Chapter Notes: To be up front: contains a scene of torture and very mild language.
There were three detentions before breakfast. Snape just managed to catch two students hurriedly hiding their Extendable Ears and sent them to Hagrid for “punishment” before the Carrows found them. The third, a tall Ravenclaw girl, almost spat in his face and raised such a row the Carrows came running. The fighters always made it worse for themselves, but then again they were the ones who could bear the punishment. He’d noticed several lightning rods emerging amongst the student body. He would patrol the dungeons again tonight in case they had left her in chains somewhere. That is, if he was still alive after pawning a forgery off to Bellatrix before dinner.
The trick to avoid interruptions was to look engaged. He’d started to wonder how many times Dumbledore had faked occupation; the amount of paperwork made it too easy. With enough official looking parchment Snape managed to avoid the Carrows until after lunch.
“Have you looked at the scroll I gave you?” Alecto stopped him in the hall. “The sentiments that student expressed were truly alarming. I would like your permission to take steps.”
“You have been appointed by the Ministry to do just that, Alecto. And such an exemplary job you’re doing.”
Alecto simpered. She resembled her brother too much for such a feminine expression.
“I only wish to please my superiors and bring the truth to the unenlightened. We are making progress, aren’t we? Amycus is close to identifying the ringleader of the rebelling student body. This student has been frequently in need of adjustment. We’re just waiting for him to lead us to the rest of the inner circle.”
“Well, tell Amycus that’s most excellent.”
They parted and he turned back to ask, so casually, “Which student?”
“That blood traitor.” Alecto could barely speak for disgust. “Longbottom.”
Longbottom? Dumbledore’s Army was relying on Longbottom? In frequent need of adjustment? No wonder he could never push the boy enough if torture was what it took to give him spine.
Back in his study he cast the usual anti-eavesdropping spells. Two hours. Of all the owls he had sent, all the strings he had pulled, not one contact had offered an alternative solution. It was all on the Knapps. Damn them, why had those idiots tried to steal the sword? Voldemort would have never demanded it had they not attempted it. A useless gesture of defiance. Typical Gryffindor thing to do.
“Anything you need, Severus?” The portrait looked up from the book he was holding. It lay opened and the title obscured. What book had the headmaster chosen for his likeness to read for all time?
“Of everyone you knew, who was the most proficient in wandless magic?”
Dumbledore pursed his lips.
“I think the obvious answer would be Grindelwald, but as he reached levels of ability unheard of in many fields, I think we should discount him as an anomaly. I knew a witch in Little Gaddesden who could make curry without lifting finger or wand. Decent curry too.”
“The other night I saw a disarmed witch cast a Stunning spell that broke a quite solid cabinet into kindling. Then she made a nice little whirlwind out of the debris while I had her immobilized.”
“Wandless and nonverbal casting? Impressive, though not unprecedented. There are some who believe children should learn wandless spells first, but I always found it too volatile.”
Snape was about to mention Knapp’s ability to fly when the silver puffer, linked to his warding spells, started to steam. Someone was ascending the gryffin stair. If the Carrows buttonholed him in his office, they might ask pressing questions about his engagement elsewhere. He quickly silenced the alarm and hurried to the fire. Floo powder could be traced, so make it somewhere benign.
From there he could take his time getting to Knockturn Alley and be sure he wasn’t followed.
Theophany was seated in the Spiny Serpent. Loitering in Knockturn Alley meant you were either selling or looking to buy. Sitting in the corner with her sulphurous smelling drink seemed the least suspicious thing she could do. Her fellow drinkers either conversed in low voices or stared moodily into their tankards. Maybe she shouldn’t have come so early. In her magically augmented carpet bag lay a thing of beauty and it was making her nervous. She was sure she had done the right thing. The Ministry contact, Otho Aubuchon, had confirmed that Arthur Pinstick had been leaking false information. So the intelligence had proved accurate, but should she trust on so little?
“Waiting for someone?” The speaker was a white-haired wizard, a little too well dressed to be a regular customer. His eyes were smiling and bright blue.
“What? Oh, no, please have a seat.”
“Glad to hear it. Shame for someone with a face like yours to be stood up.”
Theophany doubted the Spiny Serpent had much of a dating scene. For hags maybe. If they were really lonely.
