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A Measure of Equinimity
Why is Professor Snape such an unpleasant person? And does the ‘arch Slytherin’ have any vulnerabilities?  Whatever happened to kindly Professor Lupin? Can the great Professor Dumbledore make any use of Snape’s Slytherin temperament, or must heroic attempts to bring down the terrifying Lord Voldemort rest only with Gryffindor acts of bravery and chivalry? Can Voldemort actually be defeated, or has he found a means to make himself invincible?

 All these questions are answered here.  Read on … but at your peril – if you have not read the first four Harry Potter novels, reading this first will spoil them for you !

 Irreparably.

 And you will also find this story impossible to follow.

 You have been warned…

Bookmarks

Introduction & Disclaimer

Part 1 - Chapter 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6

Part 2 -  Chapter 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - 11 - 12

Part 3 - Chapter  13 - 14 - 15 - 16 - 17

Review


 Part Two

 

Chapter Seven -Bad Day

At breakfast on Friday 2nd January McGonagall asked Snape to come to her office for ‘a quick word’.

“Can it be later, Minerva” Snape replied in a weary, whining tone that made her hackles rise.  “I’ve got a Nerve Calming Potion brewing which I need to get back to.”

Knowing him of old, she always suspected this type of response was a delaying tactic, but after a little debate they agreed to meet at half-past ten, at which time Snape reluctantly knocked on her door.  He thought he knew what this was about and he was sure he wasn’t going to like it.

“Severus.  Thank you for being so punctual” McGonagall said.  “Do have a seat.  Tea?”

“No, thank you, Minerva.  Can we just get this over with?” he moaned.

“Very well” she replied briskly.  “I wont beat about the bush.  Quidditch.  Now that Ginny’s shoulder injury is better, the postponed Gryffindor/Slytherin match is coming up and I don’t want a repeat of the appalling tactics we saw last year!”

“Meaning what exactly?” Snape drawled.

“Meaning Goyle exactly!  And Crabbe!” McGonagall snapped.

“Difficult, since they both left last year” he observed sarcastically.  McGonagall’s temper flared.

“Don’t try that with me, man.  You know what I mean!  Don’t try to kid me your team’s bad sportsmanship has died for good-and-all with the departure of Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle!”

“Oh, very well” Snape conceded, not bothering to conceal his irritation.  “I’ll have a word with…  Hello, who’s this?”

A bell had chimed and the head of a Goblin had appeared in McGonagall’s fire.  She looked down at him.  “Oh; hello, Nibbin.  What can we do for you?” she said uncertainly.  “The Bank” she mouthed to Snape, by way of hurried explanation.

“I’ve got some new rates for Miss Graham” the Goblin said.  “The market’s rising this morning, but we think it might start coming off about two o’clock.  Anyway, I thought I ought to update what I gave her earlier.”

“Well, she’s not here just now.  Can I, err, make a note of them?  Help me, Severus” she added in a quiet aside to Snape.  “Write this down.”  She sounded a little flustered.

Quickly she handed Snape quill and parchment and they both bent forward to the fire as the Goblin gave them a list of interest rates for investing money over different time periods.

“Overnight – six and three eighths” Nibbin said.  “One week – five an thirteen sixteenths.  Two weeks – five and five eighths.  One month – five and fifteen over thirty-two.  Six months – five and three sixteenths.  Three-sixty-four days – five and eleven over sixty-four.”

“You mean a year” Snape growled from the corner of his mouth, as he made furious notes.

“No, no.  It’s always said like that” McGonagall hissed.

“Bloody silly” Snape mumbled.

“We’re still predicting a downward trend in the long term” Nibbin added.

Before the Goblin departed McGonagall read over the rates again to check the figures, and found she had made a mistake.  Snape however had noted the figures correctly.  “Thank you, Nibbin” McGonagall said.  “We’ll ask Miss Graham to get back to you.”

“OK, Professor” he replied chirpily, and with a faint pop he was gone.

“Where is Elizabeth?” Snape asked, as McGonagall took his note and added the Goblin’s comments about the short-term and long-term prospects.

“She’s seeing her brothers-in-law in Albus’s office” McGonagall explained.  “Albus is out – gone bowling with Aberforth.”  Her mouth turned down in distaste and she consulted her watch.  Elizabeth’s visitors arrived at ten.  Ah…!  (she held up her hand)  Is that her now, moving about her own room…?  Elizabeth?” she called.

“Yes, Minerva?”  There was a swish of kingfisher blue robes.  A red-eyed Graham appeared in the doorway and jumped at the sight of Snape sitting by McGonagall’s fire.  She gazed at him, as McGonagall said “Gringotts sent new rates.”

“What?… Wha?…  Oh!  Oh, yes”  She took the parchment the Deputy Headmistress was holding out and lifted her hand to scratch her forehead; obviously trying to hide her face.  “Oh blow, I’ve dealt for today” she murmured.  “And these are quite good.  I wonder if they’ll be there tomorr… err, Monday…?”  She wandered back towards her room and then turned, remembering her manners.  “Oh, thank you, Minerva; Severus.  Thank you…” she said, and she was gone, quietly closing the door behind her.

McGonagall gave Snape a meaningful look.  The Deputy Head’s irritation with him seemed to have evaporated in the light of her concern for her Administration Officer.  “Not an easy meeting, obviously” she said acidly and in silent question Snape arched an eyebrow.  “There’s an argument over the will” McGonagall whispered.  They’re disputing the sum her father-in-law left her.  Damned cheek, too.  Elizabeth ran that business.  Hector Ollivander was a wand-maker!  He wasn’t much interested in the clerical side, and the accounts.  Like this cash flow work.  She just eats it up.  It would drive me to distraction.  It was all I could do to keep pace with paying the invoices.  No; I’d far rather be teaching or taking care of my House.”

“But Ollivander’s was always a thriving business” Snape pointed out.

“Yes, he had a lot of customers” McGonagall agreed.  “But according to Albus, Elizabeth increased the profitability of that business no end.  Hector was interested in the creative side of the operation.  And he was feeling his age, he took more of a back seat soon after Elizabeth joined him.  His sons did nothing, they had their own lives.  Anyway, it’s up to her” McGonagall concluded, “but I think they’re wrong to dispute Hector’s dying wishes.  Wrong, and mean.”

*

The following day, however, Graham had a much more welcome visitor.  It was the last Saturday of the Christmas holiday and Snape took the opportunity of an afternoon walk through the Forest before the new term’s responsibilities kept him more closely bound to the school.  Returning to the edge of the castle’s parkland he could hear voices.  He stood under cover of the trees and saw two witches heading towards him; Graham and a dark haired woman of about sixty.  They were unaware of his presence and were talking quite loudly as they ambled along, idly kicking their boots through the snow.

“Thanks, Laura.  I do appreciate what you’re trying to do.”

“Well he should be ashamed!  Not exactly living up to his name is he?  Anyway, I think I’ve got Guy to be a bit more reasonable.”

Snape wondered what to do.  He assumed this unwary pair intended to walk into the Forest for the dark witch to Disapparate.  He didn’t want to be caught snooping on them so he contemplated making his Animagus transformation but it occurred to him that if they got into difficulties he could not be sure of transforming back in time to get to their aid.  He decided to be open.

“Good afternoon, ladies.”  He was amused to see them both jump at his unexpected appearance.  It also proved to him that they were not sufficiently on their guard.  “I see you plan to walk some way into the Forest.  It is very dangerous.  May I accompany you?”

The dark haired witch looked uncertain but Graham answered at once.  “Oh Severus, you frightened us!”  She glanced at her companion and then back to Snape.  “Err, yes please” she said, smiling.  “If you can do this to us, what effect will a monster have?  Laura, this is Professor Snape.  Severus? – my sister-in-law, Mrs Laura Ollivander.”

Snape nodded graciously to her, and with wands at the ready the three of them strolled into the Forest.

“So, what do you teach, Professor?” Ollivander asked.

“Potions” Snape replied.  “I am also Head of Slytherin House.”

“Ah, I was in Ravenclaw” Ollivander replied smoothly.  “You must have started teaching quite some time after I left.”

They chatted for some moments as she reminisced about her schooldays and eventually she came to a halt.  “Well, this should suit me.  Professor, thank you for your company.”  She shook his hand.  “Liz, take care now.”  The two witches embraced and then Ollivander stepped back, raised her hand in farewell and Disapparated.

Snape and Graham turned and headed back towards the school.

“She’s the only one of my family I really like” Graham said emphatically.  She glanced at Snape’s very snowy boots – she liked his long, Cavalier-style boots of supple black dragon hide.  “I see you’ve been for a long walk” she added.

“Yes, well term starts on Monday” he explained.

“Oooh yes, and I start my classes” Graham said enthusiastically.  “My exercise classes” she explained.  She looked a Snape.  He seemed paler than ever.  “Are you OK, Severus?” she asked hesitantly.  “I mean… are you well?”

“Yes…  Yes thank you, I’m fine” he lied softly, and Graham conscious of his preference for privacy did not press him.  But are you well, Severus? he asked himself.  And which Severus are you today?  The one who can bring down the Dark Lord, or the one who can’t even remember such simple things as the times of staff meetings?

Snape could not resolve this internal question.  He did indeed feel unwell.  At dinner he took no notice of what he ate.  He dined early, and then retired to his room where he took a potion and grabbed the opportunity of an early night’s sleep.

* * *

By the morning of the second day of the spring term a very bleary eyed Snape was already thinking fondly of the Easter holidays, which would not begin until early in April.  “Has Elizabeth given up breakfasts entirely?” he asked McGonagall.

“You’ll have to get up early to catch Liz at breakfast” the Deputy Headmistress retorted.  “Her post arrives at half-past seven.  She starts work at eight.”

“Bloody hell!” Snape drawled with feeling.  It sounded appalling to him.  He rarely breakfasted early.  His lack of ability to achieve quality sleep meant he usually felt like death in the mornings.  He drained his black coffee and said no more, hoping his Wit-Sharpening Potion would kick in soon, and turning his mind to the Ravenclaw / Hufflepuff third year double Potions lesson that was next on his agenda.

* * *

One week later Snape felt no better, in fact the roar from the staff room unwittingly revealed that he was worse…

“Oh, for FUCK SAKE, Filly!”

Dumbledore paused, his hand an inch above the door handle.  Snape’s shout has reached him through the heavy oak door.  He could just make out Flitwick’s startled reply.  “Well!  Sorry old man.  I was only trying to…”  Flitwick’s voice tailed off and there was the creak of a chair.  It was followed by the hurrump of a throat being cleared and Dumbledore fancied he heard a newspaper being shaken out.

He entered the staff room.

Snape was seated in his usual armchair, the Daily Prophet crossword open on his knees.  His head was bent and a hand, half buried in his greasy hair, was shaking.  Flitwick had chosen an armchair some distance from Snape’s and was trying to read his newspaper’s business section.  His face was red and he looked hurt.  The embarrassed silence could be cut with a knife.  Dumbledore went to the refreshment table and poured a beaker of coffee.  He sat down between the two wizards and gazed into the fire.  It was a week and a half into the new term and his Potions Master looked as if he hadn’t had a break for months.

