Snacks And Letters - Part 91

Authors: [info]valkyriekat and [info]sionna_raven
Title: Snacks and Letters - Part 91
Word Count: 4948


~Severus~


“Sirius,” I say, “You bump into the strangest people in the corridors.” We collided.


“I was looking at my notes but you bumped into me first,” growls the tall hound.


“I'm so very sorry then,” I sneer. I continue in a businesslike tone. “About tomorrow. We'll meet at half past ten sharp in the Entrance Hall. We have to get out of the grounds. I know you dislike Apparition unless absolutely necessary, but it's necessary. Like Percy Weasley said, we meet the Minister at eleven.”


“Fine.” Sirius seems tired.


“Get some early rest, you need it. Go!” I shove him in the small of the back. “We meet well after breakfast, I won't be there. I will busy with other matters.”


“What other matters?” Sirius enquires.


“Preparation for tomorrow, mutt, what else? Surely you are doing the same when not lost in student records?” My tone of voice indicates scepticism. Is he planning or is he going to just make it up as he goes along? I do both. Does he?


“You had me lost in notes for Defence, and I want to finish. I'll think about Caradoc later.” Sirius shrugs his broad shoulders stubbornly.


“You think of Dearborn but not the strategy of how to even arrive?” I ask incredulously.


“That will be decided with the Minister. And we've been there before.” Sirius shrugs yet again.


“Yes, and various former Death Eaters and their kin know that. What better way to get back at the current regime than jinx and entrap or curse the traitorous Headmaster of Hogwarts, Shacklebolt as Minister and you who they know you have never ...openly... been a Dark wizard? They know where Regulus came from, Slughorn having told every fool he meets. I was fool enough to tell him where Regulus' body came from and not all former Death Eaters are stupid.” I speak every sentence with a clipped tone.


“I hadn't considered that,” Sirius admits. It's hard not to sneer at that fact but I don't. Never antagonize a Black without due caution. He has goblin lawyers and the Black family incisors, I think with a smirk.


“What?” Sirius asks impatiently. Inscrutability takes over.


My expression is nothing. See you tomorrow at ten thirty. And don't be late.” I snap, but I give him a small smile that makes his own face grin. He veers around me and continues on his parchment-heaped way up to the seventh floor.


**


I wake up from a most vile dream. I was in the cave with Regulus and Kreacher, watching Regulus plead for me to help him as half-decayed Inferi pull him beneath the surface, into the black waters... the Black lake, they should call it, in memoriam.


Drenched in cold sweat, I stand and splash water on my face and strip down, laying in cold and clammy sheets. Distracted, I get up and sit by the fire drinking tea. Just thinking.


I'm going to strap my wand to my arm. Easy access from strange angles, just in case there are true Dark Wizards aiming to get at us. I'll bring a phial of blood – my own – among other things. I think that the hidden entrance arch has resealed itself, it did so after the former Headmaster was there. I know we don't need to enter the cave but in case of the impossible, water.


An hour later I have made my preparations, the blood, the wand strap, water and a few Galleons, and double checked my inventory of useful spells. I leave the dungeon office and walk to the Entrance Hall, keeping an eye on Sayla's watch. Ten minutes. I was so purposeful in my tread that I didn't keep an eye on the few students still here; I barely noticed half of them shrinking against the corridor walls.


Sirius arrives with two minutes to spare. We stand side by side, watching for a sign of Kingsley from inside the open oak front doors. He knows how to access Hogwarts if he wishes. He could floo but I think he'd like to stretch his legs in that job. I've given him access to the castle should he need it.


I am about to ask Sirius what he has prepared for but he is saved by the coming of the Minister for Magic, the tall dark man with the golden hoop earring. He appears to be carrying his wand. No Aurors, good man. Some Gryffindors actually command real respect and he has mine. That doesn't mean I let him in on that fact.


