Damn it, Albus, you will stay with me!
Snape roared, though the room
stayed quiet aside from the sound of the Potions master throwing open a
cabinet to his parlous vials.
"Severus," the Headmaster groaned weakly from the nearby bench where
Snape had laid him mere moments before. So much pain,
he sent directly
to Snape's mind, now laid open and porous as a sponge to Dumbledore's
Snape snapped, sending bottles soaring through the air to Albus'
side. He descended on Albus like a fearless bird to a scarecrow, his
wand flicking right and left as he spat commands, spells and
obscenities. The Headmaster's hand was a hideous glow of burned flesh,
the ring on his finger lodged with malevolence. Severus glared at the
hunk of metal before pouring a viscous fluid into a wide, silver spoon.
He stood behind Albus, gently cradling the older wizard's neck and head
with one hand while bringing the utensil carefully to Albus' lips.
he insisted, the cavernous furrows above his eyebrows
relaxing only slightly once he saw Albus swallow. That should slow the
bilium from seeping further.
Snape took precious seconds to lower Albus' head back to the hard
surface before stepping in front of the injured hand. Tentatively, he
arced his wand over the fiery digits, wincing as the air crackled with
Dark energy. Standing ramrod-straight, Snape closed his eyes and sought
deeply within himself for a memory of joy. He settled instead for a
feeling of pride when he'd discovered he'd received the prestigious
Paraclesus award in Potions. He murmured words of supplication and
entreaty as a dank thread of smoke drifted up from the charred skin,
forming a sinuous shifting cloud. With a guttural snarl, Snape aimed his
wand at the vapour and yelled, "Expellianima
!" An incardine light shot
through the haze and continued over Albus' body, blazing into the far
stone wall and forming a blood-coloured stain. There was an angry
hissing sound as the smoke dissipated. Taking no time to congratulate
himself, Snape stormed over to a locked and warded armoire, brandishing
his wand at it as though to cast an Unforgivable. The doors flung open
wide, clattering on their hinges.
"Murtlap. Deliquesce of nettle. Wormwood," he ground out, snatching the
items from their shelves. There was little grace to his movements as he
prepared the salve; with the force of a hurricane his robes swirled
around him. Ingredients, measuring devices, and utensils were sucked in
then dropped helter-skelter like detritus after a storm.
Albus' hand was eased into a marble bowl, the grievous injury allowed to
soak in the most potent essence Snape could create in the greatest
haste. At last he paused, breathing heavily through his nose, his palms
anchored to the bench. After several deep breaths, he lifted his left
hand to cautiously brush the hair out of Albus' eyes.
The Headmaster's breathing changed, becoming shallow and troubled.
"You soul-sucking son of Seketh," Snape swore at Voldemort. He probed
Albus' mind, racing through the recent memories to discover what had
happened. Albus' thoughts were becoming muted; he tottered on the knife
edge between the living and the abyss. There was nothing else for it; if
Snape performed the spell to infuse Albus with some of his magic, Albus'
renewal would be as unobtrusive as a thundering stampede of patronuses
through a Death Eater ritual. On the other hand, destroying a Horcrux
wasn't exactly a subtle act.
Snape thought for an instant of the relieved look in Albus' eyes each
time he returned after being summoned by the Dark Lord, and made up his
mind. He was no Healer; once stabilised, Poppy would need to care for
the more superficial injuries — the caking blood at his temple, the
internal wounds Snape sensed but couldn't afford to tend to — but what
needed his immediate focus was the older wizard's magic itself, which
may have been mortally affected.
Snape locked the classroom door and cast a magic-dampening ward inside
the perimeter of the room. The one person who would've been most likely
to chastise him for unnecessary magic in the castle was now prone before
him and barely breathing, but Snape had learned ages ago that caution
was sacrosanct for survival. He paused to collect himself, marveling at
why it was that some of the most powerful magic required the least
amount of preparation, so unlike Potions. Wary of Albus' injuries, Snape
murmured a spell so that Albus' robes fell open, leaving exposed his
pale abdomen and heaving chest with its low tangle of white hair.
Turning the wand on himself, within seconds Snape's own robes vanished
and reappeared in a nearby pile, leaving him clad only in his trousers,
shoes and socks. Timing, intent and raw emotion provided the three-point
base for the spell. Snape quieted his mind, focusing on pulling his own
magic to the surface, to be drawn from him as blood for a transfusion.
Speaking the words of an ancient binding ritual, Snape used his wand to
draw a figure eight on his own chest, the image gleaming silver. Once
complete, he did the same on Albus, who was gasping like a fish trapped
on land. The eternity symbol glowed a sickly green. Keeping his wand on
Albus' body, Snape switched hands, grasping at a nearby abandoned knife.
He straightened his left arm and cut a triangle inside his elbow so that
red trails began trickling down his forearm, over his Dark Mark. The
blood collection was messy, but he didn't need much. A small spoonful
was placed at the ailing man's lips, whose face was ashen. Snape tipped
the fluid in, making sure some went down Albus' throat.
Thinking solely of commanding Albus to stay alive, he moved his wand to
the juncture of the symbol on his chest before moving it slowly back to
the Headmaster, ensuring that the grey gossamer thread traversed
unbroken the small space to the mirror image on Albus' mottled skin.
