Actions

Work Header

Alio Forte

Chapter Text

EPILOGUE: SIC INCIPIT

 

Katherine sat in the storeroom of Shepard Books, her eyes skimming back and forth along the textbook on her knees before her.  She had abandoned the table hours ago, finding a good position for focus to be on the ground with her back against the wall.  The room she was in was plain, white and on the large desk in the middle several ancient chemistry books had been placed there earlier by her father.

This place was a second home to her. It had been her great grandfathers’ bookstore. Then her grandfathers’; a miserable man with the bushiest eyebrows she’d ever seen. And now it belonged to her own father Roger Shepard; a chubby, balding man from whom she had inherited rosy cheeks, a love of laughter and a large obsession with mystery novels.

Unlike her father however, she had her sights set on more than living in the same town she’d grown up in Gravesend, running a bookshop that didn’t make much money.  

That is why she was secretively reading a veterinary textbook that had been thrown in with the donations last month. In less than a year she would be completing her GSCE and she was determined to get into Cambridge.

 It had the best veterinary school, it was a two hour train ride from Gravesend and best of all; if she received one of the many scholarships they provided, she would be able to pay for the entire six years herself! Yes, it would take determination and a non-existent social life but… it would be worth it to be Doctor Shepard; veterinarian.  

Katherine smiled at that thought, sighing happily at the thought. In the next room she could hear the gentle sound of her father humming to himself as he did the receipts, the clack clack of his calculator a comforting sound as she continued to read on about a particularly gruesome autopsy performed on a captured lion somewhere in Africa.

Normally she would have preferred to read in the tub at home, after ending her working Saturday with a nice cup of tea and a biscuit before sinking into a warm tub and reading something good. But as it were, she had to stay long after closing to wait for her father. He didn’t like having her home for hours alone.  Ever since her mother had passed from a traffic accident when she was young, he had grown increasingly protective of her through the years, growing anxious when she was out of sight. Which made the thought of leaving him in a few years time feel all the more awful.

The store had been closed for hours but they remained open, which meant her father he had a private collector coming later to look at some very expensive books.  This always put her father in a good mood, because despite the beauty and elegance of their bookstore, their margins were quite thin. A few good sales however could really make a difference.

Ding Ding

There went the bell to the front of the shop, indicating that their customer had at long last arrived. Her father bustled into the storeroom, grasping the small bundle of books on the desk and casting a glance at his only child, dusty on the floor and reading.

“Hello darling,” her father said with a small smile. “Finish reading that fantasy book I’ve seen you obsessing over lately and I’ll be back in a flash. The gent seemed in quite a rush over the phone. He seems rather posh as well so…”

He made a small rubbing motion with his thumb and third finger, indicating this would be an expensive outing for their guest that had just arrived.

Before she could answer he had rushed out the door, leaving it open a crack.  Katherine smiled and looked down at the book she had picked.  Something with robots and mermaids that she had chosen to use as her cover for the textbook for its size.  This ridiculous book was something she would not willingly read, for Katherine had little patience for fantasy or science fiction. That had always been her mother's thing.

She turned the page and was becoming re-acquainted with a lion’s inner workings when she heard her father’s voice rise in the next room.. Immediately the skin on her forearm and back of her neck prickled. Her father’s voice never rose. He was a quiet, understated man who hated confrontation more than Katherine hated chemistry class at school.

She knew her father hated when she interrupted his business, but she couldn’t help but creep towards the door on her hands and knees. She came to the door, opened a crack and peered through. She could barely make out anything for the mountain of books that littered the shop. But she could see a tall, slender man in black facing away from her to look at her father and speak. She couldn’t make out what he was saying but her father looked uncomfortable.

The tall man was wearing all black, a black jacket over black trousers and black boots. Even his hair was black! From where she sat he looked like a walking shadow. And as she watched him she could see he was pointing to a large black book covered in a small glass display case.

It was an old book in Latin, the writing beautifully written in stunning scrolled font; no machine had made this. The pages were worn and crumpled in parts. It had been in her family for as long as she knew, and somewhere between her grandfather dying and her father taking over, the book had been covered in glass and displayed near the cash register.

However, before it had made it to that, Katherine had been at the bookstore one day in the fifth year and the display was open. While her father’s back was turned, doing some sorting, she had opened the book in a strangely compelled fervor and ripped one of the pages from near the back. She couldn't explain why she'd felt the need to do it, but she had.

Later in the safety of her bedroom, she had taken the crumpled page out from her pocket and viewed her treasure. It had a beautiful drawing of of a lion on it and some writing underneath.  It was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen. She has kept it hidden in her room, her secret shame.

But the photo had been so beautiful and she sometimes took it out just to look at before they'd moved flats and she'd lost track of it. She was convinced that this had been the starting point for wanting to work with animals. This beautifully drawn and colored lion.

Of course no one knew that. The book was mostly for show - a sort of nod to history as well as an interest artifact for those who came into the store to glance at as they paid for their items.  No one actually read it. When she asked her father what the book was about and why it was so important they keep it, he had simply shrugged and mumbled that they’d just had it forever and it was a priceless heirloom.

But it would seem that this tall man with oily black hair down to his shoulders seemed very keen on acquiring it. He was mumbling to her father and motioning towards it fervently. Katherine leaned a bit further forward, trying to pick up on what was being said.

 “I’m sorry to disappoint you sir,” her father was saying shakily. “But as I’ve said before, that one is not for sale. It’s simply just here for show.”

“I don’t understand why you would have a book displayed here that cannot be purchased,” the tall man said darkly, his voice smooth and irritated.

“It’s a family heirloom,” Roger replied with a small, nervous smile. He hadn’t noticed his daughter crouched at the door, watching the entire exchange. “I could never sell it. But these other books-“

“Are perfectly passable,” the man said, cutting Roger off. “However, I require *this* book here. I will pay whatever you ask. Come out with it. How much will you charge?”

"I really couldn't," Roger was explaining, his upper lip shining with sweat. "But these books-"

All of a sudden the man let out a small growled obscenity at Roger, causing the older man to take a step backward away from the counter. Katherine watched from her place crouched at the door, her eyes wide.

“Young man-“

“Damn the other books,” the man said quietly, his fist curling at his side. He seemed very agitated. Or at least his back did, as that was all Katherine could see.  “I need that one. It’s the entire reason for this journey.”

“But-“

“I do not wish to repeat myself,” the man said, his voice suddenly loud and dark and causing Katherine’s blood to go cold. She wanted to scream at him for daring to speak to her father like that, but she was also petrified of this man all in black.

The more she looked at him, the less human he seemed. She freely admitted she was terrified. What if he had a weapon? The only phone in the entire shop was the one at her father's elbow and he made no move to reach for it.

 “When I called you,” the man continued in a sardonic tone, “I asked you about this specific book. You said it was here.”

“I-I did at that,” Roger balked, looking rather ashamedly away from the man’s face. Suddenly Katherine realized what her father had done. The bait and switch that her grandfather Theodore Sheppard was famous for. A way of fleecing the more well-off of their clientele.

It was a common con, saying that they had a particular book, but when the individual arrived they would say it had “just” been bought by another more aggressive individual. But would they like to see some other books in the meantime that may work? It was usually only done in the most dire of instances and Katherine realized that perhaps the money troubles were worse than she already thought.

But that didn’t change the fact that her father had told this man he had the book – which wasn’t technically a lie- in the hopes that he would arrive here and be swayed by some other, more expensive tomes.

“I’ve traveled a great distance,” the tall man was saying through which sounded like gritted teeth. “I don’t enjoy having my time wasted.”

“I truly apologize,” Roger stammered, at least having the decency to look ashamed with himself. “However, these other books are quite-“

The tall man suddenly swung his long arm, sending the books her father was trying to sell flying to the ground.

“I don’t have time for your foolishness,” the man hissed, bringing something out from his jacket pocket that Katherine couldn’t quite see from her position. “The Dark Lord does not tolerate failure.”

“Sir-“

There was a sudden flash of light, like pale blue lightning coming out the end of the weapon the man was holding. He pointed it at Katherine’s father, directly into the center of his forehead.

OBLIVIATE!”

Suddenly her father fell to the ground, his body making a sickening thump as he hit the floorboards. Katherine felt the tears immediately come to her eyes as she watched the tall man whisper something into her father’s ear. What one earth was he saying to her poor father who lay on his side, his eyes wide and unblinking.

Katherine covered her mouth with her hand, slipping back into the safety of the storeroom’s corner. She was trying not to hyperventilate. She had wanted to helped her father, but she knew that she had to call the police. But she couldn’t do that if she were dead. And in order to remain alive, she had to hide from this insane man who for unknown reasons was desperate for that stupid book.  

Outside she could hear the sound of the man smashing the glass to the display case. The book was obviously being stolen. But that was the least of her concerns. She was terrified that her father was dead. He hadn't appeared to be breathing when he fell and she could feel the ice start to work its way through her veins.

What am I going to do?

As she moved the very corner of the storeroom, her knee’s and palms working hard to not make a sound on the wood below, the floorboards creaked gently, giving away her position. Fuck. She froze and held her breath, hoping that the man’s smashing had masked her misstep.

It hadn’t.

Ever so slowly she could hear the heavy boots walking from the register and over to her. With each well placed thud, she could feel her heart jumping and landing sickeningly into her belly before starting all over again. She could feel him drawing nearer, his breathing silent. She scrambled to the corner of the room, her clothing and hair dusty.

There was nothing in the room that could protect her. Unless a textbook covered in a hollowed out version of a fantasy story would help? She sat curled in the corner, pulling her knees to her chest and watched helplessly as two black boots came into view at the doorframe.

Timidly she raised her head, going up the man’s long legs before his torso and finally his pale, severe looking face. He couldn’t be more than thirty, with dark eyes that appeared black. His nose was aquiline and gave his sallow face a hardened, mature look. To be fair it was hard to see his features with the curtain of hair that hung over his shoulders. His black shirt was buttoned up to just the bottom of his jaw, giving him a regal, and very intimidating facade.

He looked positively evil.

“Ah, there you are,” the man said as he viewed her, as if he had known she’d been there the entire night.

She watched his blackened eyes survey the books around her; the hollowed out fantasy book which contained her textbook. The panting and the tears that fell freely down her reddened cheeks. His eyes swept back to her face suddenly looking deeply into her widened eyes in a bold moment of curiosity.

She felt a very sharp pain in her head as he did; something she couldn’t quite describe. But it felt like a shuffling deck inside her mind. She winced, closing her eyes and holding the side of her head a moment as the pain increased.

“Ouch!”

 She thought she saw him smirk before his hands retrieved the stick from his pocket and the pain ebbed from her head. She saw the pale, tapered fingers wrapped around it as he drew it from her heart up until it was focused between her eyes.

A stick? A thin little stick caused my father to fall? How was that possible?

She sat there, feeling impossibly confused and remarkably weak as he towered over her, his stick pointed at her forehead. This was the end. She was going to die.

“Please don’t do this,” Katherine begged, the tears running down her face.  “I won’t tell anyone about you. You can just leave. I won't say a word. I-”

“Lies,” the main interrupted calmly.

I'm going to die.

“I’m begging you,” Katherine choked, the tears slipping down her cheeks quickly in succession. She could feel her chest starting heave at the realization that this may be her last moments on earth. “Don’t kill me.”

“I’m not going to kill you,” the man replied flatly, his face impassive.  “Just as I didn’t kill your father.”

He raised what appeared to be a stick up to the forehead of Katherine. She trembled with fright, her throat constricting with fear. She must have looked rather pathetic because she thought she saw a flash of sympathy cross his features. She blindly reached for the book at her side.

Obliviate,” he said, but this time quietly.

At the last second she turned her head sharply, bringing the book up as a shield between them  and hoping the lightning wouldn’t shatter into her as it had her father. But she was too slow. The book wasn’t even covering half her face when the lightning shot from the stick.  

As she did this, the lightning caught her temple. It felt like a piece of glass were gently scratching the side of her head. As she slumped against the wall, she could feel the man’s warm breath against her cheek. Before the darkness could envelop her, she heard the low timbre of his voice:

You want a slice of chocolate cake.”

***

When she awoke, it was to the gentle tone of her father waking her. She was propped up against the wall, her books placed neatly beside her.  She felt foggy, her clothing damp with sweat. How had she gotten so sweaty just sitting here reading?

“Ah, there she is. You must have fallen asleep,” her father said with a small smile. “Get up now, darling. Let’s get a move on.”

“I had the worst dream,” Katherine croaked, her body feeling heavy and her head spinning as she got her bearings, pulling her book towards her. “It was… it was about the family book-”

She stood shakily, suddenly rushing to the cash register. Nothing looked out of place. The glass case was still intact. The book still displayed. There was a large bag on the register. When she opened it, she could see it was spilling over with thousands of pound notes.

“Yes, a fine young lady came in to buy those chemistry books,” her father boasted, looking pleased. “She paid all in cash. Insisted they were worth more than I was letting on. Can you imagine? I almost couldn't believe it when she put that bag down! She must've robbed a bank!”

Katherine could feel the fog settling more heavily on her memories. She thought there had been a man? A tall man in black?

Had it been a dream?

“C’mon darling,” her father said as he placed a loving hand on her shoulder, his eyes slightly glazed as he spoke.  “Let’s go get dessert and celebrate the sale.”

Katherine gave her father a short nod, smiling wearily in his direction as they moved towards the front of the shop, turning off the lights as they went.

“Yes,” she agreed more readily now. “A slice of chocolate cake perhaps?”

Chapter Text

TWELVE YEARS LATER

 

The rain pattered on the roof of Shepard Books, perfectly matching the tears that slipped down Katherine’s face that afternoon.  She sat in the same storeroom, only this time she was busy reading something much different at the table. A steaming tea sat untouched beside the documents in front of her.

 It was the last will and testament of her father; Roger Shepard. A man who had passed from heart disease a week before and had left to her everything, including the bookstore in which she was now sitting,breathing slowly as she considered her next moves.

Step one; Sell the bookstore, leave Gravesend and never return. Disappoint my dead father, live with guilt until I die.

Step two: Give up my dreams of owning my own veterinary practice and live here, selling books until I die.

Step 3: Turn the bookstore into a vet clinic? Lots for the folks to read when they bring in their animals for surgery?

She shook her head at all three of the options, feeling morose and vulnerable. It was so strange to be in this bookstore without her father.  She crossed her arms on the table in front of her and lay her head down.

She had no parents left alive. No other relatives she had relationships with. She felt the most alone she had in a very long time.  The realization that at twenty eight she was an orphan suddenly settled onto her shoulders like a weight, making her want to cry and sleep and scream.

She missed her father. Yes, he had been very opposed to her going to veterinary school away from home. He had hated when she graduated and then decided to do a specialization in large animal surgery. When she went abroad to do some volunteering between semesters he had been vehemently opposed. He had always seen her as his little girl that would one day take over the family business.

“You’re so much like your mother,” he finally conceded the day she was leaving for Ireland to start work at a practice there. He had come into her bedroom looking so sad and fragile that a pang of guilt had gone through her.

“Is that a bad thing?” Katherine had asked with a small smile, knowing the answer.

“Of course not my silly Kat,” he said, sitting on the end of her bed as she continued to pack.  “So bold and determined. Its why I fell in love with her. “

He paused a moment, his eyes suddenly growing a bit wet as he watched his daughter, now a young woman going off into the world.

“But don’t lose that kindness you have. That sweetness and desire to help others. Despite what society says, being kind is not a weakness.”

“I know dad,” she’d answered with a genuine smile, pressing a soft kiss to his cheek. “I inherited that from you at least. And speaking of kindness, you promised you would come and visit me once in a while I’m over there!”

And he had.  Every Christmas he came to her, bringing books and treats from home and making her feel nostalgic for only a moment.  He had been delighted coming to see where she worked, amazed at all his only child had accomplished. They had spoken the night before his heart attack. He was checking to see she was coming home for her birthday the next month – a tradition that had been lapsing as of late. She had promised she would, her last words to her father being that she loved him and that she hoped he didn’t miss her too much…

Ding Ding

Katherine’s reverie was momentarily broken as the door to the shop rung. Someone had entered. But whom?  

“I’m sorry we’re closed,” Katherine sniffled from the backroom, irritated as she had been certain that she locked the front door when she entered.  Who would be coming to a bookshop at 10pm on a Wednesday anyway? Ridiculous. She put her head back in her hands, hoping the individual would just sod off.

A dark and ominous voice suddenly sounded from the front of the shop sounding irritated and exasperated all at once.

“Where is Shepard?”

Katherine’s body stiffened, something about the dark voice sounding awfully familiar and yet completely foreign. He was English, yes. Nothing strange there. But the deep baritone, the way he said her last name with such…contempt?

Katherine stood shakily, rubbing her eyes and hoping they weren’t too red. She slipped out the door and into the front of the shop before stopping sharply.

It was a man. A pale sullen looking man with dark hair to his chin stood in the center of the shop, looking like a human shadow. His arms were crossed and he was dressed from head to toe in black. But that wasn’t what made Katherine start, it was the look of his dark gaze when she looked into his eyes that immediately made her stomach drop.

Do I know him?

Katherine stared at the man, her heart pounding as that familiar gaze bore into her own. Seeing him up close like this made her feel strange and out of sorts. Why did she know him? He was a very specific kind of person. With severe looks like that she would not easily forget him. Yet trying to recall him made her head feel foggy.

And she was also very aware that she was alone with a very foreboding stranger all in black. He looked otherworldly, strange and the way he fixed her with such a serious countenance had her immediately on edge. She never saw men like this in Gravesend…or really, all of the UK. Was it his eyes? The solid way he stood like a statue? His serious and slightly condescending countenance? She couldn’t place it.

She realized she still hadn’t spoken and he was still staring, now raising a supercilious eyebrow at her in question.

“I’m Katherine Shepard,” Katherine replied, her head spinning as she tried to calm her nerves. Her mobile was in the next room, it was late and the street deserted. There was no chance of someone stopping by.

“I’m here for the envelope,” the man replied steely.

Katherine blinked a moment in confusion before moving behind the counter. The tall man watched her movements with just his eyes, his body completely stilled.

Was he speaking in code? What envelope?

“An envelope?”

“Yes,” the man replied tersely as if she were a moron. “I was to pick it up earlier this week but was detained. I was assured by a certain Roger Shepard that it would be available for retrieval this week."

 “I’m sorry, I haven’t the faintest what you’re referencing,” Katherine replied, flustered under the austere man’s gaze. Her father hadn’t mentioned any envelope and he was very organized. Sorry, he had been very organized. Katherine wiped her eyes with the back of her hand, hoping it would appear from dust.

 “Normally he would keep anything reserved here, behind the front desk.”

She motioned to the spot at her hip. The man’s dark eyes didn’t move from her face, but it seemed to her they grew a bit more malevolent.  Katherine felt the hot warmth that spread over her features under his scrutiny, and the small knot of panic that was growing in her core.

What did he expect her to do? Snap her fingers and magically have it appear? She had no clue what the hell the man was talking about anyway. But she was exhausted from the funeral and now the will and wanted nothing more than for him to bugger off so she could wallow in misery alone.

“I..I’m sorry,” she finally offered with a faltering shrug. “I can’t help you.”

The man stepped forward then, tapping the glass of the countertop with one long pale and tapered forefinger.

“Listen to me,” the man said, his sardonic voice dripping with disdain. “I need that envelope. I need that envelope tonight and you are the only shop in the whole of the United Kingdom, perhaps the entire world, to have it. I don’t care what you need to do, but you need to find that envelope. Immediately.”

Katherine rubbed her temple roughly, trying not to be impatient. If she were to sell this shop, the last thing she needed was for it to be dogged with poor reviews or bad word of mouth. She heaved a large sigh, wishing the man would just leave.

“I can’t find you something when I don’t even know what the something is.”

“Find it,” the man hissed, leaning forward in intimidating fashion. His dark eyes narrowing on her

“Sir, I’m afraid-“

“Just like your father,” the man said haughtily. “A load of I can’ts and I’m afraid I don’t knows. Positively annoying.  Speaking of which, where is the man? He was expecting me. I’m finished wasting my time with you.”

“He’s dead,” Katherine replied flatly. Her voice a hoarse whisper. She felt the tears stinging her eyes and she was suddenly furious with this man for harassing her.  The man clenched his jaw, suddenly unsure of what to say.  She could feel her gaze slipping down to the floor and her eyes overflowing.

“Please,” Katherine said softly, the tears unable to stop. “Just leave.”

Thunder suddenly boomed outside, startling her.  She looked up the man, seeing his gaze narrowed on hers now. For a moment it felt like…something tickling her brain. She had no other idea how to describe it. Then it was sharp, digging and…a white flash of pain. Yet she felt she could not look away from this man.

 Suddenly memories of her father came rushing back. Visions of them talking, laughing. Visions of her leaving for school. Him clapping in the crowd as she graduated. The view of him in his casket. The vision of speaking to him on the phone for the last time and suddenly the pain in her temples grew too much. Katherine fell to her knees with a pained whimper as something inwardly snapped.

She was on her knees breathing heavily, her entire body shaking. When she raised her head and looked up at the man, she suddenly remembered being in the storeroom, looking up to him in fear then as he pulled out a…stick?

“Oh my God,” Katherine whispered, her body growing cold as she took in his form. “It’s you.”

The man gave her a hardened look before peering into her face as if he couldn't believe what she'd just uttered.

“What did you just say?”

Katherine went to reply when suddenly there came a loud thud from the top of the shop. Both sets of eyes darted to the ceiling of the shop in curiosity.

“What was that?” Katherine pondered aloud.  But the customer in front of her looked absolutely rattled. His face blanched further (if that were possible) and he looked at Katherine with what appeared to be a mixture of horror and determination.

“It’s too late,” the man ground out angrily, his eyes suddenly making a mad dash all over her face.  She felt as if he were weighing some very heavy options as the thuds above them continued, seeming to draw nearer.

“You need to come with me,” he said quietly, suddenly reaching for her wrist and dragging her to the a standing position.  He tried to pull her in the direction of the storeroom when she suddenly stopped, pulling back .

“Are you mad?” She almost laughed. “I’m not going anywhere with you!”

“Listen to me stupid girl,” the man hissed, his face inches from her own. “We don’t have time for arguments. If you do not follow me and obey my orders to the letter, you will be ki-”

Katherine didn’t even bother to listen to the end of his sentence already she was making a dash for the front door. 

The pale man swore under his breath and grabbed her harshly from behind before covering her mouth and dragging her into the storeroom.  Katherine took a deep breath in, preparing to scream the loudest she ever had. The man was murmuring something unintelligible under his breath as Katherine felt her throat constrict a moment.

I’m going to be killed!

He dragged her to the corner of the storeroom and Katherine tried to scream, but it did no good.  Nothing came out. For fear? She assumed so. She wanted to run from the man but she felt quite stuck in place, her body pressed tightly against his. He quickly whirled her around until she was wedged into the corner of the room. Then he pressed his body firmly against hers and made a bizarre motion with the stick in his hand, all the while muttering something under his breath.

Her vision suddenly became a bit blurred when he finished and turned, the front of his body pressing hers tightly against the wall. The action of being pressed up against him was intimate but it felt nothing like it. More an urgent panic. She could feel his breathing shallow against the top of her head. When she heard the footsteps that had previously been on the rooftop suddenly coming through the front door of her father's bookshop  Katherine wanted to scream and cry. But all she could do was stare over the tall man’s shoulder as best she could, despite his tall stature. She could see the shadow of a figure drawing closer to the storeroom door.

Her eyes suddenly darted to the stranger currently holding her captive, her looking to him in confusion. He looked down to see her imploring eyes searching his face.

Trust me,” he whispered.

She of course, didn’t trust him at all, but between him and whatever was coming through that door, she felt safer with him.

She could feel his hot breath on her cheek and she tried her best to calm herself down by breathing as evenly as she could. She could hear the figure knocking over books, smashing her desk and sending glass everywhere. She trembled against the man, confused and terrified all at once. Why was he helping her? Was he helping her? Was this all some strange, twisted game of his?

“We’re here for a Shepard,” came a raspy voice from the next room. Katherine felt the man’s grip on her shoulders grow tight. She wanted to scream and yet found she couldn’t.

“We were promised it would be here,” came another voice, equally grotesque sounding.

 They then shuffled into the room and Katherine could just catch a glimpse of them from around the tall man’s shoulder.  They were both massive and dressed all in black hoods. As if that weren’t terrifying enough, they both wore silver masks with grotesque carvings in them, and small slits for eye holes. They didn’t look human and it appeared they were staring right at her.

Fuck. We’re dead. They’ve found us.

 She went to gasp but felt the pale man’s hand cover her mouth. She looked back to his face to see him staring harshly at her.  His eyes silently insisting she remain still and against everything that told her to run, she stilled.

The masked men’s gazes suddenly went around the room before falling on her tea and documents from earlier that evening.  Katherine felt her stomach lurch as they drew over to them. All her private information up for grabs by these two cretins.

“Tea’s still warm,” one offered as they popped a clothed finger into it, stirring absently. “Could still be here.”

“Nah, we’ve searched the entire place. Mighta just left,” the other countered.  “Muggles are quite forgetful. Useless lot.”

The taller of the two began to scan the storeroom, coming inches from where Katherine and the pale man were pressed up against the wall. She could feel her eyes widening with every step they took closer. The pale man was looking down at Katherine and she looked up to him in question.

Why aren’t they saying anything? We’re right here!

“Well, look what we’ve here,” the other replied with a sadistic laugh as he grasped the last will and testament from the table.  “Looks like we know where to find this Shepard after all. 55 Grimmer Lane. Let’s go.”

55 Grimmer Lane. Her father’s home.

For the first time since his passing, Katherine was thankful he wasn’t alive  He wouldn’t have to suffer through whatever awaited those men who seemed to live and breathe hatred.

With that they lumbered from the room, their boots crunching the glass underfoot before leaving the shop. She could hear the tinkle of the bell as they left. Yet she and the pale man continued for several moments unmoving until he filled pulled back from her.

She went to open her mouth and speak and found she couldn’t. She gripped her throat suddenly terrified when the man leaned forward and whispered something near her ear that sounded vaguely like Latin. She suddenly felt her throat loosen and she swallowed thickly.

“Who were they?” she croaked. “Why didn’t they see us? Why are they going to my father’s house?”

“I can’t explain now,” the man replied looking distracted a moment before looking to her in curiosity. “How did you remember me? You shouldn’t have been able to.”

“I want my questions answered first!” Katherine insisted shaking all over in a mixture of righteous indignation and complete and utter fear. “What the blithering fuck is going on?!”

The tall man pinched the bridge of his nose a moment in exasperation.  He seemed to be deep in thought, considering his options before sighing deeply.  Katherine wanted nothing more than to shake this horrible man by the shoulders and insist he tell her what the fuck was going on!

“I’ve no choice,” he muttered to himself before taking a deep breath and grabbing Katherine around the middle. She offered a small squack of protestation as he closed his eyes and spoke aloud to her.  “Hold onto me and  then don’t move a muscle. Don’t want to risk getting splinched.”

Before she could register what was happening or what he’d said Katherine and the pale man had suddenly disappeared from the storeroom, accompanied by the sound of a car backfiring.

 

Chapter Text

 

The minute Katherine opened her eyes she immediately vomited all over the cobblestone street below her feet.

The pale man winced and sidestepped away from her, lest she soil his shoes.   But Katherine didn’t notice as she was busy emptying her stomach of her day’s gastronomic adventures.  

The only way Katherine could describe what had just happened was as if she had been thrown and then squeezed at high velocity through an extremely small and tight rubber tube. It was the most wretched feeling she had ever experienced and as she heaved in the middle of what she assumed was a public street, she had a horrible feeling that this was just the start to her nightmare. 

When she felt there was nothing left to heave, she stood shakily. They were on a cobbled street at sundown, and all Katherine could see as a smoldering ruin to her left and the remarkably unpleasant man to her right.

“Where are we? Who were those men?” Katherine asked, trying frantically to piece together what seemed like a truly bizarre last hour.  “Why did you kidnap me? What is going on!?”

“Silence,” the man growled, raising a palm in front of her, hoping to startle her into submission. “I did not kidnap you. I saved you. Without me those men would have ensured you’d never see the light of day again.”

“Why are you doing this?”

“Not now,” the man replied with a shake of his head, gripping her shoulder tightly. “Follow me.”

“Wait, no, I’m not going with you anywhere,” Katherine insisted, pulling her shoulder from his grasp. “I want answers.”

“And you’ll get them,” the man replied through gritted teeth.  “But not here. It’s unsafe.”

Katherine scowled terribly at him before wrenching out of his grasp and following in the direction of the tall, pale man. What choice did she have? She had no fucking clue where she was. Hopefully this nutter had a phone she could use… but who would she call? Everyone she loved was gone.

Katherine broke from those grim thoughts to see the man walking towards the burning ash of a building and stopped.

“Wait, we’re going there? Into that burnt building?” Katherine looked bewildered, “the one with the sign that clearly says “ DANGER, DO NOT ENTER, UNSAFE’? That is the direction you’re referencing?”

“Is that what you see?”

“Uh, yeah.”

The man sighed.

“A waste of time,” he muttered to himself, seemingly chiding himself. “Why did I bring her?”

She was about to ask the man what he was playing at when suddenly she stopped, peering off into the darkness. The man sighed, about to say something when she raised a hand to silence him. He frowned deeply but watched as her face changed from derision into confused awe.

“Wait,” she said suddenly taking a step closer. It was if she were looking through a bubble. A trick of the light or her perception but she was certain… was that a castle? No, she was imagining it.  She blinked rapidly and…yet….with every blink an image was coming more and more into view.

It was a sprawling building nestled in a valley area, buttressed by a lake on the south side. It was stunning. The peaked arches, the extensive sloping grounds. It looked like something out of a Brothers Grimm novel mixed with Sleeping Beauty’s tower.

It was magnificent.

Katherine thought she saw large birds flying about above the building, but she couldn’t place what they were. They weren’t like anything she’d seen before- they almost seemed human.

 “Is that…a castle?”

“That,” the man replied shrewdly, “is Hogwarts.”

***

They entered into the large hall and judging by the silence, it was fairly late. Katherine was still uneasy around this man, but this school…the minute she entered there was such a feeling of…warmth was it? This cozy, inviting feeling that seemed to permeate every brick she passed. As it sweetness and welcoming were what the stones under her feet were made of.

She followed the pale man quietly through the long and darkened hallways. She looked to the various portraits as they passed, amused that they all looked like they were sleeping. How funny.  Large windows shone into the next hallways they encountered on what seemed like the second floor. It illuminated them both in an unearthly blue glow.

Katherine watched the tall man in front of her walking quickly, his long legs moving rapidly down the hall. It didn’t seem like he cared if she kept up, but something told her if she slowed down at all she’d be in for a tongue lashing.

They finally reached a circular stone staircase. They made their way up, Katherine’s breath quickly leaving her as they climbed over more and more stairs until suddenly – A large stone looking gargoyle appeared out of nowhere.

“Oh my God,” Katherine gasped, leaning back in fright. She immediately felt her heel slip and her eyes widened as she realized she was going to die in this bizarre world. Just as she had resigned to her fate, a pale hand reached out and grasped her by the wrist.

“Pay attention,” the man hissed, pulling her up beside him and turning to the gargoyle. 

“Chocolate frogs,” the man muttered before the gargoyle stepped to the side, allowing them to pass.

The man continued to hold Katherine by the wrist, dragging her the remainder of the way up the staircase – was Katherine crazy or was it moving?- until they’d reached the top. Before them stood a large oaken door.  At this point, her wrist was dropped and the large doors opened.

Katherine followed the pale man into what appeared to be an office. It was a large, circularly shaped room. Books were absolutely everywhere, along with bizarre trinkets, an old hat behind the large claw footed desk and every corner seemed to have a strange little noises and puffs of smoke. The walls were covered in large portraits of old men and women who too seemed to be sleeping. What an odd decorating choice.

But what drew her attention was the old man sitting behind the desk who looked not only happy to see them, but as if they were expected.

“Sit here,” the pale man said, pointing to an overstuffed purple chair before walking over to the old man at the desk. Katherine made no move to sit. Instead she stood crossing her arms and watching as the tall man began whispering furtively into the ear of the old man.

He looked at least a hundred years old judging the hair and beard that flowed down his body and Katherine assumed could be tucked into his pants if he wanted. His nose was very long and crooked as if it had been broken several times but never set properly. His hands were folded on the desk and Katherine noticed his right was wrapped in what appeared to be a white glove.

How Michael Jackson.

And while his outside may have looked aged, the light blue eyes that stared at Katherine over half moon spectacles looked alive and mischievous. He nodded a few times at the severe man before standing up behind the desk and nodding at her graciously.

“Hello my dear,” the ancient looking man offered with a look of pity. “You must be completely exhausted and thrown. Please, please take a seat. May I offer you a cup of tea? A sherbet lemon perhaps?”

He pushed the silver bowl full of the candies on the desk towards the girl, but she shook her head softly. She wanted to scream at this man the minute she’d walked in, demanding answers. But now as she  looked to him and his soft countenance she was surprised to see herself slowly lowering her aching body into the plush purple chair before her.

“Now,” the man continued, taking a sip from his own tea. “First let us begin with introductions. My name is Albus Dumbledore and I am Headmaster of Hogwarts.”

“Hogwarts?” Katherine interrupted.

“The school in which you are sitting,” the tall man sniped at her from over Albus’ shoulder like some large, greasy parrot.

“Please Severus,” Albus offered politely, extending his arm to the chair at the corner of the desk. “Take a seat here. The girl is likely very overwhelmed.”

“Your name is Severus?” Katherine offered with a quirk of her eyebrow without actually glancing at the man. What a name! She really shouldn’t be surprised with a school called Hogwarts. Jesus.

Professor Severus Snape,” he replied with a sneer in her direction before gently placing himself in the chair between she and Albus. They sat in a triangle formation, both men looking to Katherine with great distrust.

Severus Snape? It keeps getting better! Ha!

“Well, I am Doctor Katherine Shepard,” Katherine offered after a moment, really wanting that surly professor to get the hint.  “And I would really love some answers that make sense to me.”

Albus winced a bit, knowing that what he was about to say would not be well received.

“I’m afraid the answers you’ll receive may not be to your liking Miss Shepard,” Albus finally offered with a sad smile. “In fact they may confuse you further. But I ask of you to keep an open mind.”

Katherine nodded in anticipation.

“You see, in short, Hogwarts is a school that teaches young wizards and witches the art of magic and how to wield their powers for good. We're located in Scotland.”

“So you’re magic,” Katherine stated with a sigh. "And I'm somehow in Scotland?"

Enough of this bollocks. I want to go home.

“Correct,” Albus said with a large smile.

“Alright,” Katherine said with a nod. “Prove it.”

“How would you like me to do that?” Albus asked good naturedly, unsure of the girl’s true feelings at this moment. She was hiding them very well. He glanced over to Snape who was eyeing the girl with glittering, malevolent eyes.

“Oh, I dunno – do something magical. Something that you’d teach a student,” Katherine offered lazily, knowing that this was all utter bullshit. “Do something that would prove to me you’re magic.”

Katherine had been to plenty of magic shows in her life. She could always spot when the magician started the sleight of hand. The trick that would fool most. But it didn’t fool her. So now she waited to see what this Albus Dumbledore could offer.

Without further prompting, Albus stood behind his desk and clapped his hands together. Katherine got ready to roll her eyes when all of a sudden the man disappeared. And not only did he disappear he disappeared into a fiery cloud, out of which emerged a phoenix flapping its wings and shrieking madly.

It was the most beautiful and terrifying thing she’d ever seen. This huge bird of fire and colors that was swooping around the office dramatically showing off its wings as embers were casually strew from them. Its shriek loud and echoing in the circular office.

Katherine jumped off of her chair and cowered behind it, staring at this great beautiful sight with a mixture of horror and disbelief. Snape watched her response and gave a small smirk before looking back to the show.

This isn’t real. I’m in a coma. Or I’m dead.

Katherine blinked several times. Upon her third blink, Albus was back at his desk, taking a sip of tea and popping one of his candies into his mouth. Aside from a bit of smoke on his shoulders, nothing would suggest that anything had happened.

“Will that suffice, Miss Shepard?”

“Y…yes?” Katherine offered, not quite sure.

“Do you require further proof?”

“No,” Katherine shook her head. “Not right now… that was…impressive.”

“I’m glad you approve,” said Albus with a small smile.

“So….is this some alternate dimension or something?” Katherine asked, her face screwed up in confusion. “Like, have I somehow slipped into magic land or something? It’s the only explanation aside from my own death or a coma.”

“No, no on the contrary,” Albus continued. “Muggles and wizards, we all coexist. All over the world.”

From context Katherine could gather that she, in fact, was a Muggle.

“How have I never seen wizards doing magic at Piccadilly Circus before, then?”

“We keep ourselves very hidden,” the wizard explained as if this were a completely rational conversation over tea. “That’s what the schooling is for here. We teach our students the importance of keeping their magic a secret and how to control it. Letting that information leave…could be disastrous.”

“So then why are you telling me?” Katherine offered with a shrug. “I’m not magic. I’m a muggle, as you call them. What’s stopping me from going and blabbing? Not that I would. I think I’d be thrown into a madhouse. But if you’re so desperate to keep this place a secret then why did you bring me here?”

“Well, that’s what we’re trying to figure out my dear,” Albus said glancing at Snape and then back to her. “When Severus obliviated you-“

“He what?”

“Erased your memories,” Snape snapped irritably. “Back over a decade ago. You were in the backroom I believe. You couldn’t know that I’d been there, that I’d stolen the book, so I Obliviated you.”

Memories of him raising his wand, pointing at her head and the darkness overwhelmed her and Katherine bit the inside of her cheek to keep from crying out.

“I remember.”

“Well, that’s exactly the problem,” Albus observed. “You shouldn’t remember. The purpose of the spell is to make sure that you do NOT remember.”

“Then how come I can?” Katherine asked, then looked to Snape. “And how come I couldn’t remember until tonight when you came back?”

“I wonder if there is perhaps some magical underlying work here,” Albus said in his soft, rasping tone. “Do you think that perhaps you come from a magical family? Or perhaps just you yourself possess some magical abilities?”

Katherine laughed out loud in response.

“Muggle-borns usually get a visit from someone at the school,” Albus continued. “Do you think there is any chance your parents might have kept it from you for some reason? The letter should have arrived around your eleventh birthday via the owl post."

“No, I promise you,” Katherine snorted. “If I were a wizard-“

“Witch,” the men said in unison.

“Right, a witch,” Katherine said, though she didn’t enjoy the connotations that came with that particular title. “I would have been made aware.   I would have used powers plenty of times. And I assure you, I have not been eleven for many years. No one came to my house to tell my parents I was magic and I sure as hell didn’t get a bloody owl delivering me mail.”

Albus felt a smile quirk at the corner of his mouth as he looked at the girl over his half-moon spectacles. She was positively fuming and terrified at the same time. It was amusing to see the girl wrestle with each emotion.  Severus on the other hand looked positively enraged with the girl’s cavalier attitude at times such as these.

“Sometimes an individual may not know they are of magic heritage until later,” Albus offered. “Sometimes a traumatic event may spark-“

“No,” Katherine replied flatly. “I promise you, I’ve had enough trauma in my life and none of it ended with me riding a broom over to Hoggle to learn magic.”

“Hogwarts,” the men corrected in unison. Katherine frowned as it was becoming rather annoying. She stood up suddenly, her arms at her side. She wanted to punch something. She wanted to run away. She wanted to scream at these stupid men who were talking in riddles.

Kindness, Katherine. It’s never a weakness.

Her father’s words suddenly swam into her mind unbidden. She felt her shoulders tense as a familiar tightness began to grow in her stomach.

“I’m very sorry,” Katherine finally offered, lowering herself back into the chair slowly. “I don’t mean to be rude. You seem like a very nice man. But your worker here-“

At this point she nodded her head dismissively in Snape’s direction.

“He just grabbed me round the waist and magic-ed me here.  Which you are also telling me is Scotland. He’s not given me any information that makes sense to me and I’m terrified.  Two men in masks came to find me to presumably kill me and for some reason we were invisible – I’ll assume that was magic? This is not to mention that several hours ago I was just burying my father out in Gravesend and now you’re sitting there with your big flowy beard telling me that you’re all wizards and doing magic and….I’m… I’m just at my wits end here. ”

Katherine buried her face in her hands, her body suddenly overtaken with sobs. It was the worst day of her entire fucking life. And now she was blubbering like a child in front of two strange men, one of whom was likely rolling his eyes at her.

All of a sudden she could feel a warm hand on her shoulder and she looked up to see that Albus had moved over to stand at her side.

“Katherine I cannot say that I know precisely how you feel at this moment,” Albus softly intoned at her side. “But I am going to ask something large of you. Will you trust me? Will you trust us to guide you in the right direction? To keep you safe? To help you?”

Katherine could have cried at this one bit of kindness, this gentle human contact from a figure that seemed very fatherly. And as much as she would love to appease him and hand over her trust, she wanted nothing more than to leave this waking nightmare.

“Can’t you just send me home?” Katherine sniffed. “You can Obliviate me however many times you want, just please send me home.”

“We cannot just send you home,” Snape mocked as he stood imposingly. “Not only is the Obliviate spell remarkably strong – it could render you completely devoid of any memory at all. But as you are the only remaining Shepard of Shepard’s Books, you are very likely in danger.”

“Danger?” Katherine’s heart went into her throat.

“It’s why I came to see your father tonight,” Snape offered quickly, his gaze eventually focusing on Albus. “I believed I had the incantation that would help to aid us in…our quest. But there was a page missing.  I called your father and he assured me that he could help. That he would leave an envelope with the missing page inside.”

Katherine felt her breathing catch. She hadn’t seen any envelope when she’d been to the shop. Was this one of her father’s bait and switches? Had he really been that hard up for money after all she sent him every month?

“The Dark Lord knew of this and I had to convince him I was searching for the incantation to help the Dark Side,” Snape was continuing. “Apparently the Death Eaters arrived to ensure there were no… witnesses.”

He glanced at Katherine suspiciously, not wanting to give off too much information in front of her. She couldn’t have cared less because absolutely none of what he was saying made any bloody sense. Death Eaters? Suddenly something clicked into Katherine’s mind.

“The book you stole? But you didn’t steal it- it’s still there.”

“A copy,” Snape shook his head. “I made it and put it there so that there would be no suspicion. And when they realize it, there will be hell to pay and they will come looking for you, Shepard, to pay it.”

“Why me?”

“They will come to the conclusion that you meant to deceive them, which means you are not on the side of darkness, which means you are…to be removed. And he will take great pleasure in doing so.”

The way he said removed caused Katherine to shudder slightly.

“Who is he?”

“I pray you never find out,” Albus answered for Severus, his eyes on the floor.

“Okay,” Katherine swallowed, unsure of how to proceed after this information. “So…what do we do then? Do I just live here forever or what? I mean, I have a life. I have a practice back home that’s expecting me back in a little over a month.”

“Certainly not,” Snape snorted. “We simply need to understand how it was you were able to come back from an Obliviate spell, then we can send you into hiding at 12 Grimmauld Place or some such location.”

“No, I don’t want her back in London,” Albus shook his head. “It’s too unsafe right now. Especially with those monsters out for her.  No, I want her staying here, Severus.”

“Albus,” Snape countered, looking distressed. “It’s not practical, a muggle wandering around the corridors of Hogwarts. “

“She won’t be wandering,” Albus said with a roll of his eyes. “She’ll be safely secured in the dungeons, with you.”

Dungeons?”                  

“With me?”

The two spoke at the same time, their expressions both of mingled horror.

“I want her safe,” Albus replied to Snape first, his bright eyes fixing the younger man severely. “You are one of our strongest, most wise and most powerful wizards Severus. And no one knows the dungeons as you do – not even me. You could hide her, protect her. Come what may.”

At that, he curled and stretched his gloved hand before it disappeared back into his cloak. Snape eyed the movement before giving Albus a deadened look.

“I don’t know why she can’t stay with McGonogal.”

“Severus,” Albus tutted, much like he would a young truant. “I need you to believe me when I say that this is for the best. Just as I have asked for Miss Shepard’s trust, I ask the same of you.”

There was a sickening moment of silence in which Katherine stared harshly at Snape, wishing that along with wizardly he was also a mind reader. Surely he was dreading this option even more than she was! Her hands were gripping tightly to the chair and all she could do was stare up at the miserable face of the pale man in front of her.

Don’t let him do it. Insist. Come up with another option. God, do not make me have to spend more time with this greasy git for one more horrible mome-

“Of course… Headmaster,” Snape all but growled suddenly, his dark eyes practically blazing as he glowered at Katherine, stalking towards the office door and opening it with a dramatic flourish.

“Well?” He practically snarled at her over his shoulder. “Are you coming or not?”

With that he had strode out the door and into the darkness. Katherine looked to Albus who seemed to have a small smirk on his face.  She knew that this all may be in her mind. Maybe she was in a coma? But her gut told her no. This was real.

And if this were real, these two strangers had just agreed to keep her safe. They had nothing to gain and everything to lose and that wasn’t lost on her.

“Thank you,” Katherine offered quickly standing, concerned she would get lost without Snape to  guide her to the very likely abhorrent dungeons.  “I know you didn’t have to help me yet you still did it. I just need you to know that I appreciate it.”

“Help will always be given at Hogwarts, to those who ask for it,” Albus said, a twinkle in his merry blue eyes.  

Against everything that told her otherwise, Katherine believed him.

Chapter Text

 Katherine struggled to keep up with Snape who seemed to be in an even worse mood than when they’d started this nightmare of an evening. If that were even possible. His footsteps echoed off the stone floors and as they descended Katherine could feel the air getting chillier.  She wrapped her arms around her chest, wishing she’d had the foresight to bring a jacket before being unceremoniously whipped into a magic castle.

The stones moved underfoot as they continued their descent, the only sound their shoes on the floor. Katherine was realizing with mounting wonder that the staircases themselves were actually moving! She wanted to cry out in surprise but even the back of Snape was foreboding. Away from the gentle presence of Dumbledore, he seemed frightening, even dangerous.

She knew nothing of this man other than he was tall, excessively pale, an aquiline nose framed by the darkest eyes Katherine had ever seen. And as if the dark clothes he seemed to favor weren’t enough, the dark hair that hung just below his chin gave him the appearance of a human ink blot.  

They finally were on level ground, the maze of rooms and alcoves fairly overwhelming Katherine as she stalked behind the professor.

When it felt like they had been walking for far too long they finally arrived at a large, dark wooden door. Snape pulled out his wand, muttering an incantation before the door swung open to reveal a darkened classroom.

It was like a maze in this place.

 She walked through the large classroom behind Snape, looking at the long rectangular room filled with jars of dead animals floating.  A large blackboard was on the opposite wall with elegant script that looked like a lesson plan, and what appeared to be a water basin. Snape went to the desk at the corner of the room, grabbed something that looked like parchment and shoved it into his suit pocket.  

Snape glanced behind him to see the girl staring at some of the pickled animals in jars. He kept them there for particularly complex potions. He was surprised to see that the girl didn’t seem that flustered. Most everyone who entered here for the first time seemed a bit taken aback.

“This way,” Snape grumbled, heading out back into the hallway and down to the left. The girl was silent, taking everything in as they strode down the echoing hallway. Snape could only pray a wayward Slytherin wasn’t out to cast mischief this evening.

Finally they came upon a dark walnut door. Snape muttered an incantation and the door swung open.  Inside was a small office, freezing cold despite the presence of a fireplace to one side. Katherine shivered as she entered after the tall wizard.

“You will not touch anything,” Snape warned with a tired wave of his hand in the direction of the vials and bottles.

Katherine took a small walk around the office, her eyes drawn to the jars that littered the shelves. There had to be hundreds of them, all containing something new and disgusting. As a veterinarian she’d seen plenty of disgusting things. But she didn’t have them in her office in jars, wanting to look at them all the time.

“What do you teach here at this school?”

“I am the Potions Master,” Snape replied with a hint of pride as he approached his neatly organized desk. 

Katherine gave a small noise that indicated she understood but wasn’t particularly impressed. To the side of the large wooden desk, there was a comfortable looking brown leather chair that looked ages old. This office also had a circular look to it, with the desk directly in the center. The only light came from a small window directly behind it the desk. The room also had a very unique scent to it – something mysterious and musky. She could only assume it was a mixture of all the potions he made.

“I assume you’ll want a meal,” Snape said absently filing through some papers on his desk.

“I’d rather just go to sleep if it’s all the same to you,” Katherine said, stifling a yawn. After everything she’d experienced in the last few hours, she wanted nothing more than to go to sleep and pretend it never happened.

“Very well,” Snape nodded, heading towards a large matching walnut door to the far side of the office. It swung open to allow them passage into what appeared to be a dark bedroom. Snape quickly pointed his wand to the fireplace at the far side.

Incendio.”

A large flame shot out of the end of his wand, landing in the fireplace and causing the hearth to roar to life. The room immediately began to warm, causing Katherine to relax just a fraction. She entered into the room more fully, taking in what the fire illuminated.

Much like his office, the overall feeling of this bedroom was organized clutter. A large four poster bed was to the left side of the room, black sheets hung through the posts, hiding the actual mattress from view.  On every wall were floor to ceiling bookshelves. It was immense and intimidating, even to an avid reader like Katherine. They were all titles that made absolutely no sense to her;  and stuffed into the bottom left of the nearest bookshelf was  Hogwarts; a History.

 There was a small table with a chair near the large window and it was covered in papers with heaps of scribbled writing on it. Katherine saw a small door open a crack over to the west of the room, and could just make out the shadow of a claw foot tub.

Doesn’t look like he washes his hair very much.

Katherine wanted to smirk but was then gripped with the very obvious. There was only one bed and there was two of them.

“Am I sleeping here?” Katherine said trying to keep calm; her strangled voice betraying her. Snape looked dismissively to the girl, noticing the absolute terror at the prospect crossing her features.

She looked peaked and weary and while Snape knew he should be gentler with this muggle after all she’d been through this evening, his old instincts kicked in and instead he gave her a withering look.

“Of course not,” Snape intoned darkly, his pale forefinger pointing to the door she’d not noticed before. She opened it with ease and inside to see an empty closet full of cobwebs. She turned slowly, fixing Snape with a most glowering look.

“I’m sleeping in a closet?”

Snape sighed heavily, exhausted by the girl’s incessant complaints.  As if Albus would allow him to shove this bizarre muggle into a closet for the next days, weeks, months…who knew how long. He moved past her, closing the door and stepping back. He raised his wand and spoke gently.

Capacious extremis.”

Katherine watched as the door remained still and unchanged. Unimpressed she snuck a glance at Snape to see him casting her a withering look.

“Surely even a muggle knows how to use a door.”

Katherine bit the inside of her cheek in irritation before opening the door.

“Wow,” was all she could utter before walking over the threshold.

What had previously been a small and empty cupboard was now a large and spacious room. And while it was devoid of windows, it made up for it in charm. While Snape’s bedroom was rather austere and dark, this room was full of light stonework, though bare. Her bed was sumptuous looking and covered in a pale green coverlet. The pillows were overstuffed, gleaming white and looked so soft.

There was a fireplace on the opposite side of the bed, glowing warmly and giving the place a cheery warmth that almost brought a tear to Katherine’s eyes. A small table sat with a lace tablecloth holding a silver tea set and what appeared to be a large chocolate biscuit.

“I hope the room is adequate,” Snape said without conviction, startling Katherine who didn’t realize he was standing directly behind her. She turned on her heel so she was facing him in appreciation. She had to look up slightly as he towered over her a bit, only adding to the intimidation she felt around him.

“Yes, the bed looks lovely, thank you.”

“ Fine,” he intoned. “Considering this will the only room at Hogwarts that you may venture, I am glad to see that it is to your liking.”

He let the information sink into the muggle’s skull, enjoying with dark delight the way her dark brows were knitting together and her lips were thinning in disbelief.  His eyes glittered in obscene pleasure as what he’d said connected.

“What do you mean?” Katherine asked warily. “I know Dumbledore said I was to remain in the dungeons, but surely I can go out in the evenings? I don’t have to remain in this one room until you catch these Death Eaters or that unnamed guy?”

“If you believe that, then you are gravely mistaken,” Snape said, amused malice coming through as the girl realized her fate. He was enjoying how uncomfortable she was, she realized.

 “And He Who Shall Not be Named will not be caught anytime soon, I assure you.”

“How do you know?” Katherine countered, thinking that was a rather curious thing to say.

Snape’s only hint of reply to her was a quirk of one of his black eyebrows.

“Am I really meant to be a prisoner here?” Katherine continued gently, her eyes searching the pale face of the Professor before her. He gave her an unreadable look before turning to face the door and tossing out an acerbic comment before he left.

“Aren’t we all?”

The door slammed shut behind him and Katherine heard the unmistakable sound of a deadbolt being slid into place. The sickening realization that she was in fact a prisoner in this magical school finally sinking in. She was stuck there and even if she did manage to get out of this place, they would likely use magic to bring her back.

The thought of magic had seemed so delightful earlier, amazing even. But now as she realized the dark ramifications she was seeing why it was considered so frightening.  Why it would be hidden from humans like her that would be so frightened and surely lash out. It would be catastrophic.

But that didn’t matter right now. All that mattered was that she was stuck in this room and she had no way of getting out. Katherine threw herself against the door, banging and screaming to be let out.

Of course nothing could be done.

Snape himself had set a silencing charm on the door, having tired of the girl’s screams and was settling down for a cup of tea at the table by the window. He looked into the blackened night and heaved a mighty sigh.

Albus what have you gotten me into this time?

Snape rubbed his temple harshly, trying to ignore the pounding in his skull. Wasn’t it enough having to be a double agent for the man and the order? Wasn’t it enough that he’d sacrificed so much of his own life? And now he had to play babysitter to a muggle? In his private quarters?

The man tested his patience every waking moment. As was this muggle who was undoubtedly calling him foul names from behind the dark door on the far side of the room. He took a sip of his black tea before deciding to call it a night.

He stripped quickly, pulling on a dressing gown and slipping into bed. But he found despite his exhaustion he was having a very hard time actually falling asleep.  He tried slipping onto his side, curling slightly under the warmth of the blanket. Was it Voldemort? No, even that man didn’t keep him restless like this.

When that didn’t work he accio’d a book he’d been in the middle of reading the other night. After a half hour he was still no more ready to sleep than he was an hour ago.  He had an awful feeling it had nothing to do with Voldemort and everything to do the with the muggle girl.

While Snape was many things, a truly evil man he was not. Had he done terrible things? Goodness knows he had. Did he loathe the very sight of Potter? Merlins beard, yes! But would do anything he could to protect him? Of course. Did Albus Dumbledore work his very last nerve on a daily basis? Undoubtedly. But he would follow himself to the end of the earth if that’s what was asked of him? Indeed.

Had he been too harsh on the girl?

Yes, she was stuck for the next however-knows-long and he didn’t want her laboring under any delusion. She was going to be stuck in the dungeons with him. She was going to have to be sequestered to the quarters that were safe. But could he allow her a moonlight stroll? Perhaps if he had the time. But then he remembered her unspoken words. He could envision her now, sitting in Albus’ chair and looking at him with frantic intensity.

Don’t let him do it. Insist. Come up with another option. God, do not make me have to spend more time with this greasy git for one more horrible moment.

It was then that he had broken the mental connection with her, his ire raging. Muggles were all the same and that moment have proved that she was just like the rest of them. Quick to judge, slow to reason. No, he did not feel sorry for that little snot of a girl. If anything, making her a comfortable room had been more than what was required of him.

With that, Snape pulled the blankets up to his chin and fell into a fitful sleep.

 

Chapter Text

Katherine woke the next morning with a splitting headache inside the most luxurious bed she’d ever slept in.  She was warm and cozy and she opened her eyes blearily taking in her surroundings.

It wasn’t a dream.

A fireplace at the other side of the room, a table with a teapot currently steaming and a large plate of pancakes that looked absolutely divine. Her stomach traitorously started to gurgle at the very smell of them.

Katherine raised herself slowly out of bed and padded over to the table. She felt her stomach rumbling in anticipation and it wasn’t long before her tea and pancakes were completely gone.  She wiped the remaining crumbs from her mouth before standing once more.

She felt absolutely disgusting after sleeping in her clothes and her eyes were puffy and red from all the crying she’d done. Crying for her dead father, her loss of freedom and the fact that she could have been killed. Her throat felt scratchy and terribly sore from all her screaming the previous night. She swallowed painfully, tasting the dry sleep in her mouth.

“Wish I had a least a toothbrush,” Katherine muttered to herself.

 “Is Katherine Shepard needing anything?”

“JESUS CHRIST!” Katherine screeched in surprise, kicking at the little monster that had appeared at her left elbow.  The 3-foot creature had glittering green eyes and floppy bat-like ears and it ducked masterfully away from the girl’s bare foot.

“Oh please don’t be scared!” the creature said in a groaning refrain. “Blankar is here to assist.”

“What is a Blankar?”

“I is Blankar!” the creature replied with a genuine smile. “And Blankar is a house elf.”

Elves? I thought they were supposed to be tall, beautiful things that shot arrows or something. Not stubby little creatures with big sad eyes.

“Blankar is here to serve Katherine Shepard as my Master commands.”

Katherine started at that comment. Master?

“Who is your Master?”

“Master Snape,” Blankar said with a delighted clap of his hands as if serving the enormous git was the greatest pleasure known to mankind.  She could only imagine what being a slave to a man like Severus Snape would be like. Torture most certainly!

“You poor thing,” Katherine snorted before looking to the creature before her.  She regarded it thoughtfully, looking at its torn pants and bare feet.

“Would you like some tea?” she offered gently, motioning to her empty chair. “I’m afraid I’ve eaten all my breakfast otherwise I’d offer you some of that as well.”

The little elf looked surprised at what she said, even offended but eventually it shook his large head gently and made a bowing motion.

“Blankar is here to serve.”

Katherine felt strange about that, asking this little creature for things without being able to properly repay him. But he seemed quite keen to help her and if Katherine was honest she needed all the help she could get at this moment.  A sudden flash of an idea crossed her mind immediately.

“So if I ask something of you, you’ll do it?”

 Blankar nodded happily.

“Alright,” Katherine nodded, beginning to pull on her socks and shoes. “I need you to let me out of this room.”

Blankar looked quite stricken at that and Katherine felt a bit bad for even asking it of the strange little elf straight away. He twisted his stubby hands together, wringing them in hesitation of what he had to say next.

“Master Snape has warned Blankar that Katherine Shepard would say this,” Blankar said with a frown. “Blankar cannot do that.”

“I promise I won’t go far!” Katherine pleaded, “And if I hear anyone coming I’ll come right back I swear!”

Blankar shook his head sadly, hating to disappoint anyone his Master found worthy of him serving. Katherine sighed deeply, knowing that in truth this was likely what she’d been expecting. She sighed, throwing a shoe at the door and tossing herself onto the bed.

She heard the small elf shuffling over to the bed, his head poking up at her by the side.

“Is Katherine Shepard needing anything?”

“No,” Katherine replied petulantly crossing her arms over her chest as she lay on the bed.

“Sweets?”

“No.”

“More firewood?”

“No.”

“Soap?”

Katherine felt her ‘no’ die on her lips as she finally inclined her head so that she faced the little creature who was looking to her with earnest desire to please.

“Actually…yes.”

 ***

Snape hurriedly scrawled some potion directions onto the chalkboard, his eyes burning with fatigue. He had sleepy woefully the night before and his shoulders were tight. The students would be arriving to Hogwarts this afternoon and he didn’t want anything left to do tomorrow morning before suffering under the dunderheads placed in his first class. 

Needless to say when Albus Dumbledore came strolling into the classroom he was more irritable than normal.

“Severus, do you have a moment?”

Snape slowly turned, his beetle black eyes finally resting on Albus’ cheery face.

“What can I help you with Albus?”

The ‘s’ in the name was drawn out menacingly as Albus took a seat next to Snape’s desk.

“I’ve come to check up on you and Miss Shepard,”

“It’s only been six hours Albus, do you really think I’ve made any progress with the girl and her strange inability to be obliviated?”

“Not really,” Albus replied cheerfully. “More I wondered how you were both doing emotionally. It seems to be that you were both quite drained last night. I wondered if a night’s sleep would help but, it appears that you look even more peaked than usual.”

“Thus is the life of a double agent,” Snape replied curtly. “Really Albus, I must get back to-“

“What happened Severus?” Albus pressed. “Not with the girl. It seems to be something much more.”

Snape sighed softly, knowing that Albus always could tell when something was simmering under the surface, no matter how hard he tried to conceal it. He sat himself gently into the seat behind his desk with a deep frown.

“I was forced to make the unbreakable vow with Mrs. Malfoy,” Snape gave a heavy sigh. 

“I see,” Albus nodded.

Do you?” Snape bit off each word. “Do you truly see that I am now bound to assist Draco Malfoy in your own death should he fail?”

“Of course,” Albus nodded readily. “And I truly hope he does fail.”

Snape’s eyes flickered with uncertainty a moment before he shook his head with a grimace. How like Albus to respond in such a manner. Such an eager, forthright, former Head Boy type of response.  He realized with disdain that Potter was like him in so many ways.

“Really Albus, must you discuss your own demise with such Gryffindor do-good spirit?”

Albus chuckled merrily, his eyes twinkling in that familiar mischievous way. Snape looked to him and wondered for a moment what a world without Albus Dumbledore would look like and quickly shook the thought from his mind. Sentiment was not his forte for he so he rarely indulged in it.

“While I do not welcome death, neither am I afraid of it,” Albus replied. “But onto the more pressing subject at hand; Miss Shepard.”

“Yes,” Snape agreed, more than happy to move on from the maudlin prospect of having to kill one of the few people he truly cared for. “I will of course to try Legilimens on the girl and get my answers that way.”

“Will that work on a Muggle?”

“Unsure,” Snape replied with a casual shrug. “The girl is Muggle yet she was able to see Hogwarts and remember me after being obliviated. I have a feeling her mind will give us the answer to how she is able to do all of this with her non-magic background.”

“And if we cannot find the reason via Legilimens?”

“I will find another way.”

Albus peered over his spectacles at Snape, his mouth puckered thoughtfully.

“And when all is said and done, Severus, how will we send the girl back into the Muggle world with a mind full of magic?”

“I will concoct a potion that will thoroughly erase her memories but slowly and without damage to her mind. It is a very complex potion that will take several months to produce,” Snape replied with a grimace. “Something that I believe Miss Shepard and myself will not endure happily. “That being said, I have already begun order the necessary supplies should we not come up with any useful leads in the matter.”

“I believe Legilimens works best when the subject trusts the one conducting the spell does it not, Severus?”

“Of course,” Snape replied tersely. “But as you saw with Potter, even if the subject loathes the other, the information will still come. It will just take longer. The benefit is that she cannot read my thoughts of course.”

“Still,” Albus continued as if Snape weren’t fixing him with a menacing glare. “I think trying a bit of gentler approach than you’re used to might be beneficial Severus.”

“Meaning?”

“Kindness is a trait people never fail to undervalue, I'm afraid." Albus mused, looking to the tall wizard in front of him. “And it’s a trait that you seem to lack when it comes to others. I merely suggest that you open yourself to the idea that not everyone is an enemy. That you catch more flies with honey than vinegar, as the muggles say”

“Oh enough,” Snape groaned, rolling his eyes dramatically and standing. “And we both know flies respond to neither honey nor sugar but to decaying organic filth.”

“Kindness Severus,” Albus continued as if he hadn’t heard the man. “I suggest you try it with Miss Shepard. You may be surprised at what may unfold.”

Snape cast a withering look at the old man before turning back to the blackboard and continuing with his lesson plan. He could hear the man still sitting behind him, watching him no doubt with that same simpering smile he reserved for when he was feeling most cryptic.

 “Is that all, Albus?”

“No,” Albus said slowly raising himself from the chair. “I’ve also come to offer you the Defense Against the Dark Arts position.”

Snape slowly turned as Albus spoke, his face contorted into surprise. Albus registered this and gave a small nod at the man’s response. Snape cleared his throat absently, finding his voice was hard to locate at the moment before offering a hoarse:

“I accept.”

“Good, you deserve it,” Albus continued. “You are a formidable wizard, Severus. And those students will be lucky to have you teaching them, especially now in such dark times. Not only that, but it will surely win you favor with the Dark Lord to be in such an advantageous position with the children of Hogwarts.”

Snape nodded curtly, almost not believing it. The position was finally his.

“Slughorn will be taking over Potions starting tomorrow,” Albus continued, enjoying the subtle surprised look on the young man’s face. “But of course your office remains your own. Horace expressed a desire to have his office elsewhere. I hope you enjoy the position and of course as always let me know if I can be of any help.”

Snape nodded, for the first time in a long time unable to formulate the correct words. Albus gave a small smile before leaving the room. He had just reached the door when he turned with that same mischievous glint in his eye and almost spoiled the delightful news. 

“Remember what I said about kindness Severus. Good day.”

***

“My goodness,” Katherine said in awe, coming to a sitting position and watching as the elf snapped his fingers and placed a bar of lemon scented soap next to her on the bed. She looked at it in awe for a moment. She didn’t think she’d ever tire of seeing all this magic.

“Can you do that with anything I ask for?”

“Almost anything Katherine Shepard desires,” Blankar boasted, sure to include the caveat should the girl try any more tricks.

Ten minutes later Katherine had a fresh pair of clothes, pyjamas, slippers, all necessary toiletries, and a large book of crossword puzzles. She’d also requested a laptop and a mobile but Blankar had simply given her a confused look and explained that if he didn’t know what it was, he couldn’t get it for her. She had been given the same response when she asked for several muggle books. Apparently they didn’t get a lot of Stephen King novels at Hogwarts.

“Perhaps a magic book then,” Katherine mused, her mind flitting to the books on Snape’s shelves.  “How about Hogwarts; A History?”

Blankar gave a happy nod and snap and suddenly the burgundy book was sitting on her lap. It was heavy and intimidating but Katherine was determined to learn more about this strange world she was inhabiting at present.

“Katherine Shepard has been served well by Blankar?”

“Yes,” Katherine said with a warm smile, slowly lowering herself to the floor so that she was eye-level with the creature. “You’ve done so wonderfully and I’m so glad to have met you.”

Blankar’s cheeks reddened slightly and he looked to the floor in embarrassment.

“Will you come and visit me again?” Katherine asked hopefully.

All joy slipped from the house elf’s face as he looked to Katherine. Before he spoke she knew what his response would be.

“Blankar can only do what his Master commands,” Blankar said with a sorrowful smile before he snapped his fingers and was gone. Katherine looked at the now empty space that had just held her newest acquaintance and felt fresh tears threaten to fall.

***

Snape returned to his room in a bizarre mood,  shutting the door behind him and falling into his armchair at the fireplace. He raised a hand over his face, rubbing gently and unsure of how to feel.  It was everything he’d ever wanted; the be the Professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts. But it wasn’t lost on him, the curse that followed. Cursed since the days of Tom Riddle and his bitter hatred.

But it wouldn’t really matter would it? There were two options here; either they would defeat Voldemort and was a free man and the position itself no longer cursed. Or, they didn’t defeat Voldemort and he would be dead either way.

He pushed that part from his mind and focused on the good; He had the position. Finally. A position that truly suited the subtle dignity that was his very essence and he wanted to celebrate properly.

“Blankar?”

With a small whooshing sound, Blankar was at his side with an expectant smile.

“Yes Master Snape?”

“Good evening. I require the best bottle of elf wine available to me if you please.”

Blankar gave a snap and reappeared with a large bottle of blood red wine and tall wine glass. Snape looked on eagerly as the house elf poured him a healthy glass, all the while smiling up at Severus.  Snape watched the ruby liquid fall into the glass and felt his mouth water slightly at the sight. It had been a long while since he’d had anything to celebrate.

Blankar finished pouring the wine and pushed the glass towards Severus before glancing over his shoulder at the door to Katherine’s room. Snape’s eyes followed Blankar’s gaze and he gave a small sigh. The muggle girl. Count on a muggle to spoil his good mood immediately just by existing.

While Snape didn’t share the Dark Lord’s view on them (that they were trash to be removed), he couldn’t say he didn’t view them from a distance as slightly untrustworthy, rather sycophantic and selfish.  His father had been a muggle, and a horrendous human being at that. More comfortable at the bottom of a drink or slapping Snape and his mother about on one of his drunken rampages.

This was the main reason Snape stayed away from any drink aside from the occasional glass of wine. He would never turn into Tobias Snape; it was bad enough he’d been given Tobias as a middle name.  But this was also the reason he could barely tolerate Muggles. They were a selfish, obsequious lot who cared more for domination than knowledge. He couldn’t relate to them as a child and he most certainly couldn’t as a wizard nearing his fortieth year.

“Was today productive?” Snape asked, raising the glass to his full lips.

“Miss Katherine Shepard was wanting to explore the castle,” Blankar managed to get out casually as his Master raised the wine glass to his lips. Snape almost choked as the liquid hit his throat at the same time the house elf spoke.

“Pardon me?”

“Blankar told her it was impossible,” Blankar amended immediately. “But she asked Blankar to ask Master Snape when he returned.”

Snape groaned irritably at that, knowing that Blankar was simply doing what he’d asked of him this morning; be hospitable to the girl but not to indulge any ideas she had of escape.  And he’d done an admirable job if she’d actually spoken to the creature. But for goodness’ sake, did he have to be so bloody agreeable with the girl?

“You were correct Blankar,” Snape replied cooly, “she may not adventure past her quarters. She should be informed of such.”

Blankar nodded, almost looking guiltily over at the bedroom and at the prospect of having to give Katherine the bad news. Snape rolled his eyes at the elf’s sentiment and he stood, not wanting to put the creature through another one of Miss Shepard’s apparently influential conversations. 

“I will deliver the news myself, you may return to your quarters.”

He moved past the house-elf, who disappeared into thin air, and strode to the door of Katherine Shepard. He lowered the silencing charms and gave a short rap on the door with the back of his hand.

“Miss Shepard?”

He waited an impatient moment, hearing nothing but the softest sniffle imaginable.

“Miss Shepard?”

When there was no response to that, he simply barged in. The door clanking against the stone wall aggressively made a thunderous crunch. He was gratified to see Katherine jump at the sound from her seat near the fireplace and blanch visibly. She was dressed in some ridiculous muggle clothes and couldn’t have looked more out of place in these chambers.

“How dare you barge in here?” Katherine demanded shakily. “Am I to have no privacy at all?”

Snape gave a mighty quirk of one darkened eyebrow, noticing that the girl was using the chair as a shield against him, standing behind it and gripping the back of it until her knuckles were white. He stalked towards her slowly, like a dangerous jungle cat observing its prey.

“Privacy is given to those who have the common decency to respond to their name being called,” Snape crossed his arms over his chest and shot her a severe look as he looked her up and down. Wearing her ridiculous muggle clothes and beside her; he narrowed his gaze in surprise at the tome on the table. Was that Hogwarts; a History?

“I was screaming and crying for hours this morning,” Katherine spat back, distracting Snape from his observation. “And where were you? Not responding! Sending me an elf to taunt me into thinking I could have some modicum of freedom!”

“The elf was sent to assist you,” Snape’s eyes were glittering dangerously, “to see that you were tended to and your every needs met. And I am here simply to inform you that you will not be leaving this room until we know why you were able to circumvent the Obliviate spell and-”

“Then figure it out!” Katherine interrupted, knowing she was being rude and explosive but being too anxious to care. “Use your magic and fix me! Fast!”

“You haven’t a clue what you’re asking for,” Snape sneered, looking at the girl as if she were a slug under his boot. "Typical muggle logic."

“So then help me to understand,” Katherine demanded through clenched teeth.

Snape turned his back on her then, deciding that he had tired of speaking to the ridiculous girl this evening. She had no idea what she as asking of him; she was bound by her muggle logic. She was obviously in a state after having been stuck in her room all day. But her comfort was not of interest to him, only his promise to Dumbledore to keep her alive.

 He wanted a moment to himself, to enjoy the D.A.D.A. position. To enjoy a blasted glass of wine. To find some small solace in his miserable life. After the girl had calmed down a bit he’d try his hand at the legilimens. He had made it to the door when her furious voice lashed out at him from behind.

“Stop being an indecisive coward and actually do something!”

She immediately regretted what she’d said the second he stopped walking towards the door. He was a tall, black shadow against the far wall and Katherine felt her breath coming in rapid gasps when he stilled, his pale right hand clenching and un-clenching before he suddenly turned on her like a wild animal.

You stupid girl!” Snape roared, his face contorting into something almost inhuman as he moved forward and knocked the chair out of the way and into the roaring hearth.  Katherine yelped and moved back until she felt the cold stone wall behind her. He advanced, his mouth set into a grim line of fury.

She wondered for a horrible moment if he would strike her. She had never been hit before and she could feel her stomach bottoming out at the prospect. As he drew so close she thought she would scream, but it died in her throat as he slapped his pale hands on either side of her against the wall, boxing her in over her shoulders.  He was trying to intimidate her, and that angered Katherine further.

“Do not call me stupid,” Katherine retorted finally finding her voice, her own dark eyes burning into his.

He tilted his head and leaned forward then, his eyes never leaving hers. To an outside observer the stances of them would appear almost intimate. But the vitriolic tension that hung between them was palpable and Katherine winced as he leaned down and his face loomed closer into view.

“I would enjoy nothing more than to send you back to London this very minute,” Snape hissed so closely to her face she could feel the heat from his body, the huffs of his breath on the bridge of her nose.  As his dark black eyes slowly engulfed her she felt as if she were drowning in his fury.

She had never felt true hatred until this moment, but the longer she stared into the dual tunnels of black the more hatred she felt from him. It was coming off of him in waves. And in turn, she felt her own ire for him growing. She felt her hands at her sides starting to crumple into furious fists.

“I would enjoy nothing more than to be rid of you immediately,” Snape bit off each syllable as if tasting them,” it is Albus Dumbledore that has insisted on keeping you here for your own well being. It is he who cares if you survive the coming months.  I care nothing for your safety and if it were up to me, Miss Shepard, you would spend the upcoming weeks in the dungeon in chains.”

With that Snape whirled out of the room, slamming the door soundly behind him.

Chapter Text

 

Three days.

It had been three days since that awful man had locked her up in here. Three days of Blankar coming to give her food and supplies and then sodding off. Three days of doing crossword puzzles, reading Hogwarts; A history exactly one a half times..  Three days since she’d last seen that awful Snape. Three days since his awful whispered hatred in her ear and three days of laying on her bed contemplating how she was going to survive this experience

She’d not realized how much she missed the outdoors. Being an indoor person by nature and consumed with work, she was often in surgery, in her office or in her bed. Very rarely did she indulge in leisure pursuits and the persistent sitting around and doing nothing was starting to drive her mad. This didn’t take into account the extreme rage she felt at having to be sequestered away in a magical school run by the insane in the dungeons with some strange pallid man with a penchant for gothic outfits.

She sat up on the bed now as a small creak sounded at her right. The door to her room was opening and it took her a full minute to actually come to a standing position beside her large bed.

Oh God what does he want now?

She was pleasantly surprised to see Dumbledore come shuffling into the room, the glove on his hand gone and a smile on his wizened face.

“Hello Professor,” she said respectfully folding her hands in front of her.

“Hello Miss Shepard,” Albus replied, motioning for her to come and take a seat with him before the fire. Thankfully Blankar had rescued Katherine’s burning chair the night of the ‘fight’ and replaced it instantly. They settled before the fire, Katherine offering Dumbledore a cup of tea. He declined gently, shuffling his robes a bit until he was comfortable and facing her.

“Severus is away for the day,” Albus explained with a small tilt of his hands. “And so I thought it would be a good time for us to have a check in. Not that I mind in the least, I find this case to be somewhat fascinating.”

Katherine scowled deeply in a way that reminded Albus of a young Severus.

“I don’t really appreciate being seen as a ‘case’,” came her acerbic reply as she slumped back in her chair, crossing her arms over her chest. 

“I apologize if that seemed careless,” Albus explained, “It’s merely that in all my time alive I Have never come upon a Muggle who has been able to overcome an Obliviate spell. There is something quite unique about this situation.”

“Feels more annoying that unique,” Katherine offered.  “And I haven’t seen Snape in several days so I’m not really sure what to report as no progress has been made that I’ve been privy to.”

She felt the man’s calm gaze on her face then and she offered a wan smile. She was thankful for the company, even if it was a mad wizard.

“How are you feeling these days my dear?” Albus said so kindly all of a sudden that it nearly made Katherine tear up. After days of silence and hostility, having a man like Dumbledore actually speaking to her was a welcome reprieve, even if all he did was talk in annoying riddles. “With the passing of your father and this news I assume you must be quite overwhelmed.”

“If I’m honest I’d just really like to go home,” Katherine said with an desperate tinge to her tone and her throat tightening at the thought of her father. She hoped he would see her extreme duress and somehow convince him to let her go.  “I promise if you let me go I’ll never speak to anyone about your magical world. I swear it. Make a spell that means I can’t talk about it. Do anything, just please let me go home.”

Albus looked pityingly to the young woman, her eyes filling with angry tears that she brushed away with the back of her hand in frustration.  Albus leaned forward in the chair, creaking under his shifting weight.

“Miss Shepard I am concerned that you are under the impression that we are keeping you here as a prisoner. That we wish you harm in some way.”

“I don’t know what to think,” Katherine admitted, feeling traitorous as he looked to her with wide innocent looking blue eyes. “You’ve stuck me down here in the dungeons with that man. I’m not permitted outside this room. I’ve no one to talk to besides an elf that brings me toothpaste and meals. It sounds an awful lot like being kept prisoner.”

Albus nodded, seeing how she could have come to that conclusion.  Internally he was frustrated with Severus for not having made any effort to bring the girl ease in the situation and for apparently failing to even begin the Occlumency he’d previously boasted would be so simple.

“I see,” he nodded, leaning back in his chair now and looking thoughtful, “perhaps I may be able to shed some light on the events surrounding, Miss Shepard. The main point of having you stay here at Hogwarts is for your own protection. The men who came to your father’s bookshop, they are called Death Eaters…”

For the next hour, Katherine sat with wide eyes as he told her of the entire story. The rise of Voldemort, Harry Potter, his parent’s death, Snape’s double agency, the tentative balance that had here at a school that could be overrun at any moment. 

Katherine digested this in silence a few moments, her eyes going back and forth as if reaching some invisible parchment.

“Okay, so Voldemort is like some wizard Hitler that wants to create some sort of pure-blood wizard race?”

“I suppose you could phrase it that way, yes.”

“And this Harry Potter is supposed to save your magic world? But didn’t you say he was a teenager?”

“He is indeed,” Albus nodded gravely.

“Doesn’t it kind of scare you to have your entire life in the hands of a teenager?”

Albus gave a small grin in the girl’s direction as she tried to comprehend the information he’d given her. 

“Our fate rests not only in the hands of Harry Potter, but in the wizards who wish to see Voldermort extinguished. Our army is large.”

 “But these people called Death Eaters work for Voldemort in his army?” Katherine inquired, feeling ridiculous with all these silly sounding names, “so if I go home they could come find me there? And I presume kill me?”

“Yes. This is my great fear Miss Shepard. And with no way of protecting yourself I fear you would be in grave danger.”

“And Snape is one of these Death Eaters but he works for you?”

Dumbledore nodded sagely, folding his hands on his lap and waiting for the girl to come to grips with the fact that Snape was in fact a more complex man than she may have previously considered.  She sighed heavily, rubbing her face and then speaking somberly.

“But they’ve already searched my father’s home,” Katherine appealed, “surely they’ve seen that there’s nothing to find and will move on to the next… Whatever it is they do.”

“Voldemort is not one to give up,” Albus said with a sad incline of his head. “He will search for that missing page from the book as long as he has breath in his body. He believes that the book in its entirety will allow for the spell  to finally end Harry’s life. Every moment you are alive is a minute you are a link to that book.”

“And Snape was coming to get it when he Obliviated my dad and I,” Katherine said slowly as she recalled that night. Images of the dark wizard flashed through her mind, leaving her puzzled as she met Albus’ gaze. "Why did Snape become a Death Eater anyway? And what made him change his mind?”

Albus gazed at the girl thoughtfully for a moment before answering.

“I’m afraid Miss Shepard that this is all the information I can give you at this moment. It is up to Severus to share his story.”

Fat chance.

Sir couldn’t I stay with you in your quarters?” Katherine asked, knowing the inquiry was bold. “I don’t mean to be a bother but genuinely I think that it would make more sense. Snape would be rid of me and I would, well, feel a bit better.”

Albus seemed to grow solemn then, shaking his head slightly as he fidgeted a moment with his right hand before speaking.

“I wish that were possible, Miss Shepard. But there may come a time when I may be called elsewhere. Trust me when I say that with Snape is the safest place to be at this time.”

Katherine nodded, obviously displeased with the response but knowing there was no argument that would change the man’s mind.  

“Can I ask you something else?” Katherine said inclining her head a bit, “and I hope you won’t take offence.”

“Go on,” Albus said with an upturned palm.

“Well, I’ve known this Snape for a few days and if I’m completely honest, he doesn’t seem the hero type.”

“I don’t think anyone, Snape included, would consider him a hero,” Albus said with a twitching smile, “in fact his allegiance is often called into question by Voldemort himself."

“And it doesn’t go unnoticed that not only is he a Death Eater, but he genuinely seems to despise me.”

Albus felt his lips twitch in a ghost of a smile before resuming his same benevolent smile and gaze.

“I’m afraid Severus is rather like that with everyone,” Albus explained. “Don’t take offence at it.”

“But how do you know he’s not really a double agent for Voldemort? That he’s not planning a way to take out you all?” And why do you have me here in the dungeons with that man?” Katherine asked with her dark eyes on the floor and refusing to use Snape’s name. She knew she was being dogmatic but she was desperate to leave this room. “I don’t understand. This place is huge and magical and you have me stuck here with an ex Death Eater. Why?”

Albus gave a mighty sigh, for he was growing weary of all the talking and the pain in his arm was intense today.

“I trust Severus with my life, Miss Shepard. He is not only one of our most talented wizards, he is also the one wizard here who can help you with the Obliviate issue. While Hogwarts is a very wonderful place, I am not ignorant enough to assume that as we draw nearer to war that there isn’t the chance of spies. Outside of yourself, Severus and I, I do not wish for your presence to be known.”

“I understand,” Katherine nodded finally accepting that this is where she would be staying until Snape felt like being less of a prat. She wanted to ask Albus so many more questions, but she could see the man was weary and she gave him a wan smile.

“Thank you Professor, for all your information and for your attempt at bringing me some sort of peace of mind,” she said gently. “I hope if there’s anything this Muggle can do to assist you, you’ll let me know. Although I don’t know how, unless perhaps Voldemort can be defeated by using a mobile.”

Albus gave a mighty laugh then, his head almost thrown back as he did. The sound was quite infectious and Katherine found herself laughing along with him. The tension of the last few days was dissipating but she soon sobered as she knew that as soon as he left through that door she would be left alone here once more. Albus finished laughing, brushing a stray tear from the corner of his eyes and looking back over to Katherine.

”Perhaps I can offer a small act of contrition?” Dumbledore offered, “as a way to amend for your poor treatment thus far and give you, hopefully, a bit of a reprieve?”

Katherine looked over to the wizard in curiosity.

“What did you have in mind?”

***

Katherine breathed deeply, her lungs filling with beautiful, fresh, clean air. Encased in an invisibility spell and free to walk about the grounds this evening with the very sweet Dumbledore at her side, she felt more alive than she had in weeks.

It had been nightfall when they’d left the rooms, she at his arm trying not to breathe too loudly should that give her away. She had been enchanted at seeing the various sights Hogwarts had to offer. She had only seen a small glimpse of its beauty and novelties when being taken down to the dungeons days before.

She had to rush now once more, but it was worth it. She was now standing at the crest of the hill to Hogwarts breathing in the most delicious air and seeing the most beautiful stars dotting the sky above. She couldn’t help but observe that she couldn’t remember the last time she’d actually taken a moment to enjoy nature; to really soak in the natural wonder of the world around her.

Her desire for more had always driven her; from education to work and even relationships. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d found a man who had actually kept her attention more than a week. More often than not they would turn out to be less driven, content with not pushing themselves. She had a very hard time doing so, for the challenge of life’s pursuits were what continued to inspire her.

She had to admit though standing alongside this wizard in this magical world that she may in fact have been missing the magic of everyday life. The simple pleasures that she constantly delayed for fear they would derail her from her own academic pursuits.

“I suddenly wish I were a witch,” Katherine sighed gently, despite herself. “I would have loved to do magic and I think I really would have excelled at Care of Magical Creatures.”

Dumbledore glanced over to the empty space that housed Katherine. He couldn’t draw too much attention to himself for fear he would be seen talking to an empty space –never a good thing, even in the wizarding world.

“And how do you know of Care of Magical Creatures, Miss Shepard?”

“I read about it in Hogwarts; A History.”

Albus felt a smile spread across his face as he considered the muggle to his right. He had little true experience with their ilk but he was finding Miss Shepard to be a wonderful steward for her tribe. An eager learner with a keen mind and a sweet heart.

“That is the forbidden forest,” Albus said with a small nod at the large treed border at the edge of the property. “It may interest you to know that along with unicorns it also houses centaurs, Thestrals, Acromantulas and more.”

“Do you think I’d ever be able to see them?” Katherine said, her eyes full of longing. Imagine seeing things of storybooks!

“I don’t think this would be wise, considering there are also believed to be trolls and werewolves.”

“Oh.”

“As with most things in life Miss Shepard, there is always darkness to balance out the light.”

“And what’s-” Katherine was about to ask about the hut at the entrance to the forest. It was glowing brightly from within - someone was making a fire inside - when all of a sudden a figure came into view, a tall figure that looked completely knackered coming out of the forest and towards Albus.  

“Oh hello Severus,” Albus called out with a jovial nod of his head which Snape returned in the most terse and minimalist of fashions as he walked up the sloping hill.  Katherine fell silent, watching the lean figure draw nearer to them. He looked very tired tonight, his face contorted into an uncomfortable grimace and she almost thought he may be limping. But it was hard to tell in the moonlight what exactly may be the issue.

“How are things coming along?” Albus inquired,  “any news from the Dark Lord?”

Katherine felt her eyes darting from Albus over to Severus. He had been with the Death Eaters? No wonder he looked tired. She wondered what exactly it was they did when they got together. Sit around and talk about world domination?

“Albus,” Snape said as he approached, ignoring the man’s inquiry. “I must talk to you about the Muggle. I demand she be taken out of my quarters.”

“Severus-“

“No Albus,” Snape said, cutting him off with a palm in the air in the rudest of fashions. Katherine gaped at him, shocked that he would talk to Dumbledore that way. “She has proven herself to be a more annoying nuisance. Am I to have no peace? Beyond teaching and my other duties it is simply inhumane to expect me to play nursemaid to a Muggle as well.”

Katherine went to object when Albus spoke, obviously not wanting the invisible girl to speak.

“From what I gathered when I spoke to Miss Shepard, you haven’t really been interacting that much in the first place,” Albus replied evenly, fixing the man with a look of a parent chiding a wayward child. Snape’s lips immediately thinned in displeasure.

“What lies has she been telling you?” Snape’s arms were at his sides, his hands curling and unfurling; a habit he’d had since a child when he was displeased and plotting.

“That you have made no progress in the girl’s Obliviate episode and that you’ve made no attempt to be civil.”

Snape bit the inside of his cheek angrily. What had the silly woman been saying to Albus? Snape glowered with his nose in the air,  trying to look as condescendingly to the man as possible.  “Am I to have no peace in my own quarters?”

“I think Severus that peace is something that eludes us all at present,” Albus said with a small glance at his hand and back to Snape. The man seemed put off by this, unable to really give the man a withering comeback.

“Nonetheless I need her gone,” Snape insisted with a dismissive sniff. “I cannot focus with her meddlesome presence about.”

Oh that’s enough.

“Oh come off it,” Katherine said, wishing desperately that Snape could see the anger in her face. She was pleased to see him start a moment, his black eyes widening in shock as he looked to the empty space that she stood.

“You’ve done nothing but lock me in a room for the past three days. How can I be meddling and annoying if you never see or hear me?”

Snape’s lips curled into an ugly sneer before his oily eyes moved over to the very calm and collected Headmaster.

“What is the meaning of this, Albus? Taking her out for a midnight stroll? Is that really wise?”     

“I thought since the girl had been cooped up the last few days that she may enjoy a chance to get out and stretch her legs,” Albus replied placidly as he stared the young man before him down. “Considering how abysmally she’s been treated thus far I stand behind my decision.”

Katherine wished Snape could see the supercilious grin she was shooting him right now.

Serves him right.

If the maligning is quite finished,” Snape finally said with a narrowing of his onyx eyes, “I have duties that await me.”

With that he began to stalk off towards the dungeons in a most dramatic fashion, his robes billowing out behind him as he rushed away from them.

“Why do you put up with him?” Katherine asked quietly watching his form grow smaller and smaller until he’d entered the castle.

“I’ve known Severus a very long time, Miss Shepard. And despite what outward appearances may betray he is also one of the bravest men I’ve ever met. He will do whatever needs to be done to protect those he cares for.”

Katherine glanced over to the old wizard and felt herself surprised to see the man’s eyes were glassy. He swallowed thickly before blinking a moment and clearing his throat.

“We should be heading back. Me to my office and you to the dungeons.”

Katherine sighed gently before following Albus up the large hill towards the school. Something told her that the past few days had been a cakewalk and that what awaited her now would be much worse.

Chapter Text

Snape lowered himself into the chair at the table in his quarters, his eyes closing gently in exhaustion. Tonight had been so remarkably exhausting - not just the muggle girl and her annoying presence. No, she was the least of his worries at present. His mind went back to earlier this evening, rubbing the temple of his head severely.

Voldemort, sauntering around Malfoy Manor with a large smile on his reptilian face anncouncing that they were drawing nearer and nearer to the end of their struggles.  That Lucius should be proud of his son for making such strides in his position of Death Eater, despite Lucius conspicuous absence from the table. All knew that he was in Azkaban for being a known Death Eater consort, but no one dared to bring it up. Not in front of the Dark Lord, at least.

They had gathered around the table as Voldemort made his way to the head of it, his ruby eyes taking in his surrounding legion before raising a wand and summoning a figure from the shadows.  A man tied to a large chair came sailing out from the darkness; he had long stopped trying to struggle against his captors.  The man was old, with wide silvery eyes and pale skin. He was silent, his body limp with fatigue and fear as he gazed dejectedly at the faces around him.

“Does anyone recognize this man?” Voldemort asked with a singing lilt to his slithering voice.

“Its Ollivander!” Bellatrix crowed, slapping the table in excitement. Voldemort let a small grin slip over his pale features before nodding to the crowd of Death Eaters that looked to him expectantly.

“Yes,” Voldemort hissed with a grin. “I’ve had him here since July. He’s proven to be quite useful.”

“My Lord may I ask why have you chosen to bring this man into our fold?” Narcissa asked gently, her reverence for the man noted in the way she would not meet his eyes directly.  “Surely we have enough wand makers already on our side.”

“To have a man like Ollivander on our side is exactly the extra power we need,” Voldemort explained with a small nod in the woman’s direction.  “His wand making skills are unparalleled, “his gleaming eyes sought out the eyes of his comrades.

At this he raised his want to Ollivander’s forehead, laughing with a choking sound at the old man’s obvious distress.

“Do you recall giving me my first wand, Ollivander?” Voldemort inquired with a mocking tilt of his head and not waiting for the man to answer. “And did you ever forsee this happening with it?”

Ollivander’s tired eyes met Voldemort’s and he winced as he viewed the evil man’s hand flicking in a most dangerous fashion in front of his eyes.

“CRUCIO!” Voldemort bellowed, causing the entire table to start slightly, their eyes trained on the wand-maker they had all met in their youth. They watched as his body contorted, his face taking on the look of an aged skeleton covered in a small layer of flesh.