He reaches us and we're shaking hands, and Kingsley says, “Good of you to come, Severus. You were instrumental in this. You know I hold nothing against you. You've ...”


“Yes, yes. Shall we go down to the entrance and down onto the High Street?” I don't want people hearing about how terribly cooperative I have been. Especially students. But the students have made themselves scarce.


“Where is this cavern containing the lake again? I have the rough location but not a specific name.” Kingsley turns his deep brown eyes on me.


“Crescent Cliff. I suggest we approach with caution.” I speak the word 'caution' softly.


“I think so, yes. There are still renegades here and there. What about you, Sirius?”


Sirius seems to be thinking back, from the look on his face. “Like an old friend said, constant vigilance.”


A good sentiment. Not at all paranoid as they used to say, Alastor Moody, even if we never saw ... eye to eye.


We have left the castle behind. The grounds are still snowy, but just a dusting compared to other years. We walk in silence though the gates adorned with winged boars. Kingsley is lost in thought, we all are.


Kingsley gives me a significant look, and Sirius too, as we close the gates of Hogwarts behind us. “Ready, you two?” he asks in his deep, measured voice and Sirius nods. I jerk my head. “Now!” the Minister says quietly, and we Disapparate.


I am wrenched through space in compression until I smell salty air and see the sign Crescent Cliff, 2 miles, and stare at an outcropping of rock, a cliff....a cavern....a cave. I know this though I can not see the cave from here. It seems to draw me. Kingsley appeared next moment beside me with a pop, panting as I was from the bands that squeezed during Apparition. Sirius appeared with an undignified crack right afterwards. He looks put out about Apparating, but he also looks very, very aware of his surroundings, as if his hearing has the quality of a hound's.


We walk from the sign, toward the cliff in silence, trying to get a good vantage point to see from. We seem to have a tactic of sheer silence, and I cast Muffliato over the three of us as well. There were a lot of heaps of hay a former Death Eater could hide behind, an abandoned barn, a wall with slippery cold chain hanging from it, and a place to descend to get to the fissure in the rock. All three of us are silent as we grab bits of rock and move on, climbing down the landward side of the rock.


I feel around, clutching the walls of a cliff next to that fissure in the rock, my footsteps unsteady on the slippery sea-sprayed outcropping. My heart thunders in my ears.


We edge along the cliff to the mouth of the cave, a narrow fissure, Sirius in the wary lead. Niches, jagged, full of edges, are good footholds. I have my wand strapped to my arm and wrist so I will not lose it, could cast spells from precarious positions. Every step was calculated. I was in no rush after all, and have no use for falling to my death.

The entrance was definitely there. Now for the part I hate, getting wet and swimming. I am a decent swimmer, but I feel queasy when looking down onto the ocean from my narrow protection. There is water funnelling in from the ocean, into the crag or crevice or whatever. The water doesn't scare me.


The knowledge of those calling me a traitor ... they made me feel both sick with venom and very awake, and they never seem to notice it is I and the Minister, sliding on the rock behind me, that shorten their stay in Azkaban or keep them out altogether, as much as we can work around Granger. As if I did not know and understand what it was to be branded with the Mark. I pay attention and make eye contact with Kingsley and Sirius. None of us speak, we listen intently to the gurgling, whooshing water.


Sirius drops as Padfoot to the water silently, a slight splash following. Kingsley follows. I bring up the wary rear. The waves press us against the jutting rocks, and we swim with the stream. There are a lot of good places to curse us from. My clothes billow around me, sopping, and I go in the lead past the paddling Padfoot. I'm a better swimmer and I can spot the unusual very quickly. But Kingsley knocks me on the back and takes the lead from there. He's a strong swimmer, much more so than I am. Our sopping garments impede our progress and the tunnel we enter went on and on. The air is still and much darker now. We slipped up to a semi path and a rock wall. There are two steps leading in, one more than last time.


Kingsley climbs up first, then me, and finally Padfoot shakes on us but as we're already sopping it makes no difference. Sirius resumes his usual form and points his wand at me. Instantly my robes are dry.