When the connection was made, Snape was yanked forward as Albus' magic
needily tugged at the source of power. Snape felt himself being drained,
emptied. His mind and spirit screamed at him to stop, and, with
tremendous effort, he wrenched his wand away and fell backwards against
the opposite bench. His heart was racing, and his mouth gaped as he
panted for breath. He shut his eyes for a moment, reeling at his loss of
strength. His rational self commented that he hoped Voldemort didn't
summon him soon, as it would take him several days to regain the
energies he'd given to Albus. Snape's Occlumency would be a dike wall
with a leak, and the Dark Lord's probing would be enough for it to
crumble in a torrent of damning knowledge.
Cracking open one eye, Snape pressed two fingers to the spurting vein in
his arm and looked at Albus, whose breathing had evened out. The line on
his body was now a vibrant jade, pulsing in time with Albus' heartbeat
before it faded into his snowy torso and was gone. Snape staggered to a
pile of cloths and wrapped one around his elbow.
"Thank you, Severus," Albus croaked, looking at him, the usual twinkle
muted in his eyes.
Snape responded with a curt nod before gathering his shirt and robes,
fumbling as he dressed himself. The Headmaster's chest rose and fell in
a soothing, regular pattern as Severus walked to his fireplace, stubbing
his toe against a chair.
"What in Hades am I doing?" he muttered, collapsing to his knees as he
fire-called Madam Pomfrey.
"Poppy," he said in a hoarse voice. "Come to my office at once. It's
She nodded, wide-eyed. Snape only just remembered to disarm the wards
before she stepped over the grate seconds later and rushed straight to
the Headmaster's side.
"Severus," she said, horrified. "What's hap-"
"Later," Severus interrupted, sounding more businesslike than he felt.
"Take him to the Hospital Wing. I'll be up momentarily."
Poppy gave Snape a practised, evaluative scowl as she took in his pallor
and shaking hands. "You certainly will
be," she said, her voice barbed
with authority. She cast Mobilicorpus
to get Albus to the fireplace and
then they vanished in a swirl of Floo powder.
Snape sagged against a stool, using what little energy he had left to
a flask of Firewhiskey and a glass from his chambers. With a
tremulous hand, he poured it half full and swallowed the amber liquid,
sputtering as the burn hit his throat. He coughed a few times and picked
up his wand, feebly resetting the wards. As the warmth of the alcohol
eased through him, he collapsed on the rug and sank into
* * * * *
Several weeks later, Snape looked Albus straight in the eye as he told
him of the Unbreakable Vow he'd taken, how it had been necessary in
order to keep his cover, but surely—
"Severus," Albus said softly, the acceptance in his voice cutting Snape
to the quick. More than ever before, he loathed the Headmaster for
sending him out, again and again, and for trusting him. He hated Albus'
steadfast belief that Severus would, at all costs, execute what commands
had been given to him.
Because, in that, Albus was correct.
"This war doesn't need you as a martyr," Severus seethed, his knuckles
white where he clasped his hands tightly in his lap.
"All loyalty involves sacrifice."
Aside from the rustling sound of Fawkes preening his feathers off in the
corner, silence settled around them. Snape found his attentions drawn
to the portrait of Phineas Nigellus Black, who cast a disinterested glance down
at him before rolling his eyes in distaste and tending to his
fingernails. In a suffocated maelstrom of frustration and resignation,
Severus swept to his feet and headed to the door.
"Please keep me appraised of any other developments of interest,
Snape turned to look over his shoulder. The Headmaster was peering over
his half-moon spectacles at a parchment on his desk, a sherbet lemon
drop halfway to his mouth.
They will never know.
The words resonated in Severus' head even as he
felt a gentle nudge attempting entrance, and he instinctively shuttered
Once in the sanctity of his quarters, Severus clenched his eyes shut,
willing the memories of Narcissa's pale, desperate eyes and Dumbledore's
wounded voice to leave him. All of it was madness. Surely Snape was
raving, Defense Against the Dark Arts appointment aside. He was split,
drowning on both sides, and there were none on Merlin's green earth who
would have him be whole.
As he began meticulously shredding some boomslang skin, Severus felt his
invisible noose inexorably tighten, and he stiffened his back in
defiance. Strip after strip he cut, eyes burning with the tears he would
never release. He was nothing but a pawn, albeit a cunning one who had
nearly made it across the board. He felt a surge of unchecked fury, then
surprise as he heard a sound of tinkling glass. Following his instinct,
he strode back to his rooms. He scanned the sitting area, where
everything seemed to be in order, until he glanced at his chess set.
Severus let out a hiss of recognition; one of the pieces had been
unwittingly sacrificed in his anger, now a small pile of shards.
"Loyalty is most effective for the living
," he mused darkly. With a wave
of his wand and a grim smile, the glass vanished.
* * * * *
Written for Amy
, who requested a story addressing this sentence of
Dumbledore's from HBP, "Horcruxes":
Had it not been - forgive me the lack of seemly modesty - for my own
prodigious skill, and for Professor Snape's timely action when I
returned to Hogwarts, desperately injured, I might not have lived to
tell the tale.
I hope I've done it justice, my dear. Merry Christmas.
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