“Nice of you to say. Sadly I take after my Dad and not my Mum. She’s the looks in the family.”
“Aw, no, that’s sweet.”
He wasn’t alone. She could see his partner watching closely from the bar. Tall and hungry-looking type.
“Now what I like about your face is how open and honest it is. See, I can tell you’re only going to speak the truth." He leaned forward, and Theophany saw the tattooed black tail of a serpent slide from under his cuff. Left wrist. The rest was obscured.
“Now, what’s in the bag?”
Snape stormed through Diagon Alley for the second time. He’d turned Knockturn inside out and found no trace of Knapp. Now he prowled Diagon Alley, hoping to catch her on her way. There was no time. After twenty minutes he returned to Knockturn Alley. Had he missed her?
“Severus! Over here!”
It was Jugson. One of the Death Eaters currently working at the Ministry. He’d been disgraced after failing to secure the prophecy in the Department of Mysteries two years before and had been assigned to work as an under clerk in Umbridge's newly formed Department for Muggle-born Registration. Jugson smiled widely, his eyes brimming like Snape was a long lost relative.
“Fancy running into you. Shopping? Never mind, never mind. I’m sure it’s none of my business. Something important for our master, eh?”
Snape allowed his face to stiffen.
“As you say, Jugson, it’s no concern of yours.”
“Quite, quite. Anyway something’s come up. Rum really. We’d appreciate your advice.”
“I’m sure any bureaucratic problem…”
“Oh, no! Really this was a routine snatch and search but, well, it’s rum. And this girl’s rum too.”
Snape slowed his breathing. It could be anyone. But a small witch with a bloody great sword would qualify as rum.
“Regretfully my mission is time sensitive, however should you still be occupied this evening...?”
“Only show up for the good part, eh? Sure we’ll have her cracked by then. Borgin’s old place has a tidy little shed in back. Everyone’s been avoiding Borgin and Burke’s like billyoh...not to be seen associating.”
Snape bore the man’s comradely wink and clap on the shoulder with a tight smile. He watched Jugson fade into the dinner shopping crowd.
Was this a distraction? If it was Knapp they had captured, more than her life was at stake. He couldn’t afford to ignore it. Dodging behind a banner proclaiming that Miss Phillida Whipperspeck would be signing copies of her new novel Two Souls Entwined at Flourish and Blotts, Snape cast a Disillusionment Charm. The trick wasn’t staying unseen but remaining untrampled as he crept back to Knockturn Alley. Borgin and Burke’s was deserted, but once he’d slid between it and the wig shop next door, he could see a dim light in the shed behind. The door was ajar, the better to keep watch, so he positioned himself by the boarded window.
“Crowe tells me you’ve been unhelpful,” Jugson was speaking, “so I’m going to try this again.”
There was a scraping sound as he drew up a chair. There was a sound of soft crying.
“What’s your name?”
Then a burning hiss and a stifled scream. An unpleasant smell was detectable. The Cruciatus Curse was too fast; they wanted more time with her.
“Who are you meeting?”
Silence. And again a scream.
“Where did you get the sword? Antiques like that don’t belong to scum like you. Did you steal it from some wizarding family?”
After each question he paused, and the only answer would be more shrieks. There were two that Snape was certain of; surely the shed couldn't hide more than two Death Eaters and a captive? Or had they magically augmented the inside for regular use?
“I stand by what I said,” Jugson continued. “You’re honest, which is why you aren’t even trying to lie. I could see it in that nice, open face. Not really my type, so consider this a favor, a few scars might provide some...visual interest. Segmentum.”
More bubbling cries were coming from within. Snape focused on getting noiselessly to the door. Jugson stood with his back to the door facing his restrained victim. Another wizard crouched by the girl’s side tracing with his finger the long cuts Jugson’s wand opened across her skin.
“Say the Dark Lord has conquered.”
Another slicing movement with the wand, more blood.
“He is victorious! Hail the Dark Lord! Say it!"
Either man was in a position to take her hostage if Snape attacked, but they couldn’t spot him right away. He waited until the girl lifted her head. A long crescent slice lay open her cheek and temple. Her eyes were filled with pain but focused when Snape revealed himself. Theophany stared back at him. He counted down from three raised fingers.
“Protego!” Theophany yelled the Shield Charm.