He screamed for what felt like hours and they all sat through it, silent and watching. Severus had felt the extreme helplessness, knowing that he could not do anything to help the man at present. Instead he gritted his teeth, clasping his hands tightly under the table.

When the evening’s festivities had concluded and Ollivander thrown into the dungeons of Malfoy Manor, they were told to leave and keep a close watch for his next signal. However, as usual, he kept Snape behind. When the crowd of Death Eaters were gone, he stood and looked down severely at his loyal servant.

“Severus, my most trusted ally,” Voldemort said, his hand slipping along the back of the man’s large chair as he circled the pale wizard. “I wish to impart on you the true meaning for bringing Ollivander into our fold, and only you.”

“Yes my Lord?”

Severus’ features remained placid; his dark eyes the only moving motion on his face. Voldemort often confided in him the most valued and rare of information so this was no different. However, he had to appear not too keen. If he seemed to excited, too eager, he would immediately be held in suspicion.

“I have brought Ollivander here not only as a wand maker, but as something of an information giver. You see, he has been responsible for the giving of all our wands since the early years. You yourself received yours from him, did you not?”

“I did, my Lord.”

“He has proven to be quite knowledgeable in all things wand-related and yet he still resists. Despite the torture and the threats, he will not tell me why Potter’s wand was able to destroy Lucuius when I used it last on the boy.”

“Is it possible he truly doesn’t know, my Lord?” Snape inquired, having no other option to offer.

“I had thought of that,” Voldemort nodded, his eyes searching the man’s face before him, “but nonetheless there may come a time when I will call on you to search his mind should other questions present themselves.”

Snape looked to the evil wizard’s face, unable to understand why he would put off the search. It was common knowledge that Snape was the most skilled Occlumens and Legillimens, even beyond that of Voldemort though he rarely made that observation.

“Why not search his mind now, My Lord?”

Voldemort had turned then, a sickening smirk on his disgusting face before he spoke in a choked rasp.

“Because I still want to play with him a bit.”

Now in the confines of his quarters at Hogwarts, Snape breathed heavily and got himself a glass of water. He drank in quickly, rubbing his arm and glancing out his windows into the night, wondering how Ollivander was doing at this very moment.  Suddenly there was a knock at his doors, breaking him from his dark thoughts.

The Muggle.

“Come in,” he said removing the wards until the woman had stepped inside. She was still invisible from what he could tell and he quickly pointed his want where he believed she stood and whispered ‘Revellio’.

The young woman stood before him then, looking to him darkly as he sat at the table. He wanted to slap the smug look right off her face. It was obvious that after Dumbledore had seemingly put him in his place that the girl expected some sort of improved treatment. How foolish of her.

All fatigue that had been dragging him down was removed as he felt himself growing incensed, causing his blood to pump more furiously through his veins as he gave her a level look. She stood with a haughty gaze on her features from across the room.

“Sit down,” Snape said pointing to the empty chair across from him at the table. Katherine swallowed thickly before slowly moving into the ornate walnut chair, her eyes fastened to the form of the professor.

Snape’s gaze was fixed upon her pale face as she slowly made her way to a seated position across from him. All previous strength she felt with Albus before was diminished without the old wizard at her side. She felt that familiar fear creeping back into her body, especially at the knowledge that he was a sort of Death Eater. Not that she was going to mention that of course.  

Snape observed that the girl looked absolutely terrified and while he wouldn’t never admit it aloud he delighted in it. He was overjoyed that the stupid girl was afraid of him and deservedly so! If she knew the things he’d said and done she’d never shoot him a smug look ever again.

“Look me in the eyes,” Snape demanded, watching as the girl’s face contorted into a concerned grimace. He was surprised when she made a move to leave the table, stopped only when Snape’s eyes met hers and insistently kept her seated.

“What are you doing?” Katherine demanded, having been about to stand up and run from the man when he’d turned his oily gaze on her.

“I will be performing Legilimency,” Snape said boredly looking at the gir. “The act of mind reading, to use your muggle vernacular.”

Katherine ignored the man’s disdain for anything Muggle and instead found herself rather interested. Imagine being able to read thoughts! She could scarcely believe that such a thing was possible, even within this strange magical world.

“Is it hard to do?” she asked with true interest, surprising even herself.  Snape glanced at her, slightly taken aback at seeing that the girl was actually intrigued. Because of this he decided to answer her.

“Unlike a book it cannot simply be opened at will and examined at leisure,” Snape replied tersely looking at the girl’s face, “your mind, just like any other, is a complex and ever changing thing. Only those experienced, like myself, can enter and interpret what I find correctly.”

“Do the students here learn this at Hogwarts? Can all wizards read minds?”

Snape saw the girl’s cheeks growing rosy, her eyes alight with some inner fire. He could see she was excited, fascinated even with what he was telling her. He felt himself internally sighing, knowing that this entire conversation was a waste of time.

“Enough,” Snape snapped, his palms flat on the table between them, “I have no interest in giving you a muggle-d down version of magic and its properties. Especially since the entire point of this exercise is to see how we may wipe your mind of all magic knowledge.”

Katherine’s once eager face quickly slipped into its usual hardened gaze she reserved for the man in front of her.  Her entire countenance changed going from alight and eager to solemn and flat as she leaned back against the creaking chair.

“Fine.”

“Now, look me in the eye and simply sit there. Nothing else is required of you. The sooner this is over, the sooner we can manage a way for you to return to your previous life.”

Katherine nodded, knowing that sitting with this man could bring about some good in the end. Even if she quite despised him, getting this stupid mind reading over with could mean that she could one day return home. Sooner rather than later, she hoped.

The room was so cold as she sat there across from him, wishing for a change that she were in fact sequestered back in her crummy little room. But even as she shivered sitting there, noticing how bare the man’s room was, she couldn’t help but try to allow himself entrance into her mind, just as he had back in the shop.  

She allowed herself to relax a moment in the chair before whipping her dark eyes to meet his. His pale face made his glittering onyx eyes stand out sharply in contrast. This close she could see the thick black eyelashes that frames those eyes, feeling herself being pulled into his inscrutable gaze.

 She was surprised to note how truly dark they were; she couldn’t even see a pupil; only inky darkness. The more she looked into his eyes the more she felt as if she were gazing into twin tunnels that pulled her more and more into the darkness.

All at once Katherine felt her head being invaded; that was the only way she could describe it. Images of her life began to flip through her mind as if her mind were in fact a book, despite what Snape had previously insisted.  Suddenly as if he had found what he wanted, her images began to slowly focus in one specific moment.

 In the shop, that day she’d first seen Snape.  She could see the image of herself watching them from the door. The sound of glass being smashed and the book being removed. The image of her father falling to the ground as Snape Obliviated him.

The memory of her father’s blank eyes suddenly came into focus and as if unbidden his pale face, dead in his coffin shot into the forefront of her memory. She was surrounded by people who had known her father, all giving her sympathetic gazes. The extreme pain she’d felt as they lowered him into the ground.

No more.

Katherine’s hands gripped the edge of the table they were seated at. As Snape went further into the dark  recesses of her mind it was as if a piece of glass were being dragged across her temples, scratching her. It stung and caused her eyes to water. She felt as Snape dug further and suddenly the pain was too much, causing a sharp pain slice through her forehead.  At this Katherine winced, closing her eyes and turning from the man across from her.

 “Stop. Please. No more.”

Snape sat across from her, watching as she held up a hand in surrender. He was shocked at how quickly and unceremoniously he’d be thrown from the girl’s mind. How had this happened? Not even Potter had managed to do that, even at his angriest. He also knew Legilimens was more effective when eyes met, but the girl had her eyes shut tightly.

 “Look at me,” Snape demanded.  

“No,” Katherine insisted, her eyes still closed and about to rush from the table when she felt the professor’s long fingers wrap around her wrist. He pulled her back to face him at the table, causing her eyes to fly open in shock. Snape took full advantage and dipped back into the girl’s mind, despite her resistance.

Images quickly flew through her mind in a panic; her father dead, the Death Eaters searching the bookshop. A flicker of fear crossed the girl’s features and she quickly closed her eyes once more throwing Severus from her mind.

“Curious,” Snape observed his hands still around the young woman’s wrist as he held her, his dark eyes scanning her face. He could see the sobs bubbling up in her chest and he released her, watching as she slumped back into her chair, the tears falling openly into her lap.  He averted his gaze, always rather uncomfortable with the sight of individuals crying.

"What's curious?" she asked through her sobs. She was greeted with Snape's silence.

“What were you hoping to find?” Katherine continued quietly, her hands curling into angry fists in her lap. She saw how tightly they gripped until she loosened them, stifling her sobs out of embarrassment for showing this vulnerability in front of this Snape man.  

“An answer to my question,” Snape replied, having no interest in explaining why exactly he had been searching. The less the girl knew the better; it may only aid her in refusal of her memories and he couldn’t chance it.

“How delightfully cryptic,” was her retort.

Snape’s anger flared again as she sat sulkily across from him. How insolent she was to say such a thing! Didn’t she realize the amount of pressure he was feeling from all sides? Didn’t she see that he was trying his best to understand why the moronic Muggle was able to defy his Legilimens so she could be sent home? Did she not manage to see that it was all done for her protection? No of course not. Just like every other Muggle she expected everything and offered nothing.

“Get out of my sight,” Snape pointed to the door at the far end of the room, watching her stand abruptly, shoving back from the table so fast she upset the chair.  

“With pleasure.”

With that she whirled from his sight, her dark hair bouncing against her back as she stomped off to her room. She opened it, casting a dark look over at Snape before slamming it soundly behind her.

 

Chapter Text

 

Snape sat with Albus the next morning at breakfast, prodding his eggs tiredly. He had barely been able to sleep last night. He’d forgotten to cast a silencing charm on the door and had been disturbed to hear the Shepard woman crying loudly in her room. It had gone on for a long while and despite Snape’s initial reaction to simply cast a silencing charm, he also couldn’t remember the last time he himself had cried.

  In some strange fashion it almost felt like release to hear her cries of fear and anguish as if she were doing it for the both of them. So he’d lain there listening until her sobs died off in early morning and only then had he been able to shut his weary eyes.

“Something on your mind, Severus?”

Severus broke from his thoughts at Dumbledore’s voice, realizing he’d simply been sitting and staring at his meal. His dark eyes scanned the great hall and saw that several students were looking to him with interest. It wasn’t every day that Professor Snape sat at the head table looking lost in thought. Normally he was casting acidic looks at everyone who was unlucky enough to meet his narrowed gaze.

He caught the flash of Potter’s green eyes staring intently at him from the corner of his view and gave the boy a stark and withering look before turning his attention to Albus.

 “Perhaps we might speak later, Headmaster,” he murmured silkily, “I have matters I would like to discuss surrounding my year’s curriculum.”

“Of course,” Albus replied with a merry nod of his head before turning his attention over to McGonagall and starting to chat with her about Quidditch matches that were coming up. At this, Snape went back to his meal, sipping his black tea silently before forcing himself to take a bite of egg. He needed to keep his strength up. Who knew when the Dark Lord would call on him again to torment poor Ollivander or whomever else he could get his horrible grip on.

His thoughts drew to last night’s events and the muggle girl’s ability to throw him from her mind with such ease. Like a book being slammed shut, she simply ended it. But how could she do such a thing? If the girl could throw him from her mind, it still didn’t explain how she was able to withstand the Obliviate

He took another sip of his tea, draining it before placing it back on the table. His teacup clattered nosily as he placed it back down on its saucer, drawing the gaze of the annoying Sybil Trelawney. He was so lost in thoughts of what his next step with Shepard should be that he didn’t notice as Sybil glanced over into his teacup, suddenly gasping so loudly that all the teachers and students within three feet suddenly glanced over in fear of the sound. 

“Oh Severus,” Trelawney moaned gently in surprise, not noticing Snape’s most malicious glare, “what a future I see here in your leaves!”

Sybil Trelawny, Divination teacher and all around ninny (if you asked Snape) was highly experienced in the matter of tessomancy, whether or not she was gifted in it was another matter entirely. Snape did not reply to the woman whom he viewed as nothing more than a glorified dunderhead in teaching robes. But that didn’t stop the incessant woman from continuing in a most dramatic and annoying fashion.

“Why here I see the symbol of an angel,” Trelawny said, clutching the teacup to her bosom almost reverently as she gazed within its contents, “and a triangle. All very good signs indeed in both life and love.”

Snape continued to ignore her resolutely, but the rest of the teachers seemed quite enthralled with what the surly professor’s future held, especially such happy news for such a dour man. Trelawny’s joyful look turned somber however as she glanced further into the tea’s contents.

“Yet there will be trouble in your life Severus, for here I view a snake-“

At this Snape gave small growl in the back of his throat before standing and pushing his chair away from the table. He glided through the great hall like a great black snake, moving quickly away from the head table.  Of all the moronic moments of his teaching career this had to be a new low. Getting trapped listening to Sybil say the most outlandish things because he had a cup of bloody tea. She watched him as he stalked off down the rows of students, her head shaking  in disappointment.

He could feel once again Potter’s green eyes upon him and with a frustrated sigh he turned on the boy, slamming his hands down on the table across from him and causing several first years to yelp and run from the great hall.

“What are you staring at, Potter?”

The boy gave him an even look back and said nothing, his countenance that of confidence and arrogance, just like his father. Snape felt his lips thinning into a dark grimace at the sight. Seeing him was more than unnerving, especially with Lily’s green eyes staring out at him from such a conceited face.

Granger and Weasley sat next to him, looking to their friend with concern. Neither of them enjoyed Snape and seeing he and Harry in a stare-off was a strange occurrence indeed.  

“Five points,” Snape hissed when he realized that the boy would not reply, “for sheer impudence.”

With that he and his robes swirled away from the boy, heading out the doors and into the hallway as he prepared to go to his office before the classes started.

He could still feel Potter’s eyes on him as he left.

***

Katherine opened her eyes and found herself in the middle of a large forest. There was so much green around her, from the green grass underfoot to the trees that seemed to block out all sunlight from touching her shoulders and face. When Katherine tilted her head she found that there was a muted quality to the sound; no birds or insects sounded and upon closer observation she found that she couldn’t feel the breeze that gently swayed the trees.

She walked around a bit, seeing the light purple flowers that dotted the landscape. The large trees that swam into the sky and made Katherine feel so small. She wanted to bend down and pluck one of the flowers but she held back for the motions of her body not completely her own. Katherine instantly knew she was dreaming because the images that flowed before her had a gauzy, other-worldly quality.

Katherine wondered where she was and idly pondered if she was dreaming herself in the middle of the forbidden forest out of sheer interest at Dumbledore’s claims. Before she could think on this further her gaze was distracted by a pale figure entering the forest; a woman walking towards Katherine who found she was quite stuck to her spot on the grass.

She was tall and lean and fair of face with hair that reached down the middle of her back, much like Katherine’s. Her eyes were large and light and she fixed her gaze on Katherine as she stepped soundlessly through the clearing.

Katherine watched as the woman advanced, feeling neither fear or suspicion. In fact all she could feel was extremely cared for. Katherine felt all her defenses dropping from her in this dream world, her own lips curving into a welcoming smile.The beautiful woman drew closer to her in the dream, her light eyes capturing Katherine’s face and smiling benevolently.

Katherine was completely enchanted with this woman who gazed her so lovingly. She continued to stare at the woman who couldn’t be more than ten years older than she was. She watched the woman’s hand raise between them. She gripped Katherine’s hand in hers, placing something within it gently and smiling widely.

Katherine could only stare at the woman who leaned forward and put her mouth to Katherine’s ear. She whispered something, something that Katherine could not hear despite how much she wanted to. The woman pulled back and looked to Katherine expectantly.

“I can’t hear you,” Katherine said slowly as if talking through water. Her voice sounded muted and foreign to her own ears.

She worried that the woman would be disappointed in her and she did not want that. However the woman just looked to her knowingly, bringing a soft hand up to the girl’s cheek.

“You will,” was her calm reply which Katherine was thankful she could hear.

Slowly her hand raised between them and she took Katherine’s hand in hers. Katherine could feel something being placed in her hand and she gripped it tightly before she felt the darkness starting to envelop them both. The woman gave Katherine one last smile before turning slowly and heading back into the forest.

When Katherine woke up she immediately sat up, shocked at how vivid the dream had seemed and how much she had remembered of it. She never really remembered many of her dreams, but this one felt so…real.

Sweat was sticking her hair to her body and she felt chilled as she drew herself up out of bed. She felt disoriented, needing to get some fresh air but knowing that was impossible. She glanced at the clock beside her bed and realized she’d only been asleep a few hours. No wonder she felt so exhausted.

She suddenly remembered the ending of the dream, how the woman had put something into her palm that she had not been able to see. Katherine immediately held open her right hand and felt herself grow rather dejected when she realized it was empty.

***

“It seems that she can sever a legilimens connection simply by closing her eyes,” Snape observed detachedly, hours later in Dumbledore’s warm office. “This is a rare feat, as you know. Completely unheard of in muggles.”

The portraits of past headmasters listened in on this conversation, all looking rather rapt with attention. What a tale! Dumbledore himself looked rather dumbfounded at the news; never truly expecting this outcome.   

“Many things with Miss Shepard have seemed quite unheard of,” Albus observed, tapping the corner of his mouth thoughtfully before popping a candy into his mouth. “I wonder what it could all mean?”

He thought back to last night and the girl’s unending curiosity at everything magical. She didn’t have a malicious bone in her body and Albus had been delighted in her company. He only wondered how she was faring with Severus down in the dungeons.

“It means that we may well have to accept that the only way to rid her of her memories is the potion I mentioned before,” Snape offered tiredly, not relishing the thought of keeping the woman here for several months and in his care.

“But Severus,” Albus countered, “how can we ignore such an occurrence in this woman? An ability to overcome Obliviate? Able to throw you from her mind with such ease? Surely we must find out the root cause and not just simply wipe the girls memory?”

He viewed the younger wizard growing increasingly sour-faced, his taut frame curling around the chair with disdain.

“Albus you know I have no time to continue on in such a matter,” Snape replied with his dark eyes  searching the man’s face. “Between teaching and my agency, I really have no more time to devote to this. You know this and yet you continue to lay more responsibilities on my shoulders. I simply cannot understand why you choose to do so.”

Albus took a moment of contemplation, looking to Severus a thoughtful moment before speaking.

“Severus, when you came to me years ago and begged for me to protect Lily and the Potters do you remember what you promised me?”

Snape took a sharp intake of breath at the mention of Lily. No one ever spoke to him about her and that’s how he desired it. He didn’t need to remember the callous way she had rejected him in their youth. He didn’t need to remember her empty green eyes that night in Godric’s Hollow.

“I promised you my allegiance,” Snape replied tersely, his mouth barely moving as he spoke.  “I gave you my trust.”

“And I promised you that in return you would have my trust did I not?”

“You did.”

“Well Severus, I am afraid that this is the price to pay for allegiance and trust,” Albus said with a shrug.  “I have gone to great lengths to protect you from a Ministry that would send you to Azkaban. I have given you a home, food, the ability to pursue your talents in potion making and defense. At some point I will be giving you my life to win favor with the Dark Lord. I have given all I can to an ex Death Eater.”

Snape felt himself stung by the words of Albus, trying his best not to react. He knew what the man was saying, but he felt himself feeling hard done by.

“Yet you question me in so many ways, Severus,” Alblus continued very quietly, noting the dark look on the man’s pale features, “when every decision I make is in your best interest and the interest of protecting the innocent.”

Snape clenched his hands against the chair’s arms, feeling his shame overwhelming him then. He knew that what Albus was saying was completely true. And yet his own arrogance demanded that he question the man’s motives, his choices.

“I understand,” Snape replied coolly, wanting to rush from the room.

“I know you do, Severus,” Albus said with a kind gaze at the younger man’s increasingly tense countenance, “all I ask is that you remember this in the future.”

All at once the tension in the room was lifted as Albus clapped his hand together in delight. The matter was now at a close. Snape’s eyes flitted from the man’s hands to his rosy-cheeked face. 

“And now, how is Defense teaching going, Severus?”

***

Blankar and Katherine sat on Katherine’s floor, her back against the wall as she looked to her elf-friend who had arrived with lunch an hour ago. She had managed to keep talking, kept the little elf intrigued enough to sit and chat with her a bit.

Apparently Blankar had been Snape’s house elf for as long as he had taught at Hogwarts; all professors were given one upon hiring. Which, to Katherine’s surprise, had been since he was twenty one and teaching Potions.

“He was a professor at twenty-one?” Katherine asked, her eyes widening in surprise. “Is that common?”

“Master Snape is very wise and the youngest wizard ever hired at Hogwarts,” Blankar insisted with an emphatic nod of his head. His large bulging eyes gleamed with pride. “I is proud to call him my Master.”

Katherine winced at the term “master” finding it to be far to hierarchal for her liking. She brushed a strand of hair from her face, concerned that the poor elf was being taken advantage of.

“But isn’t he cruel to you?” Katherine asked, assuming the worst of the miserable man,
“wouldn’t you like to leave? Live your own life?”

Blankar looked completely askance at that comment, his eyes widening further (if that were possible). He stood up, backing up slowly from Katherine as if she were some kind of horrid creature he couldn’t fathom.

“Blankar is honored to serve Master Snape. Master Snape treats Blankar with respect. He talks to Blankar as a friend. Katherine Shepard does not know what she is asking.”

Katherine could see she had offended the elf and she felt terribly about it. He was almost shaking with either rage or confusion. She knew that she had to distract the creature and so she capitulated into a request.

“I’d like a new book,” Katherine said with a sweet smile on her face. “Something to do with animals or creatures here in the wizarding world. Perhaps a textbook or some kind the students read here? Do you think you could find me one of those that I could read?”

Blankar looked at Katherine severely for a moment, his eyes unreadable before he nodded. Eventually he snapped his fingers and a large jade green book sat in his grip. It was quite large and had many gold engravings all over it, giving it a very regal looking appearance.  He held it out to Katherine shyly, looking to her face expectantly.

“Is this book pleasing Katherine Shepard?”

 Katherine glanced at the gold script which beheld the books name; the Monster Book of Monsters. Katherine smiled widely at the title, her heart jumping in delight. What a book! How exciting! Perhaps it would talk more about the creatures Dumbledore had mentioned!

“This is brilliant,” she exclaimed excitedly grasping the book in her hands, “thank you so much, Blankar!”

Blankar gave a bashful smile, his pale green features flushing purple with delight. He was about to speak more on the subject when all of a sudden there was the muffled sound of Snape’s chamber doors being opened outside.

The two figures inside the room seemed to deflate at the sound and the recognition that a certain miserable wizard would be ruining their fun.

“Snape is back,” Katherine observed darkly. She hadn’t even finished the sentence before Blankar had snapped and was gone.  Katherine frowned, still seated cross legged on the floor and watching the space where her friend had once been.

She would have taken the time and felt more sorry for herself if the surprisingly heavy book on her lap hadn’t suddenly flown open.

Chapter Text

Snape walked through the door of his chambers sighing heavily. His conversation with Albus had not gone exactly as he had been hoping. If he’d been honest he’d been convinced that the girl would be moved from his chambers immediately.

This was obviously not to be.

He shrugged off his teaching robes and placed them on the chair before the fireplace. He pulled off his coat and threw it to join the cloak. He stood then stretching after a long day. Defense Against the Dark Arts had been a revered position and he couldn’t deny that teaching it gave him much joy. Being out of the dungeons was a welcome reprieve as was imparting his wisdom; even if it was on a group of sniveling children.

Being that it was the first week of classes he had focused more on theory this week. He believed in a balanced approach of theory and practical application. The result he found were that the students were surprisingly engaged, looking to him for the first time with a mixture of fear mingled with something new; could it be respect?

Surely not from Potter, who had done all in his power to attempt to stare down Snape until the latter had threatened a month of detention with Filch. He’d felt the boys emerald eyes on his back as he went down the rows of students, looking over their answers to the questions he’d posted on the chalkboard.

Granger and Weasley had been writing furiously, but Potter had been sitting back in his seat, absently scratching his quill to paper and watching his professor like a hawk. Snape ignored him for the remainder of his class and was thankful to see the last of the prat for at least a week.

But today he was exhausted; not only from the lack of sleep but from the duties of his employment and the stressful experience with Voldemort in the day prior. He drew back the drapes to his bed before he groaned and collapsed into it. He heard a small whoosh at his right elbow but did not open his eyes.

“I do not wish to be disturbed this evening, Blankar.”

He heard the small elf disappear without a word and he turned on his side, thrusting an arm under his pillow and propping it under his cheek. He was exhausted and sleep came readily to him, enveloping him into soothing and welcoming blackness.

“AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!”

Snape jerked awake, his eyes wide and his wand immediately drawn. He scanned the room for the source of the sound before recognizing that it was coming from the muggle’s bedroom.  There was no way anyone could have gotten into her rooms without him knowing. He lowered the protective wards before he moved half-asleep towards it and cleared his throat before speaking.

“Miss Shepard what’s going on?”

Katherine continued to scream shrilly, not answering Snape and instead her cries sounded even more loudly. Snape had a moment of panic flutter at the edge of his self and he pushed the door open with a mightly bash of his shoulder.

He expected to see the girl standing with a wand at her neck and a Death Eater at her side. Instead what greeted him was Katherine Shepard currently shrieking and standing on her bed and trying her best not to cry. But for what reason, he could not understand.

Her entire room was upset – the chairs thrown askew, the bedding rumpled and half on the floor. Pillows were opened and emptied of their feathers.  Even the teacups that had been so carefully placed on their table had been smashed against the floor scattering porcelain everywhere.  Katherine’s cries were still resounding and she was trying her best not to stay on the mattress for too long.

“What on earth are you doing, woman?” Snape bellowed, looking to her with such fierce anger that she quelled her screams.

“The book,” she sputtered, pointing to the floor under her bed with one shaky finger. “It bit me! Hard!”

Snape raised a quizzical eyebrow before glancing down at the green tome peeking out from under the woman’s bed.  He glanced back up at Katherine seeing her hand bleeding freely onto the floor. She was gripping one of the bed’s four posters with her hands so tightly that they looked chalk white. The book had gotten her good before she’d thrown it and jumped onto the bed screaming.

She’d watched as it spun around the room in a furious frenzy, knocking over her chairs and tables. She’d been devastated to see her teacups smash to the floor and when it flew under the bed she had been certain that the monstrous thing was eating the wood of her bed.

Her eyes were wild and her hair in her reddened face and Snape was taken aback at how such a put-together woman could look so out of sorts. She was biting back tears and wouldn’t take her eyes off of the book on the ground.

Snape’s long legs led him to her bed quickly and resolutely he gripped the book in his hands, stroking the spine of it with one tapered forefinger. Katherine watched all of this in rapt silence, shocked at how the book seemed to calm (could a book be calm?) and it opened easily for him. Snape shut it closed gently, glancing at the title for confirmation before looking back up at Katherine still standing on the bed and breathing shakily.  He held up the book so that she could see it resting placidly in his long hands.

“Where on earth did you find this?”

“Blankar gave it to me!” Katherine exclaimed, still standing on the bed shakily. “Why would he give me that?”

 “Blankar?”

All at once the elf was there at his side and looking rather sheepish. Immediately Snape knew he had been responsible for this mishap.  He raised the green book in front of the elf’s face, waving it gently and exhaling in irritation.

“Why did you give Miss Shepard this book?”

“Katherine Shepard asked for a book on magical animals.”

Snape gave the elf a withering look.

“There are many such books, Blankar. Why did you choose this one?”

He could see the elf growing concerned, his bulging eyes going from Snape to Katherine and then back to Snape once more.

“Katherine Shepard insulted Master Snape,” Blankar said looking ashamedly at his wringing hands. “Blankar did what Katherine Shepard asked of him. For a textbook on magical creatures and Blankar did as Blankar was asked.”

Snape exhaled a small huff of air through his nose irritably, knowing of his house-elf’s unending loyalty. He also knew the craftiness of house elves – he obviously used the girl’s words against her. He had indeed brought her a book on creatures – it simply happened to be the one text that could kill her.

“I will deal with you later, Blankar.”

Blankar cast a dark look at Katherine before disappearing with a pop. Katherine glanced over at Snape, the only sound in the room her ragged breathing. She was staring at the book in his hands which made no movement, much to her shock.

“How did you get it to stop biting?”

“Get down,” Snape said to Katherine with a dismissive gaze and ignoring her question. He watched her clamor down from the bed, one bare foot slapping against the stone floor as she landed. Snape looked down to see this and then back to the girl’s pale face in question.

“The book ate one of my slippers,” Katherine explained before following him out into the main chambers of Snape’s room. She blinked a moment at the assault of darkness that greeted her. She thought her chambers were dim but Snape’s rooms were even darker.

Lumos.”

A small light appeared at the end of Snape’s wand, lighting their path. Katherine followed him through the maze of furniture quietly. He looked much less intimidating with just a white shirt and trousers. He may have looked less intimidating, but Katherine was quite sure that nothing about him was changed.

“Sit down,” Snape suddenly said gently, pointing towards the table in which they had last sat. Katherine opened her mouth to protest but stopped, slowly drawing to the chair and lowering herself gently whilst keeping her eyes on Snape.

Her hand stung and she clutched it to her chest, trying to stop the weeping wound with her other hand. The book had bit her quite thoroughly and she was still in a state of shock as to what had actually happened. She’d been bitten by a book of all things! The one thing that had always brought her comfort and ease!

He grabbed something off of his kitchen counter and sat across from her silently at the table before pouring a small glass of something that looked to be amber-colored. He popped the cork back into the bottle before sliding the tipple over to her on the table.

“Drink this.”

Katherine reached out her hand deftly before she brought the small glass up to her nose and inhaled before wincing. Whatever it was, it was strong and smelled awful. She wasn’t really one to imbibe and she looked to Snape imploringly.

“What is it?”

“Firewhiskey.”

“What’s that?”

“Just drink it.”

Katherine wanted to fight him on it, but her hand was aching and she didn’t feel up to arguing with him this evening. She took a tentative sip, but when she saw Snape’s irritated gaze falling on her mostly-full glass she downed the rest of it.

It seared her throat immediately and burnt the entire way down. She felt herself cry out in fear. Was it actually poison? Had this horrible man actually poisoned her? Just as she was about to accuse him of such a thing she felt the drink starting to warm her body, flowing rapidly through her veins and making her feel more bold, more brave, more courageous.

She was so courageous in fact that she didn’t even flinch when Snape took her injured hand in his. He viewed the mangled flesh of her hand and resisted an urge to shake his head at her foolishness before he pointed his wand at her palm.

Tergeo,” he muttered, holding the girl’s hand in his, trying to clear the blood so that he could see the entrance of the wound. Katherine watched in silent focus as the wand seemed to siphon off the blood of her wound, leaving only the trace of small ragged bites around the edge of her hand.

“How did you get the book to behave?” Katherine asked the question once more to him, noting that his onyx eyes were focused on her hand. She wondered if he’d actually heard her when he spoke quietly.

“You stroke the spine.”

“Oh.”

Katherine lapsed into silence, watching as the last of the blood was erased from her hand. It still ached terribly, but not as bad as before. She attributed that to the firewhiskey and silently thanked Snape for his sudden change of personality. 

Without a word he placed his wand to the opening of Katherine’s wound and began to mutter a small incantation that she couldn’t quite make out. It sounded rather sing-song compared to the other spells she’d heard him use and she found herself growing quite drowsily at the sound (or the drink).

She whimpered a bit at the sensation of the wound being worked on. It stung and Katherine viewed as the ragged flesh of her hand began to slowly knit itself back together, leaving only a small seam of pale pink when it was completed. Katherine gaped at this, knowing that in all her life doing surgery on animals she would never be able to complete a stitch this perfect even if she lived to be two hundred.

Ferula.”

Snape tapped his wand against Katherine’s hand and she watched as bandages appeared from nowhere and wrapped themselves around her hand tightly. It still ached a little bit, but it was significantly better. She raised her hand from Snape’s own and looked at the bandaged limb, her mouth agape in wonder.

“Imagine what you could do for animals,” she whispered in awe. “I could never make a stitch that perfect.”

Snape didn’t answer and instead he went to his washroom and began to wash the blood that had dripped onto his hand from Katherine’s.  Katherine watched his form through what she could see through the door. He looked very tired and very vexed and Katherine couldn’t help but feel a pang of pity for him, despite his usual miserable façade. Perhaps she should try being more patient, more kind with him.

Snape walked back into the room, looking surprised to see her still sitting there and looking up to him from where she sat.  

“Thank you very much,” Katherine said in a quiet voice, despite the courage she had previously been feeling.  She raised her bandaged hand and gave a wan smile. “It feels much better.”

Snape stiffened at her saccharine words. Moreover he felt his irritation growing at the stupid girl’s insistence on reading up on magic and causing more work for him. What did she hope would come of it? She’d become a witch? For goodness’ sake this was ridiculous. Muggles were so changeable like this – being on someone’s side as long as it benefited them. It was how Tobias Snape had functioned when not under the influence of alcohol and it was surely how this annoying Shepard was operating as well. It was bad enough that he was stuck with her until Merlin knew when out of previous obligation. But now this simpering woman was acting as if they were friends? Friends with a muggle?! He’d see to the end of that right quick.

“Feeling better wasn’t the point of it,” Snape snapped back at her, drawing himself to full height and fixing her with an ugly look. “Keeping you alive, as per Albus’ instructions is my only aim. Your comfort could not matter less to me.”

And just like that, the uneasy alliance that she thought had settled between them was over. Disdain washed over her features once more and she stood shakily, holding her injured hand to her chest in protection. She wanted to say something to him, to really wound him as he had her. But instead she looked to him pityingly, knowing that nothing she said would change a thing.

Snape watched her rush quickly over to the door of her room, the one bare foot slapping stupidly against the cold stone floor before she’d closed the door behind her. Snape grimaced once more at the woman’s pathetic appeals to kindness before throwing himself into bed and falling into the deepest of slumbers

Chapter Text

 

In the two days that followed Katherine had been remarkably alone. Blankar brought necessities and nothing more. He had been lucky Master Snape didn’t want to punish him further. As it was he was no longer allowed to speak to the girl or Snape for a full month. He was to simply do his duties with deference and not cause any more trouble.

Katherine had tried to broach conversation, to apologize for the misunderstanding. But as soon as her meals were placed in her room he was gone with a pop and Katherine was miserably alone once more. Without Blankar there had been no more books to read (which was a blessing considering the last one almost killed her) but this also meant no she was remarkably bored.

This was only exacerbated by the fact that she was in a magical school and she couldn’t see any of it! Sometimes she could hear the sounds of student’s feet on the ceiling above her presumably heading to classes. She felt a pang of longing, of remembrance of her own time in school. On the odd occurrence there was a loud crash or boom and she would listen intently. But nothing was ever given away, only the faint crumble of stone and the rumble of her stomach when it was breakfast.

Her mind drew back to her veterinary practice, of the co-workers and work in general that she enjoyed. Of coffee on her balcony in the summer. The the smell of the lavender candle her father had bought her for her new flat. Of the feeling of sand on her feet when she walked on the beach.  The feel of a man’s touch on her body.

All things she never really had time to contemplate when she was so busy working. But now here, all she could do was contemplate. Contemplate life and death and love and hate. Contemplate a world that existed and she had no clue about. Was she so blind to everything?

She was shocked at how much she was beginning to see in her life didn’t really matter. The vet practice she had been desperate to open…. But why? Was it because she wanted to do it or had she simply set herself down the path and determined to follow it? Would her life be any different if she’d known her father’s fate?

She thought about her father then and the mysterious envelope. What on earth could that envelope have been holding? She tried to imagine what it could be but came up with nothing. She hoped that perhaps she could offer something, some sort of forward-thinking action that could bring about some kind of reprieve but nothing did. She felt very blocked and very restless.

So instead she read Hogwarts: A History for the third time and tried to imagine what a life of a witch would be like. 

It was hours later but she heard Snape arrive that afternoon, muttering to himself angrily through the door.

Just great.

She knocked on her door soundly. He may not want to see her, but it was becoming imperative that something be done. She heard him scuffle a moment before she heard the door unlocking and sliding open with a groaning creak. She poked her head out from behind the door, looking to the surly man with an equally surly face.

“I need to inform my work that I won’t be returning for a while,” Katherine explained.  “I don’t want to be fired if I ever get to go back. Not informing them looks irresponsible. You’re a professor, surely you understand that.”

“That will be taken care of,” Snape explained. “Anything else?”

“What do you mean? How will it be taken care of? Will you be using an Obliviate on them? That doesn’t seem right.”

Snape closed his eyes a fraction longer than normal, expressing silently his disapproval for all her inquiries.  His head was aching and he’d had quite enough of Katherine Muggle Shepard for the millennium.

“It will be taken care of,” he repeated, not wishing to go into detail.

 He was far too distracted to be giving into this muggle’s constant battery of inane questions today. He’d had a horrible feeling that something was off today. He’d felt it the morning he’d woken up; a chill in the air and his chest fluttering nervously.

 And now as if on cue his arm began to throb harshly. He hissed gently and gripped his arm.

“Accio robes.”

All of a sudden a mask and robes flew over to his outstretched hands and Katherine held back a shudder as she recognized the robes from her father’s bookstore. She looked from the clothes back to Snape’s pale and unhappy face.

“Are those the same robes as-“

“Yes.”

Silence fell between them as Snape gathered his belongings. Katherine looked at him from under her dark fringe expectantly.  This was one of those Death Eater meetings that Dumbledore had told her about during their last visit. The really dangerous ones where Snape had to play double agent.

She regarded him a moment, his tall frame and impassive face and decided that he would likely make a very good agent. His face and voice rarely gave anything away.  The only thing that may give him away was those glittering eyes perpetually at half-mast. This made her think back to the other night at the table, him forcing himself into her mind.

Mind reading! Could the Dark Lord guy read Snape’s minds? What actually went on at these meetings? What did Snape do exactly? What information did he pass on? Katherine wondered how long the meeting would go on for and she also wondered if she could ask him questions about it when he got back. Not likely, but her curiosity often overruled reason and she reached out.

“When will you be back?”

“I don’t know.”

Katherine was surprised at this; Snape always had definite answers. To hear him say that he didn’t know the answer to something struck Katherine as rather disconcerting, even if it was uttered in that same cold and calculating voice he used for everything.

 Katherine eventually nodded, feeling rather stupid as he stood there glowering at her and obviously ready to rush off. She may not have known a lot about this magical world, but she knew Death Eaters were no good and that what Snape was doing was extremely dangerous. That had to take some kind of backbone and she found he had her begrudging respect in that moment, even as a dark thought niggled the back of her mind.

 “Is there ever a chance you’ll die at these meetings?”

Snape gave her a harsh look as he shrugged on his Death Eater Robe.

 “Always.”

There was a hideous moment of realization as Katherine looked to him and felt a wash of new fear slip over her. He may be a git but he was a git who was obviously risking a lot and despite how much she loathed his company, she didn’t want to see him hurt. She supposed that’s what prompted her next regrettable comment.

“Be safe.” 

Snape looked at her queerly at that comment as if he hadn’t heard her correctly. As if he had a choice in the matter! What a sycophantic muggle sentiment. He shot an obviously sardonic look at her before he spoke.

“Go back to your room.”

Not wanting to start an argument when the wizard was going out and may not even return, Katherine nodded and rushed back into her room, shutting the door behind her quietly. Snape watched this in dark amusement, noting that it only took the threat of him dying for her to obey.

He’d have to remember that.

***

Katherine sighed and leaned her forehead against the cool brick of the wall. She was stuck in her room again but for once she was anything but bored. For the first time since she’d been stuck here she was actually wanting Snape to return. It’s not that she would really want to see him or even speak to him when he did get back. But she needed that reassurance that he wasn’t dead.

She paced back and forth a bit in the room, barely even noticing when Blankar came to drop off her dinner a few hours later. She ate absently that evening, her eyes on the empty fireplace and her mind  stuck on what Snape was up to and if he was alright.

She didn’t know why she cared at all about the guy. He had made it clear that he didn’t care about her safety outside of an obligation to Dumbledore. But she supposed it was the same when large dogs came into the practice, snarling and barking. They were usually doing so to defend against her touching a wound or internal injury. They did it out of fear of being in more pain. But when she’d fixed them up, they were like puppies; happy and tail wagging. Perhaps she needed to figure out Snape’s wound; why he was so bitter and unhappy.  

She was still thinking on this theory when she was in bed hours later, her blankets wrapping around her tightly, the book on Hogwarts sitting heavily on her lap. It was nearing one o’clock and he still wasn’t back she noted, feeling distressed. She was about to attempt a summoning of Blankar when she heard a small shuffle outside the door to her rooms and she felt her heart leap into her chest.

He’s back!

Before she could celebrate, Blankar appeared with a tea set and biscuits and placed them on her small table. She looked after him in confusion as he disappeared – he never did that. The tea smelled wonderful and she pulled on her robe, slipping over to the table and pouring herself a small cup.

The door to her rooms suddenly creaked open and Dumbledore drew into the room, his eyes crinkled into a warm smile.

“Hello Miss Shepard,” he said before placing himself down before her tea and biscuits. “I apologize for the late hour.”

“Oh I don’t mind,” Katherine insisted, pouring him a cup of tea and pushing it towards him gently. “Is everything alright?”

“Unfortunately not,” Albus insisted with a hard look on his normally placid features. “You see, Professor Snape will not be returning this evening.”

“Oh?”

Katherine felt her hands begin to tremble at the words coming out of Albus’ mouth. It was exactly what she had thought would happen; Snape was dead. She’d somehow jinxed him. She felt the tears slowly rising to the surface and she was finding it hard to swallow.

She cried out, realizing that her trembling hands had splashed her hot tea all over her injured hand and she placed the teacup on the table before her. This was her fault; she never should have told him to be careful. She likely threw him off and the Dark Lord picked up on it and-

“Please don’t panic,” Dumbledore explained hurriedly at the girl’s expression, breaking into her thoughts. “Snape is not in any danger, well, no more than usual. He’s simply been called away by the Dark Lord for the next few days.”

Katherine instantly felt the tension leave her body and a strangely relieved smile slipped over her features. All the guilt she’d been holding onto dissipated and she was able to meet Albus’ gaze once more.

“I thought you may want to know this,” Dumbledore explained with a gentle smile, “so that you weren’t worried. This is a common occurrence on the weekends – he can often be called away. And knowing Severus he didn’t let this pertinent information slip, did he?”

“No sir.”

Dumbledore nodded, finally taking a sip of his tea and looking over his glass at the young woman before him.

“Have things been better between you and Severus?”

Katherine, distracted by the good news looked at Albus in confusion. Had things been better between them? She thought back to the last few days; the rude way in he’d spoken, the insistence that he didn’t care if she was in pain. Yet, he’d repaired her hand and even told her how to calm the book of Monsters. If he really didn’t care, she doubted he would have done anything to help.

“It’s been… Tolerable,” Katherine half-lied, hoping that Albus wouldn’t ask her to continue. She felt badly confessing that he’d been just as haughty and rude when she knew he truly could die at any moment. She raised a bisuit to her mouth and took a bite, hoping to change the topic quickly before Dumbledore could pry.

“Professor is it normal to have strange dreams here?” Katherine asked, looking to Albus in wonder. He responded with a small knitting of his eyebrows, deepening the creases there.

“Strange dreams? Would you mind elaborating, Miss Shepard?”

“Sure,” Katherine said, putting down her biscuit. “I had the strangest dream about a young woman..”

With that she told him in detail about the dream she’d had; the flowers, the woman putting something into her hand, the words she was speaking but that Katherine couldn’t hear. Albus listened to all of this leaned back in his chair, his fingers steepled over his chest as he nodded.

“The thing is I’ve never seen this woman before,” Katherine insisted with a shrug. “It was so weird, but in the dream I felt so safe with her, it felt like she loved me. And I never dream, so it was weird to wake up from one like that”

“Never?”

“Not that I can remember,” Katherine said with a shrug. “I’m usually so exhausted and waking up so early that until this week I can’t remember the last time I had a real night’s sleep.”

Albus gave the girl a warm smile. “That sounds like someone else I know.”

Katherine looked to him in surprise. “Snape?”

“You two are more alike than you realize, perhaps,” Albus explained, brushing the biscuit crumbs from his robes and standing slowly.  “And now since its almost two in the morning, I bid you a good night and a restful sleep.”

“Can we go for another walk?” Katherine interjected quickly, knowing it was late but desiring some fresh air.

“I’m afraid that won’t be possible this weekend,” Albus explained with disappointment. “My weekends and evenings are going to be quite busy for the foreseeable future. I’m helping a student of ours, giving him extra lessons.”

Katherine inclined her head at this, realizing that the student in question was likely Harry Potter. She knew that she couldn’t begrudge the man in front of her if he needed to help the fate of their wizarding world, even though she still couldn’t see how a teenage boy could bring down this ‘Dark Lord’ everyone was talking about.

“I see,” Katherine nodded with a wan smile. “Have a good sleep, Professor.”

Albus gave her a small nod before shuffling out the door and into Snape’s chambers. She heard him whisper a small incantation and then head out the door. She could only assume that he’d put the wards back up and a small jangle of the doorknob confirmed her suspicion; she was locked in once more.  

Chapter Text

 

 

Katherine couldn’t breathe.

There were flashes of light, darkness and murky confusion. She blinked rapidly, feeling with each flit of her eyelashes that her eyes were burning. When she tried to speak and found a large bubble of air swimming before her vision she realized she was under water.

Her  movements were slow and sluggish and that frustrated her to no end.  She didn’t know if she was swimming or drowning, but as she tried to move her arms and found she couldn’t, she began to feel the first slice of panic shoot through her core. She couldn’t see or feel her arms or legs, and much like in her previous dream she couldn’t speak or move the way she wanted to.

A tightness was building in her chest and she realized almost in a detached fashion that she was running out of air. The edges of her vision began to darken slightly and she tried to jerk her body in any direction for reprieve but to no avail.

Without warning she felt herself being pulled backwards out of the water and onto a cold, hard floor. She yelped as the pain radiated up her elbow and up her spine. She was shivering, her lashes heavy with droplets and her hair stuck to her face.  She realized she had been held under the water in the claw foot bathtub that sat in front of her, covered in grime and filled with dirty looking water.

Her gaze was drawn backwards to a woman who was older than Katherine by quite a bit. She looked pallid and fearful and her dark eyes bore into Katherine’s as she grabbed the girl and hugged her firmly to her bony chest.

“I’m so sorry my darling,” she cooed gently, despite the desperate way she clutched at Katherine. Katherine didn’t know why, but in the dream she was so grateful for this woman; her protector. She felt fresh tears begin to fall down her cheeks at the woman’s comfort.

Then suddenly once more Katherine was being pulled back, her arm gripped by some unknown assailant as she was pulled from the room. Katherine tried to scream, but all she could see was the older woman screaming and crying beside the bathtub, demanding the individual grasping Katherine stop.

The last image Katherine had was the woman falling to her knees with a primal scream.

***

Severus stared up at the ceiling of his bedroom in Malfoy Manor, his eyes bleary and his head aching. It had been a long night of revelry with the rest of the death eaters; a celebration for the advances they were making in the defeat of Potter.

Urged on by the Dark Lord he had imbibed far too much firewhiskey, suspicious that the creature was trying to lower his defenses.  It was on these nights of celebration and debauchery that Voldemort took pleasure in testing his followers.  He waited until their defenses were down before slowly penetrating their minds, encouraging them to open up and lower inhibitions with him. Severus always knew when he was walking the line of drunkenness and was able to stop when he found his own thoughts becoming cloudy.

 Blessed few actually got drunk enough to fall for such trying, but on occasion a newer member fell victim to the seductive lure of being in Voldemort’s confidence. They would act too familiar with the creature, drunkenly confess a small misgiving they may have about Potter or how they would defeat him and Voldemort would nod as if he understood. Or, he would simply wait until they were in such a state that no level of Occlumency would save them from his rifling. If there was even a whisper of doubt there in their mind he would bring them to the center of the room to be tortured for hours.

Sometimes he would allow his followers to help him, giving them a serpentine grin before commanding they take part. Severus had been called forward that evening, ignoring the desperate screams that came from the young man at his feet.

“Please,” the young man named Davies had cried out after hours of ceaseless torture. His Death Eater mask slipped from his face and his body contorted under the crucio curse. Saliva drooled continuously from his lips, his eyes deadened as Snape stepped forward from the group.

“Please kill me,” the young man had begged his light eyes bright with pain. “I beg of you.”

Snape knew that there was no hesitation here in this room of onlookers. Voldemort smiled widely, watching as his most trusted of allies raised his wand at the young man’s forehead. There were excited titters and chuckles as Snape spoke.

“I’m afraid we’ve only begun.”

Snape groaned again at the memory, knowing that what would await him today would be more of the same. Voldemort’s celebrations usually lasted all weekend and if Snape was correct, tonight there would be muggle whores of all ages and backgrounds.  They were brought in with promises of riches beyond compare and ended the evening burned in the home’s ornate fireplace.

Severus could usually extricate himself with comments that he wanted to keep himself focused on the tasks at hand at Hogwarts. Usually Voldemort relented, but last night he had been quite insistent that his loyal right-hand man “enjoy” himself. Apparently he’d picked out the most delicious whore soley for Severus’ personal delectation. The sickening smile that accompanied such a promise made Severus want to be sick. But he schooled his features and commented that the Dark Lord was too kind.  

All Snape could think was that tonight would be a most stressful event.

***

Katherine woke with a start, her entire body slick with sweat. Her breath was coming out in sharp huffs, her hands clutching the blankets to her bed.  It was still early hours according to her clock beside her bed.

Where had that dream come from?

Katherine drew shakily out of the bed, her bare feet chilled by the stone floor. She padded to the bathroom, drawing a ragged breath before turning the tap of the sink on. Cool water immediately spurted out over her hands and causing Katherine to wince at the temperature. She pooled it in her hands and splashed it into her face, bracing against the cold.

There, that felt better.

She pressed a scratchy towel to her face and dabbed gently before she glanced over her shoulder to view the tub at the corner of her bathroom.  She felt a ripple of fear go up her back at the sight as the dream came back to her in a flood.

Who had that woman been? Why was she holding me under the water?

Katherine shook herself free of the thoughts before perching on the edge of the tub. She wouldn’t let a stupid dream scare her like that. It was just a dream and she was sticky with acrid sweat. She filled the tub half-full and slipped into the warmth there. She leaned her head back on the cool porcelain, closing her eyes and simply trying to enjoy the calmness of the moment.

I hope he’s okay.

Katherine frowned as thoughts of Snape intruded on her private moments. She supposed she felt rather anxious with him gone. He was, according to Albus, her protector for the time being. Without him here wasn’t she more vulnerable to attacks?  She felt bad for thinking so selfishly of her own skin when there was a very good chance that Snape himself was in a bad way. But it didn’t stop the fact that she did care about living, even if being stuck in some wizard’s large closet was living for the time being.

She washed and rinsed her hair, luxuriating in the supplies Blankar had brought her days earlier. She missed the conversations she’d had with the creature and finally felt she had forgiven him for his cruelty with the book. Perhaps she would inform him of such the next time he brought her a meal.

She was almost ready to drag herself from this serenity of warm water and sweet smells when she heard the slightest of shuffles outside her door. Immediately her heart began to hammer in anticipation.

Is he back?

Katherine scrambled out of the tub, drying herself quickly and throwing on some clothes.  Her hair was damp and hung in chilled curls down to the middle of her back. She padded towards the door of her room, hearing as the shuffles grew louder and louder until… Silence.

Strange.

She raised her eyebrows in question as the door suddenly burst open and a wizard came rushing in with his wand raised to her throat. He gave a victorious crow as he viewed the woman looking terrified in the room and announced in a voice full of self-congratulation:

“I knew it!”

Chapter Text

The green-eyed boy drew into the room with his wand raised at the girl’s forehead. Katherine’s eyes were wide in fear as the young man drew nearer to her, his trainers sounding against the floor as he strode up to her. His eyes were narrowed in concentration, his hand never even trembling as he pointed it at her. 

“Who are you?”

Katherine held her arms up as if there were a gun being pointed at her as the boy spoke. His voice was hard and his gaze betrayed that he had seen much. They were the eyes of a haunted man who stared back at her from such a young face.

“K-Katherine Shepard,” Katherine managed to get out in a stammer, knowing exactly the kind of power that resulted from the end of the wand. Who was this boy? And why did he want to kill her? What had she done?  “Please don’t hurt me!”

“Are you one of his spies?”

“Huh?” Katherine furrowed her brow in confusion.

“Don’t make me ask again,” the boy spat angrily, his wand pressing furiously into Katherine’s forehead now.  Katherine felt her stomach bottoming out at the sensation of the blunt end against her sweating forehead. What could she tell him? He thought her hostile! Katherine’s mind went blank and she shrieked the first thing that came to her mind.

“I’M A MUGGLE!”

There was sickening pause in which Katherine was convinced she was going to be killed. Then finally she felt the pressure of the wand come off of her forehead and she held in a relieved sob.  He was peering into her face with a look of interest and he waved his wand in front of her face, murmuring something to himself before speaking aloud.

“Did you just say muggle?”

“Yes,” Katherine lowered her arms slowly. “It means I’m not magic. And Dumbledore knows I’m here. Do you know Dumbledore? You can ask him yourself!”

“I know what muggle means,” the boy looked confounded by her other revelation.  “You say Dumbledore knows about you?”

“Yes,” Katherine nodded frenetically. “He told me to stay down here with Snape.”

The boy nodded before thrusting his wand into his side pocket, having detected no potion or magic from the woman. The wand was still easy enough to grab if necessary, but not as threatening to the muggle if put away.  He pulled up a chair and indicated that she should sit across from him at the table, his gaze still wary.

He looked to the young woman in front of him who lowered herself into the chair, her eyes red-rimmed from crying and her cheeks were splotched with pink as she breathed heavily. The young man regarded her further a moment before he spoke next.

“Why are you here? In Snape’s quarters?”

“It’s a long story,” Katherine offered weakly.

Harry simply raised his eyebrows in wait. And so Katherine detailed her experience from the bookshop, the meeting of Snape, the walk with Dumbledore, the magic book that bit her and Blankar’s betrayal. Finally after what felt like forever she finished, looking to a dumbfounded teenager.

“I know,” Katherine said with a weak smile. “It sounds unbelievable.”

The boy’s mouth now stretched into an easy grin and he leaned back in his chair.  “You’d be surprised at what I’d believe,” he said.  

“How did you know I was here?” Katherine asked, searching the boy’s face. He pulled out a folded piece of parchment and placed it on the table between them.

“Marauder’s Map.”

Katherine nodded politely as if she understood what those words meant. The boy gave a whisper of a smile before opening the parchment and tapping his wand to it. “I solemnly swear I am up to no good.”

Before Katherine’s very eyes the parchment seemed to come alive; ink slashing through the parchment forming into shapes and words until she realized it was in fact a map. A moving map with labels!

 “Oh my God,” Katherine intoned, her eyes fixed upon the small label that clearly said “Katherine Shepard”.  “Does this show every single person?”

“Yep,” Harry smiled, proud of the invention the girl held.  “Anyone in Hogwarts.”

Katherine glanced at the name of the young man across from her, her eyes growing wide as she looked to him. He was so young, so terribly young to have such a fate hoisted upon his shoulders. When she glanced up at him she realized he couldn’t be more than sixteen years old.

“You’re Harry Potter? The Harry Potter?”

Harry seemed dejected then at being known and his light eyes seemed to darken in disappointment. A large part of him had hoped that this muggle in the dungeon wouldn’t know of him.  He was tired of being a celebrity and visibly deflated in his chair.

“Yes.”

Katherine could see the young man didn’t wish to say anything further and so she simply nodded and went back to the map. Harry watched her in surprise; convinced she would have wanted to press him but was thankful she didn’t.

Katherine’s dark eyes swept through the map eagerly; the way she thinned her lips in thought reminded Harry of Snape and he tried to hold in a grimace. The girl in front of him was nothing like the man, aside from her dark hair color (a shade or two lighter than the great bat). Her eyes were nothing like Snape’s though they were very dark, they also held much warmth; Something Snape’s gaze could never be accused of.   Suddenly those dark eyes flitted up to Harry’s face with a look of cunning.

“Harry, I see that Snape isn’t on here.”

“He must be out of the castle,” Harry offered.

“Yes, Dumbledore said something like that,” Katherine nodded with a thoughtful expression on her face.  “He said Snape likely wouldn’t be back until Sunday evening.”

“Snape is called away for business on the weekend a lot.”

Katherine knew he was talking about that Death Eater business. But she wasn’t sure how much Harry knew, so she kept her mouth zipped. Did the boy even know about Death Eaters? She didn’t want o give anything away that she shouldn’t. Albus had been very clear that no one should be aware of her presence and she didn’t want to  further jeopardize things.

 Katherine glanced over to the open door to her room and wrinkled her nose in confusion. “How on earth did you get in here Harry?”

“Easy,” Harry said with a casual shrug. “Ol’ Snapey often uses the same wards Hermione is great at taking down. She’s really clever and she’s always going on and on about Ron and I studying more. And then to make sure that I wasn’t seen, I used the invisibility cloak.”

“Invisibility cloak?”

Harry reached behind him on the chair, quickly standing and pulling the cloak over him. All at once he was encased in the cloak and the world  became slightly dimmed.  He looked to see Katherine gripping the sides of her chair, staring at the spot where Harry had just been sitting in wonder.  

 “Oh my goodness,” Katherine breathed, her eyes wide with shock. Harry stood, enjoying the girl’s reaction. Since coming to Hogwarts he realized he’d lost a bit of that awed reaction when it came to magic. Now it was just so commonplace. To see it through Katherine’s eyes was refreshing. He slowly snuck up behind her and grasped her shoulders from behind.

Katherine shrieked, whipping around and watching as Harry whipped off the cloak.

“No way,” Katherine whispered. “That is amazing.”

Harry whirled the cloak off and was delighted to see Katherine’s eye bulge even further out of her face.  He laughed aloud at the sight and settled back into the chair.

 “So how long have you been stuck in the greasy git’s closet?” Harry asked with a teasing look in his eyes. Obviously it wasn’t just Katherine that found Snape’s manners lacking and she responded to the grin with a small laugh.

“Far too long,” Katherine groused, feeling like she was talking to an attentive younger brother. “I’m going absolutely mental. Dumbledore let me out for a small walk a few days ago, but I’m going stir crazy.”

“I can’t imagine being around Snape more than I have to be,” Harry admitted, feeling rather sorry for the girl. “He’s the most miserable git I’ve ever met.”

Katherine regarded Harry’s face a moment. “You don’t trust him, do you?”

“Not even close,” Harry admitted with a harsh look on his features.

“Then we’re in agreement,” Katherine said with a resolute nod. This brought out a beaming smile from Harry as she continued. “There’s something about him that’s very…Suspicious.”

“Not only that, he’s a terrible bully,” Harry complained, feeling a strange thrill at complaining about Snape in his very chambers. “There’s a boy in my year, Neville, who is terrified of him. Besides that, he openly hates me. The man is a nightmare.”

“I bet,” Katherine said with a small shake of her head. This didn’t surprise her at all and if anything infuriated her at being in his association. “He’s been really quite rude to me since I got here. But why would he hate you, Harry?”

“It’s a long story.”

“Trust me,” Katherine said with her arms opened dramatically. “I’ve got nothing but time here.”

Harry’s eyes widened suddenly realizing with her comment that he himself had been down in the dungeons quite a while.  A quick glance at his watch told him he’d been in the dungeons over an hour and this was bound to raise suspicion.

“Actually I best get back otherwise Hermione and Ron’ll be worried,” Harry commented, pulling the map back and tapping it. “Mischief Managed.”

The ink quickly seeped back into the paper leaving nothing but a ragged looking piece of parchment behind. Katherine shook her head lowly, wondering if they could make anything similar in the non-magic world. The closest they had was invisible ink and Katherine realized she was becoming quite scornful of her non-magic ways. What a silly way to exist without magic! Harry slipped it into his back trousers.

“Who are Hermione and Ron?”

“My best friends,” Harry said with a small smile and Katherine was strangely grateful that the boy had those. Friends, in times such as these were a welcome commodity. Katherine herself had never made friends easily, preferring to live in books or daydreams. She realized that aside from her co-workers there was likely no one else that had even noticed she was gone.

She felt her eyes fall to the table at this realization, swallowing a lump that had formed in her throat. As Harry stood to leave she bit the inside of her cheek for being so eager as she leaned forward, trying to capture Harry’s eyes with her own.

“Harry, I know we’ve just met and it would be asking a lot, but is there any way you’d consider coming back to visit me?” Katherine felt her cheeks flare at the desperation for the company of a teenage boy.  “It’s just that I’m terribly lonely here and you’d be able to see when Snape is gone.”

Harry regarded her for a moment before a charming smirk of mischief crossed his youthful features.

“I’ve got a better idea.”

Chapter Text

“Harry, I’m nervous,” Katherine whispered to the tall boy at her side. He gave her a small smile as they continued to the staircase at the end of the dungeons. The decision to have Katherine explore the castle under the confines of the boy’s invisibility cloak had been a hurried notion, and one that Katherine had readily agreed to. But now, actually outside of Snape’s chambers she suddenly felt a flash of panic.

“You’re going to be fine, you just need to be quiet,” Harry insisted, raising a finger to his mouth as they ascended the staircase. “Just remember what we went over before and you’ll be fine.”

Katherine fell silent, following in step behind Harry as he walked down the corridors of Hogwarts.  Back in her rooms, Harry had gone over the basics; don’t talk to anyone, stay against the walls, be back before curfew in two hours so Harry could get back his cloak and reset the wards on Snape’s chambers. It had seemed so simple, so straightforward.  So why was she so terrified now? It was freezing here in the dungeons; she could practically see her breath in front of her.  She supposed the cool of the evening was aiding in her anxiety, causing her to tremble.

She was currently covered in Harry’s invisibility cloak, her hands damp with sweat. She couldn’t believe she was actually following him out into the bustling corridors of Hogwarts!  She had been reading  about it, dreaming about and after a week of being stuck in the damp and freezing dungeons, she was delighted to feel the warmth of the upper levels of the castle. She felt the fresh breeze coming from the windows in the corridors and she took a deep breath of genuine fresh air.

“Shhh,” Harry insisted, trying not to look to obvious as they strolled down the corridor. A few individuals milled about outside of classrooms in groups chatting animatedly, several laughing loudly. Some were at the edge of the crowds, their eyes on their books. One small girl was whispering a small incantation and causing a small leaf to dance around the room in dramatic swirls before it set into flame, causing her friends to squeal delightedly. Katherine took in the sights and sounds with a heavy thump in her chest before Harry inconspicuously nudged her along. It was all real and it was all here in front of her!  Real magic!

Harry felt a thrill go through him at their covert mission. It had been so long since he’d had an actual fun thrill – not a life or death situation. Just a bit of fun and against one of his most loathed adversaries. How fun it would be to know that he was tricking Snape right under the old git’s huge nose! He suppressed a cruel smirk before glancing over to where Katherine was walking beside him, invisibly of course.

After speaking with Katherine this afternoon he found he was growing quite fond of her, like he would a sweet older sister. She was earnest and emotional and something that Harry found quite personable. There was a softness about her that was almost comforting.  

 It had been his genuine pleasure to get her out of Snape’s chambers and a part of him knew that it was his vendetta against Snape that encouraged this. If it had been any other professor he never would have dared. But Snape? The git? Harry couldn’t let that poor girl stay his prisoner. He’d have to practice his Occlumency however should the great bat catch on. But if things went his way, he wouldn’t have to worry.

They rounded the corridor and stumbled upon a small crowd gathering outside the entrance to the Great Hall. Harry’s eyes darted at the faces in the crowd as Katherine followed closely behind him, sure not to bump or touch anyone aside from Harry.

“There’s Hermione and Ron,” Harry said out the corner of his mouth. “We’re heading to dinner in the Great Hall. Follow behind a bit but don’t get too close to anyone else.”

Katherine viewed the two figures coming towards them in the crowd; a gangly boy with reddish hair and a long nose dotted with freckles. At his side was a serious looking girl with bushy hair and a book in her arms. The boy broke into an easy smile as they saw their friend, the girl looking nonplussed.

“Harry where have you been?” Hermione demanded, looking to her friend severely.  

“Just been practicing Quidditch,” Harry lied easily, not wanting to fixate on what Hermione was saying. It was best to divert her attention.  “I’m starving! Let’s go!”

Katherine held in a gleeful grin. She knew what Quidditch was! She was suddenly so thankful she’d read that bloody Hogwarts; a History she couldn’t believe it. She watched the trio move down the hall, sure to move to the side of the corridor. She didn’t want to risk bumping into anyone who would surely be confused!

She followed back at a distance, her eyes drawing up to the corridor walls and the amazing moving portraits that lined the corridor. A slim blonde boy pushed his way through the crowd and Katherine fell back into the wall to avoid him. She fell into the large portrait hanging behind her, her elbow hitting the frame painfully.  She held in a small whimper and rubbed her elbow tenderly.

“Look where you’re going!” the shepardess in the portrait behind her demanded, causing Katherine to start. The young blonde painted woman frowned dramatically before ushering her sheep away. Katherine watched this agape under the cloak, her heart hammering.

Can the portraits see me?

She had no way of finding out and time was of the essence. Katherine moved forward with the swell of the crowd, waiting for a gap in the line and rushing into the Great Hall. It was loud with bustling students all sitting at four long tables. Before them were glittering golden plates and goblets, which Katherine assumed served the pumpkin juice she’d been enjoying since her arrival. Well, enjoying was a bit of a stretch, it tasted alright.

Katherine was glad no one could see her open mouth as she took in the splendor of the Great Hall. The bewitched ceiling above her with its hundreds of candles and looking like the night sky. Katherine wasn’t quite sure that it wasn’t just open to the sky above. 

She glanced to the far end of the room to see the high table she’d read about with a variety of interesting characters sitting there. She almost squealed in delight when she saw Albus sitting there in the middle of the professors. There was an empty seat to the far left which Katherine could only assume Snape usually occupied.

Ugh. Snape. Let’s not let thoughts of that git cloud an otherwise amazing adventure.  

Suddenly the food appeared and the students attacked the plates hungrily. Piles of roasted potatoes, chicken, green beans and more. It was overwhelming looking at the amount of food and Katherine felt her stomach rumbling a bit as the delightful scents wafted over to her in the corner of the room. She’d missed lunch and she prayed the nearby students wouldn’t hear the gurgling.  But all panicked thoughts left her as she savored the moment; actually seeing the students, the head table, the bewitched ceiling and more, Katherine felt her heart swell.

Oh my God, it’s exactly like the book.

Katherine pressed herself more flatly against the wall of the Great Hall as someone almost walked into her. She felt her heart hammer and she watched as Albus pushed some chicken in mouth and spoke gently to the woman at his right.  Was it Katherine, or was he looking a bit peaked? She frowned, her attention being drawn to that rude blonde boy from before sitting at the table nearest to her. Speaking of peaked, that boy looked like he was ready to faint if not for the dark scowl on his ferret-like face. Interested, Katherine drew a bit closer to his table.

“What’s the matter Draco?” a pug-faced girl asked the blonde.

“Nothing,” Draco replied with a sneer. “I’m just amazed that this ridiculous school is still employing Dumbledore. He’s clearly unfit to lead.”

Katherine felt her hands curl into fists at her side and she glowered at the boy. As if he could feel himself being watched his blue eyes darted up into the crowd, slipping over Katherine and back to the girl at his side who was agreeing with him.

Katherine decided that it was best if she didn’t linger around this particular table. In fact, she decided that with the busy clamor in the Great Hall she was best to go outside into the corridors and have a bit more of an adventure. She wanted desperately to explore each and every inch of this place to take with her back to her cold dungeons.

She climbed several flights of staircases, her eyes trying to take in all that she was seeing. Portraits sang out to one another, students flew past her in groups giggling and rushing off. She smiled to herself under the cloak, remembering her times away in school, laughing with her friends. That had been before her mother died. Her smile dropped. She supposed that had been the turning point.

She had been eleven when her mother died from injuries from a car accident. Images of her mother hooked up to every device in the hospital still stayed with her. She had been there as her mother took her last breath. It was more than any eleven-year-old should have to deal with. But that had been when she turned. Her carefree attitude shifting and her desire to run, to escape Gravesend had begun.  

She had lost track of where she was, she realized. But a large portrait of a barmy looking man was at her right. She glanced around the emptied corridors, listening for any sound of voices or shuffling and was greeted with silence. Seemed most of the students were having supper.

She only wished she knew more about magic, she mused. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have that kind of knowledge? To make stitches like Snape with the flick of a wand? Or even the possibility of making a potion that could save lives! She was still musing on the ways that her job could be made better with aid of magic when she realized there was a door to her left. She hadn’t even noticed it, so lost in thought.

She pressed it slightly, seeing that it was unlocked. She knew it was a risk so she opened it slowly, as if opened by a breeze. She ducked her invisible head around it to see that in fact there was no one inside. She gave a small sigh before slipped inside and closing the door quietly behind her.

Safely inside she slipped off the invisibility cloak, hanging it in the crook of her arm and walking around the space. It was large, with high ceilings and tons of natural light. It was beautiful to look at and she smiled.  Suddenly something overtook her senses; delicious smelling food. Over at the far side she saw a large buffet filled with all the food she’d been drooling over only moments before.

“Oh, I wanted to eat this in the great hall!” Katherine exclaimed quietly, walking over to the food and preparing to take a large drumstick then pausing. If this food was here, surely it was because someone was expected? She pulled on the cloak in a hurry, sure to keep invisible should the individual walk in. 

Her shoes scraped against the stone floor as her attention was diverted to a huge bookcase that was truly sagging with books. She rushed over in excitement; this selection in front of her dwarfed Snape’s extensive collection and she felt a jolt of excitement pass through her.

There was a large moving ladder to the right and she clamored atop it, making sure not to let the cloak catch on the rungs. She was near the top when a specific tome stood out to her; Animal Potions; a multidisciplinary Perspective. Her eyes were alight as she pulled the book down, amazed at its fullness.  She pulled it into the crook of her arm and ambled down the ladder.

She was just about to crack the heavy book open (praying it wasn’t another magical creatures type book) when she heard faint shuffling outside. She pulled the book under the cloak with her and stood to the side, her eyes wide and waiting.

The door creaked open and Katherine held her breath, covering her mouth with her hand to suppress any nervous gasping. The door opened more fully and a familiar swath of black hair peeked through the crack.

“Katherine?”

“I’m here!”

Harry stepped into the room, closing and locking the door behind him. Katherine stepped forward and feeling it safe, she pulled the cloak from her. Harry took in her red cheeks and hair going in all directions and smirked before pressing her for information.

“How did you get here?”

“What do you mean?” Katherine inquired, hefting the book onto her hip. “I just walked in.”

“Really?”

“Yes, why?”

“This is the Room of Requirement,” Harry explained, motioning to the bookcase and the food before them as if that should mean something. “It doesn’t show itself to everyone.  It only shows you when you have real need of it. I only found you because of the map.”

Katherine regarded Harry a moment in thoughtful silence. “So the room thought I needed some books and food?”

“Yeah,” Harry said with a half shrug. “Guess it did.”

Katherine was about to say something more when Harry suddenly glanced at his watch and then back to her. “We have to go,” he insisted, throwing the cloak over Katherine and ushering her towards the door. “Curfew is coming up and I don’t want to risk it.”

Katherine bounded down the stairs after Harry, not realizing that she’d rushed up several long flights of stairs. Why she had to be on the seventh floor by now! Their feet echoed off the stonework as they rushed down into the dungeons. The corridors were mercifully empty, but still Katherine kept silent and a tight grip around the cloak.

Finally they came to Snape’s chambers and clamored in. Katherine let out a small huffing laugh, trying to catch her breath.  She couldn’t believe she’d actually had a taste of Hogwarts and all its gorgeous, bizarre magic. Even if it were only a small slice, she could dream the rest up. Besides, she felt the heavy book in her arms, now she had some interesting reading to do!

“Thank you so much for this Harry,” Katherine said, slinging her free arm around Harry’s neck. “You have no idea how much this meant to me.”

Harry looked shyly to the ground, his eyes dipping to his shoes before coming back up to rest on Katherine’s beaming face. All of a sudden he saw her smile falter and her eyes becoming glassy. Without having to use legilimens he knew she was preparing herself for another long haul of nothing but the inside of her four walls.

“I’ll try to sneak back sometime Snape’s gone,” Harry promised, pressing his hand on her shoulder. He almost flinched from the naked thanks in the girl’s eyes.

“That would mean so much to me,” Katherine sniffed, trying to stop the grateful tears that swam into her vision.

“I can’t promise it’ll be all the time,” Harry said, just in case she had her hopes up. “But with the map and the cloak, I think I can definitely squeeze in a few more visits before Christmas.”

Katherine smiled, about to say something more when Harry pulled back, noticing the time. He shrunk the cloak and slipped it into his pants pocket, flashing Katherine a winning smile before heading out the door and re-setting the wards.

“I’ll see you later.”

Katherine watched his skinny frame head out the door, aware that she had a friend here. A friend at Hogwarts who treated her with kindness and even understood her desperate love of magic. She’d have to ask him more questions when he arrived next time.

As she settled down before the fire, book on her lap, Katherine was acutely aware that Harry Potter was just as wonderful as Dumbledore had promised.  

Chapter Text

Katherine couldn’t feel her hands or feet. In fact she couldn’t feel much of anything. She observed her body being hovered over a large table where a group of men in robes sat. She recognized them as the Death Eater robes Snape had been wearing the last time she saw him.

She was about to say something but found she was quite mute. Instead she watched as all the eyes were on her. A reptilian man was at the head of the table, looking to the group in an angry fervor. He was saying something to them that was making them tense. But it was muffled, as if Katherine were listening from another room.

Suddenly she felt herself being thrown down onto the table, her back registering the pain as her back bit into the harsh wood of the table. Her eyes were wide and she glanced around at the strange faces that were suddenly free of masks. She glanced up to see Snape glancing at her with an unreadable face.

Help me! She wanted to scream at him. You know me! Help!

But she couldn’t. Instead she just forced herself to look at the glittering red eyes of the man beside him. Was he a man? He looked deformed, missing a nose – he had only slits instead. His eyes were sunken and red – how could a person have red eyes? With a dawning realization she came to believe that this was Voldemort. This was the creature that commanded so many in the ways of hatred!

He smiled darkly at her to reveal several rows of sharp, yellowed teeth before glancing away from her face. She realized that suddenly everyone’s attention was at the end of the table and she forced her eyes downward.

She felt a scream building in her throat as she viewed a huge and hideous serpent slithering up the table towards her head. The Deatheaters moved back in their seats, not wanting to be touched by it as it passed. Katherine felt her eyes widen in horror as the creature suddenly began to worm its way around her body, tightening around her legs and slithering over her chest.

She felt the weight of the large snake on her before she saw its large head bobbing up into her vision, surveying her with dead black eyes. It looked angry and hungry and Katherine wondered if she would suffocate or something worse.

The last thing Katherine saw were the fangs of the hideous beast before it descended.

***

“Today we will discuss the history of the Inferi, their role in the first wizarding war, as well as how to identify them."

Snape walked down the aisles of his Defense Class, looking to sixth year students that looked with great consternation from one to another before talking lowly and comparing notes.  Classes with Snape were definitely more educational than previous years; however his presence still caused great alarm, especially to students like Neville.

“Calm down, Nevile,” Hermione insisted to the boy, trying to guide him into taking some calming breaths before he slowly seemed to be focused. Harry looked over at the pair before glancing back at his partner, Ron who looked just as uninterested as he did.

With Dumbledore’s Army they had tried so many unique and rather life-saving spells. To sit around and talk about Inferi and wordless spells instead of actually doing them was fairly dull in comparison.

For the next half hour they talked about the Inferi; how they were the remains of murdered Muggles and lost wizards and witches. How large a part they played in the first wizarding war and how Gellert Grindelwald tried to create an army of them. Hermione wrote hurriedly, her eyes wide with interest as well as tinged with fear. She had read about the Inferi, but judging by Snape’s placid demeanor he had actually seen one in the flesh.

Snape brought up his wand, wordlessly bringing down the screen at the front of the class.

“I do hope you’ve been paying attention,” Snape said silkily from his position at the back of the room, looking to the backs of the students as they scribbled their notes. He could see Potter and Weasley looking boredly to one another, taking the odd note and trying to stifle a yawn. Snape felt his eyes narrow, his thumb grazing his ring finger absently.

“Pull out two feet of parchment,” Snape said suddenly, his voice low and commanding. “Then look to the front of the room.”

Snape tapped the charmed projector and it clicked to life. The students glanced up to see several questions projected on the screen at the front of them and they realized what awaited them for the duration of the class.  A quiz.

The class stifled a collective groan (save for Hermione of course) because they knew if they irritated the man, he would be even more severe in his marking.

“You have thirty minutes,” Snape said quietly. “I suggest you write quickly.”

Snape wandered up and down the aisles as the students wrote hurriedly, the sound of quills on parchment the only sound hear in the echoing room.

He’d been so busy with classes since he got back from the latest revels that he hadn’t even bothered with the Muggle Shepard. She had been behaving herself, staying in her room and not making a peep. According to Blankar she spent the majority of her time reading. It was a welcome reprieve if he were honest. But he realized that he needed to make progress with her and the Obliviation. He didn’t have the time, resources or energy to continue on hosting her in his chambers, despite how inconspicuous she was behaving at present. 

But tonight he would do it. Tonight he would finish what he’d started and finally get the muggle Katherine Shepard out of his life.

***

Katherine awoke from her nightmare as the sound of boots walking through the chamber doors. She rubbed her eyes and found herself passed out on the floor of the chambers. Apparently she’d fallen asleep reading her book, Animal Potions; a multidisciplinary Perspective, specifically the section on snakes.

That explains the nightmare.

She swallowed thickly before grasping a nearby cup of water and drinking quickly. The cool liquid was welcome on her scratching throat and Katherine idly wondered if she’d been screaming during it. She remembered the cold eyes of Snape, the frightening countenance of what she believed had been Voldemort.

What a bizarre thing to have a nightmare about.

She was surprised to hear the steps coming closer to her room. She grasped the large book and shoved it under her bed, covering it with some clothes she’d been given. She didn’t need Snape to be suspicious when he eventually tried that Legilimens on her again.

Speaking of which, the tall wizard opened the doors to her chamber slowly with a creak. Katherine threw herself into a nearby chair, trying to look nonchalant as he glanced around to see her.

“Come out,” Snape ordered morosely. “It’s time for your lesson.”

He went back into his main chambers, deciding that he would be doggedly pursued to teach dunderheads no matter how long he lived. Even if they were muggle dunderheands.

“It’s not really a lesson though,” Katherine said as she stepped through the closet door. “It’s more of an interrogation.”

“Call it what you want,” Snape said, going over to his extensive bookcase and pulling down an old brown tome. Katherine watched in keen interest as he flipped the pages, his eyes darting back and forth as he read quickly. She wondered if it had something to do with tonight.

Taking advantage of her ‘hosts’ distraction, Katherine glanced along the crammed bookcase herself. Her attention was drawn to the far right with what appeared to be a game box, something she hadn’t been counting on finding in Snape’s lair. Her eyes fixed on the faded maroon box which had the title emblazoned on the side.

“What’s Gobstones?” Katherine inquired.

“A game,” Snape sniffed as if the idea of being interested in such a game was pathetic.

“Can we play? After the lesson of course.”

Snape’s eyes darted from his book up to the face of the young woman looking to him in inquiry.

“Of course not,” he chortled as if she were the biggest fool alive. 

“Why not?”

“Because it’s a frivolous game for children,” Snape said with a sneer as he slammed the book shut. “And I think you’re confusing me with Albus. I’m not here for your entertainment. Now sit down.”

Katherine was about to inquire why someone who thought the game was so stupid would own it, but decided against another antagonistic event. She plunked herself down into the creaking chair before the table and sighed.

“I need you to keep your eyes open the entire time,” Snape said taking the chair across from her. “Do not attempt to look away from me. All that is required of you is to simply sit still and do nothing. Do you understand?”

“I do,” Katherine nodded.

“Now, look into my eyes,” Snape said silkily, his black pupils turning to strange, entrancing tunnels. Katherine acquiesced wanting to get this entire thing over with as quickly as possible. As much fun as it was being here at Hogwarts she really wanted to be at home, away from this madness.

The familiar feeling of glass on her temple caused her to swallow lightly as she winced. It stung every time he did this, putting her on edge and causing him great trouble getting in. But still he made it into her mind eventually, silently cursing her for making it so hard.

I have to go to the original night I found her.

Snape began to call forth that night in Katherine’s mind, in Shepards books. Getting mad at her father, casting the Obliviate on him. It had worked perfectly and he’d been able to get the original book (missing the most crucial page of course).

He could see her huddled there in the corner, her book in front of her. That’s right, she had been reading a muggle veterinary book. She looked so terrified up at him, a familiar sight from when he was on raids.  She looked quite young then, twelve years could change a person he observed detached.

“Please don’t kill me.”

He could hear the pain in her voice, the fear that these were her last moments. He viewed their interaction, seeing as she grasped the book before raising it to cover her face as the Obliviate was cast. Had the spell somehow been less effective because of this?

His vision suddenly ended with her on the floor, whimpering and her eyelids fluttering. They always looked like that after an Obliviate. What had gone wrong there? How had she been able to recognize him twelve years later?

A vision was suddenly swimming over to him and he couldn’t help but push into it. There was Katherine, her graduation cap sat askew atop her dark head. She was grinning up at her father who gripped her hands in his own.

“Hey, let’s go out for dinner yes? My treat! I am a doctor now after all!” she was saying, a smile on her face that Snape had never been privy to.

“Sounds lovely, Kat.”

“Dad?” Katherine looked to her father’s ruddy face, concerned that he suddenly looked quite downhearted. She wondered if he was worried about the cost of the meal.

  “I wish your Mum was here,” Roger was saying gently, “she’d be so proud.”

Before Snape could hear the girl’s reply he was being thrust from her mind, back into the cold world.

“Don’t look there,” Katherine said, closing her eyes furiously and turning her head from the man. “You don’t need to see that!”

She heard Snape growl angrily, obviously he wasn’t used to being so summarily tossed from one’s mind. She could see the angry sneer that was building on his lips.

“You had one instruction,” Snape said. “Just sit there and shut up and let me do my job.”

“I’m not going to let you go rooting around in all my memories,” Katherine countered angrily. “Tell me what you’re looking for and I’ll help.”

“That’s not how Legilimens works,” Snape ground out. “Now sit still and look at me.”

Katherine ground her teeth angrily as Snape’s eyes caught her own. She felt her heart hammering angrily in her chest as she felt the painful intrusion of Snape in her mind. Her eyelids fluttered as he seemed to move from room to room in her mind, opening drawers of information and then closing.

Suddenly she was young, looking in the original book that Snape had stolen. Her eyes were taking in the beautiful lion drawing, the gold leaf shining off the page. A tall figure came into the room, wrenching the book out of Katherine’s hands and yelling at her. It was her grandfather and his bushy eyebrows looking at her in fury.

“You’re not to touch that!” He shouted angrily, pushing her shoulder with a chubby forefinger. “You stay away from here you little brat!”

 Katherine could see that Snape had stilled, his eyes widening a fraction.

Before he could pursue this vision further something else had bubbled to the surface. Snape couldn’t help but glance over to see Katherine in a strange room. It looked like a Muggle hospital room and Snape could see that this memory was fighting to be hidden. All at once he followed it, his mind keenly pulling forth this image.

A young Katherine stood beside her mother in the bed. Roger was nowhere to be seen – likely talking to one of the doctors. The woman in the hospital bed was hooked up to so many machines and wires she looked almost robotic. A large ventilator was down the woman’s throat, making it impossible for her to speak.

She had dark hair like Katherine, but it was mostly hidden under several layers of gauze. The woman’s arms were littered with yellow bruises and she had a blanket up to her belly button. Her eyes were closed and she barely looked to be breathing. A young Katherine was gripping her hand tightly, tears slipping down her young cheeks.

“Mom can you hear me?”

Katherine stared as her mother’s entire body stilled, her face relaxing into some waxy facade as a loud beep suddenly sounded in the room. Katherine knew something was wrong and so she clamored on top of the bed, shaking her mother’s cooling body harshly and screaming through sobs.

“Mom? MOM!?”

Snape was shocked to feel his shoulders being pushed angrily as he snapped out of the vision. He saw Katherine lean back from her attempt to push him.

“GET OUT!” Katherine screamed, leaping from the table and upsetting her chair. “YOU’RE NOT ALLOWED TO LOOK AT THAT!”

Snape felt his eyes widen as the girl threw a tantrum before him. She was red-faced and looked ready to hit him. He remembered her hands angrily pushing his shoulder and he felt himself getting irritated. The thing thought she could go around pushing him? A most powerful wizard?

“You need to calm youself,” he whispered.

“I HATE YOU!” Katherine screamed, not caring if the entirety of Hogwarts could hear them.  “I HATE YOU, YOU HORRIBLE UGLY MONSTER!”

Snape didn’t move from his place at that table, instead he watched as Katherine tried to control her breathing, her eyes filling with furious tears as she recalled one of the worst moments of her life. The moment that she watched her mother die in front of her.

“Once you’ve quite finished, I suggest you take a seat,” he said indicating with his head that she should sit down. Katherine glanced over at him, shaking her head.

“I don’t want to do this anymore,” Katherine insisted, keeping her sobs in her chest from spilling out into her mouth. “Just take me home. I Just want to go home.”

“You muggles,” Snape snapped, pushing the chair back from the table angrily. He’d had quite enough of the girl’s outburst. “Always so entitled.”

 “Stop saying that!” Katherine said lowly, her eyes darkening. “Stop saying muggles like they’re so beneath you.”

“I never said that.”

“But you think it!” Katherine almost shouted again, her lower lip quivering. She realized she had never felt this much like a second class citizen in her entire life. At Cambridge she had been one of several scholarship students and while it had been a bit of an embarrassment, it was nothing to the continual shame she was starting to feel at being classified as a “muggle”; as if she had any choice in the matter!

Snape said nothing, choosing to walk over to his hearth and place himself before it. He didn’t bother to light it, instead just staring into the empty fireplace, unmoving. He hadn’t the time to fight with this silly girl and he was far too frustrated to try to engage with her.  With legilimens he had to be calm and collected. This girl riled him up, causing their progress to stall even more.

 Katherine looked over at him, noting that the lines under his eyes seemed more pronounced, his body language tired and she felt a pang of sympathy. She pushed her chair back gently before slipping over to where he sat, taking the chair parallel to him.

“Why do you hate Muggles so much?” Katherine asked quietly, unsure if she actually wanted to hear the answer. Snape looked at her slowly, seeing the stress that hung over all her features. He should feel bad for her but he was tired and he felt malicious this evening.

“What’s there to be enjoyed by them?” Snape asked with a shrug.

“Lots!” Katherine insisted proudly. “We love and we care. We make great inventions and we try to make the world a better place!”

How naïve.

“And we don’t?” Snape asked, quirking an eyebrow. “You think witches and wizards don’t love and care? That they don’t make inventions or try to change the world for the better?”

Katherine was silent at this.

“You know what your kind did to witches, don’t you?”

“Sort of,” Katherine admitted. “I know from school that they were burned at the stake, that sort of thing.”

Snape rolled his eyes at her mis-education. He strolled over to the table, plunking himself down across from her.  He felt his back straighten and he could feel himself completely turning into Professor-mode. This girl wanted to know answers? She would know them.

“Between the fourteenth and fifteenth century more than eighty thousand witches were killed. Of those eighty thousand, more than eighty percent were women.  And do you know what their crimes were? They were thought to be in cahoots with the Devil, to be filled with lust.”

Katherine swallowed thickly as he said the word as if he were tasting it.

“You’re such a fan of reading, perhaps you should take a look at the book Malleus Maleficarum,” Snape continued piteously, “known as the Hammer of Witches. It was used as a guide for hunting and identifying and punishing witches. Muggles took great pleasure in killing our kind.”

Katherine was quiet, feeling that this was a completely unfair as Snape raged on.

“Instead of asking why I don’t like muggles, perhaps ask yourself why muggles hate us? Why would we open our arms to a society who’s first instinct is to kill us? Or to use as scapegoats when things went amiss? Why would I find any favor in a society that perpetuates that kind of ignorance?”

Katherine faltered a moment, blinking rapidly. “Well, because we aren’t all like that.”

“No,” Snape conceded haughtily, “but most are.”

“That’s not fair,” Katherine insisted, bringing herself up to her full height. “Have wizards never made mistakes? If Hogwarts a History has given me  any indication, the wizarding world is just as screwed up as the Muggle one! But I don’t think of all you wizards as monsters. I think Albus is wonderful! You’re painting all Muggles with the same brush!”

 “I’ve yet to meet a muggle that wasn’t acting in complete self-interest,” Snape said, eyes glittering malevolently. “And I doubt I ever will.”

“So why don’t you just kill us all then?” Katherine said, slapping the back of her chair anger. “If you hate us Muggles so damn much why don’t you just chuck me out the window of the tallest tower here and be done with it?

Snape was scarily silent and still; the only thing moving were his eyes as he watched her pace back and forth in front of him.

“I don’t get it,” Katherine exclaimed, her frustration evident. “Why don’t you and your Death Eater friends just go take over the UK and then the world if you hate us all so much?”

“What do you think the Dark Lord is trying to do, idiot girl?” Snape finally snapped, standing and scaring Katherine into sitting back down. “Why do you think it’s of such dire importance to stop him?”

“Then why did you become one in the first place?”

“Excuse me?”

“I want to know,” Katherine repeated, “if they’re so awful why did you become one of his followers?”

“That’s none of your concern.”

“And yet, I’m still asking you,” Katherine challenged, looking to Snape with what she hoped was a look of kind conviction on her features. “I’m trying to understand what would compel you to do something so horrible. To join in with a gang of people with ideologies that are so hateful?”

Snape stood and moved over to the fire silently, his robe billowing out behind him. Katherine watched him uneasily from the table. He leaned over the fireplace, his back to her and his eyes fixed on the burning embers.

“Much like the Muggle world, Miss Shepard, it comes down to respect and power,” he finally murmured. “I became a Death Eater because I viewed them as winners with remarkable power. They appreciated my Dark arts knowledge, the reveled in it actually. I was a hero, a genius, a role model. I was rewarded for my knowledge with almost anything I could ask for by some of the most connected people of the Wizarding World.”

At the almost he seemed to pause before continuing.

“Now look at the other side,” Snape turned and glancing over his shoulder he fixed his eyes on her face. “I’m here in a school run by a man who insists I keep a muggle hidden in my private chambers. This is on top of a rigorous teaching schedule and my double agency. He doesn’t care.  When a student here at Hogwarts I was mocked, mercilessly tormented. My knowledge was a burden here because I wasn’t rich enough, not connected enough. Individuals who weren’t as clever or as dedicated to their education as I was were held up in high regard because they were charming or handsome or whatever other inane traits the general public finds appealing.”

“Now, tell me Miss Shepard,” Snape said silkily, “which team would you have been drawn to?”

Katherine was quiet a moment, her eyes on the table as she weighed what Snape was saying.

“I don’t know,” Katherine said honestly. “I like to think I would have chosen Hogwarts and doing the right thing but. . . If I’m honest with myself I think if I were tormented I would want to get revenge in any way I could. If I could find the man who crashed into my Mom that night, I would find him and I would make him pay.”

Snape regarded the girl in interest; he had been expecting a much less insightful observation. Truth be told he had been expecting a saccharine declaration of love triumphing evil and that good would always rule the day.  He hadn’t expected her to be so open and honest about her mother. He also hadn't expected the vitriolic threat she'd made regarding the man who'd crashed into her car that night.

“I’m not saying it excuses anything,” Katherine hurriedly added, hearing the darkness in her tone. “But I concede that things aren’t as black and white as they appear.”