Snape could hardly focus on his crossword.  He used to enjoy doing these in his free time, a relaxing change from having to keep students under second-by-second scrutiny as they mixed ingredients that were sometimes potentially lethal.  Whenever Snape got stuck on a clue Flitwick habitually came to his aid.  But in recent weeks Snape had found the crosswords harder.  He blamed the new compiler whose style he assured himself he hadn’t yet got used to.  He found it difficult to concentrate and he blamed the noise in the staff room, the poor lighting, the stuffy atmosphere…  He slipped into the habit of seeking Flitwick’s aid more frequently, and from helping him out Flitwick now often said, quite unbidden “Let’s have a clue then, Severus.”  Subtly the crosswords were becoming a joint effort, and that was not what Snape wanted…

He hadn’t meant to swear.  Flitwick was the most helpful, jolly and inoffensive soul imaginable.  And besides, Snape never swore in front of witches, indeed he hardly ever used four letter words.  He was shocked at how he had suddenly lost control.  It was nothing but sheer luck that on this occasion the two wizards had had the staff room to themselves.

As the three men sat in an awkward silence the door almost burst open and Hagrid lumbered in, clutching a wooden crate that was emitting a hissing, spitting sound, and a foul skunk-like smell.  “Mornin’ Headmaster, Professers” he said.  “Headmaster, I was wonderin’ if I might…”

Snape sighed.  Hagrid, oblivious of any bad atmosphere in the room, was seeking permission for some dreadful new creature he wanted to use in his Care of Magical Creatures lessons.  Thank the gods for Hagrid! Snape muttered fervently.  He glanced at his watch, got up, and left the staff room without a word to anyone.

Later, on the way to lunch, he passed Flitwick’s chair and stopped.  Placing a hand on the back of it, he bent down to the tiny Charms Professor.  “Sorry Filly; bad day” he murmured.

“Don’t mention it” came the discrete reply.

Snape made his way to his own seat between McGonagall and Sinistra.  He was grateful that Flitwick was not the sort to bear grudges, and neither of the witches were chatterboxes.  McGonagall had her moments but she had Dumbledore to turn to.  Sinistra was, as always, extremely reserved.  He was again unaware of what he ate and stared out over the sea of students hardly conscious of them.

Review

 

Chapter Eight - A Turn Up for the Book

January was slipping by.  As they left the Great Hall after breakfast on the morning of Wednesday 21st Dumbledore and Snape halted to inspect the hourglasses that recorded the house point totals.  The Headmaster was in good spirits, and for the same reason Snape was furious.  Despite Snape’s efforts, Slytherin was only just above Hufflepuff.  Ravenclaw was second and Gryffindor a long way in the lead.  It’s that dammed Granger / Potter factor! Snape snarled silently to himself.

Hermione Granger always clocked up a lot of house points.  Always had; her work was exemplary.  Also, as she was now Head Girl, she was in a position to deduct house points from junior students.  And it didn’t help that Harry Potter was Head Boy.  With Voldemort accounted for, his N.E.W.Ts looming, and the good example that Head Boys had to set others, Potter was not the interfering, disobedient nuisance he used to be.  Nor, for that matter, was Ron Weasley – the Potter / Weasley / Granger meddlesome gang was very much a thing of the past.

Pinned on the notice board near to the hourglasses was Graham’s Exercise Class Timetable.  Snape glanced through it…

Monday 11:30 male beginners/stretch;   12:00 female intermediate;   12:30 male advanced

Tuesday 11:30 male beginners/stretch;   12:00 male intermediate;   12:30 female advanced

Wednesday 11:30 female beginners/stretch;   12:00 female intermediate;   12:30 male advanced

Thursday 11:30 female beginners/stretch;   12:00 male intermediate;   12:30 female advanced

Friday 11:30 male beginners/stretch;   12:00 female intermediate;   12:30 male advanced

Please see Elizabeth Graham before you attend a class – please note some health questions will be asked.

Suitable footwear MUST be worn (mere reliance on cushioning charms will not be sufficient).

NO WANDS ARE ALLOWED IN THE EXERCISE ROOM.

Perhaps I’ll take a look during my free period, Snape decided.  It would save him the minor embarrassment of sitting in the staff room with Flitwick.  He wanted to let things blow over a bit before re-establishing his routine.

At ten minutes past eleven Snape made his way to the ‘Tennis Court’.  It was a large room on the seventh floor that had been built originally for the female members of the castle to take exercise.  In medieval times aristocratic women usually exercised indoors, mainly for reasons of personal safety, but it also kept them out of the bad weather.  Many of these indoor rooms became Tennis Courts in Elizabethan times where Real Tennis was played.  Hogwarts’ exercise room had never actually been a Tennis Court, but it had somehow been given that label and the name had stuck.  It was a lofty, bare, oblong chamber that in later times had occasionally been used for music and dancing; it had a minstrel gallery at one end.

Snape entered quietly and was relieved to find the room deserted.  He made his Animagus transformation and fluttered, in bat form, up towards the gallery.  He settled at the base of a torch bracket, pleased with the fine view he had of the room.  He didn’t have long to wait before Graham entered.  She was carrying a ’cello, a stop watch, and a T-shirt, and was dressed in a royal blue leotard, short white socks over stirrup-footed nylon navy blue leggings and grey trainers.  Her hair was combed back and wound into a tight bun.  She looked slender.  Her bust was fairly shapeless, unbeknown to Snape it was held tightly in place by a jogging bra.  She positioned the ’cello near to a drum kit, two guitars and a saxophone, and then used a spell to open the top windows.  At 11:29 she opened the door to the girls changing room.

A stream of girls in a rainbow of coloured lycra and nylon filed in.  Graham seemed to know who to expect and greeted the girls by their first names.  She asked how everyone was feeling, set her stopwatch for ten seconds, got them to count their pulse beats and to call out the results.  Then the musical instruments were charmed into life and the class began.  The music was modern but the beat measured and calm.  Copying Graham as if looking at a mirror image of themselves, the girls moved in a smooth controlled fashion, often holding their positions, sometimes with a little wobbling.  After fifteen minutes of these moves and poses they collected spongy mats from a stack in the corner of the room and sat on them to do waist, stomach and leg exercises.  To conclude the class there was a five minute relaxation period to slow, gentle music, followed by a pulse check.  Satisfied with the results, Graham let her class go, used a banishing spell to stack the mats, and the next set of girls filed in.

The procedure was much the same except that Graham called out “OK.  If anyone has a period, take it easy, work to your own needs, don’t push it unless you want to, OK?  I spy bare feet over there!  Where are your shoes, Melanie?  Forgotten!  Get yourself two mats, put them one on top of the other and make sure you stay on them, don’t run on this hard floor!  Right; spread out a bit more you two – you’re too close – that’s better.  Right; find your pulse.  And when you start counting, remember to start with nought, counting in your head.  Start counting – now.  Aaaaand stop.  OK, what was yours?  And yours?  And you?”

Eight, nine, eleven, seven… the results were announced.  The music started and the class began.

The music this time was subtly quicker, brisker.  Very soon the warm up was over and the girls were into vigorous arm movements plus running on the spot.  Graham was having to shout above the music…

“…Kicking out… now to the side… breathe as well… other side… punching up… make it strong … lift those knees…  And Star Jumps, two, three, four, five, six, seven, EIGHT MORE!  One, two, three, four…”

After the aerobics section she kept them gently moving during the pulse check and then they were into the floor exercises on mats, much the same as the previous class.  After relaxation and a final pulse check the girls were dismissed.  Using her wand, Graham again banished the mats to the stack in the corner and put on the baggy T-shirt before admitting the boys; her slender body was now hidden in shapelessness.

She unlatched the door to the boys changing room but left it ajar in case anyone was still changing his clothes.  About twenty strapping males, mostly fifth years and older, swaggered in and spread themselves around the room.  They all wore short sleeved white T-shirts, long-legged shorts, short white socks and trainers.  Snape looked down on a sea of bulging biceps and triceps brachii, biceps femoris and gastrocnemius muscles.  He could almost smell the testosterone.

Graham’s routine started off much the same but she had an additional point to make to them.  “Now remember when we get to the running, the higher you lift your knees” she yelled, slapping her lifted thigh, “The harder you’ll work your lower abdominals.  Abdominals are the weakest muscles – WORK THEM!  OK, let’s go!”

From the standard warm up, the music notched up quite fast into a powerful pounding beat and Snape both heard and felt why Graham needed to use soundproofing charms.  Merely watching the on-the-spot running, kicking, arm circling, and Star Jumps was making him feel quite weary, but Graham hadn’t finished with her class yet.  “Ten burpies!” she yelled and instantly she was squatting on hands and knees, then her legs had shot straight back, then forward again to a squat, then she was into a high leap, fingers reaching toward the ceiling.  Her speed was difficult to match.  As the set of ten was ending she yelled “TEN MORE” and Snape knew the boys must be cursing her.  They worked hard to keep up – they were of course stronger but much heavier than she was.  After several more sets of other exercises of a similarly punishing nature, the music gradually wound down and they were down to walking on the spot with Graham telling them to keep their legs gently moving.  She stopped the music, took a pulse check and then encouraged them to ease out their hamstring and Achilles tendons.  Finally they each took a mat and sat down.  Many of the T-shirts were now sticking to their owners backs – Graham had worked the boys hard and into a sweat.

Whenever Graham sat to do the waist exercises, her legs spread almost at one-hundred and eighty degrees.  The boys’ legs, however, formed far sharper angles.  Snape was aware of some of them struggling to try to match her.

“Doesn’t matter” she was saying.  “Doesn’t matter if you’re here, or here, or out here.  Get your legs taught but don’t force them too far for this.  Work near your limit on this one, but comfortably within it.”  She smiled and added “In general – and I hate generalisations, but even so in general – women’s joints are more flexible than men’s, men’s joints are stronger.  Occasionally you get a woman who is strong as well as flexible – Franka Dietzsch or Fatima Whitbread are possible examples.  Occasionally – more rarely I think – you get a man who is flexible as well as strong.  They are the Wayne Sleeps and Rudolph Nuryevs of this world…  Right!  Now remember!  No slumping, c’mon, lift those spines, pull up and out of your waist.  Here we go…”

Graham started the music and the waist exercises began.  Stomach and leg work followed.  During the relaxation she walked slowly around the room and paused by Blaise Zabini.  “Stay put – I want a word afterwards” she whispered.  She said the same to Pavel Dymitriov.  A final pulse check and she let the class go.  Zabini and Dymitriov stayed lying on their mats.  “I’ll be with you in a minute Pasha, please hang on” she called.  “Blaise, how are you?” she asked softly.  “Your pulse started off at twelve, got up to twenty-seven and is now?”