Both Jugson and Crowe were thrown violently back, and Theophany’s chair knocked over, her weak Shield Charm protecting her only against the worst of Snape’s sweeping curse. Jugson's head cracked on the opposite wall but Crowe was up again. His wand was in his hand. Theophany pointed at him with her right hand. Crowe began, “Avada—”
He choked as his neck was turned too far to the side. Snape checked Jugson's pulse. Nonexistent. He stepped over the late Crowe and knelt by Theophany. Burns covered her neck and arms along with several sickle-shaped cuts through her robes. The cut on her face was cruel but shallow.
“Not exactly a defensive spell.” He nodded towards the crooked Crowe.
Theophany’s eyes opened. “I figured,” she whispered. “There couldn’t be any survivors to report you.”
So she had known he was a Death Eater. Then why she was helping?
She smiled but stopped when the wound on her face started to bleed.
“They saw it, but no one other than me can remove it from the bag. Here.”
Snape prevented her from rising and brought the carpet bag to her. Theophany’s arm disappeared to the shoulder and she drew the sword of Gryffindor into the weak light. Even here the silver’s edge was ice and the rubies smoldered most convincingly. She presented it, hilt first, to him. Snape raised an eyebrow.
“It’s not a trap. Here.” She gripped the pommel, “See? Not poisoned or cursed.”
Carefully Snape closed his hand on the grip. A soft, not unpleasant, warmth rose up his arm. He dropped it and drew his wand, but Theophany was shaking her head, hands raised in surrender.
“No, no! I enchanted it. If you’re going to hand over the sword of Gryffindor to a Dark wizard, they’ll expect some sort of reaction from an ancient artifact.”
Snape was none too pleased she’d identified the sword. “So you made it heat up like a party trick?” he snarled. “Is that what you felt?”
Theophany was looking at him closely. “That’s funny. I used the same principle as a sneakoscope. Only I tied the sword specifically to my own well being. Anyone who would hurt me would feel something hostile when they touched it.”
Clever. And her point was valid—the sword of Gryffindor would certainly react to Lestrange, and in addition Knapp had neatly tested his own intentions. The sword itself was excellent, there was no doubt of that. He lowered his wand.
“I have no time left. Can you get yourself to St. Mungo’s?”
She was shaking her head again but stopped and pressed her palms to her forehead.
“Can’t stand, much less Apparate. Anyway, you can’t deliver the sword without me. The spell is strongest near me. Like I said, a sneakoscope.”
Cleverer still. Or maybe not. “You wanted to know what I’m doing with it,” he hissed. “What’s to stop me killing you and taking my chances?”
“Because you took a hell of a wild chance when you showed me that sketch,” she snapped. “For some reason this sword is important and this fake must work and I—”
She stopped and gulped for air, then slowly crumpled forward. Time was against arguing. Snape forced her back up. He held her head up with one hand and drew his wand with the other. Carefully he traced the gashes, muttering the incantation, passing over her face, arms, and body. Whatever Jugson had used was nothing like Sectumsempra. These cuts had a uniform shape; the spell was emulating some specific weapon. He passed over the wounds a second time, and by the third pass Theophany’s eyes were watching him.
“Vulnera Sanentur.” She repeated the incantation. “What is that?”
“That is going to prevent you from bleeding out. I can’t do anything about the burns or scars without dittany, and your physical exhaustion will have to wait. In the meantime don’t exert yourself with wandless casting, much as you seem to enjoy it.”
Theophany wrapped her arms around herself and shivered. “That’s not fair. Of course it had to be wandless. Whenever we’ve met I’ve been disarmed…you’re so disarming.” She chuckled and her shudders increased. Snape shook her.
“Stop it. You can’t go into shock, not yet. You’ve forced your way into this, now you have to see it through.”
She pressed her hands hard over her mouth. When she looked at him her gaze was sober but shaken. “I’m sorry. What do you need me to do?”
She clutched his robes and he gripped her arms. Like an amateur ice skater her feet slid and her legs wobbled but she remained upright.
“You can’t be seen with me. I need you to follow me to Gringotts. Keep me in sight but no closer.” His fingers dug at her arms. “This isn’t a question of trying.”
“I’ll stay close but out of sight. I won’t lose you.”