Snape regarded Katherine a moment before standing. “I think you should go to bed now, Miss Shepard. We’ll continue our appointment at another time.”

Katherine walked hurriedly to her room, not wanting to stay any longer. Tonight had been stressful and overly emotional and she wanted to collapse into her bed and cry.

As Snape watched her walk through the closet door and into her room he couldn’t help but observe that there was much more to Katherine Shepard than met the eye.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Two weeks passed in which Katherine refused to leave her room or speak to Snape. With each approach he was summarily ignored, only inciting his ire further. He immediately went to Albus to see if the man could reason with her, but she would not permit his presence either. She simply turned on her side away from both of the men, hugging herself and screaming for them to leave.

Albus of course was immediately worried for her, concerned that something had happened between she and Severus. Snape opened his mind widely, allowing Albus free reign to see his interactions with the girl. When nothing too unsettling showed up Albus decided that the girl simply needed time.

“We don’t have time,” Snape said in Albus’ office that evening.  He was pacing in front of the man’s desk, his arms crossed behind his back in agitation. His fingers danced along his palm, itching to grab something to throw in frustration.

“Miss Shepard feels she has no one left,” Albus said. “Surely you know something about that, Severus? Enough to give the girl some  patience? Come compassion?”

“Compassion?” Snape sneered.

Albus sighed darkly, he himself was exhausted. The last few weeks had been tiring as he had begun Harry’s lessons in Occlumency and Legilimens. It had taken a toll on both of them and Albus had dark circles under his eyes.

“Has your approach softened? Or are you bullying the girl into letting you in? Have you tried a certain level of softness? You’re a double agent Severus, surely you know you have to conform to get information from those who would not easily give it?”

Snape felt his jaw clench at this accusation. Of course he knew how to get information out from individuals – muggles especially. But he’d never run into a muggle who could throw him from their mind. Besides that, Albus hadn’t the faintest the kind of ways Severus had of ‘getting information’ from any individual. If he did, the old man wouldn’t be baiting him so.

“This is ridiculous,” Snape said in a voice that was so sharp it stung. “Either the girl starts to obey or I must refuse further sessions with her.”

He knew it was a dangerous gauntlet to throw down. He was after all a loyal subject of Albus’, despite the old man’s tendency towards demanding too much of him. Besides, Albus knew that Snape would do anything to protect Lily’s son. It was a hollow threat, but one that Snape needed to vocalize. Albus recognized this, looking to the young man he’d known for so long, seeing the tired and haunted look in his eyes.

“I see,” Albus said with a small nod of his head. “I understand Severus. I only hope the girl will come to see reason. I would hate to see another innocent die.”

“As would I,” Severus admitted in truth.

“I only hope the girl opens up soon.”

Little did the two men know however that Katherine was not completely isolated. In fact, under the very noses of Albus and Snape, she was having regular visits from a very dutiful Harry Potter under the guise of his invisibility cloak on the weekends when Snape was gone.

With a glance at his map he could see when the git took off and he would make his way to Katherine’s chamber after hours. The past two weekends had been lovely. Katherine had been so eager to see him, overjoyed that he’d kept his promise. In her eyes, he was the only one that had.

They’d played with Snape’s gobstones much to Katherine’s immense delight. It was a rather disgusting game, and once she got the hang of it she enjoyed watching Harry sputter as disgusting oozes sprayed into his face. But the actual metal balls were beautiful colors that looked like unique gems. Katherine enjoyed just looking at them, feeling the weight in her palm before setting up her next play.

During these visits Katherine and Harry spoke freely, as only two individuals who recognized the other carried a heavy burden can. They knew that due to circumstance, the information presented would never be revealed to anyone else. In that vein there was a sense of confidence in being vulnerable, a safety that they didn’t possess with anyone else at the moment.

Harry spoke of his parents and of Voldemort, and how the muggle world was starting to be tangled with the magic in the worst possible way. Katherine felt her stomach flipping when he told her news like that, demanding every detail he could remember. He didn’t like sharing it with her, but it was an unspoken promise between them to have no lies.

“Have you ever seen Voldemort?” Katherine had asked quietly, to which Harry had only nodded solemnly. She hadn’t pressed him for more information after that.

There were bright spots in their visits however. Katherine told Harry of particularly unique cases that had come through her veterinary practices. Harry would tell her about Quiddich matches and the latest gossip with Ron and Lavender.

“Hermione’s quite keen on Ron, isn’t she?” Katherine asked with a small, knowing smile. It seemed so obvious to her and she couldn’t help but delight in their adolescent adventures.

“How did you know? I never told you.” Harry demanded over tea one night.

“It’s her reactions,” Katherine said with a small laugh. “I felt the same thing with a fellow in my year at uni. I never told him and he ended up marrying my friend however. They moved to Australia and now I never see them.”

“Do you have someone waiting for you back home in London?” Harry asked, suddenly curious to the romantic engtanglements of the woman before him. She seemed so confident, so self assured and he wondered what kind of man would win her favor.

“No,” Katherine answered simply, a bit embarrassed at the answer. “I’m afraid I’m a bit hard to live with. I’m often at work and when I’m not at work I want to be at work.”

“You’re mental,” Harry said with a sharp chuckle. “I can’t imagine having a job like that.”

“Just wait,” Katherine said with a knowing look over her teacup. “You will.”

“If I live to see it,” was the boy’s enigmatic response.

***

Now it was Thursday afternoon and Katherine lay on top of her bed. Snape hadn’t bothered to try talking to her today. She had heard him shuffling about in his room before taking off hours before. Good. After their last session she wasn’t sure she could take seeing him again. She couldn’t stand the thought that he would be inside her mind once more, rooting around her most intimate and horrifying memories.

Suddenly there was a knock at her door and Katherine groaned. If it was Snape he would have just barged in, so she walked warily to the door to see an excited looking Harry looking to her.

 “Harry! He’s still here! I’m sure of it!” Katherine said worriedly, “we’re going to be caught!”

Even though Katherine currently despised the surly professor, she still had a bit of anxiety at straight out defying him. She wasn’t sure if it was his intimidating façade, the fact that he was a bit older than her or his general demeanor, but while she was fine ignoring him, actively going against him made her stomach do a strange flip.

“Here,” Harry said, ignoring Katherine’s concern and thrusting a small flask into her hand as he entered. “I’ve got a Christmas present for you.”

“Christmas isn’t for months,” Katherine laughed, taking the flask from Harry in wonder, calmed by his own relaxed way. “What is this?”

“You know how you’ve been aching to see a Quidditch match?”

“Yeah.”                                                                                       

“Well, here’s your chance!” Harry exclaimed, looking so excited that Katherine faltered a moment, feeling stupid as he pulled a uniform and cloak from the bag at his side.  She gave a weak smile, hoping it would come to her but finally she had to admit she was none the wiser.

“I’m sorry Harry, I don’t get it.”

“This is a polyjuice potion,” Harry explained, trying to simplify his explanation. “It’s a potion that turns you into someone else for a bit of time. Long enough for you to see a Quidditch match for sure!”

Katherine felt her stomach jump in excitement. Imagine actually seeing a Quidditch match!  She could barely contain her excitement, happily bouncing from foot to foot.  “Who will I be?”

“That’s the best part,” Harry insisted, looking very proud of himself. “You’re going to be Hermione! She’s sick in bed with a fever. She won’t be going anywhere today. She’s the perfect cover up!”

“She didn’t mind?” Katherine inquired surprised. She didn’t know that Harry had told anyone about her. She had been certain that she’d insisted on secrecy. But Harry was looking to her a bit weirdly, unable to actually meet her gaze. 

“Well, she doesn’t actually know. . . “ he finally trailed off with a guilty smile.

“Harry!” Katherine admonished without sincerity. She really wanted to see a Qudditch match in the flesh! Well, Hermione’s flesh she supposed. She would take what she could get. Katherine’s smile slowly fell from her face.

“But what about Snape? He’ll catch us for sure!”

“Slytherin always trounces Hufflepuff,” Harry insisted, “and every single time his team wins, he goes to the Three Broomsticks to celebrate and gloat. You’ll have heaps of time. Besides, Snape’ll be too busy watching the game to even notice you. And even if he does, it’s not even suspicious because I’m always with Hermione. ”

Katherine thought about this a moment, her lips breaking into a large smile.

“Let’s do it.”

***

Katherine pulled on the new smaller robes, her eyes going to her new and more youthful face. That hair! She tried to smooth it down a bit but gave it up; she was only going to be in this body for a short time anyway. She pulled on the outer cloak and then emerged from the washroom, looking to Harry and striking a pose.

“Hermione would never pose like that,” Harry laughed, standing up from his chair by the fire. “You need to work on being more Hermione. Don’t talk to a lot of people, sort of keep your head down for today. If anyone asks, I’ll tell them that you’re just getting over being ill.”

“Great!” Katherine exclaimed, then stopped as the voice she heard was rather sharp and clipped. 

“One thing you need to do” Harry observed. “Your voice is Hermione's but you need to speak with confidence like she does. That'll make it more convincing. Now c’mon, let’s go!”

Harry and Katherine-Hermione rushed from the chambers, their legs carrying them as quickly as they could up into the main corridors of Hogwarts. At this, they drew to a casual walk with Harry speaking to Katherine casually.

“Okay Hermione,” he said playfully, “Ron is helping to coach the Hufflepuff team today, so he’ll be quite busy. And we have to sit in slightly different seats than normal.”

Katherine nodded excitedly, pulling the burgundy and yellow scarf tighter around her neck as she felt he first bit of cool weather hitting her. She hadn’t been outdoors in a while and she was surprised at how quickly she was becoming used to the warmth of her room. She was about to say this when Katherine spotted a familiar maudlin figure working his way through the crowds.

“Oh Christ!” Katherine yelped as Snape came into view.

“Calm down,” Harry hissed, gripping her wrist in his hand tightly to ground her. "And Hermione doesn't talk like that! If you're unsure, just keep quiet."

Katherine clutched onto his hand for dear life, feeling the utter horror wash over her as Snape eyed them from down the hall, making his way towards them with deliberately menacing steps.

“I thought he was already outside.”

“So did I.”

 “He’s going to catch us.”

“Not if you follow my lead,” Harry hispered harshly, his voice dying as the tall, looming frame of Severus Snape towered over them. Katherine leaned back in order to see his full height, her eyes widening as she did.  Thankfully his eyes were firmly resting on Harry’s pinched face, his body language rigid.

“Potter,” Snape sneered openly, looking to the boy with dark amusement. “Seems Slytherin won’t have the joy of trouncing you Gryffindors today.”

Harry tried to school his features, making sure not to lose his temper. It would only result in a detention for him and a panic from Katherine. 

“I suppose not,” Harry replied through gritted teeth.  Snape smirked at this before he felt the gaze of Katherine-Hermione on him.  He glanced down to see Harry and ‘Hermione’s’ hands clutched tightly together, the girl’s knuckles white.

“I see I’ve interrupted something quite. . . Intimate,” he said silkily, looking to where the two were joined and causing Harry to drop Katherine’s hand like a hot potato. She glanced over at him in a tizzy, trying to school her frantic features.

Oh please don’t give us away.

“Not at all,” Harry insisted, looking effortlessly casual. “Hermione just tripped is all.”

“Did she?” Snape said flatly, his eyes making their way over to Katherine’s pale face.  “How clumsy of Miss Granger.”

Katherine found the only thing she could do in that moment was to nod stupidly. Snape gave her a strange look and then swung dramatically around, his cloaks billowing out from behind him like some bizarre black wedding gown train. Katherine finally let out the air she’d been holding in her lungs, trying her best not to panic as she shot a feeble look at Harry.

“You did great,” he said in a hush before inclining his head. “Let’s go!”

Minutes later they arrived at the bleachers, stuffed full with students of all ages and houses. Many were holding up bells or noise makers, some had their faces painted yellow or green. Katherine smiled at the sights, not minding that she was jostled as Harry led her down.

“Hermione, you’re feeling better!” a blonde girl said out of nowhere, throwing her arms around Katherine-Hermione. Katherine forced a weird smile on her face, hugging the girl back gently. She tried to make her voice a bit higher, a bit more refined.

“Yes, much better,” she said stiffly. Harry could see the panic on her face and quickly led her away from the crowd. A few students gave her a warm smile or nod of recognition. Katherine responded to all with awkward smiles and waves until Harry pulled her to the side.

“We’re going down here, under the stands,” Harry urged, pushing her lightly down to the ground level. It was quiet and empty there and if Katherine looked up, she could see the shoes of the witches and wizards above.  It was like being a spy and she smiled widely at the thought.

“Now, it’s not the best view, but it’s the best I can do,” Harry said with a shrug. “If we sit up in the stands you’re likely to run into far too many people and questions. Here under the stands you can still see everything, but we’re also a bit protected.”

Katherine nodded, not caring if she had to be on the roof of Hogwarts with binoculars to see this. She was actually seeing a full-fledged Quidditch match!  She couldn’t help the excited tears that started at the edge of her vision.

“Harry you’re the most wonderful friend,” Katherine breathed with a sigh, scarcely believing she was actually here watching this.  “I cannot believe I’m here.”

Harry gave her a warm smile, realizing that he was very keen for her approval. Despite the fact that she was scarcely a decade over than the boy, Harry almost felt she had a mothering presence, a nurturing kindness that Harry didn’t realized he’d been craving. Having her appreciate this gift made Harry’s heart swell proudly.

The game began and Summerby rushed by on his broom, causing Katherine to let out a small screech of delight. Harry was thankful they were under the bleachers, hidden mostly out of sight. They glanced up, watching the

Malfoy zoomed by on his broom, not seeing Harry and the Katherine-Hermione that stood gaping up at him. He kept his light grey eyes peeled for the snitch and Harry grimaced, wishing he was facing off against the git.

“That’s Malfoy,” Harry explained when Katherine asked. “He’s the biggest ponce around.”

“He looks it,” Katherine agreed out of sheer loyalty.

Cadwallader quickly flew upwards and swung his bat backwards, hitting the bludger with a resounding thwap and watching in delight as Smithe missed it and it went through the ring. A resounding cheer went through the yellow-clad crowd causing Katherine to jump up and down excitedly at the action.

“GO HUFFLEPUFF!” Katherine shouted, surprised as Harry clamped his hand over her mouth hardly.

“Hermione never cheers like that,” Harry said with a small laugh. “She’s much more demure.”

They watched on for the next half an hour, Katherine trying to contain her delight as these students flew by on brooms, hitting bludgers and shouting at one another to focus. It was like a football match but much, much more engaging.

“I can’t believe the snitch hasn’t been caught yet,” Harry said in disbelief and Katherine was disappointed she’d never get to see her friend play. She glanced over to see Harry looking wistfully up at the players and Katherine was secretly furious that this sweet boy should have to live such a stressful life.

As if he had heard him, Draco suddenly darted through the sky like a green lightning bolt. Katherine saw the snitch, it’s beautiful golden body moving through the air with ease.

“He’s going to catch it!” Katherine said, ignoring that she hated the boy on Harry’s behalf. She was just intrigued to see someone actually catch it in front of her. Quickly the boy’s gloved hand wrapped around the orb, his arm being jerked violently.

“DRACO MALFOY HAS CAUGHT THE GOLDEN SNITCH” boomed a voice on the loudspeakers, causing Katherine to cover her ears at the sound.The game ended shortly after, with Slytherin trouncing Hufflepuff, just as Harry had predicted.

They waited under the stands for the many figures to make their way to the castle. Harry was unhappy with the outcome, but he looked to Katherine with a look of intrigued delight.

“Well, what did you think?”

Katherine was about to say something about it being one of the best days of her life when she suddenly felt her left hand start tingling. She held up her hand palm out,  clenching her hand and viewing in surprise that her pinky was slowly paling and lengthening.

“Harry,” Katherine said holding her hand up wordlessly.  As she did that she saw the bushy mane on her shoulders slowly growing longer and darkening. 

“We need to get you back,” Harry observed the changes happening in his friend. “The potion is wearingoff.”

Katherine nodded, about to agree when something caused them to still and for Harry’s hand to reach out and push her behind him slightly.  

“Is the view under the stands inexplicably more pleasant, Potter?”

Katherine felt her blood run cold at the oily sound, her dark eyes widening as the familiar voice sounded out from behind her. Harry quickly pinched her arm; a silent warning not to panic. But Katherine couldn’t stop staring at Snape with wide eyes.

What is he doing here? He’s supposed to be getting a drink at the Three Broomsticks!

Katherine stared at him open-mouthed, her heart hammering in her chest. How was she going to get away from the man if he was cornering them here under the stands? All of a sudden she realized she needed to think and sound like Hermione. What would Hermione do? She tried to look thoughtful and a bit put out.

“Ten points from Gryffindor,” Snape hissed at the students looking to him warily. “You know you’re not to be faffing about under the stands during a game.”

“We weren’t faffing about,” Harry insisted with a grumble, but his face was pale. “We were just talking.”

“And talking inside the castle is impossible?” Snape sneered, his gaze dark on the students before him. His eyes travelled to where Katherine-Hermione stood trembling behind Harry, gripping the back of his cloak with her larger-pinkied hand.  

“Or were you just helping Miss Granger from tripping again?”

Katherine stared up at Snape, realizing that as Hermione she was even shorter than she was. She almost had to lean back to take in his entire form.  At the same time she was so irritated with him! Is this what he was like with Harry Potter all the time? This mean and rude? Were the stories Harry told her true?  She had always assumed the teen had exaggerated a bit.

Of course they were. How was she surprised? She wanted to tell him to sod off, to stop being such a git, but she obviously couldn’t. The thought of what he may to do her when he was angry had her suddenly racked with fear.  She couldn’t help but see him as intimidating in this shorter position as well and as if he could feel her penetrating gaze he turned on her.

“What are you staring at, Granger?” Snape spat, giving the girl a disdainful glance. Harry glanced over to Katherine whose eyes were wide. Seeing that she wasn’t responding, Harry nudged her.

Right. I’m Granger.

“Oh,” Katherine said, trying to adopt Hermione’s no-nonsense tone. “Nothing.. sir."

Snape glared openly at the girl, his dark eyes beginning to probe Katherine’s. She knew exactly what he was up to and she quickly broke from his gaze. She shot Harry a frantic look before she backed away from the two figures looking to her incredulously.  

“I have to go,” Katherine insisted in her best emulsione of Hermione’s confident demeanor. “You see, I need to use the toilet.”

It wasn’t a particularly demure reason, and she silently apologized to Hermione for the embarrassing faux pas. However she was desperate and Snape was very suspicious.   She rushed off towards the castle and Snape’s gaze was already back on Harry’s, his sneer present and he told the boy of his detention with Filch that evening. Harry seemed to be attempting to lengthen the conversation, but Katherine quickly outran their voices.

Katherine rounded the corner to the dungeons, her ribs hurting from her quick pace. Already the uniform was creeping up her legs, tightening around her middle. The potion was wearing off quickly and she couldn’t be seen! She winced at the tightness of the clothing, rushing into Snape’s chambers and throwing herself through her door of the chamber. She pulled them off in a whirl, her hands trembling in fear.

“Blankar,” Katherine shrieked, throwing the clothing at the house elf. “Please turn on the fire!”

The fire roared as the little elf wordlessly started it before disappearing once more. Katherine pulled on her own jeans and jumper and rushed into the bathroom, regarding her reflection.

“Oh thank goodness,” Katherine said, relieved to see her own boring but comforting face looking back at her. She rushed back into her room and grabbed the book from beside her bed. She threw herself onto the ground before the fire, praying that Snape wouldn’t be in anytime soon.  She needed some time to calm down before facing him.

However it was just moments before she heard his heavy footsteps come through his chamber doors. She smoothed her hair down, praying that she could maintain an air of innocence and hoping that the fire would explain her sweaty face and red cheeks.

Snape burst into her room, his eyes narrowed at her casual frame on the floor. She was on her stomach, propped up on her elbows and flipping lazily through her book on magical creatures. She glanced up at him in question, seeing that he had a twisted look on his face.

“What happened to the wards?” asked Snape.  

Katherine tried to look nonplussed, hoping that the fireplace could be blamed for her rosy cheeks and damp forehead. She tried to seem irritated as she had been all this week.

“I don’t know what you mean,” she lied, looking back at her book and turning the page absently. She pretended to read the article on Thestrals, her peripheral gaze noting that Snape wasn’t moving. He was simply staring down at her from the doorframe like an overgrown spider.

Don’t panic. Just act like he’s annoying you.

He scowled at her and Katherine searched her mind for a good reason that could explain why the wards would be down. But she had to do it casually; otherwise it would encourage him to probe her mind. And she didn’t need any more of that, thank you very much.

“Oh, Albus was here earlier,” Katherine offered, trying to act subdued but secretly thankful for the man’s earlier visit.  She still didn’t bother looking up to meet Snape’s gaze. “Perhaps he forgot to put up the wards again when he left?”

Snape didn’t believe the girl one bit, his eyes narrowed on her. He would be sure to check with Albus at dinner to see if he had in fact been to see the girl. Snape didn’t reply, instead choosing to rush from the room with his cloaks billowing behind him dramatically. He slammed the door to her room soundly, causing Katherine to start and thank the heavens above that she hadn’t been caught.

 

Chapter Text

 

Hours later Snape marched back into the room, ordering Katherine to follow him. He looked in a right sour mood. Albus hadn’t been anywhere in the castle so he couldn’t corroborate the brat’s story she’d weaved earlier. But tonight he would be sure to search her mind to see just what she’d  been up to earlier today because something wasn’t sitting right with him.

He briefly noted that she was dressed today in a black skirt and red cardigan – something ridiculous and ill-suited for the dungeons. Where did she think she was going- the cinema? Not to mention it was the color he despised the most; crimson.

“Take a seat,” he said cooly, pointing to her customary wooden chair at the table. Katherine almost acquiesced before she stopped, suddenly aware that she was exhausted and that she was tired of being talked to like an animal.

“No,” Katherine replied, crossing her arms. “I don’t want to do it tonight.”

“Excuse me?” his voice was barely above a whisper.

“I’m tired,” Katherine replied honestly. “I want to take a break. And the last time you did it, you were really awful. You went into memories you had no business being in.”

“I told you that reading memories is a tricky thing,” Snape said blandly, pinching the bridge of his nose in irritation before pointing to the chair again. “Those memories came unbidden to me. Now sit.”

Katherine refused and she viewed as Snape turned, looming over her at his full height and staring down at her with poorly concealed rage.

“I’m not one of your frightened students, Professor,” Katherine replied, her eyes narrowing on his tall frame. “Please treat me with a little respect.”

She was just about to continue further when Snape grabbed her arm out of nowhere, dragging her the rest of the way to the chair and forcing her into it. She went to stand angrily but immediately viewed as her wrist, abdomen and ankles were secured into place on the chair, binding and trapping her. Immediately she felt a flush of both complete and utter fear as well as extreme fury.

“How dare you!?” she shrieked, craning her head back and looking to the man smirking above her. “What the hell is wrong with you?”

He didn’t speak, but continued to look down at her in the chair. Katherine could already feel him there at her temples. That familiar feeling of sharp glass slicing along her skin.  He was going into her mind and aggressively tonight. She knew he would hold nothing back, he would likely plunder through her brain cruelly calling forth her most private and personal memories.

Fuck him.

Katherine shut her eyes tightly, wrenching her face away from his direction and shouting obscenities.  She could feel him growing angry across from her, and she felt his hands come on either side of her chin, trying to force her to face him.

“Open your eyes, girl.”

“NO!”

Snape growled, wanting nothing more than to throttle the young woman before him.  But instead he changed tactics, bringing up his chair and sitting across from her in a fashion that was much too close. She refused to meet his gaze, instead clenching her eyes even more tightly. They sat like this, completely still for several moments. Katherine could feel the perspiration at her hairline and she prayed that it wouldn’t drip down her temple and betray her anxiety.

“I can keep you like this for days,” Snape almost purred this, his voice low and unassuming. “No one would ever know. I’d tell Albus you attacked me. That you needed to be bound and broken.”

He could see Katherine’s jaw clenching at that.  He allowed the bindings to dig deeper into her flesh, almost reveling as the girl began to grow breathless.

“I assure you Miss Shepard I could be much more cruel than this,” Snape said leaning forward. She could feel his breath hot against her face, it smelled of pumpkin juice and she cringed, fighting against her bindings. “What you’ve seen is me at my most restrained. Don’t forget that I am indeed a Death Eater. I’ve done and seen things that would haunt you.”

 He could see a tic of worry on her cheek at that, viewed the soft swallow she allowed herself. She was a tough muggle, he’d give her that. But she would break just like any other. She licked her drying lips, her eyes still shut tightly.

“Let me go,” she finally whispered, her chest heaving with barely suppressed sobs. “I don’t want to be tied up while we do it.”

“You’ve proven yourself most untrustworthy Miss Shepard,” Snape said silkily, enjoying her distress.  At this he drew a tapered finger along her bare forearm, smirking as she flinched from it. “Why should I remove the binding?”

“Because then I’ll let you read my mind without pushing you out,” Katherine said, her head hanging in shame at how quickly she’d folded. But the binds were so tight and she was struggling to breathe.  “I’ll let you see whatever it is you want. Free reign in my head. Just untie me, please. I can’t breathe.”

Snape took in her countenance then, looking so very defeated there in the chair, her dark hair obscuring her face.  He reversed the spell, watching as she moved limply forward, surprised at the sudden removal of the bindings and almost topping out of her chair. 

Snape gave a small exhale of a snort at this, causing Katherine’s ire to burst into flame at the very sight of him. Her eyes burned with a deep hatred then.

“MONSTER!”  Katherine roared, throwing the bindings from her body and moving away from the table and from Snape. She wanted to be as far from him as possible.  “You have to tie me down to get what you want? You coward!”

She saw it then – that sickening manic look Snape sometimes acquired and it chilled her. He was breathing in angry huffs, his black eyes wild. Like a mad horse who had broken free of its paddock. She held up a hand in defense.

“ENOUGH!” he shouted angrily, upsetting the table in the process. Katherine rushed over to the door of the chambers, her head hammering as she glanced at him. He was about to stride over to her, about to say something when he suddenly gripped his left arm. Katherine watched as he bent at his middle, grinding his teeth in pain.

“Get to your room,” he growled, no longer concerned with the appointment she so dearly wanted to avoid.  Still wincing, he pulled out his wand.

Accio robes and mask,” he ground out, quickly palming them as they flew into his waiting grip. Katherine looked to the clothes, realizing for certain where he was going off to. She felt a pang of regret, but it was quickly replaced by the realization that he couldn’t do anything more to her for the evening.

“Get back into your room,” Snape repeated angrily, pulling on the robes angrily. “NOW!”

“No,” Katherine bit back, furious at how he was treating her. “I want to see Dumble-.”

“I don’t have time for this,” Snape nearly shouted, interrupting her. “Get back to your room before I make you.”

Katherine felt her eyes fill with furious tears, but she did as she was told. She was starting to see how magic could do almost anything. She rubbed at her raw wrists and admitted to herself that she had no interest in being constricted to a chair like that again.  It had been frightening and suffocating and she realized he could do it any time he wanted.

“I hate you,” she knew it was juvenile and she knew it was cruel, but she couldn’t help it. She slammed the door after she’d said it, hoping that she’d wounded him but knowing that she hadn’t.

“What else is new?” Snape snarled before he’d rushed from his chambers, his robes billowing out from behind him dramatically.

***

Katherine hiccoughed in her bed, furiously screaming and pounding her pillow with all the strength she possessed. She hated that stupid man with all her heart. His ugly face and his hideous teeth and disgusting hair. She hated being around him and she hated that she was stuck with him. She hated so much about him. She couldn’t find one redeeming quality in the man.

She would see Dumbledore and insist she be allowed to sleep elsewhere. She was finished with being a prisoner – especially with such a volatile and unpredictable menace as Severus Snape. But something in her gave her pause as she pursued this train of thought.

You idiot. What do you think Dumbledore will do? You know how hard he and Harry are working! And you would dare to burden him with this? After all they’re trying to save your life!

She threw herself to the floor, pacing angrily as she swore a blue streak around the confining space. She knew she couldn’t go and bother Dumbledore with this, but she needed to escape. The memories of the Quidditch match were suddenly clouded with visions of the sallow professor and his misery. How was she to proceed? What could she do?

Suddenly the idea came to her.

“BLANKAR!” she screamed in a voice so loud she felt it echo in the room painfully. Within seconds the house elf was before her, looking to her expectantly and she felt a flutter of relief in her ribs. She hadn’t been sure that he’d arrive and she gave him a watery smile.

“Miss Katherine has been crying,” Blankar observed with a touch of concern that Katherine normally would have found sweet.  “Blankar will bring Miss Katherine some tea.”

“No no, tea, Blankar. It’s just Allergies,” she replied, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand like a child. “The dust makes my eyes red. I promise I’m fine.”

Blankar said nothing to this, instead his finger found the edge of his tea towel and he twisted it awkwardly in his grip as he looked to her.

“What does Miss Katherine Shepard require?”

“I’m asking you to do me one small favor,” Katherine said shakily, trying her best not to seem desperate. “All I need you to do is go to Harry Potter’s room and tell him – privately- that there is an emergency in the dungeons. He’ll know what that means.”

Blankar gazed up at Katherine with watery green eyes, obviously unsure of what to do.

“After your abysmal treatment of me earlier, I think this would please Master Snape,” Katherine said, wincing at the term Master. “I will be sure to pass along how kindly you’ve treated me tonight. After all you’re not letting me out of the dungeons are you?”

“No, Miss.”

“So you’re not disobeying any orders are you?”

“No, Miss,” he said though he sounded less convinced.

“Brilliant,” Katherine replied before throwing herself into a nearby chair. “Please do it now, if you please, Blankar.”

She watched as the little house elf seemed to go through an internal debate before he gave a snap and disappeared, going – she assumed – to Harry’s room.  She brought her knees to her chest on the chair, feeling more and more like a helpless child when she was here. She blamed that on Snape’s overbearing countenance and she grimaced at the thought of him.

A sudden knock at the door sounded and she rushed over to open it before throwing herself into the waiting arms of a very confusing and waiting Harry Potter. He patted her back neutrally before pulling back and looking into her face.

“What happened?”

Katherine wanted to tell him this, she wanted to tell him everything that had happened but  she found herself desperately clutching to the young man.

 “Harry, please take me away from this place,” Katherine begged, the tears falling freely from her face now. “Anywhere.”

 

***

Snape made his way back into the chambers less than an hour later, thankful that the only thing Voldemort had required of Severus was to understand if there was merit in the promise he’d made to Narcissa Malfoy; of his unbreakable vow. When Snape had informed him that yes, this had occurred; Voldemort had looked thoughtful instead of irate.

“You would kill Albus Dumbledore?” Voldemort hissed, apparently not convinced.

“I would,” Severus nodded, his tone giving nothing away. “I would do whatever you require of me, should the boy hesitate.”

“Should the boy hesitate,” Voldemort echoed, his ruby eyes scanning his loyal comrade before nodding. “Very well, Severus. Leave me and return to your duties. I look forward to whatever new information you bring me.”

Now Snape strode through the door of his chambers, throwing off his ridiculous robes and shoving the mask into a small cupboard. He hated having those things around his home, taunting him with their mere presence.  He slammed the cupboard door shut and in that action was reminded of his most annoying ward.

He was in a foul mood and not a small part of him admitted that he wanted to see the girl scared. She’d been acting so haughty with him, but tonight he’d seen real fear in her.  He wrenched open her door, prepared to lambaste her with a verbal sting when he realized her room was empty. That’s when he realized in his rush into the chambers he’d overlooked something quite obvious.

The wards were down.

***

When Harry stopped minutes later in an emptied corridor, Katherine recognized where they stood almost immediately.  She gripped his hand tightly.

“Think of what you need,” Harry said quietly from underneath the invisibility cloak with her. Katherine closed her eyes, letting Harry guide her back and forth in front of the door.

Comfort.

Love.

Comfort.

Love.

Finally they stepped through the door and Katherine felt all anxieties fall from her shoulders.

 “This is the Room of Requirement,” she said in a low voice for confirmation.  Harry nodded, motioning to the two chairs that were before a fire. Katherine could have cried for the cozy scene and she and the green-eyed boy took a seat next to each other before the crackling embers.

“Tell me everything,” Harry urged gently.

And so in a blubbering confession Katherine told him about what had happened upon her return this evening, of Snape’s aggression and the binding spell. She could see Harry getting furious and she immediately felt guilty for dragging him into this. Did he not have enough on his plate to contend with? But she couldn’t stop the flood once it had spilled from her mouth.

“Harry, I’m so sorry,” she whispered, “I never should have bothered you with this.”

“No, it’s fine,” Harry insisted, gripping her hands in his.

“No,” Katherine shook her head and pulling her grip from his. “It’s not.”

Harry was quiet, mulling over the information that Katherine had just imparted. He felt his hand clenching as he thought of the great bat, how he spread misery everywhere. Even into this muggle who didn’t look like she could harm a fly.  Hadn’t she just been understanding and sweet and kind this entire time he’d known her? He felt his head throbbing as he did so, feeling his nails digging into his palm.

“You know you can’t say anything to Dumbledore or Snape?” Katherine gently reminded him as she observed this behavior. “We’ll both be in terrible trouble.”

“No, I won’t say a thing,” Harry said, his hand unfurling a bit. “But that doesn’t mean that I have to be alright with how he treats you. Or anyone for that matter.”

“But Dumbledore trusts him,” Katherine said, trying to convince herself. Harry said nothing to this, instead choosing to look into the fire with a thoughtful look on his face. Katherine was about to say something more when something in the corner of the room caught her eye. It glinted off the light from the fire, catching her attention and silently urging her forward.

She stood, walking slowly over to the large mirror at the corner. It was beautiful and it continued to silently beckon her further.  She walked almost silently, her eyes widening as two figures seemed to abut her in the reflection.

“What is this?” Katherine asked, her eyes wide on the figures in front of her and Harry glanced over in sudden interest.  When he saw what was happening he nearly topped the chair over as he rushed towards her.

 “Harry, I see my parents,” Katherine said in a daze. “Does this mirror bring people back from the dead?”

“No, Katherine – “Harry tried to intercede, seeing where this was going. He tried to grip her shoulder but she was moving too fast forward, collapsing onto her knees in front of the mirror. Her hand pressed against the cool glass.

“You need to step back, Katherine.”

“Please do it, Harry,” Katherine said, deaf to his concerns. “Bring them back.”

“I can’t,” Harry insisted, looking to his friend sadly. He couldn’t bring himself to look into the mirror himself, knowing what would await him. He knew he would have an impossible time dragging himself away.  “This is the mirror of Erised. It just shows you what your heart’s desire is.”

“They’re there,” Katherine said, her eyes searching the silver backed piece. “I can see them, Harry. “

“You can’t stay here,” Harry insisted, trying to pull Katherine back.”Trust me I know how tempting it is, but it’s not real.”

“Let me go,” she insisted, wrenching from his grip and forcing her gaze back to the mirror. Harry tried this approach several more times, getting more and more frustrated as she slapped his hands away or elbowed him harshly. When she pushed him back so harshly he almost tripped he felt his patience wearing thin.

“I won’t use magic against you,” Harry said simply. “But I’m leaving. And if you don’t come with me now, there’ll be no more visits.”

He had hoped that this thinly veiled threat would be enough to snap her out of her stupor. This kind woman who had treated Harry so kindly and with such adoration was replaced with something desperate and cruel and needy for whatever she saw in the mirror. He felt a pang of empathy shoot through him, knowing better than anyone how she must feel.

“ You need to come with me now, please, Katherine.”

Katherine didn’t even hear him; her eyes were on the kind and welcoming gaze of her parents in front of her. She could feel all the fears and panics of the last few weeks suddenly falling from her and she allowed herself to sob openly.

“Last chance,” Harry said softly, feeling awful but knowing he had to leave. Dumbledore would be searching for him soon, wondering why he wasn’t arriving for his lessons.  He couldn’t let the man know it was because he’d been sneaking a muggle all around Hogwarts!

“I’ll be back to pick you up in a few hours,” Harry finally relented, angry at the situation and for getting himself into it. “And in a few hours if you aren’t ready to go, I’ll have to make you. Do you understand?”

“Fine,” Katherine said hollowly, her face pale in the mirrors reflection. Harry glanced over to see his own family smile and waving back at him. He had to wrench his gaze away, knowing what awaited a man who stared too long at the mirror of Erised.

***

Snape rushed through the halls, peering into every alcove he could conceive. The girl was gone! This was madness – where could she have gone? How could she have escaped his ward? She was no witch for Merlin’s sake! He rushed into Albus’ office, not caring if the man was asleep or working. Thankfully he was at his desk this time and Severus didn’t even bother with niceties.

“The Muggle is gone!” he bellowed in irritation, causing Albus to start a moment. His face began calm once more and he even had the gall to give the man a serene smile.

“Good evening Severus.”

“Did you not hear me, Albus?” Snape threw up his hands in disbelief at the man’s ease of tone. “The Muggle is gone. Gone from my chambers, wards disabled.”

Albus immediately jerked to a stand, concerned that Dark Magic was a part of this. Severus  saw the fear cross the man’s eyes and he felt a stone settle into his gut for bothering the man. He shook his head, raising a calming hand.

“I sensed no foul play,” Snape said with a placating tone, laced with venom. “But I do suspect mischief. How could a muggle get herself past my wards? How could she go around the castle unseen?”

“I wonder that myself,” Albus said in a tone that was not half as concerned as Snape felt at this moment. Was the man going senile? Was the curse starting to affect his brain? Snape drew over to the desk, his hands itching to be wrapped around someone’s throat this evening – his anger never abating.

“See what comes of treating muggles with kindness, Albus?” he all but hissed. “The girl is gone and our entire world is now in danger.”

Albus pulled a large purple parchment from his desk, his eyes flicking to it before glancing back up to the tall man.

“I don’t think it was kindness that drove her out of your chambers,” Albus bit back irritably. “I’d wager it was exactly the opposite. And according to this map, the girl is in the Room of Requirement.”

Snape glowered at this, crossing his arms and wondering why Albus wasn’t rushing out the door.  He waited a moment, throwing the man an expectant look. Albus finally looked up from the map once more, raising his eyebrows in surprise.

“You’re quite capable of getting the girl back yourself Severus,” Albus said with a dismissive wave. “Don’t let me keep you.”

Snape gaped a moment in shock, not quite believing the cavalier attitude that Albus was displaying.  He felt he was gaping like a fish and so he steeled his gaze and strode from the room without even glancing behind him. He slammed the door soundly behind him and when a few moment had passed Albus looked to the right of the office.  Harry pulled off the invisibility cloak, not even able to meet the man’s eyes.

“Thank you, Headmaster,” Harry said rather ashamed of himself.  “I didn’t know what to do.”

“Under the circumstances, I can understand your desire to help,” Albus said however his tone was chilled. “However this was not your business Harry. There is a reason I trust Professor Snape. You need to learn to trust my judgement, m’boy. Are we clear?”

“Yes sir.”

“I trust there will be no more visits with Miss Shepard?”

“No sir.”

***

Snape paced back and forth in front of the door, his eyes burning a hole into it as he concentrated on the wall in front of him. With every stride he felt his focus fixated on one singular person; the annoyance that was Katherine Shepard.

Katherine Shepard… annoying muggle.

Katherine Shepard… pain in my side.

Katherine Shepard….waking nightmare.

The door appeared and Snape burst in, not bothering with trying to be kind right now. He was exhausted and stressed at the little brat –

He paused a moment, his eyes adjusting to the dark as he saw her figure on the floor, facing away from him. What was she doing there on the dusty ground? He went to say something angrily at her, to shout at her but the words died on his throat when he saw what she was gazing into.

How had she found it?

Snape made sure to avert his eyes the entire time he drew over to Katherine,  for he knew what – or more specifically who – awaited him in that mirror and he had no desire to see her empty green eyes.  Instead he burned Katherine’s back with his coal-colored gaze and slowly walked up behind her. She had disobeyed him for the last time and now she was going to get it. Without Dumbledore here to protect her she could feel the full extent of his previously suppressed wrath.  She didn’t hear him advance and only offered a small “oh” of surprise when he gripped her.

“Step away from there,” Snape insisted, gripping the girl by her wrist angrily and attempting to drag her back away from the mirror. She whimpered at the harsh clutch of his lean fingers around her wrist and yet she pulled against it immediately.

“No!” Katherine screamed, her voice shrill and desperate as she slid her wrist from the man’s grip in one slippery movement before rushing back to sit in front of the mirror and stare. “It’s them! My mother and father!”

Snape felt no sympathy for her at that moment. All that mattered was she was not obeying his strict orders and he was furious.

Snape gripped the girl tightly around her middle, attempting to pull her back from the mirror. He very rarely had to rely on his wand when it came to Death Eater raids. He actually enjoyed the sport of giving them a chance to fight him. But this muggle in his arms fought him harshly, her fingernails scraping the edge of his jaw causing him to wince and jerk away quickly as her foot connected with his hip. He was surprised to see his wand go flying from his robes pockets and clatter against the stone floor loudly. Still the girl defied him, calling for her father in the mirror.

“Dad! Mum!”

“It’s not them,” Snape grunted, trying to explain and pulling the girl’s arms to her side. He hoped if he could at least get her partially subdued she would fall in line. She screamed mightily, kicking her legs and again thrusting from him. His fury fully flamed he ground his uneven teeth together.

 “Accio wand,” Snape growled, holding out his palm and waiting for the reassuring slap of his wand into his palm. When he gripped it he turned on the girl once more, furious that she wouldn’t be broken. She crouched near the mirror, her hands pressing against the cool glass as her father’s image did the same. The tears were falling freely now as she howled in anguish for the father that would never age.

Snape came up behind her, his wand pointed at her head before giving a pincher lip grip on the girl’s right shoulder.

“How did you get in here?” he demanded, shaking her shoulder angrily. She was tensed; her body alight with inner fire that he was having trouble containing. She was still trying to get away from him, her eyes firmly stuck on the mirror.

“Please,” she begged Snape with such conviction he felt himself wince at the sound of it. “Please just let me stay here with him just a bit longer. I’ll never ask you for anything again. Oh please Severus, please. I’ll never ask you for anything as long as I live. Just let me stay and be with him. Please.”

Snape faltered a moment at hearing his actual name being used by the young woman in such earnest. He didn’t think she’d even realized she’d done it. She also had never asked him for anything in her time here. Not like this, with such conviction and desperation. Her face was scrunched up tightly in sobs, her cheeks red and wet with tears. From where he stood he could see her eyes holding more dark sorrow then he had ever seen in a muggle.

Without fully realizing what he was doing, he had kneeled at the girl’s side; his boots making a small shuffling noise against the stone floor. He gripped the bottom of her chin deftly, forcing it to tilt up gently and for her to meet his gaze. Katherine’s crying lessened slightly at the soft touch, her eyes drawing up to Snape’s form slightly looming above her for just a moment.

“Listen to me.”

Katherine fell quiet, her sobs turning into small whimpers as she allowed the professor to speak. She couldn’t explain the calm she felt when she looked into his eyes, or the way he gripped her chin without malice. So she sat there at his side, listening to him against her better judgment.

“This is the mirror of Erised,” Snape explained calmly, his sonorous voice echoing in the chamber. “This mirror shows you your heart’s deepest desire.  It’s not real. Yet wizards and witches have gone mad looking at this mirror, dreaming their lives away. No good will come of it. And having you exposed here in the school is unsafe. I have no idea how you got here but we are going back to my chambers at once.”

The girl stared up at him, her chin still in his hands. She looked so lost then, so terribly broken and without her usual guard up. Seeing her so emotionally naked was startling to the wizard and he couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable under such a look. In response he released her chin and she dropped her head forward, as if the weight of it was just too much.  

 “I want my parents back,” Katherine rasped, if it were the most insane thing ever spoken. “Just for a moment. I never got to say goodbye. This is as close as I’ll ever have.”

Snape stilled at her words, not knowing how to fully explain that he too had a wish to say goodbye to someone who would never hear it.  He felt his gaze lower to the ground, unsure of how much to share with the girl knowing how much confusion there was around her.   To another wizard he would never stoop to this level of vulnerability, but sharing with a muggle? It was like talking to a portrait or a small animal; he didn’t fear their judgment.

“I can understand,” he eventually said.

“No you couldn’t,” Katherine jeered, her eyes growing flinty as she looked to him. “You don’t understand anything I’m going through because you don’t feel anything. You don’t care about this, you just care that I’m out of your stupid room! You care that I’ve disobeyed you. You couldn’t give a flying fuck about how I actually feel!”

Snape stood up quickly, his patience completely dissolved. His anger flared immediately, feeling moronic for even showing a slice of humanity to the sniveling individual at his feet. He loomed over the girl, clenching his teeth so hard he thought he may break a tooth. He raised his wand and spoke harshly. “Incacerous.”

Thick green ropes from nowhere suddenly wrapped around Katherine who seemed to have lost all the fight within her. They bound her tightly, and to add insult to injury Katherine felt as she was gagged as well. Not that it mattered; her body sagged as she felt herself being levitated in the air. Her eyes drew back to the mirror but a sheet was quickly thrown over it and the image of her parents smiling lovingly at her was the last thing she saw.

With a form of sick satisfaction at her desperation, joyous that she could no longer speak, he slowly levitated her with a wordless charm. She floated behind him lazily, continuing to cry silently.  Her body jerking with every intake of breath as he levitated her down into the dungeons. Snape was careful to take every shortcut, every hidden passageway until they reached his door and he lowered his wards.

By the time they were back Katherine was half asleep from emotional exhaustion, her eyes at half-mast and her breathing beginning to slow, interrupted by a small hiccupping cry that caused her shoulders to shake.  She had never felt this alone, this rotten in her entire life. And to feel this way away from the comforts of home, from friends and the distraction of work was like torture. That wasn’t even taking into account Severus Snape who seemed to make it his life mission to make her miserable. He levitated her into her bedroom and lowered her harshly onto her bed with his wand.

Snape muttered something and the ropes and gag disappeared. He looked down at the girl and saw how tired she was, suddenly viewing that she’d lost weight since her arrival. He would tell Blankar to ensure she was properly taken care of, for he hadn’t any more time to devote to the chit. He was sick to death of her insolence – her mere presence unnerving him.

 He went to leave the room and give the girl her privacy when something in him made him stop. He didn’t know what it was, but he indeed slowed his gait, glancing back over his shoulder. Katherine faced away from him on the bed, curling into a fetal position and crying gently into her hands.

Severus did not feel empathy for others. It was a curse to feel things for individuals that could quickly be taken from you. But as she lay there, crying for a figure she never got to say goodbye to, he couldn’t help but understand a bit. He knew he should leave the room, retire to his bed and sleep the few precious hours he afforded himself. But there was this niggling feeling in his belly that made him tentatively walk over to her bed.

Without a word Severus drew onto the mattress beside her, not completely aware of the weight of his actions.  He lay on his back with Katherine still half-sleeping and half-crying beside him.  His eyes were on the dark ceiling and he glanced over to the young woman who was clearly not alright, despite her continued deference to the contrary. He wondered if this is how he’d seemed to Lily – lost and bitter and hardened when actually terribly wounded. He wondered what the world for him may have been if he’d listened to her or he’d accepted her kindness when it was offered at the time he needed it most.

Lily.

If he’d had any feeling left in him, he assumed he’d be biting back tears.  If arrogance hadn’t ruined him for Lily, what kind of man would he be today?  Would he have continued his life as a Death Eater? Sometimes when he spoke to Dumbledore he would have a flash of the man he could have been and it caused his skin to crawl.

With that question in mind he turned over onto his side facing Katherine. She was still lying there trying to slow down her breathing, to cease her sobs. Her dark hair was a wave on the pillow and she was shivering now.   In an action that was completely foreign to him, he slipped an arm around the girl’s waist and tensed as he waited for her response.

She stilled a moment, likely wondering what he was doing, but she did not pull away from him. When sufficient time had passed and she hadn’t wrenched from his grip he gently urged her back against him, wrapping his arm around her and settling his head more comfortably into the pillow. She was warm against him, her hair tickling the end of his nose and he could see tendrils of her dark hair moving with every exhale of his breath.

 “I hate you,” she whispered hoarsely. 

“I know.”

Katherine felt his hard chest behind her back and involuntarily found herself curling against it. She didn’t know why, but the firm presence behind her felt welcoming. She could feel his heart slow and steady in his chest and the gentle rhythm began to thrum through her, calming her and helping her to stop the panic in her breathing.

Yet as she remembered his behavior from earlier and she wanted to fight him, to push her from her bed but she was as weak as a kitten. She was so tired, so emotionally drained. And there was something so comforting about his tall body enveloping her that she succumbed. It had been so long since she felt safe like this because for once there was no malice in his touch.  Her eyes were very heavy and soon Snape could see the slowing of her sobs until there was only the sound of her steady breathing and the warmth of her in his arms.

There were no more words spoken between them; instead just the quiet understanding of two lonely souls, and within moments the two were asleep.

Chapter Text

Katherine could feel the warmth of the sun on her face, the peace of the moment and she sighed dreamily. She could almost feel the grass under her fingertips and the soft sound of the wind whistling through the trees. This was such a serene moment, and Katherine felt a flicker of movement beside her.  She felt her gaze drawing to her right.

A young girl of about ten lay beside her, her eyes closed and her breathing calm. There was something familiar about her face but she couldn’t quite place it. The girl’s waterfall of dark red hair fanned out like some crimson halo around her.

I’m happy in this moment.

Katherine glanced up, seeing the dappled sunlight through the leaves of the tree above her. It must be a summer day. She closed her eyes again and felt the sweet surrender of lowering guards. She could be herself here, under the trees.

She tentatively reached out a hand, gripping the small hand of the girl beside her. The girl didn’t open her eyes, but smiled to herself before gripping back and giving a squeeze. Katherine was suddenly flooded with a feeling of contentment.

And with this, she closed her eyes once more.

***

Snape sat at the head table eating his breakfast slowly, his mind obviously elsewhere. As he sipped his coffee he was distracted by a memory of the girl’s warm body in his arms last night. The motion last night had been completely platonic –but in the harsh light of day he wondered what she would think.

Would she think he had been trying to take advantage of her? A ham-fisted attempt at seduction when she was vulnerable? He inwardly shuddered at this prospect, his eyes closing a moment before darting open. He was thankful she’d be in her rooms when he returned.  

He supposed his panic at being seen as lecherous was what had prompted his allowance of her passage into his chambers today. He didn’t need her running to Albus with false accusations when it was nothing of the sort.  How could he explain that in the most abstract sense that he had wanted to show comfort to girl because she reminded him so much of his younger self? Alone, scared, frightened? She would never understand.

Worse yet, he realized with a grimace, there was a chance that she would understand and want to know more of his background. She was forever questioning him – it would only bring up more inquires that he would have to artfully dodge. He didn’t need any more stress.

He’d need to be firm with her tonight – not cruel, because he had seen where that had gotten him. But he wouldn’t be so remarkably soppy – holding her when she cried. He cringed visibily, shoving toast into his downturned mouth and hoping that no one had noticed.  His eyes swam over the sea of students all very distracted by their own conversations and laughter.

Potter drew his attention –as he always did – but today for different reasons. The boy was unnaturally quiet this morning – normally laughing loudly with the rest of the trio. But today he looked solemn, withdrawn. Snape smirked at this – enjoying that the boy was feeling a fraction of Snape’s own displeasure.

His eyes drifted over to where Albus sat, looking cheerful and speaking to Flitwick while sipping tea. It was only Severus who saw as the glamoured hand twitched in his lap. It was only Severus who saw the flicker of pain cross the man’s features for a fraction of a moment before he carried on.

It was only Severus who carried his secret.

***

Katherine woke up in her bed alone, convinced that the previous night had been a dream.  Her eyes were swollen from her tears and she rubbed at them irritably. Had Snape really held her as she sobbed last night? Had he truly pulled her into his embrace and waited until she slept before drawing away?  It was nothing like him – nothing like his personality, nothing like he had shown her so far. It made no sense.

Suddenly images of the previous evening came back and she recalled the sight of her father and mother staring back at her from that mirror. Their sweet and comforting faces whispering that they loved her. She realized then why she had seen them – its what she had been requiring when she went into that room.  She needed to stop thinking of it now.  She had the night to calm down to refocus and she knew how seductive that mirror could be. Already she was itching to return to the room, but strangely thankful that she was unable.

But Snape last night – had he really taken her from the room? Held her in his arms in a way that was comforting? She turned onto her side and tilted her head a bit, inhaling of her pillow and confirming that yes, it had been him. His hair had a certain scent of earth and pine that was uniquely him. And now that scent remained on her pillow -faint, but there. She drew herself up to a sitting position, her legs dangling over the side of the bed. 

When she turned and saw that her chamber doors were open she was aware that something must have happened. There was no way he would have done so by accident. She strained her ears but heard nothing outside – no rustling of a duvet or clinking of his tea cup. She padded over to the door, her head popping around the corner to see that it was empty.

Tentatively she placed a bare foot outside her room, waiting to be scolded. But when nothing came she darted out further into the room, surprised as Blankar suddenly appeared out of nowhere to see her.

“Good morning,” Katherine offered sweetly. She wondered if he were mad at her for having Harry sneak her out. But one look at his happy countenance and she assumed all had been well, the elf even looked excited to see her.

“Good morning, Miss Katherine Shepard,” Blankar said with a jolly chuckle. “Master is saying that Katherine Shepard is  to relax in this room if Katherine Shepard pleases.”

Katherine gaped at this admission – her eyes suddenly wide in surprise as she was affronted with the fact that she had free reign of Snape’s chambers. She walked more fully into the room, taking her time to actually view the room at leisure.

The room was cold and she wrapped her arms around herself.  Blankar saw this and immediately started a fire, humming to himself and busying his hands with wiping all the dusty surfaces and organizing all the clutter by the table.

Every time Katherine had been in his chambers before, Snape had commanded her to do so, had been rough and uncaring. But now as she walked into the space she felt she could relax. With Blankar there it almost felt comfortable.  

She saw his large four-poster bed on the far wall of the room, amused to see that much like her own bedroom at home; on either side of the mattress on the floor were piles of books. Some opened, some earmarked for later reading. At least they had something in common.  She walked over to see what he was reading, coming up with something in a language she’d never read before.

“Miss Katherine Shepard is not to go near Master Snape’s bed,” Blankar pointed out warily, his watery eyes taking in her form.

She shrugged to herself and went over to his large bookshelves, her eyes hungrily devouring the different titles that she saw. The entire thing nearly sagged under the weight of all the tomes!  Katherine was quite jealous –with the advent of the internet she spent less and less time reading. It was something that she would have to rectify when she went home.

If you go home.

Katherine ignored that nagging thought, her eyes drawing back to the book titles along their aged spines. There were so many about so many varying disciplines – mostly about potions she noted – but some about the Dark Arts and even Arithmancy. She’d have to ask Snape about that one later, if he felt like a conversation.

 Her eyes came upon one book spine in particular that intrigued her – though she couldn’t truly explain why. It was a large emerald book bearing the title:  Serpens Carminibus et Veneficiis. It wasn’t the title that intrigued her however, but the intricate etching of a golden serpent wrapped around what looked like a wand.

Much like the book of her childhood, the one with the crimson lion Katherine felt the unspoken draw to it – a strong need to possess it. Her fingertips reached forward, her mouth parted in anticipation. But just as she was about to pull it away from the others, it felt as if her finger had run into a thick sheet of plastic. She tapped at it, confused that she could see the books but no matter how many attempts – she could not touch them. As if her attempt had summoned him, Blankar was suddenly at her elbow giving her a knowing look.

 “Why can’t I touch these books?” Katherine asked the house elf, her brows furrowed.

“Master Snape is very protective of his books,” Blankar explained calmly.  “Master Snape is saying that you may sit in his room and read your own books. But Katherine Shepard cannot touch Master’s books.”

“I see,” Katherine nodded, a bit deflated but at the same time noted that it was a small measure of improvement. Snape’s room had windows after all – and some beautiful natural light, though she couldn’t help but observe they looked rather dingy. She wanted to ask Blankar about it, but the poor thing looked like it was already over-worked.

Katherine grabbed one of the wooden chairs at the table and drew it over to the large window a few feet off the ground. She steadied herself before clamoring atop, her eyes peering through the dirt-smudged window to see the glistening great lake.

“I can see the lake from here!” Katherine said in shock. How close were they? Why if the window were lower she thought she might be able to actually touch the water! She smiled widely, the feeling almost unnatural on her face in these chambers.

“That is the Great Lake,” Blankar said helpfully, looking up to her from the floor. Katherine could see a few students milling about and she immediately recognized the blonde boy from the great hall. The one who had insulted Albus! She frowned and as if he felt her eyes on him, he suddenly drew his attention to the window.

Katherine immediately panicked, lowering herself and almost falling off the chair in the process. His eyes had been so cold and flinty and she was certain he must have seen her face.  She could feel a panic rush through her and suddenly unbidden images came to her of the dream before. She was suddenly transported to the calm place under the trees and she felt her panic subsiding. How strange.

“Blankar, I need to see Professor Snape when he gets back,” she said simply. “It’s very important.”

The house elf nodded as she drew over to the crackling fireplace, praying that she was mistaken  about the blonde boy seeing her and promising herself that she would remain here by the fireplace reading the books she was allowed.  She had no desire to upset Snape or anyone else.

It was hours later when she fell asleep in the plush chair, the book on animals falling from her lap and onto the floor with a thud.

***

He swept into the room in silence that evening, his eyes firmly on the far wall as he entered. The first thing he noted was that it was uncomfortably warm inside his chambers and he felt his lips curl in displeasure at this. Obviously the woman had the fire going the entire day, finding his chambers too chilled.

It wasn’t just that which had him uncomfortable – he was keenly aware of the young woman’s presence.  She was asleep on the chair before the last remaining embers of the fire. She was sleeping heavily, her arms limply at the sides.

What was she still doing here? He had been perfectly clear with Blankar hadn’t he?

He dropped his outer robe on the coat hanger by the door before striding over to grab a few pieces of parchment and a quill from his table. It was far too warm for him to work inside and so he turned to leave, preparing to go to his office.

“Are you leaving for another one of those meetings?”

 Katherine perched on the edge of the chair now, her hair a mess and her eyes half open. She’d obviously been roused by his footsteps. She looked as if she were unsure of what to do next but she had needed to speak to him before he left.  He paused a moment before he realized she thought he was heading to a Death Eater meeting.

“I will be in my office marking,” he offered by way of answer. “Blankar will serve you your dinner in your own rooms. Good night.”

With that he closed the door behind him, feeling his chest tighten at the sound. He felt so strangely uncomfortable in his own space and this angered him. He was furious at the girl for doing this to him – he hadn’t been expecting her to be there when he returned. In fact. . .

Blankar.”

The elf appeared beside him at the desk looking rather sheepish. Snape dropped his parchment onto the desk, the quill following quickly. He leaned against the desk with his right palm, his left coming to rest angrily on his hip.

“I believe I told you that Miss Shepard may have the day to relax in my chambers, but not the evening,” he all but seethed. “She was to be back to her rooms before I returned.”

“Yes sir,” Blankar nodded emphatically. “I told Miss Shepard this but Miss Shepard was wanting to see Master Snape when he returned. She had something important to say to him.” Suddenly he gripped a nearby potions book, smacking himself in the face angrily with it. “Stupid Blankar,” he muttered before hitting himself angrily again. “Disobeying Master Snape-“

“Cease that immediately,” Snape said angrily taking the book from the elf. Blankar looked to Snape with desperation in his large eyes.

“Please do not be angry Master,” Blankar said, holding the hem of Snape’s robes reverently.  “Blankar is sorry.”

“Bring her in then,” Snape said in irritation. “I don’t have all night.”

With that he slumped into his chair behind the desk, trying his best not to sigh out loud as the elf disappeared. He was beyond exhausted about all of this and the fact that he had been inadvertently chased from his own chambers was only causing him to becoming more agitated than usual.

There was a knock at his door, quiet yet firm. He grimaced before he brought out the parchments and began marking them. He didn’t wish to appear as if he was at his leisure. He wanted her to be quick.

“Enter.”

She walked in with a confidence that belied the tremor running through her belly.

“Hello.”

“You wished to see me,” Snape snapped though his attention was strictly on the pile of parchments before him. Katherine saw that they were essays on inferi and she wondered idly if she should ask him about it. She decided against it, feeling suddenly anxious in his presence.

An uneasy and unspoken alliance had come up between them.  Something that neither wanted to acknowledge and yet something that Katherine couldn’t ignore. She needed to let him know that she acknowledged his kindness, no matter how minute.

“I wanted to say thank you,” Katherine said quietly, her eyes searching his face.

“I can’t imagine what for,” Snape replied airily before going back to his marking.  There was no harshness in his tone, but the subject was obviously closed for further discussion.  His writing suddenly ceased and he glanced towards her.

“How did you escape my chambers, Miss Shepard? I know I had the wards up.”

Katherine stood awkwardly with him a moment, wanting to repay his small measure of kindness but knowing that she couldn’t do so without betraying the one boy who had been her salvation in these times of isolation.

“I can’t say. . . sir.”

She added the sir, hoping that the polite title would settle him but knowing that being too effusive would only make the matter more awkward. She wanted to approach him, but to do so without a purpose would only irritate him. He grimaced at her, wanting to threaten the binding spell once more but feeling exhausted just looking at her. The girl did everything to try his patience – even now.  He was about to say something biting when she suddenly interjected.

“I’ve been having some very strange dreams,” Katherine offered gently.  She saw as the man’s quill continued to write quickly, his spiky handwriting sharp as his tongue.  She felt herself faltering, unsure of what to do. Clearly he wasn’t interested in what she’d said yet she needed to know if he could help her. The dreams were starting to seep into her subconscious and she needed to know why.  

“I wondered, can you see dreams when you go into my mind?” her curiosity got the better of her and she continued. “Or is it just memories? Can you see fantasies as well? What exactly can you see?”

“I can see whatever your mind has seen fit to keep,” Snape said without glancing up.  “When you say strange dreams, why are they strange?”

“They include people I don’t know, situations I’ve never been in,” Katherine said.

“That sounds remarkably like a dream,” Snape said blandly.   

“But it’s not like when I dream regularly,” Katherine explained, feeling idiotic for even bringing it to him but needing to continue. “These dreams seem real. But. . . It’s bizarre- it’s like I’m another person in them. That’s the only way I can describe it. I’ve never experienced that before.”

He didn’t answer and Katherine felt her irritation rise. So things were to remain the same – she and Snape on opposite sides. How frustrating. She went to leave him then, feeling stupid for thinking otherwise when his writing slowed and his voice reached out to her.

“That is most unusual.”

Katherine turned to face him, noting that now he had leaned back in his chair and was giving her a shrewd look.

“These dreams only began when you arrived here?”

“Yes and because of that I wondered if you wouldn’t mind looking at my dreams,” Katherine offered, curious if he would help. “Please.”

Snape completely stilled at this, placing his quill down slowly and folding his hands overtop his work. He glanced up to see her earnest face staring at him from where she stood by his pickled newt livers.

“You’re willingly putting yourself in this situation,” Snape observed quietly. “You’re asking me to look into your mind now? To put yourself completely in my hands?”

“Yes.”

“You’re aware that I may see things that may distress you.”

“Yes,” Katherine nodded. “But I’d prefer if you didn’t go searching for them.”

Snape leaned back in his chair, surveying the girl a moment before giving a small nod of his head.

“Very well,” the chair in front of Katherine moved back several inches, surprising her.  “Take a seat.”

“You can do magic without a wand?” Katherine asked as she lowered herself onto the chair.

Snape didn’t reply, instead busied himself with clearing off his desk. He had decided that perhaps their sessions should take place in his office – it was less private, but in a way it was less formal as well. For Katherine it felt like she were at a doctor’s office –well, if that Doctor was Frankenstein with all his body parts in jars-  but still, a doctor. 

Katherine folded her hands politely on her edge of the desk, looking around the room and internally cataloguing everything she saw. Would he let her take a small glance at some of his specimens? Some she’d never even heard of; what were acromantuala legs? Before she could voice this request she felt his cool hands gripping hers and pulling forward.

“In order for this to work you need to calm your mind,” Snape said roughly, holding the girl’s hands in his tightly. “You mustn’t run away or close your eyes or push me from your mind.”

“I don’t mean to,” Katherine said sulkily. “It just happens.”

Snape made a small throat clearing sound to indicate that he didn’t believe her.  Katherine didn’t reply, instead just stared at him until he spoke next.  He dropped her hands gently, silently studying her before he spoke next.

“Put your hands on the table, palm down.”

Katherine did as she was instructed, sighing heavily as she did so. Snape glanced down at her pale hands, noticing the bitten back nails, the whisper of a scar on her thumb. They were the hands of a woman who worked hard. He’d never noticed her hands before and if he were honest, he’d never actually taken the time to look at her in general.  He actually didn’t know anything about her aside from the small bits he’d gathered from the brief time in her mind.

He placed his hand over top hers, his palms flattening on top of the back of her hand lightly. He watched as she tensed and prepared to pull back.  Without warning Snape began to drag his fingers overtop her hand, gently stroking the backs and causing gooseflesh to break out all over the girl’s body.

“What are you doing?”

Katherine watched in mute fascination as his tapered fingertips gently drew from the tips of her fingers down to the back of her wrist and then back to the tip of her fingernails. He watched as Katherine’s countenance relaxed, her mouth losing that tensed expression and she let her gaze wander back to meet his. Even her pupils seemed to relax, growing larger as he looking into them.

“I want you to relax,” Snape said soothingly, trying to put on his best Death Eater voice. One he reserved for gathering information, for calming individuals before turning menacing. It was a silken purr, and he could see Katherine’s shoulders slowly coming down. 

“I want you to open yourself to me so that I may enter without resistance.”

Katherine swallowed a moment, trying to stop the amused and slightly shy blush that was creeping up her neck and instinctively dropped her eyes to her lap. It sounded very . . . sexual. And for some reason this made her feel embarrassed while he stroked her hand and said it. 

“Look at me,” he murmured quietly, his tunnel-like eyes engulfing her as she raised her gaze to meet his once more. “Don’t look away.”

Grow up. Just do as he says. You asked for this after all.

Katherine licked her lips nervously and bravely met his gaze.

“Tonight we will simply review your dreams,” Snape told her gently, his voice remaining a gentle, rumbling coo. “The dreams you’ve had since you arrived since they may be of use to us. Will you permit me to enter your mind?”

Is he actually asking my permission about something?

Katherine stared at him, her eyes widening as she nodded. “Yes.”

“If you find that it hurts, you simply need to tell me without pulling away,” he said, his hands continuing to stroke the back of her own. “I will change my approach.”

What does that mean?

“Alright.”

Snape nodded perfunctorily. His eyes suddenly narrowing as Katherine felt herself being sucked into the glittering black tunnels.

“Focus on the dreams you’ve had,” Snape murmured, his eyes glazing as he waited for the images to come to him. Katherine nodded, her own eyes having taken on a far-off gaze as she tried to recall the images. The one from the bathtub came to her, but all she could focus on was the splashing and the panic she’d felt when she thought she was drowning.

Immediately her hands began to curl into nervous fists on the table. But Snape stopped her, slowly loosening her grip with his strong fingers, stroking each digit until her heartbeat slowed and her palms fully rested against the desk once more.

“Calm down,” Snape said gently, his mind dipping further into her own. “Just relax. It will come. Was there a dream that caused less distress?”

Katherine puffed her cheeks, letting the air out slowly as she allowed Snape to rest within her mind. She slowly drew forth the memory of her dream last night – of the serene moment under the trees. Of the sweet girl that held her hand so gently.

No. It couldn’t be.

Snape felt his breath leave him at the sight, suddenly confused as to what he was seeing.

“This was your dream?”

“Yes,” Katherine said in a voice that sounded as if she were speaking from the back of a drainpipe.  “That was last night.”

“Show me another.”

Quickly Katherine acquiesced, and before he could properly prepare himself Snape’s face suddenly came into view at the table with Voldemort and the other Death eaters. It was an exact replica of Malfoy Manor – down to the chairs they were sitting on and Voldemort’s malicious expression. But how would the girl have known this? A sickening pit was beginning in Severus’ lower abdomen and yet he continued to plunder her mind.

“Another,” he demanded.

Katherine felt the weight of his demand, but she felt too far gone now to defer. Even if she wanted to deny him access, she felt her walls frozen in place as he searched the remaining dream – the first she’d had since she arrived.

The red-haired girl with the wildflowers. The sweetness of her smile as she approached Katherine, slipping something into her hands and quietly whispering.

“I can’t hear you,” Katherine was saying.

“You will,” the woman replied calmly.

Snape jerked out of the girl’s mind so fast she actually cried out, holding the sides of her head in pain at the act. Snape stood shakily from behind his desk, his chair completely toppled and his eyes wider than she’d ever seen before.

Snape looked at this woman sitting at the table anxiously before him and felt his heart skip a beat. For as he had stood there and glanced into the girl’s mind he had seen that same a single figure, her hair a deep red and her eyes a familiar green that would forever remind Severus of their summers under the trees.

Lily.

Chapter Text

 

“How did you dream of her?” Snape demanded, speaking almost to himself, gripping Katherine angrily by the shoulders. Her dark brown eyes suddenly replacing the green of the girl he’d just seen in her mind. “Where have you seen her?”

“What?” Katherine said, terrified by the manic look in Snape’s hard gaze. “Who?”

“You heard me,” Snape hissed, his pointed fingers digging into her shoulder harshly. She winced under the touch, suddenly thrown for his change in personality. Moments ago he had been soft and sweet and now he looked as if he would throw her from Gryffindor Tower.

“You promised to be gentle,” Katherine demanded, trying to wrench her shoulders from his grip. “You promised.”

As if her voice had made it through the fog of his mind, Snape dropped his hands from her shoulders, choosing instead to ball his fists at his sides. He had promised to be gentle and in return he had seen the fruits of his labors.

The girl never would have allowed him such liberties in her mind if he’d been cruel.  And though he looked calm and placid on the surface, the frenetic tone in his normally languid voice told her otherwise.

“How do you know that woman?” he said, his dark eyes scanning her face. “The woman from your dream, the one with the red hair and green eyes?”

“I don’t know her!” Katherine said in frustration, throwing her hands up. “I told you I’ve been having these strange dreams since I arrived.” She paused a moment. “Do you know who she is?”

Snape didn’t reply to that, instead turning away from her, his mind calculating in a whir. Katherine watched this passively, unsure of what she could say to help. But as per usual, just being in his presence made her anxious and so she sat in silence until he turned to face her once more.

“Have you ever had dreams like this before?”

“No."

“I see,” Snape said, his face pinching in an almost painful passion before he drew up beside her. “Come with me.”

His large, pale hand appeared before her palm up and Katherine paused, looking to him anxiously. The man seemed so out of sorts – so strangely animated in a way that caused her to want to withdraw.

But perhaps he would give her the answers she had been searching for since she arrived. The answers to why she had these dreams.

She looked to his dark eyes and saw no anger there and so she stood, taking his hand and gripping it tightly. He pulled her along the floor until they reached the dark fireplace. 

He ushered her inside and grabbing a bit of powder from the jar atop the mantle, he threw it at their feet, shocking Katherine as green flames jumped before her eyes and Snape spoke.

Albus Dumbledore’s office.”

***

Albus turned his head as the flames of his office fireplace roared green. Someone was coming via the floo network. As two figures suddenly bent down, stepping out of the hearth he couldn’t contain the smile that spread over his features.

“Ah, Miss Shepard!” Albus said joyously as the girl stepped out from the flames hand in hand with Severus.  “What a delight to see you!”

Overcome with relief at seeing his truly friendly face she dropped Snape’s hand and rushed over to the older wizard, throwing her arms around his neck. He looked a bit surprised at this but returned the hug gently. Snape watched all of this with half-lidded eyes, obviously uninterested in such a show of affection.

“When this display is quite finished, I have news Albus.”

Albus disentangled himself from the girl’s hug, gently motioning for her to take a seat which she did graciously. Snape stood at the far corner, his arms crossed in front of his chest.

“Albus if you would, please search Miss Shepard’s mind. Most specifically, her dreams since she’d arrived here.”

“It’s quite alright,” Katherine said nodding in agreement. “I know you’ll be gentle.”

I know you’ll be gentle.

Snape felt his lips curl into a sneer at that as he held in an eye-roll.  He had not been as gentle as possible with the girl this evening? Yes, his grip on her shoulder may have been a bit much – but it was to be expected was it not? At such a discovery?

Albus nodded, and Katherine felt his gentle presence at the corner of her temple. Like fluttering fingertips he was there, slowly sinking into her mind and she allowed him passage. There was nothing to fear from Albus Dumbledore.

“Miss Shepard, please bring forth the dreams you showed me earlier.”

Katherine gave a barely imperceptible nod, finding that Albus’ presence in her mind was vastly different from Snape’s. While Snape was a deft and almost light presence there, Albus was heavy and cloudy and caused her entire body to sag.  

Before long Albus was wandering through silvery memories that surrounded him. The dreams suddenly came into the forefront of her mind – Lily among the flowers, the near drowning in the bathtub, Snape in the Malfoy Manor.

Albus was confused as Snape had been – how had she dreamed such things? How could a Muggle know what the inside of Malfoy Manor looked like? How could she know what Lily Evans looked like?

“You’ve seen her,” Snape said to Albus, not a question but an affirmation. Katherine’s eyes were open, a far-off look in her gaze. Albus glanced over her head to where Snape stood behind her, illuminated by the candlelight behind him.

“Yes.”  

Snape nodded, looking down to the top of Katherine’s head. The girl was slumped in her chair and he wondered if she was growing weak during this experience.

“Albus I’d ask that you find a distressing memory of Miss Shepard’s.”

Katherine immediately went rigid, her eyes snapping open in dark focusfoc see Albus shooting Snape a confused look over her head.

“No,” Katherine said, wanting to move from the chair but suddenly feeling Snape’s hands heavily upon her shoulders on either side, keeping her in place.

“Severus what is the point of this?” Albus demanded.

“Please Albus,” Snape said meaningfully.  Albus scanned the man’s face before giving Katherine a sorrowful look.

“I’m sorry Miss Shepard.”

Without warning Albus had plunged into the depths of Katherine’s mind and what he produced was the moment Katherine’s watched her mother’s coffin being placed in the ground, the day of her funeral. Every moment was crystallized – down to the raindrops that littered the white flowers atop the coffin.

 “No!” Katherine moaned, wanting to run from the room. “STOP!”

“Throw Albus from your mind.”

Katherine’s eyes cleared, confused at what Snape was asking her. He didn’t like it when she threw him from her mind. Had she heard him correctly? Albus looked to her with a raised eyebrow in wait before nodding, indicating that she had heard Snape correctly.

With that she closed her eyes tightly, shaking her head and violently thrusting back in her chair, determined to have Albus stop with that memory.  Snape's hands dropped from her shoulder and she could feel the strange and heavy presence of Albus in her mind.

She gripped the edges of her chair, her entire body trying to push the man from her mind. She did this for several moments, her teeth clenched angrily. It wasn’t until she felt a wetness on her cheeks that she realized she’d been crying.

“I can’t do it,” she said with a soft shudder. “I can’t make him stop. Why?”

Albus had withdrawn from the girl’s mind upon her speaking to Severus and both the men noticed as she openly relaxed. The tears still leaked from the corner of her eyes and she was shuddering visibily. Albus quickly rustled in his desk for something, producing a piece of Honeydukes chocolate.

“Eat this,” Albus said, thrusting the chocolate in the shaking girl’s direction. “It will help.”

Katherine sent her trembling hand over to the proferred chocolate, quickly slipping it into her mouth and relishing in the sweet flavor that coated her tongue.

“Thank you,” she whispered when she began to feel less woozy, her eyes able to focus better on the aged wizard across from her.

“Why can’t I throw you from my mind?” Katherine asked in a choked voice. “I can throw S-“

“Miss Shepard,” Snape interrupted quietly. “I think it would be best if you went back to the chambers to sleep. I have much to speak to Albus about and this experience has surely taken much out of you.”

“But I want to know why,” Katherine weakly defied him, his eyes watching as she spun in her chair so that she could face him. She knew she sounded like a plaintive child, demanding something from a strict parent. But she couldn’t help it – she had so many questions.

“And you will,” Snape replied, his own irritation softening at the pain and fear in the girl’s dark eyes. “But for now, I need you to return to the chambers.”

Albus watched this exchange with passive interest. What he’d seen in the girl’s mind troubled him and yet he inwardly applauded Severus for holding his temper in check.

“Alright,” Katherine finally said, looking to Snape warily before glancing over at Albus who gave her a gentle smile.

“Goodnight, Headmaster.”

“Goodnight Miss Shepard.”

Katherine looked back to Snape who stood a few steps away from her, looking darkly into the middle distance. She wasn’t used to the man being this kind in his diplomacy. She looked to him, preparing for him to lead her back to the room.  

“Blankar,” Snape said as he noticed her waiting form and within seconds Blankar was at his side. The house elf looked up to Snape, eager to please.  “

Take Miss Shepard back to my chambers, please.”

Katherine looked to the house elf, surprised when the little creature gripped her hand in his and gave a snap. They were gone from the room and it seemed strangely, that the room lost some of its warmth.

“It appears that Miss Shepard isn’t impervious to Legilimens,” Snape said once they were alone, the room quiet. “She’s only impervious to mine. She is continually able to throw me from her mind.”

Albus nodded, surprised at how the events had presented themselves. “But why?”

“I have a suspicion, but I would like you to search the memory of my first interaction with her,” Snape said, settling him into the seat where the girl had sat, fixing his Headmaster with an open gaze and waiting.

Albus nodded, his mind dipping into Severus’ open thoughts with ease. Before long he had found what he was searching for – the first time Severus had met the girl twelve years ago.

Severus walked into the backroom of Shepard’s Books, his long legs carrying him there quickly. He had sensed someone in that room, overhearing everything that went on. When he peered into the room and saw the teenaged Katherine huddled in the corner of the room, surrounded by her fallen books.

 “Ah, there you are,” Snape said cooly.

Albus watched as Snape’s blackened eyes surveyed the books around Katherine; the hollowed out fantasy book which contained her textbook. Snape registered that as amusing that she would do such a thing.

The panting and the tears that fell freely down Katherine’s reddened cheeks. Snape’s eyes swept back to her face suddenly, looking deeply into her widened eyes in a bold moment of curiosity.

I need to know how much she saw and heard.

He entered the girl’s mind ruthlessly, assaulted with images of her fears of what Snape would do to her. He dug deeper, seeing her father fall to the ground. Katherine winced, closing her eyes and holding the side of her head a moment as the pain increased.

“Ouch!”

He smirked at the sound, producing his wand from his robes and registering the confusion on the girl’s face as he affixed it pointed between her eyes.

 The girl’s eyes suddenly filled with tears, defeated and frightened of the tall man in black who stood staring down at her.

 “Please don’t do this,” Katherine begged, the tears running down her face.  “I won’t tell anyone about you. You can just leave. I won't say a word. I-”

“Lies,” Snape interrupted calmly, seeing plainly in the girl’s mind that she was thinking of ways to escape. That she felt trapped but that she would continue to fight him.

 “I’m begging you,” Katherine choked, the tears slipping down her cheeks quickly in succession. “Don’t kill me.”

“I’m not going to kill you,” Snape replied flatly, his face impassive.  “Just as I didn’t kill your father.”

He thrust his wand towards her roughly, watching as the girl visibly trembled with fright. He felt an uncharacteristic moment of sympathy for the girl – his mind was still travelling around hers at a speedy rate. Her mind was so fixed for a Muggle – so much pain that he hadn’t encountered in one her age.

The sympathy ebbed away as he viewed the girl blindly reaching for the book at her side. He realized he had to act quickly – who knew what this Muggle was up to?

Obliviate ,” Snape said quietly.

At the last second Katherine turned her head sharply, bringing the book up as a shield between them but she was too slow. The book wasn’t even covering half of the girl’s face when the spell shot from the end of Snape’s wand.  

Snape staggered back as the spell was cast, his own head thumping painfully as the girl slumped to the floor. He only had moments and so he moved past the pain in his temple to crouch beside her – so close he could feel the warmth of her skin.

You want a slice of chocolate cake .”

Albus withdrew slowly, his eyes widened in realization at what had occurred.

“You cast the Obliviate whilst still in her mind,” Albus said finally, watching as Snape’s eyes seemed to lose some of their glaze.  

“I came to the same conclusion earlier this evening,” Snape nodded thoughtfully, his lips pursing. "Those dreams she's been having? They're mine."

"I suspected as much," Albus replied.

It had been there all along – but Snape's mind had never truly registered it until he’d seen the girl’s dreams, his own dreams. 

“I didn’t remember doing it – but when I saw Lily, when I saw my dreams in Shepard's mind I realized something must have gone wrong that evening.”

“It appears that this opened your mind to her that night,” Albus said, noticing as Snape gave the man a masked look of concern. "A sort of one-way tunnel. When you searched her mind the second time, months ago, something must have activated it."

"I see," Snape nodded.

“What you dream, she will dream.”

“And will it stop at dreams, I wonder?” Snape mused aloud, his eyes giving away nothing.

“Who's to say?" Albus offered gently.  Snape said nothing, his features a mask of indifference. But Albus could view the fraction of tension that hung in the air, viewed the steepled fingers of Severus dancing along the arms of the large chair he sat in. They knew what this meant, but neither wanted to speak it. It was Albus of course that eventually did, in his usual Gryffindor way of brash observation.

"This makes her even more vulnerable should she enter into the Dark Lord’s clutches. She could give away your double agency,” Albus said softly. “Not only that, but should he find what he was searching for that evening – the book.”

Snape nodded, finishing the man’s thought;

“Potter would be in even more danger than he is now.”

Chapter Text

“She knows too much,” Snape said, throwing himself from the chair to stand and pace the small office. The air was heavy with anxiety as they realized the tenuous situation they were in.

“And she cannot be properly obliviated as we’ve seen,” Albus added weakly. “And we’re quickly running out of time.”

“So we are at an impass,” Snape said, pinching the bridge of his nose in irritation. “Am I to play nursemaid to this Muggle for the rest of my years?”

The thought of having Katherine Muggle Shepard living with him until he was old and grey was a deeply disturbing thought. Yet the alternative was very open in front of them. There was a sickening silence between the men and before Albus finally spoke the words, Severus knew what he was going to say.

“The life of one Muggle is not worth giving up the safety and secrecy of our world,” Albus said thoughtfully, his eyes wet. “She cannot leave here. And she cannot remain.”

He was of course correct.

“So you’ve decided that we’ll kill her,” Snape said flatly, his arms crossed over his chest tiredly.  “After having me babysit her for Merlin knows how long, now you’ve decided to be rid of her.”

“It was not a direction I wanted to go in,” Albus said with a small sigh. “But it must be done.”

“Another delightful chore,” Snape said snidely, though there was a small niggle in his abdomen. “Do you never tire of giving me such abominable tasks?”

“I never would dream of asking you to do it,” Albus said, his tone hushed as he glanced at the tall, pallid man. “I will of course be the one to complete the task.”

The task. The man was already trying to distance himself from the situation – thinking of Katherine less as a human being and more as a riddle to be solved, a problem to be exterminated.

Snape looked to Albus, seeing the resolution etched into the old man’s face. He knew that Albus intended to do it as soon as possible –every minute the girl lived was a chance at exposure of their world. A chance for Voldemort to take control.

“We can’t do it yet,” Snape suddenly decided, his voice firm. “We still don’t know how it will affect my mind.”

“It appears to be a one-way tunnel, Severus,” Albus said, the decision already firm in his mind and heavy on his heart.

“Yes but if something happens to the girl who’s to say it won’t affect me?” Snape demanded, his gaze icy. “She is privy to my dreams; she can throw me from her mind. Do you really think it’s wise to killing her without some research into how it will affect my mind and abilities?”

Albus gave Severus a heavy stare before nodding, realizing what the man was saying was correct. He lowered himself wearily into the chair, giving off a small squeak as the man slumped forward.

“Of course Severus, forgive my haste,” Albus said, heaving his head into his gnarled hands. “There’s just so much to be done and Miss Shepard-”

“-Is a distraction, of that there is no question,” Snape agreed readily. “But to have me at a loss in battle because of a rash decision would be most unwise. Even more unsafe than a wayward Muggle.”

“I agree.”

“So give me time to do my research,” Snape said, as if the list of things he had to do weren’t already monumental. “We’ll make no moves until we’re sure it won’t damage me.”

“Agreed. Goodnight, Severus.”

“Goodnight, Albus.”

***

Katherine opened her eyes blearily, her entire body heavy. She felt herself walking slowly through what appeared to be a dark corridor. The lighting was dim and she had to peer into the shallow rooms. Many were empty, looking dingy and dark and shackles on the wall.

One had an older looking man with tufted white hair bound to a chair; his entire body slumped over like a marionette with cut strings. As he heard Katherine approach he glanced up with baleful, silvery eyes.

“Help me.”

In the dream Katherine knew that she knew who this figure was. That he was familiar to her and that he posed no threat. Her instincts screamed at her to release him, to help him. But Katherine wasn’t in control of this dream body, and so she continued to walk steadily down the dank corridor.  Her heart thumped painfully in her chest, her eyes widened to take in all her surroundings.

The darkness was growing with every step she took forward. Suddenly she stilled in front of a closed door. There was something in the air – electric. She knew that she had to go into this room and she did, opening the door with a creak, slowly walking in and raising a wand in front of her.

“Lumos.”

Katherine’s wand glowed at the tip and she almost cried out when a figure at the corner of the room suddenly came into focus.

Inside was a woman bound and gagged at the corner of the room. She whimpered, her eyes leaking. Her body was filthy and her hair matted with dirt and twigs. When she saw Katherine she tried to scream through the gag, tried to catch her attention.

Katherine felt her entire body tremble as the woman in the chair met Katherine’s gaze.

“Lily,” she said, suddenly knowing the woman’s name. The familiar green eyes welled with pained tears. The girl from the meadow.

The tall form of Voldemort appeared beside her, approaching from the shadows of the room and giving Katherine a serpentine smile. Lily screamed at the sight, her eyes wrenching from Katherine’s face to the grim mask of death beside her.

“It’s time,” Voldemort said with a hissing grin, producing the wand from his robes pocket.

“No,” Katherine said, her voice stronger than she actually felt. Her pulse was thumping and she felt constricted in whatever garment she was wearing. She reached out her hand, trying to stop whatever was about to come next.

“You already made your choice,” Voldemort hissed through his teeth, raising the wand and pointing it at the red-headed woman. The woman thrashed in her shackles, screaming for clemency. But she would receive none.

“AVADA KEDAVRA”

The green light burst from the man’s wand and streaked through the space between them, catching her in the chest and sending her falling to the ground. When she hit the ground she was limp, her eyes wide and frozen in fear.

Katherine took a step forward, not believing what she was seeing. Lily was dead. Voldemort drew from the room wordlessly, his lack of presence not even taken into account. Katherine was rushing to Lily’s side, her throat constricting.

“Lily. I’m so sorry.”

The woman’s dead eyes suddenly flipped over to Katherine, her head twisted at an unnatural angle, moving as if she were some sick human puppet. Her eyes turned hard and accusing and hateful. Blood poured from her mouth as she screamed.

“WHY DIDN’T YOU SAVE ME?!?”

“I tried,” Katherine shouted, unsure of where this voice was coming from. “I did all I could, I promise!”

“LIAR!” the dead woman’s voice was  an inhuman shriek.  Katherine covered her ears, wanting to run and wanting to stay all at once.

“No!”

“COWARD!”

Katherine wanted to say something, her hands blindly groping for purchase, wanting nothing more than to hold the woman to her and sob. To feel her skin one last time.

She didn’t even notice when the giant basilisk appeared out of nowhere, sliding around her legs and twisting around her body painfully. She gasped, feeling as the creature wove its way around her body, tightening and squeezing with every slip. Instead of fighting the creature as it finally sank its sharp fangs into the corner of her neck, her head tilted back, giving the monster ease of way.

She felt as the warmth of blood spilled from her throat, torn away by the ruthless creature, throwing her to the ground beside the dead woman as it slithered off into the shadows.  Katherine felt as the last of her blood seeped down from her throat and onto the stone floor.  Her dimming vision could only the hateful look in the green eyes at her side.

And then suddenly there was nothing but darkness. 

***

Katherine bolted upright in bed, her heart hammering and her body slick with sweat.  She was terrified – the image of the screaming woman still at the forefront of her mind. She raised a trembling hand to her throat, panicking as she felt the warmth and wetness there. It was seconds before she registered that it was from the tears that had been pouring down her face in her sleep.

Somewhere in the corner of her room there was a rustling noise. Images of the basilisk assaulted her and without thought she threw herself to the floor, her bare feet cold on the stone floor as she fled from the bedroom.

I need Snape.

She didn’t know where the thought came from, she assumed out of desperation and fear. Without thinking Katherine had climbed through the door of her chambers and into Snape’s.  It was freezing and she quietly rushed over to Snape’s large bed, her body twitching in anxiety as she stood near the end of his bed. He slept deeply, his breathing low and his body still.

She tiptoed closer, suddenly entranced at the sight of Severus Snape so vulnerable.  The thoughts of the giant snake and the screaming woman were somehow dimmed as she awoke more and she took the strange opportunity to stare at the man who had been her torment and savior. 

The crease in his forehead was smoothed, the brackets around his mouth lessened. His hair was back from his head, showing a strong brow. How strange that a man that was so foreboding could look so peaceful. She just assumed he slept grimacing and folding his arms around his chest. Instead he slept on his back, a careless hand over his bared chest, rising and falling with his rhythmic breathing, the other under his pillow.    

She didn’t know how long she’d stood there staring at him when Snape suddenly shifted in his sleep, giving a small groan.  Katherine stilled, frozen like a deer in the proverbial headlights.

Without warning Snape suddenly leaned himself up on his elbows, his eyes darting to the darkened figure of Katherine beside the bed.  He’d sensed a presence. Katherine tensed, her bladder freezing at the sight of the man staring blearily at her.  She waited for the inevitable screaming match that would commence.

“Lily?” he said sleepily, his eyes unfocused as he observed the silhouette of a woman near his bed. Katherine paused, unsure of what to say. Before she could contemplate her next move he’d brought down the covers, inclining his head and wordlessly urging her to lie beside him.

This is a bad idea.

Katherine took a deep breath and slipped into the bed next to the pale man, her eyes on the ceiling. She knew that it was a bad decision and one she would regret the moment he fully woke up. But when Snape fell back against the pillow and reached his arms out blindly, pulling her to his chest and sighing contentedly, Katherine could feel the tears leak out the corner of her eyes.

He’d said Lily, the name of the woman from the dream. Someone he obviously cared for deeply. And while she would never be Lily, nor did she even desire it, the comfort she felt in this strange man’s arms was immediate. It wasn’t long before she had nodded off, enveloped in the warm embrace of Severus Snape.

 

Chapter Text

Snape smiled as he walked into the field dotted with purple flowers. The grass crunched under his feet and he walked slowly under the trees, the breeze ruffling the hair that touched his collar.

Lily walked out from the forest then, the familiar serene look on her features as she took his lean frame in. Her dark red hair blew gently in the wind and she was lit from the sun behind her, looking more angelic than she ever had when she was alive.

Snape met her halfway, looking to the familiar place. Their place under the trees where he had escaped his alcoholic father and she, her beastly sister. He took Lily into his arms, holding her gently against him. His eyes closed in sweet surrender, her body warm and her hair tickling his cheek.

The comfort he felt having here there, warm and welcoming in his arms was something next to elation. It wasn’t a dark, sexual desire he felt with Voldemort’s whores. No, instead it was a soothing drink of water for a parched man. A utopia found in the desert. It was salvation.

“I miss you,” he murmured into her hair.

“I know,” she replied into his shoulder, holding him as a mother would her grown son, rocking him gently as they stood in the field. Moments later she pulled back, her face radiant as she looked to the tall form of Severus.