This is a stronghold of powerful magic. You can sense it. The Dark Lord's methods were clever - very clever and without regret. Even after we've penetrated the entrance, there are still many ways to attack us.


I look at Kingsley who gives me a nod. I defer to his expert judgement and I know Sirius will too. I lay a finger on my icy lip and cast the spell I know to be of some use. “Homenum RevelioI say to myself silently.


I hear the echo, four brief echoes, around me. The cavern seems to hide many secrets. Flinging out my left arm, I hold Sirius back with it, and give him a significant look. I hold up four fingers. Four Death Eaters. Shacklebolt nods, and then Sirius cottons on. I see the knowledge in his eyes.


Declare yourselves!” the Minister says in that eternally deep calming voice.


And then we hear the sound of footsteps, and robes slithering over wet stone. We have truly met resistance at last. Sirius jumps out and begins firing hexes at our assailants, who I can't see well as my eyes have not yet become accustomed to the light. Hound's eyes as well? To work.


Instantly there are a shower of spells aimed at us and they mean business. Two of them use spells aloud and we can hear Avada Kedavara used twice, green jets, an orange one, two red stunning spells are aimed at them by Kingsley and Sirius. The Death Eaters are all wearing the traditional black, melting into the niches around them. A masked male aims an unspoken hex at Sirius and I actually shout Protego to watch Sirius move safely to the other more raised side of the cavern, where the entrance to the cave is concealed. These spells are going to make the cavern collapse if we continue much longer.


The walls glisten wetly but for the dry glowing arch leading to the cave. Kingsley dashes ahead and lets loose an Impediment Jinx. I snarl silently my Confringo while aiming low at a masked figure, female to judge by the slightness and form, completely avoiding the cavern wall. A risk, that one. I am going to be party to slaughter if I continue such physically forceful spells.

I leap back and slip on slick wet rock, losing my balance, just as the shortest Death Eater aims their wand at me. Looks like one of the nasty spells I invented and I raise my wand arm to block the spell.


A surge of purple light is too fast for me.


But it's too slow for Sirius' own Shield Charm. I take the opportunity to aim Sectumsempra at the arm of the short one, the female who seems to be doing the worst damage. She drops her wand and shrieks, then snatches her little stick up and pulls her mask off. Her left arm is a bloody mass spreading to her shoulder and that's the chance you take, girl, when you try to use such a spell on me. She wrenches off her mask in agony. Brown hair and grey eyes, thin, middle aged, robes the wrong cut and size. Her husband's old robes. It is Briony Wilkes' mother. This adds interest, not pity.


Kingsley shouts and I can't hear him. Sirius is running into the centre of the cavern, dodging behind large boulders. Then I see Kingsley is bleeding or covered in someone's blood. “Caradoc, Severus, Caradoc!” he booms and I understand at once, I run spitting through a sea of spells, aiming for the archway that seems to gleam for me, my own raw and bloody shoulder not enough for the price it wants. I whisk the large phial of blood and spatter it where is indicated by memory.


The wall dissolves. I know Caradoc Dearborn will protect his unburied kin.


The smell makes me retch, the sick sweet decay nearly brings me to my knees but I master myself. “
Caradoc Dearborn! Just imagine, Death Eaters on your watch!” I can't help irony and sarcasm even at moments of peril. The Inferius-turned-ghost is revealed, glides through the archway and the mere sight of his rage make all but the Wilkes stand as if paralysed – and she aims an utterly useless Killing Curse at Dearborn. It causes no damage, it goes right through him. What did she expect? The other Death Eaters back away with great caution. They don't take the ghost of an Inferius lightly.


You shall never leave this place!” Dearborn cries impressively, and suddenly I am in a shroud of darkness, a blast of cold, and something worse than Dementors comes, the sucking souls of a thousand decaying bodiless souls, something that will trap us in limbo, hanging in space, unable to move except for the eyes.