“Seventeen.”

“Lie here a bit longer then.  Your pulse should roughly double in the aerobics session.  It’s a bit too high all round, but you might possibly have miscounted.  Can you remember what it was last week?”

“No Miss; sorry Miss.”

“Start to take notice, it’s important.  How about coming to my intermediate class for a few weeks in place of this one?”

“I’ve got lessons, Miss.  I can’t make those ones.”

“Then we’ll have to work something else out.”  She thought for a moment.  “If I could set something up for Saturday mornings, early, before breakfast – would you be interested?” she asked.

“Well… yes, Miss.  If you think it’s best” Zabini replied hesitantly.

“I do.  I think it’s very important that you exercise.  And regularly.  And, if you want to, you can build up your fitness and be back in this class in no time.  It’s up to you; your fitness is in your hands.  OK?”

Blaise thought about it.  “Yes.  Thanks Miss” he said finally.

“OK” she replied, sounding happier.  “Two more minutes here, then you can go if you feel alright.  Lie back, close your eyes, chill out.  I’m going to talk to Pasha now.”  She walked over to Dymitriov.

“Well, Mr Nuryev, you’re a turn up for the book” she said softly.  The blond Russian boy sat up and grinned.  “And can you actually do the splits?” Graham enquired.

“Nearly.  Can you push my legs, Miss?”

They sat on the floor, pushing each others legs wider and wider, Graham conscious that if anyone saw them it would look somewhat improper.

“Actually, I did want to go to ballet school” Dymitriov said.  “But then again, I wanted to come here as well!  My family were furious about the idea of ballet school, so here I am.”

“Were they?  Really?  In spite of your home country’s cultural heritage?  So what are your ideas about a career?” Graham enquired, withdrawing her legs gradually and letting his relax back.

“I might try for a drama college” Dymitriov replied.  “Affording it will be the problem.  My grandfather probably won’t support it.”

“Perhaps you can work your way through” Graham said thoughtfully.  “Some people do.”

“Yes, perhaps.  You don’t think it’s silly then?” he added.

“No, certainly not” Graham said defiantly.  “Nothing wrong with acting.  Music and dance.  Hard work though.  And no guarantee of getting work, I guess.  Dancing is physically quite punishing.  You have to be aware that you can get injuries.  As you can in sport.  But if it’s what you love…”  She shrugged her shoulders.  “You’ll have to decide, Pasha.  It’s your life.”  She noticed Zabini sitting up.  “Well, it’s definitely lunch time, gentlemen.”

“Yes, I had better go.  Thank you for the chat, Miss” Dymitriov said.  “I’ve never told anyone else.  Not here.”

“It’s a pleasure.  See you next week.  Bye Pasha.  Bye Blaise.”

The boys trundled out and Snape watched Graham manually return the last two mats to the pile and secure the charmed instruments with an anti-tampering spell.  Then she disappeared into the girls changing room and he thought he could faintly hear the sound of the shower.  Annoyed with himself that he lacked the courage to spy on her in the changing room, Snape fluttered up to the open window and down to the little window of his dungeon bedchamber before he transformed back into human form.  He had not known there was any question about Zabini’s fitness nor that Dymitriov wanted to be a dancer, even though both boys were in his House.  Graham was quite in tune with people he realised.

Snape wondered if she knew about Dymitriov – knew that his family had changed their name from Dolohov, that it was this boy’s father who had murdered Marcellus Ollivander and thereby robbed her of her husband and of her unborn child?

He noticed it was a quarter past one and he headed swiftly for the Great Hall and lunch.

Review

 

Chapter Nine -Same-Day Clearance

Two days later, on 23rd January, Graham looked at the bank statement in disbelief.  “What on earth is this?” she said in despair.  She spoke to the bank about the sizable debit entry that she didn’t recognise, assuming it was a mistake that would now be removed from their account.  It turned out to be a charge from Flourish and Blotts.  A perfectly correct charge, for books purchased by Professor Rookwood; sixty copies of Otmar Krantz’s A Beginners Guide to Curse Breaking.

“He didn’t tell me!” Graham moaned, as she and McGonagall took a tea break.  “He didn’t even bring the invoice back.  He took it to the bank and authorised and immediate transfer.  I shall be having a word with Professor Rookwood!”

“He shouldn’t be buying books” McGonagall pointed out.  “These should be on the students’ book list if they’re necessary, then they pay for them.  If it’s imperative that the school should own them, we only buy a few copies to put in the Library.  I, too, shall be having a word with Professor Rookwood.”

*

The following day Zabini went to the Tennis Court at half past seven for his first Saturday morning fitness class.  He was surprised to find Hooch, Vector and Flitwick there as well as Graham.  She ran through her intermediate routine and Zabini coped quite well.  He found it fun and was pleased with how it went.

Graham was pleased too.  Despite their busy schedules, the three teachers had readily agreed to help her out for a few weeks, so that she didn’t have to be alone with just one male seventh year student.  Graham would have asked Snape if he wanted to attend but she fought shy of doing so, as he simply didn’t look well enough.  She was sure Rookwood would have attended but he was the last person she would turn to for help.

She realised she was beginning to worry about Snape.  His cold, sarcastic manner is a front, she decided.  For all his haughty striding about and swirling his robes, he’s a shy man, insecure in some ways, just like he was at school.  Ego and insecurity, cemented together by disdain.  How extraordinary that the hero of the Voldemort wars could be insecure in any way!  If ever anyone was the opposite of Pendleton Rookwood, he’s it!  No one would describe Severus as handsome, yet I don’t dislike his looks.  He ought to take better care of himself.

***

When the bell rang to announce the end of the first double period Graham slipped into the Potions classroom.  It was Friday 30th January and Snape was sitting at his desk, watching the class pack up.  He gave her a withering look.  “Merlin’s beard, is it that time again?” he sneered.

“It is indeed!  A month is a short time at Hogwarts” Graham joked, rephrasing Harold Wilson’s quotation.  “Well, what are your plans for February, Severus?”  She stood waiting, quill poised above her parchment.

“Sleep.  Just sleep” he drawled with feeling.  “I’m going to seal my dungeon door and hibernate.”  As he said this Snape opened the top right-hand drawer of his desk and lifted out a piece of parchment which he slid across the desk to her.

Graham read it, drawing a hand back through her hair and smiling.  “Can I keep this?” she asked.

“Of course.”  He regarded her coolly.  “And what is amusing you, Elizabeth?”

She pursed her lips and shook her head, but the smile wouldn’t go away.  “You” she said finally.  He arched an eyebrow, trying to look stern, and Graham pointed to the comprehensive list of potion ingredients and equipment he intended to buy or order during February.  “You always make a fuss about doing this for me” she said as she took up the parchment, “but you always have your plans listed out.  Divided neatly into cash and credit purchases.  No one else is this accurate.”

Snape gave her a sheepish smile.  “I’m a manic planner” he explained.  “Force of circumstances; looking ahead, working out my every move.  It’s like a disease.  I don’t actually spend as much as I used to.  I don’t have an idiot by the name of Longbottom wrecking his own cauldron and some of my equipment every week.”

There was a click as the dungeon door closed behind the last student.  Graham thanked him and made a move to go, but a muffled bang from the corridor caused Snape to say “One moment please, Elizabeth.  Permit me to go first.”

He glided to the door, pointing his wand at it and Graham saw the latch lift at his whispered command.  The door, however, still looked closed.  In one smooth movement Snape flung it open and stepped into the corridor.

“Hmm, quite predictable, Foster” he sneered.  “That’s five points you lose for Ravenclaw.”  He performed the counter-curse to the leg locker curse Foster had applied to Robbins and turned his attention to the Hufflepuff girl Foster had barged into when Robbins tried to hex him.  She was rubbing an elbow which had hit the wall.  “Are you all right, Miss Atkinson?” Graham heard him enquire.  “Then stop making a fuss.  Well, Robbins…  And what did you try this week to provoke our esteemed Mr Foster?  Now let me see, can I plumb the depths and fathom your mind?  A tickling charm?  No.  That was last week’s effort wasn’t it, Robbins.  Jelly Legs perhaps?  No; that will no doubt be next week’s.  Well let’s just make it a nice round ten points from Hufflepuff.  Now GET INSIDE, ALL of you!”

Graham stood inside the door, watching the second years file silently in.  Snape stood outside and indicated for her to come through.  He gave her a small bow.

“Remind me never to hex you” she whispered with a grin as she left.

* * *

It was in early February that Snape fell particularly ill again.  It was less acute than last time, so, wanting no fuss, he said nothing about it and continued working.  It crossed his mind that if he was too ill to undertake his Potions classes Rookwood would be asked to cover.  He knew none of the other staff were potion makers, although they would be able to set the students written work.  Rookwood however, probably could dabble in potions – Snape was sure he would know something of poisons.

Snape again felt as though he had influenza but he battled on, dosing himself with the odd potion.  He was even more bad tempered than his habitual self, and again at times was prone to lapses of memory.  But despite the breakdown in his health the Head of Slytherin House had not totally lost his guile – Snape was at first successful in keeping his illness a secret from Dumbledore.  Relieved that McGonagall’s health was recovering, the Headmaster’s thoughts were mainly bound up with her and with her assistant – Elizabeth Graham.  Graham’s appointment had been a success.  She was good at the work and seemed to enjoy it.  Being full time, she had ample time for the essential tasks and was keen to innovate – hence her development of cash flow control.  Her exercise classes were also a success.  Dumbledore wasn’t sure whether she had resolved the argument with her family, but she seemed to be managing the situation without it affecting work.

*

Snape was not the only one to be ill.  As the harsh winter weather began to ease, a bout of colds ran around the castle.  Even Graham did not escape.  As he made his way from the Headmaster’s office down to lunch on Saturday 14th February he could hear someone coughing.  Graham was standing at the side of the Main Staircase, one hand holding a handkerchief to her face, the other arm locked rigid, its hand pressed flat on the marble balustrade as she tried to control the coughing spasm.  He ordered a student to bring a goblet of water from the Great Hall and when it arrived he took out a small bottle and poured a single drop of a red liquid from it into the water.  He then handed the mixture to Graham who sipped it gratefully.  “Thank you Severus, and thank you Hannah.  Oh, that’s better!  It’s only a cold” she explained.

“Let me give you some Pepperup Potion” Snape suggested.

“No, really, I’m OK” Graham gasped.  “It’ll be gone in a day.”

Don’t do this, Elizabeth.  I’m not feeling up to parley or negotiation, he thought.  “I insist.  Come down to my storeroom, now” he said, using the adamant tone he normally reserved for students.  With a muttered thank you to the seventh year Hufflepuff girl Snape handed the goblet back to her and escorted Graham to his office.

“I don’t like to trouble you” she pointed out.  “You’re so busy.  I could get some from Poppy.”

“But you haven’t done so.”