Snape took Jugson's cloak, his being the only one present not covered in blood, and gave it to Theophany. Obediently she covered her own soiled and torn robes. Snape pointed to the door.
“Straight to Gringotts. I’ll follow. “
She wrapped the hood closely around her face, a little too well bundled for a mild autumn day, and slipped away. Snape collected the wands of the two Death Eaters and strapped the sword under his cloak, carefully wrapped in a torn section of Crowe’s robes. The carpetbag, the chair spattered in Knapp’s blood, the bodies, nothing could be found. Using Jugson's wand, he cast an incendiary spell. No smoke, slow burning. In Knockturn Alley, where it’s better to avoid asking questions, it would be hours before the ruin was found.
There was no sign of Theophany in Knockturn Alley, or Diagon. Snape paused by a well lit shop window, a perfect beacon for anyone keeping tabs on him. He didn’t see anything and tried touching the pommel of the sword. If she was close it’d be stronger. This time the heat shot up his arm and into his shoulder like a steam from a pressure valve. Quickly he released the sword but the warmth had settled gently into him. What incantation had she used?
It was on the very steps of Gringotts that he spotted her. She had dropped her purse and was busily picking up spilled coins. Snape swept past her and the wizards which had replaced the goblin doorman into the main hall. Two minutes until the hour. He had guessed Bellatrix would be early. She stood in the middle of the hall, expecting the crowd to move around her, as they seemed glad to do. The moment she spotted him she let out that annoying piercing cry and swooped at him like a harpy.
“You have it? Where is it?”
“If you will stop yapping like a pekingese...”
He drew the bundled sword from his cloak. Hastily she clawed away the wrapping, heedless of who might see, revealing a slick silver edge. Bellatrix sighed in appreciation and shook off the remaining cloth. She grasped the sword by the pommel, the better to hold it high.
“Ah!” she laughed, then put on an outrageous pout. “Oh, I don’t think it likes me. But why? We’ve just met, sweetie, and you are just gorgeous.”
Tongue between her teeth, she ran a palm down the flat side of the blade.
“What an idiot the Minister must have been to be fooled by a copy, as if anything could copy this. How did that old goat make a copy anyway?”
Snape looked like an offensive smell had been placed under his nose.
“Dumbledore didn’t confide everything to me, Bellatrix. Information didn’t fall into my hands, I had to work at it. He wasn’t the beneficent old innocent he pretended to be. Perhaps he did it himself.”
“Transformed something to look like the sword, you mean? Seems too risky, it would wear off, and then where will you be, Severus?”
“That would be very careless...wouldn’t it? But even if the sword is revealed a fake, what could the Ministry do? Our master is their master. Look at them.”
Around them wizards and witches were queuing or hurrying to and from the vaults. Valuables were handed over to goblin clerks, papers and receipts drawn up, all so beautifully efficient and official.
“Everything’s the same as always, but now Gringotts belongs to the Ministry—”
“And the Ministry belongs to our lord,” Lestrange finished in a throbbing voice. It looked like she was about to get emotional, so Snape thought to hurry things along.
“Unless you need me to escort you and the sword to your vault—”
Bellatrix wouldn’t want him within miles of the Lestrange vault, he knew. She threw her head back and said dismissively, “You’d just slow me down, seeing as you wouldn’t know the way.” The Snapes, of course, never had had a Gringotts vault. “Besides, I’m sure you’re very busy. Such a vital mission you have, Severus, I shouldn’t keep you away from the class reports and runny noses a minute longer.”
Snape took a step closer using his height to force Bellatrix back.
“We shall see, at the end, whose mission is vital, Bellatrix. Don’t expect me to forgive and forget.”
He turned away swiftly, forcing her to shout after him, “It shall be sooner than you think! I look forward to it!”
Now that Bellatrix had so thoughtfully broadcast his departure, he was certain Knapp would meet him outside. Snape kept his stride purposeful and headed towards the apothecary as a likely enough destination for a former Potions Master. There was no sign of her, even when he paused outside of Obscurus Books. It wasn’t until he reached Twilfitt and Tatting’s that he saw her leaning against the corner. How had she got ahead of him? He rode out the crowd, not moving directly towards her.
“Don’t look like you’re waiting for someone,” Severus hissed. “You stand out.”
