Ride of the Valkyrie
Genre Genfic, short story, about 2,000 words. Severus Snape and OC, g-rated.Brief Summary: J.K. Rowling told us it would be important to know something about the staff members' families, and whether or not they were married. Well, guess what? Severus was, and his wife is a woman of some skill and resourcefulness. The events of May 2 from her pov.
Thanks and Dedication This is for Sigune, and was inspired by two of her drawings, one of which can be found here: http://sigune.deviantart.com/art/Ride-o
I'm afraid I don't have a link for "True Love's Kiss" on the snape art contest site. If you have it, Sigune, could you let us know? Thanks for the wonderful art!
And thanks to my sister and Cardigrl for proofreading this one for me.
Ride of the Valkyrie
I would have done better, I reflected, to have brought an Abraxian winged horse. At least I could have seen it.
There was at least one thestral in front of us. Severus had said so. "My cloak - give them my cloak," he had gasped, and then he had fainted again. This was not very helpful. I suppose I shouldn't have expected more given what he seemed to have been through, but I was at a loss.
I shouldn't have been there at all if it hadn't been for my mother and the bladder wrack. The summer before Severus was appointed as headmaster of Hogwarts - just last summer, but it seems years ago now - I was visiting her, when she asked after him. "That boy is of the deep ocean," she said, holding the damp bit of weed out to me. "If you are worried for him; if you want to know if he is well, this will tell you."
I hesitated, but took it in the end. Severus snorted when I held it out and explained what he must do. "Arrant foolishness," he said. "A Hag's superstition." I didn't argue. It is never profitable to argue with Severus. I simply reminded him that Mutti was very fond of him, and that it would please her if he did as she requested. I did not add that it would please me, as well. He frowned, but took out his potions knife and carefully sliced one forefinger, letting his blood drop onto the seaweed as I recited the charm my mother had given me. As we watched, the blood turned from vivid dark red to a rust color and seemed to fade into the weed and vanish. As Mutti had instructed, I hung the piece of bladder wrack up by the door and checked it at least twice a day - more often if the news seemed bad and I was feeling anxious.
Muggles apparently use such charms as a way to forecast the weather, or so Severus told me. That was not my purpose. On the evening of the second of May, something compelled me to check the weed a third time. It was dripping blood. I heard myself gasp when I saw the slow, heavy drops splash to the floor. For a moment I stood frozen, but then I picked up the bag of supplies I had ready and Apparated to Hogwarts.
You cannot, of course, Apparate within the grounds, so I chose to land near the Shrieking Shack, thinking that the Death Eaters, being a superstitious lot, might have left that building empty. But it was not empty. When I took out my wand and did a finding charm, the stick pointed straight at the shack. I Disillusioned myself quickly and ran to the door. I expected that it would be sealed against me; so far as I knew, even Severus had never managed to get inside when we were students. But, to my surprise and unease, it opened easily to a simple Alohamora.
There seemed at first to be no one inside, whether alive or dead, but my finding charm kept guiding me forward. I went past packing crates, shabby old furniture, cobwebs - and then I saw him, lying on his back in a pool of blood. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a flash of red-gold, and lunged forward to cover his body with my own lest the curse hit him. That was my first instinct, but in another moment I had aimed my wand and shielded both him and me. I looked round carefully, ready to fight for our lives. There was no attacker. There was no one there at all except for the two of us. I fumbled in the bag of supplies I had brought, surprised to see my hands shaking, and pulled out all the things a sensible person would bring to a battle zone - blood replenishing potion, a bezoar, dittany and other healing herbs. I was certain Severus would have been well supplied, but, whatever medicines he might have taken before disaster struck, he clearly needed more. His heart still beat, to my relief, but his pulse was weak, and he almost choked when I tried to get the bezoar down his throat. I put my mouth on his and breathed air into his lungs until I saw his chest rise and fall. Then I fed him potions.
"That tastes disgusting," I head him murmur as I poured Strengthening Solution into his mouth. "Where did you find it?"
"You brewed it," I told him. "Swallow!" He obeyed, grimacing, and I saw some color come back into his cheeks. He struggled to sit up, whispering hoarsely, "The boy - I must find the boy. Must explain -"
I supposed he was talking about Harry Potter, the bane of his existence, and I shook my head. "No. What makes you think he will listen to you? We need to get you home."
"I promised - promised I would guard him. If he dies -"
"If he dies," I said firmly, "it is not your fault! What more do you think you can do for him? I am going home, and you are going with me!"
"My fault," Severus said, faintly but clearly. He had managed to get to his knees, with my help, but as he spoke, his eyes closed and he pitched forward. I lunged under him to keep him from breaking his nose, and we landed in an awkward tangle. Cursing, the breath knocked out of me, I managed to wriggle free and rolled him over again to pour more blood replenisher and Strengthening Solution down his throat. "Wake up!" I demanded.
Severus choked and sputtered, but eventually swallowed, his eyes fluttering open. "Brynhild," he whispered, "help me. Harry-"
"Never mind him! Severus, listen to me! I have given you a general antivenin and blood replenishing potion and Strengthening Solution. You are the healer. What more should I do? "
"No more. The wound – stop the bleeding."