“No.  Well…”  Reluctantly Graham explained that she hated taking potions.  It had to be a last resort.  She expected her body to sort it’s chemistry out unaided.  We are exact opposites in this respect, Snape realised.  She would never boost herself into action with a Wit-Sharpening Potion and then wind down with a Nerve Calmer at the end of the day.  What does she do if she can’t sleep?  Perhaps she has no trouble sleeping; clear conscience no doubt.

*

A few days later Graham’s cold was gone and Snape could see that she was fighting fit, fit enough to cross swords with Rookwood.  Just before the start of dinner Snape looked up, mildly surprised, as Graham walked around the top table.  He wondered if she was coming to speak to him, but she walked past his chair and stopped at Rookwood’s shoulder.

Elizabeth, how lovely to–” Rookwood began, but she cut him short.

“Professor.  A word please.”

“What?  Now?”

“Yes, if you don’t mind, since you’ve managed to give me the slip all day.  Err, through here perhaps?”  Graham motioned him through the small door into the corridor behind the top table.  She swung the door ajar and Snape’s sharp ears noted a rustle of parchment.  “What is the meaning of this?” he heard Graham enquire in a rather acid tone.

“What?  Wha…  Those?  I bought those on Friday?” Rookwood replied.

“Yes!  I can see that!” Graham snapped.

“In Knockturn Alley” Rookwood continued.  “I was in Medici’s Magical Monsters and I brought them back with me.  Bermudan Charybda nymphs are quite difficult to get hold of.  I know they’re expensive – well, they cost more than I estimated” he smirked, “but I didn’t want to miss the opportunity.  So what’s the problem, Lizzy?”

“And the invoice?” Graham asked, ignoring his question.

“I paid it!” he said triumphantly.  “By transfer at Gringotts.  It’s all dealt with!”

“Exactly!” she snapped.

“W-hat?” he chuckled, bemused.

“Same-day clearance!” Graham explained in a tone that said she had been here before.  “You had this down as a credit purchase for this month.  Which meant the cash would have gone out next month.  But no, you took the invoice up the road and paid it by transfer at the bank!  Medici’s Magical Monsters bank at Gringotts. We bank at Gringotts.  The funds were transferred on the same day – same-day clearance, Penny!  Look (she sighed) we’ve talked this through before, I thought you understood.  If you’d brought the invoice back here and owled a transfer form in the evening it would have been better.  They wouldn’t have transferred the funds until Monday.  If you’d mentioned it to me it would have helped.  I’d have known sooner that the cash was spent and that it was above your estimate.  Please… if you’re gonna turn a credit purchase into a cash purchase, please just say so.  I’m not psychic!”

“No, just lunatic!” Rookwood growled.

“Insulting me wont help” Graham replied firmly.  “You need to improve your communication, not shut it down.”

“Excuse me, Madam” Rookwood hissed.  “You have kept me from my meal long enough!”  He barged back into the Great Hall and threw himself into his seat by the end of the top table.

Rea Sinistra had not yet arrived and Snape glanced in Rookwood’s direction across her empty chair.  “Been getting your sums wrong, Rookwood?” he sneered.

“Keep your ugly nose out!” Rookwood hissed back.  He glared at Snape and then at Graham who had resumed her seat across the Hall.  At that moment Rea Sinistra arrived, effectively putting paid to further confrontation between the Potions and Defence Against the Dark Arts Masters.

*

Saturday 21st February was a freezing cold day.  Graham arose early in pitch darkness and kindled a fire in her room.  She ran a hot bath, surrounded it with aromatherapy candles, slapped on a mud pack and lay back in the fragrant foam, as around her the bathroom filled with perfumed steam and soft golden light.

The bathroom suite and tiles were sea green, the tiles so highly glazed they almost looked like sheets of water.  Creamy white water lilies decorated them at intervals, some showing yellow tipped stamens.  As Graham relaxed in the bath, a tiny figure peeped over the edge of a water lily’s petals and looked down on her.  The figure had a sharply pretty female face, a hat like a tiny snow drop flower and a dress of minute, grey-green overlapping leaves.  She regarded Graham coolly.  “It’s twenty-five-to-seven” she said, in an irritating know-it-all voice.

“Oh, go away, Vera” Graham mumbled.  “Can’t a girl have a relaxing bath on her birthday?”

“Girl?  You’re forty today!” the sprite reminded her.

“Forty’s not so old for a witch” Graham pointed out.  “Now go away and call me at ten-to.  I’m going to have a quarter-of-an-hour’s peace.”

“But you’ll be late for – ”

“Shut up, Elvira!”  Graham threw a sponge at her and the sprite ducked back down into the lily flower.

Emerging from the bath at five to seven, Graham looked at her face in the mirror.  Well, is life how you want it, Lizzy? she wondered.  She decided that on balance it was.  The conventional joys of marriage and children had eluded her, and she had long ago decided not to try that route again.  She missed not having a man in her life but she enjoyed living at Hogwarts.  She liked the academic atmosphere.  She appreciated, too, the freedom of not having to maintain a home of her own or provide her own meals.  She had grown fond of her colleagues and felt part, in a way, of a large family.

She decided that this lifestyle would suit her now until she was too old to work.  A discrete physical relationship with a wizard would be nice, but ‘romance’ must not be allowed to dominate.  It piqued her slightly that once she had fully recovered from her grief she had never managed to achieve this delicate balance.  The few suitable wizards she had met who were looking for a long-term relationship were thinking in terms of marriage – in effect, if not literally – and they seemed to expect their prospective partner to be at least a home-maker, if not a mother as well.  That kind of all-embracing domesticity was not what Graham wanted, so it seemed she must rule out the possibility of romance, or tolerate a series of one-night stands.  The latter, she decided, was not to her taste.

Standing by the fire Graham dressed hurriedly in a track suit over her aerobics clothes, and by twenty past seven she was collecting birthday cards from the owl platform.  She arrived at the Tennis Court by half-past seven to take Zabini’s class.  When, at twenty past eight, she seated herself in the Great Hall for breakfast, two more cards turned up.  She opened them at the table and grinned a thank you to Hagrid and to Flitwick.  Gradually the Great Hall filled with the dim but harsh white light from the reflected snow.  She had finished her breakfast by nine o’clock and was getting up to leave as Snape glided silently to his place.  He looked extremely pale and only half-awake.  He sat back in his chair, closed his eyes, and, as if he had a headache, pinched the bridge of his nose between his long slim, slightly yellow fingers.  A mist began to seep about the castle and slowly the snowy world outside was obliterated.

* * *

A couple of days later the misty weather cleared to a cold crispness.  A succession of pale blue-sky days followed, interspersed with occasional falls of snow.

“You look done in, Severus old man!” Flitwick chirped kindly at breakfast on a bright Saturday at the end of February.  “Come and have a drink at lunchtime.  We’re off to the Three Broomsticks.”

Snape considered the suggestion.  It might help, he thought, to get a breath of air.  The walk to Hogsmeade might do me good and we don’t get many days of good winter weather.  “Who exactly is going for a drink, Filly?”

“Oh, just Albus, Rubeus and myself” Flitwick replied.

“Err, yes…  OK…  Thanks” Snape replied warily.  Hm, Hagrid would tag along, he mused.  Still, Albus and Filly will be bearable.  Won’t do any harm to have a drink with Filly – show we’ve really patched things up.  Thank heaven’s it’s not a Hogsmeade weekend; the village won’t be swarming with students.

It was the last day of February.  The snow was deep at the sides of the lane but the lane itself was easily passable.  The trees were very pretty with branches lined delicately with snow, and the village shops looked like a Victorian Christmas card.  The tavern was quite crowded.

“I’ll get these” Snape insisted, raising his voice slightly to be heard above the buzz of conversation.  “Headmaster, what’ll it be?”

“Mulled mead for me please.  Thank you, Severus.”

“Filly?”

“Oh, my usual cherry syrup please.  Rosmerta knows what I have.  But no ice today, I think.”

“Fine, and Rubeus?”

“Ah, I’ll ’ave mead, same as the ’Eadmaster, tar very much.  I think I better bag us a table ’fore they all go.  Err, ’ow about over there?”

Hagrid secured them the last decent table while Madam Rosmerta made up a cherry syrup with soda and an umbrella for Flitwick, and drew four flagons of mulled mead for Hagrid, and one each for Dumbledore and Snape.  Snape was half way through his mead when Rookwood opened the door and ushered Graham inside.  They didn’t see their colleagues at the table but went straight to the bar.  Graham lowered the hood of her cloak.  Rookwood wore a black Fedora and a long, flared, beige, waterproof coat that looked for all the world like a Muggle khaki army tent.  The collar was turned up with his red-brown hair tucked down inside it.  He chucked his hat onto a stool and they stood at the bar.  Snape fell silent, watching them.

Rookwood called rather loudly for drinks and presented Graham with a goblet of mulled wine.  He raised his flagon and Snape heard him say something that sounded like “Here’s to getting my sums right, Lizzy”.

Snape sneered as he watched Rookwood savouring his mead and then leaning forward eagerly to talk to Graham.  Snape could only see the back of her head and shoulders, he couldn’t see her expression but he could see every line of Rookwood’s enthusiastic countenance.  He recalled that on the previous day Graham had made her circuit to collect their next month’s spending plans.  Rookwood must have asked to buy her a drink to patch up their quarrel.  He seems to have succeeded, Snape noted bitterly.

Snape’s attention was drawn away briefly by the owner of Honeydukes who was buying a trayful of drinks.  The sweetshop proprietor knocked into Graham as he moved off from the counter and he stopped to apologise.  Graham turned to speak to him and Snape saw her smile as she said “Don’t worry.  No harm done.”  At that moment Rookwood tipped the contents of a silver hip flask into her wine.  Snape was sure he did!  It was all over in a split second, but… had his eyes deceived him?

In a swift movement Rookwood had stopper’d the flask and returned it to an inside breast pocket of his coat.  A greedy look swept over Rookwood’s face as Graham turned back to him and toyed with her goblet as she chatted.  She caressed its stem and finally slid her fingers under its bowl.  Snape watched with mounting dread as she lifted it gently, supporting it delicately in her slim fingers.  She was raising it to her lips…

“ACCIO GOBLET” Snape called.

Like a whip crack his voice had cut across the tavern and plunged it into silence.  Everyone turned to look at the tall, black clad Potions Master, who stood with his ebony wand still pointing elegantly towards Graham’s hand.  His face was a taught white mask but his black eyes glittered with a certain triumph.  His summoning charm had wrenched the goblet out of Graham’s grasp and he had caught it deftly, left-handed.  Everyone looked shocked.  Graham was cursing softly and shaking her stinging fingers.

“Poisoned!” Snape announced dramatically, setting the goblet down on the table.  “Rookwood slipped her something.  I saw him do it” he said turning to Dumbledore.  He returned his wand to his sleeve and adjusted his heavy cloak in order to sit down.  “We’ll get this analysed, and…” but at that moment the goblet was snatched manually from the table top.  Rookwood had caught Snape totally off guard, he was now in possession of the goblet which he immediately put to his lips.  Unhesitatingly, and to Snape’s horror, he drained it.

