too, and she explained like a teacher reassuring an insecure student, “I think it is a hex that changes the state of an object dependent on an event or emotion. The object is trapped, and it survives if the event or the emotion are still alive. Luiz gave me once a musical clock and it plays our favourite song if he’s absent for longer than usual. It is a reminder to think of each other. But the clock does not change; it plays the song only. He wants me to know that he loves me even though he cannot be with me.”
“I cannot see that flower! Please, take it away — far away!” Leonor spat the sentences like an accusation.
Martina tilted her head, “Ah, that’s going on. It’s better to talk it through if you get upset looking at it. You know I won’t tell anybody. A white rose means innocence and secrecy, at least in the ‘Victorian Language if Flowers’. It has a meaning.” Martina put the flower to a vase with orchids and investigated the narrow box further.
“There is also a pendant necklace in here.” Martina showed Leonor a fine white golden chain with a small diamond.
Leonor didn’t take it. “Put it away!” hissed Leonor bitterly.
“Sure, please can you hold Joao for a moment.” Leonor obeyed and embraced the sleeping little boy safely. Martina took, the vase, the necklace and the box inside. When she returned, she sat next to Leonor on the garden swing. The women were silent.
Leonor rocked the baby and a few tears run down her cheeks. It was a silent cry. After a long while Leonor kissed the sandy hair of the baby and gave it back to its mother. Martina had a good sense to know when words made matters worse.
Leonor spoke quietly, “Whenever I look at your son I think of a memory. Well, I believe it is more a vision. There is a couple, a man, a woman. It is all dark, dark hair, dark clothes. It is obviously dangerous. There is something wrong. I always wanted to warn that couple, but I don’t know them and therefore cannot keep them safe. Only the surroundings are bright. When I look through the windows of their kitchen, I see the ocean.”
“And?” questioned Martina.
“It’s me. Whenever I see Joao, the reality becomes blurred. Not just now. Two years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to hold a new-born at all. I preferred to run away even though the infants are innocent and not responsible for my past.”
“But you worked with children before?” asked Martina.
“Yes, I managed to work with older children, but toddlers and younger have been difficult. I was lucky, it was not important for my work. I concealed the pain behind a mask of stone.”
“And where does the vision come from?”
“I broke an empathic curse in England and lived through the memories of that person when the soul escaped. At the end was that vision. It never left me since that day and now it gets a connection whenever I see Joao.”
“Strange. Do I need to worry about my son or you?” asked Martina pensively.
“No, it’s just in my head. The vision comes and it adds different pictures of that couple.” Leonor paused before looking up at Martina and said, “I think the woman is I.”
“You scare me.”
“But it feels to me like a happy memory. It feels like something to follow.”
Martina looked dazed at Leonor and the baby moved nervously in her arms. “I’ll put Joao to the crib, or he’ll soon be awake.”
“If only I could explain it,” said Leonor subdued.
“You did not explain why you cannot see the box and its contents. What does it have to do with Joao and the vision?”
“I forgot about that box and still have no clue how it came into the trunk. Even if I packed it, why haven’t I found it?”
“Some objects have a certain magic in itself. Who gave it to you?”
“… the man in the vision. I did everything to forget him; dated even Brian. I did not mention him in my recent scientific work, even though I should make a reference. Since I live here, the vision becomes clearer and only Miá is still able to distract me completely. He abandoned me, he insulted me …” Leonor looked gravely to her feet.
“… and he’s still in your head … and feels ‘like a happy memory’?”
“Obviously.” Leonor shrugged. “Do you have any advice?”
“No, not now. I go and feed Joao, maybe I think of something before I return.” Martina left with a shake of her head.
Leonor knew how absurd it sounded, and she went inside of the garden house to have a look to the necklace and the white rose. Both were still beautiful, and it was indeed full moon in England; the day when the prime was at its peak. A quick look to the English lunar calendar proved it right. Whatever emotion Severus put into that flower; it was still alive. Was that blind chance? Leonor was still holding the flower and the small diamond when Martina returned with two tumblers.
“Something strong for you and a glass of milk for me,” said Martina with a smile. “Do you want to tell me a bit more about that mysterious man of your dreams or should we put it aside for a while? I thought there was nothing special about England or that was what you told me.”
Leonor swallowed the drink in one go. “I met him at Hogwarts. We worked together, made investigations about black magic, shared our knowledge. He trained me in Occlumency and defensive spells. We developed a potion against the after-effects of the Crutiatus Curse. The relationship was non-committal with ups and downs. I was sure, time would bring us together. After the return of the Dark Lord, Severus Snape told me that he was a faithful Death Eater. I was not pure enough to be his wife. I couldn’t stand it anymore there and took the opportunity to come to Brazil. I left the resistance organization against He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and my patients. I promised to brew a Wolfsbane potion for a friend every month, but I didn’t even tell him that I wanted to go. My behaviour wasn’t respectable looking at the war in England. I sneaked me into the mission by knowing the right people. It’s haunting me now.”
“Distance and time cannot solve everything.”
“Obviously not. I like to visit our hometown. I want to see my grave and there’s a few things I like to have, for example my birth certificate. I’m ready to go to Argentina now. I must return to the beginning. Maybe I find some answers there. Scotland felt home and not like a stop-over in life. I miss it, but it hurts to think of it.”
“You mean it hurts to think of that man?”
“I cannot get him out of my head. I’ve to go to Argentina if I’m on the continent. Or is it a stupid idea to visit my birthplace?”
Martina only shook her head when Leonor looked at her.
“Would you mind if we travel with you? My parents wait to see their grandson. I’m sure they will have a room for you too.”
“You don’t need to make that effort. I’ll go alone.”
“I always wanted to visit my parents when the children are back at school. I’ll speak with Luiz finally. You can wait some more days, can’t you? You understand that I won’t travel without Luiz if Joao is with us, but you shouldn’t make that journey alone. Your parental home has changed in all these years. Nobody goes there voluntarily and alone.”
“Thank you; you are a true friend! I’ll need somebody to talk. If I can convince your father that I’m not evil, he might tell me important stuff of my family too.” Leonor embraced Martina. It felt good to rest the head against a strong shoulder.
“I’m sure my family will help you.”
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