His hair was matted with blood; it soaked his cloak and his robe almost down to his waist, but I could see no wound. "It’s stopped," I told him. "Come, now." And I used a levitation spell to help him to his feet. Together we staggered to the door, which swung open at a touch. Lucky for us, I supposed – I had more than half expected it to seal itself after I entered - but it made me even more uneasy. Were we walking into an ambush? Would Voldemort himself be waiting for us outside?
Our luck held, however. There were screams and shouting and flashes of red and green light coming from the village, but no one was anywhere near the Shrieking Shack. Having found Severus, I wanted more than anything to simply side-Apparate him home, but I hesitated. Apparation was uncomfortable at the best of times, and could be actually dangerous, and Severus was very weak. He had lost so much blood that it was a marvel he could stand. I bit my lip and tried to think what we could do. Why had I simply Apparated here; why hadn’t I thought to bring a broom? But brooms were slow; we had hundreds of miles to travel, even if we stopped at my home in London. "Thestrals," Severus whispered in my ear. "Go toward the Forest. Thestrals will come."
We staggered a few paces away from the village, Severus leaning on my shoulder. For such a scrawny man, he was surprisingly heavy. I stumbled and nearly fell when he stopped suddenly. "Ah," he said, in a satisfied tone. "Thestrals". He was staring forward and a little to the right, towards an oak tree at the edge of the forest. I stared in the same direction, and saw absolutely nothing.
"Where?" I asked him.
"My cloak - give them my cloak," he answered, fumbling at the fastening. Then his knees buckled again. I managed to renew my levitation charm before he fell, and lowered him to a sitting position. Carefully, wincing at the smell and feel of it, I took the cloak off his slumped shoulders and flung it on the grass in front of me.
A moment later, I saw one corner of the cloth rise into the air, as though an invisible tongue were licking at it. Then it dropped onto the grass, and rose again, this time with a tearing sound. I quickly performed Scourgify and every other cleaning spell I could think of on my husband; if these creatures were attracted to blood, I did not want them licking or tearing him. When I looked back at the cloak, it was in three pieces, one dangling in the air and the others lifting and falling rhythmically. Half fascinated, half horrified, I took a step toward the nearest piece of cloth with my hands held out in front of me, and found myself touching something like a horse's side.
"Good," Severus's faint voice came from behind me. "Get on it."
Get on it? How was I to mount a creature I couldn't see? "Severus," I said, "tell me what you see. How can I get on?"
But there was no answer. I felt the invisible creature in front of me – ribs, a spine, something like a leathery wing. It seemed I might be able to sit behind the wing. And yes, there was a mane on the neck. I grasped it and pulled myself up. It was very strange to be perched more than a meter and a half above the ground, with no visible means of support. Yet the creature's spine was already pushing into my tailbone. It seemed as bony as Severus himself, and most uncomfortable to sit on.
Still, I was up. I aimed my wand at Severus and levitated him in front of me. Then I conjured ropes and fastened us both, as best I could, to our invisible steed. To my relief, the creature stood as still as a stone throughout this exercise. To my distress, it stood equally still when I punched its scrawny sides with my heels and cried, "Go!" I had an uneasy feeling that a head was turning toward me, its ears laid back. But, no matter how I pleaded and kicked at it, the thestral refused to take off.
"London," Severus whispered. I could feel him struggling to sit up straighter, but he was only half- conscious, if that. One word from him, though, accomplished what my efforts had not. The thestral leaped into the air and surged forward at a speed that brought tears to my eyes. "Brynhild," Severus said. I could barely hear his hoarse voice over the wind of the thestral's passage. "Tell it where you need to go."
I considered for a moment. St. Mungo's? No; Severus did not need a lot of strangers fussing at him. Besides, I was not at all convinced that he would be safe there, or anywhere in Britain. Mutti and I could look after him; we would get him to Germany when he was well enough to travel further. In the meantime, he could hide in my London flat. Speaking as clearly and loudly as I could, I gave the beast the address.
No, thestrals were not comfortable to sit on, but the flight was rapid and surprisingly smooth. The hardest thing, I thought, was being so very high up with no visible means of support. If I closed my eyes, I could imagine something much more satisfying. A beautiful winged stallion, pure white – no, not a stallion, a mare. Her mane would match my hair exactly, and she would have a kind and intelligent face. I would sit boldy astride, bearing Severus to the hall of Warriors.
At that thought, I opened my eyes in a panic lest I had ill-wished us. He must not die now, after all the risks I had taken to rescue him! Severus was slumped against me, but his grip on the thestral's mane had not slackened, and his breathing was steady. I gasped with relief, and closed my eyes again against the wind. In spite of myself, I conjured up the fine white horse in my mind's eye, and began humming. Had he been stronger, I am sure Severus would have complained loudly – he insists I have a tin ear – but he was either semiconscious or asleep. So I hummed on from the "Ride of the Valkyrie".
Severus was not dead, true. But I was Brynhild, and I was bringing my fallen warrior home.
Mary Johnson, July 2008. Written for Sigune in response to two of her drawings.