My wand is still attached to the arm and wrist, and I think Expecto Patronum and my doe appears bright and proud only to die out and become lifeless by my side, instead of charging she fades to black, wretched and lifeless. What terrible power can do this to a Patronus?


Dearborn!


The Death Eaters and I are locked in a dark mist, bound by an invisible form of the Incarcerous Jinx.


I can see Kingsley and Sirius move to me. Sirius is paler than death but not bound. And you thought Caradoc understood my position, Sirius. Your blasted admirable friend finds me to be a snake and no more. He saw me fight... but he didn't. But why would I call him if I did not want help? Perhaps the dry humour irritated him. My doe! At her most dazzling I saw her for who she is and now am I forced to watch my guardian spirit of a deer become an eternal nothing?



**

~Sirius~

“Caradoc, can't you tell friend from foe?” I growl to hide my worry and Kingsley adds, “Release Severus at once!”


The ghost hesitates and looks from one of us to the other. Kingsley move towards him his hand outstretched.


“Caradoc, old friend....” he starts trying to convince the ghost to release our friend.


I watch Severus' Patronus crumble. He stares at the fading doe and at his useless wand. Caradoc still refuses to let him go. Severus raises his wand again to try another spell and suddenly I do understand.


Don't use magic, Sev!” I shout. “It feeds on the spells cast by the living. Use Muggle means!”


Severus reacts immediately. He lowers his wand and.... pulls something out of his pocket. Padfoot's leash! It's definitely more fun to be with a wizard who uses his common sense. I move as close to the mist as I dare. Is the leash long enough?


“Don't touch it, Sirius,” comes a warning from Kingsley.


“Don't give me orders, Minister. Talk some sense into your friend.” I'm not that much of an idiot. This mist is Dark Magic gone substantial. It is similar to the horror we faced in Azkaban, darkness, pain , torture and death, but this is controlled by a friend of mine. A friend who should see reason at last.


“Caradoc, please let him go.”


“I can't, Sirius,” the ghost replies. “If I let Snape go, the others will be released, too.”


Severus has heard the judgement. He moves the leash between his fingers. The mist inhibits all movement. Can he throw it? He can and it's just long enough. I can reach for the metal snap at the edge of the mist. Severus holds the loop at the other end. I try to pull, but the mist is too thick. Severus' face is determined. We look in each other's eyes. I won't let go, my friend. He gropes his way along the thin leather strap. It's like a silent dance in slow motion. Two yards only, but it seems a thousand miles. I can't do much. If I pull, the mist sucks me in. Finger tips stick out first and then slowly a hand emerges. I grab it. It's cold as ice. As soon as I really get a hold of it I pull. The mist gives way too suddenly and we both fall over backwards.

I don't let go of Sev's hand immediately. His whole body is freezing cold and he is even paler than usual.


“Even as ghosts typical Gryffindors! Shoot first, think later.” mutters Severus struggling to get on his feet and wrestle his hand from mine.


I laugh happily when I see that he's perfectly fine.


“I'm sorry, Snape. You got in the way. Are you really one of us?”


Severus glares at the ghost. “One of you? Not in a thousand years.”


The Dark mist wavers as the cave is filled with Gryffindor laughter. We get serious again soon enough. The Death Eaters or more likely Death Eaters wannabes, because I don't recognize any of them, lie crumbled on the ground. They didn't get the warning about not trying to use magic and the darkness around them has thickened.

Kingsley observes them carefully.


“You've got to release them, Caradoc. The woman is bleeding to death, if you don't.”


Severus' face turns stubbornly defensive trying to figure out, if that was a slight reproach of his use of Sectumsempra. I give him an encouraging half-smile. People get hurt in fights. This wasn't hexing in Hogwarts corridors.


Drop your wands and surrender! “ Kingsley is facing our enemies who don't have another choice than obeying the Minister of Magic.