“Listen to me,” she said and Severus could only stare as she leaned forward and put her mouth to his ear. She whispered something that Severus could not hear despite how much he strained to listen. Lily pulled back and looked to Severus expectantly.

“I can’t hear you,” Snape explained slowly, hating to disappoint her. His voice sounded muted and foreign aloud and he wondered if she could understand him.  However Lily just looked to him knowingly, bringing a soft hand up to the Snape’s cheek which he leaned into willingly.

“You will,” was her soft reply.

***

When Snape woke the next morning he was confused at the light weight on his chest. He turned his head, his eyes blurrily taking in the form of Katherine curled up next to him in the bed, her hands tucked under her chin like a newborn in swaddling clothes. Her head was resting heavily on his shoulder and he could hear her even breathing.

For Merlin’s sake.

He held in a groan at the sight of the young woman burrowed into him as if she belonged there.  The powdery smell of her skin wafted up to him, her hair falling over his arm like a dark waterfall. She was such a strange figure –so changeable. All smiles and hugs for Albus, all sneers and derision for him. And yet here she was, nestled against him as if they were long-time companions.  And this caused him extreme frustration.

We were plotting how to kill you, you stupid girl. Last night while you lay in bed Albus and I casually tossed about your demise. And now you’re here, snuggled up against me, as if I can keep you safe.

“I can’t keep anyone safe,” he muttered to himself in a soft and defeated tone. The girl mumbled to herself in her sleep, squirming a bit and nestling herself further into the warmth of his covers.

The woman was taking great liberties as far as he could tell. And considering their next options, it wasn’t wise for her to be forming such attachments with him. He knew why she was doing it-it was survival. She knew she was in danger and she viewed him as her savior. If only she knew his track record for protecting Muggles she wouldn’t be clutching at him in slumber.

He pushed her frame off of him then, trying his best to seem in control despite the fact that he was dressed in only dressing pants. He forced his voice to rumble as he spoke authoritatively.

“What do you think you’re doing in my bed?”

He noticed that Katherine didn’t even have the good graces to open both her eyes when he spoke.  Instead she licked her dried lips, swallowing the sleep from her voice.  She knew she couldn’t tell him what had happened last night – that she’d caught him in such a vulnerable moment; of Lily. That she knew the woman from the dream must be her. Instead she tried to defer his irritation.

“It’s comforting not sleeping alone,” Katherine murmured, pulling the duvet up to her shoulder and squirming back down for warmth.  She didn’t seem to want to notice the confused look of Snape as he stared down at her.

“Have you suffered an injury to the head that I’m not aware of?” Snape said icily. “I am not here for your comfort, Miss Shepard. You seem to be perpetually forgetting that.”

As he spoke he began drawing the dingy covers from the girl, noticing as she wrapped her arms around her exposed frame. She wore a ridiculous flannel nightshirt which had ridden halfway up her thighs. Snape felt him body stiffen and he shot the girl a most monstrous sneer as he shoved her roughly by the shoulder.

“Get. Out.”

Katherine winced at the harshness of his palm pushing her out of the warmth of the bed. She stumbled sleepily off the mattress, cringing as her bare feet hit the cool stone floor.

“I’m sorry,” she said quietly, rubbing her eyes with her fists in a childish way. “I was just scared last night and I thought-“

“You thought wrong,” Snape replied. “I am not Albus Dumbledore. I am not here to be your friend or your emotional outlet. You’re here in my chambers as a guest and you are taking remarkably liberties.”

“But you-“

“I see I’ll need to lock you up if this behavior continues,” Snape said coolly, ignoring what the young woman was going to reference, his eyes refusing to meet Katherine’s.  “Now leave me be.”

Katherine said nothing, her face impassive as she rushed from the room and into her transfigured chambers. Snape watched her leave, confused at how she had crawled into his bed without him noticing. Normally the slightest sound or movement caused him to jerk up in bed.

He threw himself to the floor, rushing to the loo to wash up, the cold water dancing along his body as he scrubbed angrily. He moved to brushing his crooked teeth angrily as he stared at his reflection in the mirror. He scowled at it, wondering if he was somehow losing his edge. He was a Death Eater for Merlin’s sake- and this Muggle thought she could just snuggle up to him in bed?!

He set a drying spell on his lank locks before pulling on clean robes and going back into his chamber. To his complete chagrin and frustration Shepard was there, standing by his table as if he’d been expecting her.  Her hair was damp, freshly washed as she smelled like Hogwarts soap. He fixed her with a most darkened gaze as he walked towards her.

“What did I tell you about leav-”

“Can you just stop?”

Katherine’s voice was exasperated and emotion-filled and Snape supposed that this is what made him pause, his eyes narrowing on her tense figure standing before him.

 “Can you please just stop with the cruelty, the insults,” Katherine said, trying not to sound wounded as she walked toward him. “I’m just so tired of constantly fighting with you.”

Snape snorted at this.

“I know we’ll never be friends, I’m not deluded,” Katherine continued, throwing her arms up exasperatedly. “But can’t we just be kind to one another? We’re both trying to work together and that’ll be a lot easier if you’re at least civil to me.”

Snape glanced the girl over severely, her words finally settling in his mind. She was right of course - she was no true enemy to him, not in the traditional sense. She had even tried being cooperative before he’d taken her to Albus’ office.

However the unsettling matter was what he and Albus had decided last night. And even though Albus himself had decided that he’d be the one to take Katherine’s life, Severus wasn’t so sure it wouldn’t end up on his own overburdened shoulders. The only risk was making sure he didn’t damage himself in the process.

“Fine.”

Katherine openly gaped at him, surprised at his tepid agreement to her terms. Before she could say anything more he had walked over to his small kitchen table,  murmuring to a suddenly appearing Blankar. Within seconds a piping hot teapot and two teacups were set on the table and Snape glanced over to her expectantly, waiting.

Katherine walked towards him gently, as if she were approaching a wild animal before slowly settling herself down in the chair opposite him. He pushed a teacup towards her wordlessly.

“Thank you.”

Snape said nothing, choosing to stir some milk into his dark colored tea 

“Will you let me know what Albus and you found out last night?” Katherine broached softly. “When you sent me away. Please.”

“The more you know at this point, the more precarious a position you’re in,” Snape replied, arching a brow.

“But you promised,” Katherine said, trying not to pout.

“And I’m telling you that what we found was not good,” Snape replied tiredly. “At this point, it’s best you know as little as possible.”

He watched as Katherine sulked, crossing her arms and leaning back in her chair. He was immediately put out by the childish display, rolling his eyes inwardly and sipping from his cup. Katherine followed suit, drinking silently and fixing Snape with a direct stare from under her fringe.

“It must be pretty bad if you won’t tell me,” she finally uttered. Snape gave a noncommittal sound in the back of his throat.  Katherine took another sip of the tea, thankful for it as she was getting quite chilled. She regarded the pale man across from her, blinking slowly before speaking.

“Am I dangerous or something?”

Snape said nothing, his eyes unwaveringly fixed on the girl’s pale face. She stared back, her eyes defiant and. . . could he see some fear there? 

“I’m a veterinarian from Plymouth,” Katherine said with a frustrated roll of her eyes when he didn’t reply. “Not exactly a huge threat to the wizarding world. Do you even have veterinarians here? They’re muggles who work with anima-”

“I know what a veterinarian is,” he replied sourly. “I grew up in Cokeworth.”

Katherine’s head darted up at this in surprise at this. She had always assumed he came from some magical town she’d never heard of. But as far as she knew, there was only one Cokeworth.

 “The old mill town?”

“You know of it?” now it was his turn to look surprised. He lowered his teacup, fixing her with a severe look.

“I do,” Katherine nodded briefly. “It was only a few hours from my home. My mother worked in hospitality. She had to go to Cokeworth to the Railview Hotel to meet a woman a few times a year. It’s where she was coming home from when. . .”

He saw the hurt coming into the girl’s eyes and he felt acutely uncomfortable. This was obviously a sensitive topic and he didn’t want her dwelling on it, nor did he want to put up with her histrionics should she become maudlin. He needed to guide her into a new train of thought without a sharp change of topic.

“Have you ever been?”

“No, can’t say I have,” Katherine trailed off, not wanting to confide in him what her mother had said about the place (that it was a small, dirty town that was covered in rubbish and that she’d never drag Katherine to). But he had grown up there? Among the mire and the muggles?

“You’re not missing much,” he replied drily. “Unless vacationing near a polluted river was your idea of a good time.”

He winced at the sudden brashness of her laugh then. A shrill, punctuated “ha” that caught him off guard. She was so loud, so painfully out of place here among the demure and muted colorings of his room.

“I don’t know,” Katherine replied with an easy smile, “after years of summer vacations filled with trying to sell books at my father’s store I may have welcomed the change of pace.”

Glancing over to her he realized she had a slightly crooked smile which gave her a friendly, if not mischievous look. He hadn’t been privy to it until this moment. He viewed when she smiled, her eyes crinkled until they’d all but disappeared.

“I always thought that you’d have grown up somewhere posh,” Katherine offered when he didn’t continue the conversation, finding she was starved to know more about him. “Somewhere magical and swish. It’s strange to think of you growing up somewhere like Cokeworth.”

Posh? Him? He nearly laughed aloud at the thought. Life at Spinner’s End had been many things, but posh hadn’t been one of them. His mouth quirked into a twitching smirk at the suggestion.

“My father was a Muggle who didn’t really embrace magic-“ Snape began.

“Wait,” Katherine nearly jumped out of her seat. “You’re part Muggle?”

“On my father’s side,” Snape said sourly. “A lapse of judgement on my mother’s part.”

 “Wait a second!” Katherine’s face had turned an ugly pink. “You’ve been harassing me this entire time and you’re part Muggle? What the hell kind of a double standard is that?”

“I’m far more wizard than Muggle,” Snape replied cooly, his eyes on his hands folded on the table. “Besides, it’s not a part of my past that I acknowledge.”

“That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist,” Katherine countered. “If ignoring the parts of our past that we didn’t enjoy was an option, we’d never learn.”

“That’s a very simplistic view of things.”

“Have you ever heard the expression those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it?” Katherine demanded harshly, taking a final sip from her teacup and draining it. Snape was momentarily thrown for this bizarre slice of Muggle logic. And in truth he didn’t have time for philosophical postulations. He had to see Albus to come up with a game plan for the upcoming week, not to mention the mountain of student essays on his desk eagerly awaiting his scrutiny.

“I’ve much to accomplish today,” Snape said glancing at his teacup and then preparing to stand. Katherine looked to him, her eyes suddenly looking so much older and wiser than the rest of her.

“Bad men can become good if they want it enough.”

There was a pause between them and Severus lowered himself back into his chair. He folded his hands in front of him patiently, like the professor he was and when he finally spoke, his voice was low and silken.

“And what if these bad men as you say, do bad things but for the right reasons?”

“Then they aren’t really all bad, are they?” Katherine said carefully, knowing that this was obviously sensitive territory. She was surprised to see that Snape didn’t appear to be backing away or closing the conversation. If anything he was waiting for her to continue, his dark eyes glittering dangerously across from her.

It felt like that heavy silence before when he’d asked her what she would do in his place when it came to allegiance. He watched as she chewed the inside of her cheek thoughtfully, her dark brows knitting together as she pondered this inquiry.

“I suppose it comes down to choice,” Katherine finally said. “And the bad guys need to decide what they can live with. If they can live with the choices they’ve made knowing that it was for the right reasons, then I suppose that’s as good as once can hope. But I mean that’s so subjective – what is good? Who decides what is good?”

“This feels like a philosophy class.”

“Agreed,” Katherine said with a resolute nod. “I guess a person has to ask themselves if they can they live with the weight of their actions?”

Snape visibly stiffened at this last comment, his dark eyes searching her face. Did she know? Did she have any idea that he and Albus were currently plotting how to best exterminate her without recourse? Could she see into his thoughts as well as his dreams?

“Can you live with the choices you’ve made?” Katherine offered gently and Severus felt his heartbeat return to normal – he hadn’t noticed it speeding up. She was throwing all the onus on him – she had no clue about what he and Dumbledore had been speaking on.  

“Living won’t be a problem for me,” Snape said simply, his dark eyes shuttering. “I don’t plan on seeing forty.”

He saw the girl immediately stiffen, her eyes wide and fearful.

“Suicide?” Katherine breathed the question.

“Hardly,” Snape scoffed rudely at her sycophantic concern. “I’ve no interest in taking a coward’s way out.”

Coward. That word popped up often with him, Katherine noticed. She wondered why he hated it so much. Why the thought of being a coward made him so vitriolic. And now, this dark talk of death? He didn’t seem to want to offer anymore on the topic, so she absently traced the rim of her teacup with her forefinger.  She wasn’t quite ready to return to her small room quite yet and despite the company, she felt at ease. With Snape her mind wasn’t fixed on herself, on her dead parents and on her seeming imprisonment.

Katherine’s eyes darted in a vain attempt to capture his own then, but he had already decided that a space above her shoulder was preferred to rest his gaze on. He seemed to be heavily considering something, his entire countenance sagging under the weight of his thoughts.

“If you knew you had to die,” Severus finally said slowly, his voice low and dark. “And you knew your death would result in the betterment for an entire world, would you walk willingly into such a fate? Or would you run? Don’t lie.

Don’t lie.

Katherine paused, ruminating on his question. It was one of that age old questions wasn’t it? The kind she had been affronted with during Sunday school when they spoke of Jesus on the cross dying for the sins of man. Katherine didn’t fancy herself Jesus, but she also didn’t fancy herself an individual who would condemn an entire population to death so that she could live. But was this actually about Katherine? Or was it really about Snape?  

“You think your death will serve a purpose? A betterment for your magic world? How how?”

“I didn’t say that.” Snape picked some imaginary lint from the crook of his left arm before crossing his arms once more, fixing her with an impatient stare.

What would I do?

 Her initial instinct was of course to run. Running from problems was one of her favorite pastimes after all.  When it came to fight or flight she was like a large, clumsy bird fairly tripping over herself to escape. But to condemn and entire world to die to keep her alive? But it wasn’t really her death he was talking about – was it? She knew Snape was likely referring to himself, and while she would love to lie and make him second guess whatever dark plans he had for himself, she knew he would see right through it.

“I would sacrifice my life,” Katherine finally stated slowly. “But only if I knew it was really worth it.”

Snape surveyed her face a moment, digesting what she was saying before nodding almost imperceptibly. In a manner that was all too Snape, he suddenly switched gears, keeping her mentally on her toes.

“Did you dream last night, Miss Shepard?”

“Yes,” Katherine nodded, taken aback by his sloppy transition. “Two dreams actually.”

“The first?”

“I don’t remember,” Katherine lied, refusing to think back on that awful nightmare. The screaming woman – Lily – and the horrible snake. Her blood pooling onto the ground before her. “I just know it was frightening.”

Snape didn’t look convinced, but he also didn’t want to be combative. He was tired. “And the second?”

“It was the same one I had when I got here. Very peaceful and calm,” Katherine said trying to be unassuming. “It was about a woman named . . . Lily, I think.”

She heard the teacup clatter as Snape dropped it clumsily onto its saucer.  Katherine saw this and felt her entire body tensing up. It was much too obvious that this was an individual that meant something to him.  And the fact that Snape cared for someone – a pretty female something at that! – intrigued her and obviously irritated him.

“You know her,” Katherine said breezily, wanting to appear none too eager.  Snape didn’t reply, but Katherine could see his jaw clenching. “Who is she? Who’s Lily?”

“This topic is not up for discussion,” Snape replied viciously. “And it’s about time you were leaving. I’ve got classes to teach.”

Katherine wanted to reply that she wanted to stay in his larger chambers, that she felt less suffocated with his window and his room to stretch her legs. But seeing the unsteady look in his eyes caused the request to die on her lips. Instead she stood, nodding to him respectfully and heading to her room.

She closed the door quietly behind her before falling into the bed in her room, her dark eyes fixed on the ceiling. Blankar had bewitched it to look like the outside to make her feel less claustrophobic. It was alright, but Katherine could easily see its faults – no breeze against her face, no sun warming her skin. But it helped take off the oppressive insular feeling she often felt in her room.

As she lay there, Katherine came to the realization that she needed to busy herself with something worthwhile. And that something worthwhile was to show Severus Snape that he had something to live for.  With that idea firmly in mind, she smiled and slipped under the covers of her own bed.

Outside at the table, Severus Snape sat with his head heavily cradled in his hands as he had come to the dark realization that for Katherine Shepard, death was creeping ever nearer.

Chapter Text

 

When Katherine awoke the next morning she could barely contain her excitement. After weeks of boredom and aimless, task-less days she finally had a project on which to work on.  No, it wouldn’t deal with her usual clientele (large animals) but then again, Snape was rather tall. . . The project was of course, the surly Potions Professor, and she was desperate for a distraction.

So far she had the following information written (and hidden between her mattress).

Things about Snape

  • Snape is in love (or had been) with a girl named Lily
  • Snape is a double agent (not everyone knows this?)
  • Snape is a very clever, he was youngest professor ever hired at Hogwarts
  • Snape teaches Potions (?)
  • Snape doesn’t have a lot of friends (only Albus?)(how to become his friend?)
  • Snape can read minds
  • Snape is rude
  • Snape is kind of funny in a morbid way

 

Things to find out

  • Who is Lily?
  • Why doesn’t he see her anymore?
  • What did Albus and Snape say about me?
  • Am I in danger?
  • What page from the book are they missing?
  • Was that in the envelope my dad was leaving for Snape before he died?
  • Where is the envelope?
  • Why do I keep having these weird dreams?

 

She leapt out of bed, looking at her notes from the other afternoon. After a quick cat nap she’d written two sheets of parchment, her own large looping font strange and almost comical looking on the austere paper along with the small drawing she’d made. But it didn’t matter, she had a plan outlined and she was chuffed.  She was going to show Severus Snape that his life was worth living.

After a moment she considered her list and pulled it from between the mattress before circling "Snape doesn't have a lot of friends". If there was one thing she could attempt here with him, it was a friendship.  She shoved the paper back between the mattress before gathering the remaining parchment in her hand.

She knew it was a very simple, pedestrian idea. Remarkably large in scope with very little in plausibility. But that didn’t matter – when Katherine had a goal, she rarely wavered, despite the odds. After a shower and pulling on fresh clothes she gathered the parchment into her hand and took a deep breath.

She stood at the door to her bedroom, the one that lead to his and leaned her ear to the wood. She could hear him shuffling quietly there – likely at the table marking.

She gave a small knock to the door, trying to showcase she was being most respectful to his privacy. She heard him give a soft sigh of annoyance before speaking in that dark, rumbling tone.

“Enter.”

Katherine opened the door, looking over to Snape and viewing he was at the table reading a newspaper and drinking what appeared to be black coffee.

Predictable.

“What do you need?”

Katherine faltered at the irritation in his tone. “Good morning,” she replied cheerily, giving him her best friendly smile.

He didn’t even look up to see it, his dark eyes continuing to scan the paper in front of him. Katherine was momentarily distracted when she saw some of the photos within the newspaper moving.

“Are you teaching today?”

Snape grunted in response, his eyes still on the paper as he brought up the steaming mug of coffee to his mouth. Katherine she felt her own irritation flare a moment.

Remember the plan.

“I had something I wanted to show you,” she said, walking towards him in a most approachable manner. Snape turned the page of the paper, resolutely ignoring her, and Katherine surmised that he was obviously still irritated about how things had ended between them last night.

“I thought we were going to be civil to one another,” Katherine said in a most put out fashion, resisting the urge to put her hands on her hips in admonishment. Snape sighed heavily, dragging his eyes up to meet hers as if he were under some horrible curse.

“I am being civil,” he replied.

“No, you’re being petulant,” Katherine replied. Before he could get angry at her she’d shoved the parchment under his nose. “Look at this.”

Snape took the paper from the girl, his dark eyes scanning it wordlessly. The parchment contained several notes as well as a crude sketch of a man with his neck tilted to one side, blood pouring from each wound.

“And what am I to do with this?” Snape asked drolly.

“I’ve come up with a new spell,” Katherine continued, excitedly sitting across from him. “It’s called The Vampire’s Kiss. Two holes shoot out the side of your victim’s neck and drain you of blood.”

“This. . . is how Muggles spend their free time?” Snape drawled, faintly amused at how the girl reddened around the cheeks when irritated.

“No,” she huffed. “I want to know, how do you go about making it?”

“Making it?” Snape stared at her blankly.

“The spell!” Katherine said exaggeratedly as if he were simple. “I’ve got the sketch here, I’ve told you what it does  - so now you can create this new spell and use it on the bad guys.”

Snape stared at her a full minute, in which time Katherine went from confident spell-making ingénue to awkward gormless idiot. When Snape finally spoke, he did so quietly and yet tinged with acidic disdain in a way that made Katherine feel ten inches tall.

“You think it’s this simple? Creating spells?”

“Well, I mean I’m sure it takes a lot of work-“

“It takes more than a lot of work,” Snape said in an almost disgusted fashion. “It takes time and energy. It takes skill and passion.”

“Right,” Katherine said, swallowing thickly. “But you have all those things don’t you? Can’t you make it?”

“If I came up to you and told you to create a new Muggle technology, could you do it?” Snape challenged.

“Well,” Katherine looked embarrassedly down at her hands and knowing the answer. “I just thought it-”

“And you think no one in the great, wide, wizarding world has ever had this idea? To create a spell of their own division?” Snape interrupted. “That you, a great Muggle, are the first?”

“Of course not,” Katherine replied with a flash of anger in her dark eyes. “I just thought I may offer a different approach, as a Muggle.”

Snape snorted at this. “We have muggle-born witches and wizards.”

“Oh,” Katherine faltered a moment.  She hadn’t really thought this part through. “I thought that maybe all wizards wanted to make spells but not all could.”

“And what makes you think it’s possible for me to undertake such a task on top of all my other duties?” Snape almost hissed. Katherine glanced at the floor in shame before giving a small shrug.

“I thought as much.” Snape rolled his eyes before going back to his coffee and newspaper. He didn’t tell her so, but Katherine could tell that she had been summarily dismissed. She faltered a moment before she sighed and dropped the paper onto the table.  

Just suck up your pride and tell him.

“Because you’re obviously good at spells otherwise you wouldn’t be a double agent and-,” Katherine stuttered and to her dismay found that she now had Snape’s full attention. He’d lowered the newspaper and was now staring at her boldly.

“Go on,” he said silkily.  Katherine winced as she felt the shame of admission creeping up her neck as he stared at her.  “And?”

“Well, I figured a wizard like you would be able to create a new spell easily,” Katherine shrugged.  Her eyes shuttered when Snape’s mouth curved into a twisted grin – or what she assumed was a grin. With him, it could be anything.

“When you say a wizard like me you mean. . .” Snape prompted, intrigued at how red the girl’s face had gone.  Katherine knew it was far too late to turn back now and so she replied quickly.

“What do you want me to say?”

“Only what you feel,” Snape almost purred. Katherine could see he was truly enjoying her discomfort and the words that he apparently knew were on the tip of her tongue. She considered running back to the room, but that would do no good for furthering her Snape project.

“Someone smart,” she said tersely, as if the word pained her.

Snape leaned back in his chair, giving off a small squeak as he looked to her from under his dark lashes. He looked like the proverbial cat that got the cream and Katherine was already irritated at the sight of it.

“Smart, you say?”

“Yes,” Katherine said through gritted teeth.

“Anything else?” Snape said giving her a most sardonic smirk.

"Nope."

"Nothing?" Snape was preening, looking to her with a most disturbing look on his face that she faintly registered as arrogance.  "I believe you hinted earlier at passion? Skill?"

Katherine clenched her jaw so tightly it was a wonder she didn't crack a tooth.

So much for her ruddy plan!

She saw Snape had no intention of letting her off the hook and she’d suffered enough embarrassment for one morning. She fixed him with a deep frown, her dark eyes narrowing on his amused face.

“Just forget it,” Katherine snapped, rushing off to her room in a huff. He waited until the he heard the hinge of the door click shut before he lowered his newspaper and let his gaze fall on the parchment on the table.

Her crude drawing stared up at him, dramatic lines of blood spurting from the cartoon’s neck. It reminded him far too much of himself as a student, hiding away in his rooms making obscure little notes and drawings (much better than this one). It was, after all, how Sectum Sempra had made its way into the wizarding world.

But seeing the flush of humiliation that crossed her face when he’d made her admit that he was brilliant had been more than enjoyable for him. Having her on tenterhooks for a change! And when he heard Katherine give an irritated groan behind the door to her bedroom he couldn’t stop the amused smile that crossed his normally grimacing features.

Chapter Text

Snape awoke in the middle of the night to the dark mark on his arm throbbing in pain. He gave a small, anguished moan before thrusting himself out of the bed and onto the ground.

Within seconds he’d accio’d the items from his closet, pulling them on and rushing out the door, warding it behind him. He made sure that it was warded this time, before he took off down the echoing corridors of Hogwarts.

He made it to the edge of the forbidden forest before he’d apparated to Malfoy Mansion. A large and bustling group were just within the large ballroom, all were chatting and speaking clearly. Obviously Voldemort hadn’t appeared just yet, but they knew it was a matter of moments before he would.

Severus marched in that direction, his eyes still bleary from sleep. He was just at the door when Lucius Malfoy intercepted him, his wand at eye level with Severus.

“I thought we might have a chat,” Lucius said, his grey eyes colder than usual. “Before we join the festivities.”

Snape said nothing, choosing instead to let his dark eyes take in the hollows in the Lucius’ cheeks, the desperation that was clearly written all over his face and the unholy brightness in the man’s gaze like a child with a sweet.

“How pleasant to see you Lucius,” Snape replied with ease, nonplussed by the wand shoved unceremoniously in his direction. “And how is Narcissa?”

“Enough of that,” Lucius almost snarled, but quietly. He glanced over his shoulder in concern for being overheard before looking back to Snape.

“There is a rumor, Severus,” Malfoy said with a sickening smile. “One that I find most distressing.”

“And what would that be, Lucius?”

Malfoy looked at Snape a moment, considering the tall and formidable man before him before speaking once more.

“There is a rumor that you are housing a Muggle in your chambers,” Lucius said quietly. “A girl.”

How the fuck had he found that out?

Snape’s mind whirled but his stoic face betrayed nothing. “And may I ask where you came to be in possession of such a rumor?” Snape said trying to sound amused.

“The origin matters none,” Lucius replied with a supercilious smirk. “But I wonder Severus . . . How would the Dark Lord react to such a proclamation?”

Throw him off the trail.

“Considering your tenuous relationship with the Dark Lord at present, I wonder what he would think of you giving him false information?” Snape sneered in reply, stepping forward and causing Malfoy to retreat a fraction. “Detracting from such a crucial time in our work? Only to be found to be a falsehood? One could only assume that the results from such a weakly supported declaration would be. . .Unfavorable.”

Lucius said nothing, but it was clear that Snape had hit a nerve. At present Voldemort was mightily irritated at Lucius after one of their latest meetings in which Lucius had dared to suggest that Malfoy simply kill the Potter boy.

Lucius was too eager and that always set Voldemort in a flit of irritation. It also accounted for the fairly large scar forming on Malfoy’s mouth at present. When Snape could see that the man had been properly put in his place he gave a small snort of derision.  

 “Honestly Lucius,” Snape said with a jeer. “A Muggle? I suggest you check your sources before you make such a bold statement again. The next time, I may not be as generous as to offer you a warning.”

With that, Snape swept past Malfoy and into the ballroom. Malfoy watched his retreating figure with a scowl on his pale lips.

***

Katherine awoke the next morning, her face still red after the previous day’s attempts at winning Snape’s friendship. The man was obviously going to be a hard egg to crack.

Best get started then.

She stepped off the bed only to find her head swimming. She groaned, clutching at her pulsating skull. Spots swam in front of her eyes and she quickly lay down once more, her eyes closed.

“Blankar?”

She found her voice to be cracked and her throat sore as she called out. The small house elf appeared immediately, looking to Katherine with concern as she lay on the bed.

“I’ve got a horrible headache,” Katherine said croakily, her head pounding relentlessly. “Do you think you could get me a glass of water, please?”

With a pop the elf appeared with a glass of water that Katherine immediately chugged down. She handed back the empty glass to Blankar and pulled herself back to a sitting position on the edge of the bed.

“I feel awful,” she told the nervous looking elf. “My head is killing me.”

“Master Snape has many potions to help headaches,” Blankar said helpfully. “Master Snape often gets headaches.”

Interesting. Something to add to the Snape list.

Blankar looked to the girl with watery green eyes. She could see he wanted to be of service to her and she smiled kindly at him. After their experience yesterday Katherine really didn’t want to ask Snape for help. But she felt so abysmal she felt she had little choice in the matter.

“Blankar, will you ask Snape for a potion to help?”

“Master Snape has been gone for hours,” Blankar said with a  concerned look on his features. Katherine internally swore before looking back to the elf.

“Can you get me a potion from his room then?”

“Blankar does not know how to read,” the elf said shamefully looking at his feet. Katherine felt awful for asking him and so she hurriedly drew herself to a stand, trying to ignore the nausea that accompanied her ascent.

“It’s fine, really-“ Katherine insisted. “Perhaps you could just show me where he keeps them and I’ll read them?”

Blankar nodded, taking hold of Katherine’s hand and bringing her into the main chambers. They were mercifully empty and as Blankar was guiding her into the room the door to Snape’s chambers burst open, startling her and causing Blankar to disappear with a pop.

“You’re back,” she said, cradling her aching head. “I wonder if-”

“WHO HAVE YOU TOLD?”

Katherine winced at the brashness of his voice resounding in her aching head. She put a hand weakly to her forehead before speaking confused.

“Huh?”

“WHO KNOWS YOU’RE HERE?” Snape bellowed, his eyes mad as he threw his mask and cloak onto a nearby chair. Katherine felt herself falter, stepping back from the tall man as he stepped further into the room, his boots thundering on the stone floor.

“You, Albus and Blankar,” Katherine quipped. “Unless you count that book that almost ate me.”

“This is not a time for jokes,” Snape said, breathing heavily as he strode towards her. “Who else knows you’re here, Shepard?”

“I-I” Katherine stammered, suddenly afraid of him. Sometimes she could almost view him as a human man – but when he got angry it was as if he turned into a beast. A screaming, tall and looming monster that she couldn’t reason with.

“Spit it out,” Snape hissed now, his dark eyes mere slits as he advanced. “Who knows of your location aside from Albus and I?”

Katherine paused – knowing that Harry of course was the only other person she’d interacted with. He was the only one who knew she was here and he was the only one to have seen her as far as she knew.  

But how could she give him up? This kind boy who went to such lengths to see her happy?  She hadn’t been surprised when he hadn’t returned to see her – after her behavior with the mirror she couldn’t blame him.

And she wouldn’t give him up to a furious Snape either.

“No one,” Katherine insisted, her throat constricting of its own accord. She tried to move backwards slowly, hoping the man wouldn’t notice her subtle retreat. But of course he did.

“You’re lying to me,” Snape seethed, his hands twitching at his sides as if he were barely holding back from strangling her.

“No,” Katherine lied, her eyes dropping from his eyes to his chest in hopes that the less intense focal point would help regulate her breathing.  Seeing this, Snape stepped forward and captured her gaze once more.

“Either tell me and spare yourself my further ire, or I will drag you to Albus and have him forcibly remove the information from your mind,” Snape said gently, his words betraying the menace. “And when that occurs, I assure you Miss Shepard your punishment will be severe.”

Katherine felt all the blood drain from her face at that admission. With Snape, anything was possible – including a punishment that may relieve her of a pinky or ear.

“I don’t understand,” Katherine sputtered. “Where is this coming from?”

She watched as the great bat of a man took a deep and steadying breath before he spoke grimly. “Your presence was mentioned at a meeting earlier, by an associate of mine.”

Katherine felt all breath leave her body. A meeting? An associate?

“Does V-“

“No,” Snape interrupted smoothly. “Had the Dark Lord known of your presence here, you would be currently served up to him on a silver platter.”

Katherine felt her stomach tripping over itself and she tried to stop the fearful tears from slipping down her cheek. But how could Snape’s associate have known about her? Harry would never have told – he wasn’t vindictive or cruel and he wanted the light side to win! Why would he have let a Death Eater know about her?

“He would never betray my secret like that,” Katherine insisted, her head shaking emphatically in Snape’s direction, nervous as the tall man drew nearer.  “It doesn’t make sense.”

“Whom?”

Katherine swallowed, closing her eyes and bracing herself as she said the name.

“Harry Potter.”

Without warning Snape had taken a nearby wine glass and hurtled it across the room. It smashed against the stone wall with an ugly crash and caused Katherine to cry out in alarm as glass shot in every direction.

“YOU FOOLISH GIRL!” Snape shouted.

Katherine wanted to scream right back at him. That she was terrified and sorry and everything else. But the throbbing in her head had reached an ungodly crest and she felt herself reaching out a hand to stop Snape’s advance while the other cradled her skull.

“You have no idea what you’ve done,” Snape spat at her, his uneven teeth grinding together in barely contained fury.   

Katherine was about to say something further when the room began to spin most aggressively and she crumpled to the ground in an undignified heap at a shocked Snape’s feet. 

 

Chapter Text

 He’d been right in the middle of giving Katherine Shepard the tongue lashing of her life when the ridiculous girl fainted right in front of him. One minute she was there looking miserably up at him and the next her eyes had rolled into the back of her head and she’d gone down with a thud. Severus noted the deep red of the girl’s cheeks as she lay sprawled there on the stone. He dropped to a knee beside her, placing the back of his hand against her forehead and sighed in irritation.

A fever.

For fucks’ sake. Is my job ever to be done?

 He pointed his wand tiredly at her crumpled body, murmuring a diagnostic spell as his wand went the length of her body. Her temperature was unnaturally high- it was a wonder she’d been able to walk out of the bed at all. Why had she come into his chambers in the first place?

Probably to find me. To see if I could help her.

When would this silly woman learn? He was anything but her salvation! Her instinct should not be to turn to him in a time of crisis. But on the other hand what was her alternative? She’d been with Blankar when he barged into the room, perhaps she hadn’t been waiting for him after all.

H muttered a levitation charm, watching as her limp body was lifted into the air and began floating after him. He brought her into his bathroom with a resigned sigh. The claw foot tub sat waiting and he wordlessly lit the candles in the room, giving them some light. With his free hand he ran a freezing cold bath, calling for Blankar over his shoulder. The little elf appeared at his side immediately.

“Go and fetch some towels,” Snape barked in irritation. Blankar nodded before scurrying off to find some fresh linens. Snape dipped his forefinger into the chilled water and bit back the urge to smile as he looked back to the softly breathing Katherine.

Slowly he levitated her overtop the tub and in a moment of adolescent glee he whispered the dropping charm and watched with satisfaction as the girl plopped into the freezing waters with a dramatic splash.

Her hair was saturated and looked almost black in the candlelight when she resurfaced. Her fringe was plastered back against the top of her head, showcasing a round and almost sweet looking face if not for the twin brows furrowed together and the dark eyes narrowed into slits as she clawed her way into a sitting position.

“WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK!”

He knew he shouldn’t take such delight in it, but seeing the girl’s eyes pop open in confusion before turning into seething fury was much too delicious. It wasn’t nearly worth the frustration of having Harry bloody Potter know about her, but it was a start. Combined with her sopping hair and dripping flannel she wore it made for a very amusing sight.

“I thought you needed to cool off,” Snape replied, raising a sardonic eyebrow.

“GET ME OUT OF HERE!” Katherine screamed, trying to stand but finding herself too weak. She felt her head pounding and she blindly tried to swat at the nearby Snape’s black-trousered leg. She was halfway there when her world went black and her hand dropped.

He viewed as she suddenly lost consciousness and slumped back against the tub as if boneless. He dropped to a knee beside the tub, gripping her shoulders tightly.  The damp flannel was slick as he tried to right her. His left hand slipped from her sopping clothed shoulder, momentarily grazing her very soft breast through the damp fabric and – to his immediate chagrin – coming into contact with a very erect nipple.  

Katherine did nothing in return, not even a stir but Snape pulled his hand back immediately as if he’d been burnt, his face a grimace at the intimate contact with a woman who wasn't even awake enough to protest. Suddenly uncomfortable at the situation, Snape called over his shoulder in a rough voice.

“WHERE ARE THE BLOODY LINENS?!”

Blankar appeared at the side of the tub, his arms full to the brim with fuzzy white towels. Most assuredly not Severus’ whose own linens were old, grey and scratchy. He gave the elf a dim look before speaking gently.“Where are my linens, Blankar?”

“Blankar didn’t think Master would want to share his things,” Blankar said with a deep look of worry. Snape had to give him an approving nod at the foresight.

“Wise,” Snape nodded, motioning with his head at the girl still clothed and still slumped in the bathtub. “See that Miss Shepard is dried, changed into light sleepwear and brought to her bed.”

With that he dropped his hands from the girl’s shoulder and strode from the room and into his office. He busied himself with digging through several phials, the clinking distracting him from the most awkward situation. When he finally came upon the gold-colored phials he’d been searching for he straightened. He heard the distant sound of springs creaking, indicating that the girl was being placed into her bed.

 He walked into her room, gratified t see that she was dressed in a pale nightdress, underneath light sheets. Snape observed that Blankar had propped her into a sitting position. Her hair was dried and a waving crown around her on the pillow. Her mouth was parted and for a moment he suddenly had a vision of the girl’s mother, similarly in repose in the hospital bed from the memory he’d seen in Katherine’s mind. He shook the image from his mind with a frown. 

“Have some tea brewed with this for the next hour,” Snape said handing the elf the small phial. “I’ll be back to administer it.”

Snape pressed a hand to the side of the girl’s neck and was relieved to feel a timid pulse there.  She would be fine the next hour and that was good.  He was off to see Albus.

***

“But how did Lucius find out?”

The two men sat in Albus’ office, their countenances’ grim and their words hushed. Albus’ hand was visibly worse and he opted to keep it hidden under the desk, lest Severus see it and become distracted. The news of Lucius Malfoy's comments had visibly shaken Dumbledore, who looked ready to vomit every last one of his candies he had stashed away in his desk.

“There is only one option,” Severus said with a dark gaze. “If the Dark Lord knew of her, Lucius wouldn’t have needed to bait me. The Dark Lord would have seen fit to kill me on the spot. As it is, Lucius was going by second-hand information. Potter would never be foolish enough to share this information with anyone – not even his beloved friends. Therefore we can only assume the last logical conclusion; that Shepard was seen by someone else.”

“But when?” Albus asked with a queer look. “How on earth could that have happened?”

“I’ll be finding that out soon,” Snape said with a sneer. “In the meantime, during his lessons I have seen into Potter’s mind. He is regularly being attacked by the Dark Lord telepathically. He can see into his thoughts. His mind needs to be wiped – the boy could give away Shepard’s appearance and along with that, my position as double agent.”

“Of course,” Albus said in a voice that sounded so much older than he was. “It’s most dangerous. I’ll have the boy come to my office at once.”

“You’ll perform it?” Snape said, silently thankful he needn’t spend any additional time with the Potter boy than necessary. After their disastrous experience with Legillimens and Occlumency, he had zero desire to spend any more time with the brat.

“Yes, I’ll see to it myself,” Albus said with a direct nod. “I understand the importance.”

“Good,” was Snape’s truncated response before he went to the fireplace and was gone.

***

When Katherine opened her eyes later she was met with a large nose and two black and glittering eyes staring down at her. She shivered, not just from the sight but from the sudden onslaught of freezing chills that ran the length of her body.

“What the-“ she croaked, realizing that she was not unceremoniously slumped on the floor. In fact she was in her bed with a plump pillow cradling her aching head. “What happened?”

“What would happen to any Muggle wandering around for weeks with wet hair in a chilled dungeon,” Snape snapped irritably. “You’ve made yourself sick with a fever.”

Only Snape could make it seem like Katherine had purposely gotten herself sick just to inconvenience him. Katherine stared at him dumbly, unsure of how to respond. She could see that Snape had calmed down a bit; obviously her fainting had lessened his ire. She’d have to remember that in the future.

 “I've never fainted before.”

“Yes well a fever meeting with extreme stress would likely do that,” Severus said, staring down at her over his long nose and crossing his arms over his chest before pointing at the teacup next to her bed. “You need to sit up and drink this.”

“Could I have a thicker blanket, please?”

“No,” Snape replied tersely. “You’ve a high fever. Last thing we need is for you to raise your body temperature more. Now sit up.”

“Won’t tea make me warmer?”

Katherine could have sworn he said something that sounded like “Merlin’s fucking beard” under his breath but he fixed her with a withering look and spoke aloud.

“The tea has a restorative potion in it that goes down smoother when warmed,” he finally hissed irritably.  “It also contains a sedative. You need ample amounts of sleep. Now drink it.”

“Oh.” She took the tea into her hands, trembling from the cold. She quickly sipped, wincing slightly at the acrid taste. He continued to stand beside the bed, arms crossed and watching her like a hawk.

She suddenly felt very full-headed, as if her head were filled with bubbles.  It pushed everything around, causing her to suddenly feel quite emotional as she looked up at the great tall man at her side. She realized how much he had gone to an effort for her – how much he had to do and what had she done? Made his life harder!

“I’m sorry about Harry,” she suddenly whispered, her voice thick with emotion. “I had no idea that-“

“Albus is taking care of it,” Snape interrupted; his tone deadened as his eyes. He was tired and had been watching the girl for hours. The thought of her death disturbed him – what would happen to him if she expired? Would a part of his mind remain forever opened or closed? Worse, would she somehow take some of his powers along with her?

So was the case for him watching her these past few hours, his eyes growing heavier by the moment. So much so that he’d fallen into a slight slumber in the chair next to her bed, coming to a stand only when he heard her stir.

“But you need to know that I’m not just sorry about Harry,” Katherine said, her voice growing drowsy. “I’m so sorry about everything. I'm sorry that you've been taking care of me for all this time even when I was so rude to you. For saving me from those horrible men in the shop when you didn't even know me. I never thanked you did I? Thank you.”

“You don’t know what you’re saying,” Snape replied quietly, his eyes observing as the girl’s eyes shuttered. He was uncomfortable with the praise and wished the bloody girl would just fall asleep. “The sedative is making you emotional.”

“I’m just really sorry,” Katherine said, the teacup almost tumbling from her weakening grip.

Snape saw this and grasped it, placing it on her bedside before stealing a glance at her and her slowly blinking eyes. “You need to sleep.”

“The sedative you gave. . . ” was all she could mutter before her head had lolled forward completely, her dark hair covering her like a dark brown waterfall. Without prompting, Snape immediately gripped her by the shoulders and slowly lowered her back into the bed into a prone position.

He took the opportunity and stared down at her placid features. She was always so animated when she spoke, so quick when she talked that having her quiet and serene was momentarily entrancing – and admittedly a welcome reprieve.

She breathed heavily, her chest rising and falling with each exhalation. A large bit of hair was huffing against her mouth and without thinking he brushed a tapered finger over the girl’s mouth, drawing the hair away from her face and feeling her hot breath on his hand.

Prompted by the heat, he lay the back of his hand on her forehead, pleased that the fever seemed to be breaking. Still, she was warm and he brought a wand to her pillow.

Frigus

He felt the temperature of the pillow cooling and hoped that it would aid in her getting a more restful sleep. He was still sitting on the edge of the bed when he heard the woman give a small moan before a tear slipped down her reddened cheek.

Chapter Text

Katherine swallowed harshly, feeling as if millions of tiny needles were stuck to the inside perimeter of her throat.

“Fuck,” she groaned, her eyes squeezing shut angrily before she forced them open. They blinked rapidly, adjusting to the light and Katherine staggered to a sitting position before moaning, her head thudding painfully before she reclined once more into a lying position. She didn’t feel particularly dignified, and being sick in a strange place made her feel anxious and all-around awful.

She was about to give into her self-pitying and have herself a nice little cry when she heard a faint shuffling noise.

What the fuck is that?

She slowly glanced over to see Snape, his eyes heavy and blearily taking her in from a chair next to the bed. A newspaper lay on his lap and she wondered how long he’d been there watching her.  He looked exhausted.

“How long have I been out?”

“Several days,” Snape replied, his eyes falling back to his paper. He was obviously immersed in an article about Gringotts. Katherine mused on what that could be – perhaps a type of biscuit? Or a jelly?

“Wait? Several days?” Katherine’s voice reached a higher pitch, which she immediately regretted as her throat felt rubbed raw.  “Is that normal?”

“You should rest as much as possible,” Snape said beside her, his dark eyes taking her in as he lowered the newspaper to his lap. “The more you rest, the speedier your recovery.”

“I feel like my way of resting is bordering on a coma,” Katherine croaked, her eyes closed and her mouth dry.  She heard his boots shuffling along the floor and she assumed he was leaving her. However she could sense that he was drawing nearer to her and without thinking, she tensed up.

“Here.”

Katherine eased one eye open enough to see Snape offering her another cup of tea. She winced before easing herself up to a sitting position. He expected her to take the drink but instead her face had taken on a strange, focused yet faraway look.

He could see the girl had a strangely pensive look on her face now and so he stared into her eyes, wanting desperately to plunge their depths but knowing he’d be thrown.

“I was just thinking about what you asked me before I fainted the other day,” she finally offered, biting the inside of her cheek nervously. “Now that my head isn’t so fuzzy. You asked me about who knew about me being here? And I told you Harry. But there was one other person I think may have seen me.”

Snape’s eyes widened a fraction in surprise – he hadn’t been expecting this. “Go on.”

“But the problem is I don’t know his name,” Katherine went on in a rush, “and he didn’t pop into my mind right away. But perhaps if I imagine him right now, you could  see him and identify him?”

Snape nodded before dragging the chair over beside her bed. He watched as she faced him, wincing slightly at the effort.

“Like before?” Katherine asked, holding out her hands to him and placing them palm-down on the bed between them. Snape reached for them without thinking, tracing his lean fingertips down the back of her palms.

“Don’t fight me,” he murmumred, his dark tunnel eyes beckoning her to open herself completely to him. “Visualize who saw you.”

He felt as the girl broke into gooseflesh, her pupils dilating as she stared into his fathomless gaze. She felt the soft sting at her temples, barely a scratch now. He could feel her opening her mind to him, like a warm pool flowing over him.

“Just like that. Yes, excellent.”

Katherine’s eyes shuttered a moment at the sound of his honeyed voice, but she continued to visualize the blonde boy beside the lake. The one she had been certain had seen her when she was in Snape’s rooms alone that day. The only other figure who could have seen her in all her time here. But it was hard to picture him with Snape moving about in her mind, peering into different memories.

He saw the girl stiffen as he glanced into a memory of a young blonde man with his fingers down the front of her jeans as they sat in a parked car. She looked to be in college and the feeling of the moment was sheer discomfort. He quickly left that memory, soothing the girl with his fingers against her skin.

“I will find it,” Snape murmured softly, “just be patient.”

And there – just as he said it, he felt the visualization pop into view. He ducked his head into the blurry image and saw the blonde boy at the lake. The one with the sneer and haughty air.

Draco Malfoy.

He slowly withdrew from her mind, seeing that the girl was exhausted. She was still much too sick to be putting herself through this. He straightened up, releasing her hands and grabbing the forgotten teacup before forcing it into the shaky grip of Katherine.

“Thank you.”

She took it without fuss, downing the lukewarm contents and wincing before giving the empty teacup back to him, noting the surprise on his face.

“This one doesn’t taste the same,” she said making a face. “A little less bitter and sort of lemon-y. Must be different than the other one.”

“Correct,” Snape replied, a touch of amusement in his tone at the girl’s discerning palate. “This is for the pain in your head and throat.”

“Oh thank goodness for that,” Katherine said, closing her eyes and allowing the potion to do its magic. “How long until I’m all better, do you think?”

“Hard to say,” Snape replied with a soft shrug. “Each individual is different. I’d say a few more days of rest and you’ll be fine. I could sense no lasting damage.”

“That’s good,” Katherine slurred, overjoyed at the clearing of her head as the potion did its work within her system, dulling the world and making her feel extra cozy in her bed.  “I hope you have a good. . . A good . . .”

She gave him a crooked smile before her eyes shut firmly, and once against she was taken by sleep’s welcome embrace. Whatever tidings she had been wishing to pass onto him were a mere memory.

 At the sight of her chest rising and falling rhythmically under the sheets, Severus lowered himself into the chair next to her bed and let his eyes fall shut. He too had been beckoned by the siren’s call of slumber and for once, he would follow.

***

She was flying.

She didn’t know how it was possible – but it was. Katherine was flying over the misty mountains of Scotland, her hair flying behind her in the breeze. Her view was on the horizon and as she glanced down, she could see she was on the back of some strange, winged creature that resembled a bird crossed with. . . Wait, was this the Hippogryff she’d read about?

Katherine took a moment to take in its downy fathers as the sun rose, casting a golden glow around everything, including the creature. Before she could raise a finger to caress one plume, they were rocketing downward at such a high rate Katherine felt her stomach jump. 

But this wasn’t from fear- if anything she was laughing. Laughing with abandon at the feeling of such weightless joy. She looked down to see the ocean coming at her a million miles an hour. She knew she should be terrified but in this dream, she was exhilarated. She knew she wouldn’t be hurt.  

At the last possible second, the creature righted itself, its talons briefly skimming the water as they sailed on overtop it and into the sunrise. Katherine could almost taste the salty tang of the ocean spray they flew through.  And in that moment Katherine realized that in this dream, she felt true joy.

***

It was several days later and Snape was coming to give her the last of her healing potions. The girl had been waiting for him, sitting up in bed, the color returning to her cheeks. She’d obviously been up a while, her eyes sharp and her brow furrowed.

“How were classes?”

“Fine,” he answered blandly. “It’s time-“

“I was thinking, we should go back to my father’s bookshop,” Katherine interrupted, her tone serious. She saw Snape stiffen at this, the phial in his hands tippling a moment in his grip before an eyebrow rose quizzically. 

“Oh?”

“Yes,” Katherine nodded, her voice animated. “You were looking for a page from him, right? From some book? I figure my father had to have it waiting for you! I could search the shop, I know all his hiding-”

“I’ve been back several times since you’ve been here,” Snape replied flatly, interrupting her. “My search has turned nothing up.”

Obviously, Katherine. You think he’s been fucking about and just waiting for this brilliant idea of yours?

“Oh,” Katherine said, her dark eyes somber. Obviously a wizard would have better luck finding an item than she would in the first place. “What about his house?”

“Also investigated,” Snape said with a sigh. “The second night you were here.”

“Oh,” Katherine repeated, feeling like some gormless parrot. She trailed off, feeling idiotic and having no other suggestions she simply glanced over at the phial in his hands and forced a smile on her face.

“No tea today?”

“The last of your medicine,” Snape said, the word foreign on his tongue as he held up the small phial of light amber liquid. “A swig of this and you will have one last bout of deep sleep. I’ve been pleased at your recovery so far.”

That’s the only thing he’s ever been pleased with me about and I can’t even take credit for it.

Katherine nodded, taking the small phial into her hands and rolling it around her palm a moment in thought. In a moment of bravery her eyes darted up to his face.

“Can I ask you something?”

Snape said nothing, but raised an eyebrow to indicate he’d heard the request. Katherine cleared her throat officiously, patting the empty part of the bed with a large false smile.  Snape looked down at her welcome face and hid his immediate response of revulsion at the saccharine display.

She’ll likely be dead before the end of the month..

The thought appeared out of nowhere at the edge of his subconscious, and the knowledge hit him directly in the gut. There was something so horrible about knowing that death awaited the young. Especially when he had a hand in it – purposeful or not.  And especially as she sat there, looking up at him with that friendly, open smile of hers.

And so no one was more surprised than her when Snape gave an irritated look at her before he perched uncomfortably at the side of her mattress and giving her an even look.

“Go on.”

“I have some questions. About the woman from the dream. Lily.”

Immediately any sense of openness was washed from his face, replaced with an impassive mask that she knew he would never release.  His entire body seemed to stiffen further.

“I don’t know why you hate talking about her or whatever happened,” Katherine offered in a rush, raising her hands in mock surrender in his direction. “And you don’t have to tell me everything, but I just wanted to know why I keep dreaming of her.”

Because I keep dreaming of her.

She felt herself falter under his gaze, forcing herself not to lower her chin in chagrin. Instead she tried to give her most patient and welcoming of gazes to the austere man in front of her.

Several moments passed between them and Katherine found her fingers traitorously playing with the edge of her blanket. As she stared she found she was mapping the man’s face – the brackets around the mouth, the crease between his brows.

Oh please just answer me.

“She was a student here,” Snape finally said silkily, his eyes fixed on Katherine’s. He spoke quicker than usual, his tone icy. “A Head girl, a prefect. Very popular. She was killed by the Dark Lord when she was very young.”

The words were staccato and clipped and despite the heavy implication, his face remained stoic. Katherine wanted to ask him more – but he continued with a sour expression on his face. 

“She was also Potter’s mother.”

Katherine felt her eyes widen at this admission, her mouth forming a small ‘o’ shape as so many things fell into place. He obviously cared for her and she was Harry’s mother? Had he fancied her? But he wasn’t Harry’s father – that was certain. She felt a bit of a pang go through her at the thought of Snape as some lovelorn youth.

 She knew she couldn’t press him for any more information and so she nodded, licking her lips absently and raising the phial to her lips. She sipped the bitter liquid quickly, wincing just slightly before handing him back the empty glass.

“Thank you,” she said, the words heavy with meaning. Snape sat silently across from her, his form still heavy on the bed. Katherine’s eyes began to droop, her forehead falling forward. He was about to insist she lay back down when she gripped his hand tightly, coming to wrap around the ends of his fingertips.

“Please stay here while I sleep,” she murmured drowsily, her eyes shut tightly as she spoke. “I always have better dreams when you’re close.”

Snape’s eyes shuttered a moment at the request before he urged the girl to lay her head back on the pillow. She acquiesced, surely already asleep by the time her head actually came into contact with it.

Her grip went limp around his fingers just as the mark on his arm began to burn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“Severusss,” the serpentine voice reached out to him as he strode into Malfoy Manor, his back straight and his face impassive. The entire table was full of Voldemort’s most loyal and most brutal followers. As always, the seat to his right was empty, saved for his most loyal of subjects.

“My Lord.” Snape gave a deferential nod before coming to sit in the empty seat, folding his hands in front of him at the long table. He stole a glance to his left to see Lucius looking much worse for wear- bags under his pale grey eyes and the beginnings of a day’s worth of stubble on the elegant planes of his face.

When they’d settled, Voldemort stood; his frame tall and imposing as he looked around to all their eager faces.

“I have called you today because we are making excellent progress,” Voldemort said, his ruby eyes alight with an inner fire and a twisting of his lips that they assumed was to be a smile. “Thanks to the work of our very own Bellatrix, the Malfoy boy is advancing well.”

Along the table were murmured words of congratulation and Bellatrix preened from down the end of the table.  Snape saw the tension flash across Lucius’ pale face before he glanced at the wild-eyed woman at the end of the table. Bellatrix gave a haughty look to Snape before looking back to Voldemort with large, adoring eyes.

“But you are also here to remember that we must remain vigilant,” he continued, his rasping voice reaching all their ears. “And if we do so, we will be one step closer to defeating Potter and all the mudbloods who seek to tarnish our bloodlines.”

At this there was a smattering of applause which Snape did not engage in. Already he could sense something the others could not, save for Bellatrix.

“Yes, go on,” Voldemort said with an exaggerated sweep of his hands. “No need to hold back –this is exciting! You’ve played such a vital part in this! Celebrate!”

At this firewhiskey appeared in front of all of the individuals at the table. So, it was to be a night of revelry. The other Deatheaters began to smile and clap loudly, some even laughing in delight and throwing back their drinks.  It was only Snape who didn’t make a move to drink, and it was only he who noticed as the Dark Lord’s hand slid into his pocket and he withdrew the wand he was currently in possession of.

“However, even in this time of joy, something does disturb me. I have heard rumors. Rumors of dissension within my ranks.”

Immediately the entire room crackled with anxious tension. Snape kept his face and posture relaxed, glancing across the table to see into the faces of his fellow Deatheaters. It was apparent immediately, the young Puckle. His face and body gave nothing away, but it was the eyes – the large violet eyes that had begun to shutter.  

“I have heard the rumblings of disapproval for my ways,” Voldemort continued, walking slowly around the table. All eyes were on his face, but Snape felt his gaze rest soley on Puckle who’s fingertips had come to touch the base of his throat.

“I have heard that someone in this very room has been planning an escape, to America of all places.”

He was walking slowly, but it was no surprise to see in which direction he was going. Puckle had now begun to make awful noises, retching noises as he began to claw at his throat. Severus knew it well – a quick acting poison from his own collection he kept at the manor. Odorless and colorless it could be slipped into anything – including firewhisky – and none would be the wiser.

“Can you imagine?” Voldemort continued, ignoring the young man’s horrible noises. “When we are on the precipice of such greatness, having a follower suddenly dash off? Abandon their beliefs? Why… Such a figure would be a coward of the highest degree.”

The entire table’s eyes were on Puckle now, as he’d stood, knocking back the chair with a clatter and fallen to the floor. Bright white and red foam was starting to leak from his mouth and nose. It was a horrifying way to go, if Snape’s readings  on the poison had been any accurate indication.

“Please!” Puckle begged, his eyes bloodshot. He clawed at his throat, the foam increasing as he looked to Voldemort in agony. “Please My Lord! It’s not true! I would never leave-”

He wanted to continue but the gutteral gagging took over his speech and his head fell to the ground with a clunk. His entire body began to twitch, his head knocking against the ground harshly.

“This is what comes of cowardice,” Voldemort roared, his ruby eyes flashing as he addressed the silent Deatheaters. He pointed to the twisted and foaming form on the ground. “This is what comes of betrayal. This is what comes of doubt. I WILL NOT STAND FOR IT.”

And with that, a bolt of green zipped from the end of his wand and into the body of Puckle. All tics and movements ceased and the young man lay dead at their feet. Some may view it as brutal, but Snape thought it more a kindness.  The bloodied foam still dripped from his mouth and nose, his large eyes unblinking.

Voldemort was furious, that much was evident. Knowing that even one of his followers was thinking of leaving was enough to set him in a foul mood. It made him feel as if he were losing momentum.

“Get out of my sight,” Voldemort said, his entire countenance exhausted and angry. One by one the Deatheaters began to leave the room and apparate back to their homes. Snape stood slowly, preparing to do the same.

 “Severus I would like a word,” Voldemort said, inclining his head so that the tall professor followed him wordlessly.  A bolt of panic went through his abdomen at the thought he was going to be punished like Puckle. But why would Voldemort do it in private?

“He shall begin to smell,” Voldemort said, motioning to the dead form of Puckle as they began.  “I wish to be elsewhere.”

They walked in silence before they entered into Lucius’ study, filled with odd looking antiques and a few books for show. Merlin knew the man didn’t read them anymore.

What am I here for?

Voldemort sat next to the fire which roared and indicated Severus should take the seat opposite, which he did.

“I have information on the Elder wand,” Voldemort said simply, looking to his comrade passively. Snape eyebrows darted up in surprise. This was new information, to be sure. Surely taken unwillingly from the very sickly Garrick Ollivander they had locked in the dungeons of Malfoy Manor.

“Gregorovitch has it.”

Snape furrowed his brow a moment, trying to recall the name. “The foreign wandmaker?”

“The very same.”

Snape pondered on this, his mouth twisting in thought. “How can I be of help?”

“I need to find exactly where he is,” Voldemort said, his . “Ollivander was useful, but only insomuch as giving me the name. He has no idea of the man’s location and all scouting missions showed a closed up shop.”

Snape nodded thoughtfully, his eyes scanning the air in front of him as if he were reading.

“We have Christmas holidays coming up,” he offered. “My disappearance wouldn’t be noticed. I will let you know all I can find the moment its discovered.”

Voldemort nodded, a sickly smile appearing on his face. “Severus, you are a most loyal and most useful Deatheater.”

“Thank you, My Lord.”

“And don’t you think that services such as yours deserve a reward of some kind?”

Snape tensed, his eyes drifting to Voldemort’s. Reward? A reward from Voldemort could mean anything from a boon to a mercy killing. He refrained from looking over-eager.

“It is gift enough knowing we’ll soon be in power, my Lord.”

Voldemort gave a horrible choked noise that indicated he was laughing. Obviously Snape’s flattering response had amused him. Snape knew that the man found his dark humor amusing, but this was… Different.

“As good a reply as any,” he said with a ghastly look. “But unlike Dumbledore, I believe in gifting my favored ones, not overlooking them.”

Snape said nothing, his hands on the arms of the large chair casually. He inclined his head to indicate that he was listening.

“Severus, when we take over the school you will be Headmaster,” Voldemort said matter of fact, his eyes reaching past Snape’s into the darkness. Snape felt an eyebrow lift at this proclamation, but he kept his face neutral and gave a small nod of appreciation.

“I am honored, my Lord.”

“You are a most loyal subject as well as being worthy of the title,” Voldemort said as if the compliment were nothing, his hand waving it away. “And when you are Headmaster, I think a change to the student’s curriculum is in order, hmmm?”

Of course. There it was – the man wanted the students brainwashed. It was to be expected.

“I am in perfect agreement,”

“I thought as much,” Voldemort said merrily, rising and indicating that Snape should do so as well. As they walked, Voldemort spoke in soft, rasping tones suggesting intimacy.

“I have another gift for you,” he said as they strolled down the hall to one of Malfoy’s guest rooms. “Something I also think Dumbledore would be reticent to supply for you.”

The door opened and inside sat a young woman of no more than twenty-five on the end of the large bed. She was stark naked, fluttering her bright blue eyes flirtatiously as the two men entered. Voldemort kept these women on hand – prizes for his followers. Brainwashed and beautiful and perfect for any sexual desire. Against his judgement as the girl sauntered over to him, he felt himself stiffen.

Her glossy black hair hung just above her shoulders in a severe bob and she gave a small curtsy as the two men appraised her. Voldemort placed a fatherly hand on Snape’s shoulder before speaking into his ear. Snape repressed the urge to shudder in repulsion.

“Enjoy her. And be sure to alert me to any changes or advancements in the coming weeks.”

And with that he was gone, his tattered robes trailing after him. The door shut behind him loudly, leaving Snape and the girl staring at one another.  As much as many may think that this was a kindness, Snape knew it was quite the opposite. Merely a different way of manipulating his followers.

He knew Voldemort would read the girl’s mind after Snape left, he knew that Voldemort liked to see his followers in their weakest moments. He would play back the girl’s memories as if he were at the cinema, trying to find any weakness or fault. It was always a show, one that Snape was never comfortable with.

He rarely ever fucked them, and if he did he always did it from behind. He had no interest in having any slice of intimacy with these girls. They were like robots to him, pretty to look at but completely vacuous. He took off his outer robe and folding it, placed it on a nearby chair as the girl smiled at him.

“Hello, I'm-“

“I don’t care.”

The girl abruptly closed her mouth at his vicious reply, watching his movements with eager interest. He tried to hide his displeasure as, his dark eyes roved theexpanse of her naked flesh.  

“On your hands and knees,” he said quietly to her. He moved past the girl quickly, moving to the edge of the bed and looking back to her. She was in position as he’d requested. He knew Voldemort would be replaying this and he needed to sell it.

“Crawl to me,” he demanded silkily. The girl did so slowly, her breasts bouncing as she crawled to him. He sat with his legs apart, and when she arrived at his feet she leaned up, her hands snaking up to his thighs and resting there. He twitched under the fabric of his trousers. He couldn’t help but feel disgusted with himself.

 “You’re only good for one thing,” Snape said plainly, unbuttoning his trousers and pulling out his hardened length in front of her face. “So do it.”

The girl nodded, her plump lips curling into a seductive smile. She gripped him in her hands and skillfully began to manipulate him. He felt her skin glide against the iron velvet of his cock and had to stop himself from gasping aloud when her mouth pressed a gentle kiss against the head. Her hands fell to her own lap as she began to kiss and nibble.

His hands were on either side of his legs on the edge of the bed. His hands gripped the sheets as she moaned throatily, the vibration traveling from her lips directly into his cock. He couldn’t help but find his eyelids shuttering at the pleasure that ran the length of him.

“Touch yourself,” he managed to ground out. “Touch yourself as you suck me.”

Without hesitation her tongue swiped along the head of him and her left hand traveled between her thighs. He could hear she was wet as her fingers began to curl inside of her.  She smiled up at him then, her tongue trailing achingly slowly around the tip of his shaft. The girl was trying to tease him; to extend their experience and this thought alone made him want to retch.

“Enough,” Snape said roughly, grabbing the girl by hair as she lowered her mouth over him. Her mouth was so hot and wet and he felt his jaw clench at the dark delight this willing mouth gave him. He knew he should hate this – and a part of him did. But another part of him hadn’t had a willing woman in his bed for far too long. Her hands moved back to his thighs, her nails digging into his trousers as she took more of him into her mouth.

As she did this his eyes fluttered closed a moment and his mind went elsewhere. Into a bed that wasn’t his and rocking against a body that was a mystery to him.

But soon enough the girl between his legslegs brought him back to the present as her tongue made small designs along the underside of his shaft as she sucked. Snape felt his breath coming in slow, erratic groans as the girl began taking him deeper into her mouth and soon her throat. Her dark hair was still tightly in his grasp yet she worked her mouth up and down on him with ease.

 He groaned in a feral tone, his hips jutting to meet her laving tongue on the underside of his cock as she sucked and moaned. He could see her dark head bobbing up and down and he groaned aloud. It was a strangled sound he hadn’t made before and he saw her eyes open and look up at him in surprise. He supposed she was worried she wasn’t doing a good job.

But the eyes that gazed up at him in that moment were blue and Snape was surprised when a part of him observed they should be brown instead.  He didn’t have time to wonder where that errant though came from because all at once the swelling of his cock hit an apex and he came. Panting lightly he watched as the girl sucked up every last drop of his essence before licking her lips and smiling up at him with a perfect – not at all crooked – smile.

Chapter Text

 He walked into her room wordlessly, but Katherine sensed his presence. She rolled onto her back just in time to see him close the door. He tossed off his outer robes and they landed on the floor by the door in a heap. She was on her elbows, her eyes wide and taking him in as his long legs carried him beside her bed. 

You’re back.”

He continued silently towards her, his eyes burning with an intensity that she had never seen before. Without any hint of what he was about to do, he’d raised his hands to the cravat at his neck and pulled it free. Katherine watched its silent dance until it landed on the floor between them. When she glanced back up he’d expertly undone the rest of his buttons on his vest and discarded it along with his dress shirt onto the floor beside her bed.

He stood then, bare-chested and looking down at her. Katherine took in the smooth pale skin, the tattoo on his forearm and the look of his taut upper body, silently welcoming her touch.  He sat on the edge of her bed, his eyes raking over her form.

What-

Snape quickly pressed his mouth to hers, swallowing any lingering protestations. His mouth was expertly taking hers, his tongue dancing along the seam of her mouth, requesting entrance. She opened up to him, feeling as he quickly overpowered her. And yet she surrendered, her eyes closing lazily as he engulfed her.

His arms were around her waist, pulling her tightly against him, forcing her neck back as he plundered her mouth with his tongue. And she allowed it - if anything she encouraged it with her moans and the way she melted into him. Not one part of her questioned his touch or his dark need.

She was suddenly overcome with a desire to touch his bare skin. To feel the warmth under her own fingertips. She pulled back from him, panting and full mouthed. His eyes were like fire, bright and desperate for her. The sight made her shudder as she traced a forefinger against his petal soft lips, shocked at their softness. She’d expected everything about him to be sharp and cold.

He gave her a small smirk as she explored the planes of his face, gently with her fingertips. Then she stilled, feeling suddenly wrong-footed. Surely this was inappropriate for her to be doing? She pulled back, only to have Snape grip her hand and pull it to his chest. She could feel the heartbeat that thrummed under her palm.

Don’t hold back,” Snape murmured in her ear, causing a delicious shiver to run through her. “I need you to touch me”

***

 Katherine jerked up in bed with a shuddering gasp. Her entire body was slick with sweat and she was breathing shakily. The room around her suddenly seemed more solid, more real. She pinched the back of her hand roughly, enough to cause tears to well up in her eyes. Yes, she was awake now.

Had she actually just had a sex dream about Snape?

Not a full sex dream of course, but it had definitely not been of the innocent variety. Worse yet, she knew it had been her own dream. It wasn’t strange like those other ones – the ones with people she didn’t know. This had seemed familiar and normal. Like ones she’d have back home. The thought somehow made it much worse.

There was nothing attractive about this man. Aside from the voice perhaps…a silken purr. And perhaps the hands with their tapered fingers. But that was it.  Well, he did seem quite fit under those robes… Katherine groaned, covering her face with a pillow and falling back onto her bed.

“Is Miss Katherine feeling alright?”

Katherine’s eyes were closed yet she could feel the presence of her familiar companion at the side of the bed.

“Yes Blankar,” Katherine answered, feeling flushed with ripe humiliation. “Perhaps you could bring me a cup of tea?”

Katherine spent the rest of the day in bed, drinking tea, reading and napping. It seemed there was little else for her to do and she dreaded the thought of running into Snape. Just the thought of him was causing her cheeks to burn. And so she sequestered herself in her room, praying that she would go a full day without him.

As if by some ironic gods above, Severus strode into her room at that precise moment. He’d obviously just returned from a D.E. meeting. He always wore that vaguely wild and unsettled weight about him. It made him move twitchy like a spider. And yet still, seeing him made her pull the bedcovers tightly under her nose.

“Why are you still in bed? It’s nearly supper.”

“I’m afraid I’m still ill,” Katherine replied, her voice muffled from under the sheets. “I’m just going to rest a bit longer.”

Oh just go!

She peeked out at him from under her fringe, her cheeks bright red.  Just seeing him there, standing before her so… normal made her stomach flip. He looked just as ordinary as he always did and yet there was something there, a residue from the dream that made the sight of him made her body tremble slightly as his hand reached towards her.

She shied from him before he rolled his eyes and closed the space between them, placing the back of his hand on her forehead. He held it there a moment, oblivious to the girl’s discomfort of his physical touch.

“You’re forehead is quite damp,” Snape observed, surprised at her lapse in wellness. She had been doing so well.  He raised his wand and ran it the length of her body.  “No fever. Seems you’ve just worked yourself up."

I'll say.

"Go have a shower and join me in my office.”

“I’d rather just rest,” Katherine insisted, trying to hide her face. She wanted nothing more than to be left alone. She couldn't stand being in the same room as him at this time.

“You’ve rested enough.”

“Still,” Katherine said in the most plaintive voice she’d ever heard. “I think I’d-“

“I’ve no time for your dallying,” he snapped. “Now get up.”

“But-“

“Must everything with you be an argument?” he loomed over her quickly, gripping her upper arm and roughly dragging her from her bed. Her bare feet hit the cool stone floor and she yelped, causing her to inhale deeply. She was about to say something more when her nose detected something out of the ordinary. Flowery feminine and citrus. It was all things Severus Snape was not.

It was perfume.

Women’s perfume.

The thought sprang from a part of Katherine’s brain that she didn’t even know existed. She didn’t know why but the thought that he’d been with a women suddenly disgusted her. Without thinking she wrenched her arm from his grasp and whirled around on him, surprising him.

“Don’t touch me,” she hissed, flouncing away from him and into the bathroom. She turned on the taps of the shower, anger coursing through her entire body.

“Horrible git,” she said through clenched teeth as she scrubbed her body. She washed her hair so roughly that she winced as her hands ran through the tangles. When she felt right again she brushed her teeth and pulled on jeans and a jumper. Blankar insisted on drying her hair and shoving thick socks onto her feet.

She met him in his office minutes later, trying her best not to seem too irritated. She didn’t need him searching her mind and finding that ridiculously intimate dream she’d had. As far as she was concerned it was a bizarre brain mix up. She’d been forced to spend time with the man and it had resulted in a subconscious desire for intimacy. It was as good a reason as any.

“I’m here,” she announced flatly, standing across from him as he marked essays. He kept her waiting a full minute before he raised his head up from his spiky script.

“Albus has invited us to dine with him this evening.”

Us?” Katherine’s voice dipped up an octave in surprise. Albus wanted dinner with the both of them?

“Yes, us,” Snape replied acidly.  “I assure you I was just as surprised as you are. And just as reluctant. But it seems what Dumbledore wants, Dumbledore gets.”

Katherine could see the contempt cross his face as he said that and yet she was automatically defensive of Albus.

“Perhaps he’s just being nice,” Katherine offered graciously.  

“And perhaps he is on my last nerve. Now, if you can find time in your busy schedule of doing nothing and being a thorn in my side, I suggest you prepare for dinner.”

Katherine crossed her arms over her chest once more. “When?”

“We leave here at 6 o’clock.”

“You don’t have a hot date set up?”

In reply he raised a sharp eyebrow of confusion. Katherine said nothing more before she rushed off to her room to find something suitable to wear. It turned out to be a black dress with stockings and Mary Jane’s that Blankar brought to her when she had finished combing her hair into a respectable hairstyle. Despite the fact that they were going to have a very casual dinner within the castle, she felt the need to spruce up a bit.  

She met him in his chambers shortly after, seeing to her surprise that he’d shaved and made a bit of an effort. The citrus scent was gone which meant he’d showered and for that she was thankful. She didn’t know if she’d be able to stand being with him if he hadn’t.

The realization that Severus Snape was a man with man’s needs was suddenly apparent to her. She didn’t know if it was the perfume or the dream that she’d had that was causing her to suddenly realize that.

 “Do you see many women?” Katherine asked gently, trying not to appear too interested.

Snape stiffened at her words, his glare narrowing his eyes on her as they approached the hearth. Where on earth had that come from? Hadn’t he scrubbed the horrible tart’s floral scent from his robes and body?  

Katherine immediately realized how out of left field that question had sounded and she internally cringed. She sounded like a jealous girlfriend, not a woman being kept as an unwelcome guest in his chambers.

“I-I just mean, I don’t know how you’d find the time to have a girlfriend,” Katherine continued awkwardly, trying to backpedal. “I mean, a social life. It seems unfair that you’d not have a chance for companionship. I guess I just wondered if you do.”

“If I do what?”

“Have a chance for companionship.”

Snape said nothing for several moment before he inclined his head, silently indicating that she should follow him into the hearth. Katherine was suddenly very thankful for the chance to escape the stifling quarters and she internally thanked the gods above when he threw down the floo powder and said “Albus Dumbledore’s Quarters.”

Chapter Text

 

When they emerged from the hearth Katherine busied herself brushing the soot from her clothing and averting her eyes from Snape as much as possible. She didn’t know what had possessed her to ask such a ridiculous question, but she hadn’t missed the man’s stoic face and now she wished she’d said nothing at all.  

Thank goodness they had Albus as a distraction.

Katherine stepped over the grate and into the familiar office that she had seen several times before. The familiar piles of books, parchments, quills and candies were all over in a cheery chaos.  She turned, wrinkling her nose in Snape’s direction.

“He lives in his office?”

Snape didn’t reply, choosing to cross past her and raising his wand to the far wall.  He raised the rowan and tapped it gingerly against the stone wall as if he were knocking.

Alohomora.”

The door appeared before them, as if it had been hidden behind a filmy screen before. Katherine pretended not to be impressed, but the fact of the matter was that every new piece of magic she was witness to had her delighted.

She shouldered past him through the door, ignoring the annoyed grunt he gave as he followed suit. She wandered into the center of the high ceilinged room, glancing up to see he had bewitched it to look like the far reaches of space. Stars glittered in this fake galaxy, planets orbiting slowly. Katherine stared open-mouthed a moment, almost backing into the every irritated Severus Snape.

“Watch it.”

Katherine shot his growled warning a narrow-eyed look of irritation before her gaze was drawn to the rest of the fairly modest room. His sleeping chambers were obviously through the door to their right. But what remained was a lovely looking study filled high with books. But wheras Snape’s were rather foreboding, these books looked positively begging to be read.

Photographs of all size and variety littered the walls. All were smiling and waving and seemed delighted for the company. Katherine wondered if Albus had much company inside his private quarters. He seemed so busy she wondered if he even had the time. A part of her felt quite sorry for him. She thought he might be lonely.

She walked over to the bookcase, her eyes being drawn to a black and white photo that had caught her eye. She walked over to it, her eyes viewing three young children, the eldest no more than twelve. Two tall boys and a sweet faced blonde girl who was smiling shyly. There was something about her eyes however that gave Katherine pause, they seemed almost haunted.

“Who is-“

“Away from there,” Snape said roughly.

 Katherine was about to protest when they both heard the creaking of floorboards.  Albus moved towards the two of them, looking to Snape with a small nod and then to Katherine with a look of grandfatherly affection. Was it Katherine or did he look a bit sickly?

“I’m so pleased you were able to join me tonight,” he said effusively, taking her hands in his and squeezing gently before his eyes fell to the photo of the three young children waving in the photograph.  His smile grew a bit tight.

“I was just looking at your photos,” Katherine said, ignoring the pointed glare being shot at her by Snape. “Are these your children?”

“No,” Albus said with a small chuckle. “I’ve no children. Those are my siblings and I.”

She had always assumed that the elderly man was an only child like she was. He had that sweet oddity to him that seemed to plague only children.  But him having a sister? That seemed reasonable to Katherine. It explained his sweetness and patience with her.

“Oh,” Katherine said with a smile glancing back at the photo. She looked closer at the taller boy’s face and in it she saw Albus’ eyes, younger and brighter looking back at her.  

“Is the eldest one you?”

“Indeed,” Albus said with a short nod. There was a sudden tension in the room, so thick that even she felt it between the three of them.

 Katherine was about to ask him more when Albus clapped his hands together merrily and indicated that they should follow him to the supper table; a large round table with high chairs and plus purple cushions. Katherine sat between the men, her eyes on the full plates before them. Salad, soup, chicken,  pasta that smelled divine. There were cheeses of every size and color, so much potato sides that she lost track. Everything she could ever want was accounted for and this amazed her.

She watched as Snape took very little of the chicken and salad onto his plate. The man was so tall and slender he needed to eat more, in her opinion. But the last thing she was going to do was start a fighting match over his dietary habits.

“Pumpkin juice? Wine?” Albus asked politely inclining his head to her empty goblet.

“Water is fine for me,” she replied and watched with lips parted as the goblet in her hand filled itself up. She took a ginger sip, amazed at how clean and crisp it tasted.  Albus and Snape each had a glass of red wine with Snape shoving food slowly into his downturned mouth. He looked so monumentally bored and irritated that it made her want to kick him. Here Albus was kind enough to have them as guests and he pulled this attitude?

“Thank you so much for having us,” Katherine said politely, taking another sip of water before starting in on her pasta.

“It was my pleasure,” Albus said. “I don’t often have dinner guests.”

“I’m surprised you found the time,” Snape said with an inscrutable look from across the table, surprising them both with breaking his seemingly self appointed vow of silence. “I almost wonder if this dinner is merely a prelude to something more, Albus.”

“Something more?” Albus raised an eyebrow. Katherine shot Snape a dark look from underneath her fringe. “I assure you Severus, this dinner is merely that; a meal.”

“Mmm,” came the non-commital reply.

“I think it was awfully kind of you to have us,” Katherine said, her voice too loud and eager to stop the negativity from the tall man to her left.

“I find kindness often comes with its own particular brand of strings,” Snape said, taking a long sip of his wine and not breaking his gaze with Albus. A droplet remained on his lower lip like blood when he lowered the goblet. He looked every part the vampire that everyone called him.

Katherine frowned, feeling the tension in the room and upset with Snape for having caused it. Forever the intermediary in life she searched her mind for a way to change the topic in a way that wouldn’t stand out as a ham-fisted segue.

“I’d love to learn more about Thestrals,” Katherine nearly spat out in her desperation for a change of topic. “I mean, can you imagine what their birthing process must be like? Having no skin and all. I wonder if they give birth is less conventional ways. I’d love to see one in real life.”

The two men didn’t reply but Albus gave her a weak smile before going back to his meal.  Snape had gone back to his meal, picking at it like a surly teen.

Think Katherine, think.

“The book!”

The two men’s gaze seemed to break from their plates and fell upon the rapidly uncomfortable Katherine sitting between them with a look of hope that was borderline sycophantic. Snape licked his lips, divesting him of that intimidating vampire look.

 “Can I ask what the book is actually about?” Katherine inquired, her face contorted in confusion as she took another bite of the delicious noodles on her plate. “The one we’re all searching for? I suppose I don’t understand how a Muggle book we’ve had forever could be of any use to Vold- erm, the bad wizard.”

 “It’s not a muggle book,” Snape replied snidely. “It’s a book of spells that has been lost from our wizarding libraries for a long time.”

Good. Keep him talking. If he’s rude to me, he can’t be rude to Albus.

“Really?” Katherine was on her knees in interest. “How come we had it?”

“That’s a very good question,” Albus replied encouragingly. “I can only assume that one of your ancestors was favored by a wizard or witch. During the time of…Grindelwald, it was not uncommon for witches or wizards to place their items in trust.”

“In trust?”

“With a Muggle, for safekeeping. The wizard world was very bleak and their homes forever being ransacked. Anyone who was thought to have Muggle sympathies was terrorized. Books of spells are some of our most powerful artifacts. To lose those would be to lose history.”

“So they gave the books to Muggles for safe keeping,” Katherine finished. “Because no one would suspect that muggles would be in possession of such things. Plus you could hide it somewhere an obliviate a muggle so they never even knew they had it.”

“Indeed,” Albus replied, delighted with her quick thinking.

“How did no one figure that out?” Katherine asked, her dark brows furrowed. “I mean surely someone would have come into the bookshop and noticed right? Read that it was a book of spells?”

“Not at all,” Snape replied. “It was charmed to appear a Latin book of animals.”

Katherine’s mind went to the beautiful photos inside. The ones of the lion that she had loved so dearly.  “How did you know what it was?”

“Enough questions,” Snape said, his fingers coming to pinch the bridge of his nose. He couldn’t have another night of Katherine Shepard’s inane questioning. Especially when every question she posed put her at greater risk.

“But I want to know,” Katherine demanded, her voice only stopping when Snape fixed her with a heated glare.

“And I’m telling you no more.”

“Who made you king of the world?” Katherine knew it was a pathetic reply, but she felt all out of sorts tonight. All because of that stupid bloody dream. It was causing her to feel defensive and flustered all at once.

“For once in your life Miss Shepard, just stop asking bloody questions.”

“I’m sick of you telling me what to do!” Katherine said, standing up and knocking over her chair in the process.

“And I’m sick of you never listening to anything but the sound of your own voice!” Snape snarled, standing and doing the same to his chair.

The two of them eyed each other like feral creatures. Katherine’s teeth were clenched tightly, so tightly she might crack a filling.  Snape’s hands curled and uncurled at his hip, surely trying to bite back the urge to grip his wand and hex the girl into next week.

“Alright,” Albus announced with a cheery note in his voice to detract from the inevitable blow out argument between the two. “It’s time for my favorite part of any meal. Pudding!”

Chapter Text

Pudding, Albus had decided, was best to be had in the sitting room of his office. He felt it was a more neutral place to be and considering two of his best dining chairs were upset, he decided the carnage may end.

Katherine entered into the room as if seeing it for the first time. It was the first time in fact she had come to this office as a guest and not as a prisoner, in her opinion.

She took the time to wander around the small, circular room, her eyes alighting on every tome that passed her gaze. Snape watched all of this from behind his curtain of dark hair, his hands twitching at his sides. There was something about this girl that irritated him so very much.  She was forever asking question after question. When would it be enough?

Suddenly he watched as she stilled and took a large, faded book from the shelves.  It was dusty and she sniffed a bit as she opened it to the first page. Albus wandered in, looking happily from one figure to the next before settling on Katherine’s frenetic reading.

“Find something interesting?”

“Oh yes! Do you think I could borrow this book?” Katherine asked, her dark eyes alight with hope. “I’ve been aching to learn more about Thestrals. There’s something about them that’s quite fascinating don’t you think? Imagine how their birthing process must be!”

Albus took the book from her, flipping through it's pages a moment as if recalling the memories of past readings before he handed it back to her gently.

“Of course,” Albus said, his lips in a small smile. “Consider it a gift.”

“Oh no I couldn’t,” Katherine insisted with a crooked grin. “I-“

“I am of the belief that books are meant to be passed from person to person,” Albus insisted, patting her hand gently. “Living different lives with different owners, travelling the world.”

“Thank you,” Katherine said in a quiet voice, her arms wrapping around the tome as if it were a human child. “I promise I’ll take really good care of it.”

“I don’t care how many pages you dog-ear or tea stains it acquires,” Albus replied honestly. “As long as you read it. Now, onto pudding.”

Katherine smiled and followed Albus’ incline of his head, indicating that they should in fact get on with the dessert portion of the evening.

He watched as the tall, pale Professor sat in the seat farthest from the hearth, as if the heat irritated him. The Muggle girl in opposition snuggled into the chaise before the fire, the heat suffusing her rosy cheeks. Albus took a seat next to her, handing her a cup of tea which she took gratefully.

“Tea Severus?”

“Wine will do,” Snape said flatly. Seconds later the full glass’ stem sat nestled in his pale digits and the three lapsed into a comfortable silence. He took this moment to observe the two figures across from him. The cheery faced girl who had her eyes on the flickering flames before her. The aged man to her left who seemed more out of sorts than usual. Snape detected the slight tremor in the man’s glamoured hand as he took a sip of tea.

“Katherine, what would you say are your favorite desserts in all the world?”

Albus broke the silence and Snape’s observation abruptly. Katherine paused on this, turning from the fire, taking a ginger sip of her tea before looking off into middle distance in thought.

“Brandy snaps,” Katherine said, then seeming to doubt herself. “Or, perhaps flies graveyard.”

Flies graveyard?”

Katherine giggled gently at Albus’ confusion. “They’re pastries filled with currants. Fruit squares. My mum used to make them when I was in primary-.”

She faltered a moment, the word primary causing her to wince visibly. It seemed no matter how long she’d been gone, the pain was still there. And on the heels of that pain was a searching slash that went across her heart as her father’s sweet face came into view. Without warning the tears had fallen, and before she could brush them away Albus had gripped her hand in his.

She glanced up with a thankful smile in Albus’ direction before feeling Snape’s gentle gaze on her. Snape’s previous grimace had disappeared, saved for later. What remained was a naked look of concern that surprised Katherine. Within seconds it was masked once more, his hair falling in front of it, and Albus was speaking.  

“Those sound delightful. I should like to try them.”

Without warning a plate had arrived on the coffee table between them. On it sat a variety of desserts; cherries jubilee, flies graveyards, brandy snaps, shrewsberry cake, fruit pastilles, arctic rolls and a variety of different iced creams. Katherine stared at the bounty a moment.  For a moment she was overwhelmed at the choice, her gaze suddenly drawn to the small glass dish of a yellowed mixture.

“Is that Bird’s custard?”                                   

“It is indeed,” Albus said with a knowing smile. “I happen to know it’s quite favored by our professor here.”

“Hardly,” Snape snorted, ignoring the amused look on the girl’s face.

“But it’s not even a dessert,” Katherine laughed. “It’s what you add to dessert!”

“Not all of us had the luxury of brandy snaps and homemade fruit squares,” Snape sniffed in reply. “Some of us didn’t have parents invested in frivolous things such as pudding.”

Katherine fell silent, taking in the stoic face of the taciturn man across from her. There was something sad there, not angry or bitter but just sad. She suddenly had an impulse to hug him, gently like a sister for a brother. The kind of ache one wishes to give to wipe away any lingering pain. But she knew she’d be thrown off in seconds and so she instead opted to concede that he was correct.  

“Too right,” she agreed before scooping a liberal amount of the custard onto the empty plate nearest to her. “Sometimes it’s the simple things that are best. Here you are.”

Before he could oppose, the girl had plopped a large amount of the custard, pushed the plate towards him and dug into the pile on her own plate.

“Mmm,” she said with sincerity. “Much better than I thought it would be.”

Albus too had loaded his plate with goodies and was merrily tasting away. While familiar with some Muggle desserts, he couldn’t say he’d had the pleasure of trying them all.  He smiled as Severus reluctantly gripped the plate and seated it on his lap. He took a few bites before placing it back down upon the coffee table with a clunk.

 “It’s quite nice to have you both for company,” Albus said, his smile a bit wobbly beneath his beard. “Thank you for joining me this evening.”

Katherine heard the hitch in his voice and saw that the man’s right hand was trembling a bit as he raised the cup to his mouth.

“I’ll always come to have supper with you Albus,” Katherine insisted, placing a warm hand over the man’s left hand. “Whenever you want company. You need only ask.”

“Very kind of you,” Albus said, affectionately patting her hand.

“You remind me of my father,” Katherine said after a moment, with a tender smile in the older man’s direction. “He was sweet and gentle, just like you.”

Snape watched as the older man’s face fell a fraction of a moment, recovering quickly. His smile didn’t quite touch his eyes as he looked into the earnest face of the muggle woman seated next to him. She was gazing at him with such a pure look of sincerity that he felt his stomach drop at what the future held.

“You remind me of someone as well,” Albus said finally, his eyes wetting. “Someone I cared for quite deeply-“

 Albus was about to say more when all of a sudden there was a large squawking sound.  Katherine’s entire body jerked, her eyes wide and her body tensed as if prepared for a fight.

“What was that sound?” Katherine’s head swiveled around the room in confusion. The two men seemed nonplussed, both continuing to drink their tea and wine respectively.

“Ah, Fawkes.”

“Fawkes?” Katherine’s voice was flat. “Like Guy Fawkes? The revolutionary bloke?”

Dumbledore’s lips twitched in amusement. “No, the phoenix variety.”

Katherine was about to say more when the large golden bird streaked across the room, whooshing past her ear and landed gently on the arm of Albus’ chair. Albus broke off a piece of the brandy snap and Katherine watched as the bird swallowed it whole, dipping its great head back.

Seeing it up this close was shocking and rather entrancing. She remembered this bird from her first meeting with Albus, how it had scared her. But now, sitting inches from it she had the strongest compulsion to stroke it’s gold hued feathers.

“You have so many amazing creatures here,” Katherine breathed, her eyes reflecting the golden shimmer before her. “I could spend an entire decade just reading about them all.”

Snape snorted from the corner at the girl’s drivel, ignoring the pointed look Albus gave him by taking a sip from the deep burgundy wine.

“You mentioned an interest in Thestrals, did you not?” Albus posed the question so casually Severus almost didn’t realize he was being set up.

“Oh yes,” Katherine said with a tone that suggested reverence. “I think of all the animals I’ve read up on so far they’re the most fascinating.”

“Not unicorns?” Snape sneered, looking to the girl darkly. “Every young muggle girl is mad for unicorns.”

“Not me,” Katherine shrugged, refusing to be baited. “I’ve always been fascinated by the darker things in life, I suppose.”

“In that case I think a small excursion is needed,” Albus said, with a friendly tone of finality.  Katherine fairly leapt to her feet, her face alight.

“Really?”

“Yes,” Albus said, ignoring Snape’s slow shaking of his head. “And Severus will take you. Miss Shepard if you wouldn’t mind waiting in the dining room.”

Snape’s head jerked in the man’s direction as Katherine rushed into the next room, her footsteps positively giddy. Could footsteps be giddy? Snape had stood and prepared to rounded on the old man, his uneven teeth gnashing together.  

 “Albus-“

“Severus,” Albus said standing and motioning for the tall man to follow. “A word.”

Snape’s long legs carried him over to where the Headmaster stood with his hands behind his back and humming gently to himself.  When he was close Albus brought out his wand and cast a silencing spell. The two were enveloped in silence immediately.

“What is the meaning of this?” Snape hissed, his dark eyes glittering with fury. “Taking the girl off grounds for a delightful romp with the thestrals? Are you mad?”