He couldn’t see her face behind the swaddling scarf and her voice was muffled. “If I move away from this wall I’m going to fall over.”
“There must be internal damage. You should have been at St. Mungo’s from the first, had you not insisted—”
“I can’t go there. They’re keeping records now, who visits when and with what injuries. It’s difficult to explain to Magical Law Enforcement why one keeps turning up with duel wounds or other obvious signs of resistance. The Cruciatus Curse is hard to mistake.”
So they had employed the curse. She couldn’t Apparate and he had no one he could take her to. A year ago Grimmauld place would have been the obvious choice.
“Come.” He hurried her back towards Knockturn, one hand under her arm. Whenever she stumbled he would catch her, but it obviously caused her a lot of pain. He mentally added cracked ribs to her injuries.
“Damn, this place again,” he heard her mutter as they entered the Spiny Serpent.
“We need to use the Floo,” he barked at the barman. There was a token protest which abruptly ceased when Snape tossed a few Galleons on the greasy counter.
“Excuse me,” he drawled, “I mean we would like to access the Floo now.”
The miserable smoldering fire leapt up joyfully when Snape pointed his wand at it. He took a pinch of Floo from the tin box provided and threw it on the fire.
“The Railway Hotel,” he said. “It’s best if you go first. I’ll follow.”
Knapp disappeared into the green flames. Snape took a last look at the barman and decided he didn’t need to be threatened. Better not make themselves too memorable. He stepped into the fire and emerged into a dim little sitting room.
A counter along one wall separated the room from a wall of keys. A sign on the counter read ‘Vacancy.’ It looked dusty, like there hadn’t been any need to move it for a while. The walls were covered in yellowed chintz and the smell was of musty wool. Above the mantle was a bit of fancy work with the name ‘The Railway Hotel’ in faded silk thread. Theophany Knapp was sitting on the floor, practically on the feet of a elderly Muggle woman who was asleep in an old wingback chair.
“What are you doing?” Snape hissed.
“Can’t get up.”
“All right, well, we Apparate from here.”
“Harder to be traced, and a shorter distance to Apparate will be less damaging.” He knelt and took her by the forearms while she in turn grasped his. “In your condition this will be painful.”
She nodded and clenched her jaw. The room around them dissolved with a crack, hopefully not waking the armchair snorer, and they appeared with a slight bump on the dark wood floor of Spinner’s End.
Theophany bit off a cry and slumped forward, knocking her head against Snape’s chin. Stifling a curse, he lowered her the rest of the way to the floor. He had planned to Apparate closer to the sofa. Best to Levitate her, she’d been jarred too much already. It was a well stuffed sofa, if a little musty. He settled her as best he could and summoned the smaller potions cabinet.
“Miss Knapp, can you hear me? Knapp?” He lifted her head and sharply patted her face. “Theophany, wasn’t it? Theophany, wake up.”
She opened her eyes with obvious effort.
“You can’t lose consciousness until you’re stable. I’m going to prop you up.”
She groaned; some of the wounds had opened again.
“Why didn’t you just tell them what little you knew?”
“I couldn’t,” she whispered. “This is deep magic, ancient. When you believe, no amount of pain can make it untrue.”
“But you can only say, you don’t have to really recant, just say something to make them stop. Hail the Dark Lord if you’re feeling traditional. Could you not lie?”
Theophany was shaking her head. “I was dead already. They wouldn’t have believed me unless I believed it myself. Old magic.”
She stretched her arms wide. Snape winced at the display of seeping wounds, the tattoo of burns, but she didn’t seem to notice.
“They can only kill this body.”
Snape pushed her arms back to her sides. She was either feverish or completely barking.
“Hold this to your face.”
Theophany accepted the cloth doused in dittany and pressed it to her face. The cut was a thin red line now. Quickly, Snape rolled up her sleeves and began applying dittany to the cuts and burns on her arms.
“Legs?” he barked.
“No, not hurt. But—”
She plucked at her bloody robes. They had been slashed through across her her chest and stomach and were a scabby mess of threads.
“I have a screen,” Snape said briefly. “First I’m going to fix any compromised bones, then you can treat the remainder yourself. Episkey.”