“Mmm.  Excellent” Rookwood announced, pursing his lips and smacking the empty goblet back onto the table in front of Snape.  He eyed the Potions Master fiercely, glanced at Dumbledore and then looked again at Snape as he said in a clear and penetrating voice “You want to be careful about those accusations, Severus.  Having hallucinations is one thing, but false accusations can land you in a whole heap of trouble.”

“I saw you, Rookwood” Snape snarled.  “In your breast pocket – the hip flask.  You poisoned her wine.”

“W-hat?  This?” Rookwood laughed incredulously, folding back his coat and taking out the silver flask.  “This?  A drop of brandy, old boy!  I always carry a drop with me.  Medicinal.  Want some?”  He unstopped the flask, put it to his lips and tipped his head back.  “Too late, all gone.” he beamed, holding the flask upside down to prove it was empty.  “But I don’t think I’ll be falling down dead this afternoon.  Sorry to disappoint you, old boy.”

He swaggered back to the bar.  “Lizzy!  I seem to have robbed you of your drink” he chuckled.  “Let me get you another.  And Rosmerta… can you fill this flask for me…”

Graham didn’t reply to Rookwood.  She gave him a searching look and then she looked at Snape.  The Potions Master held her gaze for a second and then lowered his eyes, as around him at his table an awkward silence descended.  Finally Snape hissed “I KNOW what I saw!  What the HELL was that all about?”

Dumbledore eyed everyone carefully.  He looked long at Snape’s ashen face and then across to Rookwood.  Graham, he noticed, was no longer beside him.  “Go back to Hogwarts, Severus” he said softly.  “I’m going to have a word with Pendleton.  Excuse me gentlemen.”

Snape strode back up the lane trying to sort out the turmoil in his head.  Rookwood had certainly spiked Graham’s drink.  Why was he so sure it was poison?  Yet Rookwood had shown no hesitation in drinking it.  Was he carrying an antidote that he was even now imbibing?  Had he taken an antidote before entering the tavern? – a risky thing to do.  Was there a second hip flask – one with an antidote?  “Damn, I should have had him searched” Snape muttered.  “The second time he drank from a different flask!”

It was starting to snow.  A witch was walking ahead of him.  He was catching her up.  A shaggy-haired blonde witch in a bottle green cloak.  She was raising her hood.  “Elizabeth” Snape yelled hoarsely and he broke into a staggering run.

She stopped and turned.  “Severus!”  She looked at him with concern as he pulled up beside her, out of breath.  “That was all very weird, wasn’t it” she remarked as they turned and walked on side by side.  “I decided to forego my drink.”

“You don’t think I’m going mad then?” Snape said in a shaky voice.

“No!...  No, but I don’t think Penny poisoned me.”  She pondered the situation.  “Perhaps he set you up.”

“But why?”

“I’ve no idea.  Maybe he did no such thing.  Maybe he just thought it fun to spike my drink.  With a spirit.  Get me drunk.  Make me make a fool of myself.”

“I accused him!” Snape sighed in horror.  “I was so sure…”

He lurched on, trying to keep pace with her.  Graham was saying something to him but her words were blurring.  His vision was blurring too.  He became aware of his own heartbeat and a roaring in his ears.  The world seemed to be filled with swirling snow.  He thought he saw Graham yelling “Severus?  Severus!” but her voice was a dim echo.  The snow swirled thicker and faster.  We must have been walking for ages, Snape reasoned, it’s getting dark…

Review

 

Chapter Ten -Promise Me

Under his fingers Snape could feel the bed sheets of the hospital wing.  The room was quiet, and filled with the gloom of a late winter’s afternoon.  Dumbledore was sitting beside his bed.  “Ah Severus, you’re back” he said.

Elizabeth got you back to the castle” he continued.  “She conjured a stretcher and floated you back.  How do you feel?”

“OK” Snape lied softly.  “A bit tired.  What of Rookwood?”

“I shouldn’t worry about him at this moment” Dumbledore advised.  “I think it will sort it self out.  Concentrate on getting better.  There is a lady here who would like to see you.  If you feel up to it.”

“Oh!  Err…”  Snape ran a hand over his face.  He was relieved to discover that he didn’t need a shave but his skin felt greasy.  He knew his hair must be a mess and he suspected his breath would smell of stale mead.  It couldn’t be helped.  “Yes, very well” he whispered.

Dumbledore withdrew and his place was taken by Graham.

She has the most wonderful eyes, Snape admitted to himself.  She’s worried; her face looks suddenly older.  Where is the student Dizzy Lizzy I once cornered in a classroom?  But then where is the idiot boy who cornered her?  Ah, I see now, her ears are not pierced; the gold drops are held in place by a charm.  “Thank you for getting me home” he whispered.

“How are you?” she asked, looking concerned.

“OK, I think” he replied.  “Just tired.  What happened?”  The last image in his mind was of the silent swirling snow.

“You collapsed.  Just keeled over.  I grabbed you, broke your fall a bit.  You don’t remember?  (Snape shook his head.)  I think you ought to take a good, long rest, Severus.  A proper rest.  You’ve not looked well for ages.  I though you looked pale that day Laura came to see me.”

“I always look pale” he said testily.

“This was different” she pointed out.

He recalled the dark haired Laura.  “How are your family?” he asked with a studied return to his cold manner.

“Fine.  All sorted” Graham lied.  “Don’t change the subject.”

Damn, she’s not to be deflected!  Snape managed a feeble smile.  “I don’t take kindly to being nagged” he warned.

“It’s a brave witch that would nag you!” Graham observed.  “No, but seriously, this is important.  You must take better care of yourself.  You drive yourself very hard.  That’s probably what comes of being a manic planner – yes, I remember what you said.  Promise me you won’t start work again until you’re fit.”

“OK.  I’ll try.  Err, what about Rookwood?”

“Leave him to me.”

Elizabeth, this is important” Snape said anxiously.  “What do…  Are we alone?  Where’s Poppy?”

Graham looked over her shoulder.  “In her office” she confirmed.

Almost unconsciously Snape had grabbed Graham’s wrist.  He sat up and peered around her, trying to be sure no one was about.  Suddenly he realised he was holding her wrist, and in a very tight grasp.  He lay back, releasing the grip.  “I beg your pardon” he said, feeling uncomfortable at having made physical contact.  “I didn’t mean to –”  A wild fantasy of dragging a naked Graham on top of him chased across his mind but he banished it because what he had to say was too important to lose sight of.  “Are you sure we’re alone?” he asked again.

“Yes” she said emphatically.  “Don’t worry.  What do you want to tell me?”

“Are you aware, Pendleton Rookwood is the cousin of the Death Eater, Augustus Rookwood – the spy in the Department of Mysteries?”

“Sort of your opposite number” Graham replied.  The ironic inaccuracy in her innocent comparison stung Snape to the quick.  “Yes” he heard her continue, as if it was so simple.  “Yes, I knew that.”

She thinks she understands.  She thinks it doesn’t matter.  “You are very cool about this” Snape growled.  “Too cool, Madam.  Be on your guard, Elizabeth.  Such men are dangerous.  I should know.”

“So do I” Graham snarled.

“Yes.  Sorry” Snape replied, quite embarrassed by what he suddenly suspected was a thoughtless remark.  “Sorry, I didn’t mean to be insensitive.  Well, that’s another thing I wanted to… Pavel Dymitriov.  His family changed their name.  They were –”

“Dolohov.  Yes, I know that too” Graham said sadly.  “I am fully aware he is Yevgenie Dolohov’s son – the son of the wizard who killed Marcellus.”

Snape nodded.  He didn’t want to say more, he presumed it was all too painful for her.  But Graham was still speaking.  “I don’t hold Pasha to blame for his father’s actions.  He is a sensitive, artistic boy and I can see no real wrong in him.  I’m trying to keep open minded about it.  By the same logic I should not hold Pendleton Rookwood to be guilty of his cousin’s crimes.  (Privately, Snape considered this to be something of a typically Dumbledorean thought process.)  However” Graham continued, “it’s not quite so easy to be open minded about Penny.  I can see you’re worried.  I will be wary of him, Severus.  I’m grateful for your concern.  Really I am.”

You are very beautiful, Elizabeth, Snape wanted to say; very beautiful and I want to have you as much as I did when I was an idiot, fumbling youth.  But I also want you to know there is not an exact parallel between myself and Augustus Rookwood – yes for years I was a spy against the Death Eaters, but before that I once was one of them!  So I know, better than you ever could, how much evil they are capable of.  This proud and ugly hero you saw pictured in the newspapers and Witch Weekly in July last year was once little better than his foes.

But Snape was far too shy, unsure of himself and eaten up by past guilt to say any of this.  Instead, with an almost menacing voice, he said “Promise me you’ll be careful.”

“I’ll do you a deal” she was saying.  “I’ll be careful of Penny.  You take better care of yourself.”  She defied his angry glare.  “Promise me” she insisted.  “Promise me, Severus.”

Snape fumed.  They could hear the sound of Pomfrey’s office door opening.  “Oh, very well” he growled.  “See you keep your part of the bargain.”

*

Snape however, did not keep to his promise.  Not wanting to miss classes he forced himself back to work on Monday.  He felt both emotionally and physically insecure, and he changed the password to his bedchamber.

Rookwood was still considering whether to take some form of legal action about Snape’s public accusation.  He did nothing however, and Dumbledore watched the situation carefully.  Once again the Headmaster had become concerned about Snape’s health, particularly about his state of mind.  He felt Snape’s accusation had been foolhardy – foolhardy in the sense that it had been made in public without the possibility of verification.  And the fact that this lack of care was so untypical of the Potions Master pointed to the delicacy of his mental state.  For Dumbledore suspected there may well be some sound reason for Snape’s accusation.  Snape had been ‘proved’ wrong on the day, but it was possible that Rookwood had tricked him – deliberately set out to humiliate him or to trap him.

However this was a gut feeling of Dumbledore’s; the Headmaster was aware he also had no proof.

If it was a trick on Rookwood’s part Dumbledore admitted that he was uncertain as to the reason.  Jealousy? he mused.  Perhaps; Severus is a famous and decorated hero.  Retaliation for an insult?  Quite possibly, given Severus’s tendency towards sarcasm.  Revenge for his prominent rôle in the defeat of the Death Eaters?  Again, quite possibly – some sort of misplaced loyalty by Pendleton to his criminal cousin.

It also worked the other way around, the Headmaster realised – Snape, a shy and lonely man, may be jealous of the comely Rookwood because of his interest in Graham and his success with witches generally.