“Severus, we both know that this girl will not be with us for long. As soon as she’s led you to the book, she must be…” Dumbledore trailed off, looking pained.  Severus too had paused, knowing that the girl couldn’t hear them and yet feeling disingenuous talking about her demise so closely within earshot.

“It does you no harm in taking her.”

“And why can’t you take her?” was the clipped reply. “You seem so willing to take her on an expedition!”

“I’m afraid I’m not feeling myself these days,” Albus admitted, his glamoured hand wincing as he spoke. “I don’t trust my strength should something dangerous happen.”

Snape pinched the bridge of his nose, finding it hard to keep his wits about him. Everything Albus was saying was like nails on a blackboard.

“Keeping her inside is safest.”

“And yet if it were my last days, I would want a reprieve,” Albus said in the most melancholy of tones. “A chance to breathe the air once more. A chance to see sights one last time. A chance for a bit of magic before I depart this mortal coil.”

There was a beat, a heavy-handed insinuation that Severus somehow owed it to the girl, despite the contrary. But as with all things, Albus had him right where he wanted him; sympathetic and weak. His response was snarled over his shoulder as he made his way towards the dining room.  

“Fine.”

Chapter Text

“Get up,” Snape hissed as he walked past the girl, ignoring her confused face. “We’re going to see those damned Thestrals you’ve been going on about.”

Katherine jumped up from her seat, flashing a shocked look at Snape’s back as he motioned for her to follow him to the hearth. She had been certain that Albus would have taken her. If she was honest, she had been hoping he would. Being alone with Snape was making her feel strange.

Stupid dream.

He grabbed her hand roughly, pulling her into the stone fireplace before muttering “Severus Snape quarters.”

The feel of his cool fingers around her hand caused her heart to jump a bizarre staccato. She was about to question this further when they were suddenly in his quarters and he had gently shoved her towards her room.

 “Get something warm and do so quickly. Despite Albus’ belief of the contrary, I have other things to do.”

Katherine rushed to her room without a backwards look, looking for something that would do in the biting cold of the encroaching Scottish winter.

The thought of being outside gave her so much joy, but the thought of sharing the space with the surly potions professor had her haunches up. She felt strange around him now, unsure of how to act. She knew that nothing had actually changed, just a stupid dream. And yet, she felt so out of sorts. But why? Where had this come from?

A sudden thought occurred to her and she almost laughed with relief as she pulled on her large wool jacket. She didn’t have a scarf or gloves so she hoped it wasn’t too cold outside.

Stockholm Syndrome.

That was it! She didn’t actually fancy the git, she was simply trying to survive! Her mind told her to feel affection for the tall miserable man in hopes of forming an alliance. In hopes of staying safe. In any other situation she would completely despise his company. With that resolute thought in her mind she took a calming breath and walked into his quarters.

“I’m ready.”

***

 “How long do we have to wait?”

Kathering was rubbing her bare hands together. It was chillier than she had been expecting. An hour later and there had been nary a Thestral to be found. Standing in the same spot in a forest in the middle of Ireland had her freezing cold, despite the warmth of the jacket.

Oh why didn’t I bring mittens? Or at least a scarf?

“I told you to wear something warm,” Snape said haughtily. His own hands were covered in a pair of warm woolen gloves that matched the thick scarf at his neck. Katherine shoved her hands deeply into her pockets, trying to move from foot to  foot.

“I told you to keep still.”

“Why can’t you just use a spell to make us warm?” Katherine said, trying to stop the chattering of her teeth. “You’re magic after all aren’t you?”

He gave her a most withering look.

“Thestrals are very sensitive to external magic,” Snape said slowly as if she were dim. “If they sense it, they will likely stay away.”

“Oh.”

She watched as Snape pulled a vial from his robes, uncorking it and dropping some of the crimson fluid onto the frosty ground below them.

“What was that?”

“They’re enticed by the scent of blood,” Snape replied. “I don’t like wasting my supplies, but at this rate we may be here until next year.”

Katherine said nothing, instead they lapsed into silence and Katherine took the time to distract herself with the sight of the forest all around her. Frost touched the limbs of the trees, the ground stiff and unyielding.  It was a much different world than September of this year when the warmth of the summer still touched the trees and her skin.

“I suddenly realize how long I’ve been in your world,” Katherine said softly, her dark eyes scanning the trees. “It feels like it’s almost Christmas.”

“In another month,” Snape offered from beside her, his tone flat.   Katherine was a bit shocked by this – yes she knew she had been here a while. The days did tend to melt into one another but still to know that it was November was a rather large shock to her.

“What did you tell my workplace?” Katherine said, suddenly curious. “Surely there must be people looking for me? I’ve been gone for months.”

“I did what was necessary.”

“Meaning?”

“I used a memory charm on your colleagues,” he said tiredly. “It wasn’t hard to locate them with all the information you’d given me. I’ve let them believe that you’re on sabbatical, one that they suggested at the death of your father. And after some digging it seemed that you had no other living relatives to worry about. A few acquaintances may have slipped by me but they won’t cause much fuss. It seems you didn’t have much of a social life.”

Katherine bristled at this before continuing. “What about the bookshop?”

“From the outside it looks as if it is being renovated.”

“Oh,” Katherine paused. “That seems a good explanation as any. And renovations can take months.”

“I’m aware.”

“You’ve done so much. Must be hard for you,” Katherine said, her gaze still on the landscape before them. She didn’t elucidate and so Snape felt his gaze slip to her a moment before he righted himself, his own gaze off in the middle distance.

“I don’t know what you’re referencing.”

“I mean taking care of me and all loose ends along with everything else you have to do. And now it’s coming up Christmas,” Katherine said with a shrug. She was about to say something more when she stopped.  “Do you have any family you see during the holidays?”

“No.”

“No you don’t see them? Or no, you don’t have family?”

“Both.”

“These monosyllabic responses are a real treat,” Katherine said irritably, trying to burrow her chin more into her jacket. Still something of a pang shot through her. Despite his irritable ways he was still a human. A human that had done quite a bit for her in his short time knowing her, despite the fact that he was still a git. Knowing that he didn’t have anyone caused her to frown.

“Well we’re two peas in a pod this year anyway,” Katherine said with a rough sigh. “I’ve no family now. My first Christmas alone.”

There was a hideous pause in which neither knew what to say. Snape was not one for comforting. It was a struggle to feel human most days, and now here with the girl he couldn’t do much in the way of kindness. It was enough that he was here; taking her to see the Thestrals was it not?

Katherine lifted a hand to her cheek, surprised to see dampness on her fingers which turned quickly into an icy film. She’d been crying and not even noticed.

“Oh.”

Before she could say anything more, she felt as Snape shoved something into her hands. She looked down to see the pair of his gloves in her palm before giving him a questioning look.

 “I’m too warm.”

Katherine went to say something in response but he had turned from her, walking a few steps ahead of her. She smiled a bit to herself before pulling on the gloves over her frozen fingers. Immediately warmth began to suffuse the tips and she was flooded with gratitude.   

“Perhaps we could celebrate Christmases together,” Katherine offered brightly to his back. “When everything is over and back to normal. When we’ve found the missing page and you’ve defeated that awful man. I don’t mind hosting. We could do Christmas crackers and make mince pies.”

The thought of Snape hosting a holiday event was enough to have them both laughing and yet neither did. Images of Snape wearing a Christmas sweater and breaking open a Christmas cracker as Katherine tore into gifts and sang carols off-key suddenly assaulted her. While she wanted to make a joke about it aloud, the thought of having company for Christmas this year wasn’t funny. In fact a small part of her rather wished it were true.

 “We could decorate a tree and hang stockings,” she continued merrily. “And we’d end it with Christmas pudding and a reading of The Night before Christmas.”

“I can’t stand that book.”

“Nor can I,” Katherine agreed readily. “And I don’t like Christmas pudding either. I suppose I’d pop out to Tesco and grab biscuits and a new book for us to read instead.”

He suppressed a small smirk at that. Standing a few paces in front of her, Snape couldn’t help but fall victim to an onslaught of sudden whimsy that was entirely unlike him. Before he could stop himself he began to imagine a world in which he and Katherine would have quiet little Christmas dinners together, drinking wine and talking books.  

He quickly shook the notion off, disgusted with himself at the very thought of it. Imagine spending his Christmases with a muggle? What on earth would they talk about? If they managed to talk without killing one another it would be a miracle.

When everything is over and back to normal.

He couldn’t face her. He couldn’t look into that bright and animated face and lie to it. Despite his talent for subterfuge he had no desire to lie to her outright and tell her that she wouldn’t live to see her next birthday. His silence was almost as bad as dishonesty. Almost.   

“I suppose it’s nice that my dad and my mother will be celebrating the holidays together now,” Katherine said, her voice just above a whisper.  “I can take care of myself here. But he always needed her after she was gone.”

 She was about to say something more when her eyes adjusted to the darkness. Something was approaching them from between the large trees. Something tall and skeletal and beautiful and she stopped.

“Is that--?”

“Yes.”

Katherine could scarcely breathe, licking her lips in anticipation. A large Thestral was heading towards them slowly loping over like a magnificent horse.  Snape walked slowly backwards, coming to stand next to Katherine, their shoulders touching.

“Don’t move too quickly,” he murmured. “It’ll frighten her.”

“How do you know it’s a she?”

He didn’t answer, but Katherine didn’t care because the creature was sidling up towards her. Her leathery wings flapped a bit as she leaned her reptilian face towards Katherine. The girl felt as the thestral sniffed her, the sound like wind through a hollow can.

Up close Katherine could see her reflection in the milky white eyes of the creature. She knew she should be horrified, but instead she was fascinated. The ridges of her dragon-like face was entrancing and she couldn’t help but sigh.   

“You’re beautiful,” Katherine breathed, looking to the creature as it pulled its face back to regard her. Snape watched the interaction from a few paces away, marveling slightly at how at ease the girl was. Yes, she had veterinary training but still.  To come up against something like a thestral and not to flinch was still a mighty feat for a muggle.

Before either of them could say something more, the thestral began to nuzzle her cheek, marking her like a cat. Katherine gurgled a laugh, surprised at the motion. She raised a tentative hand to the creature, noting that its eyes were trained on her hand. She placed it gently on the thestral’s nose (or what could pass for a nose) and rubbed softly.

There was a small clacking noise, like two sticks being hit together and the creature moved nearer to the girl. Katherine could sense that this was like a purring reaction in a cat and she smiled widely before glancing over at Snape, standing there with arms crossed and watching her.

“Are they all this friendly?”

“Rarely,” he responded. “But then again I’ve never seen one with a full muggle before.”

He walked over slowly, his eyes trained on the creature’s hooves. One swift kick from it and he would be in the infirmary for a week at least.

“There there,” he cooed gently, his voice soothing as silk.

The Thestral didn’t move, but stilled as Snape’s hand came to gently stroke her neck. His pale digits travelled down the creature’s neck, marveling at the smoothness of its glossy black coat. He himself had never gotten this close to a Thestral before. Not out of avoidance, he just never seemed to find time for such an adventure. He always had other things to do.

“She’s got a small nick there,” Katherine observed, her fingertips tracing just below her left eye at the small raised line under her touch. The creature didn’t flinch and instead to Katherine seemed rather proud of her marking.  

Snape had let himself get lost a moment, taking in the dark colors of the skeletal frame, the rough feel of the mane that brushed against his cheek a moment as her head came to face him, rubbing her cheek against his hand affectionately. Katherine smiled at this sight, finding Snape unguarded a moment.  She was also amused to note that their hair color was almost identical.

 “I think she likes you.  She must sense your kind disposition underneath that prickly pear demeanor,” Katherine said good naturedly, looking to him gently patting the creature. She had meant it as a laugh, an off-hand joke.

But the mere mention of kindness in relation to him had sent Snape’s back rigid and his hand dropped from the Thestral’s neck.  His eyes shot into her face as if an arrow being released from a bow; intense and harsh.

“You have no idea who I am.”

“I know,” Katherine replied, a bit surprised at the venom in his words.

“I’m not a good, kind person,” he spat, furious that she thought him possible of such a thing. “I have killed people. Good people.”

“I know,” Katherine repeated hotly, angry that he didn’t think she knew this already. “And you’ve also committed a lot of your life to fixing it! You were young and-”

“I’ve given up following one master only to find myself shackled to another one. And I have done it all for her. A woman who cared more for a bully than her best friend.”

“Lily.”

At the mention of her name aloud Snape seemed to deflate. The anger on his face was replaced with a naked, haunted look.

“Yes,” Snape hissed, his voice slowly coming down in pitch. “Lily.”

“You’ll always love her,” Katherine observed in a small voice.

There was a long pause.

“When is it love and when is it obsession?”

The tension of the conversation had translated to the Thestral and she gave a small snort before pulling from them and heading back into the forest. Their visit was over and despite Katherine’s reluctance to return to her isolation in the castle, she knew it was inevitable.

They quickly apparated back to the grounds of Hogwarts and within minutes were back in his chambers. Katherine almost cried at the familiar depressing sight of gloom and brick. She was about to go to her room when she paused, looking back at him.

“Can I ask you something more?”

“I doubt I could stop you,” he replied.

“Who is  Grindelwald? I’ve heard him mentioned in other books.”

Snape held in the desire to roll his eyes before standing and walking over to his bookshelf. He plucked a tome from the stacks and handed it to her. It was heavy and she nearly dropped it when he placed it in her grip.

“Here,” he said coolly as he continued walking. “Read this and give me some peace. I’ve more essays to mark and I cannot take anymore of your infernal questioning.”

The girl was already starting in on the first chapter when he closed the door behind him.

Chapter Text

Katherine was reading until the early morning and when she rose to the sound of puttering in her room she grimaced. A familiar pair of bulging eyes stared back at her from the foot of her bed.

"Oh. Hello." 

Blankar forced a smile onto his wizened face. Professor Snape was his Master. This girl an annoying houseguest. But his allegiance to the former meant he would do all he could to make the latter happy.

"Good morning, Miss. Is you wanting to have breakfast?"

Katherine sat up on bed, yawning slightly. They had come to an unspoken truce. She didn't really trust the creature that tried to have her killed, but he also hadn't done anything horrible as of late.

"Yes please," she replied cheerfully. "But I think I'll eat it in the main chambers."

Blanker gave a short nod and was gone. Katherine kicked off her duvet and went to have a shower and quick brushing of her teeth. After last night Katherine felt rather buoyed.

Yes, Snape had been as prickly as ever, but at the same time she felt she was getting to know him better. Perhaps she was napping progress? Was friendship a possibility?

Dressed and dried she entered into his chambers with a small creak of the door. She was delighted to see he was seated at his table, munching on what looked like dry toast.

"Good morning," Katherine chirped, much to his chagrin.

"Afternoon more like." The pages ruffled a he flipped to the political section of the paper. He pretended to scan the article but was instead quite distracted to see Katherine taking the seat opposite him.

When Blankar brought her breakfast she thanked him effusively before turning her attention to the figure across from her.All she could see were his tapered fingers on either side of the paper, hiding his face and body from view with the pages.

Katherine took a moment to read the paper. The moving images of people delighted her when a familiar face came into view.

"Oh!"

There came an exasperated sigh from behind the pages. "What?"

"Well that's Harry on the front page!" Katherine pointed excitedly to the image of Harry wincing away from the number of flash bulbs going off in his face. "Why is he in the news?"

"Potter appears on the front page every time he sneezes," was the droll reply.

Katherine knew he wouldn't be much help on this regard. "May I see it?"

With an overdramatic sigh he picked the section from the paper and fairly threw out in her direction.

"Thank you." She took it with a  smile reading over the Gryffindor Quidditch victory. Apparently Harry had done quite well in the match.

"Well done Harry," she whispered to herself, suddenly missing the green-eyed boy terribly. Snape coughed dramatically from behind his paper, indicating that he'd heard her. Katherine rolled her eyes good-naturedly before glancing at her tea mug.

"Have you any honey?"

A loud sigh emerged from behind the newsprint. She watched as Snape's rowan wand bobbed from behind the paper until a small jar began floating from across the room and into Katherine's hands. At this he lowered the paper and fixed her with a dark look.

"Any other dining requests?"

Katherine knew he was being facetious but she shook her head anyway. She smiled in his direction as he turned his attention back to his own tea.

As she sat there with this dour wizard with his acidic personality Katherine was struck with how bizarre the entire situation was. He was so rude, but then so kind at times as well. Like two sides to a coin: she never knew who she was going to get.

And here she was, a regular English girl stuck in some magical fantasy land with him. And despite his thinly veiled tolerance for her, she couldn't remember the last time she felt safe like this.

Despite his caustic ways, she felt protected by him. The confusing thought caused a gurgle of laughter to escape. Immediately his eyes were on her face, convinced she was laughing at him.

"What's so amusing?" he rumbled gently

"Nothing," she replied with a soft smile. "I just never thought I'd be in this situation. Hiding out with a wizard, watching him do magic."

"You weren't prone to flights of fancy as a child?" The smirk was evident in his voice even if it was missing from his face.

"Not so much," Katherine replied. "Home could be a stressful place, especially when grandpa was alive. I loved escaping through books. When I was a child I-"

As if stung, she stopped mid sentence. Her entire body went stiff and her hand dropped from the handle of her mug.

Immediately Snape noticed the change in the girl and was on guard, lurching across the table to stand, grabbing her by the shoulders and shaking her gently.

"What is it?" His eyes searched hers for some sort of answer. But they were far and away somehow. When she spoke her voice held an array of emotions he couldn't quite place.

"I know where the missing page is."

He stared at her a moment, his fact registering neither surprise or delight. "What did you say?"

"I remember!" Katherine leapt from her seat, the emotion of her words spurring her and causing Snape to for a step back. "I can take us to the page! The missing page!"

Chapter Text

 Snape was staring at the girl, not completely sure he’d heard her correctly. “What?”

“I know where the page is!” Katherine was almost squealing for joy. Out of instinct she had grabbed both of Snape’s forearms, gripping tightly. “I can take us there right now! Let me just put on a coat!”

Immediately she rushed from him to her own room as Snape watched after her, uncharacteristically agape. His arms tingled where they girl had gripped him. Her tea was upset on the table, dripping silently onto the stone floor. But he made no move to right it. Instead he straightened, rubbing each arm absently as the weight of the girl’s words settled on him.

She knew where the page was.

She was running headlong into her own demise.

For a moment he felt breathless and he steadied himself with a nearby chair. When he heard her footsteps drawing near he pulled himself to his full height, fixing her with a severe look as she smiled up at him. She faltered a moment as she viewed Snape’s severe look.

“And where, pray tell would we be going, Miss Shepard?”

“To my grandfather’s,” Katherine said, her tone jubilant. “That’s where I hid it when I was a child. If we go now I’m sure we-“

“You of course will not be accompanying me,” he interrupted, his voice tight. “It’s unnecessary.”

“Unnecessary my foot!” Katherine insisted, looking uncharacteristically petulant as she wrapped the scarf in her hands around her neck. “I know where it is and I won’t be left behind.”

“Not only is it unnecessary it’s also remarkably dangerous,” Snape disagreed. “You are still a wanted women among the Deatheaters. What if they’ve come upon the same conclusion you have and are laying in wait? Eager to take out any loose ends? Had you even stopped to consider?”

“There’s no way that they’d know where it is,” Katherine scoffed, ignoring his grim look. “Even I need to be there to figure out properly. I haven’t seen my grandparents or their home since they passed away. Oh, that means new people will be there… I hope they haven’t…”

She trailed off, looking concerned. Snape rolled his eyes dramatically.  The girl was obviously trying to make his life harder. If anything he wondered if she was doing this to be heralded the most wonderful Muggle of her time.

She dies no matter what, said a voice in Snape’s head that was disturbingly Dumble-dore like. He realized it was true.

“Fine. We'll leave tonight."

***

He went to grab his own thicker cloak that evening, noting that the temperature was indeed giving into the encroaching winter. Snape went to the closet in his room, digging out an older Firebolt model along with the cloak he shrugged on. Katherine glanced at the broom in his hand with confusion. 

“But aren’t we going to do that disappear and appear thing we did before?” Katherine’s voice was confused.

“Too risky,” Snape replied, his tone flat. “Apparations are being monitored by… Him.”

It was true, as Tom Riddle’s maniacal reign was nearing its climax, he was becoming more and more paranoid. Last week’s meeting had shown that two of his followers had defected and were untraceable. Ever since then his restriction on Apparation anywhere but by his side had been ruthless. Snape had no reason to have the bastard suspect him any further and so he had acquiesced. There would be no way for him to explain this Apparation away.

“Alright,” Katherine said, looking to the broom with a look of determination mixed with fear on her face. “I’m ready.”

Katherine and Snape made their way out of the castle under Snape’s disillusionment spell. When they’d made their way to the edge of the forest, Snape boarded his broom before glancing over his shoulder at Katherine who was looking uneasily at the broom.

“Are you coming or not?”

Her eyes drew to his and Snape reminded Katherine so much of the animals she had worked with in her job. They often came angry and snarling, only to cover a wounded paw or abscess. Snape was forever snapping at her, covering up for a deeper wound. And she could only assume that wound was wrapped up in Lily Evans, by the bits and pieces he had shared.

And here he was, fighting a fight that left him alone and vulnerable. Standing there with a broom between his legs after teaching all week and playing host to her. Taking her to view Thestrals and answering her questions when she asked them - mostly. Looking exhausted and irritable and yet still bringing her along with him at her behest. For a moment she felt her heart flutter with an unnameable emotion.

Before she could get distracted with those thoughts, she had thrown a leg over the broom and gripped him tightly round the middle. She could feel his narrow waist, even between his many layers.

“They live in Honeybee Gardens in Gravesend,” Katherine said softly into his ear before settling behind him.

“Don’t shift as we fly,” he murmured, fixing his view forward. He could feel the girl’s body against his back and this unnerved him. She was soft and warm, even between their layers of clothing. He gritted his teeth and within a minute they had lifted off towards Gravesend. Immediately he felt the girl tighten her grip, leaving him almost breathless.

Her forehead was pressed against his shoulders, her face buried in the fabric of his cloak.  He had forgotten what it felt like to be frightened of flying – to him it was second nature. He’d given her the foot grips so that she would feel more balanced. His own legs dangled on either side, looking lithe and strangely graceful as they flew.

Katherine was terrified. That much was clear in the way she gripped him so tightly and buried her face in his shoulders. Her hands were laced together in the front of his midsection, her eyes squeezed so tightly she could see stars behind her eyes. The chill of the wind was biting into her cheeks and she wondered how Snape could ever choose to do this willingly.

They took a sharp left and Katherine yelped into his back, terrified she was going to fall. Her legs were gripping the broom so tightly and yet she was convinced she was going slide off at any moment.  “This broom is aerodynamic perfection,” Snape said to her over his shoulder, completely at ease as they soared. “Combined with the foot grips, there’s no chance you’ll fall.”

He felt the girl relax a bit at his words, her grip around his middle slackening. She took a moment to soak in what was happening; she was flying, well and truly flying on a broomstick! Had she ever in all her dreams ever thought she’d experience anything even a fraction as amazing? She had always been so focused on getting out of Gravesend, onto the next part of her life. And now, here she was going back to Gravesend on the back of a broom with a wizard. There was truly no foretelling her future.

The thought made her want to laugh. But instead she took in the sights of the houses below them, the night sky that whipped past them at a quickening pace. There was so much beauty that if they hadn’t taken a sharp right, Katherine might have teared up. As it was, they swooped to a sharp left and Katherine let out a muffled shriek against Snape’s shoulder.

Please please please let us get there safe. 

And then in an instant there it was. The warmth of Snape’s hand over her laced together grip against his middle. He said nothing, but continued to guide the broom with one hand, the other covering her hands. He gave no indication that he was comforting her and if she had mentioned anything, there was no doubt he would have ceased immediately.  She felt herself melting into his back, suddenly realizing that in this moment with him she felt safe. Safe.

A warmth flooded her and they continued to fly, but now Katherine was calm and they flew on in silence for another hour and more.  And yet the entire time his hand remained firmly over her own and Katherine made no move to change that.  When his thumb absently moved against her knuckles Katherine felt her breath momentarily escape her. But it may have been from the sudden drop as they descended.

“We’re nearly there.”

Katherine glanced downwards, seeing as the ground came into view. When her feet finally touched the ground she wobbled a bit as the blood came rushing back to the rest of her body. Snape held her arm, waiting until she could stand by herself.

“It’s that one,” Katherine said, pointing to a small, bleak looking home a bit away.  It was a small, boxy place with tiny windows that seemed to date the home even more.  The neighboring homes had debris on their lawns, the terraces rusted.  Snape looked over to see Katherine glance at the small home, her face showcasing supreme confusion.

“You’re sure this is it?” Snape bit off, irritated from the length of their flight.  He’d had to coddle the girl the entire time and all he had to show for it was a sore back and a stiff neck.

“Yes, it’s just-“

“Just what?”

“It’s just, I don’t remember it looking this… shabby,” Katherine said, her voice tripping. She had a strange look on her face then, unable to meet Snape’s gaze. He glanced down at her, about to give her a tongue lashing when something in the girl’s face stopped him. After studying her a moment, Snape realized it was shame crossing her features. He should know. It had been the same look that he’d worn when Lily Evans asked where he lived.

“Things often seem differently when we grow up,” Snape said breezily, willing himself not to give into the sympathy that was creeping into his chest. He strode to the home, raising his wand and scanning for any dark magic. It appeared no one was around and there was no magical tracing. The Deatheaters had not been here. A wave of relief went through him.

He felt her at his side, struggling to keep up with his long strides. She had a look of determination on her face that was clearly a mix of fear and anticipation. 

“Strange,” Katherine said as they approached, falling behind Snape. “It doesn’t look like anyone lives here anymore.”

“I doubt anyone does,” Snape said, glancing around at the nearly empty block. “You’ve not been here since they passed, I assume?”

“No,” Katherine said, her voice small. “I don’t have a lot of good memories associated with this place.”

They were at the front door and Snape pointed his wand and whispered Alohomora. The door popped open, creaking loudly. It showcased a dingy sitting room with barely any furniture. It had obviously been vacant for at least a decade if not more. Katherine moved beside him, walking into the space tentatively.

“So, where is it?” Snape prompted, eager to be done with this experience.  He was irritable and he couldn’t blame it on the flight. It was the knowledge that as soon as they held that page within their grip, Katherine Sherpard’s use would be at an end.

“I can’t remember exactly where,” Katherine said making her way down the narrow hallway. “But I know it’s in this house.”

“You might have mentioned that before we left,” Snape said with a dark voice.  This foolish woman had demanded he bring her with him and now she wasn’t even sure where the blasted page was?

“Don’t worry,” Katherine insisted, whispering even though they were alone in the small home. “I know it will be here. I just don’t know where exactly.”

Snape gave a dismissive sniff at this and followed Katherine as she made her way to the corner of sitting room. A gracious term for it, for what remained was a dilapidated bookcase and a threadbare chair. Deciding he didn’t want to waste his time he decided to speed things up.

Accio echanted page,” he murmured, raising his hand in front of him in preparation, frowning deeply when nothing materialized.  Katherine was ignoring him, heading her way up the spindling staircase. Snape followed her in hot pursuit, nervous to let her out of his sight. Upstairs were two bedrooms. Both were emptied, leaving only old rugs and dirty window hangings.

Katherine suddenly paused at the entry way to the one large bedroom, causing Snape to almost walk into her.

“I was never allowed in there,” Katherine said with a wince. “It won’t be there.”

Snape was about to admonish her as she walked into the second bedroom, wrinkling her nose at the scent of stale piss and dirt. Snape watched as she walked the perimeter of the room, her shoes loud on the creaking floorboards.

“Why did you take the page in the first place?” Snape asked, surprised to find he was genuinely curious. 

“The lion,” Katherine said, her voice still low and quiet but a small smile crossed her features as she spoke. “One day I was at the shop with my family. They were doing inventory or something. I was really young. But I remember they were cleaning the book’s display case. The book was just sitting on a desk and I flipped it open and I saw this beautiful picture of a lion. I wanted it for my own. So I ripped it out and shoved it in my pocket.”

Snape watched as the smile dropped from the girl’s face as she continued. He stood leaned against the doorframe, his arms crossed over his chest casually as she spoke.

“I was just putting the book back when my grandfather caught me. And he was so furious. He shook me by the shoulders and told me I was a brat. I was terrified that he’d find out what I’d done and he’d hurt me.”

Suddenly one of the faint memories that Snape had retrieve from the girl in months passed flew into his mind. The one of the old man shaking her and calling her names.

“But he didn’t find out,” Snape finished.

“No.”

“So why hide it here?” Snape inquired, raising a quizzical brow.

“Revenge,” Katherine said with a small smirk. “I knew that every time he walked his own floorboards, he’d be walking over top a piece ripped from his favorite book. And every time that stupid book was praised by him and displayed, I would be the only one to know the truth.”

Snape had to smirk at that, despite the serious nature of the book and its lost page. He couldn’t help it, the image of a devious child Katherine plotting so evilly was an amusing thought. In complete contrast with the sunny-faced woman who stood glancing the room over in finality.

“Not here,” Katherine announced, moving past him through the doorway and he followed. He stared at the back of her head, wondering exactly how they would proceed if she found the page. Should he end her life her? Leave it to look like a tragic suicide? Or should he return her to Dumbledore who had promised to finish the job?

“So this one page holds the incantation?” Katherine asked him as they walked down the staircase and towards the kitchen. This broke him from his morbid thoughts a moment.

“Not exactly,” Snape replied. “The book needs to be completely intact for the spell to be displayed. That one page is imperative to the entire spell being revealed. We need the whole book. That's why the copy in your family's book shop was a decoy we left.”

Katherine nodded, about to head into the cramped kitchen when she stopped, turning rapidly and rushing to the corner of the sitting room as if inspired. She was suddenly on her hands on knees. What on earth was the girl doing? He watched as she clawed at the floorboards before glancing up at him.

The girl was still on her knees facing up to him and for a horrible moment the memory with Voldemort’s whore on her knees before him flashed before his eyes. He dislodged the image immediately, feeling disgusted with himself for comparing the two.  

“Severus I need your help!” Katherine said, gritting her teeth in frustration. Snape started at the sound of his name coming so loudly from her lips as he drew over to her.

“Please raise the floorboards,” Katherine asked, her eyes on the floor. “It’s been so long that these boards are too stiff for me to raise up. But I’m sure this is where I hid it.”

The floorboards. Of course that’s why he couldn’t Accio the item. The boards were old and the grooves sealed over with grime and dirt. He brought his wand out from his cloak, pointing it down to the floorboards.

Wingardium Leviosa.”

With a creaking, cracking noise the floorboards in front of Katherine began to raise, splintering off into pieces before being thrust to the corner of the room.

Katherine immediately launched forward, thrusting her arm into the darkness below. Her face was flushed red, and she grunted as she searched with her fingers, trying to locate the piece by feel alone. He was about to offer his wand to shed light when he saw the girl’s eyes bulge.

“I FOUND IT!”

Immediately Katherine stood, the page from the book in her grip tightly. She waved it in Snape’s direction, bouncing from foot to foot.  He looked to her, noting the excited blush as she gripped the page in her hand. She was tracing the gold lion gingerly with her forefinger.

“We found it,” she whispered gently, her voice a mixture of delight and awe.  When she felt his gaze on her, she glanced up at him, that familiar crooked smile shining in his direction. “You and all the magical world will be safe now!”

The comment was sweet in its simplicity and yet completely naïve. Snape didn’t feel like explaining that this was simply a small way to slow Tom Riddle down. That he and his army of evil would still stampede their way to Hogwarts for the final battle. Immediately he plucked the page from between her fingers. He slipped it into his cloak for safekeeping. Still the impossibly bright smile was on her face and for some reason this irritated him. The foolish girl had no idea of her fate.

“Now you can rush home to Dumbledore to tell him of your victory,” Snape said, his eyes scanning her face. “Or perhaps when all this is over, the Daily Prophet will name you Muggle of the Century.”

Katherine cringed back as if he had physically hit her. The smile dropped from her face and she took a step backwards. Snape watched this from beneath hooded eyes, curious at the woman’s reaction.

“This was my first chance to actually help you,” Katherine said softly, her chin wobbling ever so slightly. “I wanted you to be safe.”

Safe.

She hadn’t done it to appear a hero.

She hadn’t done it to impress Albus.

She had done it for him. The knowledge of such hit him like a bludger to the stomach. Before he could say anything she’d run from him, out the back door and into the garden. He stood a moment, fists clenched as he stared into space a moment. He wanted so violently to rush after her. To gather her in his arms.

Wait. To gather her into his arms?  Why did he care what some Muggle felt?  She had served her purpose and now it was time to finish her.

But you can’t. You can’t because you care for the girl.  The voice had returned and he had to admit that it was correct.

When had she become dear to him? He hated this feeling that bubbled within him. This desire mixed with a need to protect her. This wasn’t him – he had only cared for one woman; Lily Evans. She was the reason for his double agency, the reason for getting up in the morning. When had that changed? When had this annoying Muggle wormed her way into his affections?

In the months since her capture he had opened up to her in a way he hadn’t with others. She had grown to be a friend of sorts. A friend that irritated him to no end, but a woman who wasn’t afraid of him. A woman who was bright and brave and above all, someone who cared for his well being.

He stalked towards the garden then, finding Katherine in the center of the patchy grass. She had her back to him and was sniffling, rubbing at her eyes and staring out at the night sky. Her breath huffed in front of her face.

He stood a moment, watching her from a few paces away. His fingers clenched and unclenched at his sides. Everything in him was telling him to Obliviate her and return her to Albus. To push her from his thoughts and forget her. She was a distraction he couldn’t afford.

But even still, his legs were already moving towards her. At the sound of his approach she turned, her eyes wet from recently shed tears. Tears for him. Her brows furrowed, obviously ready to say something hotly at him.

His mouth was on hers before she could speak; hot and insistent. He barely had a moment to register what he was doing before he felt her returning the kiss with equal intensity. The realization that she was so readily giving into him caused him to harden immediately. Katherine moaned against his mouth, feeling his hands on either side of her jaw. He was kissing her with a need that she had never felt before.

No man had ever kissed her like this; with a feeling of equal measure lust and feverish need. Her arms were around his neck, pulling his mouth more fully against her own. Her heart hammered in her chest.

“I didn’t mean it,” Snape murmured against her lips, kissing her once more before pulling back. “I didn’t mean any of what I said, Katherine.”

He gripped her body tightly against his, his pelvis grinding against hers between their layers of clothing. She was clutching onto him harshly, allowing his tongue to dance with hers. She couldn’t believe that this austere man was holding her, whispering to her honeyed words of kindness. He had whispered her name with such desire and honesty that she wanted to weep at the realization that she cared for him.

This man who didn’t open for anyone was shaking off his icy exterior for her. They continued their passionate embrace, their mouths dueling with one another. Snape couldn’t believe the strangely perfect way their mouths met and moved against one another. The feel of the tip of her tongue on the seam of his mouth had his entire body breaking out into gooseflesh.

You can’t keep her. She’s as good as dead. A muggle has no place in your world. She’s a liability.

The voice that broke into his thoughts wasn’t Dumbledore. It was pure self-loathing Severus Snape. And at the realization that this voice was completely accurate caused him to break from Katherine as if stung. She stared at him confused, her mouth reddened and swollen from their ministrations. The two stared at one another, breathing heavily.

Fuck. What had they done?

 

Chapter Text

The silence between them seemed to stretch forever before he dropped his hands from her upper arms and took a step back, his legs uncharacteristically wobbly.

“We need to go,” Snape said in a husky voice, unable to meet her gaze any longer. “It’s dangerous to be out here.”

Katherine simply boarded the broom as soon as Snape had brought it out of his Capacious extremis enchanted pocket. Her hands had been laced around his middle once more, but there was a lack of strength to them.  As if she felt ashamed for having to touch him. The nearness of her body against his made his insides roil.

He sped them home, not wanting to be stuck in the awkward scenario longer than necessary. He had dipped above the clouds at time, concealing them as the first pinking of the sky indicated they’d been gone all night. It had gone by so fast. Everything had happened so quickly.

What had he been thinking?

They arrived at Hogwarts just as the sun was breaking and he disillusioned them both, getting them to his chambers safely and quickly. She had been silent the entire trip back, but now in the confines of his chambers  Katherine turned to him expectantly, her eyes wary as his he placed his broom back into his cupboard. The silence between them was sickening and he wanted nothing more than to rush from the room.

“You regret it,” Katherine said flatly. “Don’t you?”

He turned, glancing at her from over his shoulder. “Of course I do. It was a lapse in judgment.”

Katherine’s eyes shuttered and she willed herself to understand why he would say such a thing. Everything he said had a double meaning. Snape was a double agent. He had a big role to play in this final war. She was a distraction to him.

She walked over to him slowly, noting he was watching her from the corner of his eyes.

“Why did you do it then?” Her voice was painfully quiet, but it felt like a shout.

He turned to face her slowly, regarding her form critically. A sneer was already spreading across his strong features, and Katherine inwardly winced. She prepared herself for whatever nasty thing he was preparing to say. But then the sharpness was gone from his eyes and his entire body held a countenance of defeat.

“I don’t know.”

Katherine felt her face burn, unsure of how she felt about this response. But then she took a moment to survey him. Truly look at him.
She looked to the tall, slender man as he stood across from her, apparently lost in thought. She recalled his bravery, his patience. The way he nursed her back to strength when she was ill. She also recalled his temper and his brutality. And lastly she recalled his arms and mouth upon her and she had her answer.

She cared for him.

In this bizarre world that had shown her pain and beauty she couldn’t help but find herself completely under his spell. He wasn’t handsome or soppy. He was brilliant but cutting. But he was also something else to her. He was dear to her. When had that happened? She felt her entire body tingling at the realization.

When this was over, perhaps there was a chance for them? Was that what she wanted? Was that what he wanted? She reached a tentative hand out towards him, pressing softly against the roughness of his cloaked upper arm.

She spoke gently. "Do you think that perhaps when all this is over-"

She wasn’t expecting his vitriolic response. He jerked his arm away from her as if she were burning him. He swirled around to fully face her, fixing her with a monstrously furious look. A look that was so dark she actually took a step back, wincing.

"IT WILL NEVER BE OVER!” Snape bellowed, his eyes narrowing on her surprised face. His voice moved from an angry shout to a sharply sickening hiss. "Don't you understand, you foolish girl? I will die. As sure as I'm standing here before you, I will not live to see the end of the war."

And neither will you, his mind finished.  He saw as her dark eyes filled immediately with tears.

"But don't you want to?"  

"What point is there to living?” Snape offered in exasperation. “That I'll somehow be welcomed into the Wizarding world with welcome arms after the death of Riddle? Me, the former death eater? Do you think that everyone will forget the horrific acts I committed in the name of hatred? That it took the death of my best friend to make me reconsider my actions? Are you completely mad? Or are you really just that naïve?"

Katherine’s only attempt at response was to stare up at him, color suffusing her cheeks as he railed against her.  She had her hands in fists at her side and she was trying her best not to burst out in angry and disappointed tears.  “Don’t you hope for a brighter future?”

"Death is all I can hope for," he said in a dark tone.

He noted as she took a step back, seeming to fold into herself.  "I'm sorry you see it that way."

"What other way is there?" he scoffed.

"Redemption... Moving on…Finding love?”

His gaze snapped to her face and he saw it written clearly there. The girl had true feelings for him. She was offering him a future with her. He felt his throat constricting at the naked look of tenderness in her eyes.

And for a moment he hated her.

He hated her for caring for him. For thinking he was worthy of redemption when he so clearly was not. He hated her for thinking that she would somehow be safe. He wasn't worth it! Didn't she understand how unworthy he was? How could she even begin to care for someone as inwardly and outwardly ugly as he was? The woman was a fool. And if he let her carry on caring for him, there would only be bitter sorrow for her in the end. A pain she didn't need. A pain he could save her from - the only way he could save her. 

And so he realized he knew what he had to do.  He crossed his arms over his chest and fixed her with a look of complete disdain.

"I wouldn't expect a Muggle to understand."

As soon as he'd said it, he knew it had been the exact thing to say. In its caustic, flippant delivery he had seen Katherine's eyes grow shiny. She seemed to draw into herself momentarily, her arms coming to wrap around herself as if trying to keep out the icy cool of his words. There was something in the way she held her mouth that reminded him so much of Lily that day he had called her a Mudblood and he felt sick.

Katherine could feel the tears pricking the corner of her eyes as he said this and she silently willed them not to fall. She would not cry in front of him. Not now. She couldn't understand what was happening. He had snogged her, then he'd turned into this monster. But why? What had made him do this?

"Why are you being so cruel to me?"

The sneer he gave her in response was monstrous. An ugly thing that twisted his face into something hateful.

"Why have you come to expect anything different, Miss Shepard?"

He saw the hurt in her gaze immediately and he inwardly decided that was a victory. With that he'd turned on his heel and angrily matched towards his door. The niggling inquiry shed made was biting at him. Why was he so angry? 

"Severus... Please," Katherine begged, the tears skipping down her cheeks in rivulets. But he didn't stop his march out of the dungeons. He didn't even pause when her cries became uneven sobs.

***

The door to his office was pounded so loudly that Albus started.

“Come in.”

Albus glanced up to see Severus with a stormy look on his face. He stalked over to Albus, producing a small piece of parchment and holding it under the older man’s long and crooked nose.

“Here.”

Albus dropped his quill onto the desk before him and took the proffered item, opening it slowly. The golden lion glinted off the page at him and Albus felt his breath catch in his chest. He hadn’t been counting on this.

“You found it,” Albus said in awe. “The missing page.”

She found it,” Snape said darkly.

“This is marvelous,” Albus said with a smile that split his face. “And now that we have it, we know Tom never will. This is wonderful news, Severus. There is true hope for the wizarding world, thanks to you and Miss Shepard.”

Snape nodded, not really paying attention. The far-away chime sounded the hour and seemed to bring him back into focus. A scowl crossed his face and he gave Albus a deadened gaze.

 “I have classes to teach. I’ll see you later this evening and we can talk about next steps.”

Before Albus could say anything further Snape had turned dramatically and strode from the office, closing the door soundly behind him.

***

It was hours later and Katherine still lay on her bed, her hands folded over abdomen.  Blankar had tried to tempt her with some sweets and tea but she had simply asked for privacy and spent the entire day sobbing and thinking about her next steps.

What would become of her now? She was of no interest to them.  Was it safe to return to London? Should she go into hiding until this all blew over? Who knew how long the Wizarding War could last?

And would she ever see Severus again?

Why does it matter? He’s shown he has no interest in a future with you. Best put that out of your mind now, Shepard.

She felt the flush of fresh shame and humiliation stinging her cheeks when the door to her room opened with a creak. She sat up immediately, her eyes searching the door frame for the familiar raven eyes.

Instead Dumbledore shuffled into the room, looking more grey in the face than Katherine remembered. She forced a polite smile onto her face and stood to greet him.  

“Hello Miss Shepard,” Albus said gently, grasping her hand in his. “How wonderful it is to see you.”

“Hello sir.”

“Marvelous work my girl,” Albus said, his eyes glinting merrily. He brought her into a small embrace, pulling back and giving her an unreadable look. “Thank you for all you’ve done.”

“It wasn’t much,” Katherine said with a shy shrug.

“I disagree,” Albus said, regarding her queerly before speaking in a conspiratorial tone. “What do you think of a short walk?”

***

The sky was dark and the stars overhead shone brightly as the two figures made their way into the Forbidden Forest.  Albus looked determinedly into the darkness, hooking Katherine’s arm in his and leading them down the snowy path.

Katherine tottered next to him, a bit intrigued at what she’d see in this Forbidden forest. She was surprised that Dumbledore was allowing her into it. Perhaps it was a gift of sorts, a reward for a job well done.

But a sinking feeling in her stomach told her it wasn’t so.

“So you have the page,” Katherine said gently, breath making clouds in front of their faces.

“Yes.”

“And now you’ll be safe.”

“Safer,” Albus corrected. His smile was soft. The chill of the night was starting to pink Katherine’s cheeks.

"I know why we're here," Katherine blurted out, her stomach clenched. The smile was gone from the man's face immediately.

"I thought you might," he said with a small dip of his head. "I've found you to be a most perceptive woman."

The two continued the walk into the woods in silence. Katherine seemed to be deep in thought, her mouth pursing in unspoken conversation.

“Having me around is a liability,” she said suddenly. “A danger for you and your kind should I be captured. Snape would be shown to be a double agent immediately and probably killed. All your hard work would be for nothing and that horrible Riddle man would take over.”

Albus said nothing, but nodded at her, with eyes that were growing misty. Katherine sniffed, rubbing her eyes absently before casting a watery gaze at the man before her.

"Does he know you came for me? That we're taking this walk?"

"He does not."

Katherine and Albus continued to walk quietly together, their shoes crunching on the freshly fallen winter snow.  They came upon a small lake, frozen over in the chill of the winter. Katherine looked through it, her eyes glossing.

"He's got so much guilt in him," Katherine whispered lowly, her voice rough with emotion. "So much pain. I didn't even have a chance to explain how grateful I was to him."

"Grateful?" Albus glanced at the girl in surprise. Grateful was not the feeling he thought Katherine had been experiencing. He knew Severus Snape and the feelings he evoked were not usually on the grateful spectrum.

"So incredibly grateful," Katherine whispered, letting the tears fall freely now down her pinking cheeks as they made their way into the forest. "Grateful that he saved me from the bookshop when he knew nothing about me. Grateful he brought me here to meet all of you to see the magic of this world. Grateful that even though he had so much work and spying, that he still took care of me when I was ill. And all our talks when he must have been so exhausted-"

Her voice broke and Albus watched as the young woman’s face crumpled into a pained cry; her hands coming to cover her eyes as sobs plucked at her ribs.

"I-I feel so stupid crying like this," Katherine said with a watery smile. "It’s not as if we were even friends! He could barely stand me most of the time. Here I am sobbing and he'll have forgotten about me by next week!"

"Severus is a very complex man," Albus said in a soothing tone, a hand coming to rest on the girls shaking shoulder as she wiped the remaining tears from her eyes. "But you mustn't think you didn't have an impact on him."

"I just wish I could have said a proper goodbye to him," Katherine offered with a shrug.

"I will convey any message to him that you wish."

"Tell him," Katherine started, then seemed to doubt herself. The words seemed stuck to her tongue. "Tell him goodbye. And that it was a true pleasure getting to know him. And... And that I hope he finds happiness because he deserves it. And that I know I need to die in order to protect you all. And if your Harry Potter can take on a monster like Voldemort at seventeen, then my sacrifice seems rather benign in comparison does it not?"

There was a softness in the older Wizards eyes and he seemed heavy-hearted. "There was a time when the thought of protecting a muggle would have seemed foolish," Albus offered with a grimace.  "When I naively thought that wizards were in the upper hierarchy."

"I never would have guessed you’d be one to think like that," Katherine said a bit in awe. Albus seemed like the kindest man in the world.

"I've grown up wildly in that time," Albus said, watching the girls face change into open curiosity. "It was because of those ignorant beliefs that I lost several of those whom I loved. Deeply."

Tears were wetting the older man’s eyes now, shocking Katherine into silence. But she gripped his hands in hers, silently signaling that he was safe to share with her whatever needed to be said.

"But meeting you has confirmed what I've long held to be true," he said in a voice laced with emotion. "That Muggles and Magic folk are much more alike than we are different."

With misty eyes Katherine gave him a crooked smile before taking a deep breath. She wrapped her arms around Albus’ shoulders and gave him a long and tender hug. He returned it weakly, and Katherine was surprised to find she could feel how bony the man had grown in the month’s since she’d arrived.

She pulled back, taking a few steps back from him. She looked to the night sky, looking at the glittering stars above her. Mom and Dad would be there to greet her she thought with a smile before gazing once more into the sweet and gentle eyes of Albus.  

"I'm ready."

Albus closed his eyes a long moment before nodding in return and slowly withdrawing his wand. Katherine swallowed thickly as the man's wand eventually landed in her direction. The rushing roar of her heartbeat invaded her ears and she couldn't hear what the man said.

He was saying her name and something else but all she could focus on was the pointed tip of that wand and that she would soon be gone from this world. Tears slipped down her cheek, her attention shifting momentarily as Albus began calling out something in a booming tone. Bright light shot from the end of his wand into the center of Katherine's chest, knocking her off her feet and into the welcoming arms of death.

***

Severus returned to his chambers hours later after teaching, an absent thought in his mind as he lowered the wards.  He needed to explain that Albus couldn’t kill the girl. She could still be of some use to them.

And he needed to talk to Katherine. He couldn’t believe how much he’d buggered everything up. He didn’t know what he’d say but he needed to see her face. Needed to talk about what had happened. He felt so unsettled about the entire thing.

However when he entered the room he noticed it was dark. The hearth was off and the room still. Where was she? He was about to call out the girl's name when Albus raised himself up from the seat which Katherine normally occupied. Snape's stomach tightened painfully at the sight but ever the spy, his eyes gave away nothing.

"Albus.'

"Severus."

"Might I offer you a glass of wine?" Snape kept his voice even, casual even, as if the sight of Katherine gone did nothing to deter him from having a pleasant nightcap.

"I think not," Albus said, his gaze grim.

Severus continued on as if he hadn't heard him. He quickly uncorked the bottle before pouring the crimson liquid into the glass and swirling. He made a great show of letting it breathe before turning to face the aged wizard behind him.

"And to what do I owe this pleasure, in my private rooms, Albus? Has the girl run off with Potter again?"

"No."

"Were you and she out for a stroll?"

"Severus-"

"No, let me guess," Snape continued with a tone of playful mirth he didn't feel. "She decided she wanted to attend classes now and you were fitting her for a Hogwarts uniform."

"It's done, Severus."

An icy finger ran down the length of Snape's spine at the words and the humorless grin on his face dropped. The wine turned sour on his tongue and yet he forced himself to give an adroit nod.

"I was wondering when you'd get around to it."

"Yes," Albus nodded. "I suppose I did let it go on a bit long. I wanted to be certain it was absolutely necessary."

“I see that my own welfare wasn’t taken into consideration,” Snape scowled “We still hadn’t confirmed what would happen to my own mind should you sever that connection.”

“I was operating on a hunch,” Albus replied gently.  “Do you feel any different now that she’s gone?”

Snape pondered this a moment, searching his mind for any loss; for a blurry recollection or a sluggishness in thought and found he wasn’t lacking.

“No.”

Albus gave him a look that said “well, there you go” but Snape needed to continue. As soon as Albus was gone, he would be alone with his thoughts and the guilt of his last moments with the Shepard girl.

“Where was it done?"

"The Forbidden Forest. Near the lake. No witnesses. It was quick and painless.” Albus was surveying Snape’s face with the same scrutiny as if were reading a novel. “No need for additional suffering. Especially for a Muggle of her extraordinary character."

"Mmmm," Snape's eyes were on the goblet in his fingers. His grip had tightened around the stem, causing his knuckles to whiten.

"She went to her death nobly," Albus continued, watching the wizard carefully as he spoke.  "And she wished to convey her gratitude for all you’d done for her. She wished for you, Severus, all the happiness you deserve."

Snape's eyes darted to the old man's at this, but he didn't ask Albus to elucidate. Instead his face grew hard and his tone flinty when he finally spoke.

"I don't see why I should care to know these mundane details, Albus. The woman was here and now she's gone. No longer a thorn in my side or a danger to the Order. Instead of fixating on the death of a Muggle we should be harnessing our energy on what to do when Draco Malfoy comes to fulfill his promise to the Dark Lord."

Severus took a steadying breath, placing his goblet down on his table and crossing his arms over his chest before meeting the older wizards gaze. Albus scanned the tall man's face a fraction too long, focusing on Snape's cheeks, causing Snape to shoot him a most withering look. What was the old man looking for?

"It seems I should give you some privacy, Severus," Albus said quietly heading for the door of Snape's chambers. "You know where to find me should you need to talk."

Snape shot a confused look at the headmasters retreating figure, curious as to what could have prompted the man to say such a thing.

It was only when the door behind Albus shut quietly, that Severus absently brought a hand to his cheek. He was surprised to find that when he pulled it back, it was damp with tears.

Chapter Text

 

 

6 months later

 

 

May slouched forward in all its drizzling glory, making the castle of Hogwarts seem uncharacteristically grim. The weather seemed to permeate through the stonework, capitulating the student body into glum submission. Classes seemed dull and slow-paced, even the ones well liked by the students.  But this was likely not only due to weather, but the ever-looming fear that Voldemort was growing nearer day by day.

Severus Snape stalked down into the dungeons after a particularly unimpressive Defense Against the Dark Arts class, scowling at everyone who had the misfortune to look at him queerly. Two third-year Ravenclaws, Caroline Buttons and Trevor Thoads were coming his way and when they spotted the surly Professor. They quickly ducked into a nearby alcove, pretending to read a plaque on the wall.

“He’s been taking points left and right!” Trevor whispered to his friend, his eyes darting around, sure that Snape would appear like some hideous boggart.

“I heard he punished a fourth-year for hiccuping during his class!”

“He’s mental!”

Snape walked by them then, noting in his periphery that they were doing their best to keep out of his way. He would have smirked at their frantic rushing, but the motion was so out of practice that he didn’t bother. He was exhausted. Between Order meetings and Death Eater revelry’s he had barely any time for himself.  Normally this would have bothered him, but he found it strangely comforting.

“He’s been in a foul mood for months,” Caroline whispered to her friend when she was sure Snape was out of ear-shot. He of course, was not.

“Even worse than usual,” Trevor agreed in a hushed tone. “I don’t know what’s up his nose, but he’s been horrid.”

Snape would have deducted points from them for their disrespect, but as he sailed down the narrow corridors he couldn’t help but observe that they were completely correct.  He had been worse than usual and it was no surprise why. Though he was loath to admit it, his thoughts often drew to the bothersome Muggle.

Katherine.

Her crooked smile and the way her eyes scrunched up when she smiled. Her ability to give him a scowl right back at him when he was frustrated. The strange understanding she was able to show him, even when he snarled at her. The way her lips had parted, welcoming him-

ENOUGH.

He glowered at no one in particular and prepared to burst into his chambers with his teeth clenched. He needed wine. He needed wine and sleep and for the entire world to fuck right off. He was tired of Voldemort. Tired of Albus. Tired of his bothersome students. Tired of everything and everyone.

Sod the wine. He would go straight to bed.

He had raised his wand to open the door, already envisioning the welcoming warmth of his bed when a hand gripped his shoulder. He whipped around, his wand already pointed into the unsurprised face of Albus.

“Severus,” Albus said, looking down his spectacles at the younger man. “I wonder if we might have a word-“

“I’m busy,” Snape said with as much respect as he could muster. “I’m afraid another night-“

“Will not do,” Dumbledore finished for him. “It will be tonight in my chambers at seven for supper. Please don’t be late.”

Snape nodded adroitly, inwardly stewing as he watched the older man shuffle off.  The blood was pumping through his veins and he knew that feeling this agitated he wouldn’t be able to nap, even if he wanted to.

Bastard seems desperate to ruin every modicum of release afforded to me.

When he was completely out of sight Snape made his way to his chambers. He knew he couldn’t oppose Albus and yet all he wanted to do was to throttle the man every time he saw him. The door to his chambers opened with a slam, startling the house elf making his bed.

“Hello Master,” Blankar said with a squeaky trill as the tall man entered the room in a huff. “Shall I make you some tea?”

“No. I’ve reading to do.” With that sharp reply, Snape had gathered the relevant books from his shelf and had taken them back into his office.  The door closed soundly behind him, leaving the house elf staring after him in his wake.

Blankar watched after his master and tried to hold back a sigh. Professor Snape had not been the same since Katherine Shepard left. No matter how many times he dusted or made tea or stoked the fire, Blankar was never able to lift his spirits. He wished he could bring Katherine Shepard back for his master.

But there was no bringing back the dead.

***

At exactly seven, Severus made his way to Albus’ office. Albus had a lovely dinner spread ready for them when he arrived, but Severus deferred it all. He had trouble eating these past few months.

“It’s hard to believe we’re almost into June,” Albus said cheerfully as he spooned some ham into his smiling mouth. “We’ve had some uncharacteristically poor weather. I was hoping a bit more sunshine-“

“Albus I really must insist we move past the idle chit chat,” Snape interuppted rubbing the bridge of his nose with one free hand. “Just tell me what it is you want from me.”

Albus regarded Snape a moment, noticing the dark circles under the man’s eyes, the hollowness of his cheeks. The way his hair was growing stringier and hanging more and more in the man’s face.  Albus lowered his fork and dabbed his lips with a napkin.

“I must away with the boy tonight,” Albus said, his eyes distant. “I’ve found a cave that Tom Riddle was to have visited in his youth. By the orphanage.”

“Mmm,” Snape added non-commitally. Tom had never truly spoken much about his childhood with Snape. He kept that part of himself heavily guarded, for he trusted no one, not even his precious Bellatrix with that information. “And where did you gather this information?”

“After much research into the man’s childhood,” Albus replied. “And something a very timid Amy Benson said to me during a small interview. She was one of Tom’s fellow orphans. Apparently Tom lured she and another young boy into the cave. Terrorized them.”

“Seems apropos of Tom,” Snape said with disdain.

“She said that the cave held something dark,” Albus continued. “Not just frightening, but dark. I had a strong belief that this cave may hold a Horcrux. It was later confirmed when the girl sent me a letter in the mail.”

Snape raised an interested eyebrow at this. Albus’ interview skills were legendary. Not only was he a most powerful wizard, he also had the strange ability to set many at ease. Why with Katherine he had-

Immediately Snape shook his mind free of that thought. He had no desire to think on Katherine Shepard. Instead his mind and attention was completely focused on Albus sitting across from him.

“It was a single sheet of paper,” Albus said gently. “And all that it said inside was; locket.”

“The locket of Salazar Slytherin,” Snape said in a quiet voice.

“Indeed.”

The two men settled into silence and Snape pushed a piece of ham around on his still full plate. Albus watched this in quiet concern, his hands steepled before him on his belly.

“How are you feeling these days, m’boy?”

Snape looked up from his plate. “Aside from the double agency and continual threat of death? Oh, just fine, thank you.”

Albus watched Snape crossed his arms, glancing at the floor in quiet protest at having to be there. For a moment he was transported back to a time over twenty years ago, when a twelve-year-old Severus sat across from him in a very similar repose. 

He and James Potter had been found on the Quiddtich pitch, their wands raised and in the middle of a heated duel. Behind James stood Peter Pettigrew, Sirius Black and Remus Lupin, their wands also raised and trying their best to aid their Gryffindor friend before McGonagall found out and separated them all.  James and the rest had been summarily punished by his Head of House. But McGonagall had sent Snape straight to Dumbledore, citing that his own Head of House would likely turn a blind eye.

“May I ask what the fight was about?”

“Nothing,” Snape lied, his dark eyes downcast. He couldn’t tell the man that he had been defending Lily Evan’s honor. Those blasted boys had been walking around the Quidditch pitch, joking aloud how they should set a boggart loose in the Gryffindor common room.

“I’d like to see what Evans would do then!” James had laughed, imagining the normally controlled Lily affronted with her biggest fear. He didn’t know why, but he loved riling her up. The rest of the boys laughed, agreeing that it would be a sight.

Snape, who had been reading in the stands of the pitch had overheard this plan, sure that they were being serious and demanded they put a stop to any foolish idea they had.  When James and the rest of the boys shouted “Make us!” Snape had rushed into action, leaping down the stands and brandishing his wand. The rest had gone as most fights with young boys had – shouting spells and ducking hexes.

But sitting there in the Headmaster’s office he didn’t want to take the chance that she Lily get in trouble if he mentioned her to Dumbledore. He could only hope that Potter and his ilk felt the same way.

Albus regarded the young Slytherin with interest. The rumors from his teachers were that he was a beyond brilliant young man, especially talented in Potions and Dark Arts. He was often seen in the company of Lily Evans, a Gryffindor and a young woman from the same neighborhood in Cokeworth. It didn’t take a genius to deduce what had happened.

“Why do they pick on me?” Snape mumbled. “I can’t help if I’m better at magic than they are.”

“If I were to assume, I would say that you are picked on because you’re quite brilliant,” Albus offered genuinely. “But you’re also quite arrogant and people are threatened by that.”

Snape’s face screwed up in thought. “What’s arrogant mean?”

“You think you’re better than many of your peers,” Albus replied.

“Sounds like James Potter to me,” Snape said with a deep frown that Albus had a hard time not smiling in response to.  “Always bragging about Quiddich and that his parents invented some stupid hair potion.”

“Perhaps you and James Potter have more in common than you think?”

“Never,” Snape’s eyes snapped up to Albus’ face. “I am nothing like James Potter. And I shouldn’t receive detention for sticking up for a friend! A friend he and his pathetic gang were going to prank!”

Albus saw immediately the fury that had taken up the young man’s wiry body. He was gripping the arms of the chair so tightly his knuckles were parchment white. Albus tilted his head slightly, regarding the boy who was now breathing heavily.

“It’s important for you to stick up for your friend?” Albus ventured.

“Of course!” Snape insisted.

 “True friendship is a rare and precious thing,” Albus said, his blue eyes twinkling as he looked at the dark-haired boy across the desk from him. “We would do almost anything to protect it, including fighting for a friend’s honor.”

Snape said nothing, but nodded.

“ And love,” Albus continued casually. “Well, love is a very powerful thing. It would make us take on four wizards by ourselves in the middle of an empty Quidditch pitch.”

Severus said nothing, and Albus would have wondered if the boy had even heard him if he hadn’t seen the pinking of the boy’s cheeks.  

“I wonder if love can turn into something different?” Albus postulated. “A desire to possess rather than-”

“I don’t want to possess Lily!” Snape shouted, unable to stop himself. “She’s my best friend!”

“I never said you did,” Albus replied unfettered. “But I do warn you Mister Snape; remember that love can take on many forms. Love as a brother would a sister. Love as a husband would a wife. Love for someone who sees the good in us. But true Love is the type of love where one sacrifices all so that the other person may thrive. That is the truest love of all.”

Snape squirmed in his seat, not quite able to raise his eyes to meet that of the infamous Dumbledore. Instead, he was aghast to find that his eyes were filling with tears instead. Albus saw this and immediately he straightened, giving a small clap to indicate a change in pace.

“Well Mister Snape,” Albus said now in the most patient of tones. “I hope that you will put away your childish squabbling with your schoolmates. And I would hope that you’d understand what an amazing opportunity you have here at Hogwarts. I would hate for expulsion to be in talks for such a prodigious talent as yourself.”

Snape looked properly chastised, nodding to his Headmaster slowly.

“Fifty points will be removed from Slytherin for your behavior,” Albus said, knowing that he had to be strict about such things. Immediately the cloudy look returned to Snape, thinking he was being unfairly maligned.

 “In fact,” Albus continued. “I think fifty points removed from each participant should be sufficient.”

Snape thought on this a moment before smiling nodding. “Yes sir.”

“You seem more upset than usual,” Albus offered now. He poured a glass of wine and pushed it towards the Potions Master.  Severus shook his head in denial. He had no desire to drink tonight. He simply wanted to sleep. Embrace the darkness that was always on his periphery.

“I’m just tired.”

“You don’t just seem tired. You seem particularly angry with me,” Albus said. He watched as Snape’s countenance changed from passive disinterest to sudden malice. His spine straightened and he fixed Albus with a look so piercing that it could have drawn blood.

“You love prodding away don’t you?” Snape sneered. “Like an infected tooth you can’t help but dig away at it with your tongue until it comes loose and all matters of horrors spill forward.”

“If that’s how you see it.”

“It’s the truth,” Snape said, slamming his hand down on the table. “So you want the truth? The truth is this: You were a fool to put on the Gaunt ring and now the wizarding world is at risk for it.”

“That’s not all Severus,” Albus said, silently willing the man to continue. “There’s more.”

“You’ve put all your trust in a teenage boy,” Snape continued, “a boy you’ve raised for slaughter.”

Suddenly Snape’s hand darted out, knocking the wine glass so forcefully that it sailed onto the ground with a smash. Neither man noticed, for Snape was shaking his head mightily and his voice was reaching a bellowing tone.

“You’ve kept me a prisoner just as much as Tom Riddle ever did,” Snape hissed, feeling his hands curl into furious fists.  He itched to grab his wand and blast the open, tender look right off of Albus’ face.

“And what else?” Albus asked, his eyes wide and unblinking.  He needed Snape to say everything he had ever wanted to. He needed the man to empty this onto him and not carry it around with him another day.

Say it.

Say it.

“You acted rashly with Katherine Shepard!” Snape bellowed, finding that the words were spilling from his mouth against his better judgement. Albus continued sitting there, looking to Snape as if he’d done nothing wrong. He wanted to jump across the table and strangle the man with his bare hands.

“I did what was right for the world,” Albus countered. “She was a loose end. You agreed yourself.”

“When I returned that night,” Snape countered, “I told you that we would discuss the next steps. You went behind my back!”

“It was my choice to make,” Albus said softly. “Not yours.”

“You took her from me!” Snape howled, finding the voice he used was bordering on inhuman. “You killed her and you didn’t care the consequences! You didn’t care what it would do to me! You take and you take and you take and you leave me a shell!”

“Took her from you?” Albus said, his eyes narrowing. “What do you mean by that?”

 “I-I never said that,” Snape blustered, feeling color staining his cheekbones. “What I meant was that you didn’t care how it would affect my mind. I could have been killed along with her for all you knew! And you don’t care. You’ve never cared. All you care about is taking down Tom Riddle. You don’t care how many people you hurt or lives you ruin! YOU ARE THE COWARD.”

A silence swept the room and Snape’s eyes widened a fraction before returning to their normal deadened stare.  Snape found that he was standing and breathing heavily. His hands were now in furious fists that he loosened inch by inch. Albus watched as the man virtually deflated in front of him, collapsing into the chair behind him before his breathing slowed and his body relaxed.

“Sometimes when I look at you, Severus, I see the young boy from Cokeworth. So brilliant and brave. I wonder sometimes if I failed you," Albus said, unsure of himself and biting back the tears that threatened to fall down his aged cheeks. "If I'd done something different would you have still followed Tom Riddle? If I'd given more guidance-"

"You played no part in my decision," Snape said quietly. "What I desired, no one in Hogwarts could give me. Including yourself."

Albus wanted to say more, to explain everything. But he knew that to do that would make things harder.  When the end came, and he feared that may be sooner or later, he needed Snape focussed. And so he offered no act of contrition, no indication that he himself had made mistakes. Instead Albus grabbed his wine glass and took a sip, fixing Snape with a business-like look.

“The main reason I called you for this meeting is to discuss the future of Hogwarts.”

Snape was exhausted. Not just physically but now mentally. He felt awful for what he had just said to Albus, but equally irritated that the man had brushed it off as if he’d said nothing. He raised a weary head in Albus’ direction.

“Sir?”

“Should something happen to me, I need to know that the school will be in good hands.”

“Nothing will happen to you Albus,” Snape said with a tired honesty he truly felt. “But if it gives you peace of mind, I’ll ensure that Minerva is-“

“No Severus,” Albus interrupted, fixing the younger man with a serious look. “It needs to be you.”

“Me?” Snape felt his body jolt a moment. “You want me to take on the role of Headmaster?”

“I do,” Albus nodded. “Only you can keep the children safe.”

Snape said nothing, choosing instead to stare at the empty space behind Dumbledore’s head. He could refuse of course. If Dumbledore died there was no unbreakable vow. There was no forcing of Snape to follow his orders. But Snape also knew that his word was his bond when it came to Albus. And he could never refuse.

“Well it won’t come to that,” Snape finally said, pulling his lips back to form an ugly sneer. “But if it does, I look forward to the promotion.”

Chapter Text

 

Snape lay in bed that evening, his eyes unblinking as he stared up at his ceiling.  He had been posed like this for several hours. All desire for sleep and oblivion had been summarily pushed from his mind. Right now all he could think was Albus and Harry Potter were in some cave, fighting the demons that Snape himself had let out.

All your fault. Always your fault. Lily. Katherine. Always your fault. Always. Always. Always.

He groaned aloud as the familiar refrain rang through his mind. He leaned up, punching the pillow he was resting on. When he felt it sufficiently plumped he thumped it back down under his head and tried his best to close his eyes.  And yet all his regrets seemed to dance along his skull, reminding him of how large a part he played in this horror.

If he had never gone to Voldemort with the knowledge he’d overheard Sybil spouting. If he had kept it to himself, what then? If he’d sacrificed his ascension in the dark lord’s army, would Lily still breathe? Would they be speaking? Would they be friends once more?

Stop.

No changing the past, he knew that. And yet he had to wonder; had he simply spirited the Muggle woman away somewhere isolated, would she still be alive? And if she was, would he have hoped to survive this war? Would he have wanted a life with her? Would it have worked? A muggle like her and wizard like him? He snorted aloud at the fanciful thought.

Ridiculous.

Didn’t matter. Both were dead. Both were women he had let down. Both women he had played a part in the murder of.  It didn’t matter if he wasn’t the one to wield the wand, he was still the reason behind their lack of existence in this world. 

He thought about the two then and their similarities and stark differences. Lily with silken red hair and wide green eyes. Katherine with the crooked smile and ringing laugh. Both were remarkably empathetic, clever and brave. Both had seen him at his worse. But only one had offered steps towards a future together.

She truly cared for you.

Snape growled aloud, slamming his fist into his bedclothes and turning onto his side.  In the foetal position he pulled the blankets up over his shoulder, shrouding him in further darkness. It was silly, to assume that he could block out the darkness like that. He wanted to block out the thoughts as well. And finally as if his inward debating had been physical, he felt his eyes slowly closing in exhaustion.

***

It was a beautiful day at the beach. The waves were lapping at the shore and it was clear that the sun was just about to rise over the mountains. A soft breeze danced through the tall grass and Snape stepped into the sand, surprised to feel the warmth of the grains underfoot.

Everything in the dream was serene and peaceful and new. Snape had never seen a place like this. Not in dirty old Cokeworth or in the misty moors of Scotland. It was a beautiful and picturesque scene. He felt remarkably out of place in his black robes and bare feet. Where were his shoes?

He didn’t know where he was headed, but nonetheless his feet took him towards the small beach cottage that came into view. It had white stonework under a large straw roof. A wind chime comprised of light blue seashells sang out to him, beckoning him to come closer. It was friendly and cheerful looking and he was curious to note he felt a lightness in his chest.

He passed through a lovely rose and herb garden, his potioneer mind noting the different varieties of vegetation.  He reached for a nearby flower, feeling the softness of the petal underneath the pad of his forefinger. He could barely believe how soft it felt. And yet his feet continued to move towards the small stone trail towards the cottage.

At the mouth of the home he noted that the door to the cottage was ajar and Snape found himself inexorably compelled to walk through it. And where there would normally be wary concern for safety, now he didn’t even bother raising his wand. Instead he moved over the threshold silently, his eyes darting around the small space in curiosity.

It wasn’t much larger than his chambers.   A bed of white and pale blue was pushed against one wall. Next to it was a small writing desk and sheets of parchment with quills. A cramped bookcase was to the far side of the room, almost groaning from the weight of the books. The room was warmed by a small fire that seemed to be boiling water at present.

“Severus?”

Snape turned at the sound of his name and felt all breath leave him. There stood Katherine Shepard in all her ghostly glory. Her dark tresses were pulled back from her face. She stared up at him from under her fringe.

“How long have you been here?”

Snape crossed the room in short order before wrapping his arms around Katherine and holding her tightly to him. He needed to feel her, to inhale the sweetness of her hair and the softness of her body. He needed to imprint this on him forever. To carry with him into the final battle and into his own eventual death.

“Oof,” Katherine grumbled. “You’re holding too tight!”

Snape released her, almost laughing at the bizarre scenario of hugging a ghost too tightly. He took a step back, wanting to memorize each eyelash, each string of wool in her jumper. He didn’t want one detail to be missed. And in his exploration he could see the girl was fixing him with an unnamable gaze.

“It’s so good to see you,” he blurted, unable to hold it in.

“I don’t see why,” Katherine replied, her dark eyes stormy. “If I recall the last time I saw you, you were telling me that you regretted everything and that I was just some Muggle.”

Snape could see the pain cross her face as she uttered the last word and he inwardly twinged. This was a dream of his own devising. Even as he slept his guilt permeated everything. This ghost was a reminder of what he’d done. He was forever causing pain in his flippant remarks. He had to explain to her. Even if this was a phantom in a dream he needed to get it off his chest.

“I did it because-“

“I know why you did it,” Katherine interrupted, turning her back on him and moving silently to the small kitchen. She brought out a glass bowl of berries from the ice box before placing them next to her at the washing basin. She busied herself with rinsing them, speaking to him without inclining her head.

“You did it because you thought it’d be easier to kill me.”

Snape stood across the room from her, unable to vocalize the amount of regret as she spoke. Instead he watched her wash the berries and return them to the small table between them. She motioned for him to try a bite. He declined with a small shake of his head. She plucked a rosy strawberry and brought it up to her lips.

“I wasn’t going to kill you,” Snape reasoned, his hands palm up. “I was going to talk to Albus and find another way.”

“And what way was that?” Katherine asked in poor humor as she took a bite of the fruit. Snape thought he could catch the sweet scent. Her lips glistened with the juices and she darted out a tongue to swipe along her lower lip.

“I was going to find somewhere for you,” Snape whispered. “Somewhere far. Perhaps in America. I was going to hide you to ensure you weren’t hurt. I was going to give you a new life and a new identity after I Obliviated you properly.”

It was true. This had been his original plan. The one he was going to offer to Albus before the man had jumped ahead and disposed of Katherine as if she were some bothersome rubbish. Katherine listened to his story, her head cocked slightly to the right.

“Really?”

“Really.”

Katherine seemed to take this information in, digesting it slowly to determine its value. As she stood there, close enough that he could take two steps and grip her, he was overcome. Overcome with a need that he could barely explain himself.

“I’m sorry,” Snape said, his voice cracking slightly. “I’m so sorry for what I did to you.”

This seemed to surprise the young woman. He watched as Katherine’s eyes warmed, gaining a bit of their usual softness. She replied softly, so softly he wasn’t sure that he had heard correctly.

“But I’m not.“

***

Snape lurched up in bed, grasping at his arm which burned. Tendrils of his dream remained and he glanced around the room in surprise at the cold stonework that surrounded him. Gone was the daylight and the beach cottage. All that remained was his dank quarters and the throbbing of his forearm.

He was being called.

 He had been sleeping through the call of Voldemort because he had been confessing his sins to a very dead Katherine Shepard. How would he explain that to his Lord and Master?  He could only pray that the creature wouldn’t punish him for it.

He pulled on his clothing and grabbed his mask before making his way out the edge of the grounds and disapparated.  

Chapter Text

“Tonight is the night.”

Snape felt his entire body tighten at the words Voldemort was speaking to his followers. Bellatrix was dancing around in a demented fashion. Narcissa was smiling tensely as she watched her sister. The rest of the men were murmuring excitedly. Voldemort had been so excited about tonight’s festivities that Snape’s delayed arrival hadn’t even registered with him.

Instead they were crowded around in the foyer of the Malfoy Mansion. The sea of dark robes and clutched masks.  Voldemort stood at the head of the crowd; his face alight with a ghastly joy. Snape moved to the front of the pack, his rightful place, his dark eyes trained on that evil face.

“Tonight Albus Dumbledore falls,” Voldemort continued to the crowd of Death Eaters, his voice loud with bravado.  “Tonight is the night that Draco Malfoy succeeds where his father could not.”

Narcissa forced a smile onto her blanching face at the sound of her son’s name on the creature’s malformed lips.  She took a surreptitious glance at Snape which he felt immediately. But he didn’t turn. He knew what the look would entail; her silent pleading.

Voldemort moved around the room, taking a chance to peer into the faces of the men and women who comprised his army. Bella looked up at him with large, dark eyes full of adoration. He gave her a cursory look before turning his attention to the rest of the group.

“Tonight is the night that we begin our war!”

Cheers sounded, almost shaking the windows.  Then the foot stomping began, like a grim death rattle.  Snape’s mind whirred. How could he warn them without drawing the attention of the Death Eaters?

Already Snape’s mind was going double time. He needed to reach out to Albus to give him a head start. But he and the boy were Merlin knows where in the cave by the sea. How would he send them a missive without it rousing suspicion? Voldemort was still crowing about, looking like a disgusting parasite as his sharpened teeth gleamed.

“Tonight Albus Dumbledore falls!”

Snape felt his stomach churned as the clapping began. Thunderous in the foyer. He joined in of course - he couldn’t afford to lose face now. He must keep up pretenses.  He clapped until his hands stung and Voldemort indicated that they should draw quiet.

“Severus.”

The name was a serpentine hiss and echoed within the now silent room. Snape felt his entire insides clench yet he forced himself to move towards the creature in calm deference. Or was it that the crowd had all taken subtle steps backwards?

When he was inches from the creature he gave a scraping bow of respect before standing once more.

“Severus, you return to Hogwarts,” Voldemort’s smile was grim. “Prepare for our arrival. We shall be there soon.”

How? How would they move past Hogwarts protection? How would they do anything?

“Of course my lord.”

Voldemort watched as the tall man nodded before leaving the foyer quickly, his boots scraping against the flagstone floors.

“You half will remain here, ready to await my further instructions,” Voldemort said, pointing to the large group to his left. His reddened eyes drew to the smaller group of more experienced and trusted warriors.  

 “And the rest of you; we leave to Borgin and Burkes.”

***

It was only a matter of time.

He stood at the window of his classroom, his stomach in knots as the sickening sight of the Dark Mark hung over Hogwarts. The green of the signal reflected in the room, casting everything inside a greenish hue. The result was that Snape had the complexion of a man who’d been dead for too long.

In many ways it felt fitting. He’d only just arrived back, frustrated that Albus and Potter were still missing. He had no way to reach the order in time. The students had all been ushered to their common rooms for safety. But what good would that do when Voldemort came to call?

They were well and truly stuck and for a moment Snape wanted nothing more than to crawl into bed with a stopper of his darkest potion. He wanted the welcoming arms of oblivion.

But no. He had made a promise. Not only to Lily, but Albus and Potter and even Katherine in some small fashion. The wizarding world depended on him, not that they would ever know.  He gave a mighty sigh, unsure of what to do next when a flash of movement in the sky caught his attention.

Then he saw them – the small figure of Albus and Potter on a broom. They streaked against the darkening sky, and Snape could see exactly where they were headed.

The astronomy tower.

***

He couldn’t get there fast enough. And as he burst through his classroom already he could hear the shrieks of professors and students alike. Mixed with that was the sound of the Carrow twins laughing in dark amusement. Icy spikes riddled his insides at the sounds.

They’d made it inside Hogwarts.

“Fuck,” He muttered under his breath, picking up speed and following the sound. He realized with dawning terror that they were heading to the Astronomy Tower.  And if his nose was correct he could detect the deadly scent of blood and earth. Greyback was here.

“Get back to your common room,” he hissed at the frightened students he was passing in a rush. “Do not emerge until it’s safe.”

They nodded, doing as the frightening professor ran past them.  Minerva and Flitwick were several paces behind him. Good, they were good with wand work. He knew they were coming to Albus’ aid and he was endlessly thankful.

The door to the tower was closed. He could see that much when he reached the bottom of the staircase. Minerva, Flitwick and a few of the other professors were still far off behind him. They wouldn’t make it past the staircase barrier.  His heart was in his throat as he ran up the spiral staircase, his breath coming out ragged from fear of what he would find. What if he was too late?

He burst into the room a fraction more dramatically than he intended. Inside was the most discerning tableau. Albus was standing facing the door, his back braced against the lip of the balcony. Suddenly all eyes were on him. Greyback growled at the sight of Snape entering and Draco seemed to tense at the sight of him striding through the door. Even the Carrow twins looked a bit peaky.

Where was Potter? His eyes took in the entirety of the tower, but his attention was being forcefully drawn to Albus who stood against the balcony, his eyes beseeching him. He didn’t need read the man’s mind to know what had to be done. By him.

Snape gave a look at Draco, seeing as the boy fairly trembled before him.  He stole a glance at Albus who looked so eerily calm. The sound of the opposition was below, threatening to break through the barrier. The death eaters stepped back as Snape stepped forward, his rowan wand poised. He stalled only a fraction of a second. His eyes met Albus’ and an entire world flashed between them.

I can't do it.

“Severus…please.”

There it was. Katherine’s final words to him on Albus’ lips.  Katherine’s dark, baleful eyes filled with tears as she stood across from him.  Her voice cracking as she called out to him one final time.

Severus... please.

The echoing of her final words to him caused his heart to split. Had the old man done it on purpose? That final manipulation to send a spark of misguided fury through the end of his wand? Or was it that the man was truly begging him to let him die.  It mattered none, because the death was inevitable and needed.

Remember what you promised.

Yet still his heart thumped painfully inside his chest as he looked at the wizened man at the end of his wand.  Snape's pale face was impassive. He couldn't show them the anguish. He held his mouth in a firm line, fighting down the nausea that was overtaking him quickly. Then as if pulling off a bandage, his chin rose, his eyes steely and he spoke grimly.  

Avada Kedavra.”

The sight of Albus flying backwards over the edge of the tower would haunt him until the day he died.

The way the man’s eyes rolled in the back until only the whites showed. The sickening angle of his head as it tossed back from the impact of the dark magic puncturing his body.  The ghastly thump as his dead body hit the earth below. The powerful wizard Dumbledore was gone. The wizard who held salvation, hope and power was gone.

Albus Dumbledore was dead.

Because of him.

Chapter Text

 

Several Months Later

“Before you are dismissed for your holiday’s, I remind you that even outside these hallowed halls, you are Hogwarts students.” Snape gave a soft and officious clearing of his throat. “That means you will not use magic outside of school.  That means you will continue your studies on the menace of Muggles. That means you will not go wandering outside of your homes and designated areas.”

The Great Hall full of students and faculty alike were staring up at him at the front of the hall. The same place Albus had always stood to deliver similar announcements. The irony of the horrendous situation was not lost on him. Minerva and Sprout stood to the far side of the room giving him dark looks. They’d stopped standing alongside him since the reconvening of the semester. 

 “If you choose not to abide by these rules, you will find yourself in an. . . Unfortunate… situation upon your return.” At this he glanced over at the Carrow twins. The brother and sister flanked either side of him, flashing wolfish grins at the uneasy students . The threat was obvious. The Carrow twins had been terrorizing the students since the start of the year. They eagerly looked forward to any chance for discipline.

Snape looked back into the students’ faces, into the pairs of eyes that had never truly trusted him and now openly hated him. No, they would never say it aloud. They were too smart for that.  But he could feel the animosity coming off of them in waves. 

For Merlin’s sake, don’t be dunderheads. Be safe. Be safe. Don’t draw attention. Don’t ask for trouble.

And yet he continued to hold his head high, his gaze still steely and his ears tuned in for anything suspicious.  The thought of having his students being punished seemed so wildly at odds with how he felt.  He felt a familial desire to see that all were safe. Even Potter, Granger and Weasley. But those three had never returned for the school year. Rumor was that they were hunting horcruxes and he went to great effort to keep tabs when he could.

And as so often he found, he was exhausted. His days were spent at Hogwarts looking over curriculum, casting detentions and meeting with unhappy faculty who called him names under his breath. Minerva’s cold shoulder had been expected, and yet he found himself strangely affected. Even now he couldn’t quite meet her eyes.

His nights were either filled with reporting to Voldemort, working on his double agency with Albus’ portrait, or patrolling the halls for wayward students. He had been gratified to find that the latter had decreased immensely from previous years.

“Now,” he finished, fixing them with a dark look. “Exit the hall in an orderly fashion. Quietly.”

Like the start of some grim funeral march, the students silently filed out of the hall. The only sound was the scraping of their shoes on the stone floor. Snape watched their backs as they exited, followed closely by the faculty until he was alone.

He stood there for several moments with his hands in the pockets of his robes. He sighed gently to himself as if expelling all the negativity from the room in one short huff. Then as if dressing himself with a suit of armor, he squared his shoulders and made his way to his office.

The Headmaster’s Office never felt completely comfortable to him. In fact, every moment he spent inside made him tetchy.  Moreso than usual. Albus’ presence for one often upset him. It should have been cause for comfort,  having his beloved friend and mentor hanging in a portrait behind the desk. But more often than not, he found himself staying away from the office because the sight caused such heartache.

It had been just over six months since the death of Dumbledore. Six months since he’d been declared Headmaster before a sea of mournful faces.  Six long months of hateful stares from students as he passed them in the corridors. Six eternal months of whispered insults and obvious cold shoulders by the other professors.  Six endless months of sleepless nights and roaming the length of the castle. Yet he held his head high as he sauntered down the hallways, his hair a curtain he glanced through.

It had also been six months since the dream he’d had about Katherine Shepard. Months since her sweet face had touched his subconscious. He’d been so busy trying to keep the students safe and remain Voldemort’s right had that he hadn’t time to sleep. When he did it was into a blackened oblivion that he longed for long after he’d risen for the day.

“Good evening Severus,” came the cheerful voice of Albus as he entered the room. Snape raised his eyes briefly to the portrait. Albus stood looking back at him with his trademark smile and glinting eyes.

“Evening, Albus.”

“The students have been sent home for holidays?”

“Indeed.” Snape lowered himself into the Headmaster’s chair, swiveling it to stare up at Albus’ portrait. “Hopefully they’ll stay out of trouble.”

“And tonight you go to Tom?”

“No,” Snape shook his head. “Tom has been sequestering himself in an unknown location. Fortifying himself for the final battle I’d say. He’d gotten wind of Potter’s progress with the horcruxes.”

“Rumor is that they’re advancing quite well.”

“Not quickly enough,” Snape said, rubbing at his bleary eyes. “I wish I knew where they were and how to help them.”

In truth he had been desperate to know where Potter, Granger and Weasley were. He knew that he could help them if given the chance – he just didn’t know exactly how.  Finding them would give him some ease of his troubled soul.

“The time will come when you will be able to, I’m sure of it.” Albus watched as Snape yawned silently before adopting his most patient and fatherly tone.

 “Severus you need to sleep.”

“No, I-“

“I don’t want to hear excuses.” Albus tried to give the man a stern look. “You have a chance to get some real sleep. Don’t waste it sitting here and talking to a painting.”

Snape wanted to give a barking laugh at the absurdity of it all when he leaned back and cast the serious-looking Albus a playful scowl.

“And how is it that a portrait is going to tell me when to go to bed?” Snape offered with a wry grin.

“Logic,” Albus replied with a grin of his own. “Fatigue will make you sloppy. You cannot afford to be sloppy. Go to bed. Tom won’t need you, you’ve said so yourself. The castle will be deserted with holidays. Enjoy what precious time you’re afforded. You can do no more for anyone now. Take care of yourself.”

And with that Albus had crossed his arms, giving the young man before him a knowing look. Snape wanted to fight him on it – to disagree. But he found that Albus was – as usual- correct. The sleep would do him good.

“As you wish,” Snape said with a respectful nod.

Albus always did have the uncanny knack for getting people to do what he wanted. Why should that be any different now that he was dead?

***

He didn’t know how long he’d been resting when he heard the soft breathing.  He was laid on his side, his arm under the pillow of his bed. He slowly cracked his eyes open to see a familiar bulging pair of eyes staring sorrowfully back at him in the darkness. Blankar stood at the side of the bed, wringing his little fingers together anxiously.

“What are you doing?” Snape’s voice was clouded with irritation and sleep.

“Master Snape was moving and making noise in his sleep and,” Blankar whispered gently to his Master. “Blankar was worried.”

Snape brought himself to a seated position, rubbing his eye absently.  His head throbbed. Blankar was correct, he’d been having a horrible sleep. A nightmare that he couldn’t quite recall this late at night. He didn’t know he’d been making noise though. A glance to the clock on the wall told him it was almost two am. He groaned, rubbing his forehead. All he wanted was a good night’s sleep!

“Blankar I want to sleep,” Snape grumbled. “I don’t need you playing nursemaid to me.”

“Blankar is sorry for waking master. Blankar will punish-“

“You bloody well will not,” Snape grouched, stopping the ridiculous creature from . “You’ll go to bed and rest yourself. You work hard. Now get out of my sight and let me sleep.”

With that, Snape had flopped back onto the bed, his eyes firmly shut. His arms were crossed over his chest, looking like a vampire in its coffin. He felt restless and knew it would be several hours before he was able to fall back into his fitful sleep.  He heard the sound of shuffling and clinking beside his bed, Blankar was up to something.  

“Blankar,” Snape gave a warning growl. But there was the sound of the creature leaving the chambers.  Snape opened one eye and glanced at his end table. There was a dark brown vial with his familiar cramped writing. He reached his long fingers over, gripping it and coming to read the label.

“Dreamless sleep,” Snape muttered, his thumb tracing over the aged label. He looked to where the little elf had been and gave a wry smile.  He thought about it a moment before tipping the contents of the darkly colored vial into his mouth.

***

Where am I?

Snape stood in the middle of the beach on shaking limbs.  His feet were bare as usual and the sand was warm under the pads of his toes. He squinted off into the distance, noticing the familiar beach cottage with its beckoning calm.

He began making long strides towards the cottage, slowing only when Katherine’s humming reached out to him on the wind. A sharp look to the left showed that she was on her hands and knees messing about in the garden. He thought back to his youth, how he and his mother had done the same together.

The woman didn’t notice him and he took a moment to observe the dark hair pulled back into a plait down her back. The way her pale skin was pinking in the sunlight. The way her humming was quite melodic and sweet. Finally as if she felt his presence, the woman bristled and turned suddenly.

“You’re back,” Katherine chirped, standing up from the rose garden and coming towards him. She wiped the dirt off her hands and onto her striped dungarees.  When she drew close he noticed that freckles from the sun now dotted the girl’s nose.  

“Yes,” Snape replied lamely.  She continued smiling at him, pulling off her gardening gloves and stepping closely towards him. She smelled like sunshine and rose petals and she was flushed in a way that made her seem younger and more joyful.

“I’m so happy to see you.” She smiled up at him, reaching out to grasp his hand and hold it tightly in hers.  Snape marveled at how tactile the dream was – he could feel the damp of her hands. He smiled openly at her, finding it hard not to respond to her bright and open face.

“It’s so nice when you smile,” Katherine said,

“I didn’t know you gardened,” Snape observed, embarrassed at the attention. He hated when people talked about his looks. It wasn’t a strong point for him and it wasn’t necessary to placate him into thinking differently.

“I don’t,” Katherine shrugged. “Not much else to do, really.”

“Roses?”

“Yeah,” Katherine gave a friendly shrug. “My mum’s favorite. Figured they’d look nice here. Everything grows so fast. You look warm, let’s go to the beach.”

With that she was taking his hand and leading him towards the lapping waves. Snape marveled at the softness of her hands and the warmth on their shoulders. There was never a bit of bad weather here in this dreamscape. He found himself longing to come more often. If only he could control it.

When they’d reached the edge of the beach Katherine sighed merrily. She released his hand and bent down to retrieve a small flat pebble. With all the grace of a Mountain Troll on roller skates, she tossed the stone forward at a right angle, trying to skip it along the water. Instead of skipping gracefully along the top of the water, it sank to the bottom with a small ‘plip’. She gave a good natured groan before turning to face the watchful Snape.

“Your turn.”

“I don’t throw rocks,” was Snape’s firm reply. Skipping stones was a child’s game, and not one that he readily indulged in. Knowing that when he awoke he would be faced with the Carrow twins and Voldemort breathing down his neck made him want to vomit.

“Oh give over,” Katherine insisted, despite his cool reply. She bent down and grasped a nearby rock. It was flat and weighty and she placed it into his palm, despite his reluctance.  “Go on then.”

With a good natured groan, Snape artfully rolled up the sleeves of his lawn shirt. His eyes were suddenly on the distance and he felt his competitive nature overtaking common sense. Everything was blocked out of his mind and with a fluid motion, he angled the stone and threw. The two watched as the stone skipped along the water nine times before slipping beneath the surface.

“I should have known you’d be good at it,” Katherine laughed. “Even something as frivolous skipping stones.”