We stand at his side our wands pointing at them.


Full Body Bind as soon as the mist dissolves,” Kingsley commands. We're not taking chances.


We nod in agreement each aiming at the male nearest to us. The woman seems to be unconscious. The mist wavers and fades. The three men are bound in an instant by three simultaneous spells.


I turn to Sev. “Can you...?” but he has already knelt down at the woman's side and started to look after her injury. She is not unconscious and stirs and moans in agony. The blood is gushing out of her severed shoulder. Severus passes his wand over her body.


Treacherous bastard,” she hisses through gritted teeth. Severus ignores her. He calms himself and concentrates. I hardly believe what follows next. This is magic, magic not taught at Hogwarts, magic which couldn't be found in even the oldest family libraries. I can identify the structure of the incantation, it's rhythm. The language seems to be an old Welsh dialect. I am not sure, because I only have mastered the very basics of those ancient languages, barely enough to learn some spells by heart. From what I can understand Severus sings healing. He makes the blood vessels connect, the flesh cut by his spell grows back together. The wound closes. He renews the world as it was meant to be. The tune fills the air and makes it quiver. Time stands still.


We watch and listen in awe. We all have heard or read about this kind of magic, but we've never witnessed it. Severus has stopped singing. He takes a small phial out of his pocket and applies what I suppose is dittany. The woman has stopped her muttering when he started the incantation. Severus takes her wand and binds her, too. Not letting her die is one thing; foolish pity another.


Kingsley is the first to speak again. “The Aurors can take care of them later. I have come here to meet a friend and see about the situation with the bodies.”


We leave the prisoners in the small passage and enter the cave. The air has been cleared a bit by the draft from the tunnel and we don't need Bubblehead Charms. The sight is still disgusting. Kingsley avoids Caradoc's eyes.


“We should have taken care of this earlier, “ he whispers to himself.


Caradoc smiles at his friend. “I knew you'd come as soon as possible.”


Kingsley shakes his head in embarrassment. “No, we forgot about this. I forgot about this. Too busy with everyday politics. If Severus and Sirius hadn't insisted....”


“You are here now and you will arrange for us to get decent funerals, won't you?”


“Yes, of course. A team from the Aurors Office will arrive to recover your bodies as soon as I call for them.”


“We'll be checking for possible traps again, Shacklebolt. Come on Sirius, show me your skills in Detection of Dark Arts.”


I follow Severus. Kingsley and Caradoc need some time on their own. I wonder what it feels like to talk to your best friend again after all those years. Strangely I'm glad that I don't need to talk to James' ghost right now. It took some time to convince Caradoc, telling James that Severus and I have become friends would be nearly impossible. I smile bitterly at the sheer idea.


“What are you smirking at?”


“Nothing, just a bizarre thought.”


Severus jerks his head and looks at me intensely. Then he smirks, too.


“Could you please stop looking at my thoughts, Sev?” I grunt.


“There's no need to use Legilimency to guess your thoughts right now. You're amused by the idea of talking reason with Potter's ghost.”


Do you think you know me so well by now? All right, I was thinking of having to talk to James.”


Hey Prongs, you see, now that ...,” Sev starts in a mocking tone. “everyone and I mean everyone is dead I may as well hang out with Snivelly. I hope you don't mind...”


Don't be such a prat, Sev.” I interrupt him. “I would tell him right away and certainly not ask for his approval. …. I may have started the letters because everyone else is dead, but I want your friendship because... You're damn good company and I like spending time with you. By the way you're pretty good at throwing sticks and don't pull on the leash too harshly.”


Having said that I turn away and start casting detection spells at the cave walls. If he can't tell by now that I'm serious about friendship, I can't help it.