The art of good management is knowing when not to interfere, he told himself.  Dumbledore determined to do nothing unless matters forced themselves to a head.  He could not back Snape if he had maliciously falsely accused Rookwood, but he could not throw his ailing Potions Master to the lions if he was simply ill or the victim of a plot.  At the very least Snape needed appropriate medical treatment, not abandonment.

Matters dragged on, bearable but unresolved, all through the spring.  Snape and Rookwood never spoke to each other unless it was absolutely essential.  Rookwood had begun by uttering sarcastic comments, but a warning look from Dumbledore made him back off and he opted to be content with looking perpetually jubilant.  By contrast, most of the time Snape looked resentful and anxious, and he buried himself in class work.  Dumbledore longed for the Easter break which would force him to rest.

Also, and unofficially, the Headmaster sought the guidance of psychiatric staff at St Mungo’s.  Apart from warning him that Snape may be suffering from depression, Dumbledore found their advice unhelpful.  Indeed, instead of feeling advised, he became concerned that the medical staff may forcibly admit Snape to hospital.  He was glad that he had insisted his enquiries be treated as ‘off the record’ – he resolved not to turn to them again except in dire emergency.

* * *

By mid March Zabini returned to Graham’s Wednesday classes in place of the Saturday ones, and Graham thanked Vector, Hooch and Flitwick for their help.  She realised she had some good friends among the staff, in fact she got on very well with everyone except Rookwood.  She wasn’t exactly on bad terms with him but she didn’t trust him; she felt his friendliness was superficial and insincere, and she didn’t approve of the way he treated Snape.  She knew Snape must shoulder quite a lot of blame for Rookwood’s attitude towards him because of his haughtiness and sarcasm, but she realised she had become unaccountably fond of the irksome Potions Master.  She still suspected his cold reserve was mainly due to a deep seated shyness, and paradoxically whereas she didn’t trust the affable, handsome Rookwood she did trust guarded, brooding, unlovely Snape, although she couldn’t have explained why.

Had they been asked, Dumbledore and McGonagall would have professed no surprise that Graham had a good working relationship with her colleagues.  She was hard-working, loyal, capable of innovation, and although she was assertive she was not self-seeking.  Playing office politics and angling for self-advancement did not interest her.  Conversely she would not hold back if a good idea occurred to her, nor if a colleague’s actions looked inappropriate or dishonest.  Years of fighting her corner against the subtle machinations of the cultured Ollivander brothers had been good training for a lowly, Muggle-born, Hufflepuff.

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Chapter Evelen - The Wizard You See Now

“Do have a seat Lizzy.  I have your details here somewhere.”  It was Friday 29th May and Graham was yet again doing her spending plans round-up.  Once again Rookwood had proved impossible to interrupt during the day, but she had finally caught him dozing by the fire in his stifling office just before six o’clock.  Now he was rummaging in his desk.  “Would you like some tea” he asked, “as it seems I’m going to delay you?”

“Thank you, Penny, but no” she replied, perching on the edge of a chair.  “I must get on.  It will soon be dinner time.”

“Ah, here we are” he said, pulling out a piece of parchment.  He held it out for her to take, but as she reached for it he playfully jerked it away.

“Oh, come on” she implored him, half in exasperation as he teased her repeatedly “I haven’t got time for these games.  And neither have you if you’re going to change for dinner.”

“Oh no” he replied.  “Forget dinner.  Where’s my reward for being a good boy?  I’ve got all my sums right this time.”

Graham froze for a second.  Rookwood’s voice had sounded playful but there was an edge to it.  His face wore its usual smile but there was a greediness behind the soft brown spaniel eyes; a quality that she had not seen before.  Doing without the parchment, she turned and walked briskly to the door.  She had almost reached it when his voice uttered a word she didn’t catch and there was a click.  Looking back she saw that Rookwood had stepped to one side and pointed his wand at the door.  He must have locked it with a password, she concluded.  She started to reach for her wand but he spoke again before she could draw it from her sleeve.

“Imperio” he said.  She stood rooted to the spot looking at him as he returned his wand to his sleeve.  His voice began to echo in her head, his undeniable commands that he didn’t even have to speak aloud; his thoughts…  Remove your robes, Elizabeth  Walk towards me…  Remove your robes…

Graham stood motionless, her wand-hand still buried in her opposite sleeve.  Her grey eyes observed him sharply.  A slight flicker of doubt crossed Rookwood’s excited face.

The flash of Graham’s wand from her sleeve and her shout of “Stupefy!” happened in such rapid succession they seemed simultaneous.  Unable to react fast enough to protect himself, the Defence Against the Dark Arts Master crumpled to the floor.

*

“Are you sure about this?  He can be removed immediately.  It is what I would strongly advise” Dumbledore explained to Graham.  “Although we probably won’t be able to get him to admit it, he’s committed a crime and is a danger to everyone here.”

“But in two weeks time the exams will be over” Graham pointed out.  “I can put up with him for two weeks.  Can’t we manage somehow?”

“Well, we’ll see” the Headmaster said thoughtfully.  “Anyway, I’m coming down.  And I’m bringing Harry with me.”

“I still don’t understand why” Graham persisted.  “This will be highly confidential and Harry Potter has nothing to do with it.”

“He is very experienced, Elizabeth” the Headmaster continued patiently.  “More than you could ever understand.  And, since your main concern seems to be not for yourself but for Professor Snape, I can assure you that Harry will do nothing to harm Severus, quite the opposite in fact – the converse of your suspicions about our Mr Rookwood.  Trust me.  We will be down directly, but not by Floo powder.”

“But I don’t know how to open the door” Graham pleaded.

“There is not a door in this school that can be locked against me” Dumbledore said gravely.

“OK, fine.  Just get here soon” Graham replied, and with a pop her head disappeared from the Headmaster’s office fire.

It seemed it was only seconds later that Dumbledore and Potter were standing beside her in Rookwood’s office and she was handing Rookwood’s wand to the Headmaster.  They looked carefully at the stunned wizard lying on the floor.  “I doubt he will confess, and we do not have what he would call an impartial witness to give evidence as to what he said and did” Dumbledore pointed out.  He looked from the Head Boy to Graham’s determined face.  “Very well” he said kindly.  “When you’re ready.”  He and Potter pointed their wands at Rookwood.

Graham did likewise and gazed at Rookwood’s prone form.  “Enervate!” she commanded.

Slowly Rookwood sat up.  He checked his sleeve, rubbed his aching head and looked around the room.  Then he laughed.  “Quite a party” he observed.  “The old man, the callow youth and the air-head Hufflepuff.  Now we will be late for dinner…  May I?”  Carefully he scrambled to his chair.  “I’m not saying anything” he added determinedly to the witch and wizards whose wands pointed unwaveringly at his heart.

“You don’t have to” Graham replied.  “I’m quite prepared to show my memories in a Pensieve or give evidence under Veritaserum.”

Rookwood snorted derisively.  “What, and risk all you sordid little secrets coming out?  Think about it my dear.  What if they discover how much you love that greasy slug Snape?  Yes, I know about that” he leered, seeing her blush.  “The papers’ll have a field day printing you saying how much you long to get your hands inside Snape’s breeches.  I’ve known for months you were in love with him.  Funny thing is, the poor sap doesn’t even realise it himself.”

“Is that why you set him up?” Graham asked, doing her best to ignore her burning face.  “What was in that hip flask?”

“Water!” Rookwood croaked, almost beside himself with glee.  He was shaking with laughter so much he could hardly speak.  “Just water!  As it happens I do use it for brandy, but that day I put a small drop of tap water in it!  Oh, that was the funniest thing that’s happened all this dismal year!  Poor old Filly asked if I was going for a drink; said they were all going – Snape, Hagrid and Dumbledore.  Would I like to come?  Would I like to come!  To have a drink with the slimy bastard who’s done nothing but make snide remarks to me all year!  I had a much better idea.  I knew if I played up to you at the bar he wouldn’t be able to keep his eyes off us.  He never can keep his eyes off us!  I was going to drop my wand and ask you to pick it up for me, but an even better – a more natural-looking opportunity presented it self, in the portly shape of the sweetshop manager.  Snape saw me lob a drop of water into your wine and jumped to the obvious conclusion.  Obvious to his suspicious mind.  And then I managed to snatch the ‘evidence’ from under his nose and dispose of it before his unbelieving eyes!  Ha!  Albus Dumbledore’s celebrated Mole!  The razor-sharp conqueror of Voldemort!  The look on his face when I drained that goblet, and then the flask!”

“Do you hate him that much?” Graham asked softly.  Her face was white now, and she looked as if she could happily put Rookwood under the Cruciatus curse.

“Hate him?” Rookwood raged.  “Do you know what he once was, Mr Order-of-Merlin-First-Class?  A DEATH EATER!  Yes!  Shocked you haven’t I, you empty-headed bimbo!  In his greasy adolescence that pompous fool joined the Death Eaters.  And then he turned traitor!”

Rookwood sat in angry silence for a few minutes, then he looked up at them.  “Well, WHAT NOW?” he barked.

“You pack your belongings and leave” Dumbledore said calmly.  Graham looked at him in surprise, but he held up a hand forbidding her to speak.

Again Rookwood snorted.  “I wasn’t planning to stay beyond the end of the year anyway” he informed them.  “Meant to leave last year, as a matter of fact.  Got plenty of contacts, plenty of irons in the fire.”  He looked contemptuously at Graham.  “It seems I’ll have to leave without this year’s grand finale, still, no loss; the world is full of pretty witches.”  His eyes narrowed as he searched her face.  “You have rare powers” he added, and would say no more.

Further questioning yielded nothing so Dumbledore made up his mind.  There was a sharp crack as he broke Rookwood’s wand into two pieces.  “Harry, be so good as to fetch Minerva, Severus and Rubeus” he instructed.  “Then you may go to dinner.  Let the other staff know that we may be delayed and dinner is to begin on time, without us if necessary.  We, meanwhile, will ensure Mr Rookwood leaves the premises.”

“Yes, Professor” the Head Boy said, and with an encouraging smile to Graham and the Headmaster he was gone.

When McGonagall, Snape and Hagrid arrived, Dumbledore made Rookwood sign a memorandum relinquishing all rights to take legal action against Snape.  “Put this in the safe Elizabeth, and call a carriage for Mr Rookwood, then you may go and dine” he told Graham.

Graham took the memorandum from him, retrieved Rookwood’s spending projection from his desk and quietly left his office.

Snape watched in amazement as Rookwood packed his few belongings and walked to the Main Entrance to await his carriage.  For his part Rookwood held his head high and said not a word as the carriage rumbled away to Hogsmeade Station.

“I must now contact the Ministry” Dumbledore said.  “They may not be able to arrest him on this occasion, but they can keep him under surveillance.”  He sighed.  “And there is the little matter of covering Rookwood’s exams.  The practicals will be the worst.  But I couldn’t let him remain here any longer.”

“No indeed, Headmaster” McGonagall shuddered.  “He’s lucky to have escaped Azkaban!  Severus, tomorrow morning, can you and I discuss how to cover his work?  I think Filly and Nocawe will help.”