Theophany hissed a little but held still, letting him continue to the next rib. Snape briefly Summoned an antique screen from another room and wrenched open the potions cabinet. This was very inconvenient. It hadn’t been his intention to show this witch, who already knew too much, his house. Not that she knew where she was. Worse, wiping her memory in her current condition would be a dangerous and unconscionable act. He would have to put her together again as best as possible in a short amount of time.
“Drink.” He handed her the first vial while letting the other self-decant.
She sniffed it. “Dr. Ubbly’s Unction? Surely that’s applied rather than drunk.”
“Not Ubbly’s, mine. It will help with the shock without making you sleep.”
“Cheers then.” She gagged it down. “I assume a blood replenishing potion next?”
If she was a student, he’d have taken points off for insolence. As it was, he selected the second vial and poured it into a beaker.
“Are you a Healer?” Theophany’s voice was still shaky. She was doing her best to stay alert.
“You should be.”
Snape stared at her. “I can guarantee you are, and always will be, the only person to suggest it.”
Her eyes closed again.
“Knapp!” He shook her. Groggily she woke again and swallowed the blood replenishing potion. He kept a finger on her pulse waiting for it to strengthen. Best to keep her talking.
“The other night when you said your family had been flying for generations, what did you mean exactly?”
“Well, we don’t exactly use it to fetch the milk, but it’s been a family trait passed down for years.”
“Not only is it foolish to employ in these present times, but surely you learned at school that it’s a Dark Art? And one presumed forgotten.”
“I went to a Muggle school.”
Snape frowned. “But your whole family flies, so you’re not Muggle-born.”
“There are only eleven wizarding schools in the world, and not every child gets to attend.”
His evening kept getting stranger. “You are a Dissident?”
Theophany smiled a little. “That is a very insulting term. No, I’m not an anti-institutionalist who believes that a return to the pre-plumbing era, segregated from all Muggles, will return us to the power of wizarding origins. My family follows the Tuatha De Danann.”
Snape sneered, “Oh yes? ‘People of the Goddess’? The original wizards who flew to Ireland on a cloud?”
Insult woke her up a little. “Don’t be so dismissive. It is only a legend, and I doubt there was a goddess, but come to think of it, there was probably a powerful witch. Not every witch and wizard gets to go to Hogwarts. We coexist with Muggles, we learn our magic from our elders, and stress the importance of understanding the ancient roots of magic, not just waving a wand around.”
Snape remembered his conversation with Dumbledore’s portrait. “Let me guess, you begin with wandless casting first.”
Theophany nodded, then winced. “Makes the room spin”, she muttered. “Yes, that’s right. My mother was teaching me incantations before I showed any actual ability.”
“Hurrah for you.”
Her pulse was finally regular and strong. He stood and waved the screen into place around the sofa. “I can now trust you to not faint while treating your wounds. I’ll be back momentarily. But first…”
Snape pointed his wand, and Theophany’s own flew from her robes’ pocket into his hand. He tucked it away. She had the gall to look hurt, as if being disarmed was a personal insult. Though she didn’t protest, she failed to suppress a rueful grin.
That smile was a little unnerving, ironic, and a little too knowing.
“Just the opposite.”
He didn’t like it. Not her unusual calm, her unpredictability, or her unorthodox background. Knapp was an unknown factor in every sense, and she knew far too much. Even though he would ensure she remembered nothing, there was still the brother who had copied the sword. Maybe the money would keep him silent. Snape Summoned the screen over to the sofa, gave her a clean cloth for the dittany, and left the library.
He stood in the hall for a moment with the full horror of the situation weighing on him. He had to get rid of her as soon as possible. Snape snatched a blanket, a roll of bandages, and other miscellania from various cupboards. Something in the linen cupboard scurried away, and he was sure a ghoul had moved into the cellar again; the pipes kept clanking. Every long vacation he cleared Spinner’s End and fortified against infestation, but the house had been cheaply built for factory employees in the first place. Merlin, he hated this place. Even more he hated feeling like an idiot, knocking on the door to his own library.
Theophany had used the remaining bandages and even managed to repair her robes somewhat, though her wand was needed for a more thorough mending spell.
Wordlessly Snape handed her a glass of water.
“Thank you, it’s too bad sugar renders so many potions useless.”
“More importantly, you need to hydrate. Blood replenishing potion can cause fevers, sometimes severe, so we’ll have to guard against that. Here." He snapped the blanket open and tossed it over her. Then he handed her the next item.