Snape didn’t reply, instead choosing to give the girl a small smirk. He was surprised when she stepped back, burrowing under his left arm as if they were lovers. Her own arm wrapped around his waist and her hand rest along the side of his hip. Snape’s eyes closed a moment as he let himself remember everything about this moment. The warmth of her body against his, the sound of the seashore, the cool of the water on his toes.  His hand tightened around her upper arm, drawing her nearer to him.

“Do you know where we are?” Katherine asked, glancing up to his face. He glanced out into the open water, his eyes scanning for some form of something familiar. But nothing stood out to him. The large rock face and the beach they stood on seemed like something out of a dream. Not something he could tangibly reference.

“No,” he responded lowly, his voice a rumble amongst the far off waves. “Do you?”

“No,” Katherine sighed. She looked remarkably sad then.  “I was hoping you could tell me.”

Snape felt his chest hitch a moment. Did Katherine know she was dead? The sudden revelation that she may be between worlds occurred to him and he felt his stomach jump. As if sensing his change in disposition she stepped away from him, walking towards the shore with her hands on her hips.

“It’s almost as nice as Cokeworth,” Katherine joked, glancing over her shoulder to fix Snape with a mischievous smile.  He replied with a small snort under his breath, coming to stand next to her. The two stood in easy silence, staring out into the world that was unknown to both of them.

“Katherine…” Snape was surprised to find that his throat felt constricted. “I need to apologize.”

“For what?” The girl looked genuinely confused.  He went to say something when all of a sudden his eyes were wet with tears. Tears he had not shed in far too long. Before he could stop himself, he’d drawn her fully into a crushing embrace.

“I’ve done so much wrong,” Snape whispered, holding her so tightly that he was certain he had stopped her breathing. “I deserve to be punished. I deserve death. No, I deserve worse than death. I deserve-”

“You deserve to forgive yourself,” Katherine interrupted, pulling back so that she could peer into his face. “You made a mistake. Yes, it was a horrible one. And no, you never meant for it to happen. But it did and yes, that will forever remain a scar on your soul.”

Snape winced at this, unable to keep his eyes open any longer. The more he looked into that innocent face he felt his heart heaving with sobs he was struggling to contain. He tried to turn, to face away from her but she held strong.

“But you’ve also tried so hard to right that wrong,” Katherine continued, not allowing him to pull back from her. “You’ve sacrificed so much.”

“Not enough,” Snape said with a thorough shaking of his head. “Never enough.”

“It likely will never feel like enough to you,” Katherine said with a shaking of her head. “But think of this-  you saved a muggle when you could’ve let her die. You’ve given up your life to be a double agent against that Dark Lord. The only one unhappy with you is you. You have to forgive yourself or you’re going to be stuck in the past forever.”

With that she was observing the sand below their feet; the conversation was over. She was so strong willed. And yet, grief still clawed at the edge of his heart. And in this space he felt he could tell her everything without reproach. “I’ve done wrong to others, Katherine.”

“Lily.”

Snape winced at the sound of her name. “Yes.”

“Lily forgave you a long time ago,” Katherine said, disentangling herself from his grip. She said the sentence casually, as if it were common knowledge. Snape felt his eyes shuttering a moment at this admission.  

“And how do you know this?”

“I talk to her sometimes.”

Snape felt as if he’d been slapped. “You what?”

“Sometimes she comes to visit me,” Katherine said casually bending down to pick up a fallen seashell. She dusted it on her dungarees before holding it up for inspection. “We talk a lot about you and have tea. She always brings my favorite biscuits.”

Snape felt as if he could be knocked over by a feather. “You… You chat about me?”

“Yeah,” Katherine nodded. “She’s really worried about you. She thinks you’re sacrificing too much.”

Snape felt the tears fall freely then. How like Lily to say such a thing when it had been him who caused her death. How could she forgive him so easily? Was that the gift of the afterlife? Immediate forgiveness?

He watched Katherine walking along the store, her eyes scanning for more shells to add to her collection. She was a fascinating creature – ever changing and sweet. But prone to such anger and spite if pushed. She was complicated and annoying and lovely all at once. As if she could feel his appraisal she turned, heading towards him with an expectant look.

“I miss you terribly,” Snape muttered, unsure of how such an admission would be received. He glanced over to see Katherine giving him a sunny smile, her cheeks pinking in delight at what he had said. She squinted as the light touched her eyes.

“How can you miss me? I’m right here.”

Snape stilled, not sure of how much he should disclose. Did she know she was a ghost?  Would it be his place to tell her? Or worse did he tell her that she was a figment of his imagination brought about by extreme guilt? He himself still wasn’t quite sure which she was. But if she was a ghost, he readily welcomed her haunting him for as long as she liked.

“You’re….gone,” Snape finally offered slowly. That would have to do. Surprisingly it did little to deter Katherine who had turned and was making her way back to the cottage. Her footsteps made indents in the sand, almost like a grainy trail for him to follow.

“But I’m not gone,” Katherine said in a gleeful tone over her shoulder. “Not really.”

Ah yes, the philosophical “I’ll always be with you’ nonsense he’d heard all his life. First when his mother met her early grave. Then with Albus as Snape had mourned Lily for years. He couldn’t stand the sentimental pap they tried to serve him. The dead were dead, that’s how it was.  And if she were a dream then it was even more pathetic of him to cling to it.

But looking at Katherine’s joyful frame as she rushed to the cottage, Snape couldn’t help but observe that this was one dream he had no desire to wake from.

Chapter Text

Days later Snape woke shuddering, the tears rolling down his face in his sleep had dried into salty residue. Thanks to a tankard of firewhisky, he could recall only foggy memories of what had occurred the evening before and he felt his stomach heave. The raid on the Muggle village. Voldemort’s army and its horrors were already happening. With Potter and his ilk traveling across Merlin knew where, Voldemort thought it a fine time to lift the spirits of his dedicated followers.

Snape had of course held back, pretending to be above it all as the rest of the Death Eaters took great glee in plucking the muggles of their choice to take off into the nearby rooms. Before Voldemort had insisted he partake, Snape had been revolted behind his mask as he viewed the muggle women and men begging to be released.

“C’mon Sevvy,” Bellatrix cackled from the far end with two Muggle men in her grip. “You never join the fun.”

She was baiting him. He chose to ignore her, holding back and watching the scene with buried disgust. They had chosen a pub  - fairly populated but not so busy that they risked an ambush. Snape had known nothing about it and therefore the Order had not been informed. Not that it would have mattered – there was no trust there any longer.

Picking out a particularly frightened red-headed woman, Voldemort had thrust his bony forefinger towards her quivering form. She looked nothing like Lily, yet Snape could see that Voldemort was trying to manipulate him with the choice of hair color and wide eyes. He internally roiled.

“You deserve it,” Voldemort had whispered lasciviously into Snape’s ear. “You’ve been a most effective Headmaster.  Enjoy her.”

With that he’d given Snape a firm push towards the cowering woman. Snape felt his jaw clench and he did his best to cover his distaste. 

“Do it here,” Voldemort whispered sickly. “I want to watch my most loyal servant enjoy himself.”

Snape wondered idly if this was another test or Voldemort was simply that depraved. He raised his wand and pointed it at the woman. Her large grey eyes were wet with tears and she held out a hand to shield herself.

“Please don’t hurt me!”

Immediately he was transported back twelve years ago to Shepard’s Books. Back to Katherine cowering in much the same way begging for clemency.  He felt his resolution falter only a moment before he cast the spell in a tone as dead as he felt inside.

Imperio.”

***

Severus sat at his desk, idly twisting the quill within his fingertips. He had been in the middle of writing a missive, but for the life of him he couldn’t remember to whom. He leaned back in his chair, causing it to creak as he brought a hand to his forehead.

“You seem upset my boy.”

Albus’ voice reached out from behind him and Snape’s eyes shuttered. Some days it was his solace, other days the voice of authority and affection was something that turned his stomach. Voldemort, Albus… Two masters and he had failed both.

“Of course I am,” Snape sneered without turning around. “I’m always upset.”

“Moreso than usual.”

Snape pushed himself from the desk and in a dramatic twist of his body was facing the large portrait behind him.

“I worry about you, Severus.”

He  looked up at the painted face of Albus and for a moment realized he was jealous of the man. He was jealous that Albus didn’t have to live through this. He felt true envy that the man was dead. Would Severus ever do the same? And if he did would she be waiting for him?

Katherine.

Stop thinking of her you fool.

Snape felt his hands clenching into fists at his side. “When will it be done? When will it be behind me? When will I be able to stop punishing myself?”

Albus gave an unwavering stare at the obsidian eyed man before him, looking at the hawkish profile. “That is something only you can decide, Severus.”

“Death then,” Snape replied without mirth. He was about to say more when there came a breathless voice from higher up the tall wall.

“Headmaster Snape.”

Snape’s eyes slid up the wall, landing on the face of Phineas Nigellus Black. His bushy beard was trembling as his lips puckered.

“Black?”

“I heard her,” Phineas continued. “From inside the back I heard the girl telling the rest where they were going. The Forest of Dean.”

Snape’s eyes blinked a moment before his eyes slipped back to Dumbledore’s wide-eyed gaze.

“They’ll need the sword.”

Snape nodded gravely.  “Indeed.”

***

That evening Snape lay in bed, his eyes staring at the ceiling. He’d had a busy evening – hiding the sword of Gryffindor, sending his Patronus and hoping that Potter would find it. Now he lay, his stomach clenched and his hands at his side.

He knew that sleep would evade him and yet he knew that he needed it. He needed to continue fortifying himself. If Potter was successful there was no telling how quickly they would find the rest of the Horcruxes. He needed to be battle ready and he needed to be at the top of his game.

He glanced to his night table, viewing the familiar vial of Sleeping Draught there. Blankar had taken to silently placing it there every night in preparation for his Master's fitful slumber. Snape hadn’t trusted himself to take it nightly, worried that it would dull his senses or become a habitual crutch.  But now he wondered if it might actually be necessary. 

I might see her.

The thought flitted across his brain without warning and without further thought, he tipped the vial into his mouth and felt himself drifting off.

***

“You’ve got to stop popping off all the time!” Katherine insisted when he came into view. “I swear just as we’re making progress you’re gone with a pop!”

He’d just stepped into the home, his bare feet on the weathered creaking boards below. She’d appeared seconds later, emerging from the bedroom. Her hair was loose about her shoulders and she wore a light red cardigan. On the floor at the door was a large basket covered in gingham fabric.

“I-I don’t really control it,” Snape replied uneasily. How was it that this dream seemed to be a continuation? It was as if this Katherine were keeping time.  

“Suspicious,” Katherine’s face curved into a playful smile.  “I think you just don’t like having hard conversations.”

Snape felt the corners of his lips turn up slightly at this. Up close he could see the sprinkle of freckles along her nose brought out by the sun.  A strand of hair was falling across it and without thinking he reached out a hand. As it habitual, he dragged the hair back behind her ear, tucking it there and drawing his hand back. He stared at her then, hard and unblinking, his dark eyes not quite focussed. His thumb bit into his ring finger, indicating he was deep in thought.

 “Alright then,” Katherine conceded, her cheeks pinking under Snape’s intense gaze.  “Shall we go for a picnic?”

"A picnic?"

"Yes, are you familiar with the concept? Sitting on a blanket and eating?" Katherine's smile was easy.

He was familiar with picnics of course thanks to his youth with Lily. Their first summer was filled with magical mornings, talking about what they would study at Hogwarts. Lily always brought the picnic (two honey sandwiches, two organges and a biscuit to share) as Severus' cupboards were shamefully bare. But she never made him feel less than because of it. She simply brought the picnic and enjoyed his company. She was the first to do so.

As these images flashed through his mind he felt himself withdrawing. It felt with every second spent with the Muggle on front of him was a distraction from his greater purpose.  He was suddenly assuaged with guilt and he took a subtle step backwards.

As if Katherine could sense the change in his demeanor she closed the distance between them.

"Let's go."

She hoisted the basket into the crook of her arm. With her free hand she took his, gently guiding him down the path. He followed, his body eager to follow but his mind not as sure. He looked at the back of her head then down the length of her body- watching her determined footfalls along the sand.

The beach was unfamiliar to him and yet he couldn’t shake the feeling that he’d been there before. Finally they came to a spot she deemed worthy and without speaking she handed him on half of the blanket. Instinctively he helped her open the fabric, placing it on the ground gingerly. Katherine plunked herself down and indicated that Snape should do the same. He acquiesced, folding his long legs under him as he sat across from her.

The picnic basket was between them and Katherine quickly dug into it with relish. She pulled out the fruit first, the color vivid against the bleached sand around them and held it out to him.

“Apple?”

Snape shook his head, unsure that he could actually eat anything.  Katherine wiped the proffered fruit on her cardigan, her eyes looking into the misty waters before them. Her face was wistful and her tone gentle when she spoke.

"When I was little my parents used to take me to picnic by the sea," Katherine bit into the crisp apple. Snape could see the small bite Mark left behind. "We used to identify all the birds we saw. My mum was quite good at it."

"You've always liked animals then," Snape observed, watching as the girl’s hair tousled in the sea breeze.

"I suppose," Katherine shrugged and took another bite of the apple. She gave a thoughtful chew before turning her attention fully onto the dark-eyed man sitting across from her.  “What about you?”

“I can’t say animals have been a soft spot for me,” Snape offered, leaning back on his palms. “I was always more interested in the science of magic.”

“Interesting,” Katherine said. “I bet that’s why you’re so good at Potions.”

“Perhaps,” Snape said, secretly chuffed that she remembered his proficiency. He had often assumed that Katherine thought little of him outside of their daily interactions. Katherine got a thoughtful look on her face, moving onto the chicken and cheese sandwiches in the basket.

“If you weren’t magic what do you think you’d be?”

“Dead.”

Katherine raised her brows at the bluntness of his reply. “That’s horrible.”

“Well who on earth would want to live as a Muggle of all things?”

Katherine seemed ready to protest when she saw the ticking corner of his smile and she gave him a playful shove. She was greeted with one of his rare smiles. The one that had a shadow of a dimple forming on his left cheek.

“Cheeky thing.”

The rest of the afternoon continued on in that fashion. The two of them spoke easily as old friends, speaking of their schooling and dreams they’d had as teenagers. They made jokes and reminisced of long abandoned dreams. Eventually the picnic basket was slowly emptied by them both. The sticky toffee pudding was brought out and even Snape had to admit he could stomach a bit.

He sat cross-legged, watching Katherine as the sun began to drop.  They'd lapsed into a quiet time. Full on their meal, Katherine had slowly lowered herself and now lay on the blanket. Her arms were folded behind her, cradling the back of her head. She looked completely serene and Snape found himself quite mesmerized at the way she looked so effortlessly at ease.

A part of him felt a pang of guilt as he contemplated the possibility that he was continually bringing her forth into his subconscious.  Did she know? Was she somehow being called to him on the astral plane? Was there even an explanation for what was happening? Or was this truly just a dream? A wish fulfillment? But then why did it feel so... Real?

As Katherine glanced over at him and smiled, Severus realized he didn't care. He actively didn’t want to worry about it. For once he wouldn’t attempt to play detective or spy or anything else. He would simply bask in the warmth of the sun, enjoying the company of the woman across from him.

“It's been so wonderful talking to you like this,” Katherine said suddenly, her eyes closed. “I wish we didn’t fight so much before.”

Snape dragged a finger across his bottom lip, trying to hide the shy smile that had appeared at her admission.  She yawned gently and he found himself surprised at how much time had passed given the position of the sun. At the realization, he suddenly felt his own fatigue creeping up on him.

He copied Katherine’s prone pose, leaning the back of his head on his forearm on the blanket.  His shirt had been rolled up during their afternoon together and he didn’t realize his Dark Mark was on display until he found her fingertips pressed against it. Her fingertips were tentative, tracing the outline of the snake.

“Don’t.”

He gripped her fingers gently, pushing them away as he spoke. She looked as if she was going to say more before deciding against it. Snape was concerned that the girl was feeling reproachful. But how could he explain the shame? The regret and disgust of who he had been at that age? The horrible things he continued to do under Voldemort's reign? Katherine of smiles and joy would and could never understand what he’d felt.

Snape’s stomach soured and his trademark frown had returned. His mind went to his red-haired friend and how he’d betrayed her and he felt a block in his throat. There was still so much that Katherine didn’t know about who he used to be.  She knew only a small fraction of the horrors he was capable of. If she knew the real him would they be enjoying a picnic together? He knew the answer and it caused him pain.

“You’ve gone away,” Katherine said softly, shielding her eyes from the sun as she spoke. The two lay side by side and in that moment Snape observed that their shoulders were now touching.

Snape focused on Katherine, seeing that the girl‘s eyes were searching his face. “Why do you say that?”

“You get this faraway look,” Katherine shuffled closer to him. “I can always see it. When you look like that you're away in your mind.”

Tension grew between them and both seemed keenly aware of it. As if desperate to diffuse it, Katherine rolled over into the tall wizard from her side of the blanket. His eyes took in her form and before a word of protest could be voiced she had snuggled up against him tightly. She burrowed into his armpit before she looked up into the sky, ignoring the questioning look from Snape.

“Did you ever watch clouds as a child? I used to all the time with my parents.”

Yes. With Lily.

Continually his thoughts went to Lily. And he knew exactly why. There was the same ease of conversation. The same sweetness that they possessed. Katherine and Lily were nothing alike and yet both seemed to have carved out a place for themselves within his heart. He couldn’t properly explain it and he wasn’t sure he even could.

And so he said nothing more, choosing to let the question slip away, resting on his back and looked into the vastness of the sky. The sun was beginning to dip behind the horizon, bathing them both in a golden light of dusk. It was as if they'd been poured over by a multitude of  felix felicis.

Snape looked over at the girl who’s eyes were on the sky above him. Without thinking his forefinger came to trace along her cheek, marveling at the downy softness he found under his fingertip. She smiled gingerly at the contact but unable to meet his eyes.

“Oh look at that,” Katherine suddenly pointed a finger skyward. “I’ve never seen a bird like that before!”

Snape’s eyes squinted as he peered into the slowly setting sun.  A round, golden ball was rushing across the sky in all manner of directions. His eyes focused and discerned the long thin beak and realized at once what it was.

“A Snidget.”

“A what?” Katherine’s nose curled up in confusion.

“A Snidget,” Snape replied with a small smirk at her reaction. “They used to use them in Quidditch.”

“Oh, I see,” Katherine said delightedly. “Because they look and move like a Golden snitch!”

“Indeed.”

They lay like this in easy silence a while longer before the sun threatened to leave them completely. Warmed by the day and obviously growing sleepy, Katherine began to burrow herself against the Potions professor, encouraging him to wrap his arms around her shoulders, holding her to him. He was surprised to find himself resting on his side, drawing her into a gentle embrace without question.

Without warning Katherine leaned up, pressing a petal soft kiss against Snape’s parted lips before snuggling back under his chin and sighing contentedly. His heart thrummed at the motion and having her in his arms he could feel her hair tickling his cheek. He could smell her sweet, soapy scent. She felt so right there in his arms, laying in the remains of the day on a gingham blanket.

This is what it feels like to be normal. To care for someone and have them care for you back.

Snape could feel the blood thrumming through his body at having her so near.It was made worse when the woman curved into the nape of his neck, her breathing slow and rhythmic against his pulse.

It’s not real. It’ll never be real.  Because she’s dead and I’m alive. I’m forever obsessed with phantoms.

“I should leave,” Snape said thickly. He suddenly felt so out of sorts about their entire afternoon. What was he doing here? Why was he continuing to punish himself with the ghost of Katherine Shepard? He was about to shift up and leave when he felt Katherine tense.  She placed her head on his chest, and he assumed she was comforted by the steady beat she found there.

"No," Katherine murmured sleepily. "Stay close. I sleep so much better when you're close."

Snape said nothing, feeling as Katherine’s arms wrapped back around him and her breathing became deeper and more even. She was asleep within minutes and yet he didn’t want to wake her. Not yet. He didn’t want to shatter this illusion because compared to his real, ugly life, this was a dream of which nothing could compare. This was the life he would choose forever and ever.

If only one could live in their dreams.

And so with a silent surrender he felt his own lids dropping and soon he had followed Katherine into slumber.

***

Snape awoke with a start.

He jerked up immediately in bed, throwing off the duvet before rushing over to his personal library. Wordlessly and without checking the time, his fingertips danced along the spines of the books until they came to the title he’d been searching for. Blankar watched this from the corner, roused from his duties as he viewed his Master look frenetically through his library.

Snape removed the book, his bleary eyes finding the section he had been searching for. He scanned it a moment, his lips pursed in thought as he read. His face was a countenance of extreme focus, the line between his brows furrowing as he read. When he was satisfied he placed the book back and stood in shock a moment.

Katherine Shepard was alive.

Chapter Text

“Where is she?”

Snape bounded into the Headmaster Office from the hearth. His eyes were dark and filled with a barely simmering rage. Albus sat uncomfortably in his large portrait, looking to Severus with a quizzical look on his face.

“Good morning, Severus.”

“Enough,” Snape growled, knocking his chair behind the desk with a furious shove. It landed with a sharp thud on the ground. Snape’s palms were flat on either side of the portrait, as if cornering the painted man. “Where is Katherine Shepard?”

Albus’ eyes shuttered a moment, and he stared uneasily at the man before him.

“You know as well as I that she’s gone.”

“Lies,” Snape glowered. His hands were turning into furious claws against the wall. “I am in no mood for games, Albus.”

Albus was silent a moment, folding his hands on his lap and fixing Snape with a severe look.

"She told you?”

"She has no idea where she is," Snape insisted, pulling back to stand on the other side of the office. "I deduced it myself."

“How?”

“The Golden Snidget,” Snape replied. The last word rolled off his tongue as if it were a boiled sweet. “I knew it wasn’t a dream we were meeting in. I thought perhaps it was some strange afterlife that she was calling me to. One of her own division. But when I saw her shock at the bird I realized. It was a bird only found in magical communities. How would she have known about it?”

“Clever.”

There was also another indicator, one that Albus didn’t need to know about. But he didn’t need to worry about that now. All that mattered was finding out where Katherine Shepard was. He needed her. As much as he didn’t want to admit it, he needed her.

He crossed the office a few times, calming himself. He would get no answers if he came too aggressively at Albus. Finally he found he could look at the painted face and speak with a modicum of civility.

“What happened?”

Albus was quiet and looked as if he hadn’t heard Snape speak.  Snape’s thumb bit into his ring finger as he paced around the room. He would wait for the man to speak. No matter what he was going to walk out of this office with his questions answered.

“I couldn’t go through with it,” Albus finally admitted, his voice grave.  “She was standing there, staring at me with no malice. She was prepared to give everything up for a world that holds her in contempt.”

Without warning, tears pricked at Snape’s eyes. He blinked them back furiously, still listening to Albus continue.

"So I put her under a modified status charm. Her body is in suspended animation. Her mind however is on another subconscious plane in a place I devised for her."

"The beach," Snape's breathing increased as he put the pieces together just then. "Not where Arian-"

"Somewhere that needed good memories," Albus finished for him. "A place where she would feel safe."

Snape was quiet then, his eyes on the floor. He looked like a dark statue, his entire face hidden in the shadow of his hair. Albus wondered what the younger man was thinking. He was surprised when Snape's face rose to face him and the man's eyes were damp.

"Why wouldn't you tell me? Why would you let me rail against you like that? The things I said!" Snape's voice was tinged with anguish as he rose his face to meet Albus’ unwavering gaze. "You let me kill you believing-"

"Precisely what I wanted you to believe," Albus replied evenly. "Severus, I knew you would have an impossible time killing me. I knew I had to help you along. If you'd know my final act was that of saving Katherine, how easily would it have been for you to cast the unforgivable?"

Snape was quiet a long moment before answering uncertainly. "I would have done it."

"Perhaps," Albus smiled gently. "Or perhaps you would have tried everything you could to save me."

Snape said nothing. Instead he chose to cross his arms over his chest and sigh deeply.

“Where is she?”

“Severus it’s too soon,” Albus argued in a gentle tone. “Wait until the war is over-“

He stopped when he viewed Snape drawing over to him. His movements were methodical and his gaze unblinking. He spoke only when he had reached the portrait.

“I have listened to every order you have ever given me, Albus,” Snape said slowly. “I have spied, I have taught, I have done every single thing you asked. And now I am here and I am asking for one thing in return.”

Albus was about to say something when the felt the figures at the wards. Snape ground his teeth together angrily before he turned to face the door. The conversation would have to wait. Any reluctance to answer would be suspicious. He righted the chair and lowered the wards.

“Enter.”

His dark eyes took in the tall man with a pointed nose that came in, tugging along a bound woman with him. Snape took in the scene of the man with his red tie wrapped around his bicep. Snatchers.  Two others followed in suit, all looking dirty and sweaty and smelling of rancid meat.

Snape curled a lip in irritation.“What do you want?”

“I thought you’d want ta see this, Headmaster. This one says she saw Potter and the girl,” smirked the leader with a gap-toothed grin. “Tell ‘em what you told us, luv.”

With that the man gave the woman a small shove on the shoulder with his wand. The woman winced before she looked shakily around the room, from Dumbledore’s now slumbering portrait back into the icy obsidian eyes of the tall wizard in front of her. 

“What’s your name?” Snape asked softly.

“I-I… I’m Charlotte Quirke.”

“And where is your pub, Miss Quirke?”

“Gloucestershire.”

“And what did you see?”

At this, the woman swallowed thickly. It was apparent that she was nervous to answer. Was it an allegiance to Harry Potter? Was it fear that once she had told Snape what she knew that she would be disposed of? Whatever the reason, her hands started to slowly quiver.

“I-I-” she was trembling so much she could barely stand. Snape observed this and drew closer, causing her eyes to widen in anxiety.

“Speak,” Snape said quietly, his gaze severe. “Tell me what you saw.”

“I saw ‘em,” the woman blurted, her eyes wet. “I saw ‘em heading deeper into the Forest of Dean. I was out there, thinking o’ places to go camping this summer. But then I saw ‘em. They took off running when they heard me, but I know what I saw.”

Snape nodded, his eyes leaving the woman’s face and sliding over to meet those of the grubby men standing behind her.

“We searched the forest but didn’t find nothin’,” the man said quickly before Snape could ask. “We’ll keep look’ though, trust you me.”

“See that you do,” Snape nodded. “In the meantime, keep me apprised of anything you find.”

With that the men had dragged the woman from the office without a word. When they had been alone for long enough, Severus whirled to face Albus who was now staring out of the frame with raised eyebrows.

“I can only hope they found the sword,” Snape said, his breath catching.  The two men stared at one another in silence. Albus sucked the air through his teeth, his voice soft and tinged with an unnameable emotion.

“The Chamber of Secrets.”

Before Albus could tell Snape anything more, the tall man had rushed from the room.  Albus watched long after the door had been shut.

He could only hope that he had done the right thing.

***

The girl’s lavatory on the second floor was mercifully empty at this time of night. Snape had made sure of it before entering. The last thing he needed was to set the Carrow twins yammering to Voldemort about any suspicious late night activities.

His hand reached for the sink tap and his hissed voice was sharp and rasping as he spoke. The parseltongue Albus had passed along was helpful and seemed to work perfectly. 

The engraved snake twisted, causing the other snakes to twist back around. Within seconds the passage opened to the low corridor. Snape stepped through, his eyes darting from side to side. He’d never actually been in the chamber. He knew of it of course, being Slytherin. But his lack of pureblood blood heritage meant he’d never actually been invited to see it in his youth. 

He moved towards the large stone wall that separated him from the Chamber. He spoke the practiced parseltongue, hoping it would be enough and mercifully it was. The stone snakes slithered around one another as the hatch opened. He stepped through, his eyes becoming accustomed to the dark almost immediately.

It was brilliant place to hide Katherine, considering it wasn’t shown on the Maurader’s map and few actually knew about it. Even fewer could access it. No one would think to look down there. She was as safe as could be, still within the confines of this magical school.

The large Slytherin statue remained within the chambers, forever open-mouthed and without its slithering serpent. The large basilisk skeleton was sat the side of the echoing chamber, its mouth opened in a last sneer of defeat. Snape raised his wand in front of him, doing a delicate oval shape as he spoke.

Lumos.”

The tip of his wand shone in the dim light of the chamber. He turned with his eyes and the light scanning the circumference of the room. Nothing seemed to be out of place to him and he regretted rushing from Albus in a haste to find Katherine. He should have asked specifically where she was.

He walked up the long stonework corridor, buttressed by large snakes on either side. It was a monumental achievement, and surely one that Salthazar would be proud to know still existed, even if unused.

However if he knew it was housing a Muggle of all things…

Snape’s mouth couldn’t help but twitch upward at that errant thought.  It was true, the notoriously prejudiced founder would have been appalled to know that a half blood and a Muggle were currently in residence of his beloved cavernous chamber.

He drew closer to the statue, momentarily fascinated with what he was seeing even though a flash of regret went through him as his footfalls scraped against the flagstone. This is what came of prejudice and hatred. Left barren and empty.

He drew closer to the Slytherin statue, entranced by its finely carved details and the large gaping tunnel-like mouth that seemed to drive the message home. He raised his wand, shining the light further into the darkness ahead and suddenly paused. He saw the edge of pale gingham fabric that clearly didn’t belong there.

It’s her.

Snape lurched towards the large tunnel, his entire body thrumming with anticipatory worry. Would she be alright? Albus was a powerful wizard, but how reliable was the stasis spell he’d cast on the woman? Would she remember him when she woke up? What if she remembered nothing at all? What if it was just as it had been when he’d seen her all those years ago for the first time? He didn’t know how he would survive if the latter were true.

He stilled a moment, just before the statue and bent down to peer into the large tunnel. He felt a strange anxious feeling wash over him. He raised his wand, lighting the dank tunnel and feeling his chest tighten.

Katherine.

She was there, lying prone and bundled tightly in the gingham blanket. She looked as if she had been mummified. As his wand passed over her body, all that he could view of her body wrapped in the fabric was her face. Her eyes were shut in a deep slumber.  Instinctively he reached out, dragging her body from the tunnel and onto the stone floor of the chamber.

“For fuck’s sake, Albus,” he murmured, watching as she bonelessly flopped onto the cold ground, his hands gripping her shoulders. “This was your great plan?”  

Without thinking of the cold, Snape hastily began to unwind the fabric from the girl’s body in frantic, plucking motions. He noted in passing that she wasn’t even stirring as her body was jostled. He was disturbed to note that she in fact appeared quite dead. Her lips were pale and her face appeared waxy in the darkness.

“Wake up,” he grunted, pulling off the rest of the sheet. Underneath she wore the clothes he had last seen her in. There was something so wonderful about seeing her in that same threadbare red cardigan and jeans that caused his heart to swell. Her dark hair was loose and covering her face as she slumped forward.

“You need to warm up,” he said aloud. He knew it was foolish to talk aloud to an unconscious person, but it helped him. It made him feel as if there was still a chance that she would wake up delighted and embrace him. He could almost see her crooked smile and this caused his heart to swell. He gathered her in his arms, feeling her cheek cool against his own.

With that he disapparated.

 

Chapter Text

 His wand tapped the side of the bath and immediately it began to steam. He reached into his cupboards, bringing forth all manner of salts to soothe her surely aching muscles. It had been months that she’d been bundled up down there, dead to the world.  She needed to be soothed and warmed immediately while he brewed the potion to end her stasis.

He wanted to smile then, recalling the last time they were in this room together.  He had been unceremoniously dumping her entirely clothed body into freezing waters. He felt a dark bubble of laughter building as he sprinkled the necessary elements into the bath before he turned to face her.

She was seated on a transfigured chair, her head tipped back and her body limp. The steam from the room was pinking her cheeks. He was gratified to see that she was still breathing evenly. He drew over slowly, allowing himself a moment to observe her without fear of being known. Her short, thick eyelashes were fluttering slightly. She was obviously dreaming and he wondered of what. Was she still on that magical beach?

The bath was finally full and smelling faintly of roses and honey and the sudden realization that she would need to be undressed was upon him. He kneeled in front of her, pulling off her trainers and socks. Her bare feet were pale and chilled in his hands. He placed them to the side with delicate care. His hands travelled up her denim jeans, taking in every sensation as his palms glided up her thighs and came to stop at her abdomen.

He paused with his hand on the bottom of her cardigan, finding his fingertips shaking a bit as he did so. He peered into her sleeping face and found himself pulling back and standing.  It felt wrong to do this.

“Blankar.”

Within a moment, Blankar appeared looking eager to serve.  He was about to say something when his eyes fell on Katherine.

“Miss Katherine is being here!” Blankar cried excitedly, looking to his Master. Surely the Master would be happy now that she was back!  “Master Snape is needing Blankar?”

“Yes,” Snape murmured, amused at the elf’s excitement. “Ensure that Miss Shepard is bathed and put in warm bedclothes. Then see that she is put to bed. My bed.”

“Yes Master Snape,” Blankar took a step towards the sleeping Katherine. Snape made a move to leave the room when he stopped with his fingers on the doorknob.

“See that she’s well taken care of, Blankar,” Snape said still facing the door. “Be gentle.”

“Yes, Master Snape.”

***

When he returned from the lab a short half hour later, he was greeted with the sight of Katherine propped up in his bed, her face looking freshly scrubbed and her hair pulled back from her face in a long plait that went over her left shoulder. She wore a thick nightdress that came to her wrist and Snape noted with pleasure that Blankar had prepared the fire.

It was stifling hot for Snape, but he knew that after being stored down in the chamber of secrets for so long that her body would have been biting with cold.  Blankar suddenly appeared from the other room, talking to himself and carrying a hot water bottle.

“Blankar is glad Miss Katherine has returned.” The little creature lifted the covers of one side of the bed before shoving the hot water bottle near Katherine’s feet. “Miss Katherine was greatly missed by Master Snape. Master will be himself again.”

Snape grimaced at the saccharine comment before moving towards the bed, letting his footfalls announce his approach. The little elf turned in surprise, not having heard his Master.  He watched as Snape removed his robes, placing them on the chair by the fire. He remained in his trousers and lawn shirt, looking blearily at the elf.

“That will be all, Blankar.”

Blankar nodded and with a pop was gone from the room. It was just he and Katherine alone. For a moment he had a sudden urge to run. To run back to the Headmaster’s office and distract himself from her presence. To run away from the entire situation that he had now put himself in.

Albus had been right- he shouldn’t have woken her. Shouldn’t have brought her back to his rooms. She should have been left in the Chambers. But what if something had happened? What if Voldemort had set up camp there and come upon her? What if she had been found by a lurking Carrow twin? How would he explain away her presence? No. This had been the right choice. He had done the right thing.

With this thought in his mind he brought the small brown-tinted vial out from his pocket and walked over to the bed. She was laying propped up, her head tilted forward ever so slightly. He took in her features a moment before he urged her head back. She moved boneless, and her mouth parted as her head fell back, making it easy for him to tip the liquid into her mouth.

He pressed his fingers against her chin, tilting her head further back so that the liquid would trickle down her throat. When he was satisfied, he lowered her head back to the pillow and moved to stand at the end of his bed.  

Wake up and remember me. Remember our picnic. Remember that you see good in me.

She was breathing evenly and he was relieved to see it. He paced around the bed for far longer than was necessary. He looked for any signs that she may be waking. Every so often he put his two middle fingers to her neck to search for a steady pulse. Every time he found one he nodded to himself and made a mental note of her progression.

 When an hour had passed with nothing he sighed and lowered himself onto the bed beside her. He was exhausted in every sense of the word. But being close to her felt right and he covered them both with his duvet before falling into a dreamless sleep.

***

“Am I really here?”

Snape was awake immediately at the croaked question, his senses keen and continually tense. He looked to his left, having found that the girl had her head in the crook of his arm.  Her eyes were closed and he wondered if he’d imagined the question.

But before his eyes the flush seemed to come back to her cheeks, her breathing becoming shallow. He lifted his palm, tracing his forefinger along her jaw. He marveled at how soft her skin was under his fingertip. There was a rolling of her eyes behind her eyelids and suddenly the dark lashes fluttered before cracking open.

 “I am here,” she murmured.

He lowered his hand, suddenly feeling unsure of himself. Did she remember their moments on that different plane of existence?  He was stilled, lying on his side across from her. She was blinking, trying to get her bearings. He felt his heart jump as she suddenly gave a weak and crooked smile as her eyes focused on him.

Snape knew that he should be soft and gentle with her. He knew that she had been through so much and she was likely disoriented. But as he looked to her tentatively smiling face he couldn’t help himself. He quickly pulled her into his embrace, crushing her against his chest.

“I’ve missed you terribly,” Katherine grunted against him. Snape wanted to reply but found that his voice had left him momentarily. Instead he melted as her arms weakly came to wrap around his waist the best that they could.  Finally he pulled back, sitting up in bed and giving her a most severe and searching look.

“What do you need?” He asked quietly. “Something to eat or drink?”

“I need a minute,” Katherine said, still looking drowsily at her surroundings.  Her eyes scanned the walls of books, the roaring fireplace and the silky soft duvet that covered her. This wasn’t her room. “Wait. Am I in your bed?”

“You are,” Snape replied, suddenly unsure of himself. He fell back on what he was comfortable with – snark. “I found that playing nursemaid to you while you lay prostrate on the floor wasn’t as good for my back.”

Katherine’s eyes found his and she gurgled a laugh. He returned it with a small grin that showcased the faint dimple in his left cheek. She propped herself up, finally sitting. Her head swam as the blood rushed to it and she groaned a bit.

“Headache?”

Snape was already out of bed and padding towards his long dead hearth. On the top were several bottles of various colors that he snatched and brought back over to her in his customary long and sweeping strides.  He selected a small, purple one and thrust it towards her.

“Take this.”

She took the vial without question, drinking its contents and giving a relieved sigh as the tightness in her head seemed to lessen, feeling as if cool water were running through her circulatory system and calming everything.  When she did open her eyes again she was gratified to feel that her head wasn’t pounding and she was feeling quite alert.

"I thought I was dead,” Katherine said softly. “I thought Albus killed me.“

“No,” Snape said lamely, unsure of what to do with his hands so he thrust them into his trouser pockets.  “Not dead.”

“Is this some new plan?” Katherine asked, still confused. “Keeping me alive?”

“No,” was the simple reply. “He simply couldn’t go through with it.”

“But doesn’t that make me a danger to your world?” Katherine insisted, her eyes suddenly wide and fearful. She felt a hammering in her chest at the thought that she was somehow putting them all at risk.

“No more than anyone else,” Snape insisted gently gazing at her. “The book was taken care of. Riddle had no access to it. Besides, he has grown in such vast power that he has no interest in it any longer. His focus is now soley on taking down Potter.”

 Katherine felt her heart thump anxiously for her young friend. “Oh Harry. Where is he?”

“Your guess is as good as mine,” Snape shrugged. “My hope is that he’s destroyed the Hor-.”

He paused, unsure if he should continue. “There are quite a few things he needs to accomplish before he’s ready to defeat the Dark Lord.”

“Can we help him?”

“We are doing all we can.”

“Oh,” Katherine said as she rubbed at her eyes absently. She seemed to be sated for now with that explanation. “ Goodness, I feel like I’ve been asleep for months.”

“That’s accurate,” Snape said with his hands still thrust in his trouser pockets. He felt strangely naked talking to her without his robes on. “Albus put you under a stasis charm. It kept you alive but in a type of - - - suspended animation.”

“Goodness.”

“Yes.”

“So, like a coma?”

“Correct.”

“That makes sense as to why I had the strangest dreams,” Katherine said, sitting up straighter in the bed. She was feeling more energetic by the moment. “Dreams about you and Lily. Dreams about this beautiful cottage on the beach. I can’t really recall specifics… But I know you were there in my dreams. I think we had a picnic? Can you imagine?”

Katherine laughed and watched as Snape’s face suddenly clouded. The eyes that had been tender and open before were now cold and flinty once more.  His entire countenance suddenly grew stiff and tense as it had always been. She hadn’t noticed just how relaxed he’d been moments prior.  Suddenly there was tension and unease about the room between them and Katherine’s laughed died.

“How long have I been in this coma?”

“Several months.”

“Months!?” Katherine looked as if she were ready to faint. “In your bed for months?”

“No,” Snape shook his head sharply. “In the Chamber of Secrets.”

“Where?”

“It doesn’t matter,” Snape said swiftly moving to where his robes were. He pulled them on, needing the barrier. Needing to breathe. The girl didn’t remember anything. She didn’t remember the talks they’d had or the picnics shared. She thought them dreams.

“The point is you’re alive,” Snape threw darkly over his shoulder, preparing to leave at once. He needed to go for a walk and get fresh air. He needed some way of maintaining composure. This had gone pear shaped the moment she woke up. He had thought it would go differently. And he wanted to leave. But Katherine’s voice reached out to him and he stopped.

“Don’t go.”

Snape turned slightly so that all Katherine could see was his hawkish profile in the dim of the room. She could see that he was angry about something, likely frustrated about something going on with Harry.

She was about to say something more when there came a large beating at the door. Katherine jumped back and looked to Snape with concern. Whatever was on the other side of that door most assuredly wasn’t Albus.

Snape raised a forefinger to his lips and quietly ushered her into his broom closet. She clamored inside eagerly. He had one last look of her pale face staring up at him before he closed the door and locked it.  There came another large bash on his door.

All anger and frustration that had been running through his veins was now replaced with a cold fear. On the other side of his large door there came a familiar gruff voice.

“Snape? You in there?”

Fucking fuck.

He smoothed his hair and straightened his robes before glancing to see the closed broom cupboard door before  marching towards his entrance and opening the large oak door dramatically. He stood in the doorway, teeth clenched and a dark look for the pinched looking Carrow brother standing in front of him.

“What is it?”

“It’s the Weasley girl,” Amycus said with a petulant look. “She’s been issued detention.”

“For what, may I ask?”

“For looking at us with impertinence,” Amycus said with a twisted laugh. “I was gonna handle her myself but I recalled from a previous meeting that you wished to handle all further punishments personally. Especially those concerning any ‘friends’ of Potter.“

“That is correct,” Snape said, still fixing the pallid man with an even look. The man balked under the heavy gaze of Snape – the most powerful wizard aside from Voldemort now. The man radiated a kind of inner fire that caused Amycus to flinch slightly in his presence.

“You don’t think the Cruciatus is good enough?” the Carrow brother sneered.  “I could get more creative if you’d like.”

“It’s not your creativity that’s needed,” Snape hissed. “It’s educating the students in the ways of our Lord. Setting the Cruciatus upon them for idle things are a waste of time. Mine and yours. If anything you’re going against our Masters wishes. Instead of acting like an overzealous child with his first wand I suggest you remember why we are here. And be sure to pass that along to your sister and the werewolf as well. If I hear of anymore foolishness on any of your parts, rest assured, it will be reported back.”                                       

Amycus Carrow seemed to have gone chalk white at what Snape said. His eyes which were normally filled with a malicious glee were now wide and terror-filled. It wasn’t a joke, going against Voldemort’s wishes.

“Of course. Well, uh, she’ll be in your office at eight tonight, Headmaster.”

With that Amycus had sped off down the corridor, surely on his way to warn his sister of Snape’s new threats. When he was sure and out of sight Snape slammed his door behind him and took a steadying breath.  He drew to the broom cupboard, about to say something when Katherine burst forth, surprising him.

"HEADMASTER?!"

She brandished a pair of silver Tail-Twig Clippers that she must have found inside his broomstick servicing kit. Her eyes were streaked with tears and she held the clippers up as menacingly as she could despite their size.

“You lied to me,” she said with a cry of anguish that made Snape wince. “You said you were on Harry’s side. You were supposed to be good! What have you done with Albus?”

With that she threw the clippers at him and he dodged them, watching as she made to run for the window in the lavatory. He advanced quickly, grasping her around the middle and raising her slightly. She kicked at him, screaming angrily and cursing a blue streak.  

“Katherine, stop. You don’t understand. Let me explain.” At the sound of her name on his lips she stilled in his arms, sagging sadly in his grip until he lowered her to the ground. He forced her shoulders until she was facing him, but not meeting his eyes.

“Potter and his friends are on the search for Horcruxes,” Snape said in a hurried rush. “Physical parts of the Dark Lord’s soul that are scattered about. When all are destroyed we will be able to defeat Riddle. But until that time I am here, watching over the school and its students while Potter hunts them down.”

"What about the punishments?" Katherine said with a wobbling chin. "I heard those awful things you were saying."

"My punishments include sending students into the Forbidden Forest with Hagrid," Snape insistedflatly. "There is no more danger in that then in having them scrub cauldrons. But to the monsters who work here, it seems a strict punishment. I have to continue to keep up my severe appearances. If there is any hint of weakness, I will be finished and Mister Potter will be in an even worse position."

Katherine had stopped glaring at him, coming to feel that this could be the truth. But still she wrestled within herself - something wasn't adding up for her.

“But they called you Headmaster,” Katherine insisted. "Why did Albus leave? Is he off with Harry helping him find those cruxes you were talking about?"

She seemed to be trying to understand what Snape was saying, doing her best to give him the benefit of the doubt. But all that he was saying was confusing and made no sense.

“The Dark Lord put me in charge,” Snape said softly. Katherine looked even more confused at this statement. “As his most favored Death Eater, it was inevitable that I would take this position on. Albus even suggested it at one time.”

Katherine nodded, seeming to have calmed down a fraction. She still seemed to be wrestling with what Snape was saying to her. If Snape was Headmaster, then where was Albus? Hiding somewhere? With Harry? She peered up into Snape’s face. She couldn't help but note that the man looked grim.

“But then where is-"

“Albus is gone,” Snape interrupted gently. His hands were still on her shoulder and he felt as she faltered under his grip. 

“Gone where?” Katherine asked but she already knew the answer. Albus was as dead as her mother and father. Another familial figure had been taken from her and without any warning. The tears were already threatening to fall.

“Gone as in gone. Dead.”

Katherine burst into tears, holding her face and sobbing openly. This surprised Snape as it exploded out of her. He watched her racking sobs a moment before gathering her up into his arms and rocking her back and forth until her cries subsided. 

“How did he die?” Katherine sniffed, her eyes already red rimmed as she stared up at him. He didn’t want to answer her. He just wanted it to be them, together alone in their own little world. He wanted them back on the beach. But Katherine was clinging to his robes, looking up at him like a lost student and so he answered.

“He was killed.”

Katherine’s face crumpled into despair and she buried her face in his cloak. He swallowed as the young woman continued to sob until there seemed she had no more tears to shed. Finally she wiped her eyes and again fixed her gaze on Snape’s face.

“Who was the monster that did it?”

How could he explain that it was he who was the monster? How could she possibly understand that Albus had asked for death? The woman would never understand – could never see why it needed to be done. She would hate him and she would leave. He couldn’t let her leave, not again. Not when not even dreams would be left for him to cling to. 

Snape looked down into her face and for once in his life felt the pain of lying to someone he cared for. 

“I don’t know.”

 

Chapter Text

"So you really thought I was dead?" Katherine asked over a cup of tea a short while later. Snape had practically forced it into her grip, insisting it would help to calm her. He had been correct, as per usual.  Then Blankar had insisted on bringing them both biscuits and placed several on porcelain plates on their laps. Snape hadn’t even looked at his.

They were seated by the fire with a blanket thrown over Katherine’s legs. She stared at Snape over her teacup, seated stiffly on the chair opposite to her.  

"I did."

"But then how did you find me?” Katherine’s eyes searched his face. “How did you know to look for me in the first place?" 

Snape clenched his jaw a moment, watching as the young woman continued to sip her tea. He didn’t know how to properly explain it himself, how could he adequately explain it to her?

"The dreams you mentioned," Snape finally offered in a quiet voice. "I saw you in them."

"You did?" Katherine dropped the biscuit she'd been chewing. "How?"

 "I’m not sure how to explain it completely,” Snape said with a shrug. “What you remember as dreams weren’t actually dreams. It’s as if you were on another plane of existence. Under stasis your mind was thrown into a world of Albus’ devising.” 

“So the dreams…” Katherine trailed off, looking at Snape thoughtfully. The warmth of the fire and tea had done a lot to soothe her nerves. She felt less foggy and lethargic.   “How did you join me there in that world?” 

Snape faltered, his lips thinning. His fingertips drummed absently on his kneecap as he stared at her. The fire crackled between them, warming them and providing a pleasant soundtrack to their talk.  

“That I can’t properly explain,” Snape finally answered honestly. “I too thought they were dreams.” 

“How did you know they weren’t?”

 “The Golden Snidget.”

Something like recognition flashed in Katherine’s eyes. Katherine felt like she could almost sense something just out of reach. A memory that was just on the horizon. Blurry images that she couldn’t quite recall. There had been a beach, hadn’t there? She couldn’t quite recall it but she nodded nonetheless. 

“A creature not found in Muggle society,” Snape continued, finally raising his teacup to his lips and drinking deeply. “When you saw it and had no idea what it could be, I realized we couldn’t be in your dream. To my knowledge you’d never seen one.” 

Katherine shook her head. He had been correct. Even now she couldn’t think of what a Snidget would be. Another thought occurred to her.  

"Why did you bring me back here?" Katherine asked gently. It wasn't accusatory, just genuine confusion. “Why not just leave me down there?” 

"I was concerned for your safety," Snape replied flatly. "Who knows who may have come upon you? What if the Dark Lord himself had found you?" 

Katherine shuddered, despite the heat. She had only heard about Voldemort, but thoughts of being found by such an evil wizard who hated Muggles made her skin crawl. She looked to Snape, suddenly filled with enormous gratitude. She could see the fatigue that etched his face and the weariness in his eyes. 

"Thank you," Katherine said gently, her eyes growing wet. “Thank you for taking care of me.”

Snape felt uncharacteristically mollified by her effusive comment. There was such power behind her words. She went pink on the cheeks and looked longingly at the remainder of Snape’s biscuit before speaking again.  

 "So we don't know for long I'm to stay here with you? Just as before?" 

She saw as Snape’s shoulder’s went rigid. "Indeed."

"And with all your duties," Katherine said thoughtfully. "I suppose you'll be very busy? Even busier than before?"

Snape raised an eyebrow at her. It was such a strange comment, so out of place that he was immediately on guard.  "Well it's just, I don't really mind being down here with you," Katherine started awkwardly, her hands fiddling on her lap. 

"Oh I'm so pleased," Snape said sarcastically as he glanced at the fire.  

"What I mean to say is that you're going to be busy being Headmaster,” Katherine said, trying to find the right words. “Plus being a Death Eater. Plus trying to help Harry. You’re going to be even more pressed for time than before. I can only assume I won't see much of you."  

"Does that really matter?" Snape asked. He made sure that his voice was casual.

 "Well," Katherine squirmed a bit in her seat. Snape took this in with a practiced look of indifference. But underneath he was amused- she’d looked much the same when coming to him with that spell of hers. All pink cheeked and awkward licking of lips.   “It’s nothing. Nevermind.”

 “Go on,” he urged silkily.  

“It’s incredibly selfish,” Katherine replied.

“Continue.”

 “I really couldn’t-“ 

“Miss Shepard,” Snape said with a warning tone. “Finish your thought.”

Katherine took a deep, steadying breath before she attempted to speak. She was suddenly regretting having even broached the issue. Why had she done this to herself? She felt immediately like an insect caught under a magnifying glass in the summer under Snape’s heavy gaze.  

"I suppose I’m worried I won’t see you very often,” Katherine said, unable to meet his eyes. “And I’ll be here alone. I mean, besides Blankar. And well—“ 

Katherine trailed off, unsure of what else to say but the small corners of Snape’s mouth ticked upwards a fraction. He looked like the cat who got the canary and Katherine’s face blazed when he leaned forward eagerly. 

“And?” He prompted with a smirk.  

“I suppose I’ll miss you,” Katherine answered in a rush and wanting to hide behind her hands. “Erm, I mean I’ll miss talking with you. I’ll be disappointed not to have you around as much. Lonely is all. I just hope you’ll have time for me as well as all your other duties.”

Snape leaned back in his chair slowly, the smirk still apparent on his lips. He felt immensely pleased at her words. He knew that under his thick head of dark hair that his ears were pinking. Something they often did when he was chuffed.  Katherine however just saw a small fraction of his mouth twitch onto a small smirk. She worried he was going to laugh at her. Finally he gave her a small, solemn nod.

 "I'm sure that can be arranged."  

Katherine let out a small breath of relief. The promise of more time spent together seemed to fill the space pleasantly and soon Katherine’s eyes were shuttering lazily. The fatigue of the day had finally caught up with her and she suddenly felt exhausted. Still embarrassed, but the fatigue was outweighing that for now.

 "Do you mind if I rest for a bit?"

 "Of course," Snape said with a nod. He was about to suggest she climb back into his bed when he paused. It didn't seem right now. She hadn’t woken up eager to see him or welcome him into her arms. She barely recalled their moments together. If anything the last thing she could recall was him rebuffing her.

So instead he turned and headed for her old room. Katherine followed close behind, having wrapped the blanket around her shoulders.  She looked to his tall form and felt her heart skip a bit at the familiar rigid posture.

"I suppose you've filled my old room with your specimens," Katherine said airily as they approached the bedroom. "Or more of your books."

Before Snape could respond she'd opened the door and stepped through.  Katherine took a tentative look inside and made the small journey around the room. Everything was as it had been, right down to the tea set she'd upset during the book attack.  She quietly went to the wardrobe, opening it to find all the clothes that she had worn were hung waiting for her. Even the clothes she had been brought back in were freshly laundered and hung with care.  

"Hmmm," Katherine walked in, her fingertips tracing the vanity. She rubbed the fingers together and was intrigued to see that there was no dust. "How strange." 

"What's strange?" Snape asked, glancing about the room from the threshold. He felt strangely like a stranger standing there. But what was the woman on about? Nothing seemed to be out of order. 

"Well it seems like nothing in this room has changed," Katherine said, trying her best to keep her face even.  She glanced up to see Snape giving her a questioning look. As if he knew something was amiss but couldn't quite put his finger on it. He gave her a calculating nod.  

"Correct." 

"Has Blankar been tidying it?" Katherine asked casually as she noted the entire space was pristine. There were no dust motes, no dirt on the floor and it smelled of fresh linen and the faint hint of cinnamon.

 "It's his duty to tidy the entirety of my chambers," Snape answered with narrowing eyes.

 "And so I can assume he's been doing so for the past few months?" Katherine prompted.

 "Well of course-"

 "Aha!"  Katherine gave a victorious crow, whirling dramatically to face Snape. He felt as if he had miss-stepped and immediately he was on guard. He fixed her with a level look.  

"Your point, Miss Shepard?" 

"You missed me." Katherine made this proclamation with a wide smile, her hands on her hips as if she had personally conquered him. He felt his back rise in irritating and he fixed her with his most menacing stare.

"Hardly," Snape said with a dramatic roll of his eyes. "I'm doing my duty. It is what Albus would have wanted."

But it was too late. He had already shown his hand and Katherine's face was brightening.

 "I think you missed me," Katherine said, her face brightening. "I mean why else would you keep everything the way it was? Why would you keep the room at all?" 

"I forgot about it," Snape lied. He did it with such a confidence that Katherine almost believed him.

 "You don't forget anything," Katherine replied smugly.  She felt her body tingling with not only victory, but the knowledge that under that thick black façade, Severus Snape had missed her! A muggle! She wanted to giggle out loud, but she didn’t think Snape was the type of man to enjoy a woman giggling at him.  

"If you were to return I didn't want to have to create the entire thing again," Snape added hastily.  “I have better things to do with my time.” 

Katherine's eyes gleamed at this and Snape realized he’d been caught.

"But you thought I was dead. How would I return?" 

For a moment Snape opened his mouth to give an irritable retort when he found he had nothing to say. Instead he gave a scowl and left the room. He could hear her tinkling laughter as he left the room and went into his study. She heard him slam the door behind him and she collapsed onto her familiar bed, looking to the ceiling. With a rush of affection for the man and delight at what she'd discovered, she spoke quietly to herself.

 "He missed me."

 

Chapter Text

The next morning Katherine woke with a stretch and a bit of guilt as she moved from the bed to the washroom. As she brushed her teeth and scrubbed her body her mind was a whirl of regret and embarrassment after what she’d said to Snape last night.  After she was dressed and her stomach growled she wandered into Snape’s chambers. Her hair was damp and he gave her a severe look over his newspaper.

 “Have you learned nothing?”  

With a flick of his hand, Katherine felt her hair tunneling all over as if being pulled and warmed by an invisible drier.  Within moments it was dried and landed haphazardly on her shoulders. No matter, she would brush it later.  

“Thanks.” She gave the hidden figure of Snape a smile over his newspaper. He was drinking a coffee from what she could see on the table. He’d likely already been to Breakfast judging by the hour.  He was also resolutely not looking at her.

"I'm sorry I teased you last night," Katherine finally said, ducking her head in embarrassment as he gave no means of a reply.

 He was still obviously upset about the kiss they’d shared back at her grandparents!  She felt moronic for not realizing it earlier. And then she'd made that joke about him missing her! She immediately felt embarrassed for the both of them.  It wasn't as if Snape cared for her. He'd made that abundantly clear the night she'd been spelled. The poor man was just doing his duty by bringing her back into his home and what had she done? Mocked him.  She continued to stand across from him, pretending that he was listening to her.

 "I understand you must be upset," Katherine said. "I know the last time that we were together things went, well, a bit pear shaped. I know how horrified you were."

 Snape said nothing, but she could see his grip on the newspaper grow tighter.  

"But I'm here with you for goodness knows how long," Katherine continued, get cheeks pinking. "And I want us to be friends. I want to help you in any way I can. I don’t want to make your life any harder." 

A few moments passed and Katherine gave a small sigh, preparing to go back to her rooms. So this is how it would be – one misstep and they were suddenly enemies again? She was halfway there when she heard the soft baritone. 

“I have shopping to do today. I will return before this evening.” 

Katherine stopped , turning and delighted to see that he’d lowered the newspaper and was staring at her with an open gaze.  It held no malice or anger and she took this small act as a sign of forgiveness.  Blankar was suddenly there, placing a plate of toast, eggs, beans and sausage along with a cup of strong tea at the empty seat at the table.

 Katherine inhaled and felt her stomach grumble happily.  Katherine nodded, coming to sit across from him at the table.

“Aren’t muggles suspicious of you dressed up like that?” She indicated to Snape’s robes and he smirked at the girl over his coffee cup.

“I go somewhere that only the magical community knows of.”

“You have your own shops?” Katherine gaped at him a moment before slapping her forehead with the palm of her hand. “Oh of course you do. Where would you buy your robes? Harrods?”  

She gave a large chuckle at that, imagining groups of magic folk in pointy hats asking where the newest designer wizarding robes were. Snape gave her a blank look that clearly indicated he had no idea what Harrods was.

 “What sorts of shops are there?” Katherine asked eagerly leaning forward as she took a bite of her toast.

 “All types,” Snape replied easily over her munching. “Broom shops, potions, clothing, chocolate, post-“ 

The girl’s dark eyes were wide as he listed off the various shops a wizard could find.  He continued on, listing all that he could think of before he could see Katherine was quite overcome.

 “Oh I wish I could see it,” she breathed.  “Do they ever let Muggles go there?”

 “Only when accompanied by a wizard or witch,” Snape replied easily. After seeing the girl’s eyes widen in excitement he added a somber: “And no, you may not accompany me today.” 

Katherine slumped back into her seat. “I knew that,” she grumbled petulantly.

 Snape hid another smile as he stood and went to the closet. He pulled on his outer robes before murmuring to Blankar to keep an eye on the girl.  Katherine heard him, but she didn’t say anything. There was something sweet about being cared for by him. Not that she’d ever confess it.  

“Have a good day,” Katherine said as he nodded his goodbye. Within seconds he’d Apparated from his room, leaving it feeling strangely empty in his wake.  

***

Snape walked down the empty streets of Knockturn Alley with purpose.

He had noticed with displeasure during his last trip to his old classroom upon Slughorn’s request that his potions stores were running low. Slughorn had offered to make the trip, but upon seeing the older man’s blanched face, Snape told him he was making a trip anyway and would pick up what needed to be bought.

Despite not teaching the class any longer, seeing his materials running so low caused him ire. Slughorn obviously wasn’t doing his job properly, not that anyone could really blame him. He was forever being watched under the careful eye of the werewolf. Normally Slughorn kept his classroom fully stocked and abundant with high quality supplies.

He wandered the cobblestone walk until he came upon Moribund’s. He gave a firm knock and waited. It was common knowledge that not everyone was entered admission into this shop – one had to be invited. And he had been ever since he was a Death Eater.

Two red-rimmed eyes stared back at him from a crack in the door before it creaked open. Ivan Tweedle was the proprietor. He stepped back to allow Snape passage before closing the door behind them both.

Snape walked across the threshold of the glancing down at Mr. Tweedle, who gave Snape a wide, knowing look. Snape knew that look – it clearly read “I’m on your side.”

“Pleasure to see you here, Headmaster Snape,” he said in a nasally tone. His cracked face broke into a hideous smile that made him look even more ancient. He wore threadbare blue robes and looked as if his teeth were falling out of his head like some grim, rotting jack o lantern.

Snape said nothing in reply, choosing to give a small nod of acknowledgement as he took a small turn around the familiar shop.  He enjoyed being in these familiar surroundings – the spicy scent of the powders and the acrid smell of the entrails. There was something magical just about seeing all of these items and knowing that just the right dash of this and the right extract of that would create something beautiful and powerful. More powerful than any wand waving could accomplish.

He traced a fingertip across the scrawled label before it: lacewing flies. He smiled gently to himself, pausing only when he felt the presence of the shopkeeper behind him. He turned, giving the man a severe look.

“Do you have a list, sir? I’d be happy to gather the supplies for you. T’would be an honor.”

Snape gave a haughty nod before handing the man the parchment he’d brought. The wizard looked down at the parchment and frowned.

“Not anything illicit on this parchment,” he said looking at Snape queerly.

“Not today,” Snape said with a lazy shrug. It was common knowledge that Moribund’s specialized in rare, illegal potion ingredients. Things that Snape would use in his most powerful potions in Spinner’s End. But today Snape just wanted the basics and wanted to avoid Diagon Alley if he could. In Knockturn Alley he felt comfortable and himself. He knew that the dark wizards here were on his side. At Diagon Alley, he couldn’t be so sure.

The wizened man moved on his rickety bones around the room, grabbing vials and boxes and jars of all sizes. They were all filled with powders and beetle eyes and newt livers and more. Snape watched this in passive interest until the man was finished.

He brought them to the front of the shop and began to pack them delicately. Snape’s eyes were fixed on the man’s face. He hadn’t broken eye contact with Snape the entire time. He was like some strange, oversized spider – his hands working independently of his body.

“There you are sir,” he said, handing the large bags to Snape with a grotesque smile.  When Snape made to reach for the coins in his pocket, the man shook his head and leaned in as if they were old friends.

“No charge for you,” the man said with a foul grin. “Not after all you’ve done for us.”

Snape felt his stomach clench but he forced a small smile onto his face.  He gave a curt nod and took the proffered bag before making a casual stride towards the exit. He must never seem too eager to leave, it would prompt talk.

He stopped at the White Wyvern to get a shepherd’s pie and a tumbler of firewhiskey. He ignored the whispers and nods towards him and finished his meal quickly. He left two sickles as tip and made his way out before anyone could corner him for a chat. 

At the next shop he bought several pounds of fresh parchment. He was running woefully low back at Hogwarts and wanted to select the brand himself to ensure they were getting the best deal. It hadn’t mattered to him when Albus was in charge, but now that he was he wanted to make sure they weren’t being overcharged.

He was surprised to note that as a Hogwarts Headmaster he was privy to a large discount on items. So along with parchment he bought some new quills. Although he didn’t quite believe its intention when he saw the shaky hands of the shopkeeper as he handed Snape his package purchases.

Snape’s reputation now preceded him now. He was Voldemort’s right hand man. He had killed Albus Dumbledore and had taken his position. He had the reputation for being the most powerful wizard alive, aside from Voldemort. This didn’t go unnoticed by the wizarding world at large and no one could quite meet his eyes.

With every shop he entered he noticed how empty it was. He was sure that some wizards would have refused his galleons if they hadn’t been so desperate for it. Business was poor now that Voldemort’s reign seemed inevitable. Wizards had left their homes for America and Europe. Many simply refused to leave their homes for fear of wandering across an idle Death Eater.

He was going to head back when he had the oddest desire to go to the left. This compulsion led him directly to the front of a shop he’d never entered before: The Shiny Serpent. An errant thought fluttered across his brain and he smirked to himself.

He pushed his way into the shop, wrinkling his nose at the onslaught of smell that awaited him. Kneazle piss, bird feces and a variety of other unpleasant odors assaulted him the moment he walked inside. Katherine chose to work with animals in her normal life? Muggles were a strange lot.  His mind went to his Muggle then and he suppressed a smile. Even if the chit teased him about missing her. It was true though, wasn’t it? He had missed her. Why else would he have brought her back? Still, she didn’t need to rub it in, did she?

A dwarf looked up at Snape with a mixture of awe and fear as he saw the tall man appear. Large vases blocked out the sunlight pouring in from the windows, hiding everything from view – including them. This caused the dwarf to swallow thickly and pray that the man didn’t want trouble.

“Hullo sir,” he offered croakily. “Welcome to the Shiny Serpent where we specialize in exotic animals of all persuasions. You won’t find many of our items in the Menagerie. We also offer tonics and anything else your pet may need.”

The animals within here were assuredly exotic, that much was obvious from Snape’s cursory glance around the space. Kneazles with zebra markings mewed and hissed, neon toads that shot out their four tongues at a time jumped animatedly. There were some tarantulas whose venom killed their prey within seconds. These were all black market animals – high in cost and in rarity.

“I see,” Snape said simply. “I’m working on a specialized potion of my own device and need a very specific animal.”

“Alright,” the dwarf said, thankful that the man hadn’t come for a fight. He hobbled off the stool he’d been standing on and drew Snape’s attention to the far wall. “Well, uh, here we go, these are our best Battle Beetles.

He pointed to a tall, skinny tank where dozens of huge black beetles charged at one another like miniature rhinoceroses. They all had crimson red stripes on either side of them. Snape watched as one charged at the other and took its enemy’s head clear off. Orange goo began to seep from its wound.

“Not quite what I was thinking of,” Snape said with a curt shake of his head. No, he needed something just right. “I’m fine to browse. I’ll call you when I have need of you.”

“Of course sir,” the dwarf said respectfully taking himself back to behind the antique cash register. He returned to the Daily Prophet, but kept his eyes peeled on the tall Headmaster who held his hands behind his back and surveyed the shop.

He passed a few cages with raven black bunnies, all with sharp vampire-like teeth. They drained the blood from the human fingers they’d been fed earlier that day and watched Snape with an unblinking crimson gazes.

He gave a look of disgust at them before moving towards the Kneazles. Each of them hissed as he walked by, trying their best to claw at him through their cages. These Kneazles were not like the ones found in the Menagerie. These ones were bred for fighting – for black market bets. The results were zebra coated feral creatures with violet eyes and lengthened claws. They wouldn’t be suitable.

The rest of his journey around the shop was much the same – the animals were not what he was looking for. He was disappointed to say the least and had just about given up hope when his shin bumped against a small box placed innocuously at the corner of the room. He leaned down and picked it up, peering inside the darkened box.

Its inhabitant stared back at Snape, silent and watchful from the corner of its space and obviously none too thrilled that it had been jostled so mightily. Its little nose went wild, trying to pick up Snape’s scent. Snape raised a brow in question, leaning his face forward a bit more. The creature inside did the same, coming a few tentative steps towards Snape and fixed it again with a curious look. 

“You’ll do.”

He straightened and got the shopkeepers attention, the short man came hurriedly over, looking at Snape expectantly.

“This one,” Snape said simply, handing him the box. He was surprised when the dwarf gave a confused look in Snape’s direction.

“This is the runt of the litter,” the dwarf offered. “It won’t get much bigger than that. It’s why it’s been here so long. But they are indeed rare and it’s the same price no matter the size. Fourteen galleons. You quite sure, sir?”

“I am.”

“Alright then.”

The dwarf moved away quickly into the back of the shop to grab a cage to take the creature home in and Snape wondered a moment if he had chosen properly.  He didn’t have time to reflect much because the Dwarf was back and thrusting the cage into his arms. He quickly moved the silent creature from the box into the cage and grunted that Snape should follow him to the front.

He had a feeling that the dwarf in front of him didn’t care much for him. This pleased him immensely. It made him happy to pay full price when all the other shops had given deep discounts.

He returned the knuts back to his change purse and thrust it into his robes. In one hand he held the caged creature and in the other he held the short list he had written that morning, his familiar cramped script looking back at him. He surveyed it a moment before giving a resolute nod.

His next stop was Hogsmeade.

 

Chapter Text

Katherine lay on her stomach by the fire, quickly jotting down some ideas. She was doing her best to write with one of the quills that Blankar had given her. The parchment was thick and heavy and she smudged her words far too often as she wrote.  But still she looked down at her last little bit’s handiwork and smiled.

 

To do when I return home

 

  • Figure Out Bookstore – sell? Keep?
  • Start own practice- unhappy at current.
  • Meet with IFA to figure finances. Can I afford to keep b.store? Can I afford to open practice?
  • Memorial for mom and dad –scholarship?
  • Make more time for making friends – less work more life.
  • Move out of horrid flat.
  • Adventure more.
  • Invite Severus over for supper?

 

She paused at the last note, trailing the feather of the quill along her cheek. What would Severus say to that? Would he want to come over for supper? Maybe not for an entire weekend or anything, but perhaps she could cook him dinner when all this was over?

But when would it be over? Katherine furrowed her brow. He often said that the end of the war would be “soon.” Would Severus survive? Their last talk had been so awful. He had told her point blank that he wouldn’t survive. And even if he did what was the point?

“Maybe I can explain,” Katherine murmured to herself. “I can explain that I want him to survive. That I care for him. Even if I he doesn’t care for me back. I need to tell him. Maybe if he knows…”

Her mind traveled to a world then, a world where Severus was her boyfriend. It was a quaint idea, naïve in its simplicity. Spending holidays with him, discussing potions and magic with him. They could bond over books they loved.

She was still there, lying by the fire and musing when heard Snape re-enter the room. She could only assume he had Apparated home and she glanced up to give him a warm smile as he looked down at her.

He was holding several packages and gave her a polite nod as he strode past her to place them on the table. He seemed uncomfortable with her then as if he was unsure of how to proceed in his own home. She drew up on her knees, glancing over her shoulder at his tall form. 

“Is it cold out” Katherine asked, her eyes taking in his pinked cheeks.

“A little.”

It was then that she realized he was carrying a bouquet of daisies under his arm and Katherine felt her heart thrumming. He’d gotten her flowers? She felt her entire body jolt with excitement. Perhaps her feelings weren’t one sided after all?

She didn’t know why but she suddenly felt as if she should have been doing more than just sitting making notes. Maybe making an effort to look nice? She hurriedly shoved her notes in the closest book to her, fearing that Snape may see his name and investigate.

“Would you like some tea?”

“Not at the moment,” Snape said distractedly. Katherine could see a large assortment of items being brought out of their bags and she stood, walking slowly over to the table. Snape watched her approach, looking at her through his curtain of hair

Katherine watched as he took out a thin, rectangular box of green and pink. Accompanying that were several smaller packages, all with the same insignia. She peered closer, trying to decipher what it said.

“What’s…Honeydukes?”

“A sweets shop.” He hid his smirk as Katherine’s eyes popped open in excitement. She leaned closer as if she could see the sweets through the box via x-ray. Or perhaps eat them via osmosis. Regardless the sight was amusing. He'd never met someone who wore their emotions so clearly in their expressions.

“Sweets?” Katherine could feel her stomach jump in anticipation. She loved sweets so much that she could feel herself salivating. She sat at the table across from him, giving him her most imploring of looks.

“Oh yes,” Snape said with a knowing tone. “It’s been a long week and I thought I’d treat myself.”

“Oh,” Katherine visibly deflated. “Of course.”

Snape wanted to laugh aloud at her disappointed expression. He had been on edge, so stressed for the last few months. And while the threat of Voldemort was still ever-present he had numbed himself. Numbed himself to amusement and joy. And having Katherine here was bringing it back to the fore. He enjoyed teasing her.

He delicately began to unwrap the first small package, shuffling it open as Katherine watched without speaking. He brought out a small piece of chocolate and bit into it, savoring the taste a moment. It had been a very, very long time since he’d bought something from Honeydukes.

“What’s that?”

“Delicious,” he said softly. Katherine swallowed, watching as he took another one of the small pieces and popped it into his mouth and chewed. He stared at her the entire time he did so, watching as she thinned her lips. He could see she was visibly distressed at not being involved and he held in a chuckle. When several minutes and several pieces of chocolate had been consumed, he finally took pity on her .

“Here,” he finally said, reaching into the bag and bringing out another piece. He held it in between his fingers and Katherine snatched it eagerly from him, giving him her best smile. She looked at it from all angles, thinking it looked rather innocuous. But then again, she’d also thought that about the book. 

“Oh thank you!” she trilled, delightedly. “What is it?”

“It’s a chocoball,” Snape said, watching as she bit delicately into it. Her eyes widened in delight as the sweet explosion danced along her tongue. She savored her first bite,

“Its strawberry and cream inside,” Katherine exclaimed as if he didn’t already know. “It’s the most wonderful thing I’ve ever tasted.”

Snape watched this fascinated, amazed at how the simplest things in his life were so amazing and otherworldly for the woman in front of him. She had her eyes closed and was began licking her bottom lips for every last vestige of the treat. Her eyes finally cracked open and she fixed him with a beaming smile.

“Thank you so much.”

Snape realized he was staring at her with a strange little smile on his face and he abruptly straightened, standing tall and trying to look casual.

“I need to run some things down to the lab,” Snape said. “But I did retrieve something for you from town.”

With that he moved to the far side of the table and brought something out from behind the other parcels. Katherine hadn’t even noticed it buried there. It looked like a small, shabby looking cage and Katherine leaned forward in confusion. She peered into it, seeing only darkness and hearing only silence.

“I don’t understand,” Katherine said. She glanced back up at Snape who was standing beside her. He frowned, before bringing a chair beside her. Their shoulders were almost touching and Katherine felt her heart hammer.

He leaned a long hand forward, deftly opening the cage. Still there was nothing. He gave the top of the cage a small tap and made a gentle coo in the back of his throat. Katherine watched transfixed as a sniffing nose came out of the small cage first.

“Oh my God.”

Katherine remained still, knowing from experience that quick movements startled any animals that she came across. Instead she fought the urge to grip Snape’s shoulder in excitement and instead slowly folded her hands in her lap.

Within minutes the small creature came out tentatively. It was no bigger than a kitten and leaning on its long front legs like a tiny capuchin monkey. Katherine could see that it had seven fingers on each hand and four toes on each foot. It had coarse black fur on its back, soft grey fur everywhere else.

“Holy shit,” Katherine breathed lowly, staring at the creature as it came towards her slowly. She couldn’t take her eyes off of it. In all her years working with animals, large and small, she had never ever come upon something like it.  It sat quite rigidly on the table staring up at her. It did so with large eyes that glimmered a brilliant emerald, framed with long silver eyelashes. It's tiny black nose was sniffing the air madly and it stood shakily on is hind legs trying to get closer to Katherine.   

As it stood she noticed it had a small stub of a tail and ears that stood straight up like a fox's. She had never seen anything like it - the closest animals she could compare it to would be would be a tiny infant sloth crossed with a fox and a hedgehog. It held its hands in front of it like a squirrel.  

She longed to touch it, but she’d learned long ago that she shouldn’t dive headlong into such a thing. The small scar on her foot was a reminder that she should never just trust something in the magical world before she knew more about it. Instead she looked over to Snape who was watching the creature with passive interest.  

“Can I touch it?” 

“Of course,” Snape replied with a nod. “It doesn’t bite.” 

Katherine held out a hand tentatively, waiting until the creature got comfortable. The small creature took a four-legged step towards her, pressing its nose against her thumb. It made a small purring noise and Katherine contained an excited squeal that bubbled in her chest.  She placed her hand palm up on the table, smiling widely as it slowly clamored onto her hand. It stared up at Katherine, as if studying her. She felt its smooth underbelly and the rough spikes of its fur. It was warm and its heartbeat was rapid.

 "What on Earth is it?" Katherine asked, her eyes running over the animal excitedly.  She brought her left forfinger up to the creature’s back, slowly stroking it. It’s large eyes shuttered happily, the purring growing louder. 

"It's a Blibbering Humdinger,” Snape replied. “A male. Runt of the litter." 

Snape watched the brunette survey the small animal he’d purchased. Surely Katherine would have wanted something exotic like an infant Thestral or a fire-breathing dragon. Neither of which was conducive to his lifestyle or his patience. Either way, the woman was obviously starved for companionship and he had the means of doing something about it.

“You got this for me?” Katherine said in awe, looking at the small creature in her hands as if she couldn’t believe it. “You went out and got me a pet?”

“You expressed concerns over being lonely,” Snape said casually as if the action meant nothing. “I assumed an animal would help soothe your anxieties.”

He continued to unpack more items from his parcels, his focus away from her as she stared. Yes, she definitely felt something for him. And a part of her had always assumed that he didn’t care for her that way. Especially after rebuffing her from the kiss.  But this squirming creature in her hands? This spoke volumes.

“You’re nothing like I thought,” Katherine said, her eyes searching his face as if seeing him for the first time. Snape felt his ears pinking under the attention and he quickly busied himself with drawing more things from the packages.

 "They eat gillyweed, strawberry seeds and doxy eggs," Snape said officiously as he placed the items on the table. "They also seem to favor daisy stems." 

With that the flowers that Katherine had assumed were for her had their tops lopped off with a wave of his wand. Katherine pinked at the realization that the flowers weren't for her and watched as Snape placed their stems in a small dish along with some strawberry seeds.  She watched his fluid movements with a look of awe at the tall man.  

The little creature started grunting in her hands, its little nose twitching at the scent of the freshly cut daisy stems. She gingerly placed him on the table, watching as it hurriedly rushed over to the dish and began eating.  Katherine placed her chin on her hands folded on the table, watching as her new friend ate hurriedly. She saw its bright green eyes close in rapture as it bit into its third daisy stem and she giggled.

 "I think I'll call him Harry." 

"You must certainly will not!" Snape said fiercely. He was in the midst of putting the remaining parcels away.

 "Why not?" Katherine insisted. "He reminds me of Harry."

 She looked down at the little creature making small purring noises in the back of its throat as it began to slurp up some strawberry seeds.  "Name it after Potter and you'll find yourself without a pet," Snape said in a warning tone.  

“Alright alright,” Katherine conceded with a small laugh. “What should I name him?” 

Snape was about to reply when he suddenly winced, gripping his forearm tightly. He was being summoned.  He felt familiar despair wash over him and he gritted his teeth.

 “He’s calling you,” Katherine said quickly, noticing the familiar gesture. She placed the small creature back into his cage and watched as Snape accio-d the mask and robes he’d need. He sighed heavily.  

“Please be safe,” she whispered as he turned from her.  She was plagued with such anxiety. Being in this strange little cocoon with Snape these past few days had lulled her into a false sense of security. She felt with Snape that nothing could hurt them, that they were safe. But that wasn't true was it? Voldemort would kill a child - what would stop him from killing a Death Eater?

Snape pulled on the robe and sighed. He knew all too well that Voldemort could turn any time. The only difference was that now Snape cared if he survived. He wanted to survive. If only to come back to the charming smile of Katherine and her infectious laugh.  He turned, giving her a securing look.

 “I will be.” 

Chapter Text

Katherine paced the small area of Snape’s chambers with her new pet on her shoulder. It was seated quite comfortably in the crook of her neck, purring gently to itself and wrapping its hands in her dark hair at the nape of her neck.   

It had been hours since Snape left. Hours since he’d given her this little pet on her shoulder. Hours since he’d brought her chocolate and talked with her without malice. Hours since he’d shown that strange, sweet part of him he kept hidden.   

And now without him, the room felt cold and frightening. She didn’t feel safe without him here. Her mind quickly went to dark places, places where Snape didn’t survive and she died at the end of Voldemort’s wand.   

“I need a distraction,” Katherine insisted, speaking more to herself than the little creature on her shoulder. Blankar ?”  

With a small soap bubble pop, Blankar appeared before her with wide grin on his face. He took a few steps closer to Katherine, his wide, watery eyes taking in her face with glee.   

“Yes Miss Katherine Shepard ?”  

Blankar do we have any books on Blibbering Humdingers?” Katherine asked with a hopeful look on her face. She raised a bit of her hair to show off her new pet. “Snape brought him back for me and I’m afraid I know nothing about them.”  

Blankar knows just the book!”   

Before he could leave Katherine had stretched her hand out, giving him a frantic wave.   

Blankar , this book isn’t…” Katherine trailed off, unsure of how to broach this. “It won’t bite me, will it?”  

“Oh no,” Blankar insisted with a dramatic shake of his head. “Master Snape was very angry. Blankar is not allowed to give Miss Katherine dangerous books.”   

Katherine gave a small sigh of relief. “Thank you, Blankar .”   

Blankar appeared a few moments later with a crimson book, handing it to Katherine and leaving again with a pop. She had been disappointed at that – she had rather hoped Blankar would stay for a cuppa . But then again, who knew what work he had to do within the castle.  

Instead she prepared her own cup of tea before bringing it and the book over the small kitchen table.   

Fantastic beasts and where to find them ,” Katherine read to herself.  She gave a small “hmm” and quickly opened the book. A bit of dust flew up, causing her to sneeze and wake up the slumbering humdinger against her neck.   

She cracked the book open, taking a sip of tea and scanning the inside foreword . Written by someone called Newt Scamander.   But that wasn’t what caught her attention – it was the spiky written words on the inside front page.   

Property of the Half Blood Prince ,” Katherine read , her fingertip tracing along the spidery scrawl. At this the little creature on her shoulder seemed to come alive, chitterling away in her ear. The sound caused Katherine to wince but smile as it tickled.    

“You like that do you?” Katherine said to the creature. “Shall we call you, Prince then?”  

The little creature – now known as Prince - was crawling down her arm now. He hopped from her hand onto the table and started sniffing the edges of the book with gusto. Then he moved from the book and followed a scent over to where Snape had placed some doxy eggs at the far side of the table.   

“Ah, I see,” Katherine said with a large smile. “You just want more to eat. Ah well, Prince is as good a name as any.”  

She laughed to herself, before opening the page to the index until she found Blibbering Humdingers. These were nothing like her veterinary books back home. Those had diagrams and specific outlines on surgeries, common maladies and more. This was more cursory, as if she had taken out any kind of “how to raise a cat” book from the library.   

Blibbering Humdingers,” Katherine read aloud as Prince nibbled away on some shiny black doxy eggs.  She noticed as he ate, he began to hum a strange tune somewhere in the back of his throat. The tune was melancholy and sorrowful. She listened transfixed and suddenly heavy hearted.   

“Now I know why they call you Humdingers,” she said, brushing a tear from her eyes before going back to the book.  There was a photo of a full grown Humdinger, which looked much like Prince except it was a bit more the size of a small cat. Prince was barely the size of a hedgehog.  She continued on reading, summarizing what she found.   

If you are looking for a fun and unusual pet to raise and nurture, consider getting a Blibbering Humdinger (if they are legal in your country of residence). Although a lot of wizards wouldn't even consider Blibbering Humdingers as a viable option for a pet, given their rarity and size, raising these intriguing little creatures can be both fun and a rewarding experience. The rise in popularity of pet Humdingers has also led to the breeding of new hybrids such as the Plaintato and Vubring varieties.  

Although relatively easy to raise and take care of, like most animals, Blibbering Humdingers need to be cared for properly in order to remain healthy and happy and useful to any wizard or witch . There are several considerations to keep in mind when deciding if this is the right choice of pet for you. Before you take on a pet such as a Humdinger it is important to keep the following information in mind.   

  • Healthy Humdingers can live up to 100 years. 
  • The gestation period for Humdingers ranges from 13 to 19 days, depending on the species. The larger species will have litters of 2 or 5 babies, while the smaller species will have 1 or 2 little ones. 
  • As with most small mammals kept as pets, Humdingers live longer in captivity, mainly due to a better diet and a lack of natural predators. 
  • As with a lot of small mammals, Humdingers are blind at birth. 

Humdingers are enjoyed as a source of food in several cultures. The Ancient Magical Egyptians ate Humdingers, and there are some recipes found from later in the Middle Ages that call for Humdinger meat. The Bedouins in the Middle East consider Humdingers meat medicinal and good for treating arthritis due to the magical properties found in their back toes.  

However, d ue to their almost extinct nature, eating a Humdinger is considered a punishable offense resulting in up to five years in Azkaban.   

Unlike most small animals, Humdingers are not nocturnal. In fact their sleeping patterns mimic that of their owners, or if in the wild, the sunrise and sunset. They sleep for twelve hours a day in a nest or small pillow. They are sometimes active and require proper housing with extra space to roam around in.   

Humdingers eat twice a day. Keeping their food right beside their nest or pillow is recommended. They. As with all magical animals, be wary of overfeeding to the point of obesity.  They e at primarily doxy eggs, strawberry seeds, gillyweed . When fed, they often begin humming and the sound is often described as hypnotic, and haunting.   

Katherine put the book down, watching as her little Prince began to back away from his food. The sound of his humming lessened and he looked up to Katherine with an imploring look and a bit of a yawn. She smiled, tickling him under the chin.   

“We need to make you a bed.”   

***  

Snape opened his eyes and found himself inside Malfoy Manor. It was shockingly empty – he had assumed he’d be surrounded by followers. But instead it seemed to be he alone in the foyer of the mansion.   

His footfalls were loud inside the enormous room and h e slowly ascended the creaking staircase, making his way up to the sitting room he knew Voldemort favored.  Just outside the door he licked his lips and squared his shoulders.   

My mind is blank. I am numb. I am blank. I feel nothing.   

He finally pushed open the door with a small creak. There sat a large chair facing away from him and Snape could just see the shining flesh of Voldemort’s bald head sat inside it.   

SSeveruss,” came the serpentine hiss of Voldemort Sso good of you to come.” 

Snape noted the dark humor in the voice and felt his stomach grow leaden. As he approached he could see Nagini sat before the crackling hearth like some dark version of a pet. She hissed slightly as Snape moved past her, a warning that caused his skin to crawl.   

“My Lord.”  

Voldemort’s eyes moved lazily from the crackling flames up to the tall man’s dark eyes.  He produced the wand from his robes, holding it up in the firelight. The length of it shone, the pits from the elderberry-like markings striking.   

A long time passed in which Snape stood watching, waiting for the man to speak.   

“The Elder wand,” Voldemort finally said, twirling it lazily in his bony gril. “The Death Sstick. The Wand of Desstiny. Sso many names. Ssuch sstrengt, such power in such a ssmall, delicate object.” 

“Indeed.”  

“I wonder, Sseveruss ,” Voldemort said lazily. “How did it feel to kill the wands masster ? How did it feel to watch Albuss Dumbledore die at your hand? Lord Voldemort admits to feeling a bit of jealousy over not getting to complete the task himself.”  

Snape ensured he didn’t falter. Instead he forced a macabre grin on his face. “It felt wonderful, my Lord. I’m only sorry you could not be the one to complete it.”  

Voldemort nodded, closing his eyes a moment in rapture before indicating that Snape should take the seat to his right. Nagini watched this with narrowed eyes, her tongue coming to wriggle a moment as he settled himself into the hard backed chair.    

“To ssee a man such as Dumbledore so sshocked,” Voldemort said with a mirthless laugh. “To know in his final momentss that his beloved Potionss Masster was my ssspy. It musst have been a crushing blow.” 

“Indeed.”   

Voldemort nodded, seeming to revel in the death of his most feared enemy. Snape had given him the memory of that night and he knew for a fact that the creature before him watched it as often as possible within his very own Pensieve.   

Sseverus, you have been my most trussted sservant,” Voldemort suddenly pronounced. “You have never faltered. Never run like so many cowards. You have been with me from the beginning and you have always proven your worth.”  

Snape was hesitant. Voldemort was never this effusive. “Thank you, my Lord.”  

“You have shown great loyalty,” Voldemort continued. “Even when your beloved mudblood died at my handss. You did not waver.” 

Snape fought the overwhelming urge to snap the man’s neck in two as he recalled Lily with such disrespect. But he reminded himself that Voldemort saw everything – down to a clenched jaw or rapid blink. And so he did as he had always done, turned himself numb to what the hideous creature was saying.   

“But lately I hear you have gone weak insside the sschool .”  

Immediately Snape’s blood ran cold. He glanced over to Voldemort , trying to appear casual. “My Lord?”  

“The Carrow twins tell me of favortissm,” Voldemort continued.  “Sstudents who are not ssubjected to the cruciatusss. Why is thisss? Wass I not clear on my expectationss? 

“My Lord,” Snape said respectfully, his eyes noting with building anxiety that Nagini was inching closer to them. “I simply believed that our efforts should be focused on informing the students of the glory of your message. To let them know why this war must be waged.”  

Voldemort said nothing, steepling his fingers and continuing to look into the fire. The flames were reflected in his milky eyes and Snape had to fight not to sound or appear nervous.   

“I didn’t think cursing them was working effectively,” Snape continued slowly, his eyes flickering over to Nagini who was now circling Snape’s left leg. He could feel his heart in his throat at the slipper sensation of her tightened grip. “We want them on your side.”  

“They will come to my sside ,” Voldemort said with a grotesque chuckle. “Or they will die.”  

“Of course, my Lord.”  

With that, Voldemort’s eyes were on the snake winding herself around Snape.  He spoke in parseltongue , his voice scratchy and hissed. Snape had no idea what he was saying but with a subtle sense of relief, Snape felt as Nagini loosened her grip on his leg.   

She came to wind herself around the back of Voldemort’s chair, coming to rest her head a few inches above his bony shoulder. Four pairs of eyes were fixed on Snape now as Voldemort casually turned his wand on his beloved servant.   

“I worry that your Headmasster possition has gone to your head,” Voldemort said with a moue of distaste. “That you ssomehow believe yoursself to be above reproach. That you think you know better than Lord Voldemort, on how to command resspect from the sstudentss.”  

“No my-“  

Ssssssilence .”  

Snape clamped his mouth shut, his heart hammering madly in his chest. He showed no outward signs of anxiety, but inside he felt everything within him churning.  Voldemort surveyed Snape a moment  and Severus knew he was searching his mind. 

Nothingness. I feel nothing. I think nothing.  

His mind showed nothing to Voldemort . No Katherine Shepard , no wandering Hogsmeade in search for a pet.  No hissing at the Carrow twins to stop their torture.  It showed Snape busy, his mind focused on the task of bringing Voldemort to power.   

And yet this was not enough for the power hungry leader who was now standing and pointing his wand at the center of Snape’s chest. No manner of loyalty or brilliance was enough to stop Voldemort from screaming out the word building within him.   

CRUCIO !”    

***  

Katherine looked over the small animal curled up in the small nest she and Blankar had created earlier. It was comprised of feathers and bits of wool and string all made into a cozy looking nest. It was insulated with a warming charm that Blankar had cast. Katherine was watching Prince sleep , curled up like a miniature armadillo. He was purring softly, the sound relaxing and comforting all at once. But Katherine wasn’t completely at ease despite the drowsy calm of the chamber.   

“He’s got to be home soon,” she whispered to the small creature. “He’s just got to be.”  

It was almost dawn. She had been up the entire night with Prince, who around two a.m. had decided he’d had enough and needed to sleep.  She had remained in the kitchen chair, watching her little Prince sleep  

Just as she thought her burning eyes may shut of their own accord, there was a sound like a car backfiring. Katherine felt her entire body turn to jelly the minute Snape reappeared in the room looking more haggard than normal.   