“As you wish, Minerva” Snape replied in a low, calm voice, his puzzled countenance a picture of weariness and relief.

At dinner Dumbledore asked Snape to await him in Graham’s office after they had dined, so dutifully after dinner Snape mooched about Graham’s room as he waited for Dumbledore to appear.  He gazed at her wall charts, the horizontal strips of parchment that showed projected cash flow on one side of the room and actual results building up month by month, on the other.  In the centre of her desk was a thick sheaf of parchment that contained her detailed calculations, in a willow basket at one side a further stack of sheets comprised the latest round of spending projections, and in the top right-hand corner a roll of parchment was labelled ‘new students’.  I’m not the only manic planner, Snape decided.

“Severus?” Dumbledore called.  “Let us go up.”  Once in his office they sat by the fire and the Headmaster offered him a drink.  Snape accepted an Ogden’s and they stretched their legs to the grate where less than three hours earlier Graham’s head had been talking to Dumbledore from the flames.

“All in all, I hope this is something of a weight off your mind” Dumbledore said.  “How are you feeling?”

“Fine thank you, Headmaster” Snape replied smoothly.  “I am hoping we have seen the last of Mr Rookwood.  I think perhaps we have.”  He took a long gulp of Scotch and gazed into the fire.  “I played into his hands in the Three Broomsticks that day” he added bitterly.  “Well, he’s gone.  I wonder who we’ll get next year.”

Dumbledore could not make Snape say much about his own feelings.  He seemed determined to carry on as usual, help with the exams and look to the future.  He asked how Graham was coping, and was told she was looking forward to taking a week’s holiday with her family at the end of term.

“She more upset, I think, than she will admit” Dumbledore said.  “She shrugs it off and just says she needs a break and is arranging to stay with Gaius and Laura for a few days.”

*

Potter was mildly surprised when he opened the door of his Head Boy’s study and found Graham outside.  He expected it to be a pupil with a problem, or a Professor wanting to update him about some school rule matter, but having apologised for interrupting his revision, Graham asked if she could discuss something personal.  Potter motioned her to his visitor’s chair.  He felt slightly nervous as she clearly didn’t know where to begin to explain whatever was worrying her.

“It’s about Professor Snape” she said at last.  “Rookwood’s Death Eater remark.  Is it true?”

“I’m not sure that I’m the one to talk to you about this” Potter began, but having received Graham’s assurance that any comments of his would go no further, he felt he could divulge what he knew.  “I really don’t know much” he said honestly.  “Way back, yeah, Snape was a Death Eater.  Later he turned spy and worked to bring them down.  Worked for years under cover.  We finished the job together last year –”

“Yes, yes, I know all that” Graham cut in.  “But a Death Eater, Harry!  Death Eaters torture!  They rape and kill…  Doesn’t that mean…?  Why is he working here?”

Potter shook his head.  “I don’t know” he said calmly.  “I mean I don’t know the details.  But what I can say is, the Headmaster trusts him.  Absolutely.  He vouched for him at the Ministry’s Council of Magical Law.  Helped him to clear his name.  Then took him on as a teacher.  He’s the one you should really be speaking to – Dumbledore!  I’ve never liked Professor Snape because he’s never liked me – we’ve been enemies from Day One.  He has his reasons.  Pathetic reasons!  But that’s how he is.  But the Headmaster will never hear a word against him.  Talk to the Headmaster, Miss Graham.”

“OK, thanks Harry, I will” she replied.  “Thanks for your time.”

When she went to see Dumbledore, he was almost as cryptic in his comments as Potter had been.

“There are quite a few ex-Death Eaters who were not evil enough to end up in Azkaban” the Headmaster pointed out.  “However, I do not intend to tell you all I know of Severus Snape.  But I can assure you of this; if there had been any shred of real evidence that Severus had committed murder, or torture – and that includes rape, obviously – of his own volition, I would not have employed him.  And, if I felt the students were at some physical risk from him, I would not have employed him.  I ask you to accept my judgement, Elizabeth, when I say he is a suitable colleague for us all.  Not the easiest of people to work with, I agree, but pre-eminent in his field and fundamentally on the side of right.  There aren’t many people who lead totally blameless lives.  Some people merit a second chance.  There!  I have said enough I think.  I hope…  My advice to you is, plough on to the end of term.  It’s not long now.  Then take that holiday you planned.  Forget about all of this.  Try to put it behind you.  Where is it you are going?”

“Near Henley, Headmaster.  Henley-on-Thames.”

“Staying with Gaius and Laura?”

“Yes, at Shiplake.”

“Will you go to the Regatta?”

“Yes, probably.  There’s lots going on, anyway, there, in the summer – the Royal Regatta, the Town Regatta; then Shiplake and Wargrave have their own in early August.  There’s Henley Festival…”  Her voice trailed away.

Dumbledore recalled that she and Marcellus had lived in that area during their brief marriage, and he realised the holiday might spark a mixture of both happy and sad memories.  “Plenty to keep you busy, then” he commented gently.  “If your thoughts do turn to Severus Snape, judge the wizard you see now.”

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Chapter Twelve -Reducto Majoris

With mounting frustration Snape watched Ernie Macmillan prepare his Nerve Calming Potion.  No, no, NO, boy! he thought silently, the words almost shrieking inside his own head.  You should use a silver dagger to cut the lavender stems.  Why else would I have put them out?  And now you’re going to add the sea-horse extract far too soon.

Angrily Snape tore his eyes away.  He marched around the dungeon classroom.  Well Boot, let’s see if you can do better! he mused to himself, pausing by Terry Boot’s cauldron.  Hmm, not much, he realised.  Nearly as poisonous as Macmillan’s is going to be…  Potter?  Adequate, mistakes patched up, scraping through as usual…  Granger?  Damn near-perfect, and no Longbottom to have to keep an eye on.  We are both grateful for that, Miss Granger!...  Weasley?  Adequate, in fact better than Potter…  Malfoy – thank the gods for Malfoy!  And Miss Bulstrode.  Look at that – perfect…  Miss Parkinson – disappointing!...

Macmillan – damsel fly wings at this late stage?  Oh yes, the sea-horse extract went in too soon didn’t it.  How can you have messed this up so badly, boy!  After all that I’ve taught you!  Seven years.  Seven years of Potions lessons down the…  Just a sprinkling of lotus pollen, Macmillan.  Just a sprinkling…  And one Linnaeus seed, not a bloody scoopful…  Ye gods, Macmillan!  “DETENTION, Macmillan!”  The words were hardly out of Snape’s mouth when he realised how ridiculous they were.

All the students in the N.E.W.T. Potions Practical jumped at the sound of Snape’s voice.  Teachers never normally spoke during exams, and Snape certainly didn’t.

Whatever possessed me to say that? Snape wondered.  Detention?  How can he have a detention?  This is his NEWT!  And anyway he’ll be gone in a few weeks time.  Gone for good.  And I’ll have a new batch of dunderheads, come September.  How do I get out of this?  I’m going to look a total prat.  Oh Severus, Severus!

Snape was careful to say no more.  He noted down his marks, boomed a last command at the students to be sure to have labelled their cauldrons with their names, and when the students were packing up at the end of the exam he murmured “Forget the detention, Macmillan.  OK?” to a very puzzled Ernie Macmillan.  To his horror the boy was starting to reply.  “Just forget it!” Snape hissed menacingly.

“Yes, Professor” Macmillan muttered, and he left the Potions room as fast as he could.

Snape sat down and surveyed his dungeon classroom.  It was June 1st and the Potions N.E.W.T. marked the start of the examination period.  Fortunately there were only four externally verified examinations, O.W.L. and N.E.W.T. theory and practical papers.  One down, three to go, Snape said to himself.  He dragged himself out of his chair and collected a set of sample bottles.  Then he went from cauldron to cauldron, carefully filling and labelling the bottles.  These would be sent to the Department for Magical Education so that the verifiers could examine them.  They usually did spot checks to see if Snape’s notes tallied with the students’ work.  That, coupled with the theory answer papers, gave a good guide as to the students’ abilities.

Snape sealed the sample bottles with the Education Department’s current code word, crated them and left them for Graham and Filch to despatch in the morning.  Two weeks! he sighed sadly, rotating his shoulders to ease his aching back.  Two weeks of this, and Defence Against the Dark arts to help with as well!  He looked at the cauldrons.  Pity to waste this, he thought, some of it will be excellent – Malfoy’s and Bulstrode's.  Granger’s too.  He brought more bottles and took some of the potion for his store cupboard.  Then he doused the torches and went to try to relax before dinner.

* * *

On the morning of Monday 29th June Snape made an effort to breakfast early, as he had arranged to speak to each of his final-year students one by one in his office during the morning.  Goodbyes on the last morning were such a rush; he preferred to deal with them on the penultimate day.  He never knew quite what to say, but could usually fall back on receiving an update of their career plans.  There were few surprises, Malfoy was going to work abroad to run the Albanian end of Borgin & Burkes questionable Dark Arts supply business, Zabini and Bulstrode were respectively going to Durmstrang and Sienna as trainee teachers.  Dymitriov had won a scholarship to LCMDA – the London College of Magical Dramatic Art.  Moon had been signed as Beater for the Wimborne Wasps under-35 team, and Nott and Parkinson were going to be Mediwizards.  Nott wanted to specialise in sports injuries, and once trained, he hoped to work with the Chudley Cannons.

“It was Miss Graham who gave me the idea” Nott said.  “She trained as a sports injuries and fitness instructor when she left Hogwarts.”

“Did she?” Snape said.  He had no idea.  He wondered why Graham had not returned to her career after the death of her husband.

*

It was Professor McGonagall who called Snape to Graham’s office on the final day of term.  “Harry and Hermione are just about to leave, Severus” she said “And the Headmaster wishes you to say goodbye to them.”

Snape glared but waited, as patiently as he could, in Graham’s office.  He could hear Granger talking to McGonagall.  Finally she came in to him.

“Well, goodbye Professor” the attractive, bushy-haired witch said politely.  “Thank you for everything.  As you know, I passed my Potions NEWT.”

“With flying colours, Miss Granger” Snape said kindly, a ghost of a smile playing on his lips.  “As I would have expected.  So what is it going to be next?”

“I’ve got a trainee teacher position at Beauxbaton” the Head Girl replied.  “I hope eventually to specialise in Transfiguration or Charms.”

Snape’s smile deepened.  “As Minerva’s star pupil I’m sure you’ll be excellent” he replied.  “Oh, and Hermione, and surprising though it may seem, I mean this kindly, I hope you don’t have too many pupils like yourself.”

Granger stared at him for half a second and then laughed.  “You have a unique sense of humour, Professor” she said amiably.  “I shall miss it.”