~Severus~


I don't know what to think of Sirius' statements but recognition has been a while in coming. And it's about time I take his words at face value. He did agree he started it for the wrong reason... and he really values my company this much? I want to sneer but find myself up against my own wall. The one that says be a man, accept your friend and start learning to trust him. Augh! I wanted this ever since Regulus died. Not Sirius, in particular. Someone who doesn't slip in my venom. I too am firing off spells of detection, and I swallow the bad smell that is lessened but stubbornly still there. Like Sirius is stubbornly still there. We work side by side in silence.


“Ah!” Sirius starts and I hold an arm in front of him, seeing a ghostly glowing green boat emerge from the water. This wants looking at. Careful how we look. The water ripples at the edge when I tread in it.


Sirius skips up to it. “Use caution, mutt!” I snarl at him. “You're not endangering the life of my friend.”


Sirius stares at me, a small grin appears on his face, and his features and form suddenly relax. How long has he held the tension?


“After you,” he says gallantly.


I walk cautiously from bow to stern. It has a chain attached. This is what Harry thought of. A chill passes over me as I cast more revealing charms and mutter the obvious counter-jinxes and -curses. Sirius hears mine and mimics me but using his own variations. Regulus and Dumbledore met their death and this boat was part of the means. I want to hex it to pieces. Two people reduced to portraits, Regulus a mere sketch.


“Think it's safe to decimate? To attack?” I ask the Defence master. I could not have picked a better teacher, I think.


“Attack?” Sirius inquires with both eyebrows raised.


This boat bore your brother to his ending. And Dumbledore, for all his faults a noble enough man. I wish to decimate this ill-fated creation of the Dark Lord's. It has one purpose: to lead a victim and a perpetrator. An altogether Dark object, I think.”


“I think it's safe to destroy. Together?” For once he's solemn.


Together. Or do you think Kingsley will find us rash? I ask you about taking chances. We live in strange times, mutt. Three. Two. One.” We pause, then: “Confringo!” We both blast it to burning detritus, leaving a flaming wreck at the water's edge. Water doesn't halt these flames. Hermione would be pleased.


More.” Sirius says slit eyed. “More. Anything that led to...Regulus!”


I agree, could not agree more. But I hold up my hand. “Much more will bring this place down. If we disturb the centre no one will be able to recover the bodies.”


Sirius kicks at the ground. He sits on a rock and I stand beside him, one hand on his shoulder. Sirius doesn't flinch like I thought he would, but leans against my hand. I read him wrong for a long time. Sirius regains himself and asks,
“That spell. The counter-curse to Sectumsempra. What was that spell? Where did you learn it?”


“When I created the curse, the counter-curse came out of a spell I learned earlier. Healing magic of the type few wizards know and even fewer wandless witchcraft-users. I learned it from my Prince grandfather, your relative. I use it different ways. You have to know the spell, focus on it, no interruptions, be very aware of time and space. Muggles think it's their form of magic but they are wrong. Wandless users must be real witches and talented ones for it to work. My grandfather taught me the song from the time it was a soothing lullaby. I was meant to know this magic. It is rare to have this control, and I can't teach you. A wand is essential for me. The true Prince, Livius, could perform it without a wand.”


“I don't know much of your background.”


“I don't expect you to. I use it for different spells and counter-jinxes, hexes and curses, all healing. It is the only spell that is the best of magic, that it cannot be used in any way for wrong.”


We are staring at each other. We stand and look about for more signs of magical tampering. There are not many revelations and I can't help feeling let down by the Dark Lord's lack of creativity.


We return to hailing distance of Kingsley. Caradoc floats nearer to the bodies. I think that he might pass through me just to be a prat, but that's not what comes from him.


“Sorry to incapacitate you back there, Snape. Truly. I couldn't be sure you were not a foe. But I do not think you have fooled two such powerful friends.” I'm taken aback.


“The Aurors are on their way,” Kingsley informs us. That saves me from responding – but I do. “Do not take away any more opportunities for me using my rapier wit,” I smirk at Dearborn. He rolls his ghostly eyes and mimics Kingsley, saying “At last the Aurors are on their way.

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October 2013

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