His clothing was dusty, as if he’d been rolling around on the floor. His hair was damp with sweat and matted in places. She could see he was limping painfully, his teeth clenched so tightly she wondered if he would break a tooth. He looked so defeated that she immediately let out a small moan in the back of her throat. 

“What happened?”  

He shook his head minutely, too exhausted to even say anything.  He gave a low sigh, attempting to rem ove the robe from his shoulders but ceasing his movements. It hurt too much to even move in that direction. It hurt to move in any direction, really.   

 The hours spent under the Crucio had seized all his muscles and he wanted nothing more than to sleep the few hours he had afforded to him before new horrors began tomorrow. When he would have to wear the mask of hatred for the students he desperately wanted to keep safe.   

His eyes sleepily followed Katherine’s form as she walked over to him, her dark eyes scanning his face before she moved her hand over his.  She felt warm and calm and he immediately felt his body relaxing, feeling soothed.   

“Let’s go to bed,” she whispered, taking his hand and guiding him to the bed.   

He was so incredibly exhausted, his body still shaky from the close call with Voldemort this evening. Normally he would give an arrogant retort, or a sneer of indifference to her. But instead he allowed the woman to walk him over to the bed, her hand clutching his.  At the sight of the bed, he toed off his boots, preparing to fall into the covers.   

Katherine turned as they stood at the side of the large bed. Without a word she began to unbutton his outer robe. He continued to watch her silently, his dark eyes glittering in his pale face. She didn’t notice – she was so fixated on the buttons. She removed the robe from his shoulders, tossing it onto a nearby chair before moving to his frock coat. That too was removed until he stood in nothing but his trousers and lawn shirt.   

A far away part of him wondered if this entire scenario was meant to be sexual. Surely the undressing, the guiding to the bed, the deep looks she was giving him meant little else? But as she brushed the hair from his eyes and gave a small smile , he couldn’t help acknowledge that she was simply taking care of him. Something that had never happened in all his years on earth.    

She quickly pulled back the blankets and urged him into bed.  He did so without question, his eyes shuttering closed as soon as his heavy head hit the pillow. And yet, he couldn’t shut them completely. She was tucking him in, ensuring he was cozy. He wanted to reach for her, to grip her hand in his but his body was so tired.   

Don’t leave me.  

He didn’t realize he’d spoken the words aloud until she crawled up onto the bed next to him. She watched him give a relieved sigh before he finally succumbed to sleep, his lips parted slightly. His breathing soon became slow and even. Still she watched over him, ensuring that he knew he was safe here with her.  She pressed a tender kiss to his exposed cheek before nestling herself against his body under the covers.   

“I’m not going anywhere.”   

Chapter Text

 Katherine woke the next morning to see that Snape was still asleep beside her. She wondered idly if he had woken and then gone back to sleep, or if he was simply still exhausted from last night. Part of her was also terrified for him to wake up.

What had occurred last night had been so strangely intimate; undressing him, putting him to bed and watching over to ensure he slipped into a comfortable sleep.  As he slept, she'd taken advantage, looking at his unguarded face and memorizing each line and lash.

 She noted the way his mouth slightly parted when he slept yet didn’t snore. Instead his hot breath huffed against her face.  She pressed a fingertip to his mouth, tracing along his lower lip gently to touch the surprising petal softness she found there.

She felt the need to say something. She knew he would never hear her – he was so far gone. His breathing hadn’t even changed when she touched him. In this moment seeing him so vulnerable and less intimidating she felt she could. And so she did in a voice that was barely above a whisper.

“I want you to live,” Katherine whispered to his sleeping form. “I need you to live. Please don’t give up. I need you.”

She found she couldn’t say anything more because her throat had constricted too much. She was biting back tears and she worried she would wake him up with her muffled sobs. So instead she had turned, facing away from him and falling asleep.

Somewhere in the middle of the night his arm had migrated around her, pulling her back to his front.

When she awoke the second time she saw that the bed was open and the washroom door was closed. She felt her heart thumping, wondering what would happen now. Would he mentioned her being in his bed? Would he remember what had occurred last night?

She twitched as something crawled up the side of the bed, coming to burrow under the blankets beside Katherine.

“Prince,” Katherine cooed, rubbing her cheek against the chattering creature. Prince’s large green eyes stared up at Katherine eagerly, hoping for a filling breakfast.

Katherine had been about to leave the bed and feed her little pet when the she heard the washroom door creak open. In a panic she threw the blankets back around her, causing Prince to scurry up to the crook of her neck angrily.

Katherine watched as Snape walked stiffly out of the washroom, wincing slightly as he crossed the threshold. He was dressed in his normal tightly buttoned frock coat and robes. His face was clean shaven and his hair freshly washed.  His freshly polished boots moved slowly against the floor and Katherine could see he was clenching his jaw tightly.

“Morning,” she offered with a croak.

 Snape raised his gaze to her face and gave her a cursory nod before moving more rapidly to his study. Katherine watched as his tall form walked through the door and closed it behind him tightly.

She waited until the door locked behind him before she sighed deeply and looked to the little creature on her shoulder. Prince was staring up at her, clinging tightly to her dark tresses.

“Let’s get you some breakfast, then.”

***

Snape sat in his office later that morning, his heart pounding and his body aching. He had been Crucio-d within an inch of his life last night. He could afford no more errors. He would have to be harsher on the students.

Potter, you useless thing. Find the sword. Come to him. End his life. End it all.

Surely the boy had found it. He had done all within his power to guide him to it. The sickening fear that Potter had not in fact retrieved it made his stomach ache painfully. But something told him the boy had. If the boy were dead, Voldemort would surely

But the Potter boy would die. That much was apparent. He would just need to die at the right moment. Dumbledore had assured him of this fate and despite his displeasure at seeing a mini James Potter heralded as a hero, Snape couldn’t help but feel a wave of pity go through him.

The boy wasn’t even twenty. Hadn’t known true love, or if he had, had never been able to truly enjoy it. The boy would never marry, never become a father. Would never look back on his life with mingled regret and overwhelming joy. And then an insidious voice sounded in the back of his mind.

You’ve not had any of that either.

The realization that he had no more joy in his life than a teenage boy suddenly caused a wave of nausea go through him which he immediately blamed on the Cruciatus. 

He opened the right hand drawer from his desk and removed the small gold-flecked vial there. He tipped it back, exhaling gently as the cool potion took its effect, soothing his muscles instantly.

As he sat there with his eyes closed, it wasn’t long before his thoughts drifted back to his rooms, to the softness from the woman who had cared for him. His recollection was blurry, but he knew she’d tended to him. Down to removing his robes and sleeping alongside him.

He felt his heart filling, almost as if all her affection were topping up some caring deficit he never needed to acknowledge he had. She had been there the entire night and when he’d awoken this morning she was nuzzled against him, warming him.

Even now he longed to go back to his chambers and speak to her. To understand why she cared for him at all. What could he offer her? An acidic personality? A future with a limited shelf life? He frowned, the lines that bracketed his mouth deepening.

Stop. Focus.

With that he went back to the parchment he had been working on. Thoughts of Katherine and her beaming smile were soon pushed from his mind as he worked with thoughts of Potter’s death drawing ever nearer.  

***

The day had gone by in a crawl but at least now Katherine had a friend. A pet that captured her attention and delighted her to no end. With the aid of fresh strawberry seeds she had taught little Prince to sit on command and swing from her finger like a monkey.

Little Prince proved to be quite the mischievous thing as well. When Blankar arrived to bring Katherine her lunch, Prince had jumped from the table and onto Blankar’s head. Blankar had screamed loudly, trying to swipe whatever it was from his head.

It took putting Prince in his nest in another room, a cup of tea and a gentle pat on Blankar’s shoulder to get the poor house elf to calm down. But even then he gave Prince a reproachful look before popping off.

She didn’t really realize that it was well past suppertime until she glanced out the window and saw that the sky was darkened. Considering that summer was fast approaching, she realized it had to be quite late. Not only that, but little Prince was now yawning sweetly and crawling into his nest.

“Goodnight darling,” she cooed, pressing a kiss to Prince’s furry little head.  She herself gave a small yawn, stretching and preparing to pad towards the washroom for a bath.

 The door to Snape’s chambers suddenly groaned open and Katherine whirled to face the tall man as he entered. He looked much improved from this morning, his movements were more fluid and his eyes not as haunted.

“Good evening.”

Katherine nodded in reply, noticing as Snape moved to the far cabinet and removed the firewhiskey bottle within. Without offering her a glass, he poured himself a tumbler and moved to the fireplace. With a flick of his hand, the fire roared to life. Despite the encroaching summer, the dungeons still held a damp coldness that nothing but a fire seemed to chase away.

“Did you have a good day?

Katherine felt stupid as soon as she said it, feeling more like a fifties housewife than a modern woman in the nineties. Besides, why would he have had a good day? He had to pretend to play a Headmaster for a monster.  He had to punish students that he had no desire to do so to. What could have been good about it?

Snape glanced at her with an inscrutable look before lowering himself into the chair before the fire.  Katherine watched, feeling like a strange voyeur as he stared at the fire. He hadn’t even raised the tumbler to his mouth. He was just sitting there immobile, looking beleaguered and defeated and it hurt her. It hurt her to see him look like that.  

She knew she should leave him, but at the same time she didn’t want to be away from him. She knew that in these moments he wanted to shut her out. He wanted to push her away and she was determined to prove he didn’t need to.

Instead she grabbed a glass of water and sat at the chair opposite him before the fire. Snape looked at her through the curtain of his hair, seeing that she was looking at him with a face of pure tender pity.

Pity was in her face. That’s all it could be. She’d seen him vulnerable and she no doubt felt for him like she did for the animals she so masterfully cared for at her veterinary practice. His stomach roiled at that thought and he wished he’d eaten something so that he at least had something he could vomit up.

Katherine surveyed him over her water glass and when he finally raised the tumbler to his mouth and sipped deeply, Katherine thought it was safe to speak again.  She cleared her throat, trying to clear the anxiety from her voice.

“What happened last night?”

She hadn’t been expecting him to answer, so when he did in a deadened voice, she was shocked.

“What happens each night the Dark Lord is displeased,” Snape said, taking another sip and staring into the fire. “Punishment for those in his way.”

He stood abruptly and surprised Katherine when he downed the rest of his drink in one gulp and threw the empty tumbler into the hearth. It shattered angrily, causing Katherine to jump in her chair at the sight and sound.

“And I took it,” he hissed into the jumping flames. “I took it and I will continue to take it until Potter decides to show up and save the day.”

He was disgusted with himself. Disgusted that Katherine had seen him in such a state, disgusted that he had to pretend to bend and scrape and obey the monster known as Tom Riddle. 

With that he turned on his heel, preparing to go do some meaningless patrols. He felt suffocated here with her piteous gaze and the knowledge that she had taken care of him like he were some pathetic infant. He was almost to the door when her heard her stand and her voice called out after him.

“I love you. And you’re not a coward.”

Snape swiveled very slowly around, regarding her for a moment before. He could see the tick of her pulse in her neck, indicating that she was anxious. She had every right to be. She had just declared two very bold statements all at once. His eyes squinted, as if trying to see her intention visibly.

“What did you say?”

“I said that I love you,” Katherine repeated, her confidence of tone belying the tension in her abdomen. “And I said that you’re not a coward.”

He was puzzled at such a comment. He’d never said that he was a coward. In fact he went out of his way to never use that word. To never use the word that Tobias chastised him with when he wouldn’t hit him back. The word that the Marauders taunted him with when he didn’t want to fight the four of them at once.

 “Because a coward wouldn’t save a Muggle from a Death Eater raid,” Katherine continued, moving towards him slowly. “A coward wouldn’t let this Muggle stay with him or protect her.”

She was continuing to advance towards him and he watched her, unmoving, with only his dark eyes narrowed on her form. Her face was tense and her dark eyes were sparkling from under her fringe. She was unwavering in her gaze, her movements slow and purposeful.

“A coward wouldn’t take this same Muggle into his home again,” Katherine continued, “at great peril to himself. A coward wouldn’t open his home and his heart, he wouldn’t buy a pet to make this Muggle feel less lonely.”

She was now inches from him, her head tilted so that she could capture his gaze completely. He still remained stoic, the only thing seeming to move were his dark obsidian eyes, falling over her like a warm shadow.

“However there are things that a coward would do,” she said, raising a brow. Snape remained mute, glancing down his nose at her without moving.  His silent appraisal encouraged her to continue. What did she have to lose at this point? She’d laid it all out on the table.

“A coward would run away from love. A coward would run away from the promise of a future.”

She tilted her head further, the silent gauntlet thrown down. She felt her entire body trembling, completely unsure of what his response would be. Would he sneer at her? Would he run from the room without saying anything? She didn’t know if her heart could take it.

Instead he took a step towards her, his eyes falling to her mouth and then back up to her eyes.  

“Come with me,” Snape said quietly.

He held out his hand to her and she took it without hesitation. She smiled as he drew her into a loving embrace, and nearly cried out as the familiar feeling of Apparation took over them both.

Chapter Text

When the nauseous feeling passed and Katherine could finally raise her head from Snape’s chest, she took a look around at the darkened space. Snape raised a wand in front of them and within seconds the candles in the room were lit. They cast looming shadows on the sparse walls, creating a menacing feel as Katherine’s eyes widened to take in her unfamiliar surroundings.

Where on earth?

He was warm under her fingertips and it took everything in her power not to force her mouth to his. He still hadn’t said anything about what she’d told him and she didn’t want to overwhelm him.

Instead, Katherine took a chance to move back from him slowly, her hand still clutched in his. She was fearful to let him go completely, for fear that he would change his mind. She couldn’t have that, she couldn’t take that.

She glanced around the space, her brows furrowed in lingering confusion. Snape was calm, placid and unmoving. His hand held fast to hers and he followed her gaze, glancing around the cramped space disparagingly. It was the only place he could safely apparate without suspicion. Finally she looked back to Snape’s face with a look of uncertainty.  

“Where exactly are we?” she ventured quietly, afraid to speak louder for fear of being heard. She had no idea where they were – was there a chance they could be in danger if she were too loud? But no, Snape’s eyes held hers calmly. 

“Spinners End,” Snape said, his eyes never leaving her face. “My family home in Cokeworth.”

Katherine visibly jerked at this. Her mind immediately went to their many talks, the ones centered around Snape’s childhood. “We’re in Cokeworth?” 

“Indeed,” he nodded.“When my mother died it was left to me.” 

Katherine felt her mind searching for reasons why he would bring her here, especially after she had laid everything out. She had confessed her feelings and he had brought her…here. To this dusty little home that couldn’t feel less welcoming.  It looked as if it was rarely lived in – the open cupboards were bare and everything seemed to have a careless, forgotten look about it.  

"Much like your grandparents home, it holds few good memories," Snape continued, looking listlessly around the space.  

Katherine did the same, taking in the cramped main room with its bookshelves heaving under the weight of their cargo. Why on Earth would he bring her here? After her confession and throwing herself at him he brought her to look at books? He obviously wasn't here very often because they were all covered with a fine layer of dust.  

She finally broke from him, going to survey the small space. She glanced at the threadbare chair, imagining a young Snape sitting there learning spells. She glanced at the well worn floorboards and thought of the times a young Snape would have run over them in excitement.  

She moved to the bookshelf, her eyes trailing over the titles, surprised to see a healthy mix of Muggle and Magic. She wondered how much Muggle literature Snape actually read. He seemed to have a fair grasp on certain muggle culture. Yet still, as her eyes surveyed the tomes around the room she still couldn’t help but feel compelled to question him further.    

"Why did you bring me here?"

"Because those dungeons felt suffocating," he answered simply, watching her trail her fingers along the spines of his books. He followed her slowly around the shelves, waiting until his mouth was inches from the back of her head before speaking again.

"And because I'd like for this shabby little home to hold some good memories, for once." 

Katherine turned at this, about to question what exactly he meant by that when she felt his knuckle tracing the curve of her cheek. Her eyelids fluttered at the contact, leaning into it, His eyes were fathomless and like an endless pool they drew her in as he spoke, his voice a rough whisper.

"And because I am not a coward." 

At this his mouth covered hers, sealing her gasp of surprise within. His hands were on either side of her jaw, pulling her mouth fully against his. It was a kiss of tender fire, if there were such a thing. A kiss that screamed of a deeper yearning and a needful desire to possess. 

His mouth was moving against her lips, finding them pillowy and pliant under his ministrations. He wanted her close, so close that their bodies were one. He wanted to feel her, to truly feel every single inch of her. These months of being close to her, sleeping next to her and the warmth of her skin were agony and only now he was realizing it.

 His tongue delved into her mouth then, tasting her delicately, rewarded with an deep gasp from Katherine. Her hands were clinging to the front of his frock coat, holding on as if he were a port in a storm. 

Yes, he was that port for her. He was her forever protector and instead of bothering him as it had in the past, the knowledge caused a new surge of arousal to course through him. She was his and he was hers and that was the tale of it.

She loved him. She loved him. And the knowledge of that caused his kisses to deepen. He wanted her to terribly his entire body was trembling with need and the sweet promise of more.  She was his and he wanted her. He could finally admit that when Voldemort was defeated he wanted a life with her. The knowledge was astounding and yet immediate as soon as the words left her mouth.

He wanted a life with this precious, annoying, darling, exhausting, scintillating wonderful Muggle in his arms. He wanted to wake up to her messy hair and crooked smile. He wanted to fight with her, to make up with her. He wanted every experience, the good and the bad because that was what life was.

He wanted to live because living meant another day with Katherine. He had seen what a life without her was and he had no desire to go into that oblivion again.

His mouth moved to his jaw, kissing her gently there and rewarded with a soft coo from Katherine.  Her eyes were shut dreamily and she arched her neck back so that he had better access to press his hot kisses down the pale column of her throat. As he pressed his mouth there, Katherine shuddered in desire for him, suddenly so palpable that she was feeling breathless. 

“Wait.”

Suddenly Katherine bristled and stopped, leaning back and panting as she surveyed him. His face was flushed, two crimson circles beginning on the high of his cheekbones. His hair was in his face, mussed and (to Katherine) completely adorable.  He in turn searched her face, from the dark brown eyes to the reddened lips from where his mouth had attacked hers.

“You can’t change your mind,” Katherine finally said, swallowing thickly. “You can’t say it was a mistake or that you regret it. My heart can’t take it.”

He could see the uncertainty in her eyes as he pulled back and he reassured her with a knuckle trailing against her bottom lip. She leaned into it, her breath hot against the wandering digit. Snape swallowed, his eyes fixated on her plump mouth a moment before speaking.

“Never.”

Before she could say anything more he had gripped her hand in his and dragged her down the crooked corridor to the left. Past the stove in disrepair and forgotten basin until they reached a small, empty room and stood outside its threshold.

“This is my bedroom,” he said, gauging her reaction through his curtain of hair. She looked surprised, awed in fact to see his bedroom.

 A window let in a bit of light, despite the caked on dirt from the window. She could see another tall bookshelf lined with only magical textbooks and a few children’s texts that she didn’t recognize like “The Tales of Beedle the Bard” and “E. Nesbits Fairy Tales”.  There were a few sets of Gobstones tucked in the bottom of the bookshelf. A shabby dresser and writing desk stood grimly at the far corner of the room as if keeping watch over the depressing room.

A small narrow bed was pushed to one corner of the small room and Katherine took a step forward. The bed itself didn’t seem too bad and she could only assume that Snape sometimes still slept there. She sat down casually on it, hearing the creaking springs beneath her.

He liked seeing her within his old room. It was if she brought a bit of cheer and life into the dark room and his heart fairly swelled at the sight. 

“I can imagine you here,” she finally said with a queer little smile as she glanced about the room. She pointed to his writing desk. “I can picture a teenage you writing out your homework. Nothing less than 100 percent for you.”

She glanced over to the bookshelf. “Or reading any number of these books and finding them completely below your intelligence.”

She darted a look at his face at that and was gratified to see he was grinning slightly. The shadow of a dimple was forming and she felt her heart hitch a bit at the sight. He stood, arms crossed casually, his shoulder leaning against the doorframe. It was such a low celing that his head nearly hit the top of it.

“But this bed,” she said, dragging her eyes away from him. “I’m a bit concerned.”

Snape raised a brow in question at this.  

“It’s a bit tiny for two people,” Katherine finished with a shy smile up at him. The intent was there, obvious and he didn’t overlook it. His smile ghosted on his lips and as quickly as she had made the observation he had stepped into the center of the room and thrown his outer robe onto the bed.

He indicated she should get up from the bed and she did so, thankful she wouldn’t have to sit on the lumpy thing too much longer.  

 “Lectulo,” he intoned, waving his wand in the direction of the jacket with a circular twirl. Katherine couldn’t help but admire the deftness in how he held his wand, wielding it with such strange dark masculinity despite the delicate fluidity of motion. 

Katherine watched as the robe began to take shape on the bed, lengthening and widening and bubbling as if it were a black, oversized balloon. In idle curiosity she watched as the thing finally expanded, turning into a lovely large bed with grey sheets and plump looking white pillows.

“Oh my!”

Before she could say anything more, he’d gripped her around the middle and begun to kiss her feverishly again. His mouth sending scorching kisses down her throat as she whimpered into his hair, gripping at his nape for purchase. He shivered at the intimate contact  - no woman ever touched him there. But Katherine was – Katherine wanted to touch him.

She wanted to feel his body – the body everyone told him was too scrawny, the hair that was greasy and his face that he was told was hideous. She kissed every inch of his often hated face and still ached for more.

Feeling emboldened she slowly dragged her hands from their place against his chest until they began at the top button of his coat, unfastening slowly as he kissed her. She did this until it all the buttons were opened and he shrugged it off, leaving him in trousers and his linen shirt.

She made a small frustrated sound in the back of her throat, her hands flying to the neck of his shirt. Aware of what she was after, he quickly tore the crisp white shirt from his body, unconcerned about the buttons that flew everywhere.  

He tensed a moment, knowing that this moment of observation would be a hurdle. Surely she could see the multitude of scars across his chest. And if he turned she could likely see the welts from the prior Crucio. But if any of these physical marks of his prior life disgusted her, she gave no indication. Instead she was bringing his hands to the neck of her blouse and urging him to do away with her buttons as her hands went for his trousers, delighted to see the growing buldge tenting them.  

Feeling emboldened he ripped the blouse from her body, noting with pleasure that she was already wriggling herself out of her skirt and letting it pool at her ankles. Gone was her bra in a flash and then there she stood before him in just her blue cotton panties. He felt a tortured groan catch in the center of his chest at the sight.

I don’t deserve this.

Her hair was loose and about her shoulders, almost reaching down to graze the nipples that were crinkling enticingly under his rapacious gaze.  She was perfect standing there in the moonlight; soft and feminine like some ancient goddess he’d only read about. The way she looked at him caused him to harden further and Katherine’s mouth made a small “o” of delighted surprise to see it.

He kneeled before her slowly, his eyes never leaving her face. With a look of almost reverence, he brought his hands to the waistband of her panties and dragged them down over her full hips, past the thatch of curls between her legs and then finally to the ground. She stepped out of them, her heart thrumming so fast she could barely breathe.

Severus Snape, the man who she hated for so long was literally on his knees before her. Looking up at her with such intensity that she felt overcome completely. This was doubled as his nose nuzzled at her lower abdomen before moving to kiss her at her core. 

Katherine’s body was electric and with the first swipe of his tongue between her legs, her knees buckled and he felt her hands grip his shoulder to steady herself. He held onto the back of her thighs, keeping her from falling as he continued his ministrations. He felt as she melted against him, her body growing boneless as the pleasure built.

“Not fair,” she finally gasped, accusing with a trembling voice: “You’ve still got your trousers and pants on.”

In truth she was certain that she was going to faint and she had no desire to do so while receiving what was proving to be a steadily building orgasm. She needed to touch him, needed to have him.

“As you wish,” Snape said, moving his mouth from her quim and slowly traveling up her abdomen. She gave a quivering groan as his mouth continued its ascension, his hands coming to cup her breasts as he moved.

“I want you so much,” Katherine murmured, her hands reaching for his trousers. He helped her along and within seconds they stood before each other bare as the day they were born, his trousers and pants kicked aside. He knew that he should enjoy the sight – from the patch of dark curls at the apex of her thighs, or the dusky nipples that begged for his mouth.

But he needed her. He needed to be inside her and he needed to see as he gave her the pleasure and love he couldn’t quite voice. But he would show her, with mouth and hands he would assuredly show her how he felt.

 Unable to be gentle, he quickly brought them both up onto the bed, placed her on her back in the center of the bed. He hovered on top of her, bracing himself on his forearms. When he leaned down to kiss her, his blue-black hair fell on either side of her face like a curtain, blocking out the light and tickling her cheeks. It was as if they were in their own private, little world. She smiled in the shadows and lifted her face to meet his. He responded with a renewed sense of purpose, nipping at her bottom lip and rewarded with a shuddering cry of delight.

His mouth quickly sought out her breasts, nipping and plucking at them as she writhed underneath him. He often drew back as she made these noises, desperate to see the pleasure flash across her face like lightning at his touch.

His right hand moved downward, slipping between her wet curls with all the expertise he used when crafting his potions. The same deft fingers that sprinkled powdered asphodel were now dancing along her damp, slit before moving inside, falling in gentle waves along her hardened nub of pleasure.

As if she had been electrocuted, Katherine’s body jerked at the intimacy and the pleasure that rippled through her. His fingers continued their dance, touching and pressing and making her breath come out in frantic huffs.

She couldn’t deny that she’d imagined this. She had thought about those fingers, of that mouth, of that voice for months. She had imagined in all with him as the star and now having his hot mouth around one nipple as he slid between her slickness below was causing her body to thrum.

Her hands were on either side of the bed, gripping the coverlet with fists so tight they appeared parchment white. She was groaning as he continued, his eyes taking in every tremble of her mouth, every furrow of her brows as she cried out for him never to stop.

He could feel it building, the jerking of her hips increasing in tempo and gusto. She was close. She was close and he was going to see her come. The thought of such caused him to swallow a groan of desire. All of a sudden he felt his hand being trapped between her thighs which were now pressed together as she let out a shuddering cry.

Her body arched off the bed as the orgasm swept through her like a current. Snape watched transfixed as the woman’s body jerked, her moans of release loud and needful. She tensed for a moment, her hips grinding against his hand greedily a moment before slowly lowering back onto the bed.

When she had come down a bit, and she felt she could move she cracked open her eyes to see him watching her, his own breathing shallow and rapid. She gave a crooked smile up at him, licking her lips as if she had just run a marathon. Her chest and cheeks were flushed and her nipples were still hard in the chill of the air.

I did that to her, Snape thought smugly.

He would have internally congratulated himself further if she hadn’t gripped his shoulders, her selfish hips coming to meet his. He groaned lowly as he felt her thighs part, the head of his cock already positioned at her entrance. He could feel the damp heat there and he watched as Katherine’s pupils enlarged.

“Please,” she said with a lusty cry. “Don’t make me wait any longer.”

His arms were still around her and he shifted his hips to better align with her own. Before she could encourage him further she could feel him there, penetrating her damp folds with a small grunt in the back of his throat.

It was bliss. There was no other word for it. As he rocked against her body he took a moment to savor what was happening. Katherine lay beneath him, her head back and her body arched against his. This woman desired him and was able to physically express it right back to her. His were squeezed shut and he clenched his teeth. She was so wet and yet so maddeningly tight, her walls gripping him, eager for him.

Needing to taste her once more and bracing himself on his forearms, he dipped his head to kiss her. Her thighs parted further, opening her to him as he slid more fully into her. The movement was slow and languid and created the most delicious friction. Katherine’s eyelids fluttered at the burgeoning sensation of being filled.  

The knowledge that taciturn, cold and magical Professor Snape was now kissing her as he rocked his hips into her caused Katherine’s stomach to tighten further. He may not say the sweet words she longed for, but his actions always overrode that. From the minute she had met him these actions spoke much louder than his voice ever could. 

Simply the way Snape was holding her, as if she were as fragile as blown glass, felt altogether different than any words ever spoken. His obsidian eyes were searching her face as his hips continued their journey towards her. He looked intent and focused and all this attention was squarely upon her. Under his obvious scrutiny she felt shy and tried to hide her face in her hair.

 "Don't," he urged softly. "I want to watch you."

The knowledge that he wanted to watch her face pink and see her mouth tremble in desperate intonations of pleasure thrilled her. She gasped as his fingers came between them and began trace along the most sensitive parts of her quim once more. He did this as he slid in and out of her in an exceptionally slow and delicious dance.

His hands cradled her face then as the movement of his hips increased in speed. She felt her face burning and yet her eyes remained open, looking to Snape’s shuttering eyelids as he rocked against her. As a match set to fire, the familiar escalation of pleasure was beginning to build within her. Her hands were at the small of his back, urging him to go deeper.  

“Don’t stop,” she whispered, her eyes shuttering as he moved within her. “Oh please don’t stop.” 

He had no intention of stopping. He desperately wanted to feel her before he got to the end. He wanted to feel as she shattered around his cock. He wanted to feel everything.

“Come for me,” he groaned into her ear. “Come for me, Katherine.”

So long he had fought to feel nothing, to remain numb and stoic. This kept him alive… OR did it? Did it not simply make him one of the walking dead they studied? A body with no soul. And yet now, this flicker of life that gripped him, whispering his name and begging for more? This was life itself.

He felt her then, convulsing around him and crying his name – “Severus, Severus-“ as she came. The sound of her cries of release triggered something within in and he followed shortly after, marking her insides as his own before collapsing into the curve of her soft, sweet smelling neck.

She had her arms around his waist and they lay like this a few moment, their chests expanding and their bodies cooling as the chilled air prickled them.

“I feel a bit selfish,” Katherine said with a yawn, nuzzling against him in the bed. “I barely even had a chance to touch you.”

“There’s always next time,” he said, secretly delighted.

“Yes. Next time,” Katherine repeated with her eyes still closed. He saw a dreamy smile slip over her features as she said this.

The warmth of the moment was elongated; stretching ad finitum as he casually threw this comment out. Next time meant they would do it again. Next time meant it wasn’t a one time thing. Next time meant he was going to make love to her again. She felt a tingle of delight shoot through her body as she snuggled up even closer in his arms.

Within seconds she was asleep, her body relaxed against the pale man holding her.  He was always amazed at how trusting she was, how she would let down all her defenses as he held her in his arms. As if she knew he would protect her no matter what happened.

It was so strange, looking around his room now. He had always hated this room. Before he had made love to her on this bed, he hated how small and dingy the room was. Hated that the windows were caked with grime and dirt. Hated that no matter how many silencing charms he used on them, the floors always creaked.

But now he saw it all with a different lens as Katherine slept peacefully in his arms. The glass appeared frosted, letting in soft, pale illumination from the moon and highlighting the bare flesh of Katherine’s shoulder. He pressed a kiss to that shoulder now, smiling to himself as she made a small cooing noise in her sleep.

And for the first time in so long, Severus Snape felt true joy.

Chapter Text

 Katherine darted awake with a gasp, her eyes wide as she groped for purchase within the bed.  Snape awoke immediately at the sound, growing still beside her.  She groped around her blindly, her eyes not accustomed completely to the darkness of the room. She felt around the bed, shocking herself when her elbow came across something firm.

“Ouch,” Snape groused, wincing as her elbow came into direct contact with his pelvis. Immediately all the candles in the room flared to life, highlighting that it was still late at night- they hadn’t been sleeping long. 

She was sitting up now, her dark hair in her eyes and her chest rapidly rising and falling. If it weren’t for the terrified look on her face it would have been arousing. But as it was, the woman looked as if she had been running from  Lord Voldemort himself. She pulled the sheets up to her neck, shivering from the cool air.

“Are you alright?” he asked, one of his eyes shut against the glare of the candlelight. He too was now sitting up, his pale chest bared and scarred.

As if hearing him for the first time, Katherine met his gaze and abruptly closed her eyes, squeezing them shut tightly and burying her face in her hands. She began to cry softly, her bare shoulders shaking. Snape watched this in mute shock, his eyes furiously blinking the sleep away from him.

“Katherine,” he murmured, careful not to touch her. “What’s wrong?”

What had he done? Had he forced her into something? His heart hammered- hadn’t he read all the signs? She finally stopped, wiping the tears from her eyes and looking at him with a misty look.

“I thought when I woke up that you’d have changed your mind,” she said in a small voice. “It was so dark I couldn’t see. I was so scared that you were gone. That you’d left me behind.”  

Snape stared at her harshly, confused. She was afraid he would leave her? Was she completely mad?

 “I – I was so worried,” Katherine continued, her throat tightening as she spoke. “Everyone I love is gone. I was- I was so worried you would be too.”

With that she broke off with loud, hacking sobs that seemed to radiate from the bottom of her feet. She looked completely wrecked and Snape felt his heart crack a bit at the sight.  

“I will never leave you,” he promised without thinking. His knuckle came to trace her jaw and she looked to him once more. He took in the beauty of her in that moment, even with her pink nose and red-rimmed eyes. With her hair messy and all over, and her breathing ragged. She was magnificent.

“But I’m a Muggle,” Katherine wailed, finding new tears to shed. “You don’t want to be with a Muggle.”

“Says who?” Snape said, leaning on his left forearm and giving her an inscrutable look. Where had she come up with this nonsense?

“You did!” Katherine said emphatically, suddenly adopting his baritone the best she could to deliver the following: “I don’t expect a Muggle to understand.”

Snape winced as he recalled that awful moment and the awful thing he’d said. It was too reminiscent of Lily and he immediately felt his stomach drop.

“I needed to prove to myself that I didn’t care for you,” Snape finally answered, holding his mouth in a twisted grimace. “I needed to prove that I could distance myself from you. I was worried because. . . Well, I was starting to feel something for you.”

“You were?” Katherine breathed. Despite his love declarations only hours before she had been suddenly assaulted with the thought that he would regret their tryst.

“Indeed.” Snape nodded. “And then when you were gone, I was devastated. I thought you were dead and gone forever. And my heart broke.”

Snape broke off, his eyes wetting. He didn’t want to say anymore. It felt uncomfortably intimate that he’d shared this much with her already. He felt unguarded and vulnerable and the feeling made his stomach twist in displeasure. Katherine noted this and mercifully moved onto the next quandary she was facing.

“But don’t you want to be with a witch?” Katherine said, suddenly feeling as if she were more naked – if that were possible. All of a sudden her insecurities were on display and Snape was now looking at her with the most bemused look. “Surely you’ll get tired of me. I can’t do any magic.”

At this Snape’s lip quirked into an uncharacteristic smile that Katherine couldn’t read.  “You have your own kind of magic, Katherine.”

Katherine pinked at this, delighted at the honeyed words and still bracing herself in case they were followed up with something that undercut the sweetness. But when he didn’t say anything more, she turned to him and looked into his eyes, limpid with feeling and tenderness and felt her breath hitch.

“Then…” Katherine paused, giving a mighty sniff before speaking. “You really want me?”

 Before she could say anything more he’d reached for her, bringing her against his hard chest and pressed a kiss to her temple.

“Oh you silly thing,” he rumbled into her hair.  She was still trembling in his arms and he endeavored to kiss all her remaining tears away. They had several hours before dawn – best use the time to their mutual advantage.

***

They returned in the early hours of the next morning, both smiling and damp from the shower. The last few hours had been bliss for them both. How could they not smile? They were two lonely souls who had found something in one another that wasn’t quite nameable.  They had forged a connection in the most unlikely of places.

“Tea?”

Katherine nodded, trying to fight the nauseated feeling from the disapparation. She stumbled to the table, plonking down and watching her wizard as he busied himself in the small kitchen.  She watched him, dressed in only trousers and a lawn shirt and felt her stomach flip pleasantly. She could still feel his kisses on her skin, his body against hers and she shivered delightedly.

He brought back the two teacups and gave her a knowing smile as he looked at her flushed complexion and unfocused gaze. He didn’t need to use Legilimency to see what was racing through her mind, because it was racing through his as well.

“Filthy mind,” he murmured with a curl of his lip. Katherine ducked her head, pinking slightly and went back to her tea without answering. Snape went to his attached office while she drank her tea, still love-drunk and feeling silly.  

In his office he found the forgotten schedule for the day and was disappointed in the fact that he had several hours of meetings this afternoon. He would have to wait to see her until the evening. 

A small box at the corner of his desk caught his eye and he smiled before pocketing it.

When he returned she was nuzzling her face against the pet he’d bought her, cooing at him as he chomped happily on his remaining doxy eggs. When Snape stepped through the door, Katherine immediately turned expectantly, flashing a beaming smile at him. It was such a small gesture, one that wouldn’t have surprised anyone else.

But his heart gave a small hiccup as he recognized the look of someone being happy to see him. Not just happy – delighted and aroused at the sight of him. Had he ever thought that possible without dark magic?

He realized in that moment that he wanted to do everything to keep her happy. She deserved him at his best. She deserved his love for her and the thought of this caused him to become momentarily breathless.

He strode over to her, taking a sip of his tea and looking down at the small creature crawling up Katherine’s arm and resting on her shoulder. Snape gave the creature an appraising gaze, and Prince responded in kind, making a small chitter into Katherine’s ear.

“Did you come up with a name for this creature?”

“I did. I got it from one of your books actually,” Katherine announced, petting him softly. “His name is Prince.”

Snape raised a brow at this, looking at the creature. It did not look like a Prince to him. And yet, Katherine thought it suited him. And he also knew exactly what books she was referring to – his old textbook if he were correct.

“As in the Half-Blood Prince?”

“Yes!” Katherine announced with a gleeful smile. “Did you know him?”

“I did.”

Katherine could see by the firmness of tone that this was a conversation best left to another time. She didn’t want to spoil the lovely time they were having and instead urged Prince to clamor  her arm and snuggle back into his nest.

Snape gave her a look before fishing a familiar pink and green box from his pocket. He opened one edge of the box before dumping several small, pink balls into his hand. Katherine watched all of this in fascination. They were candy or chocolate – that much was evident by the packaging.

“Try this,” Snape said, handing her over a glossy pink ball that fit in her palm.  “It’s called a sherbet ball.”

“Is it like that chocolate you gave me?” Katherine asked curiously. Snape saw her eye the candy hesitantly and he smiled.

“A bit different,” he purred. “You suck on it.”

Katherine gave a shy smile and took it eagerly. The innuendo of what he’d just said wasn’t lost on her.  She slowly popped the candy into her mouth. She knew she surely seemed like a glutton, but she couldn’t help it. Everything here was unique and amazing and she never knew what may come next.

She did as he said, sucking gently on the candy and feeling as warm strawberry and cream flavored her mouth, coating her tongue deliciously. She gave him an appreciative smile, lodging the candy in her cheek as she spoke.

“It’s so delicious.”

Snape nodded, simply watching her from beneath his hooded gaze. She continued to taste the candy, surprised when Snape suddenly appeared to be a bit shorter than she realized. He had always towered over her but now? Now it felt as if she were almost eye-level with him.

“How strange.”

Katherine was about to say something more when she realized that Snape wasn’t growing shorter. She was growing taller. She looked down at her feet and felt her muscles tighten in fear. Her feet, clad in their trainers were several inches off the ground. She was levitating!

Katherine shrieked in surprise, feeling as the candy popped out of her mouth onto the ground and her feet landed back on the stone floor harshly. When she found her voice again it was to exclaim loudly: “What the hell was that?”

Snape was trying to bite back a smile. “It’s a levitating sherbet ball.”

“Oh do you have another one?” Katherine asked worriedly. “I wasted the last one!”

 

***

Hours later Snape sat at his desk in the Headmaster Office, sighing as he worked through some of the purchasing projections for the school. This morning had been hectic – the students seemed to be even more on edge than in previous weeks.

Breakfast had been a solemn affair and Snape had found on more than one occasion that he was daydreaming. A dangerous pastime when you were the head of a school. His eyes glanced over the busy hall, noting the whispers going off like small snakes around the room. He knew they were talking about him. Hating him. He didn’t care – he had someone who loved him. The only someone who mattered.  

But now, in less than a half an hour he had a meeting with the female of the Carrow twins to see any updates she had to be passed along to Voldemort. The female Carrow twin was very respectful of Snape, eager to please and acknowledging of his position among her ranks.

He hated these meetings because it meant that he would have to slip into his alter ego of detached spy. It was a burden at times to act so nonchalant when hearing of the atrocities perpetrated against the students here. Students he had seen grow and mature – students who were now suffering under torture as they learned the Dark Arts.

For a moment he worried –was Katherine too much of a distraction? Should he ferry her away to keep her safe? Immediately his mind whirred on how to get here there. He could take her back to Spinners End – he could have her take some Muggle transport to somewhere safe...

But no, things were dangerous in the Muggle world as well. He’d seen the articles in the Prophet. Voldemort was slowly advancing into the Muggle world as well– his followers intercepting transportation and killing anyone they felt like. It was a pastime for them, staving off their ultimate bloodlust for Harry Potter. Voldemort wanted to keep them keen – and this was to perfect way to do it.

It seemed that Hogwarts was the only place he could keep her safe.

He was still musing on this when Blankar appeared, holding a tray of Snape’s luncheon. Snape shook his head, dismissing the elf at once. He didn’t want to eat – he was anxious about the meeting. Blankar merely nodded before popping away.

 He glanced at the portrait behind him, finding it empty. He found that he longed to speak to Albus at certain times, and this was one of them. He wanted the man’s council – he had no father, and no friends thanks to his current position. And he longed to speak with someone about what was going on in the school.

There came a large puff of ash from his office hearth and Snape’s stomach immediately tightened. He reached for his wand, rising from his chair and staring into the dust cloud that began to settle.

The pale form of Katherine emerged from the hearth, coughing at the ash and flashing him a brilliant smile. She was covered in ash, wearing that same thredbare red cardigan. 

Voices sounded behind him; the vocal opposition's of headmaster's years past  down began raining down on him. 

"Who is that?"

"Is that a muggle?"

"How dare she arrive without an appointment!" 

"Get her out!"

Snape flicked his eyes up the wall of furious portraits. With a raised wand he turned the portraits to the wall, silencing them and turning to Katherine in barely suppressed fury.

“How on earth-“ he began.

“The hearth,” Katherine said, showing him the small bag of floo powder she held. “I remembered from when we came to see Albus. So I just tried it and it worked!”

She moved towards him with her familiar crooked smile. The naked look of terror he responded with however, caused her to physically recoil as if he had physically hit her.

“What are you doing here, Katherine?” he demanded, his body tense and rigid. Didn’t she realize how dangerous this was?

“Blankar said you weren’t eating lunch,” Katherine offered shyly. “I thought perhaps you would have time for a visit.”

Snape had crossed the room and gripped her wrist in his. He dragged her to the chair in front of his desk and settled himself down in his own plush chair. He stared at her harshly for several moments, trying to catch himself from screaming at her.

“Did you know that you could have been sent anywhere?” Snape said through gritted teeth, his heart beating madly.  “Floo powder isn’t always reliable, you know.”

“Oh,” Katherine said, her cheeks stained with embarrassment. “I didn’t know that.”

“What if I had a meeting with someone in my office?” Snape continued, his hands folded on his table tightly. “How would I explain a Muggle walking into my office via the floo network?”

 “Well, I uh, I did think about that,” Katherine looked completely beside herself.  “I asked Blankar if you were alone before I came. And when I asked him about your schedule he said it was your lunch time. I figured it was a safe time to see you.”

With that she rose, wanting nothing more than to rush back down into the dungeons and never return. She had thought he’d be delighted to see her. He watched her rise, his glittering black eyes giving nothing away.

“I’m so sorry,” she sputtered, turning her feet towards the hearth and shooting him an apologetic look over her shoulder. “I never should have come. You’re right – it’s very dangerous.”

“Katherine.”

She stopped at the sound of his silken voice. She turned, surprised to see he was still sitting before his desk. He was appraising her, scanning her face and looking much calmer than he had been minutes prior.

“Come here,” he said softly, moving his chair back a few inches as she approached. She stood in front of him, her eyes drifting down his body and then back to his face.

“This was a silly thing to do,” he said, his voice holding none of its usual malice. “And you put us both in danger.”

“I know and-“

Snape held up a finger to shush her. She clamped her mouth shut, feeling put out. Was he really going to berate her now? Wasn’t she his… well, girlfriend or something? Why was he talking to her like he was her teacher? She frowned, about to say such a thing when he began again.

“However, I too have been aching to see you all morning,” he said softly, and all of Katherine’s irritation seemed to melt away at the sound. “And seeing as you’re already here…”

The mirth shone from his black eyes then and Katherine smiled toothily before launching herself at him. He welcomed her with open arms, pressing his mouth to hers as she clamored onto his lap, straddling him lightly and wrapping her arms around his neck. She pulled his mouth towards her own and slipped her tongue to dance along the seam of his lips. They parted, urging her to taste him.

She groaned into his mouth, her fingers coming to tangle in his dark hair. His hands were on her hip and through the coarse fabric of his trousers she could feel his hardening cock under her bottom.

“Should we take care of that?” Katherine teased, grinding herself down on him. His eyelids shuttered a moment as he held in a groan at the sensation. He shook his head, trying to dislodge the thought of fucking Katherine on his desk right that second.

“I have a meeting in twenty minutes,” he murmured against her ear, gratified to see her shiver in response.  He tried to extricate himself from her, but she didn’t move, instead pressing another full lipped kiss to his mouth.

“Twenty minutes is plenty,” Katherine insisted, her hands coming between them to unbutton his trousers. Before his mind could convince him it was wrong, Katherine’s hand had disappeared down the front of his trousers and brushed the silken head of his cock.

Snape groaned lowly in the back of his throat at the contact, his eyes closing as she placed a scorching kiss to the patch of flesh behind his ear. No one touched him like that – no one kissed him with such tender affection.

Stop. It’s enough.

“We can’t,” he ground out, his traitorous cock already lengthening in her hand. “The meeting-“

“Isn’t for ages,” Katherine finished for him with a groan.  She pulled back and gave him a knowing smile. “We have the time. Especially as I’m not wearing knickers.”

Without thinking, his hands fumbled under her skirt, finding that she was telling the truth. He felt nothing but silken flesh under the pads of his fingers. They instinctively searched for the source of her slick heat and when they slipped into her damp slit Katherine arched and whimpered against him before pulling away.

“I want this to be about you,” Katherine said in a husky voice. Her hands were quickly divesting him of his buttons before searching for the warmth of his bare flesh. But Snape couldn’t stop touching her – she wanted him. He was pulling at her cardigan, slipping it up her body to see that she had forgone a bra as well.

Dear Merlin, I do not deserve this.

She sat astride him, her breasts with their rosy nipples inches from his mouth and her cardigan tucked up under her chin. Without thinking he leaned forward, gripping her back and forcing her chest towards him. She gasped as he enveloped one with his mouth, sucking gently and plucking at the other, for fear it would be left out. He wanted to touch and taste every inch of her. He moved to the other tightened nipple and began to nibble.

Katherine groaned loudly and Snape pulled away for only a moment, so that he could cast a silencing charm on his office.

Katherine’s hands fisted his hair, her head thrown back as he continued his attention on her aching breasts. He held on in his hand, marveling at the heft of it before enveloping her in his mouth once more.

Before she could pull away again his fingers were circling her clit in with a practiced ease. His thumb pressing gently there as his middle and index finger began curling within her core, trying to coax out her orgasm with a languid grace. She felt her hips circling and thrusting into his hand. He was going to make her come again.

And he did. He watched as she crested, her eyes shut tightly as she moaned his name. She couldn’t stop the frenetic way she was grinding herself into his hand, but Snape wouldn’t stop. Couldn’t stop – he wanted to make her come. He kept watching her face as she gasped aloud, holding onto his shoulders as the orgasm finally slid into its final crescendo.

 “Your turn,” Katherine panted as she pulled the cardigan over her head, letting her dark hair fall in sweet smelling waves. His own shirt was unbuttoned to his navel and after a quick tug, his cock broke free of its clothed constraints.

They were still on his chair and it creaked under the combined weight of their bodies. Katherine’s thighs were on either side of him, and already he could catch the arousing scent of her passion-glazed core.

He watched her position it at her entrance and began groaning lowly as she lowered herself onto his lap, and thusly onto his aching cock. She whimpered in delight at the feeling of him stretching her, hitting her walls as she enveloped him.

She looked to his face, seeing as his eyes were completely shut and his mouth parted slightly. His hands were on either side of his chair, knuckles as white as parchment as if he were afraid to let go.  She reached out and took his hands in hers, urging them to circle her waist. They did, gripping tightly to her as she raised herself and then lowered once more onto his velvet hardness.

It wasn’t long before Snape’s hips began to match the rhythm. With every thrust downwards, his hips jerked upwards. He wanted to bury himself so deeply within her. He wanted to make her his, inside and out. She smiled down at him as his pumping hips jostled her, causing her breasts to bounce delightfully in front of him with every thrust. His fingertips were digging into the pale flesh of her hips, urging her to come down with every thrust he placed upwards. Her hands were on his shoulders for leverage,

Her mouth was curved into a delighted smile, and with every thrust he felt her quim milking his cock for more. She was enjoying every second of it. She wanted to make him come. She wanted him. He groaned lowly in the back of his throat as his hips continued their frenetic pounding. Katherine was making delighted noises, coos of pleasure, erotic gasps that went directly to his cock.

Was there anything more beautiful in this world? Snape was hard pressed to think of anything that came as close to perfection as Katherine Shepard, disheveled, flushed and riding his cock wearing only her skirt bunched up at her hips. His pelvis continued its upwards thrust as Katherine leaned forward, urging him silently to fuck her harder and deeper. He acquiesced, delighted when she began moaning lowly and whispering his name and watching his face.

Snape’s face was still pale, but the tops of his cheekbones were pinking and through his slightly parted lips she could see his teeth were clenched tightly. His dark eyelashes fanned over his pale cheeks and she couldn’t resist putting a gentle kiss to the corner of his mouth before pulling back to look at him.

“Severus,” she said in a sweet voice, searching his face. “I want to watch you come.”

He’d never heard such words spoken aloud from Katherine and as her rosy mouth curved into a salacious smile, he found the juxtaposition of her sweet face and filthy words to be exactly the potent aphrodisiac his cock needed to push him over the edge.

He found his hips jerking furiously upward until the white hot pleasure at the base of his spine expanded, overcoming his entire body. 

He came then, his hips stilling for a moment as his cock marked her as his. Katherine watched this with a look akin to reverence. His movements slowed, and his eyes which had been closed tightly suddenly cracked open. 

Witha sluggish movement of his hand, he’d cast a cleaning charm on both of them. There was no need to reek of sex when he had a meeting momentarily.

Katherine was panting slightly, her body flushed. She was pulling her cardigan back down, and delicately hopping down from the chair. She stood between his legs, looking suddenly embarrassed as she tugged on her flats.

“I think your meeting is soon,” she said, unable to meet his steady gaze. “I should go.”

She made a turn to leave when Snape caught her by the wrist and whirled her back into his arms. He was standing, looking down at her with that bottomless gaze of his.

Before another word was spoken he pressed his lips to hers; tender, and soft. She melted against him, her hands coming to rest on his upper arms as he kissed her.

“I’ll see you tonight for dinner,” he said in a rough voice as their lips parted, brushing her fringe from her eyes so that he could look at her properly. He looked as if he wanted to say more to her, but didn’t.

Instead he pressed another kiss to her mouth and urged her towards the floo. He took her back to his chambers and immediately returned to the office, ignoring the shouts from the portraits as he turned them face up once more. 

Hours later ,  he drew his attention back to the parchment on which he wrote hurriedly, his cramped scrawl covering the page. Several books sat in front of him, propped up against the water jug he had. He had been working on this paper during Katherine’s previous time spent with him.  

When he’d thought her dead he had simply put it away in his filing, not wanting to think about it. But having her back here made him feel renewed and creatively inspired. It was a pleasant distraction during his workday. Instead of inwardly sulking as he normally did, he had something to think about. And who knew if it would prove itself useful in the final battle? He was musing about such a thing when a grim voice broke his thoughts. 

“This is a mistake, Severus.” 

Snape tensed as the voice of Albus reached out from behind him. He should have known that Albus would choose an inopportune moment to bother him. 

“Leave me be, Albus.” 

He heard the small huff of indignation through the portrait and he continued to write hurriedly. He wanted to involve himself in his paper. He was tired of Albus’ constant haranguing of him. He just wanted to write in peace.

“You care for the woman too much,” Albus continued, unfazed by the fact that Snape was resolutely ignoring him.“This is why I didn’t tell you she survived.”

Snape continued to write, dipping his quill into the inkpot and returning to his parchment. The scratch of his quill was the only sound heard in the office for several moments. Snape could feel Albus’ furious presence behind him. “After all our work,” Albus said in a quiet voice. “After all our time you’d distract yourself with-“ 

“Choose your next words very carefully,” Snape said without turning. He continued, dipping his quill once more and writing. He was only half listening to the man. He knew better than to engage with a portrait. It was just Dumbledore’s shadow after all – not the real man.  

“Have you not forgotten for whom you are doing this all for, Severus?”

 Snape immediately went rigid, pushing back from his desk and bringing his wand automatically to the portrait’s throat. He was so furious with the painting that he was shaking, his entire body tense from fury as well as aftershock spasms from his the violence of last night.

 “How dare you?” Snape whispered, his voice dark. “How dare you throw that in my face?”

 “Because we don’t have time for this,” Albus continued looking unnaturally grim. “Miss Shepard is a distraction. I never intended for you to discover her. I thought she’d be found after the war.”

 “It was much more convenient when I pledged my soul to a ghost, I assume?” Snape said with a hideous sneer. “Much easier to manipulate me when you knew I didn’t care if I lived or died.” 

“That’s not what I was saying, Severus.” Dumbledore suddenly looked guilty.  

Snape lowered his wand and gave a sneer at the portrait.  He wanted to say something cutting to the portrait, but seeing the grim face of Dumbledore gave him pause. Instead he whirled from the portrait and out the door, slamming it behind him. He needed a walk. There was also a heavy weight that crushed him from the inside out. 

Because even though Albus’s words were cruel, there was truth in them.

Chapter Text

Katherine was sleeping in his bed, warm and snuggled into the covers when she heard him return that evening. She rose her head sleepily over the duvet, catching his tall figure striding into the room with a scowl on his face.

“Hello,” he said tersely.

“Hullo,” she replied with a yawn, sitting up in the bed. “You’re back late.”

“I had patrols,” he said stiffly, crossing the room and shrugging off his teaching robes. For a moment Katherine’s lower belly began to thrum in anticipation at the sight of him disrobing.

But instead of coming towards her with that look of lust in his eyes from this afternoon, he had gone into his small kitchen and poured himself a glass of water. He was resolutely ignoring her as he filled his glass, not even peeking at her out the corner of his eyes.

He drank deeply, his eyes closed and Katherine watched him from underneath her fringe. Something wasn’t right – he wasn’t looking at her, wasn’t giving her a smile.  He seemed cold and cruel just in the way he was standing.

She rubbed her sleepy eyes with the back of her hand and looked at him with apprehension. Animosity was coming off of him in palpable waves. She could tell that something had happened. Something that had turned her tender, afternoon lover into the stiff man staring coldly off into the middle distance.

Feeling vulnerable sitting on the bed, she reached for the bathrobe Blankar had left next to her, pulling it on and slipping onto the cold stone floor. The chill jolted up her feet and legs, causing her to become more alert and on guard.

 This entire time Snape had remained unmoving, still holding the water glass in his hand and twisting it absently in his fingers.  Taking a deep breath she crossed the room and tentatively slipped her arms around his waist.

He pulled from her almost immediately, looking down at the top of her head and patting her shoulder briefly before breaking away and striding towards the fireplace.  She felt bereft as he performed this innocuous action.

“Why did you have to do patrols so late tonight?” she offered in a soft voice. She hated how plaintive she sounded as she asked him.  

“Patrols are always late,” he bit back, obviously ruffled as he started the fire. He leaned against the hearth, unable to meet her questioning gaze.  

“Oh,” Katherine nodded glumly. “I didn’t know Headmasters had to do patrols.”

“They  don’t.”

 Katherine could feel her hackles rising as Snape watched the flames crackle comfortingly within the hearth. His dark eyes reflected each flickering flame, unaware that Katherine remained watching him in stony silence.

“So you chose to do the patrols?”

“I did.”

Katherine felt her body stiffening in response to this slight. “Even though you knew I was here waiting for you?”

Snape turned, twisting his mouth into a ghost of a sneer. “Believe it or not, Katherine, there are other things to focus on other than you.”

Katherine took a step back, shocked at the vitriol in the man’s voice. She immediately felt as if it were her first night here all over again. The same imbalance of power, the same fear of offending him. The same needing to walk on eggshells (not that she ever did). But it was uncomfortable and she didn’t understand why he was doing it.

He glanced over his shoulder to see her before shooting her an impassive look.

Suddenly she felt her temper begin to flare within her belly. Warming her from the inside out and causing her cheeks to turn red with angry splotches.

“Right,” Katherine continued, feeling her temper shorten at the miserable look he was giving her.  “Or could it possibly be that now you’ve shagged me and you’re done with me?”

He turned slowly, fixing her with a look that she couldn’t explain. But it was a look that clearly read guilt mixed with regret. She could see it in the way he held his mouth, and the way his posture had gone ramrod straight. She could see it in the rounded shoulders that seemed to be pulled back.

“I never said that.”

“You didn’t have to,” Katherine responded, forcing herself to hold back the tears welling behind her eyes.  He saw the hurt in her dark brown eyes and he felt something within him snap. He turned, trying to take a step towards her.

 “Don’t you dare,” she bit off, glaring at him with all the hatred she could muster.

As if all final resolve broke within him, he took another step towards her, his black eyes almost beseeching. But then something in him held back and he lowered his hands to his sides, looking the part of the stern schoolmaster.

“If that’s the conclusion you’ve come to, then who am I to deny it?”

Katherine felt as if she had been belted in the stomach. The air went out of her chest immediately, and she lurched towards her bedroom door, flinging it open and slamming it behind her. He could immediately hear the anguished sobs from behind the door and he stopped himself from following her.

Something in the air stilled him. Something that he couldn’t quite name – but there was an energy within his room. An energy that suggested something was going to happen. He couldn’t explain it, but he felt it within his thrumming body.

Blankar.”

Immediately the house elf arrived, glancing at the door where Katherine was sobbing behind. Snape cast a silencing charm, scowling. Blankar drew his big watery eyes up to Snape’s face reverently.

“Yes Master?”

“See that Katherine Shepard is kept safe,” Snape said quickly, unsure of exactly why he needed to say it. “See that she is protected.”

“Yes Master, I is doing what you say,” Blankar said, twisting his tea towel around his hands anxiously. It was if he too could sense that something was afoot.

This premonition was affirmed when a loud banging on Snape’s door sounded. Without thinking he locked Katherine’s room with a firm flick of his wrist and indicated that Blankar should leave. Snape drew to the front door of his chambers and opened it with a whirl, a trademark snarl on his face as Greyback stared back at him.

“He’s here,” he growled hungrily before Snape could snap at him. “Potter is in the castle!”

Snape flew out of the door, running alongside Greyback towards the main level of Hogwarts. He didn’t have time to say goodbye. Didn’t even take a second to glance backwards at Katherine’s door. He knew what came of love – vulnerability and weakness. He had a bigger role to play than that of devoted partner.

She would understand in time.

Chapter Text

 Katherine wiped at her dripping eyes and nose, hating the man and hating herself for loving him all at once. How could she have been so stupid? So naïve?  She threw one of her teacups to the ground, reveling in the way it shattered fantastically, launching pieces thither and hither.

Such hate was forming within her, blind hatred that made her scream in an unholy wail of fury. She wished she had more things to smash, but then thought of the poor house elf who would have to clean it.

She looked at the broken shards and felt any sense of control leave her. He had pushed her to the edge and she was dangling precariously. How could he have said those things? How could she have let herself fall for a man like that?

He was a spy. He was a manipulative prick – that was his job. What made her think she could move past that? What made her think she could love someone who didn’t know what the word meant?

He was obviously still in love with Harry’s mother. That much was evidenced in the way he spoke about her and dreamt about her for Chrissakes! He was obviously carrying a torch for the dead woman and Katherine had deluded herself into thinking she could ever mean half as much to him.

He’d wanted a shag. That was it. She was just some pathetic Muggle that he’d lowered himself to shagging and now what? She was left in her room, crying to herself over some greasy haired pillock.  

No. She wouldn’t cry over him. Severus Snape didn’t deserve her tears! He didn’t deserve her comfort! He didn’t deserve anything! All he deserved was a swift kick to his todger and a slap across his miserable face.

Fuck him.

Fuck Severus Snape.

She wasn’t going to stay here a minute longer. She’d get home herself – she’d just leave this bloody castle. What were the odds she’d run into fucking Voldemort? Maybe Blankar could drop her off at a tube station.

She darkly laughed aloud to herself at that thought as she threw on a warm jumper, a pair of jeans and a pair of thick socks. She slipped into her trainers and was about to pull her dark hair into a ponytail when Blankar suddenly appeared, looking at the disarray and then glancing up at Katherine.

“Katherine Shepard cannot leave,” Blankar said, looking anxiously at Katherine as she hoisted the small daypack onto her shoulder and fixing him with a resolute scowl.

“I am leaving,” Katherine insisted.

“Oh! But Katherine Shepard cannot leave,” Blankar repeated in a high, wheezy voice as he came closer to her. “I is coming to protect you.”

Protect me?” Katherine sniffed, wiping her eyes again before feeling her heart do a strange staccato at the fear in the house elf’s face. “Protect me from what?”

As if on cue, there came a horrible anguished sound from outside the small window of her room – her only shred of natural light. It sounded as if people were screaming.  She drew her eyes from the small window and over to the quivering elf.

“Blankar, what was that?”

Blankar was twisting the tea towel in his hands, swallowing over and over and moaning lowly.

“Master is saying I is to keep you safe. I is to protected you,” he repeated, looking anxious. His voice suddenly turned to a pained whisper: “You know who is here!”

“Voldemort?” Katherine felt as if she had just stepped off a carousel – her head was swimming and she suddenly felt she needed to sit down. She collapsed on the edge of the bed, holding her hand in her heads a moment. Her breathing was coming out in rapid bursts.

She hated Snape. She hated him. So then why was she suddenly so terrified that something was going to happen to him?

Her heart slammed against her rib cage, finally causing her to stand on trembling limbs. 

“We have to help him,” Katherine insisted, looking at Blankar for assistance.  The little elf did nothing, except look at the closed door anxiously. Katherine barely noticed.

“We have to help him!” Katherine insisted loudly, throwing her bag to the floor and rushing to the door. She pulled hard, shocked to find it was locked. When had that happened?  She loudly swore something so horrible that Blankar covered his bat-like ears in shock.

“Unlock this door!” She demanded, turning to Blankar with a hideous mask of fury. “THIS INSTANT!”

“Master says you must stay here!” Blankar insisted. “I is obeying my Master.”

Katherine looked to the small window at the top of her room and quickly calculated if she could get to it and if she could fit through it to get outside. Her estimation showcased that she could do neither.  Her dark eyes swept the room and fell on the only other exit she knew of – the hearth.  

Her only other chance was to use the floo network. She slowly advanced, not wanting Blankar to see her movement. But as if noticing where her eyes had darted, Blankar snapped his fingers. Immediately the wall morphed, twisting until the hearth itself was gone and she was left facing an impossibly blank wall.

“You can do that?” Katherine said in amazement. 

Blankar nodded in response, his eyes on the ceiling of the room. Bits of debris was falling down – there was a lot of commotion going on, not that Katherine could hear it. She could simply feel the vibrations.

Katherine stared at the house elf in shock. She had just assumed Blankar’s talents lay only within bringing items and moving things. She’d had no idea he could actually perform such advanced magic.  

Perhaps Blankar could help? Yes! Surely this little house elf could help – if not releasing Katherine, perhaps he could come to Snape’s aid? Who would suspect a house elf!

But she needed to be crafty – this creature was dedicated to Severus. If she wanted to make a suggestion she needed to do so under the guise of something else. So what could she do? She thought a moment before turning to Blankar with a warm look on her features.

“Blankar, Snape would be so proud of you,” Katherine said in a honeyed voice.

“Blankar is a good elf,” he responded distractedly, still looking up at the ceiling. She wondered if he was like an animal who could hear things that humans could not.

“You would never disobey your Master or Mistress, would you?”

“I is a good elf,” Blankar repeated, now looking at her. “I is doing what my Master commands.”

“I thought as much,” Katherine said, her eyes searching his face. “But did you know that your Master told me that he wanted me to be your Mistress? That means you take orders from both of us, right?”

“You is lying,” Blankar said immediately, crossing his arms and giving her a petulant look. “You is not my Mistress yet.”

Katherine paused, feeling her frustration building to a boil.  Time was running out and she could feel as Snape slipped further away. Was he going to save Harry? Was Harry alright? Was Snape safe? Wasn’t he known as Voldemort’s right-hand-man? What if someone from Harry’s side killed him by accident?

Her stomach churned uncomfortably and she threw herself against the door. She wanted to scream and jump and run all at once. Instead she was stuck here with an annoyingly dedicated house elf and no way of protecting herself or Snape.

A voice suddenly materialized out of nowhere, surrounding them in the room. She and Blankar covered their ears. Katherine grit her teeth at the hideous voice, magically amplified.

“I know that you are preparing to fight. Your efforts are futile. You cannot fight me. I do not want to kill you. I have great respect for the teachers of Hogwarts. I do not want to spill magical blood. Give me Harry Potter, and they shall not be harmed. Give me Harry Potter and I shall leave the school untouched. Give me Harry Potter and you will be rewarded. You have until midnight.”

The realization that she’d just heard Voldemort, the most evil of wizards speak, was lost on her. All that mattered were the two people she cared for that she may never see again.

She threw herself against the locked door, slamming and punching and kicking with all her might. She screamed in a primal tone of anguish and horror as she heard the screams sounding off through the castle.

“NO!” Katherine screamed.  Harry.  Snape. They were all going to die! And she couldn’t do anything to save them!  She had never felt so weak and pathetic in all her life. And yet, what would happen if she managed to make it outside the doors? What could she do to save them? She would just be a distraction, a casualty.

But Snape – she couldn’t let him die. She couldn’t have their last conversation be an argument.  It didn’t matter that he didn’t love her – she couldn’t let that be the last thing he thought of her. What if he didn’t survive?

“Blankar we need to help him! Somehow!”

“Blankar is not allowed to leave,” the elf said anxiously. “Master has commanded Blankar to stay and protect Katherine Shepard.”

Katherine’s heart cracked as she realized what the creature was saying. Snape’s last command to him had been to protect her. How could she have been stupid enough to think he didn’t care for her?

Loud sobs were suddenly shaking her body, causing her voice to come out hoarse and tight.

“He could die, Blankar!” Katherine exclaimed, unsurprised to find fat tears rolling down her red cheeks. “Do you even care?”

“I must obey my Master!” Blankar repeated, his eyes leaking something terrible. But she could see the panic in his large, watery eyes. He looked as if he wanted to dash from the room but something was keeping him firmly in place.  “Master says I is to stay here!”

“Oh fuck off!” Katherine shouted, throwing a pillow from her bed at the elf and kicking the wall in frustration. The elf stayed in place, obviously compelled not to let Katherine out of his sight.

“What can I do?” She asked, talking to herself. “What can I possibly do to save them?”

She slid her back down the unbending door, landing on her bottom with a defeated thud as Blankar stared at her warily, waiting for her to try something else. What could she possibly do?

She was only a Muggle.

***

Snape gasped, his body slick with sweat. Outside the classroom door he could hear McGonagall screaming “COWARD” and the rumbling of footsteps towards him.

He had fought them off for long enough. If he stayed, they would only kill him. Or worse, he could kill them. The Battle was underway – the battlements being shot at by Death Eaters.

The Carrow Twins and Greyback were scouring the school for their next amusement. And he had just fought of McGonagall, Flitwick and Sprout as they shouted curses at him.

He threw himself out the window, soaring through the air in a mist. He needed to find Voldemort. He needed to see what the man’s next step was. Perhaps if he did there was a chance to relay the information to Potter.

He knew where the man was hiding – Voldemort was so extremely good at that. Hiding while everyone else did his bidding for him. Snape floated to the ground, making his way towards the Shrieking Shack.

***

Katherine didn’t know how long it had been since Snape had locked her here. It felt like days, when in reality couldn’t have been more than hours. The screams were fewer and fewer, but the castle was beginning to shake and sway in a way that suggested it had been seized.

“What if they come for me?” Katherine said sharply, looking at the house elf who was trying his best to clean up the broken shards of Katherine’s teacup. “What if Voldemort comes for me?”

“I is protecting you,” he said simply as if it were obvious. This had been his monotonous refrain. I is protecting you. I is protecting you.

She gave a small growl of frustration and closed her eyes tightly. She didn’t want to look at his ugly little face any longer. As she swam into dark oblivion, a sudden thought occurred to her.

Snape had always insisted he’d never live to see the end of the war. Did he plan to sacrifice himself? Did he plan on dying? Or was it just a fear that he would when his double agency was revealed?

Did he still want to die?

“No. He changed his mind,” she insisted, her eyes leaking fresh tears. “He changed his mind. He told me so.”

But had he really? Or had she fooled herself into thinking that he’d changed his mind? Had she really been so blind?

She needed to help him. She couldn’t let him die – he had so much to give the world. He was brilliant and he had such a keen mind for creating. He was loyal and steadfast and thinking of a world without him in it, caused her chest to tighten.

She couldn’t save her mother or her father. She couldn’t bring them back from the ether. But she could potentially save Severus Snape. She didn’t know how, but she was going to do it.

But first she needed to get the fuck out of this room.  

Her eyes roved the room for something to knock Blankar out with. Perhaps with him unconscious she could escape? However nothing was jumping out at her – the teapot would likely slice him and kill him – not her intent. The chair itself would be heard if she moved it,

Suddenly something pale and yellow jumped out at her. Katherine eyed the pieces of china from when she’d broken her cup, hidden by the foot of a chair and overlooked by a distracted House Elf.

Blankar wasn’t facing her, he was busying himself with tiding her bed now. She slowly crawled over the stone floor silently, grasping a nearby piece with trembling hands.

As if sensing that she was up to something, Blankar had turned, fixing her with a nasty stare. Before he could act, she had snatched the jagged piece of porcelain and pressed it to her jugular.

“I’ll kill myself,” Katherine snarled furiously.  “If you don’t release me this instant, I am going to kill myself. Let’s see how much your Master likes you then! I’m not very protected if I’m dead!”

The only sound was the heavy panting of Katherine in the claustrophobic room. She waited for Blankar to concede. She waited for him to admit defeat. Blankar gave her an immense pout of irritation and Katherine internally congratulated herself for getting around the issue of loyalty.

“That’s right,” Katherine continued, her voice softening just a tad. “Let me out of here so we can go and help him. He’ll need your help, Blankar. You’d like to do that, wouldn’t you?”

Instead of speaking, the little elf sighed tiredly and waved a snapping hand in front of her face, muttering something under his breath. Before she could ask him what he was doing, she was out cold. The glass slipped from her fingertips and onto the cold stone floor.  

Blankar sat down across from her and waited for her to wake.

Chapter Text

Katherine opened her eyes and found herself in the middle of a large forest that seemed to trigger a memory. There was so much green around her, from the green grass underfoot to the trees that seemed to block out all sunlight from touching her shoulders and face. This was a memory of a dream – somewhere she had been before so long ago.  She remembered it now and she stood woozily.

Katherine instantly knew she wasn’t awake because the images that flowed before her had a gauzy, other-worldly quality. When she moved her gaze it seemed her body lagged and it took a half a second to work.  But unlike her past foray into this dreamscape, she felt in control of her body. When she raised her palms to look at them, she recognized them as her own.

She knew who would be coming to her shortly from the parting in the woods and she waited anxiously.  Why was she here? What had happened? She couldn’t remember going to sleep. All she could think of was Snape and Harry and how Voldemort had returned.

She knew that she needed to wake up, but she didn’t know how. Growing impatient she began to pace the grass before staring off into the woods and giving a guttural: “LILY!”

As if she had been waiting to be called, her pale figure entered the forest.  She was walking towards Katherine with a large and familiar smile on her face. When she viewed Katherine she took to sprinting, closing the distance between them quickly and throwing herself into Katherine’s waiting arms.

“Katherine!”

The two women embraced, and Katherine felt her heart filling. She remembered Lily and their time together.  Lily pulled back and she too had tears in her light eyes. She looked at Katherine in the same way Katherine’s mother had looked at her. She felt her chin wobbling.

“We haven’t much time,” Lily said with a serious look on her face as she pushed Katherine’s hair from her eyes. “I’m worried-“

“I know,” Katherine interrupted, shaking her head briskly in acknowledgment. “I’m so scared for Harry too. Voldemort is here and he’s-”

“I know. And I also know that Harry will be fine,” Lily insisted, speaking with a tone of warm,  motherly affection.  She gripped Katherine’s shoulders rather urgently, looking into her face with a sudden intensity.  

“It’s Severus.”

“Severus?”

Lily gripped Katherine’s shoulders lightly, pulling the girl towards her and leaning forward. Katherine watched dumbfounded as Lily pressed her forehead to Katherine’s. Katherine’s eyes shuttered closed and suddenly as if she were being pulled inexorably into another world her head began to fill, like an empty canteen.

Memories like wisps of air began to circle behind her eyes. Memories that had been forgotten were suddenly coming to the surface. - all the memories of her time under Dumbledore’s stasis seemed to rush at her.

Snape and the picnic. Skipping stones. Kissing. Laying together in the dying rays of the sun.

She felt as if she were being drawn into a very large pool of water. Her movements languid and her brain fuzzy. Why was Lily showing her this?  Why bother with giving her these memories? If she was in such a rush to save Snape, why was she bothering with this?

“Why are you showing me this?”

“Because you love him,” Lily replied simply.

Katherine said nothing, choosing to look down at the empty space between them before raising her eyes to Lily’s face. She hated that what the woman was saying was true – even after his abysmal behavior she still did love him. Love wasn’t easy to erase. Love stuck to ones insides, relentless and growing.

“It doesn’t matter,” she finally said with a shrug. “He can’t love me back.”

Katherine could only stare at the woman who leaned forward and put her mouth to Katherine’s ear. She whispered something, something that Katherine could not quite believe. Lily pulled back and looked to Katherine expectantly.

“I don’t believe you,” Katherine said slowly as if talking through water. “I’m just a Muggle.”

“You have your own magic,” Lily replied as she took Katherine’s hand in hers.

Katherine could feel something being placed in her hand and she gripped it tightly. Lily gave Katherine one last smile before turning slowly and heading back into the forest, her body moving swiftly and silently until she had all but disappeared.

Katherine looked after Lily’s form a long while, wondering where the woman was going. Soon enough the darkness crept in, and when it did Katherine surrendered willingly to it.

***

It was Lucius who greeted Snape, rushing outside the doors of the shack with a determined look on his face.  The blonde’s still bore the punishment of Voldemort's last disapproval.  One eye was still swollen shut, puffy and leaking at the edges.

“He’s looking for you,” Lucius said quietly, his eyes searching Snape’s face. “Is Draco-“

“I don’t know,” Snape replied honestly. He hadn’t seen Lucius’ son since his departure from Hogwarts out the window. He could see his friend’s face fall in despair. The men said nothing more, choosing instead to move past one another in stony silence.

Snape stepped into the creaking shack, his footfalls quiet as he moved stealthily towards the turned form of Voldemort. He felt his breath catch in his throat a moment as he saw Nagini – her slithering form moving above in a starry sphere for protection, floating unassisted in the air. She gave a muted hiss as she saw Snape approach.

The last horcrux.

There was something terribly wrong here. He shouldn’t be here. There was an air of tension within the room and Snape felt his mind search for a reason to leave. He should return to battle – they still needed him.

Voldemort turned in his chair, giving Snape a serpentine smile. “Severus.”

“My Lord,” Snape gave a low bow of respect before righting himself. Voldemort surveyed Snape’s face a moment, toying with the elder wand in his ghastly pale hand.  “I should really return to the battle-“

“How are we proceeding?” Voldemort asked, ignoring Snape’s murmured request. Snape straightened, giving Voldemort his best calm smile.

“My Lord their resistance is crumbling.”

“And it is doing so without your help,”  Voldemort interrupted in his high, clear voice. “Skilled wizard though you are, Severus, I do not think you will make much difference now. We are almost there. . . almost.”

Snape was suddenly worried that Potter was nearby – worried that he would be taken aback and left vulnerable. Potter needed to be as strong as possible to face off against the monster across from him, seated imperiously at the table.

“Let me find the boy,” Snape said in a voice just above pleading. “Let me bring you Potter. I know I can find him, my Lord. Please.”

When Voldemort didn’t respond, he took it for acquiescence. He strode towards the door that he’d entered, preparing to descend back into the battle, his mind occluding his thoughts.

“I have a problem.”

Voldemort’s voice reached him softly.

Snape's stomach tightened. Katherine. Somehow he'd found out about Katherine. And now he was going to be punished for it.  He stopped his footsteps and turned, glancing at Voldemort in surprise. “My Lord?”

Voldemort was still seated at the table and he raised the wand in Snape’s direction, frowning and giving a sigh. “Why doesn’t it work for me, Severus?”

Relief flooded him at his words. Voldemort didn't care about Katherine at all - he was so fixated on the Elder wand. Snape glanced at the wand and then his dark eyes darted to Nagini as she continued to coil around menacingly within her protective bubble. There was a terrible feeling building within him, and yet he kept his tone neutral.

“I don’t understand,” Snape hedged. “You- you have performed extraordinary magic with that wand.”

“No,” Voldemort said with a musing tone. “I have performed my usual magic. I am extraordinary, but this wand. . . no. It has not revealed the wonders it has promised. I feel no difference between this wand and the one I procured from Ollivander all those years ago. No difference.”

Snape didn’t reply, finding that he was unable to speak. Voldemort was building to something as he always did – with deadly calm. Snape’s eyes were still fixed on Nagini, his dark eyes glittering.

“I have thought long and hard, Severus. . . do you know why I have called you back from battle?”

Snape felt himself falling into a state that was almost panic. Still, he kept himself rigid. If he moved, he feared he would become completely boneless. He needed Voldemort to be distracted. 

“No, my Lord,” he finally said with a swallow. “But I beg you will let me return. Let me find Potter.”

“You sound like Lucius,” Voldemort said with a look of disgust as he threw up a hand in disapproval. “Neither of you understands Potter as I do. He does not need finding. Potter will come to me. I knew his weakness you see, his one great flaw. He will hate watching the others struck down around him, knowing that it is for him that it happens. He will want to stop it at any cost. He will come.”

Think Think think. You need to find Potter.

“But my Lord, he might be killed accidentally by someone other than yourself—”

“My instructions to the Death Eaters have been perfectly clear. Capture Potter. Kill his friends—the more, the better—but do not kill him,” Voldemort said, cutting Snape off brutally. “But it is of you that I wished to speak, Severus, not Harry Potter. You have been very valuable to me. Very valuable.”

Snape needed to escape, he could feel the blood rushing into his ears and he was struggling to remain stoic.

“My Lord knows I seek only to serve him,” he said, giving a differential nod. “But—let me go and find the boy, my Lord. Let me bring him to you. I know I can—”

Voldemort stopped him by slamming a hand onto the table, causing the piece to groan under his hand.

“I have told you, no!” Voldemort spat impatiently and Snape fell silent as he saw the man’s ruby red eyes glint. “My concern at the moment, Severus, is what will happen when I finally meet the boy!”

Snape felt he was permitted to speak again. “My Lord, there can be no question, surely—?”

Voldemort’s hands were busying themselves with the elder wand again, twirling it delicately in his hands as he spoke next. “—but there is a question, Severus. There is.”

Snape fell silent, his hands clenching into tight fists at his side. His back was soaking with sweat under his robes and he prayed his panic wasn’t evident on his pale face. 

“Why did both the wands I have used fail when directed at Harry Potter?” Voldemort hissed.

Because you aren’t its true Master.

“I—I cannot answer that, my Lord.”

“Can’t you?” Voldemort replied with barely suppressed rage. “My wand of yew did everything of which I asked it, Severus, except to kill Harry Potter. Twice it failed. Ollivander told me under torture of the twin cores, told me to take another’s wand. I did so, but Lucius’s wand shattered upon meeting Potter’s.”

Snape’s eyes were still on Nagini, coiling and uncoiling in her sphere. She had her eyes fixed on Snape venomously.  “I—I have no explanation, my Lord.”

But he had an explanation. The Malfoy boy was the one who had disarmed Albus. And he knew what the result would be. If he told the creature seated before him, he would go after Draco as well as Potter.

“I sought a third wand, Severus. the Elder Wand, the Wand of Destiny, the Deathstick. I took it from its previous master. I took it from the grave of Albus Dumbledore.”

Snape dragged his eyes from Nagini to the seated Voldemort. Snape made his face a still mask, his eyes barely moving as he spoke, desperate for an escape. “My Lord—let me go to the boy—”

Voldemort ignored him, instead looking at the wand in his hands with reverence.

“All this long night when I am on the brink of victory, I have sat here,wondering, wondering, why the Elder Wand refuses to be what it ought to be, refuses to perform as legend says it must perform for its rightful owner,” Voldemort said in barely above a whisper,. . . “And I think I have the answer. Perhaps you already know it? You are a clever man, after all, Severus. You have been a good and faithful servant, and I regret what must happen.”

No. No. Katherine. Katherine was back in his rooms. Katherine whom last words exchanged had been in anger.

Then all of a sudden all Snape could think of was her crooked smile and her dark eyes turned into looks of horror as Death Eaters surrounded her, killing her.

 “My Lord—“

“The Elder Wand cannot serve me properly, Severus, because I am not its true master. The Elder Wand belongs to the wizard who killed its last owner. You killed Albus Dumbledore. While you live, Severus, the Elder Wand cannot truly be mine.”

Katherine would die thinking he didn’t care. She would die. She would die because he wouldn’t be there to save her.

 His wand slipped from under his sleeve and into the palm of his hand and raised it between them.

“My Lord!”

“It cannot be any other way,” Voldemort said with a tone of mocking regret. “I must master the wand, Severus. Master the wand, and I master Potter at last.”

With that, he swiped at the air with the said wand. Snape waited for the inevitable feeling of the death curse. He waited to feel his throat being slashed by a Sectum Sempra. But instead there was nothing and Snape felt a palpable sense of relief flood through him. He had been spared.

But then the rolling sphere with Nagini suddenly sailed over to him and he flinched as her teeth bared. Before Snape could say anything more the sphere swallowed his head up to his shoulders, trapping him and the snake within it.

Voldemort hissed “Kill” in Parseltongue, watching the display impassively.

There was an unholy scream and Snape realized belatedly that it was coming from him as Nagini pierced his throat with her fangs. Snape’s eyes widened as he struggled against the sphere, trying his best to burst from it, to throw it off of him and wrench away from serpent. But nothing worked- instead he felt himself growing weak and his legs finally gave way beneath him.

He tumbled to the floor as the cage was lifting from his head and shoulders and Voldemort sailed out of the shack.

Snape could barely move. His black boots trembled as the venom coursed through his veins and blood gushed from the wound in his neck. He was already growing dizzy, his head feeling so so heavy. . .

Katherine.

As her name floated around his mind, he shakily brought his blanched hand upwards with extreme effort. He pressed it tightly against his throat, trying to stop the blood, even as he realized it was fruitless.

No. No. I cannot die. I need to see her. I need to help Potter. I promised Lily.

As if he had heard him, Harry appeared before him. The boy had been under an invisibility cloak. He felt his heart hammer as he saw those familiar green eyes and something in him compelled him to tell the boy as he faced death. To confess his long held secret. He needed them to know, he needed Harry to know.

Snape’s eyes widened as he clutched at Harry’s robes, bringing him close. He tried to speak authoritatively, but instead it came out in a small gurgle.

Take. . . it. . . . Take. . . it. . . . ”

Harry was scanning his face, his green eyes wide as Snape continued to wilt before him. He could see silvery blue seeping from Snape’s ears and nose and mouth, gushing like the blood from his neck. He was expelling every memory he had of Lily to her son.

Hermione conjured a flask and pushed it into Harry’s trembling hand. He gathered the silvery substance into it until it was full. And as it emptied from Snape’s body, the man seemed to go completely bloodless.

Snape could feel his life slipping from him and the pull of death was ebbing at him. He thought of Katherine and he thought of Lily. He thought of the pain he’d caused them both.

In a desperate desire for comfort as he shook this mortal coil, he looked to Harry, the boy he had despised for so long, with the face of James and the eyes of Lily.

“Look…at…me…” he whispered.

Harry acquiesced,  turning his familiar green eyes on Snape and fixing them there. Snaped sighed softly, his throat continuing to spill blood forth. He stared into those eyes and suddenly Harry’s face was gone, replaced with Lily’s. She would guide him into death, surely he had done enough for her son now.

When death came to Severus he had barely time to register it. He simply ceased to exist. His hand left Harry’s robes and thudded to the floor.

And then Severus Snape was no more.

***

Katherine gasped awake, her body jerking into a sitting position. She was still propped up against the door, blinking madly at the house elf that was staring at her intently.

Katherine cleared her throat, feeling as her mind swam back into better focus. Something in her hand weighed heavily within it. She glanced down at her splayed hands, upturned. Inside her right palm lay a small phial, the one from her interlude with Lily in her mind.

How did that happened?

She sat up further, looking at the small phial with a look of confusion. How had it gone from her mind and into her hand? How was it possible? And how would this help anything?

Was she to drink it? Would it help her? She uncorked it, lifting it to her nose. The scent was reminiscent of mineral and earth and caused her nose to wrinkle. It didn’t seem to make sense that she should drink it – what good would it do? As far as her reading had confirmed magical talent wasn’t something she could imbibe.

She returned the stopper to the phial, glancing at it once more before something caught her attention. It was Blankar and he looked as if he were having a full body fit.

He was doubled over, cringing as he held his stomach like it ached. He was making a strange squeaking sound, his limbs trembling. Then suddenly he jerked upright and shook as if he were a dog who had been recently washed. Katherine watched in silence as something silvery seemed to lift from him – almost as if his soul were leaving his body.

This left the house elf panting, looking at Katherine with eyes that were suddenly overflowing with fat tears. She looked to him with a gripping feeling of pity for the creature, despite his abysmal treatment of her.

She scrambled to a standing position, pocketing the phial in her jeans pocket and stared down at Blankar.

“Blankar, what’s wrong?”

He stared up at her, sobs now taking over his tiny body. She watched as he doubled over, the tears streaming down his pointed nose.

She kneeled, patting him gently on the back until his sobbing had ceased, trying her best to console him. When he was left whimpering and sniffling he finally was able to catch his breath and speak.  

“M-master,” he croaked, his mouth trembling. “Master is… gone.”

At his words Katherine felt her breath leaving her and her chest tightened.  Her dark eyes widened as she looked down at the trembling creature.

“What do you mean, gone?”

But she knew. She knew it in the way the elf was trying not to cry openly. In the way he held himself in a manner of self soothing. She knew it in the way the creature was shaking his head sorrowfully. Yet when he spoke the words aloud, she still felt as if she’d been punched.

“Master is dead.”

Chapter Text

Katherine was on her knees in the center of her room, her hands coming to cover her face as she cried. She couldn’t help the torrent that was pouring out of her. Blankar was beside her, doing the same and wailing loudly.

Stop.

Stop it now.

 You have no time.

There’s still a chance you can save him.

Remember what Lily said.

As if guided by these firm inner voices that sounded remarkably like her mother and father, Katherine stood immediately and her sobs diminished. She looked down at the still wailing house elf, trying her best not to continue to cry.   

“We need to go to him,” she said sniffling at Blankar.

Blankar continued to wail a moment before his cries too lessened. He looked up at Katherine with his large, bulbous eyes now rimmed with dark green.  He looked as if he couldn’t believe what she’d just said.

“Blankar is keeping you safe,” he said in a small voice that nearly made Katherine start crying again. But she shook her head, trying to keep herself calm. She needed to take the lead here.

“Yes,” Katherine said softly. “And you’ve done such a wonderful job. But now we need to go to Snape. If what you say is true, then time is indeed run out. But perhaps we can still do something. Maybe we can still save him.”

Blankar’s eyes flashed a look of hope before it dimmed all at once.

“I is protecting Katherine Shepard,” Blankar said with a wobbling chin. “Master says I is to keep Katherine Shepard safe. Safe is inside this room.”

Katherine took a deep breath, willing all the patience in the world before she spoke next. She knew what the creature was doing – fulfilling the final order from his Master. But his loyalty was coming at too high a cost. 

“Your Master is dead,” Katherine said with voice that threatened to crack. “So you’re no longer obliged to obey him. And I need you to take me to him, Blankar.”

“I-” Blankar seemed flummoxed at this.  Everything in him was telling him that this wasn’t right. She wasn’t his Mistress. He didn’t need to take orders from her.

“I’m not commanding you,” Katherine said through her wet eyes, realizing what was holding him back. “I’m asking you as a friend, Blankar. Please, take me to him. I need to see him. Please.”

He still looked unsure, twisting his small tea towel around in his hands. “I is…”

Please, Blankar.”

Blankar looked at her a long moment before coming to stand at her feet. He looked up and held out a small, wrinkled hand towards her. Without hesitation Katherine took it, feeling her stomach churn as they immediately disapparated.

***


When he opened his eyes, Snape was surprised to find himself in the middle of a park. A park in shades of grey and white.  The only thing of color was a woman with dark red hair on the swingset. She was moving languidly, her long legs pumping back and then kicking out as she sailed through the air. When he recognized her face, he felt his mouth go dry.

“Lily.”

He said the name with surprise and reverence as he looked to his oldest and most cherished friend.

Lily sat on the swings, looking as cheerful and alive as she had when she was twenty. Her feet touched the ground and she pushed herself slightly, swinging gently. Her dark red hair flew out behind her then swam over her shoulders as she sailed back. She glanced over at him as she moved.

“Hullo Sev.”

She smiled warmly at him as he approached. He felt awkward and out of place. Should he stand there? That seemed stand-offish. He didn’t seem to know what to do and so he eventually decided to simply take the swing next to her, glancing at her through his dark curtain of hair.

“Where are we?”

“Don’t you recognize it?” Lily asked with a little laugh as she continued to swing. “This is the park where we first met.”

He glanced around the park in its muted white and shades of grey and indeed recognized the area. The trees and the bushes. It was like a washed out version of where they met.

“You mean where I got caught spying on you,” he muttered.

“You always were quite the spy,” Lily replied with a careless laugh.  “I suppose some things never change.”

She continued to swing effortlessly, and Snape watched as her red hair flew out like a ribbon behind her.

There was something strange about this moment - something like a dream… And yet, different than his dreams in the past. He felt more in control of his body, more aware. A realization soon took him over, leaving him breathless as he took in the scene and then glanced over at Lily.

“Am I dead?” Snape swallowed thickly.

“’Fraid so,” she offered with a glum look, stopping her swinging and looking to him. Her hands were tight around the chains on either side of her. “Not for long. But yes.”

***

Katherine blinked and suddenly they were there – in some strange high building that creaked. The windows were all boarded up and the floor was covered in dust. She hadn’t more time to scan the space because there was Snape, sprawled on the ground and immobile.

His hair was an inky blanket beneath him, his face drawn and frozen in a grimace. His hands were on either side of him, palms up. The tension in his face was gone, and his mouth parted ever so slightly. The sight of this strong wizard so defeated caused a slash to go through Katherine’s chest.

“No,” she moaned as she drew beside him. As she drew closer she could see the torrents of blood, still damp on his chest and neck and puddle under him on the floor. She felt her resolve breaking as she fell to her knees beside him.

“No,” she uttered deadened. “You can’t be dead. You can’t. You can’t.

She scanned his body, seeing that the wound had begun at his neck. Without thinking, she ripped the bottom of her cardigan completely off. She began to wipe at his neck, peering closely. There were two deep, wide puncture marks near his jugular. Classic symptom of a snake bite.

Always treat a snake bite as venomous.