“Mrs. Ludo’s Long Lastingly Hot Hot Water Bottle,” Theophany read off the rubber lid, her face carefully blank. “Are they really that long lasting?”
Snape was equally expressionless. “Hopefully. I’d rather you didn’t contract influenza with replenishment potion complications and die before the morning.”
“Speaking of consequences,” Snape dismissed the screen. He didn’t intend to have her out of his sight until she was safely Obliviated. “The foolhardy and extreme danger of flying needs to be impressed upon you. Not only can it get you mistaken for a Death Eater, itself an unpleasant prospect as the misunderstanding would be revealed in a matter of seconds, but it is a Dark Art. There is always a price for using such— ”
“What’s the price? I understand the Unforgivable Curses—one must intend to kill and commit murder in one’s heart in order to cast the killing curse, or intend pain for the Cruciatus; the cost to one’s soul is very high even when used justly. But what’s the harm in flying?”
She really was as bad as a student.
“The Dark Arts not only encompass all that is harmful and evil, but that which is not understood or curable. Werewolves are taught in the Dark Arts, not because they themselves are evil, but the disease and its consequences on one’s humanity and relations is amongst the most debilitating known to wizarding kind. Employ the Dark Arts only if you desire your humanity corroded and the penalty forever on your soul.”
Theophany was frowning thoughtfully. “I see what you mean. On the one hand, I would reject the argument as an appeal to tradition, but I can also accept your experience as superior. Moreover you seem genuinely concerned and disturbed. Is it a promise you’re looking for? You have it. No more flying. But I would very much like further research on the subject.”
“You give out promises too easily.” He checked her forehead. No temperature.
“It’s the least I can do after such hospitality.” She carefully lowered herself prone onto the couch. “And I owe you a bottle of dittany.”
“Consider it part of your payment, which you will be given in full —”
Theophany was asleep and looking very young. How old was she? If she had other family, why was she the only one tracking down this wayward brother, Jethro?
Snape pulled the armchair away from the fire; too close to the warmth could make him drowsy but, Merlin knew, he didn’t sleep much these days. When was the last time he had slept? Not last night, or before, though the previous morning he had fallen asleep at his desk, much to Albus’s amusement. Even in sleep he couldn’t quite unwind his thoughts, let the guard go. There was always a chance, always a danger. Snape started the process of carefully emptying and barricading his mind. It was harder here in his father’s house; so much of the past interfered, his focus seemed to be off.
Theophany sighed in her sleep, jerking him from his reverie. Of course, he wasn’t alone this time. The room was affected by another presence. Snape listened, letting his breathing relax, finding a common pace with the sleeper, and when his breathing finally hit a regular rhythm his mind emptied easily. He sat for a little time, not planning, not thinking, as close to rest as possible. Then he opened his eyes. It was morning. Impossible. It had only been a moment. He couldn’t have slept. But Theophany was gone. The blanket was neatly folded and atop it was the hot water bottle holding down a note.
Sir, (you never offered your name)
I thought you needed the sleep so I let myself out. Thank you, most humbly, for saving my life. I hope that whatever was at stake was worth the trouble I gave you, the effort you expended, and that all is well. I wish you continued success,
P.S. Mrs. Ludo tells no lies. I recommend the water bottle.
The water bottle was indeed still hot though the blankets and hearth were chill. Snape swore aloud. He had slept. She must have hexed him; how else could he have made such an elementary mistake? But her wand was still in his pocket; how had she managed?
“I don’t sleep, I never sleep, I can’t sleep,” he muttered under his breath while tearing the front door open. No sign. It was a desperate act, as she had probably Apparated from inside the house. Cordial as the note had been, she must have guessed he wouldn’t let her go with her memory intact. Who was she that she was so keen on knowing his business? All his suspicions freshly awakened, Snape slammed the door shut.
“So be it, Miss Knapp.”
He stalked back to the library. He carefully unfolded the blanket, spreading it on the floor. It yielded nothing. He searched the cushions until he found a single, long, dark hair.
“I found your brother and I most certainly will find you.”
Using the tip of his wand he slid the hair into a clean vial.
“I cannot let you jeopardize this mission.”
Chapter Endnotes: Thanks for reading!