They shook hands and parted (Snape half-wishing he had had the courage to kiss her hand, as this was a final farewell).  At the door to the corridor that lead to the spiral staircase she turned, looked back and smiled.  Snape smiled shyly back and raised his hand.  She headed for Dumbledore’s office to say her goodbyes to him.  (It was only much later, on the train home that she exclaimed “Hey, Harry.  He called me Hermione!” and Potter replied “Oh, yeah! … He called me Harry!”).

As he lowered his hand from waving Granger goodbye, Snape turned and saw Potter at the door from McGonagall’s room.  The young wizard looked taller and more like his late father than ever.  “Well Potter, I’m getting rid of you at last” Snape said with a strained and half-deprecating smile.  “I’m reliably informed you’re going to be an Auror.”

“Yes, Professor” the Head Boy confirmed.

“You’ll be a formidable one, Harry” Snape said with feeling.

“Thanks, sir” Potter said sincerely.  “We never exactly hit it off did we, but even so, thanks for all the Potions lessons.  Some of it obviously sunk in, as I got through my NEWT.”

“We worked well together, Harry, when it really mattered” Snape replied softly, alluding to their capture of Voldemort.

They shook hands, Snape stared painfully into ‘Lily’s’ eyes for the last time, and Potter headed for Dumbledore’s office and, effectively, out of Snape’s life.  Snape stood for some moments, his face a rigid mask.  He decided that, on balance, he was very glad these seven years were over.

* * *

Snape always liked the summer holidays.  He had the school to himself and he could Apparate away whenever he wished.  Most of the staff went on holiday in July and the castle’s routine was totally relaxed.

He breakfasted late and then sat alone in the sunny staff room to do the Daily Prophet crossword.  Getting badly stuck, he longed for Graham to help him out, but she was gone for the week.

Snape abandoned the crossword at half past one for a rather indolent lunch break.  Then he hoped for a game of chess, but Flitwick was nowhere to be found, so he went for a walk.  He walked through the school parkland and paused for a while at the Quidditch Pitch, remembering where he and Graham had sat talking together at Christmas.  Then he headed for the Forest and made a circuit through it of some miles.  Finally he pounded down the lane to Hogsmeade.  He couldn’t understand why he could not calm down.

A bath, he decided.  I’ll have a long soak in a hot tub before dinner.

Dinner, with only Flitwick, Hagrid and Filch for company, came and went and he felt no better.

The following day’s routine was much the same except that Snape skipped the bath and dinner, and ate in his room.

The next day he didn’t even bother to appear for breakfast.

Nor the next…

Why does nothing feel right? Snape wondered.  No brisk walk, no crossword, no browse of one of his treasured books pleased him.  He made up his mind to have an early night and to take a potion.  Looking through his store cupboard he decided against Dreamless Sleep because he had used it far too much in recent weeks, followed by a Wit-Sharpening Potion each morning to help him to bounce back.  No, I’ll just have something to calm my nerves, Snape said to himself.  Something I’ve got in store so that I don’t even have to bother with making a fresh brew…

*

It was Monday 6th July when Dumbledore and McGonagall returned to Hogwarts.  Flitwick explained that Snape had taken to having some of his meals in his room.  The following morning Snape did not appear at breakfast but no one thought too much of this because the Potions Master was known for sleeping in.

Graham arrived back in time for lunch, lightly tanned from days of being mostly out-of-doors and feeling on top form.  She was overjoyed that her battle about Hector Ollivander’s will had now been sorted out.  Under moral pressure from the rest of his family, Justinian had finally agreed to abandon his idea of challenging his late father’s will, so the settlement money which had been transferred into Graham’s Gringotts account in December was now irrevocably hers.  She wanted to share her good news with Flitwick and Snape, but there was no sign of Snape.

“I believe he’s gone for a stroll to Hogsmeade” Flitwick said.  “I can’t recall who said that to me, but I’m sure someone did.  He’ll probably grab a bite at the Three Broomsticks.”

“Oh well, I’ll see him at dinner then” Graham replied.  “Anyway, let me tell you my news…”

But Snape did not appear for dinner.  As they ate their chicken Kiev, Dumbledore and Graham each, privately, began to worry.

Graham decided to skip the pudding as she had been overeating on holiday.  “Please excuse me” she said.  “I’m going to finish my unpacking.”

Dumbledore also stood up.  “I’ll just give Severus a knock” he murmured to McGonagall.  “I’ll be back shortly.”

Swiftly he headed for the dungeons.

“Severus!” Dumbledore called.  There was no reply and the door was sealed, the password had been changed.  The Headmaster returned to his sherry trifle.  He knocked on Snape’s door again at 10:00pm and still received no reply.  At midnight however he pointed his wand at the door.  “Severus!  Open this door!  Very well…  I’m coming in.  REDUCTO MAJORIS!”

The solid oak door evaporated into smoke.  The dungeon room was in darkness and despite the warm summer night a cold vapour seemed to pour from the murky chamber.  Dumbledore lit the ceiling candles and peered carefully into the gloom before stepping inside.

His Potions Master was sitting hunched up in the far corner of the bed with a black blanket pulled tight about him like a corpse’s winding sheet.  His greasy hair fell in a tangle across his face.  He was shivering and staring wildly at nothing in particular.  Dumbledore wasn’t even sure if he knew of the Headmaster’s presence.

Around Snape the room was a bomb site.  The bed and much of the floor was littered with discarded clothing, copies of the Daily and Evening Prophet, books with bookmarks falling out of them, dirty goblets, and plates of half-eaten food.  As Dumbledore looked around, Snape fought to get his eyes into focus.  A shaking hand slid out of the blanket and levelled a thirteen-and-a-half-inch sliver of ebony at the Headmaster, as Snape’s dry lips struggled to form the word ‘stupefy’.

“Expelliarmus” Dumbledore cried, and Snape’s wand flew from his hand.  Dumbledore pocketed it and levelled his own wand once again at Snape.  “Stupefy” he said.

He conjured a stretcher and floated Snape to the hospital wing.  Pomfrey looked gravely at the prone body and smelt his breath.

“He’s been dosing himself with goodness knows what!” she said in despair.  “Could be anything!  Think I ought to pump his stomach.  I’d rather you left me to it, if you don’t mind.”

“Yes of course, Poppy” Dumbledore said gravely.  “However I do need to take advice.  I’m sorry but I’ll have to contact St Mungo’s.”

“Yes, do.  But meanwhile I’m going to do what I can.”

But the Headmaster did not speak immediately to St Mungo’s.  He sat by his hearth and began by contacting Stephano Meon in the Auror Headquarters at the Ministry, because as Snape’s contact administrator in his anti-Voldemort spying days Meon had been the lynch-pin in the Headmaster’s secret network of Aurors and Magical Law Enforcement Patrol Officers – a dependable fifth column reporting directly to Dumbledore.  The Headmaster explained his reservations about St Mungo’s.  He knew Meon would understand.  “I don’t want him taken out of my hands” he fretted.  “I have this horror of them certifying Severus and taking him away in a straight-jacket.”

“I’ve got someone I can send along” Meon replied.  “McKellar.  He’s a trained medic attached to the MLE Patrol section.  He’ll understand the delicacies of this.  What time is it now?  Let’s see, I’ve got to get him out of bed – he’s not on call tonight but he’s the best person for you.  I reckon he’ll be with you by – say – four.  Any good?”

Dumbledore accepted.  He explained the situation to Pomfrey and then to McGonagall.  Then he awaited the MLE Officer’s arrival.

It was in fact two MLE Officers who arrived, and quite soon after 3:00am.  In the manner of men who are used to being roused at odd hours to carry out complex tasks, they looked alert and professional.  They introduced themselves as Iain McKeller and James Abercrombie.  One carried two medical bags and the other a large sample box.  They examined Snape, spoke to Pomfrey and Dumbledore and then fell to conversing together in barely audible mumbles.

“Pulse is up.  Rapid and shallow.”

“Bladder’s quite full.  We’ll need to put in a catheter soon.  Err, is he normally this pale?” McKeller asked, turning to Pomfrey.

“Yes, that’s normal for him” she explained, “Although his lips aren’t usually blue like that; typically they’re fairly colourless.”

“Uh huh?  He looks like a corpse already, doesn’t he.”  He turned back to his colleague.  “Will you see to the room, James?”

“Yeah, can do, if you carry on here.”

Iain nodded.  “Well, he’s stable” he announced to Dumbledore and Pomfrey.  “And you’ve pumped his stomach which saves us a job and may well have saved his life.  We’ll need to take blood, urine and faecal samples.  It would do no harm to give him an enema anyway.  Erm, my colleague wants to take a look at his room, so can you, Madam Pomfrey, give me a hand with the enema and fixing up the catheter?”

“Yes of course” she replied and together they began to work on Snape.

“Professor Dumbledore” Abercrombie said “I’d like to examine the room you found him in.  I may want to take away items for analysis.  So I’d like you, or someone, to be with me.  It’s to protect me against claims of theft, et cetera.”

“Yes, I understand” Dumbledore replied.  “Poppy, we are going down to Severus’s room.”  He hesitated, looking suddenly tired.  “Thank you for everything, Poppy” he added.

Pomfrey cast him a dependable smile.

The two wizards made their way to the dungeon chamber and Dumbledore was relieved to find Snape’s bathroom was in a fairly presentable state.  It was clear that Snape had not allowed the house-elves access to his rooms for many days.  Abercrombie sorted out goblets and plates, and stowed them in his sample box.  “I don’t think I’ll bother with the clothing” he said.  “Nothing’s badly soiled.  It just needs normal laundering.  When he comes round, don’t let him near that razor, not for a day or so.  I take it he has a stock of potions.”

“He does indeed” Dumbledore said “In his storeroom, which is locked – sealed by his own spells.”

“Well, don’t let him near the storeroom for the time being.  Nor anyone else, just in case.”

They returned to the hospital wing where Abercrombie added urine, faecal, blood and stomach content samples to his box.  Snape was now lying peacefully asleep, his hair starkly black in contrast to his pale skin and the pure white bed linen.  His lips were less blue.

“Don’t bring him round yet” McKeller warned.  “We’ll be back before noon to help you rouse him.  He may be violent.”  He paused, thinking.  “M&E might help” he said.  “Do you have anyone trained in massage?”

“One moment” Dumbledore replied.  “Poppy?”  They put their heads together and debated for some minutes.  “My Admin Officer” Dumbledore replied finally.  “She’s actually a trained fitness instructor, but she doesn’t have any massage equipment here.”

“We can take care of that” McKeller assured him.  “We’d like to have a chat with her on our next visit.  You see (he pursed his lips and hesitated, a pained expression on his face) this is awkward for us” he continued.  “If this was one of our field operatives we’d, err, ‘secure’ him.  Till he was recovered.  As things stand, we’d advise hospitalisation.  But we understand you want this dealt with here.”

“I do” Dumbledore said, in a tone that said that point was not negotiable.

“We’ll see you later then” McKeller replied, and clutching their box and baggage, the two Ministry medics set off.

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