Her first year’s course, Comparative Vertebrate Biology had said this as they came upon the section of snakes and venoms.  As a girl who had always erred on the side of caution, Katherine had taken this to heart.

She ripped more off of her cardigan, wrapping it around her palm and pressing it tightly to his throat. The venom was causing the blood to continue to seep from his neck, even in death. Blankar moved forward, trying to be helpful and lift Snape’s head but Katherine shooed him away with her free hand. 

“No, don’t move him!” Katherine insisted to Blankar, her veterinary instincts flooding back. “That makes the venom travel faster.”

She knew it was a stupid thing to say over a dead man. The venom could travel all over if it wanted and nothing would change. But there was something in her that refused to acknowledge that.

I can heal him. I can save him. I couldn’t save my parents but I can save him.

There was a loud crash from not very far off, causing the shack to shake and caused Blankar to yelp in fear and cower under the table. He looked as if he wanted to leave Katherine and Snape behind and flee for his own safety. But that wouldn’t do – she needed him.

“Blankar, come here I need your help.”

Feeling relief at the familiar intonations of being instructed, Blankar rushed over to her side. She had her hand on Snape’s neck, trying to staunch the blood. What had he used on her foot? Dittany wasn’t it? She didn’t know exactly what it was in the magical world, but perhaps it would help.

“I need dittany,” she ordered in a shout as another crash sounded somewhere further away. “Lots of it!”

Blankar gave an adroit nod before disappearing.

***

Snape was staring into middle distance as Lily watched him. He wanted to say and ask a million things and the rush of them all the the forefront of his brain was causing a lag. Lily turned to face him on the swing.

“I’m so sorry,” Snape finally said as he felt her gaze on him. “I’m so sorry for everything.”

He stopped as his voice ended on a crack. He couldn’t continue – if he continued he would break down. Lily seemed to understand the quandary and so she spoke first, her tone mild.

“You’ve protected Harry well,” Lily said with a loving smile on her face. “Been a bully and a git doing it, of course. But because of your protection, my Harry will take down Voldemort in part because of what you’ve done for him.”

Snape didn’t even flinch as she said this. For whatever reason, Harry taking down Voldemort seemed realistic in this world. It didn’t strike him as strange at all. Of course Harry would defeat Voldemort.

“It was the least I could do,” Snape insisted honestly. 

“Yes, well…” Lily shrugged, looking off into the distance a moment before turning back to face him.  Snape could see no guile behind her bright green eyes – the eyes that had taken him into death without fear.  Even dead, she had brought him comfort.

He was overcome by guilt – a sensation that threatened to buckle his legs. He drew to the swing next to her, placing himself in it stiffly, his feet solid upon the ground below.

“Why don’t you hate me, Lily?” Snape said quietly. “Because of me you’re dead. James is dead. You didn’t get to raise your only child. And now, Voldemort is going to kill him too.”

Lily pursed her lips as if considering what to say next. She paused before continuing, looking at him with a gentle gaze.

“Hate isn’t for the dead. Hate is for the living, and that makes me pity them. Hate is for creatures like Voldemort who don’t know how to love or be loved,” she paused a bit before smiling at him again. “I don’t hate you, Severus. I forgave you a long time ago.”

At her words a dam within Snape broke. The stiff, firm battlement of his exterior suddenly cracked and he felt all the feelings he’d been trying to suppress. The fear, the guilt, the anger, the pain.

The tears began to fall freely now, like a rivulet down his cheeks as she said this. He buried his face in his hands, sobbing unrestrained as Lily watched on, rubbing his back gently as a mother would for her child. 

Finally he got a hold of himself, sniffling loudly before wiping at his eyes with the back of his hands.

“I don’t deserve your forgiveness,” Snape said, his voice tight as he shook his head. “I deserve nothing.”

Lily looked as if she were on the verge of tears herself.  

“Someone wise once told me that ‘It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities,’” Lily offered, quoting Albus flawlessly.

 “And I chose to tell Voldemort about the prophecy,” Snape insisted gravely.

“A long, long time ago a scared boy made a horrible choice,” Lily agreed, pressing a motherly hand to his cheek. “And now a man sits, faced with another choice. I’m hoping that this time, he makes the right one. Live the life you were meant to, Sev.”

***

Katherine pressed the fresh dittany to the wounds in Snape’s neck, feeling so completely outside her comfort zone. She was working blindly with ingredients that weren’t familiar to her at all.

When she saw no different in the dittany she started to panic. How long had he been officially dead? Soon brain damage was a real chance and her stomach dropped. Would Snape even want to be brought back to life if he did it with some cognitive disabilities?

She didn’t have time to think more on this because as she moved she felt the phial bite into her hip through her jeans. Without thinking she brought it out, glancing at it with the last hope of a drowning person in the sea.

Please Lily. Tell me I’m using this right.

Katherine removed the stopper from the phial from inside her pocket and taking advantage of his parted mouth, she dumped it down his throat. Now she tilted his head, placing it on her thigh and silently willing the liquid to flow down the long throat and through his body.

She massaged his cooling throat, somehow believing that it would work. It worked with the animals she treated when they wouldn’t swallow.

C’mon c’mon. Work for fuck’s sake!

What would she do without him? He had become her touchstone in a time of trail. Her father’s death and then being thrust into this strange world, Snape had been her constant. She would give anything for him to give her a derisive sneer, a flippant remark. She would have him in any incarnation he could return as.

She looked for the faint flutter of eyelids or the curl of a lip. She waited for some warmth to come back into his blanched face. She pressed a hand to his neck, silently praying for some miracle.

But he didn’t move. His body was growing cold.

She and Snape were on the ground, her hand still protectively on him. Blankar looked at her balefully and then back to Snape. His Master. He pressed his palms to Snape’s cheek gently.

“Wake up, Master.”

Katherine swallowed the sob that was building in her throat at this sight.

The only remaining figure in her life was dead in her arms. Her mother, her father and now Severus. The only people who she had ever loved. She felt her body grow numb and as she cried, her tears slipped down onto his cheeks making it look as if he were shedding them himself.  

***

Tears were again slipping down his pale face and onto his dark robes where they were instantly absorbed.  He could see that Lily looked as if she were preparing to leave and he felt a panic take him over. Was she leaving him?

“Am I coming with you?” he asked, feeling so summarily exhausted. Was it time for him to finally rest? There was a mixture of relief and immense disappointment in his tone. Lily whipped to face him and fixed him with a look of disappointment.

“Don’t be silly,” Lily admonished in that fiery way he remembered so well. The same tone she’d used when she’d called James an arrogant toe rag. The same tone she used when she’d officially ended their friendship.

“But I don’t deserve to live,” Snape said helplessly, still sitting on the swing and feeling much as he had when he was an unwanted child left to his own devices. Life didn’t want him and now it seemed death was rebuffing him as well.

“There’s that word again; deserve. Deserving has nothing to do with it,” Lily said with a tut as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. “Did I deserve to be called a mudblood?”

Fresh shame suddenly assaulted him as he recalled their last real talk. “No.”

 “Did I deserve to die, Sev?”

He couldn’t even make eye contact with her at that. He simply gave a shallow shake of his head, blinking rapidly as he stared down at his shoes.

“And yet I did,” Lily said with a shrug. “Nothing to be done about it now.  Can’t change it. Deserving is for a life that’s fair on all counts. As you know quite well, fairness and life very rarely coincide.  But you have a chance to live, you silly git.”

“It seems wrong to live when you’re dead,” he replied simply. “Why should I get to live and not you?”

Lily fell quiet, watching the tall man’s face stoic with fear of what she may reply with. She could see the guilt etched into every line on his face. He stood, moving from the swings and standing at the edge of the park. He felt disgusted with himself. Not long after he heard Lily come up quietly behind him and he turned to face her.

 “You never really knew love, Sev,” Lily finally said, surprising him. “You knew hatred and rejection. You knew obsession and power. But never love.”

“I loved you,” he replied honestly. “I loved you more than you possibly know.”

“I was the first person to show you kindness,” Lily said with a sad smile. “You craved being around that feeling of being treated well. You felt safe and you felt known. But that’s not the same as love.”

He let the words she spoke absorb a moment before looking at her out the corner of his dark eyes.  “You never loved me?”

“Not in the way you needed,” Lily replied softly. “Sev, you were my best friend. You were the first person to accept me as a witch. You encouraged me and you were there for me when no one else was. I loved being around you because it meant freedom. I loved being with you because you made me feel as if I could do anything. I took from you as much as you took from me.”

Snape felt the world shift as she said this, suddenly surveying their relationship in a completely new light. He had never considered that Lily was taking from him. He had always craved being with her, near her. He had always viewed his desperate need to be around her as one-sided.

“But then you changed,” Lily added softly. “And so did I.”

He nodded. “Yes, I suppose we did.”

“But you’re starting to know what real love is now,” Lily said with a wide smile crossing her features. “What it’s supposed to be like. It’s not possession or obsession.”

Snape said nothing, but felt his own mouth un-tense from the grimace he had been holding. Images of Katherine suddenly surrounded him, her smile and her eyes and her voice telling him she loved him. Waking up next to her, answering her questions…

He raised his eyes to meet Lily’s, seeing the warmth reflected there as he spoke.

“Yes.”

“Alright,” she said summarily with a joyful little clap. “Then live because you have a chance to do it right this time.”

He shook his head, crossing his arms over his chest and holding himself, as if his fears would spill onto the blanched ground below them. “I don’t know if I can.”

“I can’t force you,” Lily paused, looking at his face with a mixture of pain and hope in her eyes. “Because ultimately, Severus, it’s your choice.”

At that, Snape’s mind suddenly went to his time with Katherine, and the simple and innocuous way she had asked him: “Can you live with the choices you’ve made?”

Could he? Could he in good conscience go back and do that? Even with the love of Katherine, could he honestly move past the horrors he’d perpetrated? He didn’t think he could.

Without warning, as if she could feel his anguish, Lily slowly raised her arms, pulling him into a tight embrace. Snape fell into it, his eyes shut tightly and clinging to her like a port in a storm.

***

She had his head on her lap and she was stroking his limp hair gently. He was still dead. Dead. The great and powerful wizard Severus Snape was dead and she was devastated. He was gone and she had nothing left of him but his unmoving body cool in her hands.

Lily had been wrong. She couldn’t save him. The bloody phial had been useless – nothing had changed.  She wasn’t even sure that she had applied it properly. Perhaps she was supposed to have put it on the wound directly instead of the dittany?

She glanced down at his beloved face. A face of slopes and creases that she had come to adore. The face that upon their first meeting she had thought as ugly, but now she longed to cover in sweet kisses.

“Come back,” she whispered, feeling hot tears slipping down her cheek. Blankar was at her side, pressing himself into her arm and crying softly.  She pressed an absent hand to his back, soothing him as best she could. “You promised you wouldn’t leave me. You promised, Severus.”

He didn’t stir. He never would again.

Katherine’s eyes fell shut and she let her fingers continue to dance within his lank hair. There was silence outside the shack now – the crashing from outside was gone. She didn’t know how long she had been sitting there. Was the war nearing its end?

Was Harry alright?

She took one last shuddering breath before wiping at her eyes angrily. If Snape was dead, then she was going to fight. She didn’t care if she died while she did it. At least in death she would see her parents again.  Perhaps she could work as a distraction so that Harry could overtake the monster known as Voldemort.

What of the snake? Could she kill it? With what? No, she would simply act as sacrifice. She had been willing to do it before, and now she was certain of her fate.  It was either die doing something to help Harry or wait until someone found them here and killed them.

She turned to the bereft house elf, considering asking him to take her directly to Harry.  

 “Blankar, I-“ the words died in her throat because something caught the corner of her eye. It was the door to the Shrieking Shack and it opened with a resounding crash.

Katherine watched as a stocky female figure came strolling into the shack, likely coming to retrieve Snape’s dead body. When her beady eyes scanned the room and saw Katherine clinging to Snape limp in terror she gave a sickening smile.

“Well, well, what do we have here?”

Chapter Text

The woman entered more fully into the room, her portly frame barely fitting through the doorframe. She was solid muscle, looking more like a man than a woman.

She had her copper hair in a severe bun at the back of her head. Her eyes were grey and lifeless as she took in the scene.  She was calm and collected, Harry Potter had just been killed and she was here to retrieve Snape’s body as per instruction.

But finding his dead body here in the shack, being held onto by some strange woman with dark hair in a torn cardigan was not what she had been expecting. If anything it was disconcerting and then suddenly amusing. The brunette was on her knees with Snape’s head on her lap. She looked terrified as Alecto walked in.  

“Well?” the stocky woman asked Katherine harshly. “Who exactly are you? And how do you know our man, Severus, here?”

She came closer, scanning Katherine’s shivering frame as her loud footsteps creaked the floors. She wore thick, heavy boots and with every thud Katherine felt her heart hammer. The ugly woman surveyed them both from above, moving around Katherine and Snape’s body in a slow, menacing circle.

 “Now, you’re too old to be a student… and you’re dressed like a Muggle,” Alecto observed darkly, sneering the last word. She looked down at Snape, seeing that the man’s chest was still and his face waxen.

“So he’s finally dead,” she taunted. She gave Snape’s dead foot a harsh nudge with her boot. “About bloody time.”

“Don’t touch him,” Katherine spat darkly, her body leaning forward to cover him as much as she could. The woman glanced at this tableau, realization covering her mannish features.

“So you care for the old git, do you?” the Carrow sister asked with a choking laugh.  That was rich!  Imagine Snape having some pathetic looking woman mourning him.

 Katherine’s head was knocked harshly to the side as the woman hurtled her meaty hand towards her and slapped Katherine brutally across the face. Katherine let out a small cry, feeling warm blood starting to trickle down her nose.

“You don’t tell me what to do,” Alecto continued, watching Katherine coming to cup her face in pain, pleased to note that she had drawn blood from that insolent face.

Katherine felt quite fixed in place, her eyes darting to Blankar who had been hiding behind the door. He quietly came closer, obviously intending to help Katherine. But Katherine had been too obvious and without warning the ugly woman had turned and a shot of red left her gnarled wand.

Stupefy!”

The red lightning shot into Blankar before he could move. The elf’s eyes rolled back into his head before he landed on the ground harshly and he lay immobile. Katherine watched this in dull horror, afraid to move. 

“Blankar!” Katherine shouted, turning her furious gaze on the witch. “What did you do to him!?”

The wand was now trained on Katherine, who still knelt with the dead Severus’ head balanced on her lap. She could see that Blankar’s little chest was still moving steadily up and down - he was unconscious, not dead. But perhaps he was to be tortured? The thought caused Katherine to wince openly; she had come to care for the little blighter.

“I’d worry more about yourself,” Alecto said through gritted teeth, irritated at the stubborn woman’s defiance. “You won’t fare as well as he.”

Katherine swallowed thickly, her hands still on Snape’s body. She knew that her time was up and yet the thought of dying like this? With no dignity in some little shack?

“Why are you doing this?” Katherine asked, hoping to bide time. But bide time for what? Harry bloody Potter wasn’t going to soar into this room and save her. She had a dead Professor Snape, an unconscious Blankar and herself. A muggle in a magical world.

She was as good as dead.

“Raise your wand,” Carrow replied, ignoring her question. “It’s no fun if you’re disarmed. Dueling stance. Now.”

Katherine’s heart was in her throat at this. She could always use Snape’s wand which still lay in his limp palm. But what good would it do? She wasn’t magic. She had no way of escaping this moment and instead she drew herself up on her knees, looking at the woman with firm determination.

“I don’t have a wand,” Katherine answered honestly.  The woman’s eyes narrowed once more and all levity was gone from her face. She glanced around the space for the fallen object.

“No wand?” Alecto asked in a tone of disbelief. “Where is it, then?”

“I have no wand,” Katherine suddenly shouted, knowing that death was looking her in the eye. “I’m a Muggle!”

The witch stared at Katherine for what seemed a very long time in silence. Katherine thought darkly that at least she had confused the portly woman into submission for a moment.

“A muggle,” she finally repeated as if she didn’t believe her. “Here?”

“Yes,” Katherine replied evenly.

Alecto seemed to slowly sink into herself, letting her eyes trail down Katherine’s face and down to the dead Snape in her lap. A sick smile spread then as she looked at the traitor dead on the ground.

“Oh I am going to enjoy this,” the stocky woman purred. She waved her wand over her head dramatically and pointed it at Katherine. Katherine felt a small whimper of fear leave her and was readying herself for the inevitable when she heard it - the garbled sound of a spell.

Expelleriamus!”

The wand in the Alecto’s hand went flying away from her, clinking on the wood floors. She glanced down at Katherine, about to scream when she was suddenly blown back by another, stronger spell.

Mors Oscula!”  

A brilliant purple light suddenly shot out somewhere from within Katherine’s vicinity, causing Katherine to cover her eyes at the bright light. She heard a deadened groan and when Katherine managed to blink again she could see Alecto glaring at them and clutching her throat.  

Twin spurts of blood began to gush out the side of her neck, like a mad garden hose gushing carnage onto the floor of the shack. It pooled thickly around the woman’s feet and Katherine couldn’t tear her eyes away from the sight as she recognized it immediately.

“Oh my God,’ Katherine said aloud. “It’s the Vampire’s Kiss.”

Seeing her own invented spell being performed before her, Katherine was amazed. The woman was being furiously drained of blood, her eyes wide and bulging as she sank to the floor, gurgling. Katherine would have been compelled to keep watching if she hadn’t glanced down to see how the spell had occurred. 

No. It wasn’t possible.  

As if it was all happening in slow motion, Katherine watched as Snape’s body spasm-ed to life.  She felt the weight of Snape’s head being removed from her lap and she watched with a look akin to awed shock as Snape’s long legs jerked out, his boots scraping against the wood floor.  

No. This isn’t real. 

Katherine let out a strangled squeak as he jerked to fully. He was propped up on his elbows, his eyes and wand still trained on the woman – the Carrow sister he recognized. 

“Traitor,” Alecto gurgled, attempting to staunch the wounds at her neck.  

She wasm woozily as she stood, her eyes starting to flutter as the blood ran in rivulets down her neck and onto the floor.  

Katherine watched Snape in awe, as if he were the most magnificent thing she’d ever seen. He had struggled to his feet now, staring down the Carrow sister with his eyes and wand. Katherine was still on the floor, inches away from his legs. She noted with a swelling pride that he was standing between she and Alecto, shielding her from the mad looking woman.   

Alecto’s wand was too far away and she was losing blood at an alarming rate. The woman was on her knees, giving them both monstrous looks. In her duress she tried to reach for her wand, reaching fruitlessly.

 “Accio Alecto’s wand,” Snape murmured.  

The wand went sailing through the air and into Snape’s waiting grip. Snape didn’t spare Katherine a glance, but pressed the wand into her hand without drawing his attention away from the Carrow sister.

“You’ll die,” Alecto gurgled with effort, looking between Snape and the muggle. Katherine had never seen such hatred reflected within a gaze before. She involuntarily shivered.

“Too late,” Snape replied with a grim smile.

“The Dark Lord-” Carrow began with a twisted smile. She was panting now and her nose was starting to leak crimson rivers. Katherine found she couldn’t look at her directly without wanting to retch.

“Will be defeated,” Snape finished for her.  “And unfortunately you won’t live to see it.”

The woman made an obscene gesture with her free hand and tried to scream something at him, something horrible when she gave one last gurgle, the blood coming to pour out of her mouth now.  Her body fell forward, landing heavily on the floor face-first. 

She gave a few final twitches before she finally lay there, dead.

Katherine stared down, looking at the horrible woman with a look of disgust on her features. Disgust that she herself had created such a horrible spell. Disgusted that she had just watched a woman die in front of her because of it.

She heard Snape panting heavily beside her, and she chanced a glance at him. His face was paler than usual, sweat gathered at the hairline of his blue-black hair. He was staring at Carrow with a grimace. It seemed as if he were trying to gather his wits.

Blankar suddenly stirred and without thinking Katherine rushed from behind Snape and over to the small creature who was trying woozily to stand.  She made sure to sidestep Carrow’s body. She pulled Blankar’s still limp body into her arms before standing, holding him like an oversized doll, and turning to face Snape.

His breathing had returned to normal now and he was looking at her with eyes that seemed somehow glazed. He pocketed his wand, suddenly unsure of himself. Katherine continued to stare at him without speaking, until the silence became oppressive.

“How?” she asked softly, her eyes scanning his face in disbelief. Was he a ghost? Was this all some strange dream? Was she actually dead?  Yes, that had to be it. She was dead and this was some strange afterlife.

And yet she could hear Snape’s breathing and she could smell the metallic scent of blood. If this was a dream it was unlike any she had ever experienced.  And she knew then that the potion had worked. That somehow it had brought her Severus back to her.

Tears were forming at the corner of her eyes and she felt her body trembling. She had been so certain he was dead, so certain she was going to die, that having everything change on a dime had her suddenly overwhelmed in every capacity.

“I was so-“

She stopped, unable to form the words. She felt Blankar warm and limp in her arms and she shook her head to clear it, closing her eye tightly.

“Katherine.”

He spoke so softly she wasn’t sure that she heard him properly. She looked at him, noting that he looked exhausted, the spell having rendered him quite unsteady. Without words he reached for her and she, still holding Blankar, stumbled into his grip.  He wrapped his arms around her shoulders, steadying himself and pressing his forehead to hers before speaking lowly.

Spinners End.”

Chapter Text

It was several days before Snape once more came back to the land of the living. And when he did, the first thing he was struck by was the alarming fact that something cold and wet was pressed up against the end of his nose. When he blearily opened his eyes he could see a small creature – Prince, sitting on his chest, his small, wet nose snuffling along the end of Snape’s.

The second thing Snape noticed was that he was in a very comfortable bed wearing a grey linen sleeping shirt. It was soft and smelled of vanilla. The pillow his head rested on was plump and comfortable. He was tucked in tightly on his side of the bed, his arms resting on top of the duvet. When he turned his head slightly to the right, he could see that the other side of the bed held crumpled covers as if it had been slept in.

His eyes blinked away the sleep as he gazed around the room. He recognized it as his bedroom at Spinners End. How had he gotten here? He could barely remember anything. His head felt fuzzy, but when he closed his eyes and focused, things came swimming back into view.

He remembered seeing the Carrow sister advancing on Katherine, her wand raised. He remembered feeling her quivering underneath his head. He remembered the complete fury radiate from within him but then... Blackness.

He went to raise his head, but it swam the minute he attempted it. The creature on his sternum continued to stare up at him, chittering gently. Snape lowered himself back onto the pillow, wincing slightly. He felt stiff and if his body was no longer his own.

The door to the room suddenly opened with a creak and Katherine entered carrying a tray of broth and water. Snape felt his breath hitch as silently watched her, taking in the flush on her cheeks, the way her dark hair was falling into her eyes.

She was humming to herself, a Muggle tune he didn't recognize. He found it completely lovely. When she saw her blibbering humdinger perched on Snape's sternum frowned and shooed him away.

"Prince," Katherine admonished as she walked towards the bed. "Get away from-"

She paused, realizing that Snape's eyes were open and glittering at her. As if sensing what was about to happen, Prince slipped down the side of the bed and rushed from the room, his tiny feet padding along the wood floors.

Katherine placed the tray on the dresser, her eyes not quite believing that Snape was there in front of her. She slowly moved to the bed and lowered herself on the side. The bed sank underneath their combined weight and Snape felt the warmth of her body beside his.

“You’re alive,” Katherine whispered in awe, pressing a hand to his cheek in disbelief. He had gained back much of the color he’d lost and the several days he’d been asleep had done him a world of good.

He gave her a weak smile, about to say something when the door opened further and Blankar suddenly appeared, rushing onto the bed and looking at Snape with a look of complete rapture.

“Master is alive!” Blankar squeaked excitedly. “Master is alive and well!”

Suddenly the creature looked abashed, twisting its hands in the fresh tea towel it wore. Katherine knew the look too well – it was guilt. But why should the little creature feel guilt?

“I is a bad elf,” Blankar continued sorrowfully. “I is not protecting Katherine Shepard.”

He looked to the hot broth on the dresser and Katherine could almost see the wheels turning in his head.

“Oh no you don’t!” she shouted, reaching across the bed and pinning Blankar’s arms to his sides. Snape winced as she had managed to knock his knees as she did so. But he said nothing, watching the scene playing out in front of him. She was staring at Blankar severely in the face.

“You did all you could. You were wonderful!”

“I is the reason you was hit,” Blankar said looking balefully up at Katherine.

“No, that horrid woman was,” Katherine insisted, looking into his large tennis-ball sized eyes that threatened to leak. “You were wonderful, Blankar. You tried to save me.”

“But I-“

Snape cleared his throat officiously and the two of them drew their attention to the dark wizard. How did he manage to still look so strict and powerful, even in a dingy grey nightshirt?

“You have done well, Blankar.”

Blankar looked as if he were going to start crying all at once. But seeing Snape’s raised brow he instead gave a low, scraping bow on the bed.

“Thank you, Master. I is proud to be your house elf.”

Snape gave the small elf a respectful nod in return. However as he did so a pain suddenly touched at his throat and he winced. He brought his hand to the raised twin scarring from Nagini’s fangs and held it there.

“What’s wrong?” Katherine asked, immediately concerned.

“There are several dark green phials in my kitchen,” Snape croaked, his hand still pressed to his throat. “Fetch them, please.”
Before Katherine could move, Blankar had scurried into the kitchen to snatch the phials (buried in the back of one of his cupboards). And he had reappeared, looking so delighted to be serving Snape once more.

“Thank you.”

Snape glanced at the labels before he took one, tipping its contents back and swallowing. Soon the soothing potion took effect, leaving his body feeling comfortable and rejuvenated. The scar at his neck burned slightly, but that was to be expected with a healing potion.

“How did I return?” Snape asked, suddenly trying to put the pieces together. He had accepted Lily’s return to this earthly plain, but how did it actually happen? Had she somehow hurtled him into his body? It seemed unlikely, but his return to life in and of itself was unlikely.

“Lily gave me this,” Katherine said, pulling out the small phial and held it up between them. A drop of pale pink liquid remained quivering at the bottom. Snape looked at it before staring back at Katherine in surprise.

Lily?”

Katherine nodded slowly. “I couldn’t explain it if I tried.”

Snape knew better than to ask, because it likely couldn’t be explained at all. He gave a small glance upwards to the heavens and then back at Katherine. She looked tentatively to his face, as if amazed she were speaking to him.

“Should I call a magic doctor?” Katherine asked quickly. “I haven’t yet because Blankar said I should call someone called Pomfrey when you woke up.”

“Nonsense,” Snape said with a shake of his head. “How long have I been asleep?”

“Over a week,” Katherine said, looking his face over, still not quite believing that she was sitting there talking to him. She looked as if she were going to continue when her spine suddenly straightened and her mouth formed a small “o”.

“Oh!”

Katherine suddenly jumped up from the side of the bed and ran out of the room. Snape watched after her in confusion, shuffling until he was sitting up in the bed when she reappeared, brandishing a newspaper before her.

She dropped it onto his lap, looking at his face with a look of complete excitement. She pointed to the moving cover of the Daily Prophet and Snape noticed that her hands were trembling.

“It's over," Katherine said softly. On the cover of the paper staring back at them were Harry, Hermione and Ron waving out into the crowd. It appeared they were at the Ministry being awarded Orders of Merlin. Snape stared at the paper long moment, almost unable to process what he was seeing.

Quickly on the heels of the defeat of the most powerful dark wizards, teenagers Harry Potter, 18, Hermione Granger, 19, and Ron Weasley, 18 were awarded Order of Merlin First Class for their acts of heroism.

"Harry won!” Katherine sang with a jubilant tone. “You're all safe!"

He saw the women's dark eyes with damp with tears as she looked at the paper. She suddenly beamed at him and pulled an older paper out from her pile. When he didn’t respond she thought she’d help by pushing the paper closer and closer to his face until it was a blur.

"Look at this one!"

He plucked it from her and began reading in earnest. Blankar left the room, citing that he was going to continue cleaning the house. He closed the door behind him, giving his Master privacy. Katherine watched as Snape continued to read, still not believing the words he was seeing. Potter’s defeat of Voldemort when everyone thought him dead. Neville Longbottom’s brave defeat of Nagini – the final horcrux.

Wait, Longbottom?!

Snape’s eyes widened a moment in disbelief. The same boy who couldn’t put two ingredients together properly if he was paid a million galleons? He almost wanted to laugh, but then his eyes fell on his own name in the black type beneath his fingers.

Severus Snape, long believed to be an active death eater has had his name cleared by the Boy who Lived. Despite his body never being found among the dead, Harry Potter himself gave over Penseive memories to show the man’s mighty final moments, squaring off against Voldemort himself.

When asked about his relationship with the stern Professor and late Headmaster, Harry was found to be quite emotional. Seated beside his friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, Harry firmly held the hand of Ginny Weasley - rumored girlfriend- and spoke with a candor far beyond his years.

“He was always protecting us, even when we didn’t think it was possible,” Potter said, his eyes glistening with tears for the fallen Headmaster. “For years he was maligned and treated horribly by everyone, including me. He gave his life in so many ways so that we could defeat Voldemort. We never even thanked him for his sacrifice. He deserves to be standing here getting this award.”

“He was a git,” Ronald Weasley, added. “But he was our git.”

Snape will be awarded a posthumous Order of Merlin Second Class for his duties and his portrait will hang among the other Headmasters in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

There was more, much more but Snape couldn’t care less about what Potter and his ilk had to say. It didn’t matter - It was over. His memory was no longer tainted in the minds of the magical community.

The war was over. His double agency? The sleepless nights? The extreme stress? It was all over! He was free- truly free. No Voldemort, no Dumbledore. He was his own man and he could do what he pleased. He looked into Katherine’s eyes and felt his heart thump.

In this moment, he wanted her.

Without thinking he gathered Katherine into his arms, her eyes wide with shock as he pulled her against his body. She gave a small squeal as the wizard collected her into a tight hug, his face buried in her hair.

“Is this allowed? You’ve only just woken up!”

He allowed himself a moment to simply feel her against him before he pressed a firm and searching kiss to Katherine’s waiting mouth in response. She returned it quickly, her fingers tangling in his hair.

This is what it felt to be free.

***

The next morning at breakfast Katherine was perusing the paper's zoological section when Snape wandered into the room. He was dressed in his normal long tunic and trousers, but the neck was unbuttoned which gave a disheveled effect that Katherine found more than a little enticing, especially after yesterday.

He gave her a brief smile when he entered the small cramped space, seeing her perched on the chair with her dark hair over her shoulders. He noted the sausage, eggs and biscuits waiting for him and felt his stomach rumble as he glanced around the small home of Spinners End.

It appeared that Blankar had been hard at work during Snape’s rest. The dusty surfaces were now polished finely. The old chipped china sparkled marvelously and the floors looked as if they had been buffed and varnished. And he was fairly certain that the kitchen had been painted. It scarcely looked like the home he used to despise returning to every summer. It felt almost warm and inviting.

He moved to the counter and with a wave, the pale blue teapot sat there whistled and he placed a few bags of earl grey into it before bringing his brew to the table. Katherine was leaning on her elbows, shuffling through some older papers. Blankar had taken to delivering them to her every morning and she’d consumed everything she could with relish.

"Everyone thinks you're dead." Katherine said, picking up one of the older papers she’d saved and pushed it towards him. "It says here you were one of the fallen and no one’s even debating it."

"Good," he grumbled as he sipped his tea. "Let them believe it."

He began to butter his toast, adding liberal amounts of jam when he’d finished. When he took the first bite his jaw actually hurt as the salivary glands began to rejoice. He didn’t realize how hungry he had been. He chewed and swallowed quickly, eyeing the sausages next as he poured himself a cup of tea.

"You don't want people to know you’re alive?” Katherine asked incredulously, forking a small bit of egg into her mouth. “You don’t want to see anyone?”

"Why should I?" Snape asked honestly, bringing his teacup to his mouth once more. "I never got along with them much in the first place. Besides, if I were to return it would be to sycophants wanting interviews."

“Your choice,” Katherine trailed off, her face suddenly thoughtful. “So will we live here then? I suppose if you want to keep a low profile we may have to move.”

Snape lowered his teacup slowly, his eyes never leaving the table. His stomach was twisting uncomfortably. This was the conversation that he had been dreading. He hadn’t wanted to broach until a few days had passed. A few days of making love and feeling free.

But she’d brought it up, hadn’t she? And he wouldn’t lie to her. Never.

“Katherine?”

“Mm?” she was still looking at the paper, taking a delicate sip of tea before placing it back in its saucer. Her dark eyes were roving over the moving photographs, smiling to herself as they waved.

"Katherine, we need to get you back home," Snape said, his body still stiff. He placed his fork and knife on the plate, still finding it hard to meet her eyes. She noticed the change in tone immediately, her body tensing.

"Home?" Katherine squinted at him with a queer smile. "You don't mean Gravesend?"

"I do."

It wasn't right to keep her here, in a world she'd never belong. It wasn't right to keep her with him, never knowing if she truly cared for him or was just simply accepting her fate.

“To pack my belongings?” she offered tentatively, her smile dying on her face. Perhaps he wanted them to fetch her remaining clothes and furniture to move into the space. Surely he wasn’t saying—

“No,” Snape said firmly, his eyes still not on her face. “To return you home to live. To go back to your veterinary practice and your bookshop.”

“Will you be coming with me?” Her voice was so hopeful that Snape winced.

I want to. I want to keep you here. I want you for myself. But I can’t.

Lily had given him a choice – to live a proper life. A life where he was with a woman who cared for him because he treated her well. Not a woman who had been his prisoner, who likely held affection simply because she was traumatized enough to believe she loved him.

“No.”

"I don’t understand,” Katherine was sputtering, shaking her head in defiance and blinking rapidly. She’d moved to stand beside the table, forcing him to look up at her as she spoke vehemently. "I'm not going back there without you! I'm staying here with you!”

"Please sit, Katherine.”

She paused before acquiescing, her cheeks turning a mottled pink and red. She was upset – deeply. He could recognize the signs. Snape looked at Katherine, truly looked at her and for a moment heard Lily's threat that he do it right this time.

Make the right choice.

Katherine had been with him for so long so many months have you wondered if she even remembered her old life. If she did, didn't she miss it? It seemed strange that she would miss nothing about her old life and want to cling to this new one. Into a world that no one accepted her. Did the girl have that Muggle affliction, Stockholm syndrome?

Love was freedom. He could see it in the freedom he now had. And now he had to give the same to Katherine. He needed to really love her. Not keep her as a pet.

This was his choice – not to obsess over a woman who wasn’t really his. He needed her to be free, as free as he was. It was the only fair way.

Because love isn't supposed to be possession.

"It's not fair for me to keep you here," be explained softly. "You deserve to go back to your own life."

"You're being ridiculous," Katherine said with a dangerous glint in her eyes. "You're just getting over dying! You're not thinking straight!"

"Katherine-"

She was holding her fists on the tables, looking at him with such defiance. "I'm not leaving you."

"Katherine, you don't belong in this world," Snape said not unkindly. His hands reached to her, placing a hand over hers. She allowed it, but he could feel the bristle of her skin underneath his.

His knee jerk reaction was to be cruel and cutting when he spoke to her, to push her from him because that was easy. But he knew that she didn't deserve it. He needed to be honest and forthright with her, without offending her. It would be harder, but it would be the right thing to do.

But still, her eyes filled with tears as if he had been at his cruelest and it pained him deeply.

"How can you say that?" she whispered.

"Because it's true," said Snape gently. "You don't belong here. You're not magic. This is a world that would shun you and turn its back on you. You would never be a part of it properly."

"I don't care!" Katherine insisted, her eyes growing damp with frustration and anger. "I want to be here with you! As long as we're together it doesn't matter if I don't belong here because I belong with you!"

“I wish it were that simple,” Snape replied evenly, trying not to let his voice wobble. “I truly do. But in this magical world you would be forever looked down upon. The Wizarding world has come a long way in its acceptance of Muggles, but after this horrific war things are tenuous. You would be a black sheep.”

“I don’t care.”

“Not at first,” Snape offered with a shrug. “But eventually it would get to you. Not being able to perform as the others do. You would go to shops where you heard whispers behind your back. And if you were seen in public with me? You’d never rest, we’d be splashed on the cover of every newspaper. They would dig into your background and the wizarding world would know of your mother and father.”

Katherine had never considered that, and yet she willed him not to continue. But he continued on, needing her to hear what he was trying to say.

“You’d never be able to work, and if you did it would be something debasing. You would never have a job here, not one that took into account your education and skills. You would never be fully accepted.”

Katherine was shaking her head at his words, feeling as if every point were a sharp needle digging under her nailbeds. "Why are you doing this?"

"Because I care for you," Snape insisted, his chest tight. "Because I want you to be happy. Truly happy."

"I'm happy with you!"

"You don't know that," said Snape. "You've practically been a prisoner here. What you feel for me isn't real- it's the manifestation of being in close quarters with someone who held your freedom and your life. It was never even footing."

“You’re wrong!”

“I’m not,” Snape replied, his timbre catching ever so slightly. He stood, needing to be away from her searching gaze and her trembling lower lip. He couldn’t stand to hurt her. Not after everything she had done for him.

"What I feel for you is love,” Katherine insisted. “I know because I’ve never felt it for anyone before. Not like this.”

Snape turned his face from her, unable to look into those limpid eyes without falling apart completely.

"Don't make this harder," he said, his eyes scanning her face gently when he turned. "It's the right thing to do. It’s the choice I’ve made."

“And you can live with this choice?” Katherine asked breathlessly. “Truly?”

He looked to her face and didn’t need to use legillimency to sense that what he responded would be the deciding factor. If he gave in now, there was still hope that she would remain with him. But he needed to push her gently away, he needed her to see that what he was doing was out of his love for her.

“I can.”

It was if she had been physically hit. She winced, her body folding in on itself as she shook her head. Her eyes blinked rapidly and she continued small twitching shakes of her head before she stilled. Snape watched it all, his hands tightly in his lap.

He longed to hold her, to press his mouth against hers and tell her it was a mistake. That he could be selfish. That he wanted to keep her here for him. But that wasn’t love. He had to remember, love wasn’t possession.

Katherine seemed to come back to herself and she jerked her head up, meeting his gaze with her own burning intensity.

"Fine," Katherine said with a choked bark. "Fine. If that's how you want it then that's how it'll be. Take me home."

”You can pack your items-“

“I have none,” Katherine replied, pushing the hurt she felt down, deep down. “I want to go now.”

No. It was too soon. He knew that she would leave but surely they could have a moment to talk, to process? He wanted to explain further, but she looked as if she could strangle him with her bare hands. His mind searched for something that would keep her here a minute longer.

“But Blankar-“

“Blankar has his Master back,” Katherine sneered. “He doesn’t need me anymore.”

With that she had dumped her dishes into the sink, almost stepping on Prince in the process. He sniffed up at her, his eyes watery. Katherine bent down, gathering him into her palms and placing him on her shoulder. He buried himself at the nape of her neck, purring gently.

“I’ll take Prince with me,” Katherine said with a resolute look at Snape. “That’s all I want.”

“You can’t have a magical creature in Muggle society,” Snape said with a wince. He wanted to grant her every whim and desire of her heart. But to have a blibbering humdinger would be dangerous. The department of magical creatures would be on her within days. She would be questioned, perhaps even hurt.

“I won’t show him to anyone,” she defended. “I’ll keep him inside my flat.”

“It is forbidden.”

“You intend to leave me with nothing,” Katherine said flatly, the hot tears burning her eyes now.

“Not nothing,” Snape said, now standing and looking at her in earnest. He knew his voice sounded beseeching but he didn’t care. He gestured around the home, his palms flat. “Anything else is yours. Anything.”

“I don’t want anything else,” Katherine replied without emotion. She slowly pulled Prince off her shoulder, cringing as his little paws attempted to keep hold of her shirt. She was trying so hard not to cry and this desperate move on part of little Prince was making her heart crack. Finally she extricated herself from his grip and held him up to her face.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered into his fur, rubbing his cheek with her own. Snape watched as she kissed his little head and placed him back in the nest beside the fire. He made a small chittering sound, and desperate to follow her, he began to move from the nest.

“Blankar,” Katherine said hollowly. The creature appeared with a pop, looking to Katherine with sad, wide eyes. He was wearing a new pale blue tea towel, Snape noted in surprise. When he had gotten that?

“Yes Miss?”

“Please see that little Prince is taken well care of,” Katherine said, the tremble in her mouth evident. Blankar nodded, moving over to the creature and holding him gently. Prince made a small squeaking sound and Katherine turned abruptly to face Snape, all emotion gone from her face.

“Take me home.”

Snape went to say something, to further explain why this was a necessity when Katherine shot him a haughty look. His mouth clamped shut and he nodded before offering his arm.

She looked at the dark robe of his arm, her eyes swimming. He didn’t even want to touch her. She felt her stomach dropping – had she really meant so little to him? She finally took the proffered arm, barely touching him.

Snape watched as she closed her eyes tightly, her mouth set in a firm line. He sighed softly out his nose before apparating them away, back to Gravesend and away from the now sobbing Blankar.

***

When Katherine opened her eyes she was greeted with the familiar sight and smell of Shepard Books. The floor below her was dusty with disuse, and all the tomes seemed to be sagging in their shelves as if depressed they had been forgotten.

She snatched her hand away from Snape’s arm, going to brace herself on the counter that held the register. Her stomach continued to flop uncomfortably as she tensed, waiting for the queasy feeling to pass.

“You can leave,” she said brutally, not wanting to turn and face him. She heard him shuffle on the floors, obviously not in a rush to leave.

She heard him mutter a few spells in that silken tone of his and watched as the books on their shelves suddenly began to shake off their dust and the floor slowly became a sparkling gleam of freshly polished wood.

“Stop,” she insisted, watching as the glass of the register began to squeak and sparkle. “I want you to leave. Just go.”

She was still braced against the counter and Snape watched as she breathed shallowly, the pain evident in the way she held herself. He stopped the spell, placing his wand back into his robes.

“Katherine.”

His voice was low and soft and held no cruelty. And yet Katherine felt it sear through her like a fiery belt. She wanted him to never exist. She hated that she had thought they might have a future.

She felt an angry snarl building up within her and she turned on him.

“Or are you waiting to Obliviate me? Hurry up then!” she shouted, turning her eyes into angry slits. “But make sure you do it properly this time.”

He had his wand in his fingertips, letting it hand slackly there. He was looking uncomfortably at her, as if she were a bright light he was wincing away from.

“Is that what you desire?”

She almost welcomed it – that way she’d never have to think of him again. Never have to remember the way he cared for her or the way she’d been willing to give her life for him. He’d be completely wiped from her memory and she could continue on as if nothing had happened.

But everything had happened. She had changed because of it.

“No,” Katherine finally spoke, her eyes soft. “If I can’t have anything else at least leave me my memories.”

He seemed torn with that choice. His mouth twisting as he thought this through. If the ministry ever found out they would both be in quite a bit of trouble. She had seen many things, heard many things. And yet, who would they punish? Severus Snape no longer existed.

“As you wish."

He knew he could trust her not to betray their secrets. She had been willing to die to protect his world. The rowan wand in his fingertips was placed back into his robe pocket as he continued to stare at her. Uncomfortable with the scrutiny and still so summarily disappointed in him she refuted his staring with a glare of her own.

“If that’s all, I suggest you leave.”

Snape felt a pain in his chest, as if someone had struck his sternum with a quaffle. He wanted to say something to soothe her, to make her understand why he was doing this. But she had already strode from him, leaving for the back storeroom.

Snape watched after her as she left. She had been gone several moments when he realized the longer he stayed the worse it was on them both. So instead raised a determined head and called out to her in a low murmur.

“Goodbye, Katherine.”

She didn’t reply. She was huddled at the desk in the back, looking at the grain of the wood surface. She couldn’t trust her voice not to break if she called back out to him.

The sound of a car backfiring caught her ears and then suddenly the room outside was silent. When she was certain he was gone, Katherine finally hung her head and began to cry.

Chapter Text

For the first month upon her return to the real “Muggle” world, Katherine Shepard did nothing but mope around her father’s flat eating crisps and crying herself to sleep. The flat was all paid up for, miraculously. She had assumed it would be foreclosed by now. But of course, Snape had likely-

No. No thinking about him.

Her dreams were plagued by images of him – nothing like the dreams she’d had in his dungeons. These were dreams of the gauzy kind, where everything was silent and muted. In these dreams she reached for him, only to have him slip from her grasp.

Or worse some turned into nightmares where she walked in to see him dead on the floor of the Shrieking Shack. Except he didn’t ever wake. She would cry over his body, begging him to come back only to have him turn to dust in her hands, slipping through her fingers and onto the floor.

Sometimes her parents would be there in her dreams, crying out for her with words that she couldn’t understand. In these nightmares she would scream herself awake, desperate for Snape to cling to. Or even the company of Blankar and the sweetness of little Prince.

Soon she awoke alone and became accustomed to it.

By the second month she had dragged herself out of bed, showered and eaten a relatively healthy breakfast nearly every morning. She had been determined to start her life afresh, away from thought of her life in the magical domain. The wizarding world was safe, that’s all that mattered. She didn’t need to think on it anymore.

What good would it do? She wasn’t to live in that world. She wasn’t even ever to speak of it- not that she would. They had entrusted her with this knowledge and she would never, ever break it.

But within her heart, the magical world lived. It didn’t matter that she’d never return, she could still daydream about those candies that made her float. About the sensation of flying on a broom in among the clouds. She would never have those things taken from her.

When her savings began to grow diminished her thoughts would often to turn to what was to happen in her career. She had no desire to return to that boring practice. After seeing Thestrals and Blibbering Humdingers she had no desire to go back to her regular dogs, cats and fowl. The magical world had ruined her for that.

It was a week after that realization that Katherine had written to the practice in which she had worked and promptly given her notice. They seemed surprised to see her, but didn’t question her length of time gone. All due to Snape’s spel-

No. No thinking of that utter prat.

Subsequently, she was spending more and more time in the bookstore reading for leisure. Books she had often said she’d read later. Now she had time and she took advantage. Besides, walking around the store it was if her father wasn’t dead at all. He lived within the books and the floors that she walked upon.

At the start of the third month, Katherine had sold off her father’s flat in hopes that she would stop thinking of him and how he wasn’t around anymore.

She had no direction, she had few friends and even fewer customers, but the ones who did come in were sweet and asked after her father. Roger had been a staple at the store and regulars who had noticed the building had closed for renovations remarked on his absence.

The first time it happened, an elderly woman had asked Katherine to pass along well wishes to Roger. Katherine had burst into tears at that request, her shoulders shaking as she realized she had still not really come to terms with her father’s death. Being thrust into that magical world had distracted her completely – her mourning on hold. But back in her everyday life with memories of her father in every step of the shop, Katherine had been overcome.

The elderly woman had given her a tight hug, explaining she too had lost the people she cared about and that Katherine should come round for tea. Katherine never took her up on the offer, but was touched it had been offered.

This was also the week she had begun counseling with a round-faced woman named Gerta who was a fifteen minute tube ride from Katherine’s new flat. Gerta was patient and empathized greatly with Katherine’s loss. The girl’s unusually high fear of abandonment however seemed markedly different than many Gerta had treated.

When Katherine tentatively broached the subject of a past romantic relationship and its eventual demise, Gerta had been surprised at the girl’s unwillingness to speak much on her past partner.

“It ended badly,” she told Gerta with downcast eyes. “I don’t like thinking about it. Or him.”

“Putting off pain today just makes it worse tomorrow,” Gerta told her softly, making the odd note in her book. Katherine looked out the window of the office, fighting the tears she had kept in check all session.

“I know,” Katherine had shrugged back into the chesterfield in Gerta’s office. “But I can’t let myself think about him or I’ll fall apart. I don’t want to think about him anymore. I hate him.”

“Do you really?”

“I think so,” Katherine said cautiously. “I know that when I think about him I get so angry.”

“Sounds like you need closure,” Gerta offered. “So you can move on.”

When the fourth month rolled around Katherine’s new flat was still abysmally bare. When it came to furnishings, all there was was a bed, a dresser and a small chesterfield. She ate her meals over the sink. Everything else was either in boxes or not thought of.

Katherine didn’t care, she had her bookshop and she had her daydreaming. She was making progress with her counseling and she had enough savings for the next little bit. It was enough for now.

It was when she was behind the register of Shepard Books, thinking about closing early when a young man who seemed to be hitchhiking the continent strode in, his beard disheveled and his blue eyes twinkling in a way that reminded Katherine of Albus.

“Hullo there,” he offered in what Katherine recognized as an Australian accent. “Ya happen to have any hiking books for around England?”

“That’s quite a wide range,” Katherine had offered with a smile that didn’t touch her eyes. “Is there a specific place in England?”

“Well, specifically the Midlands,” the man replied with an easy smile. “Hear there’s some cracking hiking trails there if you really investigate. The wife and I are doing a bit of a walkabout here before the baby arrives. She’s always loved hiking here, can’t say I understand why.”

“I see,” Katherine nodded before urging him to follow her. They walked down the travel section, Katherine scanning her eyes until it landed on “The Overlooked Beauty of the Midlands”. She pulled it from the shelf, bringing it to one of the tables and opening it so that the man could see.

She scanned the map at the front, specifically with topography that suggested good hiking locations. Shropshire with its hills seemed the best and so she flipped to its page, reading aloud.

“The dominant pattern of the hills is a series of southwest to northeast ridges, scarps and valleys," she read tiredly. "They are characterized by steep, rounded 'whaleback' hills, often crowned with open moorland, with woodland dressing the steeper slopes leading towards its neighboring town--“

She paused as the name of the neighboring town suddenly caught her attention.

Cokeworth.

As if she had been in a trance these past few months, Katherine came alive. Her eyes widened and her entire body seemed to thrum.

Cokeworth.

Snape swam into her head almost painfully, as if a dam had burst, bringing forth all the emotions and feelings she had buried. Her heart began to ache anew and without a rational thought Katherine knew she had to see him.

She knew exactly where he was! Well, not exactly but she had been in that home for over a week as he slept. She knew the street - Spinners End. She could likely find him if she really tried! Why there was that crooked tree that stood across from his home! She felt her heart lurch and she gave the customer a look of frenzy.

“I’m sorry,” she said breathlessly handing the man the book. “I have to go. Right now. I have an appointment.”

“Uh,” the man sputtered, holding up the book they’d been reading. “What about-”

“Just take it,” Katherine said, hurrying the man to the door. “Consider it a baby shower gift. Congratulations!”

Minutes later Katherine had shoved her hastily thrown together overnight bag into the boot of her car and was hurrying her way out of Gravesend. A quick glance at her watch told her that she would be to Spinner’s End by nine pm.

Please be there.

As she drove, letting the sound of the radio fill the silence, Katherine couldn’t help but wonder if what she was doing was wise. What if he was angry when he saw her? What if he refused to open the door? What if- - -

A sudden repulsive thought stopped her.

What if he had another woman there? The thought almost caused Katherine to turn off the road. What if Snape had found himself a witch? Someone beautiful and talented at magic? Someone like Lily? Katherine’s stomach tossed at that thought before she caught herself.

“Don’t be a coward, Katherine.”

Whatever his response, it had to be better than this fog she had been living in. She had to press him, she had to fight him on why it had been so easy to let her go. Hadn’t he cared for her? Hadn’t he loved her?

She supposed she needed closure, just as Gerta had suggested. She needed to hear him admit the truth. She wanted to make him feel just as rotten as she had these past few months.

And I want to kiss him. I want his arms around me. I want him.

She refused to acknowledge these unbidden thoughts, her mind focused on the drive. She would see Blankar again! And little Prince! The thought of seeing them brought a different kind of cheer to her face as she sped down the motorway.

It was nine fifteen before Katherine finally found the street Spinners End. She parked at the end before stepping out into the darkness. She internally chastised herself for not leaving tomorrow when she’d be able to arrive in the daylight.

At night Cokeworth wasn’t pretty, nor was it safe looking. Dilapidated homes stood against once another like crooked teeth. Dogs who obviously had no homes came running by her, barking aggressively.

Katherine paid them no notice, she was looking for a very specific place. She walked for several moments, her eyes scanning the empty homes. All had an air of neglect and Katherine watched as litter rolled by, encouraged by the light wind. She wrinkled her nose at the extreme lack of care that the homes exhibited.

How had Snape survived here? He had such an inner fire. Homes like this were depressing and uninspiring – yet he had created things of such intelligence and beauty!

She would have mused further on that when her dark eyes caught sight of the crooked tree. Without thinking she began to run, her footfalls the only sound on the street. She was winded when she reached the tree, looking across the street and feeling her heart sink.

His home was still there, but it was immediately apparent that it was empty. It had to have been, because a very large fire had ravaged it. Broken windows and a door blackened from smoke were there to greet her, along with a large sign tacked to the front that read DO NOT ENTER.

She walked up the chipped stone steps, the sight of the burnt home causing her chest to tighten. She pushed the door open, wincing as it almost fell off its hinges. When she walked into the sitting room she felt her entire body deflate. The room was blackened with ash and smoke, and was completely bare.

On the far wall was the deatheater symbol. Obviously something to throw the ministry off should they come to investigate Snape’s property.

Katherine knew that it must have been several months since the fire happened because the smell of smoke within the room was a mere remnant. She moved through the house finding the kitchen and bedrooms much the same state. She didn’t dare travel upstairs for fear the stairs would collapse under her.

He had obviously done it himself. The fire had been contained to only his home. He had done it to escape his past life and wanted to start over.

And he had done it because he didn’t want Katherine to find him.

This is what hurt the most. Knowing that he must have considered that she’d come to find him. And knowing that he had deliberately set his house ablaze and left without a care.

“Why am I surprised?” she muttered to herself, throwing herself down the steps and into the night. She kept her eyes on the stone ground as she traipsed back to her car and drove home, never looking back.

Chapter Text

When September slouched forward with its drizzling weather and bleak skies, Katherine had slowly begun to accept that she would never see Snape again. The cold numbness that had lingered after her trip from Cokeworth was starting to dissipate and she could instead think of him in a detached way now. She wondered if he was creating new spells or potions. Was he still a Professor? It was September now – would he be at Hogwarts? Or he was in hiding? Would he ever return to that magical world?

Her counseling remained a constant and she found herself feeling lighter and less bitter as the weeks went on. She mentioned trying to find her ex “boyfriend” (what a laugh that term was) and finding that he’d moved. Gerta had been sympathetic but applauded her for trying to find some semblance of closure.

“Sometimes closure is a heart to heart conversation,” Gerta told her in sympathetic tones. “But sometimes its lack of interest from the other party. Sometimes it’s a forced absence. It may not be ideal, but now you know the position you had in your ex boyfriend’s life and priorities.”

That had been a bitter pill to swallow. To formally acknowledge that Snape had never cared for her in the way she had for him.

After that she began forcing herself to go out for dinner once a week. When a gentleman offered to buy her a drink at the pub she had turned him down, but only after she had seriously considered it. Here was a nice, fair looking man who wanted to buy her a drink. This is what normal courtship looked like. It wasn’t hiding her in his chambers, putting her under spells, arguing with her and then being sweet before pushing her away.

Severus was too complicated, she decided later that night. It was good riddance to bad rubbish as far as she was concerned. She wouldn’t waste another thought on him.

And so she had busied herself with preparing the shop, wanting it to look good. The finances hadn’t been great, but she hoped that with a good sprucing up that Shepard Books may be able to make enough money for her to live on while she considered her future.

Katherine had truly thought she was progressing on moving on from Snape and their time together until a month later when she heard the sound of the door being opened to her shop. She was in the fiction section, re-shelving Pride and Prejudice when she heard the heavy footsteps enter the quiet shop.

“I’ll be with you in a minute,” Katherine called out, wiping the dust from her forehead with the back of her hand. She stood, walking around the tall bookshelf and coming to an abrupt stop as she looked at the man who had entered.

He was facing away from her, reading something in the travel section. He was tall, lithe and wore denim jeans. His black jacket hung slouched on his shoulders. His dark hair was in a low pony at his neck. But from behind there was no mistaking the stiff way he stood.

Katherine continued to stare at his back, her heart hammering. She felt her hands growing clammy as she wondered what she could say. Should she call out his name? Should she tap his shoulder? What should she do?

She didn’t know how long she stood there, silently appraising him, but as if feeling Katherine’s eyes on him, the man put the book he was glancing at back. As she stood with mouth agape he walked back out the door, his boots moving hurriedly down the street. She turned away from the windows, trying to catch her breath.

Go after him you daft berk!

No. Don’t. You’re over him!

GO NOW!

She pushed open the door to her book shop with a bang, her eyes wide as she took in her surroundings. Which direction had he been going? She thought she saw his long limbed walk going towards the high street. Before she could think this through her trainers were taking her in the same direction, following him at a distance.

But he was quick, his footfalls rapid and she was struggling to keep up with him from a distance. Her walking turned into a jog which soon turned into a run as he rounded the next street.

"Severus!" she bellowed after the tall man, her heart in her throat. She thought he paused a moment but she realized he had simply side stepped a fallen bin. The man was moving quickly, not even glancing back as she continued calling after him.

Katherine raced down the street, the cold wind biting into her cheeks. She hadn't bothered with her jacket - she needed to reach him. She needed to speak with him. She needed to know that he still cared for her as she did for him.

He disappeared around the corner, his dark hair flicking out behind him in that low pony. She felt her heart lurch as she recalled his inky hair against his pale features. She longed to see those eyes, as cutting as they could be she still longed to see them.

He was slowing now, reaching for something in his pocket. His wand perhaps? Was he going to try to obliviate her before she got the chance to speak with him? He was stopped next to a fire hydrant, still searching his trouser pockets.

He was within touching distance and she threw her hand out in his direction.

"Severus?"

She gripped the tall man by the shoulder, stopping him from moving. He turned, glancing harshly at her from behind thick glasses. His dark blue eyes peered down at her down his very long and very petite nose.

When she glanced down she realized he was pulling his mobile from his pocket, as it was rining and looking at Katherine as if she were mad. She immediately went pink, realizing her mistake. She took a step back, faltering.

"Oh," Katherine intoned softly as she scanned the stranger’s face. "I'm sorry I thought... Sorry."

He didn’t answer her, choosing to open his mobile and answer it with a very cockney “Yeah?”

He turned his back on her as he made some mumbled comment that a strange girl had accosted him. The man gave her one last look over his shoulder before striding away and out of sight.

Katherine watched him, trying to catch her breath as he disappeared. She felt her lower lip threatening to tremble, but she stilled it. As she watched the man leave she saw the clunky way of walking, the thickness of legs that she hadn’t been paying attention to. How could she have ever thought it was Snape?

Because I'm desperate.

After that horrendous meeting, Katherine had started to host a monthly book club in the shop, hoping to bring in new business. She had made a few friends because of it – most were married or older. They started with the classics and moved on to more contemporary fiction, all the time Katherine felt herself relaxing with each meeting, finding it easier to laugh as the months wore on.

Despite the majority of older customers, there was a young woman named Amy who enjoyed the same films and love of animals that Katherine did. And Katherine found it enjoyable to have a friend whom she could laugh, drink tea and go to meals with.

Every second Friday they went to the cinema and then out for drinks. Eventually Katherine opened up about her ex boyfriend – Sebastian. How she had thought she was in love with him but how he’d left without a word.

“So tell me more about Sebastian,” Amy had said over drinks one night, her light eyes shining from the pint. “What was he like?”

“Barely even a boyfriend,” Katherine said with a shrug. “We didn’t date long.”

“A short but passionate affair then?” Amy laughed.

“Something like that,” Katherine said with a forced smile. “But I’ve moved on.”

One night Amy had brought along her older brother to their bi-monthly film night, citing that he was new in town and needed to make friends. Katherine had been surprised at this, but enjoyed the film with them regardless. At the pub later that night Andrew was budged up next to Katherine, looking into his lager and chatting amiably with her as Amy watched on over her pint.

When Amy called the next time to say she was feeling unwell and couldn’t make it to the cinema, but that Andrew could, Katherine had the distinct confirmation that this had been a set up. When he arrived to meet her all nervous and awkwardly smiling she couldn’t help but smile back. He was quite lovely, fun to talk to and not pushy at all. They enjoyed the film in companionable silence and when he suggested drinks she had agreed readily.

As they chatted over steak and kidney pies, Katherine was starting to wonder if this wasn’t a good life for her after all. She had a business, she had friends, she had a man interested in her.

“I’m glad you came tonight,” Andrew had said over his pint, his cheeks pink. “There’s something about you that’s really different from most girls I meet.”

“Different?”

“Yeah,” he nodded, foam clinging to his upper lip. “There’s something about you that makes me want to be around you. You know?”

“Well no, actually,” Katherine had replied with her smile dimming. “I think you may be the only one I know who feels that way.”

When he walked her home that night and kissed her tentatively on her doorstep, she waited for the familiar flutter that she had felt back at Spinners End. The same passion that had flooded her at Snape’s touch. When it didn’t come, she chalked it up to nerves and drinks.

After three dates with the same lackluster ending, Katherine had called it off in the kindest way possible, citing that she wasn’t over her ex boyfriend and that Andrew was lovely but he needed someone who could be more committed. He had turned nasty then, calling her a rude name and taking off with a screech of tyres.

After that Amy didn’t call as much and eventually their relationship was contained to the book club. Even then, after a month, Amy stopped showing up full stop. Katherine was sorry for the loss, but not sorry enough to date Amy’s brother out of obligation.

In late November Katherine realized that without a proper job and her savings dwindling, she had to sell off Shepard Books. Not only was it hemorrhaging money, it also wasn’t the job she wanted. This life may have been good for her father, but she wanted something else. Something more. She just didn’t know exactly what. After many sleepness nights she had gone to an estate agent and begun the process. She felt an extreme amount of guilt about it, but at the same time what could she do? For the rest of November she tidied, catalogued, and pondered about what her life would be after she sold Shepard Books.

***

One Friday in mid December Katherine stopped by her favorite fish and chips shop and was walking home when she decided to drop by her shop and do some more inventories. Her estate agent had mentioned that the sale could go through as quickly as next week if there were interested buyers and Katherine wanted to ensure everything was tip top shape.

She was facing away from the door, cleaning the glass by the register when the small dingle of the bell over the door sounded.

“I’m sorry we’re closed,” she said, her eyes fixated on the glass on the counter.“We open at nine thirty tomorrow.”

She continued to scrub at the spots in the glass, her brow furrowed as she focused on her task. She hummed gently to herself as she heard the door close firmly. She went to take a sip from her water when something stilled her.

She felt as if she were being watched and she paused, her eyes widening as she realized the person may still be in the shop and simply hadn’t moved.

She was scared to turn around, as if doing so would confirm a strange person behind her like something from a horror film. She swallowed as she heard the shuffle of footsteps moving towards her along the wood floor. She tensed, looking around for a weapon she could use.

Then all of a sudden she felt it firmly within her body - the change in the air around her. As if all her nerve endings were plucked, like tight guitar strings.

"Katherine."

His low voice fell over her in waves. She couldn't turn around and face him. She just couldn't. She closed her eyes tightly, bracing herself against the edge of the counter and trying to breathe slowly in through her nose.

No. It can’t be him.

She could hear him advancing, his footsteps light and unhurried. Still the consummate spy. She gripped the counter tightly, her hips practically glued to it as she heard him move closer.

"What do you want?" she asked the counter tightly. "I'm quite busy."

"I see that," came that same languid voice. "Selling the shop?"

"Can't afford to keep it," Katherine said lightly. She busied herself once more, her eyes filling with frustrated tears. She could hear him shuffling behind her, obviously unsure of what to do.

She wanted to remain steadfast. She wanted to be able to make him hurt put him in pain and to make him cry. But that wasn't her that just wasn't her style. The forces of the voice of her father ran through her mind telling her reminding her that kindness was a virtue that kindness was the one true whatever.

And so when taking a deep breath she turned ever so slowly on one heel to look over her shoulder at him.

He looked much the same, eyes dark and still glittering in that pale face of his. His dark hair has been cut a bit but still remained long enough to act as a blue-black curtain that he peered through.

He stood stiffly with his hands in his side's curling and unfurling in an absent tic. Was he nervous? Why should he be? He was the one who'd abandoned her! How arrogant to think that he could just saunter up here and act like nothing had happened!

The lines of his face were soothed and his skin no longer sallow, but a stark alabaster against his hair and robes. He had put on weight and it suited him, giving him a healthy look instead of a gaunt appearance.

He was magnificent.

He looked amazing and she hated him for it. How dare he come in here looking so decent? When she thought of meeting him again she had assumed he’d be tortured, wailing about his regret of pushing her away. Instead he was standing there looking ten years younger!

She frowned at him, feeling her hackles rising. Why had he bothered coming here? To torment her? To stare at her like he was doing now? Just to check in after how many months and ensure that he had ruined her?

The minute she had turned to look at him, Snape’s breathing had hitched. She was even more beautiful than he remembered. She was luminous with her dark hair midway down her back, her fringe falling into her deep brown eyes. His eyes were firmly entranced his her rosy lips as she licked them nervously.

“You look well,” he said softly. She could see that he was trying to come up with a good reason for dropping by. He was trying to be conversational and she couldn’t stand it. She tossed the rag onto the counter before looking at him severely.

“What are you doing here?”

She waited for the sarcastic comment, the withering look. But then she noticed the way he was standing – there were no crossed arms or glowering gaze. Instead he stood with his hands in his robes, mouth suddenly tight and his eyes surprisingly tender.

“I needed to see you,” he finally said, his voice rough.

She peered up at him, shaking her head gently in disbelief. “Why?”

He didn’t reply right away – his eyes momentarily looking away from her face before fixing back. Why was he acting so odd? She was shocked when she realized that Snape actually looked nervous. Had she ever seen him look nervous before? Anxious, upset, furious the list went on – but nervous? Not that she could properly recall. She found it humanized him a bit.

“I miss you,” he said, his voice barely above a whisper. “Terribly.”

Liar. Liar.

“You didn’t seem to care much about that when you were telling me I had to leave,” Katherine spat. "If you recall you said I didn't belong in your world.”

She whirled away from him, unable to look at him any longer. She felt she was going to sob openly and she refused to let him see her cry. She began to shuffle some papers, her heart hammering as he finally spoke.

"I did."

His voice was flat and almost devoid of feeling. As if he was trying to distance himself from all emotion. She refused to let him see her cry. He would never make or see her cry again. She maintained a stiff-upper-lip while bracing herself against the table and closing her eyes tightly.

She could hear him shuffling gently behind her. As if he was moving from foot to foot in silent anxiety. Finally he spoke, his voice a deep rumble.

"But I said nothing of me belonging in yours."

It took Katherine a minute to register would had just been said. In fact she had to replay the words in her mind several times before she thought that she grasped the concept. Was he saying what she thought he was saying?

No.

No she couldn't let herself be sucked into this drama again. She wasn't going to let herself be manipulated by the git anymore.

But his words swan through her mind once more and She felt her heart crack and all the anxieties and anger she been holding onto were suddenly released out into the world.

"Katherine, please look at me."

She wanted to rush into his arms, cling to him and never let go as he asked her that. Then she wanted to run, to never look back and truly forget about him. Yet at the same time, as she stood there she felt everything in her scream at her to turn around and simply acknowledge him.

She turned, her eyes focused only on the sensuous curve of his lower lip. If she looked into his eyes she would be lost. He had stepped closer, the scent of him curling like tendrils around her.

"I've been a fool," he said simply. "I had convinced myself that your feelings for me weren't true. In fact I'd convinced myself that I tricked you into caring for me."

Was this for real?

“That's why you brought me back here?” Katherine asked with a snort of contempt. “Didn't you think to ask me? Didn't you think to ask how I really felt?”

“Of course I did,” he replied just as contemptuously, a sliver of the old Snape surfacing. “But obviously you never would have been able to give me an unbiased opinion. You were caught in the middle of my world at the end of a war.”

“I know my own thoughts,” Katherine countered.

“You had just saved my life and been through so much trauma,” Snape replied. “Both our emotions were all over the map and I had to make sure that what we felt for each other was true. Apart from the intensity of being forced together, away from the vestiges of the war. I needed to make sure that it was real.”

His voice was soft and tender and the way he was looking at her was making her entire body melt.

“I was so worried that I was being selfish in loving you,” he continued, finding it hard to swallow. “I thought that by bringing you back here I was doing the right thing. I was making the right choice. I was sure that if I left you alone you would forget about me and that I would move on from you.”

Katherine was silently, appraising him with damp eyes. She wrapped her hands around her shoulders, holding herself as if by doing so she was holding the heavy emotions within her. What he said sounded true and real, but her traitorous heart was so scared of being shattered again.

“But I never stopped thinking about you,” Snape said, moving closer still. “Every day I woke up and thought about you. I assumed it was simply because of what we’d shared in my family home, so I left Spinners End. I burnt it to the ground, ensuring I could never grow weak and go back. I burnt it to ash, hoping that the memories of our time together there would die off as well. But they didn’t. If anything they grew stronger.”

He noted with pleasure that Katherine’s gaze had moved to his eyes. She was listening to him, not ignoring him completely – as he assumed he deserved. She seemed to be intrigued by what he just said.

“Then I thought if I moved somewhere completely different that I would forget what we’d shared,” he continued, stepping ever closer to her as he spoke. “I travelled all over Latin America. But you were in my thoughts, constantly.”

Katherine was standing still, her leaking eyes trained on him.

“I realized that what I feel for you wasn’t confined to our time stuck in the Dungeons,” Snape finished, blinking furiously. “Because all I could think about was the future I want with you. I want to make you happy. I want to wake up with you. I want you in my life every day to share in it.”

He thought she may scream at him or order him out. But instead she seemed to collapse into herself, shaking her head as if he were a memory she was trying to banish and looking to the floor.

“You can’t do this,” she said harshly. “You can’t push me away and then come back and expect me to jump into your arms. You can’t fuck around with me like this, like I’m some gormless bint for you to use when you feel like it.”

“Katherine I never-“

“You pushed me away so many times, Severus,” Katherine said, her eyes glittering with tears. “

He was before her in an instant, on his knees before her. He held her around the middle, looking up at her with such desperation Katherine felt momentarily breathless. To see a man as powerful as Snape, kneeled before her and clinging to her desperately was overwhelming.

“Katherine I love you as I have never loved anyone before,” he said up at her, and to Katherine’s softening heart she found his eyes too were damp. “Please let me love you. Please be my wife. Please start a new life with me.”

Katherine pulled back from him, and he loosened his grip on her. He still sat on his knees, looking to her with the most imploring look. She felt so summarily confused – what he said sounded authentic. It sounded real.

“Why now?” Katherine asked hoarsely. “Why now of all times?”

He faltered a moment, looking almost abashed.

“It’s almost Christmas,” Snape said with a small curl of his lips. “Don’t you remember your suggestion of celebrating the holidays together?”

Katherine easily recalled how she had suggested it to Snape with such sincerity.

“Perhaps we could celebrate Christmases together. When everything is over and back to normal. When we’ve found the missing page and you’ve defeated that awful man. I don’t mind hosting. We could do Christmas crackers and make mince pies. We could decorate a tree and hang stockings, and we’d end it with Christmas pudding and a reading of The Night before Christmas.”


“I can’t stand that book.”


“Nor can I. And I don’t like Christmas pudding either. I suppose I’d pop out to Tesco and grab biscuits and a new book for us to read instead.”


“That was a long time ago,” Katherine replied softly. “A silly idea.”

Snape stood up, looking down at her with a look of such open affection that she felt her cheeks pink. “It sounded perfect to me.”

Katherine could look him in the face now and she wiped away the wetness of her eyes. His own eyes were brimming and while she longed to throw her arms around his neck and bury her face in his hair she stopped herself. He had hurt her and despite his noble reasoning’s for doing so she didn’t know if she could do it again.

“I couldn’t survive losing you again,” she said. “I don’t think my heart could take it.”

“Nor could mine,” Snape answered honestly.

Katherine was nodding at him, looking troubled. They were silent for several moments as she puzzled, looking conflicted before she seemed to make her decision.

“I need to think,” Katherine replied finally, her eyes dimly set on his. “Come back in a week. I’ll have my answer for you then.”

She wanted to turn from him, to break away from that engulfing gaze of his. Before he could stop himself Snape had grabbed her right hand and pressed a gentle kiss to her knuckles. He felt immediately calmed as his skin touched hers, as if she had been a piece of his body finally restored.

“Until then.”

Chapter Text

Snape’s sudden return to Shepard Books had all come down to an innocuous moment – a thing that he would have passed off as coincidence if he hadn’t been aching for her so desperately. It was September and his thoughts were on her as he drank fire whiskey in front of his hearth.

Prince had snuffled against Snape’s ankle, looking up at him with wide eyes. Snape bent in half, lowering his palm so that the creature could clamor onto his hand. When Prince was firmly settled he brought him to sit on his lap.

The little creature made a small humming sound as Snape scratched him behind the ears. His eyes blinked slowly up at Snape in thanks. But was there sadness in its eyes? Or was Snape projecting? The little creature had been cordial to him, especially in quiet moments like these. But he did not snuggle against Snape’s neck as he had with Katherine.  He did not sit on his shoulder and hum gently against his cheek as he had with the Muggle.

“I know you miss her,” he had said softly looking down at Prince. “I do as well.”

The creature wiggled its nose again before burrowing itself into a foetal position, yawning in a way that was remarkably sweet. He watched the humdinger sleep a few moments before raising the tumbler to his mouth and sipping deeply.

Katherine. Had he made a huge mistake in letting her go? No. Lily had told him to make the right choice. The right choice was loving Katherine in the way she deserved, was it not?  By keeping her here he wasn’t giving her a choice. He was still keeping her a prisoner.

But then why did he miss her so much? With such a primal, physical ache? Shouldn’t he have forgotten her by now? Shouldn’t the pain have ebbed somehow? If anything it seemed to grow worse. He thought of her constantly, and every morning he woke to an empty bed he found himself cursing letting her leave.

I love her. I love her. She is not my prisoner. I had to let her go.

His eyes had begun to dampen and he took another sip of his drink. Without the walls of Spinner’s End he had found it easier to breathe. When he had torched that horrible home he had been delighted to see everything inside darken into ash. Every awful thing about his life was held in the fabric of that hovel.

But now, now there was a tinge of regret. Katherine and he had made love there. In the bedroom he hated so desperately. She had put her print on this home; she had been a light in the darkness.

Stop thinking about her.

His mind went to his life now – passing comfortably with his fire whiskey and books. He had savings that would hold him a few years. His favorite books had been retrieved by Blankar upon his ‘death’ – the only thing he wanted from his past life.  And now the thought of their familiarity caused a yearning.

“Blankar could you fetch me a book?” Snape asked lazily. He didn’t want to move and disturb the slumbering Prince, and he didn’t want to sit and let his thoughts fixate on the girl he couldn’t have. The house elf popped up at his side, eager to please.  

“Which one, Master?”

“Any will do,” Snape said softly, his black eyes reflecting the jumping flames before him. Blankar returned almost immediately, thrusting a tome up at Snape helpfully and taking the now empty tumbler. Snape took the book, not even observing the title as he threw it open.

Several sheets of folded parchment fell from inside the book, missing Prince by a few inches. Surprised, Snape placed the book on the table and opened the parchment hurriedly. Something told him he needed to read it.  An unfamiliar looping script stared back at him.

Things about Snape

  • Snape is in love (or had been) with a girl named Lily
  • Snape is a double agent (not everyone knows this?)
  • Snape is a very clever, he was youngest professor ever hired at Hogwarts
  • Snape teaches Potions (?)
  • Snape doesn’t have a lot of friends (only Albus?)(how to become his friend?)
  • Snape can read minds
  • Snape is rude
  • Snape is kind of funny in a morbid way

 

Things to find out

  • Who is Lily?
  • Why doesn’t he see her anymore?
  • What did Albus and Snape say about me?
  • Am I in danger?
  • What page from the book are they missing?
  • Was that in the envelope my dad was leaving for Snape before he died?
  • Where is the envelope?
  • Why do I keep having these weird dreams?

When he realized who had written it, he felt his entire body tense. Prince, who noticed this gave a small frustrated sigh before snuggling back into sleep on Snape’s lap. Snape went to the next sheet of parchment, his eyes wide.

To do when I return home

  • Figure Out Bookstore – sell? Keep?
  • Start own practice- unhappy at current.
  • Meet with IFA to figure finances. Can I affordto keep b.store? Can I afford to open practice?
  • Memorial for mom and dad –scholarship?
  • Make more time for making friends – less work more life.
  • Move out of horrid flat.
  • Adventure more.
  • Invite Severus over for supper?

Seeing his name written in such a casual way on her list made his heart flip. His name in her looping handwriting caused his throat to tighten. He kept reading it over and over – Invite Severus over for supper. She hadn’t called him Snape – she’d called him Severus. There was something intimate about using his first name and he felt his eyes grow wet.  Blankar noted this and took a step towards Snape, still seated before the fire.

“Blankar where did you find this?” Snape asked in a hoarse voice.

“In Master’s library,” Blankar replied worriedly. “Is Master displeased?”

“No,” Snape said as he shook his head. She had obviously written it during her time with him and he felt his heart pulse with affection. It shouldn’t have changed anything, but it did. He suddenly needed to see her and had.

And now he was a nervous wreck.

The week since he’d last seen her was up. He couldn’t remember feeling this emotionally strained in a long while. He showered twice, washing his hair and then his teeth thoroughly. He changed robes twice before his mirror told himself he was behaving ridiculously. He had scowled at his reflection and left the bathroom. 

Snape paced around his flat, his eyes on the floor as he internally chastised himself. His cheeks were stained pink as he recalled his brash and erratic behavior with Katherine the week before. 

“Proposing?” he said aloud, his head shaking in disbelief. He was still embarrassed at his overly dramatic display of histrionics. The girl had to have been horrified by him falling to his knees and professing his undying affection. He’d asked her to marry him for Merlin’s sake!

He scrubbed at his face in embarrassment as Blankar watched him from the corner of the room. The little elf wore a small smile of pleasure at the sight, knowing exactly where his Master was off to.

“How can I face her?”  Snape muttered aloud.

He would of course face her. Even now his body and his heart burned for her. His mouth against her knuckles had been enough to keep him going this week. Just thinking of seeing her dark eyes once more had him found him grinning to himself at random intervals. It often frightened Blankar who had become accustomed to his Master’s dour frown.

He glanced at the grandfather clock standing at the far side of the sitting room. He still had hours before she expected him. They had agreed on nine o’clock before he’d left last week. And while the entire week he had prepared himself for this reconvening he was suddenly certain he was going to empty his stomach of everything he'd eaten in the past forty-eight hours. 

“What if she says no?” Snape murmured to himself.

 If Katherine said no or turned him down. . . How would he manage? This thought had haunted him all week as he tried to think of compromises they could make. Could he be contented to simply have her write him letters once a year as a kind of update?  Would she even permit that? He was desperate not to lose contact with her – he would take her in whatever form he could get.

“Miss Katherine will not say no,” Blankar insisted, his bulging eyes staring up at Snape. He wore an inscrutable Mona Lisa’s smile on his thin lips. “Katherine Shepard loves Master Snape.”

Snape said nothing, but Blankar could tell his Master was pleased at this admission. Snape continued to pace, but his brows were no longer meeting in frustration. He seemed to be thinking deeply instead.

Should he bring flowers? Candy? No, it would seem he was buying her affection. Instead he looked around his flat until he came upon the small bowl. He hurriedly shoved it into his robes pocket and headed out the door.

 

***

 

Katherine was no better- having been unable to eat the entire day her stomach was in knots. She sat on a wooden chair in the back room of Shepard Books, her left leg bouncing anxiously. She was still unsure of what she would say to him.

All week she had thought of him – the pros and cons. She had made list after list of why he was rubbish and why he was brilliant. It didn’t help – her affection for him made it impossible to stay cross. But then she would remember the hurt she felt when he pushed her away and it brought her insecurities flooding back.

If he was going to continue to live as a recalcitrant, bitter arsehole, doling out affection only when she was desperate for it, she’d prefer to stay single. She couldn’t have a husband who wasn’t a true partner.

They would need to also think about life together if they were to move forward. He had offered to live here with her – but how would that actually look? Would he give up his magic? Would he live as a muggle? Would he be happy?

No, Katherine had decided for him. He would never be happy here, turning away from the life he loved. He was such a talented wizard – it would be like removing a limb. The thought that he would offer to so willingly touched her, but she also knew the power of affection.

He may change in a few years – he may start to resent her for holding him back. This was the thought that caused her stomach to tighten painfully.

When the door to the shop opened and the bell jingled Katherine almost jumped out of her chair. She’d been so deep in thought that the sound frightened her. She could hear his footsteps moving tentatively within the shop.

“Katherine?”

Katherine felt her eyes close a moment as that silken purr called out her name. She would never tire of hearing him say it. She absently smoothed down her skirt, shaking her fringe out of her eyes and making her way into the main area of the shop.

He stood there in basic black robes – the billowing teachers robes were forgotten. He looked much less menacing, but not by much. He was still buttoned severely and he towered over her.

But any agitation she felt was gone when his eyes fell upon her and softened.  His mouth quirked into the smallest of smiles as she drew over to him.  She stopped herself from embracing him, choosing instead to tighten her lips and give a polite nod.

“It’s good to see you.”

“Agreed,” he said, the shadow of a dimple appearing the longer he stared at her. “Although I admit I was concerned you wouldn’t be here when I arrived.”

“I was worried you wouldn’t come either,” Katherine said with a smile and a blush. She went to say something when Snape suddenly exhaled through his nose, his ring fingers biting into his thumbs at his sides. He was nervous, that was for sure.

“Before you tell me your decision I need to apologize for my behavior last week," he said stiffly. "It came out of nowhere. It was... I just saw you and..."

He trailed off, looking embarrassed. Katherine had never seen him so vulnerable and something about the sight warmed her heart. She took a step backwards, peering into his face.

"I understand," Katherine nodded. She didn't confess that she had wanted to fling herself into his arms the second she saw him that first day. He had hurt her deeply, and she needed to be on guard for her hearts' sake.

"I need to tell you some things," he said quietly. “Can we sit?”

"Alright." She eyed him warily.

He looked nervous and twitchy in a way that made her unsettled. She led him to the back room, the storeroom in which they had first met.  It was strange being back here with him, looking at the corner in which he had hidden her from Death Eaters. The same floor where she had been Obliviated.

He too seemed to be taking mental stock of their surroundings, looking to the same desk in the cramped room. She brought another chair in from the back and encouraged him to take a seat.  He did so, looking at her as he swallowed.

"Do you recall that night you returned, when you asked who killed Albus?"

Katherine had to think a moment but she nodded.  "Yes."

She could see the panic in his posture and the way he held his hands so tightly together. He was looking into her face, but looking through her, as if actually speaking directly to her was too hard.

"It was me," Snape said quietly. "I killed him."

He saw it immediately - the flicker of horror that touched her features. Her dark eyes widened and she blinked roughly. Her eyebrows furrowed in disbelief. Her mouth parted in confusion.  In these sudden subtle motions, Snape felt all his insecurities and doubts closing in on him.

She knows the ugly truth now. She despises you. Push her away. She hates you. You're disgusting. This was a stupid idea. You’re pathetic. Run. Run. Run.

“Oh," Katherine finally uttered, looking concerned. "You must have-"

Before she could finish Snape had drawn himself to his full height. Katherine looked perplexed up at him, surprised at him. He was in front of her, his hands in tight fists at his side now.

"This was a foolish idea," he said coldly. "I never should have come."

With that he had begun striding towards the front door of the shop. He was actually running out on her again? Katherine upset her chair as she went after him, her trainers slapping against the wood floor.

"Stop!" Katherine insisted angrily grabbing the arm of his robe and pulling him back harshly.

He was jerked back by her surprisingly strong grip. He looked as if he wanted to say something to her, his anxious eyes searching her face in question. She wondered if he wanted to read her mind. But he didn’t. Instead he stared at her a long time before sighing and returning to his seat with a slump.

"Now, just sit there! Let me just digest this," Katherine began to pace after she propped her chair back up. She swept past the desk as she went, making a small circle in the back room. Snape watched her from beneath his hooded eyes, the only motion in his face.

"You've popped up out of nowhere after eight months of silence and you've given me all this overwhelming information," Katherine cried with a rapid hand motion that betrayed her frustration. "And now you're angry at me for not immediately giving you the response you wanted? For fuck sake, Severus! Give me a minute!"

He went to say something, his eyes growing flinty at her chastising. But, after a moment of thought he quickly clamped his mouth shut and leaned back in the chair. He felt out of sorts – i truth he had assumed she’d be horrified. He thought she’d throw him out of the shop. But she was still there, trying to reason with him.

"If this is going to work you're going to need to manage your temper," Katherine bit off. "You can't go sulking off every time we have a row!"

If this is going to work? Snape felt his pulse quicken. There was hope in those chosen words.

“You’re impossible at times, but then I can be as well,” she offered with a shrug. “But we both need to agree to work on it. You should see a counselor like I do. It's wonderful. You get to just complain at someone for a whole hour and not feel guilty about it. We could even go together if you wanted. Actually, after all we've been through some couples counseling may be just what we need."

Wait. She was truly considering this? He sat straight up in his chair, regarding her with slightly widened eyes. Snape nodded dimly at everything she was saying. He would agree to walk around Hogsmeade naked if it meant that Katherine Shepard was seriously considering being with him.

"I would... find that acceptable."

"We'd have to change a few things of course. We can’t go in and tell some Muggle therapist how you Obliviated me, can we?" She gave a strangled laugh at the absurdity. “Unless you know some magical counselors?”

"I do not."

"Alright we’ll figure that out later. Now," Katherine turned serious and came to take the seat across from him again. "I can only assume that if you killed Albus there was a reason. Tell me everything from the start."

When she looked at him with such earnest understanding, it all came tumbling out of Snape. The promise he’d made, his love of Lily Potter, his hatred of Harry. How the Marauders made his life hell and how James Potter took the one thing in his life that was safe. And when he came to the part where he told her of Albus’s death his voice caught.

Without warning Katherine had gripped his hand tightly in her palms, looking at him with understanding. He swallowed, able to finally finish all the hurt that had been building within him. She was quiet the entire time – quite a feat since she wanted to ask so many questions.

"I wanted you to know about Albus,” he finally finished feeling drained. "I wanted you to know about him before you made your decision."

"You wanted to test me," Katherine said cheekily. "To see what you could say to make me run."

"That's not true." But even as he said it, he knew it was partially accurate. He couldn't rectify that he deserved this creature seated across from him. How could he? How could he deserve this sunny, joyful creature when he was such a black cloud?

"Isn't it?" Katherine said with that crooked little smile of hers. "Not even a little?"

"And if it is?" Snape said sourly. He felt his hackles rising a bit, exhausted from his previous revelation and irritable at being made fun of.

"Then stop it," Katherine replied seriously. "Because I have no desire to run from you. Ever. And if you don't know that by now then you are really quite dim."

She watched the corner of his mouth hitch. "I see."

"Do you?" Katherine asked imploringly.

"I do," he said with a trace of hesitation. "But that's not all."

Katherine looked to him curiously. What else could there possibly be? He stood and now it was he that was pacing like a caged tiger. He looked into the air before him, his eyes narrowed.

"As you know, my father was a Muggle, my mother a witch," Snape's voice was even. "They had the most tempestuous relationship I'd ever seen and-"

He stopped abruptly looking at her with an almost pained expression. She cocked her head to the side, concerned. "What is it?"

"Words aren’t always strong suit," he said grimly. "Either I say too much or not enough. It's best I just show you."

He reached into his robes, pulling something from his pocket and placing it on the table between them. It looked like a small, shallow pewter bowl. Several carved symbols were dotting the sides.

"Engorgio."

“What is this?”

“A Pensieve,” Snape replied as if she already knew what that was, pressing the wand to his temple. "I've had plenty of months to think back on what I want for our future, but to do so I needed to confront my past and I want you to see it all."

“I don't understand,” Katherine deferred, unsure of what was about to happen but rather anxious about it.

"I went through your mind, your most intimate of memories," Snape intoned darkly. He pressed his wand to his temple, closing good eyes momentarily before a silvery strand appeared at his temple. "I want you to do the same."

A weaving smoke was being pulled from his temple, almost like a glittering spider’s web. Katherine watched enraptured as he tossed it into the pensive and began to stir.

Images began to form inside and a woman with beady black eyes was glaring out at Katherine. Recognition flashed across Katherine's face. This was the woman who had sobbed as Katherine was held under water.

"I recognize her," Katherine breathed. "From the dream-"

Without warning the witch's voice was echoing from inside the pensive and into the back room of the shop. Katherine jerked and covered her ears at the sudden reverberating sound.

'Severus! Get over here and pick up your books! Your father will be home any moment!'

Katherine took a full step back from the pensieve, her eyes wide and her expression concerned. The woman knew Snape but how? Katherine peered into the face and felt her breath hitch. There were such similarities between she and Snape – were they related?

"Can she see us?" Katherine had turned a worried eye on Snape. He was shaking his head lightly.

"She cannot. These are simply my memories. Echoes of the past. Put your face in and you will see and hear everything," Snape urged her. "It is safe."

Katherine had so many questions she wanted to ask. How was this possible? Would she be able to touch and talk to the figures? But Snape looked so anxious that she didn't want to prolong it. But at the same time these were his memories, were they not? She felt a bit of trepidation.

"Will you come with me?"

"I shall."

He took her hand and they both plunged their faces into the swirling contents of the bowl.  

 

 

 

Chapter Text

The space around them lurched as Katherine’s face touched the shimmering substance - it had a biting quality to it that prickled her face as she and Snape fell into the Pensieve. There was the swooping feeling of falling and Katherine’s stomach jumped as they descended into the memory.

Finally she felt firmness under her feet and she blinked rapidly, looking around the familiar cramped quarters of Spinner’s End. Snape was at her side, still holding her hand firmly.

“My goodness,” Katherine whispered. She was about to say more when she noticed as a sallow faced woman stood nearby, her bony hands on her hips. Her hair was damp at her temples and her blackened eyes were gazing down the corridor.

“That is my mother,” Snape said with a nod in her direction. “Eileen.”

Katherine watched the woman’s face turn into a tight frown as she looked down at the mess of books on the floor.  

"Severus pick up those books!" Eileen repeated. "Your father will be furious if he trips all over them again!"

Severus, who could be no more than five years old, was seated at the kitchen table drawing something on the back of an envelope. At his mother’s insistence he crawled down and began to tidy his mess. Before he left he looked up at his mother, his too large shirt exposing his narrow shoulder.

“Mother, will you read to me from a different book?”

“Of course,” Eileen said immediately. She was obviously someone who enjoyed that she had raised a child who enjoyed reading. Snape went scrambling to his room befor coming back with a large book entitled “The Tales of Beedle the Bard”.

Instantly the smile from Eileen’s face dropped.

“Where did you get this?”

“I found it in the attic,” Snape said proud of his acquisition. “Will you read it to me?”

Eileen paused, thinking about this intensely a moment. It seemed she was plagued with a large feeling of indecision.

“She’s deciding if she wants to expose me to the magical world,” Snape whispered in Katherine’s ears. “I think she was hoping I’d be a squib.”

Katherine nodded before looking back to the young Severus. He was still round faced and his hair wasn’t very long. He looked so adorably innocent that Katherine wanted to gather him up in her arms and hold him.

"My mother was very talented in magic," Snape said gently from beside her. "And she came from a very affluent Wizarding family. But when she married Tobias Snape she was immediately disowned. All family, financial support and more were revoked the minute she took his name. To this day I have never met or heard from my grandparents.”

Young Severus was looking to his mother with such open, eager anticipation that Katherine felt her heart thump at the sight. She knew what awaited this young boy and it hurt her to see him so innocent.

“Yes darling,” Eileen finally said, cracking open the book and looking down at its aged pages before giving the young Snape a warm smile. She led him to the threadbare chair at the hearth. “Let’s start with The Wizard and the Hopping Pot.”

The